Along with the Big Bang I described in my previous post, another scientific method is gaining ground to help us understand the universe: the anthropic principle. It counters a widely held belief called the Copernican principle: the idea that the earth is nothing special in the larger scope of the universe. The implication is that if the earth is nothing unusual compared to everything else, then we are the product of a similar purposeless set of events that resulted in our eventual existence. The anthropic method has raised some serious doubts to this idea simply because of the number of constants required for our existence. The “weak” anthropic principle states that we should be able to observe conditions (expected and unusual) that are necessary for our existence. A few examples of these “fine-tuned” conditions are listed below:
1. If the initial explosion of the Big Bang had differed in strength by as little as 1 part in 1060, the universe would have never expanded and collapsed upon itself, or expanded too rapidly for chemical processes to create our present universe. Life would have never begun.
2. Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force that holds an atom together had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5%, life would be not exist.
3 If gravity had been stronger or weaker by 1 part in 1040, stars would not have formed. Coupled with the understanding that life requires favorable conditions created by the Sun, life may not have formed.
There are several others like these - I think about twenty in all. These conditions in and of themselves are significant barriers, However, if we calculate the likelihood of these constants all coming to rest in a state of equilibrium in our universe, the statistical probability becomes ridiculously staggering. Once again, science while answering some questions about life, is perfectly capable of opening a can of worms in the process as well.
Other options exist for the origin of the universe other than a single point of origin:
Multiverse – This theory explains our existence by expanding the number of possible universes that exist in order for life to occur without causative agency. Rather than account for the statistical possibilities within one universe, this theory states that there are an infinite number of universes in which abiogenesis could occur. We live in the universe where it did. Therefore, we are able to see the conditions for our arrival. In other words, rather than having a billion trillion acts on one stage, multiverse entertains the idea of having just a few acts occurring on a trillion stages. The stage/universe upon which we exist obtained the statistical probability necessary for our existence.
Panspermia – Panspermia is the belief that life in the universe exists before us and presently. Somehow, transference of life occurred in our universe either through the collision of non-living matter carrying life (asteroids for example) or direct intervention by extra-terrestrial life. In other words, our planet was “seeded” some other type of life organism, simple or complex. Obviously a couple of problems with this scenario come to mind. First, seeding by complex life would still require intentional causative agency and, secondly, simple life organisms have always existed. Panspermia does not explain where those life forms derived.
So which of these are easier to believe? Causative agency, an infinite number of dimensions, or extra-terrestrial seeding of our planet? There all about the same, actually. They are all beyond empirical verification. In other words, the jury is still out…and looks to be for a long time. Yet, that doesn’t stop anyone from choosing a multiverse explanation over a metaphysical being. That’s because we’ve been conditioned to believe we must make a choice between science and religion. Why? It makes us antsy to not have all the answers. That has nothing to do with science or religion. That has more to do with being human.