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Open Access Article << Previous     |         Contents Vol 29(4)

The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life

L. A. Barnes

Institute for Astronomy, ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and Sydney Institute for Astronomy, School of Physics, University of Sydney, Australia. Email: L.Barnes@physics.usyd.edu.au

Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia 29(4) 529-564 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AS12015
Submitted: 6 February 2012  Accepted: 24 April 2012   Published: 7 June 2012


 
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Abstract

The fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life has received a great deal of attention in recent years, both in the philosophical and scientific literature. The claim is that in the space of possible physical laws, parameters and initial conditions, the set that permits the evolution of intelligent life is very small. I present here a review of the scientific literature, outlining cases of fine-tuning in the classic works of Carter, Carr and Rees, and Barrow and Tipler, as well as more recent work. To sharpen the discussion, the role of the antagonist will be played by Victor Stenger’s recent book The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us. Stenger claims that all known fine-tuning cases can be explained without the need for a multiverse. Many of Stenger’s claims will be found to be highly problematic. We will touch on such issues as the logical necessity of the laws of nature; objectivity, invariance and symmetry; theoretical physics and possible universes; entropy in cosmology; cosmic inflation and initial conditions; galaxy formation; the cosmological constant; stars and their formation; the properties of elementary particles and their effect on chemistry and the macroscopic world; the origin of mass; grand unified theories; and the dimensionality of space and time. I also provide an assessment of the multiverse, noting the significant challenges that it must face. I do not attempt to defend any conclusion based on the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. This paper can be viewed as a critique of Stenger’s book, or read independently.

Keywords: cosmology: theory — history and philosophy of astronomy


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