Posts Tagged ‘anthropic principle’
THE MEANING OF LIFE IN A DEVELOPING UNIVERSE
John Stewart (source)
Member of the Evolution, Complexity and Cognition Research Group
The Free University of Brussels
Abstract: The evolution of life on Earth has produced an organism that is beginning to model and understand its own evolution and the possible future evolution of life in the universe. These models and associated evidence show that evolution on Earth has a trajectory. The scale over which living processes are organized cooperatively has increased progressively, as has its evolvability. Recent theoretical advances raise the possibility that this trajectory is itself part of a wider developmental process. According to these theories, the developmental process has been shaped by a yet larger evolutionary dynamic that involves the reproduction of universes. This evolutionary dynamic has tuned the key parameters of the universe to increase the likelihood that life will emerge and produce outcomes that are successful in the larger process (e.g. a key outcome may be to produce life and intelligence that intentionally reproduces the universe and tunes the parameters of ‘offspring’ universes). Theory suggests that when life emerges on a planet, it moves along this trajectory of its own accord. However, at a particular point evolution will continue to advance only if organisms emerge that decide to advance the developmental process intentionally. The organisms must be prepared to make this commitment even though the ultimate nature and destination of the process is uncertain, and may forever remain unknown. Organisms that complete this transition to intentional evolution will drive the further development of life and intelligence in the universe. Humanity’s increasing understanding of the evolution of life in the universe is rapidly bringing it to the threshold of this major evolutionary transition.
Until recently, a scientific understanding of the natural world has failed to provide humanity with a larger meaning and purpose for its existence. In fact, a scientific worldview has often been taken to imply that the emergence of humanity was an accident in a universe that is completely indifferent to human concerns, goals, and values (e.g. see Weinberg, 1993).
Humanity has had to supplement a naturalistic understanding with beliefs in supernatural beings and processes if it wanted a worldview that includes a meaningful role for humanity in a larger scheme of things. But recent advances in evolutionary science are beginning to change this. In particular, we are rapidly improving our understanding of the evolutionary processes that have produced life on Earth and that will determine the future evolution of life in the universe. While it is far too early to tell with certainty, it is possible that the universe and the evolution of life within it have been shaped by yet larger evolutionary processes to perform particular functions that are relevant to these larger processes.