The laws of nature in this universe are attuned precisely to the needs of biological organisms.
star larvae hypothesis demotes evolution, or phylogeny,
to a status subordinate to a superordinate developmental cycle, or ontogeny, which is the
In doing so, it 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 to a supporting role in natural history.
view will tend to interpret the improbably complex, interdependent structures
and processes of nature as evidence of an intelligence operating behind
the scenes. This is the longstanding Argument
from Design. It has also been called 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 it arrives at conclusions radically
unlike those of the scientists.
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."
Nature of the Gods
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.
on the other hand, dismisses any apparent design as merely
apparent. The appearance of design is the result
of natural processes acting over many millennia. The eye,
for example, did not appear full-blown overnight. It evolved over
hundreds of millions of years, from the light-sensitive
eyespots of flatworms through countless intermediate refinements
to specimens, such as the eyes of raptors, that exceed in their powers
of resolution even the keenest 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.
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).
This idea 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 for 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 that makes life possible—renders implausible
any alternative to intelligent design.
corner offers a rebuttal, namely 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 make observations at all. 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
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?
Anthropic Principle as a backdrop, the Design argument can be stepped
back from the realm of biology, and 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, for example, 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.
reproduce through successive generations, and so the application of natural
selection to explain the properties of atoms is absurd from the outset.
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
Anthropic Principle invites science to expand
the concepts of ontogeny and phylogeny and gather physical processes
of all kinds under the Principle’s 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 and that the physical constants have been tuned, not by God, but
by cosmological natural selection.
NEXT > Cosmological
Star Larvae Hypothesis:
a genus of organism.
The stellar life cycle includes a larval phase.
Biological life constitutes the larval phase of the stellar life cycle.
hypothesis presents a teleological model of nature, in which
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