31
May
09

The Anthropic Fantasy–part 1

Professor Dawkins notes that creationists are eager to find gaps in the evolution process, where scientific evidence is lacking for Dawrin’s theory, and then argue from there that God (as if by default) must be the creator and designer behind complex life. Dawkins sees this as a lack of imagination (The God Delusion, 128).

Lack of Imagination?? (Wouldn’t an atheist, from their naturalist perspective, normally accuse a creationist—who believes in ‘crazy’ Bible stories and miracles—of having TOO MUCH imagination?) This is very interesting.

Dawkins introduces the anthropic principle to address the large gap between the origin of life and the process of natural selection. When we apply this principle to explain the origin of life, we observe and appreciate all the many precise details that need to come into play in order for life to happen. Dawkins describes a number of these particulars…our distance and orbit around the sun, the gravitational force of Jupiter to grab threatening asteroids that would otherwise destroy us, etc (135-136). To the question “Why do I exist on Earth?” the anthropic principle notes that the very asking of the question requires that we first of all exist, and the fact of our existence on Earth shows that Earth is friendly to our kind of life. The answer: “We exist on Earth because Earth allows for our existence.”

Dawkins presents the anthropic principle as magical statistics.

It has been estimated that there are between 1 billion and 30 billion planets in our galaxy, and about 100 billion galaxies in the universe. Knocking off a few naughts for reasons of ordinary prudence, a billion billion is a conservative estimate of the number of available planets in the universe. Now suppose the origin of life…really was quite a staggering improbable event. Suppose it was so improbable as to occur on only one in a billion planets….even with such absurdly long odds, life would still have arisen on a billion planets—of which Earth, of course, is one (138-139).

Between 1 and 30 billion planets? I find it truly amazing that anyone can even begin to count them. And to count GALAXIES even! Napoleon, like there’s anyway you can even do that. Pull a number out of hat, then “knock off a few naughts”…and what do we have? A made up number that means NOTHING!

After we find our magic number we can start supposing things. Let’s suppose really ridiculous odds for the origin of life, (but not odds so ridiculous that it would be unreasonable).  Let’s keep the statistics generous enough to support evolution or else our theory will fail. Where are they coming up with these fantastical variables?

Abra Kadabra and BANG! (cue poof of smoke) we exist! Is this really science?? Or is it fantasy? I can see now why Dawkins would accuse the creationist of lacking an imagination.

It gets even more confusing. After first refusing to acknowledge chance for the reason we are here, the theory of evolution necessitates pure LUCK to initiate life. Are we going in circles here?

We can deal with the unique origin of life by postulating a very large number planetary opportunities. Once that initial stroke of luck has been granted—and the anthropic principle most decisively grants it to us—natural selection takes over: and natural selection is emphatically not a matter of luck (Dawkins, 140).

Why do we exist? No reason…it just happened, that’s all. Lucky for us.

I am having a terrible time taking this seriously…maybe I lack imagination. Either I seriously misunderstand this theory or it really is a fantasy.

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13 Responses to “The Anthropic Fantasy–part 1”


  1. 31 May 2009 at 9:49 am

    Why do we exist? No reason…it just happened, that’s all. Lucky for us.

    So matter of fact-like, and yet, quite possibly, so very wrong…

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2004/09/30/2003204990

    • 2 rostock
      31 May 2009 at 1:53 pm

      Island: Thank you for reading and commenting.
      Dawkins himself employs the “initial stroke of luck” to spark life. If luck is the first ultimate cause, then everything that follows thereafter is wholly dependent on luck. The law of causality demands it. An effect cannot exist without a cause. Remove the cause and you remove the effects that follow. We exist first of all because we’re lucky.
      If this is inaccurate, please help me to understand it correctly.

  2. 31 May 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Hi rostock,
    Well, if the scientists who wrote the article that I referenced are correct, then luck had nothing to do with it, because we are born of necessity, and were in the cards from the moment that the matter field got laid down at the time of the big bang.

    Also, the anthropic physics indicates that the universe is “bio-oriented” to produce carbon-based life over a specific region and time in the history of the universe, which indicates that there is a biocentirc cosmological principle in effect that connects life to the structure mechanism of the universe, so if the scientists that wrote the article are correct, (and I believe that they are), then we are talking about an entropic anthropic cosmological principle.

    Dawkins would never recognize this fact because he only gives credence to the weak interpretation, even though this assumption is not apparent in the physics. That’s because he only sees god in such an interpretation, so his own religious dogma prevents him from facing reality, and this is why:
    http://www.ontheknol.com/frontpage-knol/the-anthropic-principle

  3. 4 rostock
    2 June 2009 at 2:28 am

    Hello Island,
    Thank you for the quick reply. I think I must be blind because I completely overlooked the article you linked in your first comment.
    I need to take time to read both articles to learn more about your position. I’m a slow reader and about to have a baby very very soon…so please have patience. This could take awhile. Please do not think I am ignoring your comment.

  4. 2 June 2009 at 3:02 pm

    That’s okay, take your time… and take care of that baby!… 😉

  5. 6 rostock
    7 August 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I believe we understand things only as well as we are able to explain it to someone else in terms which they are able to relate and understand. I need your help understanding the articles you posted and am trusting that you can explain them to me, please?

    What I think that the articles suggest, is that there is indeed a purpose for our existence but this purpose is not according to a supposed divine plan. Instead, the purpose for our existence is to obey the second law of thermodynamics. To clarify, this law says that the presence of life facilitates entropy—the process of converting and distributing energy, which ultimately promotes evolution. Essentially, we are here to recycle energy and in so doing, we are reaching higher levels of complexity–becoming a more sophisticated species. Is this accurate?
    In a sense it’s almost like the movie Avatar in which there is a line that says (something like) All energy is borrowed and we must give it back.

    Thank you for helping me to gain clarity on this.

  6. 8 island
    8 August 2010 at 12:43 am

    Hi rostock… Please tell me about the baby! I dearly hope that all is well.

    Anyway, I think that you have an excellent understanding of the article, but the important thing to gain from this is that “purpose in nature” can easily have a valid scientific basis, and isn’t necessarily just accidentally formed patterns that religious people find in nature, like, “faces in the clouds”. As long as there is a physical need for life, there will be life.

    Higher purpose in nature can have a valid scientific platform.

    Unfortunately, scientists, especially physicists, do not willingly recognize this scientific plausibility because they are too busy denying the relevance of evidence that religious people point to because they practice a form of religion of their own that is begrudgingly known to physicists as, “Copernicanism”.

    Scientists believe that nature is random, regardless of direct observational evidence to the contrary, due to their own unproven assumptions about nature that conflict with fundamentalist creationists, in other words.

    I would again recommend that you study my Google knol:

    http://knol.google.com/k/the-anthropic-principle#

    I personally think that the article that you read represents an incomplete story, as there is apparently an energy conservation law at play that requires that energy be disseminated efficiently over a maximum amount of time so that no energy gets wasted, rather than the rampant un-governed satisfaction of the second law of thermodynamics.

    The structure of the universe is for good reason.

  7. 9 rostock
    15 August 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Hello island,

    Geneva is doing well, thank you. It is wonderful to watch her grow and develop and learn. She is an active, sharp little one who keeps me on my toes. Right now she is sleeping, so I have a brief opportunity to comment here. Thank you for your continued patience with me in my slow replies. I appreciate your care in responding.

    I agree the structure of the universe is for good reason. I do not argue that we function in relation to scientific laws. I have no doubt that everything serves a purpose of some kind, but that doesn’t quite explain the reason for our existence. It only says we’re at least useful for something while we’re here.

    We are “born out of necessity” and were “in the cards” from the time of the big bang. Would you say that the universe actually produced life for the specific purpose of disseminating energy, as though our existence fulfills a small part of a larger plan at work? Was there a plan before the bang? Were we intended to be here, or was it a lucky explosion?

    The begging question for me is, who or what produced the deck? Before the bang, before stars, before anything, how did those initial energy forces and substances get there in the first place? What caused them to exist and what caused them to effect anything? Even if you can’t name the initial cause, can it possibly be anything other than an ETERNAL existence? Or does science actually defy the Law of Causality? (Please read my previous post titled Eternal Evolution: https://rostock.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/eternal-evolution/).

    If in serving entropy we likewise achieve higher levels of evolution, why are humans so unique compared to other species? Why has not at least one other species throughout history developed the ability to reason? Why are humans the only ones?

    In our evolvement, when did our human bodies become insufficient for keeping us warm that we should dress ourselves in stitched garments? Or why did we begin to feel shame for our nakedness? I recall no other species who wears clothes either for warmth or for dignity. Have we regressed?

    Why do our “ancestors” still exist?

  8. 10 Byron Miller
    30 August 2010 at 3:40 pm

    You’re mixing up sciences to dilute their meaning. The gap you speak of isn’t a gap of Evolution but rather a theory of Abiogenesis in which Evolution is still a part of as scientists are able to create experiments in which they’re able to create amino acids thought to be the building blocks of life and test how those could evolve to more complex molecules (thusly organisms so on and so forth)

    The “chance” that is spoken/referred to is an ever expanding “known chance”. We’re finding out that planets themselves are a lot more abundant than we thought and that it could be said it is normal for every star to have a planetary system and if that is true then there are a hundred billion planetary systems in our galaxy alone. If the odds are one in a billion billion billion billion billion then life is abundant across the universe but rare in our own galaxy and that is what professor Dawkins speaks to. 100 years ago we couldn’t postulate that many planetary systems but today with the Keplar mission we’re finding we completely underestimated the possibility of planetary systems.

    As for why our ancestors still exist, evolution is an expansion, not a replacement process. Those branches branch out and evolve and new branches expand from there. Evolution doesn’t mean the prior cause is forever gone and in fact evidence shows just the opposite so i’m not sure why you would ask such a question 🙂

  9. 11 island
    31 August 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Chance has absolutely nothing to do with it unless you willfully ignore the predictive capabilities of the Goldilocks Enigma. The anthropic observation indicates that first principles, not chance, determine where life will be located in the observed universe.

  10. 12 island
    31 August 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Rostock, I’m glad to here that Geneva is doing so well and that you are enjoying the experience.

    I have no doubt that everything serves a purpose of some kind, but that doesn’t quite explain the reason for our existence. It only says we’re at least useful for something while we’re here.

    You can’t disassociate our usefulness from our reason for being here. If we are needed for this “usefulness” then the universe has plenty of ability to make that happen.

    LWe are “born out of necessity” and were “in the cards” from the time of the big bang. Would you say that the universe actually produced life for the specific purpose of disseminating energy, as though our existence fulfills a small part of a larger plan at work? Was there a plan before the bang? Were we intended to be here, or was it a lucky explosion?

    I think that I have good reason to believe that we were intended to be here to help the universe “evolve”. I think that’s what the “anthropic principle” actually is… we ARE the mechanism for evolution, via technology that can directly affect the symmetry of the universe… the “Large Hadron Collider”.

    “The begging question for me is, who or what produced the deck?”

    Another deck… rather a previous universe evolved via the BB to become our universe, and will again as a function of a never ending downhill thermodynamic process.

    This is my Long Bet. Skip down to where it says, “Ryals’s Argument”. We aren’t too far apart:

  11. 13 island
    31 August 2010 at 1:43 pm

    longbets DOT org/476

    I had to do that because the program wouldn’t allow me to include the link.


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