Anthropic means “relating to human beings or their existence.” Principle means “law.” The Anthropic Principle is the Law of Human Existence. It is well known that our existence in this universe depends on numerous cosmological constants and parameters whose numerical values must fall within a very narrow range of values. If even a single variable were off, even slightly, we would not exist. The extreme improbability that so many variables would align so auspiciously in our favor merely by chance has led some scientists and philosophers to propose instead that it was God who providentially engineered the universe to suit our specific needs. This is the Anthropic Principle: that the universe appears to have been fine-tuned for our existence.
Consider protons, for example. Protons are the positively charged subatomic particles which (along with neutrons) form the nucleus of an atom (around which negatively charged electrons orbit). Whether by providence or fortuitous luck (depending on your perspective), protons just happen to be 1,836 times larger than electrons. If they were a little bigger or a little smaller, we would not exist (because atoms could not form the molecules we require). So how did protons end up being 1,836 times larger than electrons? Why not 100 times larger or 100,000 times? Why not smaller? Of all the possible variables, how did protons end up being just the right size? Was it luck or contrivance?
Or how is it that protons carry a positive electrical charge equal to that of the negatively charged electrons? If protons did not balance electrons and vice versa, we would not exist. They are not comparable in size, yet they are perfectly balanced. Did nature just stumble upon such a propitious relationship, or did God ordain it for our sakes?
Here are some examples of how the Anthropic Principle directly affects the livability of our planet:
The unique properties of water. Every known life form depends on water. Thankfully, unlike every other substance known to man, water’s solid form (ice) is less dense than its liquid form. This causes ice to float. If ice did not float, our planet would experience runaway freezing. Other important properties of water include its solvency, cohesiveness, adhesiveness and other thermal properties.
Earth’s atmosphere. If there were too much of just one of the many gases which make up our atmosphere, our planet would suffer a runaway greenhouse effect. On the other hand, if there were not enough of these gases, life on this planet would be devastated by cosmic radiation.
Earth’s reflectivity or “albedo” (the total amount of light reflected off the planet versus the total amount of light absorbed). If Earth’s albedo were much greater than it is now, we would experience runaway freezing. If it were much less than it is, we would experience a runaway greenhouse effect.
Earth’s magnetic field. If it were much weaker, our planet would be devastated by cosmic radiation. If it were much stronger, we would be devastated by severe electromagnetic storms.
Earth’s place in the solar system. If we were much further from the sun, our planet’s water would freeze. If we were much closer, it would boil. This is just one of numerous examples of how our privileged place in the solar system allows for life on Earth.
Our solar system’s place in the galaxy. Once again, there are numerous examples of this. For instance, if our solar system were too close to the center of our galaxy, or to any of the spiral arms at its edge, or any cluster of stars, for that matter, our planet would be devastated by cosmic radiation.
The color of our sun. If the sun were much redder, on the one hand, or bluer, on the other, photosynthesis would be impeded. Photosynthesis is a natural biochemical process crucial to life on Earth.
The above list is by no means exhaustive. It is just a small sample of the many factors which must be just right in order for life to exist on Earth. We are very fortunate to live on a privileged planet in a privileged solar system in a privileged galaxy in a privileged universe.
The question for us now is, with so many universal constants and cosmological parameters defining our universe, and with so many possible variables for each one, how did they all just happen to fall within the extremely narrow range of values required for our existence? The general consensus is that we are either here by fortuitous luck against tremendous odds or by the purposeful design of an intelligent Agent.
Some proponents of the here-by-chance perspective have sought to level the odds against fortuitous luck by hypothesizing a scenario whereby our universe is just one among many in what has come to be termed a “multiverse.” This gives nature many more chances to “get it right,” bringing the odds against its success down significantly.
Imagine innumerable lifeless universes in which one or more of the necessary variables fail to fall within the specific range of values required for life. The idea is that nature would eventually get it right, and apparently has done so as evidenced by the fact that we exist (or so the argument goes). We are the lucky ones whose universe stumbled upon the right combination of cosmological values. The Anthropic Principle is often cited as empirical grounds for the otherwise mathematically hypothetical multiverse.
Intelligent Design theorists hail the Anthropic Principle as further evidence in support of their thesis that life was engineered by a transcendent Mastermind. Not only do biological systems bear the hallmarks of design (the information content of DNA, specified complexity, irreducible complexity, etc.), but the universe which supports and provides a context for life appears to have been designed as a means to that end.
No appreciation for the restraint I showed by censoring myself;)
However, I think that you are confusing the concept of "searching for answers" that are predicated upon faith with the search for fact, which is predicated on the scientific method. Science cannot prove the existence of god for the simple reason that, by its nature, it must preclude the concept of faith.
The absence of faith (trust, belief, what have you) in science is absolutely necessary to the scientific method. It is why scientists couldn't believe that U of U researchers achieved cold fusion. It is why Galileo couldn't believe that the sun revolved around the earth. Either the facts did not mesh with the theory, or they could not be replicated.
And as you gently castigate me for swearing during a "religious" debate, let's not forget that it was Mr House who tried to make this about science in the first place. As a "scientist", he offends me because his disregard for the scientific method and simple logic spits in the face of years of scientific development and sacrifice. As a "man of religion" he offends me by through his pathetic attempt to convince folks that god exists by way of science rather than through conversion.
I'm a little surprised at you, Jack. You often provide insightful input to these discussions. How can you defend this goon and those like him by claiming that faith doesn't preclude searching for explanations, as if Mr House is honestly applying the scientific method?
I don't think I defended him. I simply questioned you. I don't know if he's honestly applying anything. I do know the honest application of the scientific method to matters of faith is not contrary to faith.
I would regard science as among the reasons I am a Christian. God cannot be proven. The impossibility of proof does not mean there is a complete absence of evidence ... it just means the evidence necessarily will not meet the burden of absolute proof.
Which is entirely what I have been arguing since my very first post. And you should know if he's honestly applying the scientific method, especially if science is as important to you as you say. I realize that we are only getting an exerpt of House's work, but read it again. As I've pointed out now, all those words are simply window dressing on the "complexity proves divine assistance" trope. It's a rubbish argument and you should know better. That doesn't mean it's not true.
However, as the inestimable Dr Jones pointed out, "archaeology (science) is the search for fact, not truth." He may have gotten the rest wrong but that much, at least, was a gem.
Facts give weight to claims of truth.
The complexity argument carries quite a bit of weight, at least to me. A variation on that is the elegance and intricacy argument ... that the universe -- from the celestial to the microscopic -- is too elegantly and intricately designed to be accidental. Occam's razor.
But Jack, there you go again and unintentionally prove my point about how religion doesn't lend itself to science and vice versa. In three sentences you've managed to squeeze in three illogical and unscientific arguments.
First, facts do lend weight to claims of truth. What "facts" do we (as a human race) have of the existence of god? None, save the complexity argument.
Yet the complexity "argument" isn't an argument at all, it is merely unsubstantiated opinion. People think that disagreement about something equals an argument. Since there are no facts to support the existence of god, it is a very one sided argument indeed. Worse, you use this claim based on the validity of your first sentence, essentially using a claim that is true as an amplification for a claim that is not. Just like House, you are using the guise of science to support an unscientific claim.
Finally, you throw out Occam's razor, as is often the case when people have no idea what it really means. You think it means (or I believe you think it means, based on the context in which you used it) that the simplest answer is usually the correct one. But then you ignore the rest of the theorem. I'll use a mash-up of Sherlock Holmes to fill in the rest.
"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
It still falls somewhat short, but illustrates the point. With religion, we have already started with the "theory." When we then try to shoe horn science to meet our religious biases, we already start from a deficit. This inevitably leads us to think we have come up with the simplest explanation when in fact we have done nothing of the sort.
To wit, the complexity argument fits your preconceived notion. When your personal understanding of the complexity of systems ends, you have made the logically erroneous leap that the complexity cannot be reduced any further and therefore we have reached God. Sorry Jack. This is not even close to Occams razor.
This is the result of the misunderstanding and misapplication of the scientific method and the proper role of science. An otherwise intelligent person makes huge logical leaps and improperly applies some of the simplest bedrocks of scientific proofs. This is the kind of tripe that House and creationists in general push on honest religious people eager to find support for their cause outside the confines of religion and theology.
This is the kind of tripe that House and creationists in general push on honest religious people eager to find support for their cause outside the confines of religion and theology.
My faith is not confined to religion and theology, nor do I believe it should be. I do not concede -- nor believe -- that there are no facts that support the existence of God. Those facts are everywhere. We're very often not bright enough to recognize them, even when they might slap us across the face.
Science can offer a glimpse into the system. Science answers the question "how" ... not "why". It addresses the process, not the catalyst. Religion, being big-picture oriented, is imprecise without science ... science is incomplete without religion.
I never claimed to be unbiased. Nobody is.
I was indeed using the "simplest explanation is usually the right one" shorthand of Occam's razor. I am aware that Occam's razor is more complicated than that. It doesn't really matter to my point. Creation, intelligent design, guided-evolution, whatever you want to call it ... seems a simpler and more likely explanation than life-by-accident.
That the "complexity" argument doesn't do anything for you is fine by me. I'm not looking for converts.
I don't know much about House. I know that you hate his insistence that science does not contradict his faith. It dawns on me that he and I may have something in common in that regard. If that is the case, I'm fine with that. Can't please everyone.
I do wonder, given all you've said, why in the world you believe in God (as you claim you do).
Further, I think you're confusing "searching for answers" with "shoe-horning the evidenced to meet your preconceived notions." Mr House is entitled to his opinions (and I'm not saying he's wrong), but when you start using science to support your position you'd better be prepared to use the entire method and not simply cherry pick the parts that suit you.
You need to decide whether you're mad that he bastardized science, or whether you're mad that a religious man would dare look to science for justification.
I didn't defend his science -- honestly, I haven't read all of it -- but I did defend the use of science in apologetics.
Both. I'm mad he bastardized science, but that's hardly a first. Erich von Daniken has been doing that for years, and i just think he's an general idiot. However, his books are written for a general audience, and prey on the stupid in general.
Guys like House, because they appeal to the faith of those who for whom these books are written, are far more insidious. Their logic is just as flawed, their science just as bad, but they justify it by appealing to their faith. That lends their atrocious science a credibility that it doesn't deserve, and can do terrible intellectual damage to the religious people who read his crap and believe that he is making a valid argument.
I know that I'm just throwing another grenade your way, but I loathe apologetics. I know that apologists like to get into the original Greek of the word and all, but really they are just apologizing for the fact that their ideology doesn't always gel with the facts (notice I said facts, not truth). When did it become necessary to justify faith and religion in this way? The worst part is, because god cannot be proven to exist empirically apologists always lose. That is the nature of logic and science. As I've stated before, they are not the tools of religion. It was never claimed they were. When people try to use them as such they are always disappointed in the results. But honestly, would you really be surprised at the poor results when you used a wrench to drive in a nail?
I have often seen well meaning religious people destroyed by scientists because they simply do not understand the tools of the trade differ from those of theology.
Who says that life on other planets must be carbon based? That plants must use photosynthesis as we understand it? That water will be essential for organic processes?
What difference does it make who says it, if anyone in fact says it?
The questions buried in the "Who says..." are reasonable questions with serious answers, available to those willing to investigate.
Will, you misunderstood. I was simply pointing out that Mr. House made two logically deficient conclusions in his argument. The first was that "life" means life as we know it. Inherent in his argument is the idea that "life" is unique because the conditions that created life on this planet are so specific. All of these specific conditions had to be met. What are the chances? Not good, he says, so therefore god must have done it.
However, what other conditions in the universe could also produce "life?" That was my point. Stated implicitly, Mr. House makes the presumptuous assertion that life could only mean life exactly like that on Earth. The logic of his argument demands it. In effect, he was the one who said.
Sadly, the foundation for this argument is based on another poor argument. When we really ask, "what are the chances?" we find that in an essentially infinite universe they are so good as to practically be a guarantee. As I indicated earlier, in an infinite universe not only is it likely that a world exactly like ours exists but that there are almost certainly many others like ours.
You seem to be saying that we need to question authority and previous notions of "truth." That's true, but we only get to do so and call it science when we have some type of evidence to demonstrate the validity of our argument. That is what science is. Period. The infuriating part of the creationist argument is that somehow the fact that science demands evidence is indicative that science precludes the existence of god. It does not. It simply claims that as yet not a single person has produced scientific evidence to support the existence of god. To claim that this means that science denies god shows such a profound understanding of science and logic. It simply demands evidence.
I can't speak to what Mr House was about.
In an infinite universe like ours (if ours were infinite, which it isn't!), then yes, the probability of life somewhere would approach 1. But the Anthropic Principle (not as misunderstood by House, but as usually meant) is about the nature of the universe itself, not any particular star system within it. Based only on what we know, it's overwhelmingly likely that the universe would be such that life is impossible within it.
You seem to be saying that we need to question authority and previous notions of "truth." That's often true, but it's not what I'm saying; I'm basing my arguments on what we know.
My interest here is in the questions you preceded with "Who says..." Because they are interesting questions.