TO SERVE MAN

The Anthropic Principle is the most ridiculous thing I have seen produced by real grown-up scientists.

It’s fascinating in a train-wreck way to watch geeks reinvent wheels. Clearly there wasn’t any need to stay awake during Philosophy 10, much less do any reading on the subject later on when they got big ideas about the place of humanity in the universe.

25 thoughts on “TO SERVE MAN

  1. I’m out of practice
    I remember having trouble getting it when Hawking explains the anthropic principle. I persisted, because–well, just because it’s Hawking, right? It turned out that it didn’t really matter, because over the next decade or two or whatever it’s been, I was THOROUGHLY prepared for every single one of my encounters with discussions of the anthropic principle.
    All bogus, 100% of the time. I soon developed this rule of thumb to see if the speaker is barking up the wrong tree: “Is the speaker equivalently saying, ‘I’m 60 inches tall, and LOOK, my skeleton is 59.5 inches tall. Just think, if my skeleton were just 0.1 inches shorter or taller, I couldn’t live! PROOF that…” They seem to trail off at that point.
    That is not the anthropic principle, I remember that much from Hawking. Beyond that–well, I drink a lot, did I mention that?
    Is there any bourbon? Oh, and ham, wasn’t there ham?

  2. Theory
    I can’t remember who it was (John Horgan?) who observed that scientists are generally pretty good at doing science and generally pretty bad at thinking about it all. It’s an odd situation.

  3. Puddle
    «…imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking,
    ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I
    find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me
    staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in
    it!’»
    <blockquote
    >–<a href=
    “http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Douglas_Adams#Sourced”
    >Douglas Adams, as quoted in by Richard Dawkins in his
    eulogy for Adams

  4. Somewhere along the line, we fell into the grievous fallacy of thinking that science was the pursuit of measurable truth. If we’d all get it through our heads that science is actually the pursuit of pretty accurate predictive models, then it would be clear why scientist shouldn’t waste their time teaching creationism or that the the universe “had” to unfold in such a way that we’d be here to observe it.

    1. agree
      I imagine that cosmology is a slippery slope. “Theoretical” shouldn’t mean “theological,” but maybe the rigorous discipline of mathematics can get tiring for physicists too. It’s kind of sad.

  5. It’s funny you put it that way, because I always figured the Anthropic Principle, out of the hands of kooks, was the exact opposite: that it’s not remarkable that the Universe appears to be carefully tuned to support human life, but rather that it just happens to be that way and thus we happen to be here — a reminder to those who might think otherwise that the probability of past events is always 1.

    1. Unfortunately “out of the hands of kooks” has a probability of 0.
      It’s hard to hold on to randomness and the real strangeness of the Universe; Daddy is a lot easier to deal with even for eggheads it seems.

      1. Hey, I resemble that remark!
        I’m one of the “kooks” that contributed to the write-up on the anthropic principle in Wikipedia, and uh… I’ve gotta tell ya’s that you’re clueless… lol
        Daddy is a lot easier to deal with…
        “Daddy” has absoutely nothing to do with real scientific interpretations that don’t include random chance occurrence due to any form of intrinsic finality that exists within the physical process. You guys have made a lot of assumptions about the actual nature of the universe that depend on theoretical projections that haven’t been fully justified by science yet, so nothing has been decided, and the fact that you guys just “know” what’s correct despite the evidence, indicates that you practice religion better than you understand how science is done.
        All that you have to do is to define the mysterious stability mechanism that causes the universe to be “anthropically constrained” and there won’t be any more speculation about mumbo-jumbo anything. What your looking for is something that enables the universe to follow the least action principle while defying all known physics to get there. Then you’ll have the answer that will either remove us from the equation, or it will explain how and why we are significant players in the physical process of the universe.
        Simple enough, right?… only please leave your bibles at home, because you’re just prayin until you answer the question.

      2. Re: Hey, I resemble that remark!
        All that you have to do is to define the mysterious stability mechanism that causes the universe to be “anthropically constrained” and there won’t be any more speculation about mumbo-jumbo anything.
        Y’all come right back ‘soon as you find that.

      3. Re: Hey, I resemble that remark!
        Okay, after all, we’ve only been trying since the 19th century, and string theory can certainly wait a few hundred more years before taking another step forward, right?
        You guys all seem to think that means that you are justified to keep on worshiping Chaos in spite of the evidence, until we do.
        Why do you think that Hawking supports the AP, because he’s an idiot creationist?… or because he is willing to face facts, unlike yourselves?
        You missed the point, see, cuz, the actual structure of the universe is in “dramatic contrast” to the “expectation”, so many fixed balance points that are commonly pointing directly toward carbon-based life indicate that there is some good physical reason for it that is somehow “specially” related to the existence of carbon-based life.
        We don’t let killers loose because the only evidence we have is his fingerprints all over the gun and the dead person’s credit cards in his pocket. Willful ignorance of this evidence only makes you more arrogant than any creationist ever was.
        All hail our lord and master, “Chaos”…
        *everybody kneels and bows their heads*
        Ahman!

      4. Re: Hey, I resemble that remark!
        You’ve had a great time knocking over the “chaos worship” straw man, but you have the wrong person for that. The Erisian Hippies are down the hall to the left and I agree they’re annoying.
        Perhaps I am not smart enough to see how the “anthropic principle” differs from any other breathless truism in a Baptist pamphlet or any other “oh wow” moment from a late night freshman dorm room bull session. But I don’t. It’s still the old hoary watchmaker argument even if you leave out the deity and call him a principle.
        The evidence that we occurred is, in fact, strong. In fact, the past in general has a probability of 1 which is about as good as you can get. I cheerfully join in agreeing with you that the way things happened is the way things happened.
        Everything else about the “anthropic principle” seriously makes me wonder if anyone in Physics thought to stroll over to Philosophy and ask if anyone had been thinking about these problems.

      5. Re: Hey, I resemble that remark!
        The troubling part is that nobody knows that philosophers actually have been thinking about this. Nobody knows there is such a thing as “philosophy.”
        Anyway, our “anthropic” pal above is itself pretty much a counterexample to a planned universe. At least, its use of grammar does not lead one to suspect any “principle” of rational order inherent in the way of things.

      6. Speaking of hypocrits
        Perhaps I am not smart enough to see how the “anthropic principle” differs from any other breathless truism in a Baptist pamphlet or any other “oh wow” moment from a late night freshman dorm room bull session. But I don’t. It’s still the old hoary watchmaker argument even if you leave out the deity and call him a principle.
        Please explain to me why you think it requires such great intelligence and religous conviction to recognize that a simple physical need will justify physics that forces it’s appearance in nature?
        It must be hard for you because it occurs so commonly.
        Also, I should tell you that your reply is stereotypical in the manner that it is intentionally designed to willfully ignore hard empirical evidence, while attemping to downplay it’s significance… just like “antifanatics” do when they knee-jerk react to what they wrongly perceive to be evidence for the existence of god.
        Speaking of hypocrits, willful ignorance, “free-thinker arrogance” and silent denial, don’t mean squat to science, no matter what the philosophers down the hall might tell you.

      7. Re: Speaking of hypocrits
        You’re clearly wasting your time talking to a wilfully ignorant, arrogant hypocrite. Those people don’t listen to reason anyway; why bother?
        Rhetorical questions and insults aren’t likely to change an opinion, as satisfying as they may be to type. If I wasn’t convinced by the original argument, why would I be convinced by being told that I am a serious of unpleasant things, or being asked a series of “Have you stopped beating your wife” questions from a high school debate?
        One thing that is without question in this universe or any other: That Internet Argument is going nowhere when it hits this stage. As a skeptic I’m unwilling to rule anything out, but the probability of either of us getting much out of this conversation now is zero.
        If you feel the need for the last word, I hereby grant it to you with whatever rhetorical flourishes you find most satisfying. Salut.

      8. Re: Speaking of hypocrits
        Thanks for that, I’ll be gentle, as I’m actually very easy to get along with when I feel like someone is being honest with me, rather than purely skeptical. I felt that you earned what you got as we went by crossing the line of honest skepticism in order to willfully deny evidence that many honest physicists and philosophers can see quite well.
        There are two kinds of skeptics, but only one is honest with themselves.

      9. Re: Speaking of hypocrits
        > a simple physical need will justify physics that forces it’s appearance in nature
        This phrase has no meaning in standard english.

      10. Re: Hey, I resemble that remark!
        Speaking merely from the point of view of a lay reader, your article is so confusing that I can’t follow it. Maybe it’s the key to everything. One wouldn’t know by reading it.
        It reads either as the automatic writing of a kook or it needs to be seriously unpacked. “Crabbed” doesn’t begin to describe it.
        I encourage you to do this work, because otherwise your claims are not evaluable. Please show the article to people who are not part of the in-group and see where they fail to follow it, and work to make those parts clearer.
        Then, go put it past someone with editing experience, who can get rid of the inappropriate dangling modifiers, confusing multi-clause sentences, and puzzling overall structure.
        (It occurs to me I’m asking for things Wikipedia may be unequipped to do, but it’s worth a shot.)

      11. Re: Hey, I resemble that remark!
        For future reference, credibility departs at “lol”.
        Also: “You’re”. “YOU’RE”!

  6. WAP? SAP? PAP? FAP? CRAP?
    Sounds like it was designed to be absurd….
    … Either that, or it’s a long-lost Three Stooges sketch.

    1. Hmmmmm… a Three Stooges sketch would nicely explain the universe I currently inhabit, now that I think about it.
      begins work on thesis titled Tristoogelate Cosmology.

  7. FWIW, I’ve always found the Anthropic Principle compelling, and I think you may be misinterpreting a concept that you would actually find copacetic. But I haven’t had all that much exposure to the topic, so I’m open to the possibility that it’s absurd and I’m the one who misunderstood it.

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