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    Thread: The Anthropic Principle

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      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      The Anthropic Principle

      So there are many definitions of the anthropic principle (feel free to add your own) but Ill just go with this one: 1)The universe is the way it is because we exist and that 2) the universe exists for the sole purpose of producing carbon-based intelligent life forms. I believe the former statement to be an example of the weak anthropic argument and the latter to be an example of a strong anthropic argument.

      My intention in creating this thread is not to affirm or deny the anthropic principle in all of its forms but only to stir up discussion.

      What are your thoughts on premise one and two of this argument?
      Last edited by stormcrow; 09-29-2011 at 10:48 PM.

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      Wus a premise yo?

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      Terminally Out of Phase Descensus's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      So there are many definitions of the anthropic principle (feel free to add your own) but Ill just go with this one: 1)The universe is the way it is because we exist
      One of the textbooks for my seminar went over something similar to this. The author called it the "fine-tuning observer," meaning we see the universe as ordered because we set it up as ordered. For reference, see Mix's Life in Space: Astrobiology for Everyone.

      and that 2) the universe exists for the sole purpose of producing carbon-based intelligent life forms.
      Sort of makes you wonder why there are carbon-based life forms that AREN'T intelligent. Also we don't know if carbon-based life is universal. There could be silicon-based life floating around out there or something.
      The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended. - Frédéric Bastiat
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      Formerly known as BLUELINE976

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      D.V. Editor-in-Chief Original Poster's Avatar
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      It makes sense from a certain standpoint. We live in every possible existence and none of the impossible existences.

      Also Blueline you do not need to be intelligent in order to be an observer. Intelligence is nothing more than a profound illusion.
      Supernova likes this.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Xei
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      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      The universe is the way it is because we exist
      Quote Originally Posted by BLUELINE976 View Post
      One of the textbooks for my seminar went over something similar to this. The author called it the "fine-tuning observer," meaning we see the universe as ordered because we set it up as ordered. For reference, see Mix's Life in Space: Astrobiology for Everyone
      Neither of these are really correct characterisations of the (weak) anthropic principle.

      A proper statement is an elaboration of what Omis Dei said: we can only exist where it is possible for us to exist. Therefore the (local) environment we observe will be biased towards the existence of consciousness.

      The important distinction to make is that the idea isn't that reality is biased towards humans; I think that's what the 'strong anthropic principle' is supposed to be, and it sounds like complete bollocks. It's just local reality.

      The anthropic principle is what apologists are forgetting when they make arguments like 'the Earth is at the perfect distance from the sun for life which proves God'; of course, if Earth were not at the right distance, there wouldn't be any life on it and we wouldn't be here to make that observation. We'd be somewhere else (very figuratively speaking). It's perfectly logically sound and pretty obvious... it also explains why you are standing on the surface and not in outer space, for example, even though the vast majority of locations in the universe are in outer space.

      It also explains the fine tuning of the observable universe, which does seem to possess otherwise extremely unlikely qualities which allow for complex objects to form.

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      Terminally Out of Phase Descensus's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Omnis Dei View Post
      It makes sense from a certain standpoint. We live in every possible existence and none of the impossible existences.

      Also Blueline you do not need to be intelligent in order to be an observer. Intelligence is nothing more than a profound illusion.
      Why?
      The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is, not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended. - Frédéric Bastiat
      I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves. - Christopher Hitchens
      Formerly known as BLUELINE976

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      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by BLUELINE976 View Post
      Sort of makes you wonder why there are carbon-based life forms that AREN'T intelligent. Also we don't know if carbon-based life is universal. There could be silicon-based life floating around out there or something.
      This is a good point but as far as we know the only biological life in the known universe is carbon-based, although its definitely is possible for silicon-based life forms to exist in different initial conditions than earth. I don't know if there is something intrinsically unique about the carbon atom that enables life to exist other than its ability to bond with other simple atoms like oxygen and hydrogen to form complex molecules. There are a finite number of elements in the universe so I think it is possible that only a certain few atoms can possess the capabilities of enabling biological life. I think its clear that life evolves to its environment, not the other way around as the anthropic principle implies.

      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      Neither of these are really correct characterisations of the (weak) anthropic principle.

      A proper statement is an elaboration of what Omis Dei said: we can only exist where it is possible for us to exist. Therefore the (local) environment we observe will be biased towards the existence of consciousness.
      Doesn't that first statement seem like a tautology? If the physical constants of the universe where different it is possible that life would still exist in some shape or form.

      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      The important distinction to make is that the idea isn't that reality is biased towards humans; I think that's what the 'strong anthropic principle' is supposed to be, and it sounds like complete bollocks. It's just local reality.

      The anthropic principle is what apologists are forgetting when they make arguments like 'the Earth is at the perfect distance from the sun for life which proves God'; of course, if Earth were not at the right distance, there wouldn't be any life on it and we wouldn't be here to make that observation. We'd be somewhere else (very figuratively speaking). It's perfectly logically sound and pretty obvious... it also explains why you are standing on the surface and not in outer space, for example, even though the vast majority of locations in the universe are in outer space.

      It also explains the fine tuning of the observable universe, which does seem to possess otherwise extremely unlikely qualities which allow for complex objects to form.
      The anthropic principle does have theological tinges to it. I really detest the idea that the earth or even more arrogantly, the universe was invented for us humans. After all the majority of the known universe is inhospitable to biological life.

      Is the universe ordered because we are conscious or are we conscious because the universe is ordered?
      Last edited by stormcrow; 09-30-2011 at 08:55 PM.

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      Xei
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      Quote Originally Posted by stormcrow View Post
      Doesn't that first statement seem like a tautology?
      No, it is a very important observation. Like I say, this is the crucial logical step you make when explaining why Earth being in the habitable zone doesn't imply design. It has definite substance.

      If the physical constants of the universe where different it is possible that life would still exist in some shape or form.
      This is of course true, but it's actually not very probable. In fact the probability that we should even have atoms and complex matter is very low. A random universe would likely be a homogeneous random mush with no structure. This is seen as a good argument for a multiverse. Theoretical physicists have found (contrary to their somewhat dogmatic hopes in fact) that there are no constraints on the universal constants, and that there is a vast plethora of other potential universes.

      The anthropic principle does have theological tinges to it.
      No it doesn't... are you fully reading what I'm saying? I just explained how it has the exact opposite effect, and it's used to explain the flaw in theological arguments. And you yourself thought it was so obvious that you called it a truism... how can a truism be theological?

      I really detest the idea that the earth or even more arrogantly, the universe was invented for us humans.
      Which is the exact opposite of the anthropic principle...

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      Dionysian stormcrow's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      No it doesn't... are you fully reading what I'm saying? I just explained how it has the exact opposite effect, and it's used to explain the flaw in theological arguments. And you yourself thought it was so obvious that you called it a truism... how can a truism be theological?


      Which is the exact opposite of the anthropic principle...
      I just mean that Ive heard arguments for intelligent design using the anthropic principle by William Lane Craig and others.

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      Xei
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      Do you mean by watchmaker arguments? Perhaps they were claiming to use the anthropic principle, but they weren't; it's an antithesis to theological arguments, it couldn't sensibly be used for their agenda.

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      D.V. Editor-in-Chief Original Poster's Avatar
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      All possible universes exist, that doesn't make them parallel dimensions, that just makes them possible universes. What happens in the actual universe is a matter of complexity. Chaos is the reality filling the mold of possibility left by de facto existence.

      I read a new theory on time travel related to the idea. Basically, the universe would not let you fuck your own mother. So I heard.

      Blueline: In answer to your question, the proverbial leap of consciousness one attains when they separate themselves from the outside and become "I am" does not actually make them any smarter in the evolutionary sense. A lizard is no dumber than the man; its perfectly apt for its niche. People suffer through their niche, and they call it intelligence. I'm not saying intelligence does not exist, simply that the way you frame it in your arguments is an illusion.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Czar Salad IndieAnthias's Avatar
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      I agree that intelligence is less significant than our bias has us believe. The lizard you mentioned "gets it" on the only level that matters. The ultimate yardstick for life is natural selection, and nothing humans have ever done has replaced that yardstick with anything else (though we've tried.) The "Anthropic" principle is a misnomer because it carried the same validity as a principle 1 billion years ago. So intelligence is not needed to define an observer.

      My thoughts on/understanding of the anthropic principle is this. One consequence of human intelligence seems to be that it emerged inverted. There was no reason to suspect for one minute that the earth was orbiting the sun and not the other way around until telescopes came along. The most upsetting revelations of science have been the ones that have shown us that we are seeing something completely backwards, that we've had the horse before the cart since day 1. We've gotten almost used to it by now since it's happened so many times... we've been shown that our default perspective is perfectly inverted from reality. The anthropic principle is a recent demonstration that we've been looking at something yet again from an inverted perspective.

      I think that something very similar to the way that the anthropic principle describes the relationship between humans and the universe, can be applied to the relationship between an individual and humanity. If you have ever wondered why your consciousness got tied to the individual human it got tied to, you are looking at the problem in reverse. If you look at yourself and humanity from the outside-in, you see that when such an organism is formed, it starts to produce an internal sentience. Just so, when a planet is of the proper elemental composition and orbits its star at an appropriate distance, and countless other "goldilocks" conditions are satisfied, life will form.

      Am I hitting on something or is it much more involved than that?
      Last edited by IndieAnthias; 10-02-2011 at 11:41 PM.

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