Anthropic principle  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The anthropic principle is the philosophical consideration that observations of the Universe must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it. Some proponents of the anthropic principle reason that it explains why this universe has the age and the fundamental physical constants necessary to accommodate conscious life. As a result, they believe it is unremarkable that this universe has fundamental constants that happen to fall within the narrow range thought to be compatible with life.

The strong anthropic principle (SAP) as explained by John D. Barrow and Frank Tipler states that this is all the case because the universe is in some sense compelled to eventually have conscious and sapient life emerge within it. Some critics of the SAP argue in favor of a weak anthropic principle (WAP) similar to the one defined by Brandon Carter, which states that the universe's ostensible fine tuning is the result of selection bias: i.e., only in a universe capable of eventually supporting life will there be living beings capable of observing and reflecting upon fine tuning. Most often such arguments draw upon some notion of the multiverse for there to be a statistical population of universes to select from and from which selection bias (our observance of only this universe, compatible with our life) could occur.

The Anthropic Cosmological Principle

A thorough extant study of the anthropic principle is the book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John D. Barrow, a cosmologist, and Frank J. Tipler, a cosmologist and mathematical physicist. This book sets out in detail the many known anthropic coincidences and constraints, including many found by its authors. While the book is primarily a work of theoretical astrophysics, it also touches on quantum physics, chemistry, and earth science. An entire chapter argues that Homo sapiens is, with high probability, the only intelligent species in the Milky Way.

The book begins with an extensive review of many topics in the history of ideas the authors deem relevant to the anthropic principle, because the authors believe that principle has important antecedents in the notions of teleology and intelligent design. They discuss the writings of Fichte, Hegel, Bergson, and Alfred North Whitehead, and the Omega Point cosmology of Teilhard de Chardin. Barrow and Tipler carefully distinguish teleological reasoning from eutaxiological reasoning; the former asserts that order must have a consequent purpose; the latter asserts more modestly that order must have a planned cause. They attribute this important but nearly always overlooked distinction to an obscure 1883 book by L. E. Hicks.

Seeing little sense in a principle requiring intelligent life to emerge while remaining indifferent to the possibility of its eventual extinction, Barrow and Tipler propose the final anthropic principle (FAP): Intelligent information-processing must come into existence in the universe, and, once it comes into existence, it will never die out.

Barrow and Tipler submit that the FAP is both a valid physical statement and "closely connected with moral values". FAP places strong constraints on the structure of the universe, constraints developed further in Tipler's The Physics of Immortality. One such constraint is that the universe must end in a big crunch, which seems unlikely in view of the tentative conclusions drawn since 1998 about dark energy, based on observations of very distant supernovas.

In his review of Barrow and Tipler, Martin Gardner ridiculed the FAP by quoting the last two sentences of their book as defining a Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle (CRAP):

At the instant the Omega Point is reached, life will have gained control of all matter and forces not only in a single universe, but in all universes whose existence is logically possible; life will have spread into all spatial regions in all universes which could logically exist, and will have stored an infinite amount of information, including all bits of knowledge which it is logically possible to know. And this is the end.


See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Anthropic principle" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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