If Our Universe Is Just a Random Occurrence, Science Has a Big Problem

Theoretical physicists may have arrived at an understanding that makes the pursuit of principles and laws through science meaningless.

According to theoretical physicist Alan Lightman, scientists — and in particular, physicists — have long assumed that they’d someday be able to work out the basic principles and laws that logically and inevitably lead to our universe. Current theories, however, raise another, very unnerving possibility.


So what do we do if what causes the cosmos can lead to myriad outcomes, of which our universe is just a single, random one? Remove its inevitability, and you remove the ability to empirically test the validity of any of our theories. If what we observe is only one possible outcome, how do we prove or disprove anything? Should we just give up trying? Has the logic of theoretical physics undone science itself?

Down the rabbit hole we go.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

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  • Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, especially in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
  • European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, what we're seeing is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
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Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits

They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.

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Culture & Religion
  • Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
  • To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
  • They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
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Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

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  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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