Teleology

30 December 2022: Maybe we’re not living in a special universe after all: just a beige one

According to a recent article in Quanta Magazine by staff writer Charlie Wood, a recent calculation by two physicists Neil Turok and Latham Boyle, suggests our universe is the most likely option for all universes.

Wood quotes Boyle’s analogy of a sack of marbles, each marble representing a different universe. ‘ … the overwhelming majority of the marbles have just one color — blue, say — corresponding to one type of universe: one broadly like our own, with no appreciable curvature and just a touch of dark energy. Weirder types of cosmos are vanishingly rare.’

The observable universe. Created by Andrew Z. Colvin. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

Turok and Boyle published their calculation in October this year under the extraordinarily catchy heading of ‘Thermodynamic solution of the homogeneity, isotropy and flatness puzzle (and a clue to the cosmological constant)’; but the introductory paragraph contains this killer sentence:

‘The gravitational entropy favors universes like our own which are spatially flat, homogeneous, and isotropic, with a small positive cosmological constant.’

The calculation stems from working with ‘a clock that ticks with imaginary numbers’ enabling Turok and Boyle to calculate the quantity of entropy that corresponds with our universe.

What this might mean for physics is being hotly debated. What is also interesting is the effect it might have on those who think the teleological argument for the existence of god or gods – especially the particular flavour of the argument called the ‘fine-tuned universe’ – has a strong case. This argument states that the universe is special because it is so finely tuned – especially for the existence of life – and that in turn this is evidence of the work of a creator. But if Turok and Boyle are right, then this universe is not so special after all – it is rather common and ordinary. I’m not suggesting this completely negates the argument for a fine-tuned creation, but I think it certainly dilutes it.

However, it is something of a letdown to discover we’re living in a beige universe.