Can the universe be conscious?

<pre>Can the universe be conscious?

Over the past 40 years, scientists have gradually discovered a strange fact about our universe: its laws of physics and the original conditions of the universe are perfectly tuned for life to get a chance to develop. It turns out that in order for life to appear, some values ​​of fundamental physics – for example, the force of gravity or the mass of an electron – must fall within a certain range. And this range is extremely narrow. So, it is extremely unlikely that the universe like ours will acquire a number of values ​​comparable to the existence of life. But she could.

Here are some examples of fine tuning for life:

  • A strong nuclear interaction (the force that binds together the elements in the nucleus of the atom) has a value of 0.007. If this value were 0.006 or less, there would be one hydrogen in the universe. If this value were 0.008 or higher, hydrogen would synthesize heavy elements. In both cases, chemical complexity would be physically impossible. And without chemical complexity there would be no life.
  • The physical possibility of chemical complexity also depends on the masses of the basic components of matter: electrons and quarks. If the mass of the lower quark was three times larger, there would be one hydrogen in the universe. If the mass of the electron were 2.5 times greater, only neutrinos would be in the universe: no atoms and no chemical reactions.
  • Gravity seems a powerful force, but in fact it is much weaker than other forces acting on atoms, about 1036 time. If gravity were at least a little bit stronger, the stars would be formed from a small amount of material and would be smaller, they would live less. The usual sun would exist 10,000 years instead of 10,000,000,000, and he would not have time to help create a complicated life. Conversely, if gravity were at least a little weaker, the stars would be much colder and would not explode as supernovae. Life would be impossible, since supernovae are the main source of many heavy elements, from which ingredients are formed for life.

Some consider fine tuning as the basic fact about our universe: maybe lucky, but does not require an explanation. But, like many scientists and philosophers, it seems incredible to me. In “The Life of Space” (1999) physicist Lee Smolin estimated the chance of existence of life in the Universe taking into account all fine tuning as 1 in 10229, from which he concludes:

“In my opinion, we can not leave such an insignificant probability without explanation. Luck has nothing to do with it; we need a rational explanation of how something similar happens. “

Fine tuning has two standard explanations: theism and the hypothesis of multiple universes. Theists claim that the Universe had a creator, almighty and supernatural, and explain the fine-tuning with the good intentions of the creator of the world. Life has an objective value; His or Her mercy wanted to preserve this great value, so it created laws with constants compatible with the physical possibility of the existence of life. The hypothesis of the multiple universe postulates a huge, infinite number of physical universes that differ from our own, in which many different values ​​of constants are realized. Given that a significant number of universes provide a significant number of constants, it becomes not so impossible to create at least one universe with “fine tunings.”

Both these theories can explain fine tuning. The problem is that at first glance they also make false predictions. For the theist, a false forecast arises from the problem of evil. Assuming that this universe was created by an omnipotent, all-knowing and all-powerful being, no one expects that this universe will contain a huge amount of undeserved suffering. In such a universe life can be discovered, and it will not be a surprise, but it will be a surprise to know through what awful process of natural selection this life has passed. Why would a merciful God who is capable of anything create this kind of life? Consequently, theism predicts a universe that is better than ours, and for this reason the shortcomings of our universe will be strong arguments against the existence of God.

As for the multi-universe hypothesis (multiple universes), a false prediction arises from the so-called Boltzmann brain problem, named after Austrian physicist of the 19th century Ludwig Boltzmann, who first formulated the paradox of the observable universe. Assuming that the multiverse exists, one can also assume that our Universe will be quite a typical member of the ensemble of universes, or at least quite a typical member of the ensemble of universes with observers (since we can not observe ourselves in a universe in which observers are impossible). However, the physicist Roger Penrose in 2004 calculated that in the type of multiverse that best suits modern physicists – on the basis of inflationary cosmology and string theory – for each observer who observes a smooth and ancient universe that will be as large as ours , there will be 1010123 observers who observe a smooth, ancient universe 10 times smaller. And so far the most common type of observer is the “Boltzmann brain”: a functioning brain, which by pure chance arose in an unordered universe for a short period of time. If Penrose is right, the chances that the observer in the theory of the multiple universe will find himself in a gigantic ordered universe are astronomically small. So, the fact that we ourselves are such observers, speaks against the theory of the multiverse.

But none of this is an irrefutable argument. Theists can try to give reasons why God allows suffering to happen that we find in the universe, and multiverse theorists can try to customize their theory so that our universe will get a better chance of emergence. But all this is wandering around the bush, rather trying to save the theory. Perhaps there is one more way.

In the public consciousness of physics, they try to explain as completely as possible the nature of space, time and matter. Of course, we did not get close to this either; for example, our best theory of a very large – the general theory of relativity – is incompatible with our best theory of very small – quantum mechanics. But it would be strange to assume that we will never overcome these obstacles and physicists can not proudly present to the public a common unified theory of everything: the complete history of the fundamental nature of the universe.

In fact, physicists do not tell us anything about the nature of the physical universe. Consider the theory of universal gravitation of Newton:

The variables m1 and m2 denote the masses of two objects, between which we want to obtain gravitational attraction; F is the gravitational attraction between these two masses, G is the gravitational constant (a number that we know from observations); r is the distance between m1 and m2. Note that this equation does not give us a definition of what “mass”, “force” and “distance” are. And this is characteristic not only of Newton's law. The subject of physics is the basic properties of the world of physics: mass, charge, spin, distance, force. But the equations of physics do not explain these properties. They just call them to put them in equations.

If physics does not tell us anything about the nature of the physical properties, then what does it say? The truth is that physics is a tool for forecasting. Even if we do not know what “mass” and “force” are, we can recognize them in the world. They appear as indications on our instruments or influence our senses. And using the equations of physics, like the same Newton's law of gravitation, we can predict what will happen, with great accuracy. It was this predictive ability that allowed us to manipulate the world of nature extraordinarily, led to a technological revolution that changed our planet. We live at a time when people are so overwhelmed by the success of physics that they tend to believe that physical and mathematical models have captured all reality. But physics does not need this. Physics is a tool for predicting the behavior of a substance, not for revealing its internal nature.

Given that physics does not tell us anything about the nature of physical reality, what does it say? What do we know about what is happening “under the hood” of the engine of the universe? English astronomer Arthur Eddington was the first scientist who confirmed the general theory of relativity, and also formulated the brain problem discussed above (albeit in a different context). Reflecting on the limitations of physics in the “Nature of the physical world” (1928), Eddington argued that the only thing we really know about the nature of matter is that part of it has consciousness; we know this because we are directly aware of the consciousness of our own brains.

“We are familiar with the outside world, because its threads penetrate our own consciousness; and only our ends of these threads are really known to us; from these ends we can more or less successfully restore the rest, as the paleontologist restores the extinct monster in his wake. “

We do not have direct access to the nature of matter outside the brain. But the most reasonable assumptions, according to Eddington, are that the nature of matter outside the brain is inseparable from matter inside the brain. Considering that we do not have a direct idea of ​​the nature of the atoms, Eddington's opinion is rather “stupid” to state that the nature of atoms does not contain any mentality at all, and then guess where this mentality comes from. In his book “Consciousness and Fundamental Reality” (2017), Philip Goff, professor of philosophy at the Institute of Central Europe in Budapest, developed these reflections as an expanded argument of panpsychism: the view that all matter has a conscious nature.

There are two ways to develop a basic the position of a panpsychist. One is micro-psychicism, when consciousness has the smallest particles of the physical world. Micro-psychicism should not be understood as an absurdity in which quarks have emotions or electrons feel anger. Human consciousness is the most complicated thing, including subtle and complex emotions, mental and sensory experience. But there is nothing that would prohibit the manifestation of consciousness in extremely simple forms. We tend to believe that the conscious experience of the horse is much simpler than ours, and the chicken's experience is much simpler than the horse's experience. The simpler the organisms become, the less often they manifest consciousness at a certain moment; the simplest organisms do not have any conscious experience at all. But, perhaps, the light of consciousness is never turned off, but rather fades with decreasing organic complexity, from flies and plants to amoebas and bacteria. For a micro-psychologist, this fading but never-switching continuum goes into inorganic matter, into fundamental physical entities-perhaps electrons and quarks-possessing rudimentary forms of consciousness reflecting their extremely simple nature.

Some scientists and philosophers from the world of science recently came to the conclusion that this kind of picture of the universe “from the bottom up” is obsolete, and modern physics says that we live in a “top-down” – or holistic – universe in which the complex whole is more fundamental than ego about the part. By holism, the table before you does not exist because of the subatomic particles that make it up; on the contrary, these subatomic particles exist because of the table. Ultimately, everything exists because of an ultimatum complex system: the universe as a whole.

Holism is associated with mysticism in its adherence to a single whole, which is the ultimate reality. But in his favor, there are strong scientific arguments. The American philosopher Jonathan Schaffer argues that the phenomenon of quantum entanglement is an excellent proof of holism. Entangled particles behave as a whole, even if separated by such large distances that it is impossible to transmit a fast signal between them. According to Schaffer, we can understand this only if we are in a universe in which complex systems are more fundamental than parts.

If we combine holism with panpsychism, we will get cosmopsychism: a picture in which the universe is conscious, and consciousness people of animals flow not from the consciousness of fundamental particles but from the consciousness of the Universe itself.

The cosmopsychist does not need to think about a conscious Universe with human features of consciousness like thinking and rationalism. No, cosmic consciousness should be seen as a “hodgepodge”, devoid of intellect or judgment, says Goff. He also admits that the fact of “fine tuning” can give us ground for the idea that the intelligent life of the universe can be a little closer than it was thought to the intelligent life of a human being.

Canadian philosopher John Leslie offered a curious explanation of the fine tuning that he in the book “Universes” (1989) called “axiarchism.” Fine tuning amazes us by the fact that all the quantities that were constants in our laws are exactly the ones that are necessary for something of value: life, and then definitively intelligent life. If the laws were not finely tuned, the universe would have infinitely less value; one could say she would not have it at all. Leslie admits that this understanding of the problem points us in the direction of a better solution: the laws are finely tuned, because their existence allows for something very valuable. Leslie does not try to imagine a deity that rushes between magnitudes and cosmological facts; the fact of value itself takes and adjusts the exact values.

It's hard to deny that axiarchism is a boring explanation for fine tuning, because it does not require the existence of any entities other than the observable universe. But communication is not quite obvious. Values ​​do not seem to be suitable agents for creating a causal influence on the work of the world, at any rate, regardless of the motives of rational agents. This is how to assume that the abstract figure 9 was the cause of the hurricane.

But the cosmopsychist has a way of making the axiarchism understandable, assuming that the mental faculties of the universe were intermediaries between value facts and cosmological facts. From this point of view, which we can call “agency cosmopsychism,” the universe itself fine-tuned the laws in accordance with considerations of value. When did it happen? In the first 10-43 seconds, known as the Planck era. The cosmopsychologist can assume that at this early stage of cosmological history the Universe itself “chose” fine-tuned quantities to make a valuable universe possible.

To understand this, two modifications of the basic cosmopsychism are needed. First, we must admit that the universe has a basic ability to recognize and respond to considerations of value. This is very different from what we are used to know about things, but it is consistent with what we observe. The Scottish philosopher David Hume has long noticed that all that we can observe is in fact just the behavior of things – the forces from which these behaviors stem are invisible to us. We routinely believe that the universe is governed by a number of irrational causal chains, but it is also possible that the ability of the universe to react to considerations of value is the fault.

How to rethink the laws of physics from this point of view? Goff believes that we see in them the limitations of the agency of the universe. Unlike God in theism, it is an agent with limited power, which explains the obvious imperfections of the universe. The universe acts to maximize value, but can do so only within the constraints of the laws of physics. The philanthropy of the universe in our days is almost invisible; the agent cosmopsychist could explain this by the fact that the Universe today is more limited than it was in the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang, when the now-known laws of physics were not applied.

Occam's razor is the principle that, other things being equal, preference is given to more restrained theories – in this case is observed. But will it be reserved to ascribe the fundamental consciousness of the universe? Not at all. The physical world must have a certain nature, and physics does not tell us anything about this nature. But also to assume that the universe has a conscious nature, and not the unconscious, will not be very correct from the position of Occam's razor. The first sentence can be considered more restrained, because it continues the only thing we know for sure about the nature of matter: the brains have consciousness.

The second and last modification, which we must apply to cosmopsychism in order to explain fine tuning, requires some expenses. If the universe had already fine-tuned laws during the Planck era, so that life could appear billions of years later, the universe must somehow understand the consequences of its actions. Это вторая модификация Гоффа: он предполагает, что агентивный космопсихизм должен допускать, что во время базового расположения Вселенная представляет полный потенциал последствий всех возможных действий. И все равно это не может переплюнуть несдержанность альтернативных теорий. Теист постулирует существование сверхъестественного агента, а агентивный космопсихист постулирует существование естественного (природного) агента. Теоретик множественных вселенных постулирует огромное число отдельных ненаблюдаемых сущностей: множественных вселенных. Агентивный космопсихист просто добавляет свое сущности, которую мы имеем возможность наблюдать: физической Вселенной. Что также важно, агентивный космопсихист избегает ложных предсказаний, которые делают два других альтернативщика.

Идея о том, что Вселенная представляет собой сознание, действующее в ответ на оценку ценности, дает нам экстравагантную картину. Но давайте судить теорию не по культурным ассоциациям, а по силе объяснения. Гофф считает, что его агентивный космопсихизм объясняет тонкую настройку без ложных предсказаний, и делает это просто и элегантно.

По материалам Aeon

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