Re: [asa] Critique of anthropic principle

From: David Heddle <>
Date: Mon Apr 21 2008 - 14:05:18 EDT

Some of the fine tuning arguments are quite strong and are not subject to
the Douglas Adams puddle analogy--i.e., the criticism of Carbon chauvinism.
The best is the cosmological constant--or more broadly the fine tunings
related to the expansion of the universe. We easily could have had no
galaxies or stars, or a big crunch. In either event, there would be no life
of any kind. (If you believe that a universe that expanded too fast for
stars to form might have some kind of life, even thought there are no heavy
elements in such a universe, then train your telescopes on intergalactic
space and search for life, because that is what the entire universe could
have looked like, more or less.)

For the same reasons, the fine tuning of stellar evolution is quite strong,
because, again, no heavy elements means no life.

Susskind, in the Cosmic Landscape, admitted as much when he wrote
(paraphrasing from memory) that it will be very hard to answer the
(cosmological) ID proponents if the multiverse is not real. That is an
admission, from an atheist, that the fine tuning arguments are quite strong.

David P. Heddle
Associate Professor of Physics and Computer Science
Christopher Newport University, &
The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

On Mon, Apr 21, 2008 at 12:11 PM, David Campbell <>

> Although I'm not overly enthusiastic about fine-tuning arguments, I
> think your comments on the arguments are on target.
> > We do not know what fundamental conditions would rule out any
> possibility of
> > any life. For all we know, there might be intelligent beings in another
> > universe arguing that if fundamental constants were only slightly
> different,
> > then the absence of free quarks and the extreme weakness of gravity
> would
> > make life impossible.
> >
> > [This seems to be an argument from ignorance. There might be other
> > intelligent beings and might be other universes, but the
> counter-argument
> > fails for lack of any evidence.]
> Yes-although science fiction writers can suggest possibilities like a
> hyperintelligent shade of blue, it's open to question whether such
> options are very plausible or meaningful (although God, angels, etc.
> represent a rather different sort of life to carbon-based life forms).
> On the other hand, we do not know for certain what range of possible
> options would function for life-especially a problem for the
> "specified complexity" type of argument. It's hard to disagree that
> some sort of stable system including a very long-term energy source
> (such as stable orbits of planets around stars) is necessary to life,
> but it's highly questionable whether the exact set of genes that does
> a particular task are required for the task.
> > Indeed, many examples of fine-tuning are evidence that life is
> fine-tuned to
> > the cosmos, not vice versa. This is exactly what evolution proposes.
> >
> > [I don't understand this argument, and it's simply given as an
> assertion.
> > How is life fine-tuned for the universe, and what does this have to do
> with
> > evolution?]
> Natural selection involves the constraints imposed by the environment
> on organisms. If a life form is functional enough to survive and
> reproduce in a given setting in a particular universe, it can succeed;
> if not, it can't. This is the answer to "where does the information
> come from in evolution?" It's already there in the environment (with
> the caveat that parts, especially the biological portion, of the
> environment are also actively changing). Organisms must conform to
> their environment. Nevertheless, it's hard to see how any life could
> conform to certain environments.
> > 2. If the universe is fine-tuned for life, why is life such an extremely
> > rare part of it?
> >
> > [Again, an argument from ignorance, since we don't know whether or not
> there
> > is life in any other solar system, or even on any other planet. It may
> have
> > relevance since we don't think there is life elsewhere in our solar
> system,
> > but we are such a small part of the universe, I don't see this as a
> credible
> > argument.]
> >
> Also, this (and multiverse arguments) could be turned around to claim
> that the rarity of life shows just how precise the fine tuning must be
> to produce even one planet with life.
> > 5. If part of the universe were not suitable for life, we would not be
> here
> > to think about it. There is nothing to rule out the possibility of
> multiple
> > universes, most of which would be unsuitable for life. We happen to find
> > ourselves in one where life is conveniently possible because we cannot
> very
> > well be anywhere else.
> >
> > [Multiple universes are unproven. If we weren't here, but some other
> > intelligent being somewhere else in the universe were pondering this
> > question, what difference would it make? This is dodging the question.]
> Also, on what basis is it said that "most" of the multiverses would be
> unsuitable for life? How do we know that any of them would be
> suitable for life, except for ours, which could have highly unusual
> deviations from all the others? Either direction is argument from
> ignorance.
> > 6. Intelligent design is not a logical conclusion of fine tuning. Fine
> > tuning says nothing about motives or methods, which is how design is
> > defined. (The scarcity of life and multi-billion-year delay in it
> appearing
> > argue against life being a motive.) Fine-tuning, if it exists, may
> result
> > from other causes, as yet unknown, or for no reason at all (Drange
> 2000).
> >
> > [Argument from ignorance, and changing the subject. Fine-tuning
> anthropic
> > arguments don't claim to answer questions of methods or motives, only
> > providing a justification for the belief that life was intended.]
> Scarcity of life (if true) and multi-billion year delay (although
> probably necessary for life in order to have a few rounds of heavy
> element generation in supernovae) suggest, but do not prove, that life
> is probably not the sole motive. It could be a significant motive,
> but balanced with other considerations.
> --
> Dr. David Campbell
> 425 Scientific Collections
> University of Alabama
> "I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Mon Apr 21 14:07:34 2008

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