Goldilocks retold

Once upon a time Goldilocks chanced upon a baby bear’s bowl of porridge that was just right for the eating.  Sometime later, scientists took a fresh look at the fact of a universe that happened to be just right for the emergence of life, and recognised that the necessary fine tuning of the manifold preconditions, the ‘physical constants’, seems more like a contrivance than a coincidence – a conspiracy of coincidences – so named the ‘Goldilocks enigma’ because there is no settled evidence for it beginning other than by chance.  But what if both scenarios are true: chance and non-chance – the evidence for the co-existence of chance and non-chance possibilities being everywhere in the world that surrounds us?  Then perhaps the enigma is actually a paradox which reflects the true state of existence – something we cannot reduce to our logical truths by which we demarcate the facts as either right or wrong, true or false, possible or impossible.  Paradoxically, there is more to the fact of existence than the prerequisite of an explanation that requires itself to be logical.  And it is logic, not truth, that requires the facts to be logical.  Perhaps our belief in logic is holding us back – believing that logic gives us exclusive access to the ultimate truth – a truth to withstand all contradiction.

Perhaps paradox is nearer to ‘the truth’ than the logic that demands its resolution.  So let’s begin with three truisms: ‘the universe’ is vast, ‘everything’ and ‘contains’ life.  Given the scale and scope of it all, together with the potential diversity of planetary environments, then the right conditions for life on more than one of these planets becomes a loaded possibility.  And though we see life as a novel possibility, it is explained as an effect of causes that subsist within existing boundaries of possibility.  Yet the effect causes profound changes.  It looks like non-living causes determine the mix of possible preconditions, but, ultimately, it is the potential for life that sets the limits.  Furthermore, that potential remains a defiant mystery, regardless of how much we learn about the preconditions for life on earth, or indeed the preconditions for different types of life on different kinds of planet.  Moreover, no amount of causal analysis explains how effects ratchet up the course of change, beginning in the observable differences between cause and effect.  Indeed the paradox at the heart of existence is the pre-existence of its possibilities, despite their probable absence in certain forms at certain times – subsequently to ‘emerge’ in the times and events an observer chances upon, in the form of co-incidence called ‘reality’.

Mike Laidler