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Paradox25's avatar

Do you think the anthropic principle helps or hurts the argument for God?

Asked by Paradox25 (10074 points ) May 8th, 2014

I’ve noticed that both atheists and theists use the anthropic principle to make their case either for or against God. What’s your view of this argument?

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12 Answers

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Absolutely not. Oh darn, this question goes two ways. Hmmmm. Okay, lemme put it this way. Just because the Earth is just the right distance form the sun to be perfect for life to exist here, and just because somehow some bacteria developed here which produced oxygen (a deadly poison to most of the life around at the time), and just because we need water more than any other substance and the Earth is ¾ water, and just because we have developed these incredible intellects which allow us to have these kinds of conversations; that is no reason to assume that the universe and especially our little corner of it didn’t just happen by accident with no intelligent thought or design at. all.

BhacSsylan's avatar

It does neither. The strong anthropic principle is an egotistical argument, and nothing more. Saying “we evolved to exist in an environment that is suited to us” misunderstands evolution, as well as most other science, which is also why it has earned the name the “Crazy Ridiculous Anthropic Principle”. I’m not sure how it could hurt the idea of God either, though, strong or weak. It’s just, nothing really.

ninjacolin's avatar

The Anthropic principle is a premise that life happens to be the way that it is in the universe under “these” specific conditions. One premise does not an argument make.

Do consider the first 4 minutes of this discussion (at least :)

LostInParadise's avatar

There are two versions of the anthropic principle.. The weak, or obvious one, says that whatever happened must have been such as to allow for intelligent life to evolve. The strong, or silly one, says that the laws of the universe must have be specifically designed as to allow for intelligent life. The strong form allows for a religious interpretation.

My preference is for the multiverse view that there are infinitely many universes with different scientific laws and we have the good fortune to be in the very small proportion of them that allowed for our existence.

Bill1939's avatar

The anthropic principle relates to human beings. Neither WAP, the weak anthropic principle, nor SAP, the strong anthropic principle, should be use to suggest that “human” life is likely to exist elsewhere in this universe. I concede that if a multiverse exists that there might be “humans” in another universe, however at this time there is no evidence other than mathematical to support the possibility of multiple universes. Given the abundance of the five elements that Neil deGrasse Tyson mentions and the vast number of stars in our universe, it seems very likely that many forms of sentient life could exist.

Fermi’s paradox asks, if the high estimates for the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and humanity’s lack of contact with them or lack of evidence for such civilizations, “Where is everybody?” (see) This question presumes that some civilization must have devised the means to traverse the hundreds of light-years separating the stars in our galaxy. However even if such technology existed, given how long our galaxy has existed and the number of planets with the potential for sentient life, it likely would require more time to discover our remote planet than an earlier civilization would have.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@BhacSsylan has stated the case elegantly. The circular argument that since we are here, the universe must be designed with us in mind, just doesn’t stand up to even casual scrutiny. Fermi’s paradox is readily explained with the explanation that other more advanced civilizations would have the good judgement to avoid any association with a bunch as obnoxious as ourselves.

CWOTUS's avatar

What care I or anyone else whether a particular viewpoint “advances or hinders an argument” toward anything at all, unless we’re in a class or working group on rhetoric, logic, public relations or the like. (You’re not God’s advance man, are you? Its PR agent?)

Since this is not such a class or working group, then go ahead and make your argument – for god or gods or against it or them; I don’t care – and perhaps someone else’s argument against yours will help you to discover and buttress the weak points, or will prove your argument either untenable or unassailable. (Don’t hold your breath waiting.)

For my part, the only thing that’s more of a waste of time than arguing about the existence of gods is building little shrines to them and holding our heads and hands in certain attitudes as we sing particular songs on special days while wearing special clothes… or parading in the certain knowledge that they don’t exist and those who say otherwise are oppressors, etc.

Prayer, on the other hand, might actually be useful, whether a god hears it or not, since it at least focuses your attention and intent on the thing that you desire. So maybe you should pray for an answer to this question. Either way, “advancing” or “discrediting” a logical argument doesn’t make the thing true or false. (That’s an attempt to be helpful, by the way.)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“Do you think the anthropic principle helps or hurts the argument for God?”

Yep.

gasman's avatar

I go for the weak anthropic principle: In order for us to exist to contemplate our origins, the universe had to allow the emergence of human life & consciousness.

This solves a potential paradox of how finely tuned the universe seems to be in order for complex chemistry, including life, to occur—particularly if our observable universe is seen as just one part of a grand multiverse.

It turns out that if you keep the laws of physics the same but tweak the physical constants just a little, then we wouldn’t exist; in those universes nobody’s around to ask the question. So even if our universe is a rare outlier in the totality of material existence—even if the laws of physics are arbitrary and unique to our world—the anthropic principle suggests that we shouldn’t be so surprised.

I take that as an argument against special creation.

Besides, to postulate the existence of a deity—who operates outside the known laws of physics with the power to create a universe and otherwise remain hidden—is a leap of faith beyond science because no physical evidence is required.

AdamF's avatar

There are lots of problems with trying to use the anthropic principle as a case for god.

http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Anthropic_principle

ninjacolin's avatar

@LostInParadise said “The strong, or silly one, says that the laws of the universe must have be specifically designed as to allow for intelligent life. The strong form allows for a religious interpretation.”

It doesn’t allow for it at all. If there were no life in the universe then you would have to conclude that the universe must have been specifically designed NOT to allow intelligent life.

It’s just a premise. Not an argument.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I am assuming it has to do with the seemingly perfect placement of the Earth in the solar system. It may not hurt God, or prove God to those who simply do not want to believe. However, to those who simply want to think of it as coincidence, then you have to assume if the lotto of life can be won here, it has in other places; maybe ions before here. If anything it would prove the existence of extraterrestrials.

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