Toy Universe

Toy Universe

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Meta 119. 6/29/99. Approximately 467 words.

Below is a message from Vic Stenger at the University of Hawaii in responseto George Ellis on the “Toy Universe” thread (see Meta 116). Thediscussion revolves around the anthropic principle and the “fine tuning” ofthe fundamental laws of physics. We also have dueling webpages at<> (Vic Stenger’s “ToyUniverse”) and <> (Max Tegmark’s”Theory of Everything”).

— Billy Grassie

From: Stenger <>Subject: Response to George Ellis

I appreciate Prof. Ellis’s kind comments. I have found his own writingsvery reasonable and non dogmatic and trust we can have a rational dialogue.

I cannot tell you how many times I have had theists write email messages toinform me that I have not proved that God does not exist. I admit it. Ialso have not proved that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the ToothFairy do not exist. And I readily admit that I have not proved thatnon-carbon base life can exist, although from what I have seen ofartificial life computer simulations, almost any sufficiently complexnon-linear system can easily evolve life-like properties. But I have notproved it, and do not feel I have to for my argument to be valid.

Similarly, I do not feel I need to prove that other kinds of life can existin universes with different physical laws. Nor do I have to prove thatother universes exist.

What Prof. Ellis has done is execute the rhetorical ploy I have seen experttheist debaters, notably William Lane Craig, apply again and again. Thatis, place the burden of proof on the other guy and insist that if he can’tprove something that the theist makes sure is not provable, then the theistwins by default.

Well, I won’t fall for it. The burden of proof of always on the guy who ismaking the less economical claim. I know of no physical law that forbidssome form life naturally evolving out of silicon (the Internet?), or withorganizing principles different from DNA. And I certainly know no physicallaw that says life is only possible with physical laws and parameters ofour universe. So Prof. Ellis is making the less economical claim byinsisting that such a law must exist. Well, he has the burden of provingthat, not me of disproving it. Similarly, I know of no law that forbids theexistence of more than one universe. So I am being more economical inallowing for that possibility than someone would be who argues that onlyone universe can exist. Again, the burden of prove lies with that person,not me.

Until Prof. Ellis can show that no such mechanism is possible, his claimshave neither scientific nor philosophical merit.

Victor J. StengerProf. of PhysicsUniversity of Hawaii<>

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