Historical fine-tuning

I would like to bring a hitherto much-neglected example of divine fine-tuning to the attention of the public: the fine-tuning of human history. Moreover, this fine-tuning is reaching a critical point now.

Let us set aside religious sources as interested parties, and restrict ourselves to arguments with a secular pedigree. Even with this restriction, it is clear that we live in times where we can anticipate great transformations, ranging from the utopian to the apocalyptic.

On the negative side, we are facing a future of severe environmental degradation, where a collapse of biodiversity and global warming is just the beginning. Nuclear annihilation is always a non-negligible possibility. Our present political and economic systems are clearly incapable of dealing with such concerns. Even as neoliberalism leads us into economic downturns, even these mini-crises only produce opportunities for moneyed elites to further entrench themselves. Right-wing religious populism with fascist overtones haunts the political landscape.

On the positive side, transhumanists envision a future where science and technology bring us closer to realizing utopia. We look forward to downloadable personalities, and even a “singularity” where machine intelligence pushes into horizons we can barely imagine. We—or our bioengineered and cyber-enabled descendants—may yet travel to the stars.

But no one knows what is likely to happen. Indeed, it all appears very finely balanced. Seemingly insignificant individual events can push us from looming catastrophe into a brave new world or vice versa. This balancing on a knife-edge is not what we would expect from a “normal,” naturalistic development of history. It seems exceedingly improbable; it certainly calls for an explanation.

In the spirit of all fine-tuning arguments, we can take our current delicately poised balance as compelling evidence of supernatural intervention in human affairs. Furthermore, we can do better than invoking the “God did it” non-explanation, as scientific materialists so often accuse intelligent-design proponents of resorting to. The fine-tuned balance between prospective catastrophe and possible utopia tells us something about the character of the supernatural agencies shaping history.

Now, I should pause to point out that what I am about to suggest will satisfy no one among our traditionally warring parties. I can hear the sound of materialist minds already slamming shut against the possibility of supernatural intervention. But to understand the forces shaping our history, we have to move beyond the dogmas of the monotheists no less than the dogmas of the Darwinian materialists.

A finely-tuned balance between catastrophe and utopia is not the sort of thing you expect from the morality tales and apocalyptic fantasies of the monotheistic tradition. History is not being shaped by one divine actor with a single purpose! Instead, the fine-tuned balance indicates multiple purposes that compete and cooperate in shifting alliances.

We should be talking about gods. Moreover, these gods use humans as their playthings. As with any exciting game with multiple players and unstable alliances, no one option can predominate as a clear future for long. Shifting alliances continually drive the game into an unstable equilibrium, which can be resolved only by crises of which the outcome is highly uncertain.

We are clearly approaching another point of crisis in the game of the gods. And we can but hope that luck will break the way of those gods who have some further use for us humans.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15290965399565247297 William

    I've been reading Copan and Craig's collection CONTENDING WITH CHRISTIANITY'S CRITICS. The first part is devoted to arguments for the existence of God, but particularly with respect to cosmology. There's a guy named James Daniel Sinclair who takes on the multiverse and seems to have some good arguments for fine-tuning providing strong epistemic support for God's existence. Have you read this book?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Taner,

    I'm not sure how much of your post to take seriously. Is it serious argument, speculation, or are you just having some fun? Anyway, I think an argument from the fine-tuning of history could be cogent if we had a teleological view of history.

    In seminary many years ago they told us of the concept of "Heilsgeschichte," "salvation history." I understand this as the idea that history's ultimate goal is to offer salvation through Christ and, finally, to come to some sort of eschatological culmination. A proponent of Heilsgeschichte will, obviously, see the hand of God in the events of history (e.g., the repatriation of the Jews by Cyrus), that is, as preparing the way for Christ. That person will also interpret the events of the last 2000 years as enabling the promulgation of the Christian message. Clearly, such a person will see the ostensible contingencies in history as nodes where God has nudged things in the appropriate direction. Kind of like guided evolution.

    The problem, of course, is selling a teleological view of history to those of us for whom it looks pretty much like one damn thing after another. When the Duke of Wellington said that Waterloo was "the damnedest near run thing you ever saw," maybe he was reminding us that what looks inevitable or foreordained in hindsight most definitely was not.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10778996187937943820 Taner Edis

    Keith Parsons: "I'm not sure how much of your post to take seriously. Is it serious argument, speculation, or are you just having some fun?"

    Well, the post does have a satire label. (OK, not, perhaps, one of my best.)

    Part of the subtext is that as far as I'm concerned, I've done my part in the past in responding to various intelligent design arguments, including fine tuning. I'm sick of them. Unless someone comes up with something quite new, such as a variation that has some consequence physicists can notice, I feel entitled to treat it all as bullshit, fit for satire at most.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    I see that uber-troll DM calls himself "Felix" now. Taner, if he ever posts anything threatening anyone who contributes here by name, it might be good to let us know. I think the threatened individual should make a report to the police. We have a right to express opinions here without being threatened by a psycho.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10778996187937943820 Taner Edis

    I catch much of what DM posts. It appears as a "This person has been banned from commenting" comment.

    I can't trap all of it before it appears; it's always possible for a determined spammer to change identities and work around traps. And DM appears to a mentally unstable person with no life, so we may be stuck with him for a while. I'll keep trying to minimize his presence.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Concerning history and whether it has a direction, I have to share this terrific quote from Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, from his book 1492:

    "History has no course. It thrashes and staggers, swivels and twists, but never heads one way for long. Humans who get caught up in it try to give it destinations. But we all pull in different directions, heading for different targets, and tend to cancel each other's influence out. When trends last for a short spell, we sometimes ascribe them to 'men of destiny' or 'history makers,' or to great movements–collectively heroic or myopic–or to immense, impersonal forces or laws of social development or economic change: class struggle, for instance, or 'progress' or 'development' or some other form of History with a capital H. But usually some undetectably random event is responsible of initiating big change. History is a system reminiscent of the weather: the flap of a butterfly's wings can stir up a storm."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Taner,

    I really think you should make a complaint to the police about DM's threats. I did.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11502115970101331745 LoneRubberDragon

    If we may, on a more fundamental reachable personal level, does anyone have a thought as to what is best controversially called human SPIRIT?
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    Spirit – in the sense of perception and consciousness. The sense of vision, for example, as a two-dimensional parallel-simultaneous spatial-arranged light-color-hued quantum measurement field seen within the human system. A system that by anti-Penrose quantum consciousness scientists say is too hot to allow coherence of wavefunctions across the brain forbidding parallel simultaneous, spatial character, color-light-hued sense in quantum mesurement space. And that doesn't even count distributed stereoscopic vision. But none of this is claimed possible by measureable quantum physics. So what is this HOMUNCULUS that sits in abstract parallel simultaneous space observing our self and feeling ourself as ourself? Reductionist physics merely has a neural chemical system of basically independent particles that cannot share a sense of all simultaneously, because QP says every particle is decohered too quickly at room temperature.
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    I can only think of quantum entanglement with a lax non communication principle on mass correlations, to explain human SPIRIT as an instantaneous simultaneous parallel and spatially arrange and colored sense of human vision as a holistic sense in such a system as a human. But that is only a guess at the mystery of holism spirit in room temperature classical reductionist QP brain matter.
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    We all have spirit, it is claimed by humans … that right well may be monkeys today, or robots someday. And I have spirit that science currently can't cover in measurement or explanation.
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    It is a tangible core question, far sharper than cosmological anthopic principles, or even sharper than proving God, for God is claimed absent from humans by nearly all including the Bible, and spirit is claimed to be intimately related with all, assuming humans aren't really primates or robots without sense, lying or imitating humans with spirit.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11502115970101331745 LoneRubberDragon

    I think addressing Human Spirit is The Most Important Question, as individual humans enter the world only knowing themself, that human spirit is the root of understanding, over even proving/disproving God due to a lack of proveable availability of God on earth, compared to the Ubiquitous human spirit that we can all examine for ourselves, even if science cannot yet measure its subtle quantum modeling (if ever). And its science ambiguity says something subtle of human society. A world we take on faith that we are dealing with humans and not addled primates imitating humans. But to cross the line of saying science decides there is no human spirit (ignoring God for this argument) puts secular science on the level of God, in judging that one thing that looks like a human is in reality just an artificial intelligent zombie primate, not worthy of respect, love, rights, and humans with scientifically known spirit deserving respect, love, and rights. That is akin to Hitler's Genocide of Jews and Mental Ill Humans, by secular society in the position of God to decide life for the individual without fundamental context of proof and all sophistry. But at the same time, would a world filled with 90% selfish primate imitators of humans, and 10% true humans supporting the unthinking 90% be fair for the supporters, or cause for a genocide like destroying all unrepentant infidels against civilization? A question as old as war against "enemies" who are claimed to have not spirit and thus are not *Really* humans. Or even a question of slavery, where superior spirit beings enslave and release lower spirit beings for retirement and death. But if a machine like The Matrix says it knows all and humans are just slaves playing, would it be fair to the majority humans to obey a machine that claims it has spirit greater than any human, seeking their peace if programmed right?
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    But, assuming we are both humans, we know we have that (this post) afforementioned simultaneous parallel spatial hued human spirit.
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    But the question remains … what is Human Spirit that we all presumably have personal access to, compared to God in the flesh which is harder to prove/disprove by lack of data.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11502115970101331745 LoneRubberDragon

    And the existence of human spirit, as a simultaneous spatial hued field of measurement, doesn't deny that a brain without a soul cannot exist, and appear virtually identical to a brain with a soul, as covered in your book "Ghost in the Universe. For a basically reductionist classical brain made of neurons and neurotransmitters in basically independent uninterconnected relation, can sense, process, learn, and react as a wholly reductionist system of independent particles.
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    However, there are a few empirical predictions that arise from a brain with a soul. Like, a human with a brain with a soul will eventually say things like … "Well, I see colors like red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet, holistically spread around me in space as a simultaneous field of measurement.", and "I hear music with pitch and emotion.", "I taste foods with flavors." and "I sense all of these things to some extent simultaneously".
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    Conversely, an observed artificial intelligent digital computer will never say these things in empirical prediction, because it is digital, clocked, sequential, and so built of digitally independent reductionist subunits on how it stores and processes data. A computer would not see red, but register many (255,000,000) pixels, which lookup a text string saying "RED", with all code and text provided by humans, to interface the many pixels of reductionist independent calculations to holistic humans. But the computer will not see true redness in holistic spatial relations, any more than projecting red light on a piece of instant film, lets the film see red, unlike a human, who registers red in independent neurons, but sees a simultaneous holistic field of sense in vision, perhaps due to the mentioned quantum entanglement cobweb permeating an organic system with coherent effects for numerous entanglements producing a holism infinitely faster than light as quantum entanglement behaves.
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    And similarly, a human who has no soul, would never MEANINGFULLY say, "I see redness with its peculiar character of redness, spread across spatial fields", because it is a zombie human, a brain without a soul, a system, that classically reacts like a human, but is built of reductionist bits of virtually independent matter at room temperature. And in subterfuge, a zombie human that hears a human with a soul say they see redness, can at best only imitate the soul human, making the zombie human without soul and the human with a soul, indistinguishable quantum models in ideological wars of perception. Much like conversing with an artificial intelligent speech writer that can respond to humans logically and reasonably, only because it has a reductionist trace of human speech particles, but has no idea of the holistic meaning of its words, as a pure classical reductionist machine that only processes strings of letters without holistic feeling.
    = … (continued)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11502115970101331745 LoneRubberDragon

    In short, it is an opposition between independent reductionism that denies all synergy in reductionist predictability, and a interdependent holism that accepts a form of pervasive unity, allowing this "homunculus" of humans to exist that sees the entire human experience as a whole spatial thing at once, built of claimed indpendent particles. …
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    From wikipedia Orch-OR, "From the point of view of consciousness theory, an essential feature of Penrose's objective reduction is that the choice of states when objective reduction occurs is selected neither randomly, as are choices following measurement or decoherence, nor completely algorithmically. Rather, states are proposed to be selected by a "non-computable" influence embedded in the fundamental level of spacetime geometry at the Planck scale. Penrose claimed that such information is Platonic, representing pure mathematical truth, aesthetic and ethical values. More than two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato had proposed such pure values and forms, but in an abstract realm. Penrose placed the Platonic realm at the Planck scale. This relates to Penrose's ideas concerning the three worlds: physical, mental, and the Platonic mathematical world. In his theory, the physical world can be seen as the external reality, the mental world as information processing in the brain and the Platonic world as the encryption, measurement, or geometry of fundamental spacetime that is claimed to support non-computational understanding. … One of these is a paper published in PNAS by Reimers et al.,[34] who argue that the condensates proposed in Orch-OR would involve energies and temperatures that are not realistic in biological material."
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    Departing from Penrose, I think the effect of quantum entanglement provides the natural solution for permeating matter in structures with information that is holistically related infinitely faster than light. All measurements in matter are not perfect projections, but also contain entanglement components. And as wavefunctions interact with wavefunctions, on ad infinitum, along the classical independent reductionist channels of neurons and flesh, the body becomes filled with entanglement residuals. The no communication theorem does provide issues with this idea, as the infinitely faster than light reactions of entanglement measurement events, still only provide randomized information polarized by the entanglement. But if the no communication theorem only applies to individual interactions, as EPR demonstrates, perhaps the no communication theorem doesn't apply to entanglement in numerous coherent entangled particles in waves of neural processing chains, but shows numerical average holistic deviations from randomness, allowing the holistic spatial sense of being of the human's measurement-perception process, on the infinitely faster than light cobweb of entangled wavefunctions that fills the body.
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    And if QP fails to prove the personally accessible human spirit, if even statistical entanglements are purely random, even though polarized to the entanglement, then we still have the issue of what causes holistic simultaneous human spirit … the, what it is … the source of the holist homunculus point of view in reductionist matter.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07559081710058635050 Pulse

    "History is not being shaped by one divine actor with a single purpose! Instead, the fine-tuned balance indicates multiple purposes that compete and cooperate in shifting alliances. We should be talking about gods."

    Ignoring the satire label only momentarily, I must point out the most obvious objection to this line of reasoning. Why gods? Why can't normal humans supply all the necessary 'multiple purposes'?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11502115970101331745 LoneRubberDragon

    [Regarding Pulse]
    True. In The Bible, it says Satan only takes one third of the souls God created. In todays world, about 70 percent do not follow the Chistian God. Or for Islam, more than 70 percent are infidels who do not follow Islam.
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    We can assume from uniformity and not any great deception, that all humans are similarly made, and so all humans have personal human spirit as afforementioned in this post thread by myself. Whether the human spirit, in thought coherence among many thinkers, creates a Jungian Collective Unconscious God spirit of measurement entanglement is very questionable and almost pointless, compared to the question of the personally observeable human spirit. Georg Hegel described a more tangible commonality in a one world system that supports all, allows travel, and informs the world of the ways of the world. It is only unfortunate that later thinkers twisted Hegel and others into NAZIism and Fascist policies in the last world war.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11502115970101331745 LoneRubberDragon

    Conversely, common humans cannot provide a common basis of multiple purpose support for the world because, for instance, in an engineering world, few are educated out of the world to that level, and so a few would control many implicitly. Also, most of the world is poorly educated, and a system of multiple purposes only provides mediocrity to all, lowering the greater to the lowest common denominator. Plus you see what outsourcing jobs has done for america and the world economy, where essentially infiltrators have access to the control world, putting one under a mystery system, where the help on the end of the line is an Indian in New Dehli who doesn't really know what is going on, or a hacker who can manipulate things as they see fit, undercovers that the helped person cannot investigate, a mirror that bears glimpse but not scrutiny. And thus you have another God in your life controlling your life, just as infidel americans have invaded the middle east. This is one reason One God is so favored, as a concept of a being that knows your heart and interfaces you to the world best of all with merciful sustaining instructions that always apply well for all, compared to any one or group or whole of humanity. It is similar to Hegel's one world system. A world system Tailored to each group, and to the world. The internet or The Matrix like setup would do the same ideally without the politics and trash of the common world.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11502115970101331745 LoneRubberDragon

    So the question [Pulse] brings up, of why humans cannot simply provide a multiple purpose commonality, based on God-less common human spirit, is a double edged sword. Full of potential, and full of conflict. Especially considering that no one God is supreme, much less able to be scrutinized in His so called mirrors that bear glimpse of Him: The Bible, Qur'an, Mahabarata, Tripitakas, Secular Science.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11502115970101331745 LoneRubberDragon

    And also, to competing conflicting forces in balances and flux as [Pulse] observes, we have issues regarding criminal activities. Like the Brady Bunch episode where Peter finds a doppleganger Peter of multiple purpose, and then we see chaos ensue, caused by equivalent appearing purposes, but definitely different locuses of being. For Mike Brady thinks he's telling Peter to get a loaf of bread, that Peter leaves, and no bread is gotten. Or worse, Mike tells the second Peter to make sure to get the bread, and then two loaves arrive beyond budget.
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    Old stories from India tell these things too. Where human like races are formed, like Caprica robots who look like humans. They share common basis and miltiple purpose, but it is all illusion where discontinuities of zero or two loaves can occur because identical looking robots, or evolved chimpanzee-human servants are used, who are not coherent, in a networked architecture closer to creating a Terminator pitfall of chaos.
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    Even illegal aliens in america are used, where you think the same maid is coming to clean your house, but it is one of several who look identical enough, and who are secretive enough that they say don't talk about my personal life, and they sooner or later get to REALLY cleaning out your home … like american technology sector and the housing market, affecting the world economy no less.
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    The most dreadful mediocrity of competing forces of multiple purpose, based on ASSUMED common human spirit on multiple levels and multiple dimensions. Thus at times, we go and kill the imposter humans in the world, killing and reorganizing the muslim machines, or african human-primate-clones of near future (or present) technology), all because the machines or monkeys are meddling in Human Affairs in America. But here I fall into the trap we all fall into, in that Science cannot elucidate human spirit, much less the God Complex Military Indistrial System for World Good. Espcially if human spirit is the cobweb of quantum measurement entanglement systems that permeate the human body, that cannot even be measured without disrupting it. Where, americans and all humans find it easier to kill the enemy that has no soul and thus isn't human, like Frank Capra and other movies of WWII training say of "Japs" and "NutZIs", because we KNOW the enemy isn't human, as *they* say, teach and indoctrinate, and so we can kill the enemy, and even now, the descendant Japanese don't change their spots any more than a Leopard, and so they are still not human … the Japanese, as the americans taught once and for all, in Kind from Kind Biblical Weight.
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    But I satirically state the american-christian position here to ludicrous illustration of the problems in [Pulse], as much as Georg Hegel provides hope in a One World System.


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