Analysing the Anthropic Arguments
Three positions need to be considered:
i) Combining the Weak Anthropic Principle with the Strong Anthropic
The Strong Anthropic Principle claims that the statement, Observers exist,
in some sense constitutes a scientific explanation of the anthropic features of
the cosmos. Two ways of interpreting this are possible.
It may be a claim that rational observers are the efficient cause of the
universe. However, this would imply that time reversal is a reality on a cosmic
scale and that in a very strong sense intelligent observers have (will have?)
created their own reality.
Alternatively, the Strong Anthropic Principle may be read as a denial of the
sufficiency of efficient causes as scientific explanations of certain physical
problems. This implication of the SAP has caused some scientists and
philosophers to reject it out of hand. However, it should be recalled that it
was only with the rise of the mechanical model of the world that efficient
causes were accepted as complete explanations in physics. Furthermore, the
biological sciences have proved remarkably resistant to this view of scientific
ii) Combining the Weak Anthropic Principle with one of the Many-Universes
By contrast, the WAP does not claim to be explanatory: it is merely a
selection effect. However, like the SAP, it has a covert content. It is
pointless unless it is used in conjunction with one of the Many-Universes
Thus it functions as a way of commending to the scientific establishment
certain speculative cosmologies which have so far failed to convince when
restricted to more conventional forms of scientific argumentation.
iii) Combining the Weak Anthropic Principle with an Anthropic Design
It is very tempting for a theist to make the move which Paul Davies makes
when he writes:
Is it easier to believe in a
cosmic designer than the multiplicity of universes necessary for the weak
anthropic principle to work? ... Perhaps future developments in science will
lead to more direct evidence for other universes, but until then, the seemingly
miraculous concurrence of numerical values that nature has assigned to her
fundamental constants must remain the most compelling evidence for an element
of cosmic design.
or to assent to the Moderate Anthropic Principle proposed by John
Polkinghorne (see anthropic design arguments).
However, design arguments based on these features make certain assumptions
that may make one cautious about placing too much reliance on them.
To begin with, they assume that the anthropic features of the cosmos are, in
themselves, improbable. However, quite apart from the difficulties of assigning
probabilities to these parameters, such an assumption is far from proven. It is
conceivable that future developments in physics might render these very
features quasi-necessary. In such a situation, this entire class of design
argument would collapse. There is a hint of the God of the gaps about such
arguments: the universe appears to be a highly improbable structure: we cannot
give a rational explanation of these cosmological features: therefore, they
constitute evidence of an intelligent designer. And, like the God of the gaps,
the role of this deity shrinks with the expansion of scientific understanding.
For a recent assessment of the anthropic arguments see M.W.Worthings God,
Creation and Contemporary Physics.
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Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the
Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999)