Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Location: New Zealand

Marni D. Sheppeard

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Oxford Life XII

Today I visited the museum across the road. There is an exhibition on the life of Darwin, focusing on the voyage of the Beagle. Unlike most such exhibitions, the building itself is part of the exhibition, with a plaque marking the place of the great debate between Bishop Wilberforce and T. H. Huxley in 1860.

In Darwin's time, ideas about natural evolution had already occurred to a number of people. The truly new feature of Darwin's theory was the idea of a common ancestor, entailing both a diversification of life over time and an increase in complexity, as a larger variety of organisms adapt to their environment.

Various physicists have discussed the application of evolution to the cosmos. Unfortunately, these discussions usually involve multiverses of an alarmingly Boolean character, and a 19th century Darwinism that would have modern fans of Hegel rolling their eyes. Moreover, one could argue forever on an appropriate measure of complexity (monotone in epoch) for a classical cosmos. At the end of the day, this total denial of quantum cosmology ruins all attempts to correlate the existence of life with the special parameters of fundamental physics.

Evolution would look quite different from the centre of the universe. My past is continually constructed from a complex collection of local propositions, most of which I share with other humans, although they too are but figments of the imagination. A past ancestor is a being about which I have, in some sense, more knowledge. Moreover, since your local universe is entirely your own, and not at all mine, any omnipotent creature that happens to inhabit all universes would have to be a shallow beast, its existence relying only on the thinnest common threads of our ideas.


Blogger Kea said...

Facebook tells me I'm a Phenomenologist, a la Husserl.

April 18, 2009 5:10 AM  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

Kea, your analysis of the omnipotent creature is correct, but don't mistake thinness with a lack of complexity. As far as your cells are concerned, your understanding of any one of them is also rather thin.

April 18, 2009 10:48 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

Yes, my poor cells constantly suffer from my ignorance and indifference towards them. And to think, I understand the electrons and protons inside them even less!

April 18, 2009 11:59 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Darwin faced significant opposition; even today soe people still don't believe evolution. The Beaglke reminds us of people taking real risks for science.

April 20, 2009 2:57 AM  

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