Black Hole in M81
Black Hole in M81
To many it seems unlikely that a universe could spring into being from chaos, and achieve a level of organization advanced enough to allow for life—let alone intelligence. After all, if an electron were only twice the size that it is, chemistry as we know it couldn’t exist. If the Strong and Weak nuclear forces were out of proportion, stars mayn’t work. Over the centuries a number of theories have cropped up to try to explain life, the universe, and everything, but almost none propose to explain how it all came together. As with many problems that are too grandiose to grapple, however, sometimes it’s best to start on a smaller scale.

Evolutionists and naturalists have long observed Earth’s “natural selection” where most creatures create offspring with slightly different characteristics than their own. Those with characteristics better suited to the environment will thrive, procreate, and pass on their heritage; whereas offspring less suited will wither, reproduce less, and their traits will fade and vanish.

Theoretical physicist Lee Smolin looked at the simple, functional elegance found in the the theory of natural selection, and thought that maybe such a concept could be applied on a universal scale. Thus the theory of Cosmological Natural Selection was born.

In order to tackle how complexity came into being, most scientific theories postulate that there are an infinite number of universes, and each of them are host to its own set of physical laws. Some would therefore have laws where chemistry cannot function, and thus are home to nothing more complex than a vast field of hydrogen. Some would have to be like ours: rife with complexity where a star larger than 1.44 times the size of ours can collapse into a black hole. And the black hole is the point where Cosmological Natural Selection begins.

Many people mistakenly attribute the concept of the Black Hole to Albert Einstein, however the earliest proposition of the Black Hole (called a “dark star” at the time) was presented by a fellow named John Michell in 1784—a hundred-forty years before General Relativity was published. Nevertheless, it was Einstein who refined the idea into its modern incarnation. According to General Relativity, when an object achieves enough mass, it crushes down to an inconceivably small point called the singularity. It is so weighty that the escape-velocity from it is greater than the speed of light, and since nothing exceeds the speed of light ...

As good as it sounds, it’s been found that Einstein’s work doesn’t function so well when one starts exploring items smaller than the atom. Modern acolytes of Quantum Physics and String Theory have suggested that it’s highly unlikely that there’s a singularity in there at all. Instead they propose a 4-dimensional tube opens to a new region of space/time. The introduction of the black hole’s material in this virgin space/time is analogous to a Big Bang—the genesis of a new universe.

Here, at the dawn of a new universe is where Smolin’s theory fits. He postulates that the new universe’s laws are influenced by those of the parent. Thus, our universe which has complexity and is therefore very successful at creating black holes/new universes is spawning universes that also have complexity, and will pass that trait onto their progeny ... much like evolution. However, unlike evolution, there are no known universe-predators culling the ill and unfit universes from the multiverse, therefore “Cosmological Natural Selection” might be a less apt name than “Fecund Universes”; it’s not a race for survival, just reproduction.

Some sectors of science dismiss the notion, calling it inherently untestable. There is no way to peek into other universes to see if they are related to their parent ... yet. Smolin responds by asking that his peers to seek out any natural law that shows that our universe isn’t adapted to easily create black holes. After all, if there is a basic principle that inhibits the formation of black holes it would be a pretty big hole in the idea.

Written by Jason Bellows, posted on 19 August 2006. Jason is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.
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