Re: The Anthropic Principle Boundary Conditions

From: Russell Standish <>
Date: Wed, 24 May 2000 14:48:56 +1000 (EST) wrote:
> The Anthropic principle has been discussed numerous times before. There are
> many versions going around. I just want to make a point which I think is
> crucial.
> First let me state some of these principles quoted from Barrow and Tipler
> Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP): The observed values of all physical and
> cosmological quantities are not equally probable but they take on values
> restricted by the requirement that there exist sites where carbon-based life
> can evolve and the requirement that Universe be old enough for it to have
> already done so.
> [Barrow and Tipler are not explicit, but this principle implies the requires
> the existence of conscious observers.]
> Strong Anthropic Principle (SAP): The Universe must have those properties
> which allow life to develop within it at some stage in its history.
> [The emphasis here is on the world "must" which implies that the Universe is
> the way it is by design.. at least this is the way most people interpret
> this. This version implies the existence of a creator. Its religious
> connotations makes it unscientific]

It may be commonly interpreted this way, but I would disagree that it
should be. In my Occam paper I mention that the SAP implies either a
Divine creator, or a Plenitude (ensemble). I vaguely remember someone
raising a third possible implication, although for the life of me I
can't remember what.

The WAP is simply a consistency statement, that should be true
regardless of what you believe. I think it is quite true to say that
assuming an ensemble explanation (pick your favourite Plenitude here),
the SAP and the WAP are one and the same thing. Therefore I go on to
use the AP without qualification.

As for the following two APs, I think you have adequately dealt them
enough damage in order for us to ignore them.

> Participatory Anthropic Principle (PAP): Observers are necessary to bring the
> Universe into being. [ As I mentioned to Russell, this version supported by
> Wheeler implies that observers, have some kind of magical ability to make
> things happen... Who needs the MWI with this approach? You might as well
> stick with the old fashion Copenhagen school!]
> Final Anthropic Principle (FAP): Intelligent information-processing must come
> into existence in the Universe, and, once it comes into existence, it will
> never die out. [Again, this word "must" implies the design argument. The
> authors of this principle, Barrow and Tipler, succomb to mysticism,
> especially Tipler, in his book "The Physics of Immortality" in which he
> expounds his concept of the "Omega Point" and identifies the Holy Ghost with
> the universal wave-function. So much for scientific objectivity!]
> The WAP is the only one that makes any sense. You can define an initial
> boundary conditions for an arbitrary causal chain (aka Shoedinger wave) and
> then observes how it propagates. This boundary condition could be "carbon
> life" or "vertebrate," or "mammal" or "human" or "american" .... or "I." "I"
> is the boundary condition that I prefer as I''ll explain below.
> Now to my point.
> The essence of the anthropic principle requires OBSERVERS. But it does not
> require LIFE. We can imagine a universe somewhere in the plenitude in which
> the conditions are suitable for the existence of at least one non-reproducing
> sentient being. To explain its existence, let's say that fundamental
> particles in this universe (atoms or maybe, more conveniently, naturally
> existing logical gates) got together by chance to form some kind of computer.
> (Very unlikely scenario but not impossible). This "computer" can think and
> can observe its world but is not "alive" in the sense that it cannot
> reproduce.
> How would such a creature state the Anthropic principle? Certainly not in
> terms of carbon life, not even in terms of life. Its version would simply
> state the reverse causal assertion:
> The world is the way it is, because I am what I am --- I am, therefore the
> world is.
> Given that insight, this being would probably try to deduce if other being
> like itself also exist in its world.
> The world is, therefore others like me also exist.
> This last assertion, if proven valid, would preclude this being from adopting
> a solipsit philosophy.
> Again. the point that Barrow and Tipler fail to emphasize, is that the
> Anthropic Principle rests on the observer. My preference is to use "observer"
> in the singular: "I." "You" can be deduced. :-)
> George

Dr. Russell Standish Director
High Performance Computing Support Unit, Phone 9385 6967
UNSW SYDNEY 2052 Fax 9385 6965
Room 2075, Red Centre
Received on Tue May 23 2000 - 21:43:14 PDT

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