Thursday, May 28, 2015

The final anthropic principle and the Antichrist

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
In their popular science book, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, published in 1986, cosmologists John Barrow and Frank Tipler define three different anthropic principles:
1.      The weak anthropic principle or WAP (this was offered by Brandon Carter in 1973): the simple verification that the fact that we are here imposes certain restrictions on the universe, such as having lasted long enough for intelligent life to appear.
2.      The strong anthropic principle or SAP: the claim that making possible the emergence of intelligent life was a necessary requirement for the universe.
3.      The final anthropic principle or FAP: The claim that, once intelligent life has appeared in the universe, it cannot disappear.
While the weak anthropic principle is accepted by everybody, many cosmologists object to the strong anthropic principle and replace it with the multiverse hypothesis: there are many universes, most of which are incompatible with life, but we must be in a universe that supports life. The final anthropic principle is accepted by few cosmologists, other than Barrow and Tipler. What would be its consequences?
a)      The universe should be closed (after reaching a certain degree of expansion, it will contract and end in a Big Crunch), but just barely (|W0-1|<10-3).
b)      The cosmological constant should be zero or slightly negative, to prevent the universe from going into an accelerated expansion.
c)      At some point, the expansion/contraction of the universe should unbalance (the universe would expand in one direction, but would shrink in others). Intelligent life could exploit this imbalance to obtain usable energy.
d)     The final Big Crunch of the universe would coincide with the time when intelligent life will reach an infinite information processing capacity. Barrow and Tipler call it Omega Point.
The end of the universe according to Barrow & Tipler
The figure shows the evolution of intelligent life in the universe, according to the predictions of the book.
How has our knowledge of the cosmos evolved in the 30 years since the publication of the book?
         We think today that the universe is flat (W0 = 1). However, the uncertainty about this value is greater than the difference suggested by the book (10-3).
         We think today that the cosmological constant is positive, although very small, which would explain why the universe seems to have gone into accelerated expansion. This last finding goes against the theories in the book, although science can never consider anything ultimate.
The name Omega Point is a clear homage to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who called thus his end point of the evolution of life in the universe. However, Barrow and Tipler have not understood Teilhard (apparently they have just read The phenomenon of man, at least this is the only work by Teilhard they mention). In fact, they have got everything backwards.
1.      Teilhard de Chardin’s Omega Point is the second coming of Christ, when God the Creator will merge with the endpoint of evolution, to take it out of the universe and ensure its salvation.
2.      Barrow and Tipler’s Omega Point would be the time when intelligent life will transcend the universe without outside help, giving rise to an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent being (i.e. God). So, identifying this theory with the Antichrist does not seem too far-fetched.


 Manuel Alfonseca

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