Our Accidental Universe

From Big Think, theoretical physicist (and prolific author) Alan Lightman explains the theme of his essay collection The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew [the link is to Amazon’s page for the Kindle edition]. The short version: For hundreds of years we have assumed that our universe is a necessary consequence of fundamental physical laws, but in the last 10 – 15 years we have been forced to recognize, instead, that given the fundamental physical laws, our universe is one of many possible universes and so is accidental, not necessary. That’s my synopsis — watch the video!

Cosmological speculations are good prompts, for me, and I enjoy frazzling myself by considering ramifications and consequences of speculations that are more abstract than any philosopher’s metaphysical speculations and equally impossible to verify. So, launching off into meaningless speculation, we can ignore questions about why the world is the way it is because there is no answer. No possible answer. The best we can do is explain how it is, keeping mind that when we try to describe how things hang together the exercise is fundamentally pointless, but revealing of our predispositions and cultural and intellectual heritage and so practically (let’s say pragmatically) potentially very valuable.

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