That’s the “Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle” to you. The Anthropic Principle thread below spawned a long discussion thread with “Island” at Anthropic-Pinciple.Org And coincidentally “crap” was Island’s first comment on that post 🙂
In a nutshell, the way I see it, Island’s anthropic principle is a very weak form, and he uses teleology also in a very weak sense of tending under the laws of physics towards some natural end (which includes intelligent life) – no “intelligent purpose”, in any common sense sense of either intelligence or purpose – so no real controversy there for me. In fact although Island hitches his thesis to the Anthropic Principle, his thesis is more specifically directed at undermining evidence for quantum uncertainty, and as yet I haven’t grasped how specifically the anthropic principle supports his reasoning. Given that thesis – that practically all modern physicists since Gottingen and Copenhagen (except Einstein) are wrong (no less) – the precise relationship to any anthropic principle doesn’t really seem to be the most critical issue. The jury’s out and as usual I suspend disbelief however “cranky” the claim might seem. “A man with a new idea is a crank until he succeeds …”
I’m still feeling that strong or weak, the anthropic principle remains a tautology of no explanatory value, it has nevertheless re-entered my consciousness, so I’ve been reading up about it. Reccommended by Struan Hellier, in private correspondence, I’ve been browsing Nick Bostrom’s work at Anthropic-Principle.Com
As a thorough and comprehensive review of the history of various anthropic principles and ongoing arguments for or against I’m in no position to fault it. From a read of the first five on-line chapters of his book “Anthropic Bias” I’m still left with the impression that it’s still pretty obviously a tautology, even in its strongest forms. (On-line, it’s not possible to get as far as the chapters where he formulates his own “Observation Selection Theory” backed up by Bayesian Methods.)
Two strong forms (SAP’s) are
Carter introduced two versions of the anthropic principle, one strong (SAP) and one weak (WAP).
WAP states that: . . . we must be prepared to take account of the fact that our location in the universe is necessarily privileged to the extent of being compatible with our existence as observers. (p. 127)
And SAP: . . . the Universe (and hence the fundamental parameters on which it depends) must be such as to admit the creation of observers within it at some stage. (p. 129)
Carter’s formulations have been attacked alternatively for being mere tautologies (and therefore incapable of doing any interesting explanatory work whatever) and for being widely speculative (and lacking any empirical support). Often WAP is accused of the former and SAP of the latter.
A “Final Anthropic Principle” (FAP) has been defined by Tipler (Tipler 1982), Barrow (Barrow 1983) and Barrow & Tipler (Barrow and Tipler 1986) as follows:
“Intelligent information-processing must come into existence in the universe, and, once it comes into existence, it will never die out.”
Martin Gardner charges that FAP is more accurately named CRAP, the Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle (Gardner 1986).
I say, in both the strong forms, the SAP or the FAP / CRAP versions, the problem is the question begging in the implicit thought experiments they state and their choice of language to state them. They both use the expression “The” Universe. What neither bothers to qualify, because it makes the tautology more obvious, is which universe ? Notwithstanding any assumptions about the structure of any universe, infinite or finite, one or infinitely many, they seem to mean the whole of existence – “the universe in which we already exist” by definition.
Where the universe(s) is/are infinite – chances of specific existence are surely meaningless ? (Which I suspect may be related to Island’s uncertainty thesis.)
Where referring to finite universe(s), the thought experiment chooses whether or not we are talking about one in which we do or do not exist, no ?
Still not convinced.