Cosmological natural selection

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Cosmological natural selection, also called the fecund universes, is a hypothesis proposed by Lee Smolin intended as a scientific alternative to the anthropic principle. It addresses the problem of complexity in our universe, which is largely unexplained. The hypothesis suggests that a process analogous to biological natural selection applies at the grandest of scales. Smolin published the idea in 1992 and summarized it in a book aimed at a lay audience called The Life of the Cosmos.


Black holes have a role in natural selection. In fecund theory a collapsing[clarification needed] black hole causes the emergence of a new universe on the "other side", whose fundamental constant parameters (masses of elementary particles, Planck constant, elementary charge, and so forth) may differ slightly from those of the universe where the black hole collapsed. Each universe thus gives rise to as many new universes as it has black holes. The theory contains the evolutionary ideas of "reproduction" and "mutation" of universes, and so is formally analogous to models of population biology.

Alternatively, black holes play a role in cosmological natural selection by reshuffling only some matter affecting the distribution of elementary quark universes. The resulting population of universes can be represented as a distribution of a landscape of parameters where the height of the landscape is proportional to the numbers of black holes that a universe with those parameters will have. Applying reasoning borrowed from the study of fitness landscapes in population biology, one can conclude that the population is dominated by universes whose parameters drive the production of black holes to a local peak in the landscape. This was the first use of the notion of a landscape of parameters in physics.

Leonard Susskind, who later promoted a similar string theory landscape, stated:

I'm not sure why Smolin's idea didn't attract much attention. I actually think it deserved far more than it got.[1]

However, Susskind also argued that, since Smolin's theory relies on information transfer from the parent universe to the baby universe through a black hole, it ultimately makes no sense as a theory of cosmological natural selection.[1] According to Susskind and many other physicists, the last decade of black hole physics has shown us that no information that goes into a black hole can be lost.[1] Even Stephen Hawking, who was the largest proponent of the idea that information is lost in a black hole, later reversed his position.[1] The implication is that information transfer from the parent universe into the baby universe through a black hole is not conceivable.[1]

Smolin has noted that the string theory landscape is not Popper-falsifiable if other universes are not observable.[citation needed] This is the subject of the Smolin–Susskind debate concerning Smolin's argument: "[The] Anthropic Principle cannot yield any falsifiable predictions, and therefore cannot be a part of science."[1] There are then only two ways out: traversable wormholes connecting the different parallel universes, and "signal nonlocality", as described by Antony Valentini, a scientist at the Perimeter Institute.[clarification needed]

In a critical review of The Life of the Cosmos, astrophysicist Joe Silk suggested that our universe falls short by about four orders of magnitude from being maximal for the production of black holes.[2] In his book Questions of Truth, particle physicist John Polkinghorne puts forward another difficulty with Smolin's thesis: one cannot impose the consistent multiversal time required to make the evolutionary dynamics work, since short-lived universes with few descendants would then dominate long-lived universes with many descendants.[3] Smolin responded to these criticisms in Life of the Cosmos and later scientific papers.

When Smolin published the theory in 1992, he proposed as a prediction of his theory that no neutron star should exist with a mass of more than 1.6 times the mass of the sun.[citation needed] Later this figure was raised to two solar masses following more precise modeling of neutron star interiors by nuclear astrophysicists. If a more massive neutron star was ever observed, it would show that our universe's natural laws were not tuned for maximal black hole production, because the mass of the strange quark could be retuned to lower the mass threshold for production of a black hole. A 1.97-solar-mass pulsar was discovered in 2010.[4] In 2019, neutron star PSR J0740+6620 was discovered with a solar-mass of 2.08 ±.07.

In 1992 Smolin also predicted that inflation, if true, must only be in its simplest form, governed by a single field and parameter.

This idea was further studied by Nikodem Poplawski.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Smolin vs. Susskind: The Anthropic Principle" Edge (August 18, 2004)
  2. ^ Joe Silk (1997) "Holistic Cosmology," Science 277: 644.
  3. ^ John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale (2009) Questions of Truth. Westminster John Knox: 106-111.
  4. ^ Hessels, Jason; Roberts, Mallory; Ransom, Scott; Pennucci, Tim; Demorest, Paul (October 27, 2010). "Shapiro delay measurement of a two solar mass neutron star". Nature. 467 (7319): 1081–1083. arXiv:1010.5788. doi:10.1038/nature09466. PMID 20981094. S2CID 205222609.
  5. ^ Finkel, Michael (2014-02-19). "Are We Living in a Black Hole?". Retrieved 7 September 2020.

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