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Our Universe Isn’t As Special As We’d Like to Believe

Humans like to be at the center of things.

The early Greeks knew the Earth was round, but most of them could not imagine that the land they walked on was anything but the dead center of reality. Maimonides, the medieval Spanish-Egyptian Jewish philosopher, took that geocentrism to heart, arguing that even the ancient Hebrew Bible described a world where everything revolved around our planet — a position that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, defended using Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity as recently as 1975. It took more than 350 years for the Catholic Church to apologize (in 1992!) for imprisoning the great heliocentrist astronomer Galileo Galilei and forcing him to recant his description of the solar system.

In the modern era, no serious thinker argues that the Earth has some special physical centrality in the universe. (Schneerson’s paper claimed only that the Earth could be seen as the center of the universe from a particular reference frame.) All the evidence of the great telescopes has shown that Earth is just another small, rocky world orbiting a smallish sun in a far-flung region of a medium-size galaxy.

But there’s another idea out there, popular among some of the greatest scientists alive, that centers humans (and creatures like us) to an extent that the ancient philosophers couldn’t have imagined. It’s so outlandish that Maimonides would likely have considered it a heresy, a violation of his principle that God and only God willed the universe into being. [Creationism vs. Evolution: 6 Big Battles]

Here’s how it goes:

The universe is perfect — eerily, uncannily perfect— as a setting for creating life. All sorts of physical constants — the speed of light, the charge of an electron, the ratios of the four fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong) — seem fine-tuned to create a universe where life as we know it could emerge.

Here’s how the writer Anil…

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