January 22nd, 2011

Parallel Worlds, RPG: Setting the Stage

In Which Abstruse Physics Principles Provoke A "Neener Neener Neener" from Your Obedient Serpent

Evidence Emerges That Laws of Physics Are Not Fine-Tuned For Life

I admit it: even the weak versions of the Anthropic Principle make me twitch. Yes, if we're observing the universe, its physical conditions must allow us to exist; fine, that's kind of a "duh". Stronger versions get increasingly ... problematic ... as their proponents start dwelling on what a "fortunate coincidence" it is that all of these underlying physical constants line up just right for the perfect bowl of porridge rise of Life As We Know It ...

... and then they start talking about how the Universe must have arisen in such a way ...

... and then they just lapse into "GLAARGLE BARGLE PROOF OF GOD" and start speaking in tongues.

Yes, there are more sophisticated and defensible versions of the Anthropic Principle out there, but nevertheless, the concept has turned into something of a buzzword for those who want to dress up "intelligent design" in a costume that will get them into big science conferences as well as Kansas school board meetings.1

These are the people most likely to start harping on how amazing it is that the value of little terms buried deep in complex equations like the cosmological constant are exactly perfectly optimally perfectly wonderfully exact to promote the development of blah blah blah blah blah.

This is why Your Obedient Serpent uttered a joyous and most undraconic "squee" when Futurismic pointed out this article that indicates, hey, you know what, Doctor Pangloss? This may not be the Best of All Possible Worlds, after all!

Of course, as a militant agnostic, I'm just going to sit back and make popcorn as this news prompts a stampede of would-be Oolon Colluphids to get themselves run over at the next zebra crossing.

1A similar fate has befallen James Lovelock's "Gaia hypothesis", which has been Flanderized by both detractors and some proponents into "WOO GODDESS". The elegant systems mechanics behind the Gaia principle play an important part in my own weird version of pantheism, but that just makes it that much worse when Princess Priestess Raven Shadowscroft in beads and sequins spouts the words in the middle of some pompous Aquarian rant.