People are less likely to think things are weird if their friends act like they’re not weird.


Sociology, American University



In this model, a “fit” universe, therefore, is one that has evolved such that its ability to produce black holes has been optimized. 

Other scientists have conversely argued that the universe is freakishly biophilic — that the laws of nature appear to be geared towards making life. Some even suggest that this is the ultimate purpose of the universe — that it’s fine-tuned to spawn biological organisms (the so-called biocosm hypothesis).

Similarly, philosophers like to talk about the Anthropic Principle — the notion that any analysis of the universe and what happens within it must must take into account the presence of observers (i.e. intelligent life). We’re subject to an observational selection effect, they argue, which means we can only ever observe a universe that’s friendly to life.

Ruediger Vaas complains that Smolin’s first mistake was to start making analogies to Darwinian processes. The fitness of Smolin’s universes, he says, aren’t constrained by their environments, but by the numbers of black holes. Moreover, although Smolin’s universes have different replication rates, they aren’t competing against each other — what he feels is a crucial component of any Darwinian process.

"My impression is the idea has not been refuted even though several people have tried," he told us. "It doesn’t mean the idea is true, but the idea has stood up to attempts to falsify it."

Pausing for a moment, and speaking more quickly now, he continued:

"Look, for me, the important part of the claim is that it is a scientific argument. The idea itself is not the most important thing — it’s a very interesting idea, sure — but it instantiates a general claim that — if you want to explain the universe — one of the things you’re going to have to explain is why we see certain laws of nature and not others. And the claim I’m making is that this question can in fact be answered scientifically — one that will lead toward a way for us to make predictions to see if the laws of nature are not fixed for all time, but evolved. That is the key point for me.”