Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Anthropic Principle just a stupid observation

The Anthropic Principle may be loosely described as set of hypotheses which hold that the Universe is constituted such that intelligent entities will inevitably arise who are able to observe said Universe.

Hey, just like us!

This soft and cuddly conception of a sort-of-benevolent cosmos seems to have animated a lot of both religious and scientific discussion in recent years. Not to mention quasi-religious and pseudo-scientific discussion.

I’m not sure whether the following remarks on the Anthropic Principle, by Burton Richter of Stanford University, might be classed as profoundly deep, or just plain commonsense. Perhaps sometimes it takes a certain depth of contemplation to arrive at a commonsensical view...

The anthropic principle, I think, is one of the most stupid ideas ever to infect the scientific community. Look, the anthropic principle is an observation not an explanation.

It is perfectly true that if the electromagnetic force had a significantly different strength, then atoms as we know them and molecules as we know them couldn’t exist and we couldn’t exist.

This is an observation, it doesn’t tell you anything about how the electromagnetic force got to be that way. Sure we’re here, we’re having an interview, that means the electromagnetic force is constrained to be within a certain narrow boundary. But the physics is; why is it in that narrow boundary?

Now, you can beg that and you can go back to the scholastics in the Middle Ages and their answer would be “God made it so”. That may turn out to be the only thing... we may never find an explanation.

If we don’t find an explanation then it’s just an arbitrary constant.

So, Burt, what about alternative universes, then?

... This is a speculation that says there is no reason why disconnected regions of space can’t have universes with different properties than ours.

It may be that there is a reason why, and I always think that Martin Reece and others are giving up. They’re simply saying, “We can’t figure out why the electromagnetic coupling constant is the way it is, and therefore it must be arbitrary and there must be other universes where it’s allowed to be different.”

I’m not ready to give up yet.

There seems to be lots of no-bull commonsense here, so I tend to agree with the tenacious Professor Richter’s approach to these questions.

Trouble is, these views he espouses don’t seem very much fun.

 
UPDATE: Despite repeated requests from this blogger, I regret to report that the Universe still declines to comment.

5 Comments:

Blogger island said...

The Anthropic Principle may be loosely described as set of hypotheses which hold that the Universe is constituted such that intelligent entities will inevitably arise who are able to observe said Universe.

No, it can't, and that's why your claim that it's just a "stupid observation", is lame, while exposing your non-scientific predispositioning against something that I'm betting that you actually know didly-squat about.

The weak interpretation that you and Bert are attempting to call the anthropic principle is specific to string theory, and it isn't even a cosmological principle, it is a selection effect that has never even been shown to be a valid/real falsification of the strong implication that is inherent to the observed universe.

You're pitting speculation against direct observation without a proven theory... lol@you's

6/3/07 9:35 PM  
Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

Whoa, hold on thar, island, li'l buddy.

You're saying Burt's - and by extension, my - exegesis is mere speculation about a selection effect?

And yet all you have to go on is an implication of the observed universe.

You say it's a 'strong' implication, but then fail to adduce any empirical data in support of any implication whatever, 'strong' or 'weak'.

And you want to be taken seriously...???

Just wait until the universe returns my calls, we'll fix your little red wagon.

6/3/07 10:20 PM  
Blogger island said...

heheh... well, "Skipper"... why would you think that I need to justifiy the common knowledge that got the ANTHROPIC principle its name?

Why do you think that Richard Dawkins admits that the universe *appears designed*? When I look at the evidence, I see the same thing as the biggest atheist in the world is forced to admit, even though he knows that creationists will attempt to abuse this fact, so maybe I should ask what's wrong with you, instead?

The same undeniable fact that compels Leonard Susskind to say that "we will be hard-pressed to answer the IDists"... if the landscape fails, although Lenny doesn't seem to be aware that *natural bias* is the default, if we're not here by accident, so ID doesn't even enter the picture and can't be inferred without direct proof. If we are not here by accident, then the default scientific approach is that there is simply some relevant physical reason why we are "needed" into existence by the natural physical process of our evolving universe, and this is what our intricate link to the commonly-balanced nature of the forces most logically indicates is going to be the case.

There is no valid basis for invoking weak multiverse interpretations to wipe-away the otherwise indicated significance, unless you're just debating with an extremist creationist. A scientist is obligated to accept the fact that she or he is being directed toward a bunch of balance points in nature that are intricately related to both the structure of the universe and the existence of carbon based life in a manner that NECESSARILY IMPLIES that our existence somehow accounts for the otherwise completely unexpected structuring of the universe.

Brandon Carter noted that it requires a form of "anticentrist dogma" to deny this fact, so you tell me, why should "I" again prove common knowledge that you can't deny without demonstrating willful ignorance of the facts?

...and, uh... if the universe returns your calls, then you're REALLY gonna know that the connection is a LOT stronger than anybody ever dreamed... "Skipper"... ;)

7/3/07 3:56 AM  
Blogger island said...

whoops!... the "undeniable fact" that I bolded was suppose to be in quotes, since it was Lenny who said it.

7/3/07 3:58 AM  
Anonymous Jacob said...

island, why would the medieval Scholastics have needed to justify the common knowledge that the Sun revolved around the Earth?

Dawkins doesn't 'admit' anything; rather he's simply making an observation about a common inference that people have made since the dawn of time.

However, that matter has certain properties which appear to be persistent is simply a brute fact. That under certain conditions these properties give rise to complexity from chaos is, again, simply a brute fact.

It's only the supple human mind that is capable of massaging these brute facts into some fairy tale about how the universe really likes us after all. Despite all evidence to the contrary, such as the second law of thermodynamics.

But, like any polemicist, you seize upon what you perceive as the weakness of their arguments, which in reality is only honest appraisal of the limits of what can be known. Pity there's not more of such honesty, eh?

7/3/07 5:31 PM  

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