A Reflection on P.C.W Davies "The Accidental Universe"
I consider my journey through my science education as a personal evolution. I started my evolution when I exited the Army as a Medical Laboratory Technician. The Army had trained me in the technical arena of health sciences. I felt comfortable with the study of Biology and entered into my first year as a student in the Biological Sciences. As I learned more about what makes up living systems I became fascinated with life as seen from a molecular level, so I entered into a Molecular Biology program.
At first my limited science knowledge was blown wide open with the concept of molecular intelligence. Then my training moved into the sciences of Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus. Chemistry taught me that molecules are run by even smaller atomic structures. Physics brought me to a world were laws and constants laid foundations for the reasoning behind the movement of atoms. It opened my eyes to more than just the cell and the incredible interconnection of cells that make up multicellular organisms, but a world that was run by forces that controlled the internal workings of atoms. These primary forces being the weak force, the strong force, the electromagnetic force, and gravity. My studies in Calculus helped me to understand the fundamental mathematical equations that justified the existence of this world around me.
This was only the beginning. My knowledge base was leading me towards the extremely small and to the extremely large. Cosmology began to peak my interest by showing how the creation of the universe not only involved stars, galaxies, and solar systems, but also the forces holding together atomic structures. I also realized that every scientific discipline has a handful of fundamental constants that are used within equations to illuminate anything from the movement of atoms to the creation of energy. I picked up P.C.W. Davies book "The Accidental Universe," I did not realize that the book itself was to be another step in the evolution of my education.
The first few chapters in the book quickly discussed many of the fundamental equations in physics and cosmology. The book began a running tally of the fundamental constants that make the equations work. Davies describes how the fundamental constants not only make the equations work but make the universe and the world around us work as well. He discusses how precise these constants are, so precise that if any of the constants changed slightly in either directions the world we live in could not exist, or at least be explained. He points out that many of the extremely large constants are within the 10^40 region and many of the extremely small constants are within 10^-40 region. Many physicists and cosmologists believe that this similarity is not coincidence. At first I was able to follow the math, simply out of familiarity. Yet as the chapter progressed I found it harder to follow some of his derivations.
The last chapter of the book is where my interest reached a plateau. Davies describes what he calls the Anthropic principle. Before I describe what the Anthropic principles entials I would like to explain why I found this principle so fascinating. One of the reason's science has been a major part of my life, besides my love of Science Fiction, was that behind every question was an answer that strengthened my faith, as an agnostic, in a monothiestic god. A problem I faced was that I was only being taught theories and hypothesis that provided summaries to the questions asked. I was left on my own to interpolate the data into my religious beliefs. This was not a cause of irritation, more a reason to study the information in more depth. Davies took me into a realm of scientific inquiry that delt directly with the question of the existence of humankind. The questions asked by the Anthropic principle intertwine the biological perspective with that of all the other sciences. What makes the principle important is that it begins with the math and then shows what humans have miraculously proven in the short period of our existence.
The Anthropic principle tries to answer the question behind the remarkable amount of precision obtained by the use of the fundamental constants and the coincidences that seem to arise in nature due to these constants. The principle is broken down into two schools of thought the Weak Anthropic principle and the Strong Anthropic principle. The Weak Anthropic principle states, according to Davies, "the observers restrict the observed." In my opinion what this means is that the coincidences are not coincidences at all and that all things are unified, like the Grand Unified Thoery states, but we are restricting ourselves from seeing the answers until probablity throws them in our face. The Weak Anthropic principle fits well with Quantum Mechanics, since the weak Anthropic principle leaves room for probability. Einstein did not agree with probablity being the ruler of the universe and stated "God does not roll the dice." This leads to the second school of thought, the Strong Anthropic principle. Carter defines this principle in the book by stating, "The Universe must be such as to admit the creation of observers within it at some stage." This frame of thought leaves open the existence of God. In my opinion this frame of thought states that without conscious life the universe would not exist. The Strong Anthropic principle tends to lie more in the realm of philosophy. Both of the Anthropic principles bring to light that mankind, as we know it, has been able to establish fundamental constants to describe the universe, and seems to have hit the nail of the head every time. Whether these constants were found by man due to probability, or because we simply exist is the basis of both principles.
I wonder at what the odds were that I picked up this book and read it at this time in my life. On the flip side I wonder if given long enough the event would have occurred organically. Either way Davies "The Accidental Universe" has helped me to understand the evolution of my education in the sciences. It has helped me to also apply my education into the strengthening of my faith system. As my education progresses I hope to read some more in the fields of Physics and Cosmology and maybe come to my conclusions on how humans have been able to create such a varied yet precise view of the Universe and what it means to be alive.
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