That is treated below, along with metaphysical speculations about not only how but why Universe(s) exist(s) in the first place, and, more particularly, musings on the role intelligent beings might play in the physical and (if it exists) spiritual aspects of this existence,assuming the Universe has some absolute reality. We have on previous pages left largely unsaid this most fundamental of questions: Can a Universe (or Multiverse) come into existence on its own or does it (them) require some external agent, and how did that agent (one version being "God") itself arise without some preceding cause? And its corollary: Can there be an Uncaused Cause? This page will explore this conundrum, but don't expect any pat answers.
Topics such as Multiverses represent excursions of the human mind well into the abstract. Contemplating the idea of a Multiverse seems to carry one into a state of purely fanciful thinking. Can a concept as "far out" as Multiverses have any claim to be part of "reality". The answer is unequivocally YES in the sense of such a "thing" (the catch word that allows anything to be a valid idea) being POSSIBLE. But that in itself doesn't prove the reality of the "thing conceived".
If one accepts the duality of human existence - towit, there are physical, material aspects (what Science describes) together with abstract, spiritual aspects (including consciousness, ideals, morality, etc.) that reside together in human nature - then we can justify adding the ideas set forth in the remainder of this page as worthy of speculative consideration. We will thus attempt to erect a bridge between Physical (Concrete Things) and Metaphysical (Abstract Things).
To begin: As a comment on the above ideas, from a metaphysical perspective, the argument that quantum mechanical principles are sufficient to explain creation of a Universe ex nihilo (from seemingly nothing) by postulating virtual particles that follow some mechanism converting them to "degrees of universe" has one serious flaw. These particles, even though they may not survive for any extended moment because the vast majority are quickly annihilated, still are something in the realm of existence. Therefore, they have a reality and are subject to principles of causality (that is, every effect must have a cause except - to solve the dilemma of getting started - an uncaused cause). So too is the existence of a vacuum which serves as the matrix for virtual particles. Thus, the age-old doctrine (traceable to the Greeks) that "only nothing can come from nothing" remains applicable - some independent agent would seem to be needed to "create" the vacuum and the potentiality of virtual particles. Of course, a conundrum arises at once: what is the origin (cause) of the agent. Theologians who cite the agent to be what is called "God" or "The Intelligent Designer" are forced to postulate a special - and probably unique - property of the Designer being uncaused.
Various philosphers, theologians, and some scientists have attempted to reconcile what many believe to be a presumptive basic conflict between Science and Religion, namely, is the Universe purely natural and self-generated or was it created and designed by a pre-existing Intellect. The writer has his own thoughts on this most profound of subjects. They are summarized in three premises: First, for the sake of argument I postulate that it is conceivable, even plausible, that there is in actuality some kind of Creator. Second, let�s accept that essentially all that has been discovered, described, and tested by Science is valid to the extent now known (future scientific studies will likely modify some current concepts, discard others, and find new laws and principles). Then, third - the key resolution and settlement to all the controversy - is that both the religionists and the materialists are right!! Under this model, what human thinking has done, in Science, in Sociology, in Theology, in any field attempting this explanatory act, is just to unravel the way in which a supernatural creator-being set into motion (thereby establishing reality) all that we perceive in our created Universe. Thus, Science is discovering not only the natural "modis operandi" of the Universe's origin and development but also the way in which it starts and evolves according to a blueprint established by an independent agent (God; Deus; Yahweh, Allah, Ishvara, Krishna, many others; or, from an atheistic viewpoint, some physical entity, beit a force or pure energy). Theologians have long argued between the concept of Theism - the god-being takes an interactive and continuing role in the affairs of humans and all of creation - and the concept of Deism - the god-being established the principles by which the Universe operates, set it into motion, and since then, at least on Earth, only occasionally interacts with humans, thus does not guide or direct the world on a daily basis.
(As an interpolated "aside": Einstein was a deist, but not quite an agnostic. He was partial to the philosophy of the 17th century thinker, Baruch Spinoza. Spinoza developed a form of pantheism that held that God and Nature were one and the same. To learn more, go to the Internet and google (or Yahoo or Bing) for "god vs science Albert Einstein" and for "Spinoza".)
Another very important - fundamental - issue can be raised that has a profound implication for the nature and history of the Universe. It is this point that Intelligent Design advocates stress: there are a number (at least 47) fundamental parameters involved in the Universe's inception and development that, if changed even a small amount, would have so affected the process that the Universe could not have developed the way it is or, for that matter, even come into existence.
This touches upon the argument of "fine tuning", related to but distinct from the Anthropic Principle (the Universe is meaningful and knowable because Man exists as a conscious being capable of deciphering this meaning). At the time of the Big Bang and thereafter, certain constants and parameters (those fundamental to Physics) involved in the process, and the mathematical equations that delineate the initiating process and all that follows in the natural order, had to have very specific (precise) values. Otherwise, if these numbers deviated notably from their actual values, and sometimes by just a little, the organization and evolution of the Universe we observe would not have been possible, or, if it could exist, would be so different that it might never have fostered the conditions that led to organic life, here on Earth and probably elsewhere in the Cosmos.
Many of these parameters are listed here:
1. Gravitational coupling constant. If larger: No stars less than 1.4 solar masses, hence short stellar lifespans. If smaller: No stars more than 0.8 solar masses, hence no heavy element production
2. Strong nuclear force coupling constant. If larger: No Hydrogen; nuclei essential for life are unstable. If smaller: No elements other than Hydrogen.
3. Weak nuclear force coupling constant. If larger: All Hydrogen is converted to helium in the Big Bang, hence too much heavy elements. If smaller: No Helium produced from Big Bang, hence not enough heavy elements.
4. Electromagnetic coupling constant. If larger: No chemical bonding; elements more massive than Bboron are unstable to fission. If smaller: No chemical bonding.
5. Ratio of protons to electrons formation If larger: electromagnetism dominates gravity preventing galaxy, star, and planet formation. If smaller: Electromagnetism dominates gravity preventing galaxy, star, and planet formation.
6. Ratio of electron to proton mass. If larger: No chemical bonding. If smaller: No chemical bonding.
7. Expansion rate of the universe. If larger: No galaxy formation. If smaller: Universe collapses prior to star formation.
8. Entropy level of universe. If larger: No star condensation within the proto-galaxies If smaller: No proto-galaxy formation
9. Mass density of the universe. If larger: Too much Deuterium from Big Bang, hence stars burn too rapidly If smaller: No Helium from Big Bang, hence not enough heavy elements
10. Age of the universe. If older: No solar-type stars in a stable burning phase in the right part of the galaxy. If younger: Solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would not yet have formed.
11. Initial uniformity of radiation. If smoother: Stars, star clusters, and galaxies would not have formed. If coarser: Universe by now would be mostly Black Holes and empty space.
12. Average distance between stars. If larger: Heavy element density too thin for rocky planet production, If smaller: Planetary orbits become destabilized.
13. Solar luminosity. If increases too soon: Runaway Greenhouse effect. If increases too late: Frozen oceans.
14. Fine structure constant*. If larger: No stars more than 0.7 solar masses. If smaller: No stars less then 1.8 solar masses.
15. Decay rate of the proton. If greater: Life would be exterminated by the release of radiation. If smaller: Insufficient matter in the Universe for life.
16. C12 to O16 energy level ratio. If larger: Insufficient Oxygen If smaller: Insufficient Carbon.
17. Decay rate of Be8. If slower: Heavy element fusion would generate catastrophic explosions in all the stars. If faster: No element production beyond Beryllium and, hence, no life chemistry possible.
18. Mass difference between the neutron and the proton. If greater: Protons would decay before stable nuclei could form If smaller: Protons would decay before stable nuclei could form.
19. Initial excess of nucleons over anti-nucleons. If greater: Too much radiation for planets to form. If smaller: Not enough matter for galaxies or stars to form.
20. Galaxy type. If too elliptical: Star formation ceases before sufficient heavy element buildup for life chemistry. If too irregular: Radiation exposure on occasion is too severe and/or heavy elements for life chemistry are not available.
21. Parent star distance from center of galaxy. If farther: Quantity of heavy elements would be insufficient to make rocky planets If closer: Stellar density and radiation would be too great.
22. Number of stars in the planetary system. If more than one: Tidal interactions would disrupt planetary orbits. If less than one: Heat produced would be insufficient for life.
23. Parent star birth date. If more recent: Star wuld not yet have reached stable burning phase. If less recent: Stellar system would not yet contain enough heavy elements.
24. Parent star mass. If greater: Luminosity would change too fast; star would burn too rapidly. If less: Range of distances appropriate for life would be too narrow; tidal forces would disrupt the rotational period for a planet of the right distance; UV radiation would be inadequate for plants to make sugars and Oxygen.
25. Parent star age. If older: Luminosity of star would change too quickly. If younger: Luminosity of star would change too quickly.
26. Parent star color. If redder: Photosynthetic response would be insufficient. If bluer: Photosynthetic response would be insufficient.
27. Supernovae eruptions. If too close: Life on the planet would be exterminated. If too far: Not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets. If too infrequent: Not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets. If too frequent: Life on the planet would be exterminated.
28. White/Dwarf binaries. If too few: Insufficient fluorine produced for life chemistry to proceed. If too many: Disruption of planetary orbits from stellar density; life on the planet would be exterminated.
29. Surface gravity (escape velocity). If stronger: Atmosphere would retain too much ammonia and methane. If weaker: Planet's atmosphere would lose too much water.
30. Distance from parent star. If farther: Planet would be too cool for a stable water cycle. If closer: Planet would be too warm for a stable water cycle.
31. Inclination of orbit. If too great: Temperature differences on the planet would be too extreme.
32. Orbital eccentricity. If too great: Seasonal temperature differences would be too extreme.
33. Axial tilt. If greater: Surface temperature differences would be too great. If less: Surface temperature differences would be too great.
34. Rotation period. If longer: Diurnal temperature differences would be too great. If shorter: Atmospheric wind velocities would be too great.
35. Gravitational interaction with a moon. If greater: Tidal effects on the oceans, atmosphere, and rotational period would be too severe. If less: Orbital obliquity changes would cause climatic instabilities.
36. Magnetic field. If stronger: Electromagnetic storms would be too severe. If weaker: Inadequate protection from hard steller radiation.
37. Thickness of crust. If thicker: Too much Oxygen would be transferred from the atmosphere to the crust. If thinner: Volcanic and tectonic activity would be too great.
38. Albedo (ratio of reflected light to total amount falling on surface). If greater: Runaway ice age would develop. If less: Runaway Greenhouse effect would develop.
39. Oxygen to Nitrogen ratio in atmosphere. If larger: Advanced life functions would proceed too quickly. If smaller: Advanced life functions would proceed too slowly.
40. Carbon dioxide level in atmosphere. If greater: Runaway greenhouse effect would develop. If less: Plants would not be able to maintain efficient photosynthesis.
41 Water vapor level in atmosphere. If greater: Runaway Greenhouse effect would develop. If less: Rainfall would be too meager for advanced life on the land.
42. Ozone level in atmosphere. If greater: Surface temperatures would be too low. If less Surface temperatures would be too high; there would be too much uv radiation at the surface.
43. Atmospheric electric discharge rate. If greater: Too much fire destruction would occur. If less: Too little nitrogen would be fixed in the atmosphere.
44. Oxygen quantity in atmosphere. If greater: Plants and hydrocarbons would burn up too easily. If less: Advanced animals would have too little to breathe.
45. Oceans to continents ratio. If greater: Diversity and complexity of life-forms would be limited. If smaller: diversity and complexity of life-forms would be limited.
46. Soil mineralization. If too nutrient poor: diversity and complexity of life-forms would be limited. If too nutrient rich: Diversity and complexity of life-forms would be limited.
47. Seismic activity. If greater: Too many life-forms would be destroyed. If less: Nutrients on ocean floors (from river runoff) would not be recycled to the continents through tectonic uplift.
(To give a balanced opinion of these contants, we should mention that some scientists have challenged the supposition that these parameters are not necessarily constant over the long time the Universe has existed.)
The use of "greater" or "less" (or equivalents) in connection with the fundamental parameters listed above is judged by the writer to imply not slight amounts but significant changes for at least some of the 47 fundamental parameter items shown. For example, if Oxygen varies by, say, 2%, life forms probably could have evolved; continental/ocean ratios have varied considerably in the past without derailing the advance of life. Also, many scientists disagree, play down, and debate the validity of some (perhaps many) of the above items in the list. Certain ones have not yet been proved adequately. Some items are redundant or cross-correlated. Many seem to be valid, with acceptable certainty, only for Earth (so far) where observations and experience are based on scientific studies. Finally, it may be that some of the above values could vary by large amounts if certain other values also change in a compensatory way that permits development of planets with different parameters while still allowing for appearance and evolution of life, although no one has supported this premise satisfactorily.
Note that some of the items in the above parameter listing apply mainly to the Universe at the cosmological level but others are applicable primarily to the Earth and life thereon and by inference other inhabited planets. (The conditions that allow life at various levels have more flexibility - can vary over wider limits - but still are subject to narrower ranges.)
Nevertheless, both the nontheistic scientists (those that argue for a purely natural origin of the Universe and its evolution - both cosmic and organic) without the need for an external intelligent cause or designer (what is usually meant by "God") and theistic scientists (those who favor a designing intelligence that at the least set the Universe in motion and assigned it the parameters stated above) have developed intriguing arguments for their viewpoints. The first group believes the Universe to be self-originating and self-controlled, perhaps accidental (governed by chance) rather than arbitrarily preplanned, and subject to principles of "Natural Selection" (in which the controlling parameters may have changed as it evolves). Thus the parameters may not have always been constant. The second group cites the complexity of the Universe and particularly of the human mind as very, very unlikely to originate by chance alone; some external pre-existing being must have guided its inception and development. For that group, the parameters did not just "happen" to be right, since the probability that they all assumed the limited (almost immutable) values assigned by "good luck" is extraordinarily small. In their view, the parameters are truly immutably, having been established as they are now from the outset of the Big Bang.
Who is "right" is so far not settled. Each may possess some truth or measure of reality. Perhaps both are right to varying degrees. Or neither has yet found out the real nature of the Cosmos, and may never. But human nature seeks a responsible deity or at least a mind-force that seemingly best explains our existence. And, we are "hooked" on the notion of Causality - everything must have a cause. Ultimately, the optimal argument for Science - irrespective of a Designer involvement - to account for the realities it is discovering may rest on teleological arguments. Hopefully, those would provide answers to the basic question of "WHY", namely, do purposes reside in the natural world as driving or controlling principles. Or is the apparent fact that we exist within a material framework of laws of physics sufficient to explain the naturalistic model without recourse to an external agent. In this latter alternative, the notion of consciousness, ideas, ideals, spirituality, and soul are just properties of the brain as a physical host device. Still, human nature being what it is, most people, including many scientists, yearn for a sense of purpose that was imposed by a superintelligent creator.
Most of the above musings reflect the writer's personal thinking. I have three remaining thoughts of moment: 1) Science considers only what can be sought and explained in the physical Universe; it cannot observe, measure, and test the abstractions inherent in the concept of God, although some of its methodology is adaptable to metaphysical inquiry; 2) Science is yet to embark on a mission to try to explain the purpose of the Universe; it probably is not equipped to do so; but the question ultimately needs to be addressed, as for example if the Universe came into existence out of a quantum fluctuation in the vacuum energy (as many cosmologists now believe), what brought this energy itself into existence; and 3) why would the Creator/Designer have produced a huge Universe solely to place thinking beings (humans) on one small planet near an average star in just one galaxy among billions; it seems far more sensible to postulate that intelligent life exists in abundance in the multitudes of galaxies throughout the Universe; this "we are one among many" hypothesis suggests to me that the reason for the vast Universe as a place where life is widespread is that an omniscient Creator intended thinking creatures to be everywhere, and thus there are lots of everywheres.
The question of purpose for the Universe itself has challenged philosophers and theologicans for more than two millenia. An interesting website considers this subject. Access it at The Templeton Foundation website.
For the curious, these paperback books by Paul Davies offer valuable insights into both scientific and metaphysical aspects of Cosmology: God and the New Physics, The Fifth Miracle, and The Mind of God [especially Ch. 2]., Touchstone Books, Simon & Schuster, Inc.; this author considers the question of life elsewhere in the Universe in Are We Alone: Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life, Basic Books, 1995. Dr. Davies (now at Arizona State University) has followed up these books with an extremely insightful and provocative article in the September 2003 issue of The Atlantic Monthly entitled "E.T. and God" - highly recommended for its synoptic overview.
A classic review of the role of Science in understanding the need for a God is Science and Creation, by John Polkinghorne, New Science Library, 1989. A book that concentrates on relating cosmological discoveries to teachings associated with the Christian God is Beyond the Cosmos by Hugh Ross, Oxford Press, 1996. A balanced and thorough review that considers how religious beliefs and observations of the physical Universe are not necessarily incompatible is When Science meets Religion by Ian Barbour, Harper, 1999. A general overview of arguments contrary to the exclusively natural and spontaneous Universe such as described in this Section is A Case against Accident and Self-Organization, by Dean L. Overman, Rowman & Littlefield. One of the best read by the writer (NMS)that supports the existence of an Intelligent Creator within the framework of Science is The God Hypothesis: Discovering Design in our "Just Right" Goldilocks Universe, by Michael Corey, Roman & Littlefield, 1999. A recent book that takes just the opposite view - summarizing the thoughts of nontheistic scientists on the capability of a self-created Universe and thus dispensing with the need for a Creator - is The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
Dawkins' book relies mostly on arguments other than cosmological to demonstrate his inferred likelihood that no Creator is necessary. Corey's book is the most complete and broad treatise relying on cosmological arguments to deduce that a Creator must have acted to initiate the Big Bang and to program in all the conditions that favored the eventual appearance of life (he tends to be very repetitious in his presentation). He has two main theses: 1) There are many constants (including those above) that are both immutable (have acted throughout the Universe since its beginning, without significant change) and fine-tuned (if their values change even a little, the Universe as it is could not come into existence, or if formed, would not survive with conditions favoring life), and 2) humans, as far as we now know, are the most advanced and complex beings within the material Universe - and, although they have taken a long time to appear, have evolved under a very narrow range of circumstances that permit them to now contemplate the kinds of topics treated on this page.
Two books that summarize the arguments for Intelligent Design as an alternative to naturalistic metaphysics are Darwin's Black Box, by Michael Behe, Simon & Schuster, and Intelligent Design, by William Dembski, Intravarsity Press.In the March, 2002 issue of the magazine First Things, which deals with topics in philosophy, theology, and the social order, an outstanding review of the possibilities of life elsewhere in the Universe and its implications for humankind, written by Fred Heeren, and entitled Home Alone in the Universe?, provides comprehensive and provocative insights into the question of how discovery of intelligent life beyond the Solar System would affect and change the outlook of Earth's inhabitants towards their place and role in the Universe. Highly recommended!
An interesting article dealing with the Anthropic Principle applied to cosmological ideas by Victor J. Stenger is found on the Internet. In this essay, Stenger argues against a recent resurgence in reconciliation between Science and Religion as still fraught with false premises. He concludes that a purely natural Universe is a very real possibility but while discounting the idea of Intelligent Design, he does not rule it out based on some overriding proof of its falsity but includes it in the list of possibilities. We strongly urge you to read this article and ponder its consequences. Then, you might wish to consider his article on The other side of time.
Another point of view that elevates Science almost to the status of a modern religion for our time and the future is presented in this Internet site by the aforementioned Lonely Planets website by David Grinspoon. Like many scientists now practicing, he believes that formal religions (those relying on revelations rather tban rigorous testing) might be trending towards the superfluous. Or, at the least they are in need of major restructuring and reconciliation with the World System of Science and Natural Philosophy.
The above ideas are admittedly speculative. Some were taken from a letter the writer had published in a local newspaper in 2000. For those interested in the thoughts expressed in that letter, click on this LETTER link