Lee Smolin & Universal Darwinism
Lee Smolin is perhaps the strongest
voice within the physics community for Universal Darwinism. In his 2005
case for background independence, a wonderful survey of the long
standing debate between relational and absolute theories of physics, he
outlines a deep understanding of Universal Darwinism:
There is only one mode of explanation
I know of, developed by science, to explain why a system has parameters
that lead to much more complexity than typical values of those
parameters. This is natural selection.
It may be observed that natural
selection is to some extent part of the movement from absolute to
relational modes of explanation. There are several reasons to
characterize it as such.
Natural selection follows the
relational strategy. Before it , properties that characterize
species were believed to be eternal, and to have a priori
explanations. These are replaced by a characterization of species
that is relational and evolves in time as a result of interactions
between it and other species.
The properties natural selection
act on, such as fitness, are relational quantities, in that they
summarize consequences of relations between the properties of a
species and other species.
These properties are not fixed in
advance , they evolve lawfully.
A relational system requires a
dynamical mechanism of individuation, leading to enough complexity
that each element can be individuated by its relations to the the
rest. Natural selection acts in this way, for example, it inhibits
two species from occupying exactly the same niche. By doing so it
increases the complexity, measured in terms of the relations between
the different species.
Lee's major contribution to Universal Darwinism is his
theory of Cosmological Natural Selection.
The Anthropic Principle states that there are many possible
universes, reflecting possible combinations of values of basic physical
parameters in all their possible variety and that ours with the exact
right values to allow complexity reflect a highly unlikely and rare
situation. That we appear to be living in a highly unlikely 'just right'
or Goldilock's universe is understood by many to be extremely unlikely
and requiring an explanation. Some leading scientist, such as Paul
Davies, have pondered this situation.
There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on
behind it all....It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s
numbers to make the Universe....The impression of design is
christian website, from which this quote is taken claims that
the lack of a scientific explanation for our 'Goldilocks universe'
implies the existence of God via the argument from design:
Does science lead us down a road that ends
in the naturalistic explanation of everything we see? In the
nineteenth century, it certainly looked as though science was going
in that direction. The "God of the gaps" was finding himself in a
narrower and narrower niche. However, 20th century and
now 21st century science is leading us back down the road
of design - not from a lack of scientific explanation, but from
scientific explanation that requires an appeal to the extremely
unlikely - something that science does not deal well with. As a
result of the recent evidence in support of design, many scientists
now believe in God.
Lee Smolin's theory of Cosmological Natural Selection is probably
the most developed scientific theory explaining our 'Goldilock's
universe', extending Universal Darwinism's explanatory power to
cosmology and leaving the 'God of the Gaps' without any niche at
Cosmological Natural Selection was first presented in Lee's book
The Life of the Cosmos (1997) and further expanded in his
Scientific Alternatives to the Anthropic Principal (July
2004). This paper is a wonder of clarity in logical argument.
Lee is less interested in debating Christian theologians than he
is with debating his
scientific peers, who he feels have put forward a number of
unscientific explanation for the Anthropic Principal:
There are several versions of the
Anthropic Principal. There is of course the explicitly theological
version, which is by definition outside of science. I have no reason
to quarrel with that here.
His paper proceeds with a critique of what he understands as his
colleagues' unscientific explanations of the Anthropic
Principle and then to argue for the merits of his own theory of
Cosmological Natural Selection.