Hey :)
I was thinking during the lecture about intelligent design, specifically in the biblical sense. When Jason was talking about the idea of using Universe for everything and universe for what we know, I wondered whether it's possible another species (similar to ours) in the Universe (before our big bang) had developed their intelligence enough to create our big bang. To me this makes the idea of design not so far fetched.
Just a thought.
Gordon Lamond

Ooh interesting. Your idea seems less far fetched to me than the biblical notion of a creator god. But I'm not sure whether I can back that up very well. Can anyone think of arguments for or against this?
By the way, something that created the big bang doesn't need to have been before it. It might not share a time dimension with us, in which case it would be neither before nor after. More about this in lectures later, or in tutorials if you ask for it.

It reminds me a little of the brain in a vat thought experiment. Perhaps in this case our universe is in a vat and being controlled and altered by the 'mad scientist'. The idea's a little reminiscent of the Sims.

Yes, very good analogy.

Speaking of divine design. I think everyone should read Stephen Hawking's new book "The Grand Design". I think its really good for this topic as it discusses the possibilities of a designer. In my opinion its quite good.
Jessica Eastman

Personally, I don't think a designer is necessary, and that the need for one is slightly pathological.
Humans have a very deep-seated understanding of the way that the second law of thermodynamics applies to the world around us (and if you need proof of the world's tendency towards chaos, Jason, a brief survey of bedroom tidiness plotted against time should, in most cases suffice - except when external energy is being used to keep bedrooms in the high-energy state of tidiness). We can see that things don't become less chaotic unless they are made so by external forces. Wood rots, houses fall down, rocks and mountains wear away - the analogy for entropy is taking a box half-full of stacked squares and shaking it; they're not going to come out stacked again, unless you act on the system and re-order them. Because of this, life seems incredible, since it opposes this seemingly universal order - therefore, humans assume that there must be an external force acting on Life to make it grow more ordered and complex rather than less.
This is reasonable, but not necessary. While the tendency is towards chaos, it is the total system, not the individual parts that become more chaotic. The amount of energy living things consume, and the ineffectiveness of that consumption vastly increases the entropy of the system at large. And the length of time for which growth can be sustained is also limited; infinitesimal in cosmic terms.
This means that although Life seems to need an external creator in order to obey the 2nd law of thermodynamics, it doesn't, and so, through a tiny chance, could have arisen naturally. However, since there are so many planets, the chances of life occurring on none of them is almost nil, and so we could have occurred anywhere, in any form unimaginable.
An analogy would be the fact that if you get twenty people in the room, it's about 50% likely that two will share a birthday. That could be any day of the year, in any year - it wouldn't be a special day - but it would seem special because the chances of meting a person with the same birthday as you is 1/365 per person.
Hence, we don't really need a creator, we just think we do, because we seem special. While the fact of life occurring on any particular planet is highly improbable, life developing on no planets is almost impossible. Even so, wherever sentience developed, it would look around and go 'hey, I must be special to be here,' - in spite of the fact that the chances of sentience not existing being almost nil.
Basically, what I've been long-windedly aiming at is that we think we're special because we are _here_ instead of somewhere else, but we would think that Betelgeuse or the Andromeda galaxy were special if we lived there, so it is an intrinsically subjective opinion, that requires a Creator to explain itself, and doesn't consider a more objective version of the facts (at least as objective as we can get).
Sabina Scully
While I do agree with Sabina's arguments, especially in dismissing the major religious Gods. I'm hesitant to use our flaws and nuances to disprove a designer, just because our desires to have a designer are completely unfounded and flawed, that doesn't mean that there is no designer.
So a designer could be possible, still, but only through not being able to disprove it; which is a flawed argument as well. Though I think it is pretty obvious that even if there was a designer The Universe and universe go on as if there is not. By which I mean a universe which was created by a designer and one which occurred spontaneously would behave in the same way.
Jordan Pitt

What if it turns out to be easy-peasy to design universes (small "u" of course)?
I think that the idea of human 'special-ness' at a more complex level often stems from a sense of wonder at how perfect the conditions we have on earth seem for life.
I'd just like to make one small point about the difference between earth being perfect for life, and life being perfect for earth. Life as we understand it came to be on earth, and changed to fit its environment, therefore I question the assumption that earth is perfect for life rather than the other way around.
Just though that was a little relevant to this discussion, and also, to back up Bean - it would probably take less energy for life to change to fit its environment than continue to exist in an environment that doesn't suit it.

A~da, you're spoiling my pompous with your nicknames.
Also, saying that life changing to fit an environment requires less effort than an environment changing to fit life isn't necessarily true - does it take more effort to move a plant to a sunny spot in the garden, or to cross fertilise and hybridise it until it can survive in the shade? It's just that since environment and life suit each other (whichever way it goes) and so chances of a change in environment being beneficial to life is small - chances of a change in life being beneficial are also small, it's just that the beneficial changes produce more babies - it's more likely that life will change to suit the environment.
Also, life or environment changing is irrelevant to the problem of intelligent design - we could have been designed to adapt so that the designer could go off and play hookey once we were up and running, or we could have only come to the first stage of evolution - the genesis of life on earth - because the first autotrophic cells were adaptive.
However, I think that if you put it out there, fewer people in our class would think that earth/universe is perfect for life, than the other way around.
Sabina Scully - or Bean

Very good points, Ada and Bean.
"life or environment changing is irrelevant to the problem of intelligent design - we could have been designed to adapt so that the designer could go off and play hookey once we were up and running" —- I think this is absolutely right, and yet, sadly, it's often used by Christian intelligent design proponents as bait and switch: start with the idea of a non-interventionist god and somehow end up with the Bible.
Also, I didn't know the word autotrophic until you just taught it to me. Thank you!

I think that the main 'argument' for design (once you accept that chance is a perfectly reasonable explanation), when you get down to it, is one of fear. If we weren't designed, then we have no excuse for the things we do - no higher authority to appeal to. This has been historically very difficult for us to do, and is probably why we have developed such complicated social hierarchies that have managed to ensure that the 'buck' never stops - we elect the ultimate authority in each society, but either they lay the blame for their actions down the ladder, or internationally. e.g. the financial crisis: politicians blamed the banks, banks blamed the people, and the people blamed everyone. If we do not have a god to blame for all the things that go bad, then we have to take personal responsibility for our lives, which is even harder than taking social responsibility. Hence, many people blame a designer for our flaws.
Even the people who don't believe in god, tend to take the opinion that 'we don't really matter, we are so small and the Universe is so big' (My opinion as well - and the Copernican theorum), but that is still a displacement for responsibility onto the assumption of irrelevance. This is probably a bad thing. We may not be designed, we may not be the only life, intelligent or not, but we can observe, and consciously affect the world around us, and the universe, or even Universe around us - and that is important.
Sabina Scully

Going back to the initial question: I thought Zaiga's idea of the universe being reminiscent of the Sims was interesting. It made me start to think of some analogies of my own. I imagine a scenario where primary school students (in a different universe/different dimension/different scale...) have to make Big Bangs the same way primary schoolers in our universe make model volcanos...
The idea of our universe coming from another universe seems to be fairly plausible. The conditions at the origin of the Big Bang resemble those of a black hole (large amount of stuff crammed into tiny space), so the idea of one universe being born from a black hole in another works. So, if beings in that other universe were responsible for the creation of that black hole, they would have had a hand in the creation of our universe. This would essentially lead to a similar situation as the one brought up by Ada and Sabina, of a "designer" who designed the universe to unfold without any further intervention, because once a black hole is created, presumably there would be no way for beings who created the black hole to act on the universe through the black hole.
Freya Howarth

Freya's idea about a universe being "born" from a black hole in another reminded me of something from one of the readings: the idea that this kind of process could take on an almost biological character, with black holes in universes spawning other universes in a reproduction process. The text even suggested that the parent universes could pass on some of their characteristics (perhaps fundamental constants like Planck's constant) to their "offspring." I found this quite an interesting (albeit strange) concept. But then given that processes akin to evolution and a sort of "life" can be attributed on a large scale to the stars, for example, perhaps the universe having a "life cycle" is in some sense a possibility too. Ellen Rykers

These are fantastic ideas. Lots of participation marks for you guys! I especially like Ellen's idea of the spawning of black holes being like biology. I'd never thought of that.
I agree with Jason - black hole universes are a very cool idea.
It seems far more probable that all the parallel universes (which may or may not exist), would sort of fold into each other - if what we see as black holes are actually, within the event horizon, separate universes in non-intersecting dimensions (Hence 'singularity'/point particle). Also, the fact that we lose energy/matter into black holes, but that they also radiate energy (I think the technical term is 'evaporation') would supply the dark energy - universes that lose more energy than they gain would collapse, universes that gain more than they lose, like ours, would expand, and we wouldn't have to worry about that nasty contravention of conservation.
The only difficulty would be how it would get from this universe to not this universe...
Black holes come from the deaths of stars, which means that they have avery limited amount of mass - relatively - if universes existed within our black holes, and we existed within theirs, where would all the mass of the universes come from...
Unless the universes all existed already, and a supernova collapsing into a black hole is simply an extreme enough event to link non-intersecting dimensions, and dump energy/mass through, leaving the hole behind. As more matter fell through, the hole would get bigger, to compensate, hence we would experience more interference from the other universe and more gravity from the black hole. Which seems consistent with string theory - the idea that gravity is inter-universal interference.
THat makes black holes just into gateways between universes, which I find myself disinclined to believe, simply because it is so cliched...
It's enough to make me want to fall into a black hole to test these ideas- except that I'd get spaghetti-ed, and probably never reach the thing...
Sabina Scully

I agree with all those points, Sabila. (Sorry: boring reply!)