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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mankind 'shortening the universe's life'

By Roger Highfield

Forget about the threat that mankind poses to the Earth: our activities may be shortening the life of the universe too.

The startling claim is made by a pair of American cosmologists investigating the consequences for the cosmos of quantum theory, the most successful theory we have. Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.

But there is an odd feature of the theory that philosophers and scientists still argue about. In a nutshell, the theory suggests that we change things simply by looking at them and theorists have puzzled over the implications for years.

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Not all that long ago, cosmologists loved to tell us how insignificant we are compared to the vast universe. We were told we are specks of dust, vacuous and trivial in the cosmos. Of course the aim of that was to belittle the Christian and Jewish belief that each individual is made in the image of God and therefore significant.

Now some cosmologists have the arrogance to suggest a theory that we are so significant that by looking at the cosmos we can shorten its life. Not content to be insignificant specks of dust, and not wanting to acknowledge the Christian God, some cosmologists arrogate themselves to be gods. Oh the audacity of some!

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