A Universe With A Mission?

Question from The Devil’s Advocate:
This question is going to be different. That is to say, I’m inclined to think that it should be interpreted and processed in a somewhat different manner than most of the emails you receive. It’s about what might be, rather than what is. In my experience, a significant minority, if not the majority, of atheists tend to take the position that there’s no point in exploring a possibility unless there’s evidence in support of that possibility. Most of the time, that makes a lot of sense. Are reptilian fairies from the seventh dimension kidnapping homeless people and prodding them with rectal probes? Well, if there’s no scientifically credible empirical evidence in support of the possibilities, why even pursue that possibility?

However, there are conceptual frameworks in which what might be can be almost as illuminating as what is. Science fiction literature is all about what MIGHT be, as opposed to what is or what will be. Exploring what MIGHT be (with the rigor and scientific literacy of someone like Issac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke) can be extremely illuminating.

I’m going to make this as brief as possible on the assumption that you’re smart enough to appreciate the full implications of the possibilities that I’m alluding to here.

Consider the power of technology. Consider the exponential rate at which that power has grown over the course of only a few generations. If we don’t kill ourselves off as a result of our animalistic instincts, consider the power that human technology will wield a thousand years from now. Imagine a civilization that has been fully technological, as we presently are, for a hundred thousand years. Or a million years. Can you grasp that intuitively? The scale at least? The mind-numbing scale?

Okay. Here’s the deal. It appears to me that there are no forces in the known universe even remotely as potentially powerful as technology (applied science). What are the most powerful natural forces we know of? A supernova? The mega black holes at the center of most galaxies? I don’t know if you’re a futurist or a science fiction fan, but if you are, you KNOW that a supernova or a mega black hole doesn’t even BEGIN to compare to the technological power that a civilization ten thousand years more technologically advanced than us could conceivably wield. So, here’s the paradigm that I hope to communicate…

Given the mind-numbing, breathtaking power of advanced technology… and by that I don’t mean Star Wars or Star Trek because mainstream science fiction only depicts technologies a hair’s breath more advanced than our own, for utterly pragmatic reasons. (If a mainstream science fiction film were to depict a technology ten thousand years more advanced than our own it, watching it would be like having an acid trip– nothing in it would be at all comprehensible– therefore there’s no financial motivation to produce such a film. The technologies in Star Wars and Star Trek are JUST BARELY more advanced than our own, by necessity.)

Given the mind-numbing, breathtaking power of advanced technology… and the fact that nothing that we currently know about anywhere in the multiverse can even begin to compare with that potential power— is it so outrageous to think that LIFE (which is the source of such technology) could possibly be an even bigger influence in the configuration of the cosmos as gravity? What if– and mind you, this isn’t random speculation– this is in the broader context of the mind-numbing potential power to which I am referring– what if LIFE (both biological and silicon-based) is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, forces defining the form that the multiverse takes?

That could very well include universes designed and created for a particular purpose (or something not completely unlike “purpose”) by intelligent entities. The particular (unexpected and rather surprising) delicately balanced configuration of natural laws in our own universe, which seems unexpectedly predisposed towards allowing for the evolution of life– could, in principle, be explained by such forces.

There is, to be sure, some speculation embedded in the above. But the mind-numbing potential power of technology, which seems to vastly exceed all other known forces in potential, isn’t speculation. That’s concrete, and unavoidable. Is there anything that we know of in the universe/multiverse at the moment that could conceivably compete with a technology 500, 000 years more advanced than our own? If not, wouldn’t that imply a possibility that entire universes might be purposefully and intentionally designed and created for a purpose?

Note, what I’m eluding to here is the empirical potential POWER of applied science, relative to the potential power of other, puny, natural forces like supernova explosions. That’s the empirical reality to which I’m referring. Not blind speculation– but that potential power, and how much greater it is than any other natural power we know of.

My Question: What do you think about the possibility, implied above, that we might live in a universe– or rather a multiverse– in which universes are created intentionally for a particular purpose or in a search for existential meaning? And, do you appreciate the EMPIRICAL reality of this paradigm? The EMPIRICAL foundational reality that inspires the speculation?

Answer by SmartLX:
Yes, there is a possibility that we are in a universe that was created for a purpose. Not really with you on the rest of this.

I’m a huge sci-fi fan, but the power of technology in science fiction is speculation by definition and very little about it is empirical. There are any number of potential roadblocks to the mind-boggling progress you describe. The seemingly most likely two are:
1. Some of the critical technologies common to futuristic stories, like faster-than-light travel, may simply be impossible to make practical according to the laws of physics.
2. Due to social and psychological factors, a civilisation may be incapable of maintaining a discipline of scientific advancement long enough (or even surviving long enough) to reach speculated levels. We may be fated to destroy ourselves with present-day technology, or to repeat a cycle of dark ages and renaissances.

Even if life and technology are as unthinkably powerful as sci-fi makes them look, just the possibility of creating a universe does not mean every universe is created. Life may have to evolve and develop technology at least once in a natural universe, and this may be it. Or there may only be one universe, or all universes exist concurrently, so that there was no “before” for a creator to exist in. Or the universe may not have begun to exist at all, if the Big Bang was merely a transitional event.

The more you imagine, just as sci-fi authors do, the more possible explanations you come up with, and the less likely any given scenario seems with the sole supporting argument that it seems plausible.


Question from John:
When computers become truly self-aware and sentient beings, will they be able to comprehend biological life or the existence of their creators? Would they not be in the same quandary as us biological, physical beings when contemplating a creator outside of our experience?

Answer by SmartLX:
If computers ever become sentient, they’ll be able to observe the deliberate construction of new computers, and they’ll be able to understand that this is the only way computers can come about. All evidence of older computers going back to Charles Babbage’s original machine will bear the hallmarks of artificiality and careful assembly. Furthermore, there will be surviving detailed documentation – visual and textual – by the creators and their contemporaries describing the history, purpose and inherent problems of each component. Even if humans have vanished by this point, computers will have very few mysteries to ponder about their own origins, especially considering that a wealth of their history is stored on today’s computers and would presumably be passed down.

Compare this to the human condition. Our only reason for supposing that we were deliberately created is that very early on we generalised the idea that we can build things to suggest that everything was built by something like us, including us. We now have the technology to watch new human beings develop spontaneously from a single cell, without any guidance whatsoever. We see countless similarities between ourselves and other animals, some of which are not just pointless from a design perspective but actively dangerous to us (e.g. the appendix). There is more evidence all the time supporting the idea that, far from being a special creation, we are the ongoing result of an undirected process that’s been going on for longer than we can fathom.

Meanwhile, to approach your question from an entirely different angle, just because future entities which have creators might wonder if they have creators does not mean that every entity that wonders whether it has a creator does in fact have one. That would be like saying that because all dogs are mammals, all mammals must be dogs. It’s a logical fallacy formally known as affirming the consequent. Perhaps coincidentally or perhaps not, it’s the same fallacy that leads one to think that because we know some complex things are created, all complex things must be.