Did the universe evolve?

Scientific Alernatives to the Anthropic Principle

The case for background independence

Einstein's Legacy-- Where are the 'Einsteinians'?  

A perspective on the landscape problem

Lee Smolin & Universal Darwinism
 

Lee Smolin is perhaps the strongest voice within the physics community for Universal Darwinism. In his 2005 paper The 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. These properties are not fixed in advance , they evolve lawfully.

  4. 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 overwhelming.[i]

The 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 all.

Cosmological Natural Selection was first presented in Lee's book The Life of the Cosmos (1997) and further expanded in his paper 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.

[i] Quotes from Scientists Regarding Design of the Universe website. http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/quotes.html. Last viewed August 29, 2004