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Thread: What is so improbable about a fine-tuned universe for life

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    What is so improbable about a fine-tuned universe for life

    I am having a problem wrapping my head around why our universe is so improbable.

    For simplicity, if there were, say, a billion possible universes that could have existed and each one is different in some way, then of course the one universe that appears had the one in a billion chance of existing.

    I believe that I am wrong because after hours or research, I find my argument aligning with the general public while the scientists all seem to be in agreement and are publicly stating that this universe is too unlikely to exist. The odds are something like 1 in 10^125 or something wild like that.

    They claim that it is so unlikely that it warrants an explanation like a multiverse where all the other universes exist too making ours not so improbable (response to the anthropic principle).
    Last edited by ryan; 03-20-2019 at 07:06 PM.

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    Veteran Member skepticalbip's Avatar
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    Such a question assumes that the universe could be different than it is. What evidence is there that the electron charge could be different than it is, that the mass of the neutron could be different, that the universal gravitational constant could be different, etc.? Why would the fact that we don't know why the universal constants are what they are would mean that they could be different?

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    Your thread title says 'finely tuned universe for life', then your post doesn't address the life aspect of the thread title.

    Is your question, why is a universe where life exists improbable?

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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    Such a question assumes that the universe could be different than it is. What evidence is there that the electron charge could be different than it is, that the mass of the neutron could be different, that the universal gravitational constant could be different, etc.? Why would the fact that we don't know why the universal constants are what they are would mean that they could be different?
    From what I have been reading, it assumes a purely probabilistic beginning of the universe from QM and the 2nd law of thermodynamics to be true.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Your thread title says 'finely tuned universe for life', then your post doesn't address the life aspect of the thread title.

    Is your question, why is a universe where life exists improbable?
    Yes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ryan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    Such a question assumes that the universe could be different than it is. What evidence is there that the electron charge could be different than it is, that the mass of the neutron could be different, that the universal gravitational constant could be different, etc.? Why would the fact that we don't know why the universal constants are what they are would mean that they could be different?
    From what I have been reading, it assumes a purely probabilistic beginning of the universe from QM and the 2nd law of thermodynamics to be true.
    Indeed, if the starting assumption is that the universal constants could have any value then our universe as it currently is would have been highly improbable. But, since it does exist, it is. Sorta like the chance of being dealt any specific poker hand is highly improbable but, once dealt, whatever hand you were dealt is, regardless of the odds of it happening.

    OTOH, if the starting assumption is that the universal constants can only have the value that they do have then our current universe is a certainty. Sorta like the chance of being dealt five aces in a poker game if all 52 cards in the deck are ace of spades.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ryan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Your thread title says 'finely tuned universe for life', then your post doesn't address the life aspect of the thread title.

    Is your question, why is a universe where life exists improbable?
    Yes.
    The way I see it, at it's most basic the universe is composed of a finite set of elements, which can configure themselves into a (very large), but also finite set of arrangements. Life is just a particularly exotic arrangement of elements, and so it follows that if matter consistently has the same properties (which I assume is true) then it is always possible for life to exist in any given universe.

    That may or may not mean that it does exist at any given time, just that it is possible.

    To say it is 'improbable' kind of implies a bit of a value judgement. Whatever it's probability is, is exactly as it should be, mathematically. Not common, depending on your definition of common, but never impossible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ryan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skepticalbip View Post
    Such a question assumes that the universe could be different than it is. What evidence is there that the electron charge could be different than it is, that the mass of the neutron could be different, that the universal gravitational constant could be different, etc.? Why would the fact that we don't know why the universal constants are what they are would mean that they could be different?
    From what I have been reading, it assumes a purely probabilistic beginning of the universe from QM and the 2nd law of thermodynamics to be true.
    Indeed, if the starting assumption is that the universal constants could have any value then our universe as it currently is would have been highly improbable. But, since it does exist, it is. Sorta like the chance of being dealt any specific poker hand is highly improbable but, once dealt, whatever hand you were dealt is, regardless of the odds of it happening.

    OTOH, if the starting assumption is that the universal constants can only have the value that they do have then our current universe is a certainty. Sorta like the chance of being dealt five aces in a poker game if all 52 cards in the deck are ace of spades.
    But isn't any outcome ultimately an extremely improbable outcome? They would all be unlikely. I am missing something here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ryan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Your thread title says 'finely tuned universe for life', then your post doesn't address the life aspect of the thread title.

    Is your question, why is a universe where life exists improbable?
    Yes.
    The way I see it, at it's most basic the universe is composed of a finite set of elements, which can configure themselves into a (very large), but also finite set of arrangements. Life is just a particularly exotic arrangement of elements, and so it follows that if matter consistently has the same properties (which I assume is true) then it is always possible for life to exist in any given universe.

    That may or may not mean that it does exist at any given time, just that it is possible.

    To say it is 'improbable' kind of implies a bit of a value judgement. Whatever it's probability is, is exactly as it should be, mathematically. Not common, depending on your definition of common, but never impossible.
    Apparently the overwhelmingly vast majority of possible universes would not have life in it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ryan View Post
    Apparently the overwhelmingly vast majority of possible universes would not have life in it.
    No life AT ALL or just not containing life as we know it under the current local conditions?

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