[extropy-chat] Anthropic Principle

Russell Wallace russell.wallace at gmail.com
Fri Mar 3 04:08:44 UTC 2006

On 3/3/06, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at tsoft.com> wrote:
> It's clearly in lieu of a better explanation: observe how strenuously
> physicists attempt to account for the constants some other way.

Of course. That's a methodological issue: we'd better look hard for other
kinds of explanations, because they might be there and we'd miss them if we
just sat back on the Weak Anthropic Principle. "We'd better look hard just
in case" doesn't imply "we are likely to find something".

And we
> would all be delighted if it turned out that there was an Occam-simple
> theory (like string theory) that led to a unique answer.

I'd be somewhere between disconcerted and disgusted. Why would that
mathematically unique answer happen to support the evolution of intelligent

Consider an analogy: Suppose the first few thousand decimal digits of pi
after the first couple of dozen, turned out to be just 0 and 1, and the
length of the sequence turned out to be a product of two primes, and if you
did the obvious raster display, the 1s spelled out the name "Lee Corbin".
Wouldn't you feel just a bit disconcerted and/or disgusted?

I was delighted when the Landscape started looking like it had 10^500
solutions rather than the paltry trillion or whatever before. 10^500
solutions is big enough that we should naturally expect there to be at least
a few that support the evolution of intelligent life, without needing
special explanations.

> I'll add that the anthropic principle has at least one successful
> > prediction under its belt - the future duration of complex life on
> > Earth in the absence of technological intervention being on the
> > order of hundreds of millions of years, rather than billions as
> > previously thought - so it is not quite the trivial tautology it
> > has sometimes been claimed to be.
> I don't understand how that's a prediction that's been verified. How
> could it be if it's about millions of years in the future?

The prediction has been verified in the sense that further data, more
realistic models and more detailed calculations have shown that in the
absence of technological intervention, complex life on Earth will cease to
exist in a few hundred million years (or at least diminish sufficiently to
preclude the evolution of intelligence); this result was not known when the
prediction was made, but was established afterwards.

- Russell
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.extropy.org/pipermail/extropy-chat/attachments/20060303/94eca25d/attachment.html>

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list