Prof: The fine tuning in nature is due to the spirit of the universe


Here is a fascinating 2018 essay by Philosophy Prof Philip Goff, author of Galileo’s mistake: Foundations for a new science of consciousness (2019). He discussed the fine-tuning of the universe as an argument for cosmopsychism (a form of panpsychism). Ideas like his are becoming respectable in the mainstream academia:

Over the past 40 years, scientists have gradually become aware of a strange fact about our universe: the laws of physics and the initial conditions of our universe are fine-tuned to the possibility of life. It turns out that for life to be possible, the numbers in basic physics – for example, the strength of gravity or the mass of the electron – must have values ​​that fall within a certain range. And that range is an incredibly narrow slice of all the possible values ​​that those numbers can have. It is therefore incredibly unlikely that a universe like ours would have numbers consistent with the existence of life. But against all odds, our universe does.

Philip GoffIs the Universe Conscious?” at the aeon (February 8, 2018)

Here is his scientific article on the subject.

In Goff’s view, the best presentation of the matter is that awareness of the nature of the universe is fundamental. This is a different approach to consciousness rather than the usual “Eureka! We have discovered how human consciousness began! It helped early hominids hunt better!” which is regularly read in popular science tabloids. He continues:

However, a number of scientists and philosophers of science have recently argued that this kind of “bottom-up” picture of the universe is outdated and that contemporary physics suggests that we do in fact live in a “top-down” or “whole picture.” ‘ – Universe in which complex wholes are more fundamental than their parts. According to holism, the table in front of you does not derive its existence from the subatomic particles that make it up; rather, these subatomic particles infer their existence from the table. Ultimately, everything that exists derives its existence from the ultimate complex system: the universe as a whole.

Holism has a somewhat mystical connotation in its commitment to a single unified whole that is ultimate reality. But there are strong scientific arguments for it. American philosopher Jonathan Schaffer argues that the phenomenon of quantum entanglement is good evidence of holism. Entangled particles behave as a whole, even when they are separated by such great distances that it is impossible to transmit any signal between them. According to Schaffer, we can only understand this if we are generally in a universe where complex systems are more fundamental than their parts.

Philip GoffIs the Universe Conscious?” at the aeon (February 8, 2018)

Goff advocates it cosmopsychism, a form of panpsychism in which “the universe is conscious and that the consciousness of humans and animals stems not from the consciousness of fundamental particles but from the consciousness of the universe itself”. He wrote a book on the subject, Consciousness and fundamental reality (2017).

2020, Scientific American gave Goff a surprisingly respectful interview, rather than simply refusing to disseminate his ideas or merely disseminating them to ridicule them. In 2021, an annual philosophy conference in the United Kingdom held a plenary session on the subject of panpsychism and once again addressed it seriously. Some don’t like it, including theoretical physicists Sabine Hoessenfelder but arguments against it must now offer more than mockery.

Goff agrees

The idea that the universe is a consciousness responsive to values ​​strikes us as a ridiculously extravagant caricature. But we don’t have to judge the view by its cultural associations, but by its explanatory power. Agentive cosmopsychism explains fine-tuning without making false predictions; and it does so with a simplicity and elegance unmatched by its competitors. It’s a view we should take seriously.

Philip GoffIs the Universe Conscious?” at the aeon (February 8, 2018)

thinker are take seriously. The underlying problem is that the safest place we can rely on is our own consciousness, and there is no reasonable, purely materialistic explanation for this. Panpsychism seems to want to save naturalism (nature is all there is) by dropping materialism (everything is material).

It will be exciting to see where this leads.

You might also like to read: nautilus provides basics on the subject of panpsychism. Given the growing interest of science writers as well as neuroscientists and philosophers, the magazine offers four essays that discuss current approaches.


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