Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Boltzmann Brains

The attempt by philosophers and scientists to escape the conclusion that the universe is the work of an intelligent agent has led to some bizarre hypotheses but none more bizarre than what are called Boltzmann Brains.

Boltzmann Brains, named for the physicist Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906) who was the first to suggest that the universe arose as a spontaneous fluctuation, are disembodied brains that should be abundant in the universe if the universe is old enough. Recall that Darwinians are fond of saying that although the spontaneous generation of life from inert matter purely by chance is extraordinarily improbable, given enough time it should happen just as given enough time a million monkeys typing away on a million typewriters should produce a Shakespearean sonnet.

The problem is that given a sufficiently vast amount of time we should also expect that everything not ruled out by the laws of physics and logic should happen. Thus, since these laws don't absolutely prohibit it, we should expect that in a universe of vast age atoms will randomly combine to form functioning minds/brains, and that the numbers of these brains would expand as the universe continues to age.

Sure it's breathtakingly improbable but given enough time the improbable becomes probable, or so we've been told by Darwinians, and the probable becomes actual. If time is the hero of the story of evolution then so, too, must it be the hero of the production of Boltzmann Brains.

This seems literally incredible, of course, but it's the sort of thing that's taken seriously by people who've embraced a naturalism that rejects the worldview of classical monotheism.

The irony is that naturalists scoff at the miracles believed in by theists, but on naturalism, miracles are not only possible, they are inevitable given enough time. If someone objects that miracles violate the laws of physics and are thus impossible, it need only be replied that the laws of physics are statistical probabilities. Given enough time, or enough universes, there's bound to be one in which a particular deviation from those laws occurs or in which the laws themselves are different. In any case, the naturalist seems to have very little grounds for rejecting the occurrence of a miracle.

After all, anyone who takes Boltzmann Brains seriously can hardly criticize those who believe that a virgin bore a child.