Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis


Blue glowing multiverse in space

We Don’t Live in a Multiverse Because the Concept Makes No Sense

Neurologist Steven Novella and philosopher Philip Goff, both atheists, agree that there are many universes besides the one we live in

Cosmic fine-tuning is the observation that many of the values of the variables in the fundamental laws of physics specifically permit the existence of sentient life (life like us) within a very narrow margin of error. The likelihood of this happening by chance seems vanishingly small. It seems as if Someone expected us. How can we explain this? The fact that God created the universe explains fine-tuning. But for atheists, it’s a real conundrum. As a result, at Neurologica blog, neurologist Steven Novella (pictured) and philosopher Philip Goff have been discussing the most popular atheist explanation for fine-tuning, the “multiverse.” That is, there are countless universes out there, each with its own parameters, and ours just happens to be one…

open eye in space

A Physicist Asks, Was the Universe Made For Us? She Says No

But the question is more complicated than it appears at first

Sabine Hossenfelder thinks there is no way to determine an answer to the question of whether the universe was made for us because we have access to only one universe for data: There is no way to ever quantify this probability because we will never measure a constant of nature that has a value other than the one it does have. If you want to quantify a probability you have to collect a sample of data. You could do that, for example, if you were throwing dice.Throw them often enough, and you get an empirically supported probability distribution. But we do not have an empirically supported probability distribution for the constants of nature. And why is that. It’s because… they…

military troops in action urban environment

What If, Condemned, You Had 12 Friends on the Firing Squad?

We try to understand why the universe seems fine-tuned for life

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, a frequent contributor to Mind Matters News, interviewed our Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks on the nature of information. In this second part of the interview (here’s the first part), the question comes up: How do we know if something is an accident or not? https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-118-Robert-Marks.mp3 A partial transcript follows. This portion begins at 11:02. Show notes and links follow. Michael Egnor: Aristotle said that in order to understand any process in nature, you really need to know four causes of that process. Note: The causes, according to Simply Philosophy are material, formal, efficient, and final. The material cause of a thing is what it is made of. A cat, for example, is made of…

The universe within. Silhouette of a man inside the universe, physical and mathematical formulas.. The concept on scientific and philosophical topics.  Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Why Intelligent Design of the Universe Is Not an Absurd Idea

It is only eight pages, well within the patience of the average viewer and very clearly written

Raymond Bergner, psychology prof at Illinois State University, wrote a most interesting paper in 2017 discussing the intelligent design controversy—the question of whether the universe shows evidence of design. Mercifully, it is only eight pages, well within the patience of the average viewer and very clearly written. He makes clear he is not arguing for the concept but only explaining why it is not at all absurd. He makes a number of key points. Here are two, some thoughts interspersed: Many extraordinarily intelligent and relevantly informed people believe and have believed in intelligent design. Famously, Isaac Newton, himself a heretic and hardly a slave to conventional religious belief, once stated that, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and…


Physicists Say They Have Found the “Magic Number”

They have refined measurements of a number that is key to the workings of physics

Okay, first, it’s not literally “magic.” But some numbers are very important in the structure of our universe. In this case they are refining a very important but very strange number that links the forces of our universe: This pure number, with no units and dimensions, is key to the workings of the standard model of physics. Scientists were able to improve its precision 2.5 times or 81 parts per trillion (p.p.t.), determining the value of the constant to be α = 1/137.03599920611 (with the last two digits still being uncertain). Paul Ratner, “Scientists find the “magic number” that links forces of the universe” at BigThink The numbers that matter are not necessarily the ones we might expect. How about…

alien planet landscape, beautiful forest the surface of an exoplanet

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life Gets an Update

The universe appears fine-tuned for life to a dramatic degree; it’s at least reasonable to think it’s out there

California Institute of Technology, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Santiago High School are updating the famous Drake Equation (1961): Over the span of human history, many have wondered if life exists on other planets—intelligent or otherwise. As new tools have been applied to the question, many space scientists have become convinced that the likelihood of extraterrestrial civilizations developing seems more probable than not given all that has been learned. As other exoplanet systems have been found, many circling stars very similar to our sun, it has become difficult to find anything unique about our own planet to justify a belief that Earth alone ever produced life. In this new effort, the researchers have expanded on research done by Frank Drake…

weird ice planet

We Won’t Find ET on Ocean Planets, Researchers Say

We will see few extraterrestrials if a great many promising exoplanets are Waterworlds

Science writer Matt Williams has been writing a series on the question of why, despite the size of our galaxy, we see no other intelligent life forms. It could be, he suggests, that “many planets out there are just too watery!” Williams points out that, although water covers 71% of Earth’s surface, it is only 0.02% of the planet’s mass. If the proportion were much higher, Earth would be an ocean planet because the water would surface. It’s an open question whether an ocean planet would feature highly technologically developed intelligent life forms. Dolphins, for example, are quite intelligent but they do not seek to use any technology. The question of whether a planet could have too much water arose,…

Space dust abstract galaxy

Does the Slow Pace of Evolution Mean That ET Life Is Rare?

That’s the contention in a recent paper by astrobiologists at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute

In a new paper, researchers affiliated with Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute use the assumptions we make about the evolution of life on Earth to estimate the likelihood of it happening the same way elsewhere. And the numbers do not look good. As a science writer puts it: There are countless naturally occurring, but extremely lucky ways in which Earth is special, sheltered, protected, and encouraged to have evolved life. And some key moments of emerging life seem much more likely than others, based on what really did happen. Caroline Delbert, “Intelligent Life Really Can’t Exist Anywhere Else” at Popular Mechanics In the paper, the Oxford group concludes, It took approximately 4.5 billion years for a series of evolutionary transitions…

Glowing earth DNA strand

Has a Computer Algorithm Discovered the Secret of Life?

In the past, a curious pattern wouldn’t have been visible due to the lack of computing resources

Artificial intelligence has enabled a remarkable level of automation of chemistry, with great benefits to us all. Once upon a time there was a multivolume Beilstein’s Handbook of Organic Chemistry, but it is now an online database. Biochemist Fazale Rana (pictured) tells us that, because so much has been discovered about the chemistry of the world we live in, “Learning to master Beilstein’s Handbook is no easy task. In fact, there are textbooks devoted to teaching chemists how to use this massive database effectively.” So putting Beilstein online doesn’t make it a walk in the park but does make it computable. And some have started computing around the origin of life. Origin of life studies have been hampered by the…

beautiful natural bright background (texture), peacock feathers, panorama

Believers in God Detect Patterns More Easily

Psychologists found that both devout Christians and Muslims unconsciously detected patterns in a test more quickly

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center wanted to know “why and how brains come to believe in gods.” They explored that question using a concept in psychology called implicit pattern learning. Explicit learning is conscious but implicit learning is unconscious. For example, explicit learning is mastering the times tables in arithmetic class. Implicit learning is absorbing, without consciously thinking about it, the way the teacher treats others. The researchers’ hypothesis was: “people whose brains are good at subconsciously discerning patterns in their environment may ascribe those patterns to the hand of a higher power” To test that, they studied people who believe in God in the United States and in Afghanistan, using a conventional test for unconscious pattern learning: For…

Engineering students using a 3D printer

Why Engineering Can’t Be Reduced to the Laws of Physics

When we reduce the engineer’s mind to a computer, the source of innovation disappears

The fundamental problem of modern science is the problem of innovation. Where does novelty come from? This problem shows up in physics, biology, artificial intelligence, and economics. Within physics, the problem is how to account for the fundamental constants of reality. They are all precisely tuned to make sentient and intelligent life—life that can learn about itself and the universe—possible through science. Within biology, the problem is accounting for the source of highly complex genetic sequences that express finely tuned biological functions. In artificial intelligence, the challenge is identifying solutions that are relevant to a given scenario. In economics the problem is identifying the right products for the market. What do all these situations have in common? In each case,…

Image of earth with different times against green vignette

How Do We Know Our Universe Is Not a Sim World?

It’s an interesting idea, say Bradley fellows, but for a number of reasons, it is not credible

The computer sim universe seems to be a way of dealing with the massive evidence of the fine-tuning of our universe without invoking traditional philosophy or religion.

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The universe within. Silhouette of a man inside the universe, physical and mathematical formulas.. The concept on scientific and philosophical topics. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Believing in a Purposeful World Is Good Mental Health!

Perhaps fine-tuning of the universe should be taught in school as a mental health initiative

The massive evidence for design in our universe raises a question: Why isn’t the fine-tuning of the universe taught in school, not as a support for any specific religion but rather as a connection with reality, as support for mental health?

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