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Introduction
& Prolog
Part 1.
Metabolic Metaphysics
Part 2.
Star Larvae
Part 3.
Space Brains
Addenda
Epilog

The Star Larvae HypothesisAstrotheology and Hinduism
Nature's Plan for Humankind
Part 2. Star Larvae

Anthropic Coincidence

The laws of nature in this universe are attuned precisely to the needs of biological organisms.




The star larvae hypothesis demotes evolution, or phylogeny, to a status subordinate to a superordinate developmental cycle, or ontogeny, which is the stellar life cycle.

In doing so, the hypothesis recasts evolution as a teleological process, a sequential unfolding of already-present potentials. Repositioning evolution in this way narrows the gap between the scientific and religious views of nature. It demotes contingency (as in random mutation) to a tertiary role in natural history.

A religious view will tend to interpret the improbably complex, interdependent structures and processes of nature as presenting evidence of an intelligence operating behind the scenes. This is the longstanding Argument from Design. Today it's known as the doctrine of "intelligent design," (formerly, "Creation science;" formerly "Creationism") This view of nature appeals to the powers of human observation, as does the scientific view, but its conclusions land outside of science.

"I could cite many further instances of this assiduous and sophisticated provision of nature, to make clear the extent of these outstanding gifts of the gods to mankind. To begin with, she has raised men from the earth and made them stand tall and erect, so that by gazing on the sky they could acquire knowledge of the gods. Human beings are sprung from the earth not as natives and dwellers there, but to survey the heavenly realm above, an insight granted to no other species of living creatures."

— Cicero
The Nature of the Gods

The design argument asks the skeptic to look, for example, at the eye and its ability to receive light and transfer images to the receptive centers of the brain, its ability to focus near and far, its ability to dilate and constrict its pupil to accommodate dim and bright light, its transparency to light, and so on. Clearly—so runs the argument—such a complex, perfectly tuned mechanism could not have come into being other than by the hand of a skilled creator.

Science, on the other hand, dismisses any apparent design as merely apparent. The appearance of design is the result of natural processes acting over long spans of time. The eye did not appear full-blown overnight but evolved slowly from the light-sensitive eyespots of flatworms through countless intermediate refinements to specimens, such as the eyes of raptors, that exceed in their acuity even the keenest of human eyes. But continuous refinement is just nature allowing organisms to reach reproductive age. Time takes care of the rest, through variation and natural selection (and genetic drift and horizontal gene transfer), according to the scientific view.

Reconciling these perspectives is a philosophical challenge issued anew in recent years by the Anthropic Principle. (For a thoroughgoing treatment, see John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle). The principle springs from an observation about the universe's fundamental physical constants, which include the strengths of the strong and weak nuclear forces and gravity, the mass of the electron, and the speed of light. These constants, which are not derivable from other physical quantities, are—so far as science can determine—given in the structure of the universe; they are intrinsic properties. The interesting observation about these quantities is that they happen to lie within a narrow range of values within which they must lie to enable a complex universe such as ours to exist in the first place. A slight change in any of these fundamental quantities would likely render the universe far less interesting—far less able to produce atoms and molecules, stars and planets, galaxies and that seemingly improbable entity, the biological organism. The universe seems to have been "tuned" to be hospitable to biological life. The parameters are ultra-precise. Newly emboldened critics of science have grabbed this ball and tried to score points by arguing that the odds against so many coincidences—the alignment of so many constants—renders implausible any alternative to intelligent design.

The rebuttal from the scientific says that humankind should not be surprised to find itself in a universe in which it is allowed to exist. If humankind’s existence were precluded in the first place by inhospitable physics, then no one would be around to ask about it. In other words, starting from the fact that we can ask questions about our existence, scientists are unimpressed that a "coincidence" of the laws of nature allows us to do so. It is a necessary given, given the fact that humans exist.

Nonetheless, questions remain: Why do the fundamental constants have precisely the values that they have? Why isn't the universe an indistinct lump or a diffuse fog, devoid of interesting features? Does some kind of necessity force the laws of nature to be what they are, or are we just amazingly lucky?

With the Anthropic Principle as a backdrop, the design argument can be stepped back from the realm of biology and from the Evolution-Design debate to fundamental aspects of physical nature. The Design argument gains a leg up on Darwinism when it forces us to look past the organic phenomena that science explains with evolution to more fundamental physics. For example, when science cites natural selection to explain the eye, it begs the question as to why the molecules that compose the eye happen to arrive on the scene with precisely the physical properties that they need to interact chemically as they do to compose specialized cells that have properties that make possible complex structures, such as the retina, cornea, lens, etc., with their precise physical characteristics. And the same question is begged regarding the atoms that compose the molecules.

No one argues that carbon atoms evolved from ancestral atoms and that their evolution favored those ancestral forms with properties more conducive to successful reproduction. Carbon atoms possess the nuclear and chemical properties that they do, because they just do. That is what it means to be a carbon atom.

Atoms don’t reproduce through successive generations, and so the application of natural selection to explain the properties of atoms is an absurdity.

Or?

Could selection pressures influence the properties of atoms through the turnover of stellar generations (stars being the bodies that metabolize small atoms into bigger atoms)?

More provocatively, might atoms be pre-programmed to assemble themselves into this particular universe in any way analogous to that in which acorns are preprogrammed to assemble atoms and molecules into oak trees? The strongest form of the Anthropic Principle invites science to expand the concepts of ontogeny and phylogeny and gather physical processes of all kinds under its teleological umbrella. A possible repositioning of natural processes in this context—putting everything into a Darwinian context—would undercut the argument from design's supernatural foundation. Science gets a leg up on Creationism when it proposes that universes themselves evolve within a metaverse and that the physical constants have been tuned, not by God, but by cosmological natural selection.

NEXT > Cosmological Natural Selection

 


The Star Larvae Hypothesis:

Stars constitute a genus of organism. The stellar life cycle includes a larval phase. Biological life constitutes the larval phase of the stellar life cycle.

Elaboration: The hypothesis presents a teleological model of nature, in which

 

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