Mind-Like Universe

Mind-Like Universe

Based on Paul Davies’s ‘Universes Galore’ – In: Universe or Multiverse, Ed. Carr, B. (2007) ISBN 978-0-521-84841-1 hardback

In discussing the currently fashionable multiverse theory, Davies argues that it is not valid to simply propose that the inflationary phase of the early universe produced bubble universes, of which one happens to support organic life. Random production of universes is argued to be capable of producing paradoxes, for instance a finite universe with an infinite number of different spatial regions. To prevent this, he claims that it is necessary to have a ‘law of laws’ to allow only parameters that give rise to logically consistent universes. This in turn creates the requirement to explain where ‘the law of laws’, which appears to be a rather fine-tuned affair, came from.

Davies is particularly critical of those versions of the multiverse idea with an infinite number of universes, allowing all possible outcomes. This is argued to permit some universes with miraculous events and transcendent beings. In this respect, the infinite type of multiverse is claimed to do no better than intelligent design. The infinite multiverse would also include simulated universes, like those in the film ‘Matrix’. In this case, the inhabitants of the simulated worlds are considered to be in the same relation to the designers of the programme, as the inhabitants of an intelligent design universe are to their designer.

In the last part of his paper, Davies tries to develop an explanation for a universe that supports organic life, but does not stem from either a multiverse or intelligent design. He suggests that the apparent trend in our universe from simple and mindless to complex and mental is law-like. He suggests that this law-like trend seen in organic life could also be applied to cosmology. He concedes that doing this would allow some element of teleology into physics.

Davies goes on to comment on the possible significance of cellular automaton models, where an array of pixels or cells that can be either on or off is driven by an update rule based on the neighbouring cells. Computer simulations of the evolution of this type of system are seen to progress from simple and random initial inputs towards a state of organised complexity.

Davies suggests that life, mind, the physical law and universes are part of a self-supporting, self-consistent universe loop. He notes that mathematics, which is seen as a product of the recently evolved human mind, can describe the laws of physics. It is suggested that a universe with our particular physical laws permits the existence of brains or computers that can output the mathematics describing these laws, thus closing the loop.

Non-computable & uncreated
This is as far as Davies takes us. However, it might be helpful to speculate further beyond where he has taken us. From the point of view of consciousness studies, Davies’s idea is interesting to the extent to which it brings mind into the physical structure of the universe. In locating consciousness at a fundamental level, this look to be possibly compatible with quantum consciousness ideas, such as those of Bohm and Penrose

The scientific community have something of a phobia of God (probably envisaged as an old man with a long white beard sculpting the laws of physics onto tablets of stone at the top of Mount Sinai) having any involvement in the beginning of the universe. This can in turn create a sort of fundamentalism that forbids rational discussion of any more modest proposition as to how the universe came to be fine tuned.

Two aspects of the fine-tuning problem are worth considering. Something has to be uncreated, if we are to avoid an infinite regress. Even a quantum fluctuation in empty space implies some law-like type of vacuum, as opposed to nothing at all.

The other aspect is the vexed question of the abscence of mind from physics, and what some people would argue to be the failure of neuroscience to come up with a plausible explanation of consciousness.

With respect to these problems, it might be worth examining Penrose’s notably unpopular idea of a form of non-computability as the basis of consciousness or mind. Intuitively, the notion that there might be a similarity between the non-computable and the uncreated seems worth pursuing. Both these concepts lie outside the normal cause-and-effect of an algorithm-based deterministic universe, and together might be suggested as suitable candidates to derive the laws of physics from nothing. The Big Bang need not be more designed or intention-driven than something mind-like/non-computable breaking out of the pre-existing void. The universe is fine tuned to allow structured development, but with considerable openess as to how this might develop, and none of the baggage of an old man with a long white beard, still around to intervene in subsequent developments.

The non-computable beginning could be argued to be much simpler than the multiverse, which in any case looks suspiciously contrived to get rid of intelligent design and rescue string theory from its problems at a single stroke.


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