Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Very Tiny Place In The Heavens (part 3)

[This is the 3rd installment in this series. To see the others, click on the following links: Part 1 -- Part 2]

Considering the significance of our place in the cosmos has led many to the realization that, in some sense, the universe seemed to know we were coming -- that it looks designed to support advanced human life. This observation has been labeled the Anthropic Principle (anthropos = Greek for "man"). This is not just because we wish it was so. It is because there are so many factors so finely tuned to support life. There are literally hundreds of them and all of them have to be "just right" or life would not exist anywhere in the universe.

Naturalistic scientists who play up the Copernican Principle have tried to claim that these anthropic observations are nothing but the rumblings of our hopeful imaginations or, at best, a string of amazing coincidences. They have done so by categorizing the anthropic "coincidences" in two ways.

First, the Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP) can be seen as a logical extension of the Copernican Principle. WAP suggests that, whether or not our physical location has been moved from the center of the cosmos is irrelevant because there is nothing at all special about our existence anyway, regardless of where it is in space. In fact, we should expect to observe conditions, however unusual, that are compatible with, or even necessary for, our being here to observe the cosmos in which we live.

Second, the Strong Anthropic Principle (SAP), proposed by physicist Brandon Carter, asserts an even more robust case for our existence in which he states that, “any universe with observers in it must be observer-permitting (emphasis mine).” Carter’s inclusion of the word “must” in his definition touched off widespread debate about what he meant to say but the result of this line of thinking has been that the importance of life on Earth was diminished, beyond the level of expectancy posed by WAP, to the point of a mandatory entailment.

Not allowing the Copernican Principle any room for life’s meaningfulness to be introduced into the discussion, naturalistic science has literally taken the SAP to an infinite conclusion in the Multiple Universe (MU) hypothesis. There are several versions of this understanding of the nature of the universe, but they all share two characteristics – that there exist an infinite number of universes, and that they are all different. In this way, man’s existence descends to the level of pure chance and infinite unimportance. Thus “the Copernican Principle...explains all those ways in which our setting is commonplace [while] the Anthropic Principle[s] account for the exceptions.”

The conclusions one reaches about this issue are all very dependent on the presuppositions one begins with. And this was my point from the beginning of the first post. I'll conclude with some thoughts on that the next time ...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Though I do not moderate comments, I reserve the right to delete any comment that I deem inappropriate. You don't have to agree with me, but I don't tolerate abusive or objectionable language of any kind.