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We Don’t “Know It All.” But Here’s What’s Worth Celebrating

In cosmology we are at a similar place to where Darwin was in biology.  

I’ve tried to write about the remarkable discoveries in science over the last 40 years because I think that’s really what motivated me.  I want to communicate these amazing revelations about the universe.  And it is true that I argued that they suggest the universe could come from nothing without any supernatural shenanigans. That God becomes even more redundant and irrelevant than she was before. 

I think the point is that people sometimes misunderstand the claim that we know it all.  We don’t.  We don’t have laws of physics that take us back to equal zero. All we can do is argue based on the plausibility of what we know.  And what is amazing is if you asked “What are the characteristics that a universe would have if it were created from nothing by simple laws of nature” — our universe has precisely those properties.  And it didn’t have to be that way.

Does that mean we can assert with certainty that the universe came for nothing just by natural phenomena?  No, but it’s plausible.  And that’s worth celebrating.  To me, it’s identical to the situation that we found ourselves a few hundred years ago with Darwin.  Before Darwin, life was a miracle.  There was special creation for every life form on Earth to live in the environment in which it lives.  But what Darwin showed is by simple assumptions, genetic variation in a population and natural selection, you could plausibly explain the evidence for all the diversity of life on Earth.  And in fact, that idea agreed with the data.

He didn’t know about DNA or the details of replication.  He didn’t have the detail theory, but it was plausible.  And that changed our picture, our understanding of biology, and our own origins. And what, to me, is wonderful, is that somehow in cosmology we are at a similar place.  We don’t have all the answers but we are beginning to be able to address these questions of our origins in a cosmic sense that I never would have imagined 25 years ago we could address.  And that is worth celebrating.  And that’s what I’ve tried to celebrate in my writing.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio. 


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