Friday, April 27, 2012

Douglas Adams's Puddle - A Retort

“Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in; fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it?  In fact it fits me staggeringly well!  It must have been made to have me in it!’” –Douglas Adams
Obviously the puddle would be wrong.  He fits so neatly into his hole because of physicodynamics alone.  No matter what the hole's shape was, the puddle would take on, and the appearance of the hole having been designed just for him would be an illusion.  This quote is used to try to answer the apparent fine tuning of our universe to accommodate life.
But the analogy is flawed, and is a rather lousy thing to mention when disputing the anthropic principle [or rather, I should say disputing fine tuning arguments]  because life’s processes are not the way they are because of physicodynamics.  Life cannot adjust its intricacies to accomodate the universe, nor can the way life works be adjusted to fit a multitude of universes of varying physical constants - instead, the universe must be exactly the way it is in order for life to exist at all.  To make the analogy correct, imagine if water could only take one particular three dimensional shape and size (with an accuracy down to the atom or better) in order for it to be water at all.  If this were the case, and the puddle woke up to find itself in an independent hole that fit its shape and size staggeringly well, then the puddle’s realization would not be an illusion.

Or, what about this scenario:
Imagine a puddle waking up at the bottom of a well in the Sahara, with the walls lined with hewn stone, and the top of the well had a bucket attached to a rope, which was wound around a shaft, which had a crank attached to it.  Would the puddle’s inference to design be somewhat more accurate in that case?  Yes, it would.