Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The Anthropic Principle
The Anthropic Principle—Some Threads to Follow
The Anthropic Principle as a concept has been around since Biblical times: the account in Genesis being a prime example of it in non-scientific terms. Of late, there has been an enormous expansion of scientific facts that tend to support the idea of a man-centered universe. Over 39 physical laws and 26 physical constants have been cited as having a very narrow range of values; if any one of them was outside of the range, life as we know it would not be viable.
This has led to the more general idea of Intelligent Design and an Intelligent Designer as the origin and basis for the construction and evolution of the universe, life and man from the Big Bang till now. This concept is easily assimilated by many religions that believe in a God as the creator, but is anathema to the scientific community that is principally atheistic in outlook.
The scientific community has gone so far as to propose a Multiverse in order to avoid the possibility of an Intelligent Designer, thus immensely complicating cosmology. Instead of “God did it” we have a Multiverse within which somehow our particular universe was “selected” by a “mysterious selector” because of its life supporting properties over the infinite number of universes or pocket universes that would not support life. So it appears that we have traded off a Mysterious Designer for a Mysterious Selector, plus enormous difficulties, if not impossibilities, in establishing the bone fides of the Multiverse. Ockham would be aghast.
The many objections to God as the Prime Mover or Architect of the Universe include the memes: “who designed the designer”; and “how can something be created out of nothing (ex nihilo).”
Then, too, the old accusations of “how can a perfect entity create such an imperfect world; and “how can an omnipotent and omniscient entity exist logically?” are brought out of the kit bag to confound the situation once more.
The answer may well be simply: “we do not know how or why God has done what He has done and is doing, and we most likely do not have the mental capacity to understand Him fully.” This, despite the fact as we know it that even God must conform to certain physical rules (or so we believe).
We come then to the questions of how and why man developed consciousness. Is consciousness a logical outgrowth of man’s existence, or was it put there originally by God very early on? Why then is man the only species that exhibits a rather full blown consciousness, insofar as we know (can it become even greater in some sense?)?
In the recorded history of man, which covers perhaps 100 centuries, there is no evidence that his capacity to think cogently has grown measurably, while, of course, his knowledge of the world has expanded tremendously. Is consciousness a fluke, or an accident of cosmic proportions? Can we create consciousness in the laboratory? Some powerful thinkers believe it is possible, and are working to that end right now.
Several scientists believe that the mere aggregation of a massive number of software constructs will eventually result in conscious thought. It would seem, however, that piling layer upon layer of logic onto a program or programs would merely result in a tortuous trail of logical steps leading to some end or another, and no spark of consciousness.
In fact, it is quite acceptable indeed for scientists to explore the true makeup of the universe, and to postulate all the universes they want, all the Branes they need and all the brains they can fabricate. They will likely wander in those sets of constructs essentially forever, however. The morass of String Theory/Superstring Theory/M-Theory is one example. Even indirect proofs of the existence of multiple universes have been and will likely continue to be found wanting in the end. Consciousness in the lab will be a Holy Grail, too, for a long, long time. One must question the testability of these ideas.
It appears, then, that we will have to believe either in a God who architected the universe and conscious man or in a Mysterious Selector, multiple universes, and some fluke of nature resulting in consciousness that can never be fully understood.
Put your faith as and where you like it!
Labels: Anthropic Principle