Thursday, August 11, 2011

Temporal fortuity in light of the End of Cosmology

In 2007, astrophysicists Lawrence M. Krauss and Robert J. Scherrer published The Return of a Static Universe and the End of Cosmology, wherein they made certain remarkable projections about far future cosmology. Chief among these were the observations that the radiation remnants of the Big Bang were slowly evaporating, and that at the same time, the process of generation of new stars was working towards obscuring the initial chemical composition markers of our Universe. Most remarkably of all, they proposed that the The expansion of the universe is speeding up|expansion of our Universe was possibly accelerating, and that such would continue to the point where the rate of expansion of distances between galaxies would outpace the speed of light itself!!

Observe that, though the speed of light is an absolute limit, faster-than-light expansion is permissible in physics because it does not describe the speed at which anything actually 'travels,' the increasing distance between galaxies resulting from the increasing size of space itself, and not anything happening 'in' space. And so, concluded the paper, astronomers coming to the fore a few trillion years in the future would find no signal that a Big Bang had ever happened, either through telltale Cosmic Microwave Background, or through the chemical signature of our Universe pointing to such an event, or even through the observation of cosmic expansion visible in the continuing movement of all galaxies (or galactic clusters) away from every other.

In fact, once expansion of our Universe overtakes the speed of light, and the last light emitted leading up to that moment passes by the reaches of our world, all of our Universe from beyond our own galactic neighbourhood will disappear. Undetectable, it will be as though it never was. And the astronomer born in such a time will have no reason to imagine that anything ever did exist beyond the borders of our own galaxy (and perhaps one or two close companion galaxies tied to a common centre of mass, though it is predictable that in sufficient time, all galaxies locally attracted in this manner will collide and merge into one). They will live in what the authors describe as an 'Island Universe,' wherein they shall forever remain "It's the End of the World as We Know It|fundamentally incapable of determining the true nature of the universe, including the existence of the highly dominant vacuum energy, When we have reached the end of time and light|the existence of the CMB, and the primordial origin of light elements."

An Element of the Pandeistic:

Now, though Krauss is an outspoken critic of the idea of Intelligent Design (and perhaps rightfully so in respect to the ham-handed wholesale-plopped down life forms model of that theory), let us consider this circumstance in the light of the pandeistic model. Pandeism propose that ours is a created Universe, and that Creator became our Universe -- and, naturally, not just any sort of Universe, but one possessed of careful balances of fundamental constants, governing dynamics designed to bring about complexity. Such complexity would, in turn, eventually yield self-replicating molecular structures -- the building blocks of life itself. And life, once brought into existence, seems to find a way to continue in existence, including adapting copying errors -- mutations -- to its advantage by promoting those which are advantageous, a process which is inclined to bring about more and more intelligent beings.

But another aspect of our Universe which would be of vital importance to such a designer would be the capacity of intelligent life to go beyond this slow and steady natural process, and instead use that intelligence to 'crack the codes' of our Universe. Intelligence, once achieved, must be usable to figure out how and why electrons and atoms and DNA ribbons work as they do, and to use that knowledge to self accelerate. By this, we mean that intelligent life ought to be able to accomplish things like building machines capable of performing quick and massive calculations, and crafting substances capable of fighting disease. Eventually, such knowledge will rise to the point where the calculating devices may be integrated directly into our brains, and where the new disease fighting methods will be addended directly into our immune systems, possibly even through DNA modifications permanently affixing them to our species. But, more than that, Pandeism predicts that we ought to be able to crack the code of the origin of our Universe, to come into possession of the ability to detect the proofs of its age and state before those become obscured from perception by time and space.

Now then, it is possible to conceive a Universe wherein certain chemical reactions necessary to our evolution progress three-hundred times slower than our experience; in such a Universe, intelligent life might arise in four trillion years, instead of the 13.5 billion years which passed before this happened (that we know of) on Earth. A civilization arising in that era would see no signs that our Universe had a singular point of origin, a particular age, or even that it existed at all outside of our galaxy and perhaps one or two others positioned nearby. Atheism offers no explanation of why this ought not to be the case; and for theistic faiths, our current circumstance is positively anathema to such a Universe. For the theist who believes in a special and wholesale Creation of life on Earth especially, out of all the Universe -- and in young earth creationist
|a Creation of a relatively recent duration -- there is simply no reason that the nature of our Universe ought to be able to contradict their theistic account. There is no reason that massive stellar gravitational wells ought to have bent and tugged the light of stars billions of years distant into our view, no reason for us to be able to observe cosmic background radiation or distant stars midway through multi-billion year stages of development. Indeed, no reason at all for us to not exist in an 'Island Universe.'


I grant that, in light of this it remains conceivable that at some past point, perhaps mere millions of years after its birth, our Universe was at the centre of other companions, other Universes which quickly faded from our ability to detect or even contemplate them. Such other entities may have become invisible to us in the same way that the galaxies we current observe might become invisible to cosmologists of a far-distant future. But if so, then at least our capacity to gauge the ultimately transient nature of our own cosmic observations ought to inform us of the possibilities to be modelled, if not actually observed. And it remains with us, in our generations of advancement yet to come, to leave such signals as may be found by far flung future inhabitants of our galaxy, informing them of that which they are no longer able to observe. Indeed, such ought to be the responsibility of intelligent life arising in any galaxy, once this potentiality comes within the grasp of their knowledge. And so, in addition to the fortuitous circumstances of properties of matter and energy which suggest our Universe to be one designed to bring about life through a random-wandering billions-of-years process, we may now add temporal fortuity. For ours is a Universe wherein the capacity of intelligent life to gauge its own cosmic pedigree indeed balances upon the edge of a knife, thanks to the speed of evolution so far outstripping the speed of expansion of our Universe.


For those who are interested, here is an hour+ lecture by Krauss (minus two minutes of introduction delivered by Richard Dawkins), intriguingly outlining his entire cosmological schema from beginning to end....

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