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Sean Carroll readings

Item one: Why (Almost All) Cosmologists Are Atheists. As he says, more an attempt at clear expression of venerable ideas than anything new. He distinguishes between pictures of the world -- materialism and theism, say -- and methodologies for choosing among pictures, such as pure reason (Epicurean deduction of atoms, say), revelation, or scientific empiricism. He basically assumes empiricism as a methodology, then defines materialism as "the universe can be fully described as a formal system" and theism as "there is a conscious being, capable of intervening in our universe, and not bound by the laws of physics", similar to what I call SimGod, an entity running our universe in a computer simulation, with all the power that would give.

"It should be clear that, by these definitions, materialism and theism are incompatible, essentially by definition. (The former says that everything follows the rules, the second says that God is an exception.) It does not immediately follow that ''science'' and ''religion'' are incompatible; we could follow the scientific method to conclude that a materialist description of the world was not as reasonable as a theist one. On the other hand, it does follow that science and religion do overlap in their spheres of interest. Religion has many aspects, including social and moral ones, apart from its role in describing the workings of the world; however, that role is a crucial one, and necessarily speaks to some of the same issues as science does. Suggestions that science and religion are simply disjoint activities. generally rely on a re-definition of ''religion'' as something closer to ''moral philosophy.'' (See for example S.J. Gould, Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life, Ballantine, 2002.)Such a definition ignores crucial aspects of religious belief."

And then he explains how modern cosmology at the very least fails to give support for a theistic view. This extends to fine-tuning of cosmic parameters arguments: he notes not only our ignorance of what's really necessary for life, but, more tellingly, our inability to predict that our universe would support life; current physics predicts an inert gas of photons and neutrinos, not the excess of matter over antimatter that we see around us.

Item two is Boltzmann's Anthropic Brain, on the problem of the initial low entropy of the universe, which I won't try to summarize, but I will say it made me think of Egan's "dust" from Permutation City. The article is much shorter than it looks; most of the page is comments.



Damien Sullivan

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