Amazon Customer Review
- The book considers recent claims that our universe is 'fine-tuned for producing Life'. For instance, that if its early expansion speed had been smaller by one part in a million then it would have recollapsed rapidly; that with an equivalently tiny speed increase, no galaxies would have formed; and that either way, this universe would have been lifeless. Many cosmologically important numbers can seem to show similar tuning. Did God choose them with immense care? Alternatively, may there exist a great many universes, huge cosmic domains very varied in their properties? Living beings would then observe only the (perhaps very rare) universes with life-permitting properties. This last idea is sometimes called an 'anthropic' one — but it is intelligent life of all kinds that is in question here and not just anthropos, the human observer.
- Universes discusses the alleged evidence of fine tuning; mechanisms by which a very varied set of universes might be generated; various forms of Anthropic Principle; and whether belief in God could be preferable to accepting universes in vast numbers. It is the first book by a philosopher on these controversial affairs, and will be read by scientists, philosophers, religious thinkers, students at many levels, and all who are interested in the speculations of contemporary cosmologists.
- Though John Leslie read Philosophy at Oxford, he entered it with a scholarship in English Literature and ambitions as a writer. After a period in advertising and then in teaching, he found that what he most wanted to write about was the universe and why it exists. His Value and Existence (Blackwell, 1979), which pictured God as a creative force and not a person, was the topic of a chapter in J.L. Mackie's The Miracle of Theism (Clarendon Press, 19821). In philosophy of science he has edited Physical Cosmology and Philosophy (Macmillan, 1989). He is now Professor of Philosophy at the University of Guelph.
- This is a beautiful little book. Though I can't imagine paying £71.25 for it I also wouldn't sell my own copy for £71.252.
- Popular science writers and even the occasional professional scientist have written much on the philosophical aspects of frontier physics and cosmology. But curiously, few professional philosophers have much to say these days about where cosmology has been taking us in terms of the truly fundamental questions. Leslie is more or less a lone exception, and in this book he works through the significance and implications of the anthropic cosmological principle in rigorous and systematic terms.
- The book is a proper philosophical text in that it requires careful reading, but is in no way dense, impenetrable or obscure, and is in fact a model of clarity and could be read by a determined layman. Furthermore the book is illustrated throughout with charming thought experiments3 that make it a delight to read. The book is self-contained insofar as the basic facts and observations that underlie anthropic thinking are presented briefly and cogently. I in fact read it after reading Barrow and Tipler's far more scientifically technical masterpiece "Barrow (John) & Tipler (Frank) - The Anthropic Cosmological Principle". As such, Universes helped me to summarise the wealth of detail presented in Barrow and Tipler. However one might just as well read this preparatory to Barrow and Tipler or to some of Leslie's later books that develop his cosmological themes, Modern Cosmology and Philosophy and Infinite Minds: A Philosophical Cosmology.
- So the essence of the anthropic principle is that we find ourselves in a universe that is 'finely tuned' to an extraordinary degree, and in multiple ways, to support living observers that ultimately, after all the implications have been carefully worked through, leads them to the conclusion that either the single perfect universe was created by a fine tuner, i.e. God in a strictly defined sense as creator, or there are a very large number of universes with random fundamental properties and constants and we living observers inevitably find ourselves in one of the tiny subset that support living observers.
- The premises are worked through meticulously. What is it in the situation that demands an explanation? What ways are there in which there can be multiple universes? And so on. He makes very clear at the outset that if God is involved then we are talking about a purely creational, designer God. The anthropic principle has nothing to say about God or gods who fiddle with their universe(s) on an on-going temporal basis or takes any interest in the wellbeing or moral proclivities of any minor parts of its creation. Along the way we are introduced to neoplatonist thought and the ideas of Spinoza who argue that the universe exists because it must, through ethical necessity, and if God is anything then it is, at the very least, that ethical necessity.
- What I personally admire about Leslie is that he is, like myself, a modern agnostic, who requires that we be very rigorous about what we do know, what we don't know, what we can and can't know, and as such resists the contemporary urges of militant atheism to dismiss the great mystery of the Universe, out of hand, as solved in the name of science. It may be that theoreticians one day come up with a testable hypothesis to determine the existence of other universes. Were it to be proven that there were none then we would be required to live with the alternative, that the universe we inhabit is very, very special and extremely non-random in quantifiable ways. In the meantime anthropic thinking demands that theoreticians take these possibilities into account.
Acknowledgements – vii
- World Ensemble, or Design – 1
- The Evidence of Fine Tuning – 25
- Further Evidence – 57
- Multiple Worlds – 66
- The Need to Explain Life – 104
- Anthropic Explanations – 127
- The Design Argument – 150
- God – 165
- Conclusions – 184
Notes – 205
References – 220
Index of Concepts – 223
Index of Names – 226
In-Page Footnotes ("Leslie (John) - Universes")
Footnote 1: See "Mackie (J.L.) - The Miracle of Theism: Arguments for and against the Existence of God".
Footnote 2: Thankfully, I got a second-hand hardback copy for £4.83 inc P&P.
Routledge; 1st edition (30 Nov 1989)
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)