The Weak Anthropic Principle

I’m reading A Meaningful World, and chapter 6 deals with ‘A Cosmic Home: Designed for Discovery. It’s a fabulous book, but you do have to do some thinking while you read. These quotes are not from the book but are from essays and articles on the web that deal with topics related to the sixth chapter.

The Weak Anthropic Principle:
“The weak anthropic principle states that the ways that the universe might be observed to be is limited by the fact that observation requires the existence of observers. It is impossible to observe a universe that does not permit the existence of observers; only a universe that permits the existence of observers could be observed.
The criticism of the argument from fine-tuning based on the weak anthropic principle seeks to exploit this idea that the universe could not have been observed to be any of the ways that would not have allowed the development and sustenance of life. All possible observed universes are universes inhabited by observers, and so all possible observed universes are universes that permit life. There is therefore no need, the criticism concludes, to explain the fact that the universe is observed to be such as to permit life; it couldn‘t have been observed to be any other way.
In response to this objection, defenders of the argument from fine-tuning often make use of a story involving a firing-squad devised by John Leslie. You are to be executed by a firing-squad of a hundred trained marksmen, the story goes. You hear the command to open fire, and the sound of the guns, and then silence; you are not dead, you hear silence. All of the marksmen missed! Pondering, you realise that had the marksmen not missed you would not have been able to reflect on the attempted execution, that only a failed execution would have allowed you to be here now, listening to the silence. However, you do not infer from this that the fact that the marksmen missed is unsurprising. You remain astonished that one hundred trained marksmen could all miss simultaneously.
In this illustration, it seems that what is surprising is not that looking back at the execution you see that it failed, but that you are able to look back at the execution at all. Similarly, what is surprising about the universe is not that we observe it to be such as to allow the development and sustenance of life, but that we are able to observe it at all.”

“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
Richard Dawkins’ Failed Rebuttal of Natural Theology

Peter S. Williams (MA, MPhil)

The man described as ‘Darwin’s Rotweiller’[1] (by supporter Charles Simonyi) has evolved to metaphorically resemble the big bad wolf of nursery rhyme fame[2], and he is on a bestselling mission to liberate the pigs (the analogy is mine, not his) from what he sees as their prisons of straw. Zoologist Richard Dawkins, who is Oxford University’s Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, has been described as ‘materialistic, reductionist and overtly anti-religious.’[3] Nevertheless, The God Delusion – which is descended by design from Dawkins’ controversial two-part television series The Root of all Evil?[4] – is his first book written to make a direct (undoubtedly well-intentioned) attack upon theistic religion: ‘If this books works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.’[5]

Dawkins thinks that if his book fails to have the desired effect, this can only be because ‘dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument, their resistance built up over years of childhood indoctrination using methods [such as issuing] a dire warning to avoid even opening a book like this, which is surely a work of Satan.’[6] On the other hand, anyone who is ‘open-minded’, whose ‘childhood indoctrination was not too insidious… or whose native intelligence is strong enough to overcome it’, will ‘need only a little encouragement to break free of the vice of religion altogether.’[7]

The God Delusion is the work of a passionate and rhetorically savvy writer capable of making good points against religious fundamentalism. As Stephen Law (editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy’s journal Think) observes: ‘what Dawkins attacks is typically a highly Authoritarian brand of religion…”

More here

And here:
“Indeed, according to cosmologist Paul Davies, the scientific ‘multiple worlds hypothesis
merely shift the problem [of ‘fine tuning’] up a level from universe to multiverse. To appreciate this, one only has to list the many assumptions that underpin the multiverse theory. First, there has to be a universe-generating mechanism… This mechanism is supposed to involve natural, law-like processes – in the case of eternal inflation, a quantum ‘nucleation’ of pocket universes, to be precise. But that raises the obvious question of the source of the quantum laws (not to mention the laws of gravitation, including the causal structure of space-time on which those laws depend) that permit inflation. In the standard multiverse theory, the universe-generating laws are just accepted as given: they don’t come out of the multiverse theory… Furthermore, if we accept that the multiverse is predicted by string/M theory, then that theory, with its specific mathematical form, also has to be accepted as given… the multiverse theory [cannot] provide a complete and final explanation of why the universe is fit for life…[20]

As philosopher Robin Collins argues:
even if [a] many-universe generator exists, it along with the background laws and principles could be said to be an irreducibly complex system… with just the right combination of laws and fields for the production of life-permitting universes: if one of the components were missing or different… it is unlikely that any life-permitting universes could be produced. In the absence of alternative explanations, the existence of such a system suggests design.”

From the book: The question being asked isn’t “Is the fine tuning for technological life the sole purpose of the cosmos?” The question is rather, “Is it a purpose of the cosmos?”

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One Comment

  1. Frances
    Posted October 17, 2017 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Puts me in mind of the Ronald Knox limerick and the reply, which of course you know. I hadn’t come across the last two before.

    http://faculty.otterbein.edu/AMills/EarlyModern/brklim.htm

    (The first one is due to Ronald Knox. The source of the second is unknown. The last two limericks are the handiwork of Roderick T. Long.)

    There once was a man who said “God
    Must think it exceedingly odd
    If he finds that this tree
    Continues to be
    When there’s no one about in the Quad.”

    Dear Sir,
    Your astonishment’s odd.
    I am always about in the Quad.
    And that’s why the tree
    Will continue to be
    Since observed by
    Yours faithfully,
    God

    If objects depend on our seeing
    So that trees, unobserved, would cease tree-ing,
    Then my question is: Who
    Is the one who sees you
    And assures your persistence in being?

    Dear Sir,
    You reason most oddly.
    To be’s to be seen for the bod’ly.
    But for spirits like me,
    To be is to see.
    Sincerely,
    The one who is godly.

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