My own best-guess of what we’re embedded in is by way of an analogy that Alan Watts once proffered: the universe is akin to an apple or cherry tree. Just as a cherry tree “branches” and “leaves” and “cherry blossoms” and “cherries” and “seeds,” the universe bears its fruits as well (it “stars” and “planets” and “organisms” and, ultimately, “minds”).
Alan Watts was making a point about spontaneity, but I think the analogy runs deeper, to an actual design constraint on spontaneity: we should no more treat the universe as a random phenomenon that just happens to have spontaneously produced stars, planets, life, and minds as we should treat a cherry tree as a random phenomenon that just happened to have spontaneously produced branches, leaves, cherry blossoms, cherries, and seeds.
Something very far from entropy is going on in both the cherry tree and the universe as a whole. A program is running. A cherry tree cherries; the universe minds. There are very specific things being selected for.
That is not to say that nothing random is in play in the universe. Like each cherry tree, this universe almost certainly has its contingent peculiarities. Unless there is some principle of strict determinism underlying the universe, if you played its program again—that is, played out the constraints of its physical constants in a fresh big bang—you would no doubt get interesting and significant variations.
But underlying our highly improbable universal cherry tree is some sort of “genetic” blueprint—some sort of apparent fine-tuning of its physical constants—that is, in at least general terms, playing itself out.
And who (or what) is behind it?
I suspect that a non-material mind—not just the blind rustling of atoms in void—undergirds the universe in some fashion.
Yes, I’m talking about God.
The only reasonable alternative to this is to give the universe a history prior to the big bang—a vast multiverse history powered by the random variation of cosmological constants and a mechanism for universes to reproduce themselves. If you do this, then you’re positing a natural history for our universe akin to the natural history that gave us the cherry tree (that is, a process of natural, as opposed to mental, selection).
Absent this, you’ve just got a universal “cherry tree”—arrived at via a singular big bang from nothing—with a genetic-like blueprint running, but lacking any prior natural history to account for its existence.
The great contemporary leap of faith, in my view, is whether you will come down on the side of belief in the multiverse or God.
Which will you choose?
Who will cut down the cherry tree?