Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dr. Paul Davies and the Anthropic Principle

I had the pleasure of listening to Paul Davies while he was on his book tour for his latest book. I was able to interact with him during the Q&A session and at the book signing.

While Davies raises several points worth commenting on and pondering on, I wanted to give some clarification to his argument (which isn't explicitly stated in the Guardian article) and my main critique of his overall argument.

Paul Davies doesn't want to appeal to God creating the universe nor does he want to appeal to the multiverse theory to explain the incredible fine-tuning of the universe. Davies appeals to quantum mechanics. Now, I am no expert in quantum mechanics, so I am going to go with what Davies said during his presentation.

In quantum mechanics, the quantum states are not determined until you observe them. Davies extends this to the anthropic principle. Life forms set the laws of physics. It is a quantum-feedback loop. In other words, our observations now determine the previous state of the laws of nature. I have his book, so I may fine-tune (pun intended) that description.

Well, for a guy who wants to avoid depending on theism he ends up depending on theism. How? The observer/non-observer distinction is meaningful only if God exists. Davies wants to go down the pantheistic route, as far as I can tell. Neither atheism nor pantheism can give you a meaningful distinction between observer and non-observer.

If we are just atoms bouncing around, there is no difference between a chair and yourself. If that's the case, if we have observers, atheism cannot be true.

Pantheism makes all of nature God. So how can pantheism give you a valid observer/non-observer distinction? I don't see how it can. Atheism and pantheism are very similar if not the same. One says nature is all there is (by and large). The other just labels everything as "god."

So if you can't get a proper distinction between observer and non-observer, Davies view has a major problem. But if God exists, we can have meaningful observers. God created them.

So Davies wanted to avoid God and he ends up needing God to get his theory to work. So why bother with his theory in the first place?

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May not an observer observe himself? Could not a pantheistic universe in turn observe itself? May we be the agents of that observation as our eyes are the agents observing us?

Also, I think Davies main weakness is the concept that observing the universe creates the observers. This sounds really silly and very circular. Quantum theory applies to very small things, not to big things. Big things are better described by relativity and Newtonian physics.
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