Fine-tuned for Interestingness vs. Ramsey's Theorem

by Alexandros1 min read16th May 201119 comments


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I had posted a while back on my proposed dissolution of the Fine Tuning argument. My main argument was as follows:

So the question posed to defenders of the FTA is 'why life'? Why focus on this particular fact? What is it that sets life apart from all the other propositions true about our universe but not other the other possible universes? The usual answer is that life stands out, being valuable in ways that galaxies, iPads, and all the other true propositions are not. It seems that this is an unstated premise of the FTA. But where does that premise come from? Physics gives us no instrument to measure value, so how did this concept get in what was supposed to be a cosmology-based argument?

I present the FTA here as an argument that while seemingly complex, simply evaporates in light of the Mind Projection Fallacy. Knowing that humans tend to confuse 'I see X as valuable' with 'x is valuable', the provenance of the hidden premise 'life is valuable' is laid bare, as is the identity of the agent who is doing the valuing, and it is us. With the mystery solved, explaining why humans find life valuable does not require us to go to the extreme lengths of introducing a non-naturalistic cause for the universe.

In the comments, Yvain came up with a response that I admit took me by surprise, if only because this is not the FTA that I had been exposed to (emphasis added):

The conditions necessary for life are also necessary for iPads: the argument hinges on things like the ability of subatomic particles to come together to form atoms, or the ability of stars to burn. It's not a question of one interesting type of complexity versus another,  but of a vast selection space of universes in which there is nothing complex or interesting, versus a tiny space of universes in which there are many interesting things  like iPads and life.

I admit this explanation lacks a rigorous definition of "interesting", but I think the least that can be said is that our universe is interesting in being a wild outlier in various physical and mathematical characteristics, and not just "interesting to beings with the same value system as ourselves".

I've been pondering how to process that response, and if the argument is salvageable, ever since. Do we really have to explain anthropics and the multiverse to diffuse the FTA?

Today I came across a great article with an elegant description of Ramsey's Theorem:

Expressed roughly, it tells us that complete disorder (in certain situations) is impossible. No matter how jumbled and chaotic you try to arrange certain objects, you will find yourself creating a very highly organized and structured object within it.

As I understand it, positing few 'interesting' vs. the vast majority of 'uninteresting' universes is in direct contradiction with Ramsey's theorem. I put this to the more mathematically educated among this community for feedback. Beyond pushing forward this particular internal dialog of mine, it should have more general application in the fine tuning debate, should someone choose to use it there.

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