[extropy-chat] The Personal Anthropic Principle

Russell Wallace russell.wallace at gmail.com
Thu Mar 2 19:24:58 UTC 2006

On 3/2/06, Lee Corbin <lcorbin at tsoft.com> wrote:
> > 2. Of course we find ourselves living on an object where
> >    conditions are suitable for life, however small a percentage
> >    of the total such objects may be - we couldn't have evolved
> >    in a place where they aren't!
> >
> > Do you really think the first answer is better than the second?
> I don't think that (2.) is any explanation at all! But that
> it is not a very good explanation, I'm sure you agree.

Not really - I think it's a complete and correct answer to the question, and
simple and elegant too; what more can one ask from an explanation?

But really, let's examine that question "How is it that we
> were lucky enough to find ourselves on just such a planet?"
> It's probably not a good question either, and to show why,
> consider a parallel situation. Say you bump into an
> long-lost friend in some strange city and ask "how is
> it that we were lucky enough to run into each other?"
> There may turn out to be an answer: he could have arranged
> it as a surprise, or you were both drawn to the same event,
> or something really far-fetched. But it could easily be that
> there is no explanation.

I don't think it's a parallel situation though. We could not have found
ourselves living on Mercury (at least not at our present stage of
development!); we could not have found ourselves living in a region of the
multiverse where the proton is more massive than the neutron; but we _could_
have concluded our business in the city and gone home without ever having
run into each other.

Both your example and mine are predicated on pre-existence.
> Given that we exist, yes, as you say "Of course we find
> ourselves..." in such a situation. Another analogy could be
> to say to my long-lost friend "Well, of course we had to meet
> here or we wouldn't be having this conversation!" (which is
> predicated upon our being face-to-face).

It's true that my example, like most things, is predicated on our existence.
The question I'm arguing the anthropic principle is a good explanation for
is "how is it [given that we exist] that we find ourselves in a region of
the multiverse where conditions are suitable for life?". Are you objecting
that this leaves unanswered the larger question of "how is it that we find
ourselves existing at all?" If so I can have a shot at that; but being a
different question it will naturally have a slightly different answer.

- Russell
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