Here is an extract from a Sunday Times article published today.
Why is the universe, like the porridge in the tale of Goldilocks and the three bears, “just right” for life? Even cosmologists have said it looks like a fix or a put-up job. Is it a fluke or providence that it appears set up expressly for the purpose of spawning sentient beings?
Until recently the Goldilocks question was almost completely ignored by scientists. But dramatic developments in our understanding are propelling the issue to the forefront of the agenda, according to the acclaimed British physicist and bestselling author Paul Davies. To stoke the fire, he is to chair a debate between advocates of alternative theories at Oxford on Friday
What concerns him in his new book The Goldilocks Enigma is science and the universe’s stringent conditions for existence, so finely tuned that even the slightest twiddle of the dials would wreck any hope of life emerging in the universe. “No scientific explanation of the universe can be deemed complete unless it accounts for this appearance of judicious design,” he says.
Beyond the obvious prerequisites such as water, the sun’s energy and the various chemical elements (oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc) needed to make biomass, there’s the tricky stuff. If protons were a tiny bit heavier they would decay into neutrons, and atoms would disintegrate. No carbon would have been formed by nuclear reactions inside stars if the nuclear force varied by more than a scintilla.
He is fascinated by an alternative answer to the Goldilocks question. “Somehow,” he writes, “the universe has engineered, not just its own awareness, but its own comprehension. Mindless, blundering atoms have conspired to make, not just life, not just mind, but understanding. The evolving cosmos has spawned beings who are able not merely to watch the show, but to unravel the plot.”
The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life? by Paul Davies is published by Allen Lane, £22.
This is the conundrum that has one obvious answer: The universe appears to have been designed because it has a designer. This answer is unpopular with scientists because it takes the question out of the realm of science into theology where it cannot be tested by the scientific method.
Cosmologists seek to explain the bio-friendliness of the universe by postulating a multitude of universes or a multiverse, believing that the laws of physics would be different in neighboring universes. Particle physicists, particularly adherents of string theory, regard this as a cop-out. Since experiments can't be done to show what even one other universe would be like, it is just a God-free escape from scientific examination. Then there is Richard Dawkins, who believes that life is an essentially pointless by-product that came about by chance. Note the "believes". We are still in the realm of theological debate.
I fear that it will remain there, but it is good to see a scientist recognize the problem.