Let us imagine a very young child who is given one of those little Android tablets, a special one that has a simplified touch-screen interface to make it easy to use by small children. Let us also suppose that the parents are too busy or distracted to teach the child about how to use the device, or how it works. The child may experiment with the device for quite a while, with frustrating results. But then finally he might figure out how to get some functionality by touching different parts of the screen.
child might tell himself something like this:
I know it all real well! When I touch this part of the screen, I get
my funnest web site. When I touch this part, I get my animal game.
When I touch this part, I get my racing game. When I touch this part,
I get my TV shows.
child really understands only one part of the system: the external
hardware interface that he uses when he touches the screen. But this
is only one layer in the system. For it to work, many other layers
must also work. Here I am using the term “layers” as it is used
in the computer industry, to mean a particular aspect of the overall
child knows nothing of other layers such as these: a software layer
on the tablet device that makes it work effectively; an internal
hardware layer inside the machine; a WI-FI layer that allows the
device to access the internet; an internet hardware layer needed for
external servers to work, like the one that hosts the child's games
and web sites; a database layer that allows the internet to store
user's data; an internet software layer needed for programs to run on
those external servers; a television production layer needed to
produce the TV programs; and a television network layer needed to
distribute the TV programs.
of these complicated things are needed for the child to experience
what he experiences. But blissfully ignorant of such complications,
the child thinks it's all real simple – you just press a particular
part of the screen, and you get some cool thing like a game, a TV
show, or a web site.
suspect that many of our modern scientists are very much like this
little child. They are guilty of the same mistake, one of the easiest
mistakes to make – the mistake of requirements underestimation.
Requirements underestimation comes when one assumes that something
that requires many layers can be explained by assuming only one or
two known layers.
modern scientist knows of basically two layers that help make
possible a habitable universe in which conscious self-aware beings
like us exist. Those layers are a particle layer (consisting mainly
of protons, neutrons, electrons, and photons), and a particle force
layer (consisting mainly of the four fundamental forces including
electromagnetism and gravitation). In
a gigantic example of requirements underestimation, the modern
scientist assumes that these two layers are sufficient to explain
marvelous things such as the origin of cosmic structure, the origin
of life and the origin of self-conscious creatures such as humans.
saw an example of this thinking the other day on one of those science
shows on cable TV. I don't have the exact quote, but some astronomer
or physics professor was saying something like this: “It's amazing
to consider that all of the infinite complexity of human civilization
and the human mind all come merely from the simple interactions of a
few basic particles and forces.” The next time you hear someone
spouting a quote like that, remember that it's not science, but
philosophy – a very dubious philosophy called reductionist
to such reductionist claims, we have every reason to suspect that the
existence of self-conscious creatures such as us requires that
numerous layers of cosmic functionality be working in just the right
way. There may be many layers of cosmic functionality that are
completely undiscovered by us. Such layers may be as necessary for
our existence as a software layer and a database layer are necessary
for an internet.
of those currently unknown layers may have been involved when the
universe escaped the incredibly density, heat, and chaos of the Big
Bang, and began improbably forming into beautiful orderly galaxies.
Another currently unknown layer may have been involved when there
first occurred the formation of the genetic code and self-replicating
molecules. Our current story of the origin of those two things –
the mere chance combination of chemicals – is laughably inadequate.
Another layer may have been involved when self-aware beings with all
the higher human qualities arose long ago, with many advanced
capabilities (such as wonder, spirituality, morality, and esthetic
appreciation) that are hard to explain through natural selection
undiscovered layers may be mainly physical; or perhaps one or more of
them may be information layers as suggested here; or perhaps one or
more of them may be some kind of spiritual layers. But the latter
thought is taboo to the modern physicist, who unreasonably is quite
willing to warmly discuss speculative theories of an infinity of
other completely unknown and hidden physical realities, but
absolutely refuses to entertain the idea of even one hidden spiritual