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.

10 thoughts on “CRAP”

  1. Keep this up ian, and we’ll be neck-deep in $hit soon…

    There is a strong and a weak version of the entropic anthropic principle:

    The weak version notes that human survival and evolution are entropically favored and enabled by the environment… the energy that we CAN expend in the direction of survival is “practically” expendable, *always* within the **current** limits of our technological capabilities, per the second law.

    This extends to become a biocentic principle when applied to all banded spiral galaxies that are on the same evolutionary “plane” as us.

    The strong version notes that we are intelligence enabled for our high-energy dissipative capabilities, because this directly affects the flatness of the universe when we start making antimatter from negative energy…

    This notion actually demands a biocentric principle, because a few particles annually are required from each galaxy in order to account for expansion, (as proven by Fred Hoyle).

    …but our latest and greatest bright idea in the never ending lust for energy has convinced us that we need to simulate the big bang in the lab by colliding matter and antimatter at high relativistic speeds… which, on this scale might not mean anything at all… IF Einstein was wrong… but it might just mean the whole enchalada if he was right and tension between the vacuum and ordinary matter has been increasing for 13.5 billion years worth of universal expansion.

    What did Einstein know tho… right?

    Appeals to the vast authority are lame ian… have you never heard of hidden variables theory, nor subtle determinism?

    Does the opinion of the vast authority prove that these concepts aren’t correct?

    No, and it only takes very little physics to prove that Einstein was right.

    If you’re not getting the implications of the physics, then you can’t fully appreciate the significance of what’s being said well enough to be convinced of anything.

    Get a physicist.

  2. Not getting you Island. Where am I appealling to any authority ? Nowhere do I suggest majority opinion is closer to truth than a lone voice – quite the contrary.

    This post is about the anthropic principle more generally, not the physics particularly. Does Bostrom’s views of the Anthropic Principle(s) conflict with yours ? I appreciate your entropic anthropic principle has weak and strong versions too.

    As to the physics, as I say I’ve not grasped your argument yet, but to be fair I’ve not yet tried much in that direction. Still working up to it.

  3. It must be your accent that gets me… 😉

    Bostrom… let’s see… Nick is a …. no… Nick takes mathematical idealizations too literally too.

    I killed him here:

    I have to say something here that always blows my mind… when you learn physics, you’re taught that idealizations are just that, and are not to be taken too literally… only to find them doing exactly that once we accept an infinite universe.

  4. Thanks for that.

    Somehow those (older) “naturescience” pages give me a better lead into to your “new” entropic anthropic principle ….

    I have more reading to do.


  5. Somehow those (older) “naturescience” pages give me a better lead into to your “new” entropic anthropic principle ….

    That’s because some of that stuff is only linked through the contents page, which is linked on the first page.

    The damned theory is way too involved, and I sometimes think that I’ll never even find the end.

  6. ian… I just wanted to say thanks for bringing this stuff up with an open mind… you really are a rare breed.

    Thanks again… and good luck with everything,


  7. Hi Rick / Island,

    Did you notice I put quite a detailed comment on your “uncommon ascent” blog.


  8. Now I have, and it appears like you said a lot of stuff about something that you didn’t understand until the very end of the post.

    But ian, you don’t find it the least bit curious that all of the anthropic coincidences occur almost exactly dead-center between diametrically opposing runaway tendencies?

    You’d expect that without any reason at all for it to be that way?

    FYI: You really think that life can survive a 100,000 year long ice age, huh?… Have you ever heard of Milankovitch cycles?

    I sort of wish that you would have stopped after your first post, and we could have taken it from there, like one point at a time or something.

    Man… I thought that you had a better understanding of what I’ve been saying.

  9. Good, one point at a time was why I commented on just your point 1(a) – to see if and where I was understanding you.

    I certainly am curious, and looking for explanation, but not “surprised”. Most stuff looks “dead centre” subjectively, compared to wide extremes.

    It’s survived previous ice-ages – we’re here aren’t we. Life survived, individuals and species didn’t.

    Kondratiev, Yes. Milankovitch, Nope.
    Another one for me to look at.

    As I keep saying “I’ve not grasped your point yet.”

  10. I certainly am curious, and looking for explanation, but not “surprised”. Most stuff looks “dead centre” subjectively, compared to wide extremes.

    Nope, any sustatained difference leads to the mentioned cumulative runaway effect.

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