Session IV: Our Unique Universe?
Saturday 8 October—Day Two
Is This Universe Unique?
Moderated by Priyamvada Natarajan
Session IV- Is This Universe Unique?-began at 2:45 PM Saturday, following the Saturday conference luncheon. Bernard Carr (Queen Mary, University of London Mathematics and Astronomy) and Tim Maudlin (NYU Philosophy) delivered the session’s keynote presentations, followed by responses from Barry Loewer (Rutgers Philosophy) and Janet Martin Soskice (Cambridge Philosophical Theology), concluding with extended plenary discussion.
One of the most striking facts to be discovered in recent years about the only Universe we know is that it is a “Goldilocks universe”—so finely tuned in so many ways that the slightest difference would have excluded intelligent life, or life in general, or perhaps even physical existence itself. One possible explanation is that an infinitude of universes exists, with countless combinations of cosmological parameters among them, one of which—ours—happens to be the one whose parameters enable us to be here wondering about such things. Recently new theories have been proposed to provide a probabilistic account of cosmic creation that could potentially reconcile seemingly incommensurable theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, which also provide for essentially infinite universes and thus answer the fine tuning challenge. Are such approaches mathematically sound, empirically verifiable, and subject to falsification? In what ways are they more plausible than other possibilities?
Bernard Carr is Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL). His research interests include the early universe, dark matter, general relativity, primordial black holes, and the anthropic principle.
In 1976 he was elected to a fellowship at Trinity and he also became an advanced SERC Fellow at the Institute of Astronomy. In 1980 he took up a senior research fellowship at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge. In 1985 he moved to Queen Mary College (as it was then called) and became a professor there in 1997. [more]
Barry Loewer is a philosopher at Rutgers University, Chairperson of its Department of Philosophy, and director of the Rutgers Center for Philosophy and the Sciences. He is especially known for work on mental causation, the metaphysics of laws and chance, and the interpretation of quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. Over the last decade he has been developing an account of laws, counterfactuals and objective probabilities. In his work with David Albert he is known for developing the “many-minds interpretation” of quantum theory. [more]
Tim Maudlin is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University. His areas of research include the philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, and metaphysics. He is the author of Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity: Metaphysical Intimations of Modern Physics and Truth and Paradox: Solving the Riddles. [more]
Janet Soskice is Professor of Philosophical Theology and a Fellow of Jesus College, University of Cambridge.She has taught philosophy of religion, ethics, and doctrine at Oxford University and philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London. She is a past president of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain and is currently president of the Society for the Study of Theology. Dr. Soskice is actively involved with the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology within the Cambridge Theological Federation, with Jewish-Christian relations, and with Anglican-Roman Catholic ecumenical discussions amongst other commitments. In 2006 she and Carlo Cogliati presented a conference at the Vatican Observatory on creatio ex nihilo in science and the three Abrahamic faiths. [more]