The anthropic principle, arguably one of the most important intellectual topics of the 21st century, is explored in this intriguing article in Discover Magazine:
Physicists don’t like coincidences. They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea.
Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.
Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics. Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.
6 thoughts on “Mind bending discussion of life, the universe, and everything”
Life is _adapted to the available circumstances within the universe_.
I have an opposable thumb because my species adapted itself towards this very useful trait, allowing me to manipulate tools. Organic chemistry is fixated upon the carbon bond, because that is the most useful bond available in the circumstances.
If atoms did not exist, perhaps life wouldn’t either – or perhaps some other system we might call ‘life’, with very little relation to what we see infront of us, would emerge.
Interesting how the anthropic principle seems to put the human species in the center of creation, then the multiverse theory comes along and once again we’re kicked back to the outskirts of Existence.
I guess which theory you prefer depends on where you prefer the human species to be
There’s another interesting theory, mostly the work of Stuart Kauffman, that predicts that a tendency to create complexity is built into the universe, though not predictable by the basic laws of physics alone (this is not mysticism, but an appeal to the existence of self-organizing systems that generate new levels of law-like behavior obedient to, but not predictable by the laws of physics). If this is true, then the probability of something like life existing is relatively high (or at least not ridiculously low) in any universe with an energy gradient that’s not flat.
I think the anthropic principle is kind of a ridiculous notion. The universe appears ideally adapted to our existence because we are a product of that universe. Of course our environment appears ideal for our survival, we are the product of eons of evolution taking place in that environment!
I’m with Greg. The Strong Anthropic Principle seems to be teleological.
This was especially annoying,
‘On the other hand, if there is no multiverse, where does that leave physicists? “If there is only one universe,” Carr says, “you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”’
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