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View Diary: "Evolution Teaches Nothing But Lies," And Other Dover Facts (303 comments)

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  •  human laws are prescriptions (none)
    which are the sort of thing that can be changed.  Physical laws and mathematical relationships are descriptions, which are not the sort of thing that can be changed.  pi is the ratio of the radius of a circle to its circumference; that it is equal to 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510... (that's as far as I have it memorized) is an observation, the result of calculating it through any of numerous methods each of which is mathematically provable as equivalent to pi; there is no way to "change it".  The physical constants, OTOH, may be arbitrary, in which case it would be possible for other universes to have other values, but that has yet to be established -- they may be consequences of more fundamental facts about the structure of the universe.  As for the argument that  a universe finely tuned to make life possible implies conscious design -- it's a fallacy of confirmation of the consequent, just as the argument that the person who wins a lottery must have cheated.  Since we are here talking about it, the universe is necessarily of the sort that makes us possible -- this is known as the Anthropic Principle.  The claim that the universe was crafted to make us possible rests on the unwarranted assumption that there is only one universe.  But philosopher David Lewis has made a compelling argument that all possible universes exist (see
    •  Wow, amazing post. (none)
      You've convinced this physicist that the ID argument is complete crap.  My own reasoning was more of a "so many monkeys, so many typewriters..." argument that there existed so many possible microstates since the Big Bang that the right set of them produced life on Earth.  I like yours better.

      Still, I wonder if even Pi might be different in a universe with nonlinear geometry (warping of spacetime and all).  Well, e (Euler's constant) wouldn't change.  It's also good to know that one can be out-nerded on Pi decimals.

      I'll read up on the many-worlds link you gave, but I have reservations about instantaneous infinite universe multiplication.

      A big 4 to you, sir.

      Never play leapfrog with a unicorn.

      by Cream Puff on Wed Dec 21, 2005 at 11:51:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks. (none)
        "I'll read up on the many-worlds link you gave, but I have reservations about instantaneous infinite universe multiplication."

        Note that Lewis's notion of modal reality is about the ontology of logically possible worlds; it is independent of QM, and would hold even if QM were false (as it must be in many of those possible worlds).  On reservations, as the link notes,

        the chief critical response to modal realism is what Lewis calls 'The Incredulous Stare', this is simply the view that modal realism is intuitively grotesque.

        A logical basis for such reservations and intuitions is quite lacking, however, making it a mere article of faith.  One can either assume modal realism or not; if not, one is left with thorny questions of why the universe is as it is, questions that evaporate under the assumption of modal realism, which holds that, for every way a universe can be, there is a universe like that; this universe is as it is and not some other way just as I'm me rather than someone else.

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