A good book you might wish you had read before tackling “The House Beyond Your Sky,” is Cosmic Jackpot. In clear, entertaining arguments, Paul Davies works his way through the various flavors of theories attempting to explain the “Goldilocks” problem. That is, there are a small set of critical constants that have to be within extremely narrow ranges to make life in this universe possible, and since there is life in this universe, all those constants are just right. And nobody has a good explanation for this tautology.
The book examines weak and strong anthropic principles, multiverses, simulated universes, string theory, even a Creator. The common flaw in all of these is that they end up appealing to some factor outside this universe to explain why it is the way it is. Davies is trying to find a way for the universe to explain itself. In this interview, he cuts to the chase and argues that spooky action at a distance works through time–the past is uncertain. This is pretty mind-bending, but I think what he is saying is that the presence of mind observing the universe collapses the wave function of the past into the one that allows life and mind to exist. He acknowledges that while all the theories sound crazy, this is the one that sounds the least crazy to him.
Toward the end when he discusses the relationship of life and mind with other fundamental aspects of the universe, it gets less convincing. It would be cool if life and mind really did spread over billions of years to fill the universe, but it seems largely a matter of faith. Could it be that the Buddhists are right about consciousness being the foundation of existence? That would bring us full circle back to The Universe in a Single Atom.
Next week: Don’t everyone speak up at once.