[Marxism] Anthropic principles (was Re: Freeman Dyson on scientific heretics and climate change)

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Sat Aug 11 17:57:29 MDT 2007

On Sat, 11 Aug 2007 14:22:03 -0700 (PDT) Bob Hopson <bobhpsn at yahoo.com>
> > >  He is also,
> > > for what it is worth, a supporter of Intelligent
> > Design.
> > 
> > Any sources/references for this assertion?
> > 
> Googling around, In this site
> he is quoted as saying:
> :My opinion is that most people believe in intelligent
> design as a reasonable explanation of the universe,
> and this belief is entirely compatible with science.
> So it is unwise for scientists to make a big fight
> against the idea of intelligent design. The fight
> should be only for the freedom of teachers to teach
> science as they see fit, independent of political or
> religious control. It should be a fight for
> intellectual freedom, not a fight for science against
> religion."
> I notice, though, that he says "I.D. as a resonable
> explation of the universe" which is not the same thing
> as I.D. as an explanation of biological evolution --
> believing that god created the universe is not the
> same thing as denying the theory of evolution.
> This links suggests he's a strong proponent of the
> anthropic principle:
> http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2843/is_n6_v21/ai_20379226
> 'In brief, IDers argue that modern cosmology implies a
> transcendental Designer. As physicist and pantheist
> Freeman Dyson memorably put it, "The universe in some
> sense must have known that we were coming."'

It should be noted that the anthropic principle is actually a set of
related ideas that
attempt to relate the structure of the universe and the constants
and the laws of nature to the conditions that are necessary for
the existence and evolution of life.  There is not one anthropic
principle but actually four, each being more speculative than
its predecessor.  The first one is the weak anthropic principle
which seems to go back  to the physicist Robert Dicke in the
late 1950s.  It essentially states that because we exist the
universe must be constructed in such a way so that we could
have evolved. The laws of nature must be such as to permit
the formation of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen - the
four elements necessary for life as we know it.  Although
at first glance the weak anthropic principle (WAP) seems trivial,
it actually has important implications for cosmology.  It sets
limits on how old the universe must be.  The universe must be
old enough for complex carbon-based organisms to have 
evolved but it cannot be so old that the stars have become
extinguished and conditions so inhopsitable that life has
become extinct.  Likewise given the fact that our universe
is an expanding one, the WAP implies that the universe
having expanded for at least  ten billion years, must be
quite large (at lest ten billion light-years across). WAP
also can be seen as imposing constraints on the magnitudes
of fundamental physical constants.  If Newton's gravitational
constant was even slightly different from what it is, it is
argued that the universe would have been inhospitable for
the emergence of life as we know it.

The strong anthropic principle (SAP) was introduced by
British physicist, Brandon Carter. It asserts that the universe
must have those properties which allow life to develop within
it at some stage.  This implies either the speculation that the 
universe is a teleological structure that was designed by an
intelligence who intended that life exist (i.e. the famous
argument from design that was so popular among natural
theologians back in the 18th century) or it implies that there
exists an ensemble of different possible universes and that
we inevitably exist in one of the rare ones in which exist the
right permutation of physical properties (natural laws and
physical constants) which allow life to evolve. The SAP
implies in some vague way that observers are necessary
to give the universe "meaning."

Some physicists have argued that the role played by the
observer in quantum mechanics as interpreted by the
Copenhagen School allow us to formulate a more precise
version of the SAP.  According to the Copenhagen Interpretation,
no phenomenon exists unless it is oberved because obervers
are necessary to collapse quantum wave functions.  The
theoretical physicist John Wheeler has formulated what
he calls the particpatory anthropic principle based on the
Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics. According
to the participatory anthropic principle (PAP) observers must
exist for the universe to come into being.  SOme physicists
suggest that obervers may not have to be conscious but
Eugen Wigner argued that consciousness was required for
the collapsing of wave functions. On the other hand if we
reject the Copenhagen Interpretation in favor of the
Multiple worlds Interpretation (first proposed by Hugh Everett)
according to which quantum wave functions do not collapse
but rather physical interactions and observations split the
universe into disjoint universes (which means that the universe
or rather universes are constantly subdividing), with one universe
for each possible outcome of an interaction or an observation.
If we accept this interpretation of quantum mechanics then
the SAP will be tautologically true.  

Frank Tipler has proposed a fourth anthropic principle, the 
final anthropic principle (FAP) which hypothesizes that
information processing can continue indefinitely in the

It seems to me that both Dyson (and Tipler) are rather
idiosyncratic in holding that the anthropic principle
implies the existence of an intelligent designer/creatorr.
It seems that most scientists who hold to the anthropic
principle(s), instead hold to the view that our universe
may be just of many, possibly an infinite number of
universes, each of which may have somewhat different
physical constants and/or physical laws.  The standard
objection to this view, is that it is thought to be unfalsifiable,
and so no better scientifically than the hypothesis that
the universe was created by an intelligent designer.
However, this may not necessarily be the case.
Now nobody, that I am aware of, claims that we can directly 
oberve other universes. However, a number of theorists out there 
who invoke the multiverse idea contend that their theories do
have testable and falsifiable implications. Lee Smolin, for instance, 
is a leading proponent of the theory of cosmological natural selection, 
which makes use of the multiverse idea, and which he insists does 
have empirically falsifiable implications.

The evolutionary biologis, RIchard Dawkins, in his recent book,
"The God Delusion" is partial to both the anthropic principle
and to the multiverse hypothesis as represented by cosmologists
like Smolin.  In fact Dawkins views Smolin's version of the
hypothesis as particularly attractive, seeing it as a kind of
extension of Darwin's principle of natural selection to the
cosmological level.

Jim F.

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