How the anthropic principle became the most abused idea in science (Synopsis)

“There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
‘I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.’” -Shel Silverstein

When it was first proposed in 1973 by Brandon Carter, there were only two simple statements that one could hardly disagree with concerning the anthropic principle:

1.) We must be prepared to take account of the fact that our location in the Universe is necessarily privileged to the extent of being compatible with our existence as observers.
2.) The Universe (and hence the fundamental parameters on which it depends) must be as to admit the creation of observers within it at some stage.

A young star cluster in a star forming region, which may be giving rise to future observers right now. Image credit: ESO / T. Preibisch. A young star cluster in a star forming region, which may be giving rise to future observers right now. Image credit: ESO / T. Preibisch.

Somehow, that’s evolved into a line of thinking where you can make probabilistic arguments about the initial conditions that spawned the Universe, about the necessary emergence of humans or about the string landscape. In other words, what started as a reframing of the obvious has become an oft-abused scientific principle, yet one that still has a germ of validity and usefulness at its core, if only we can recover it.

The existence of complex, carbon-based molecules in star forming regions is interesting, but isn't anthropically demanded. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / T. Pyle; Spitzer Space Telescope. The existence of complex, carbon-based molecules in star forming regions is interesting, but isn't anthropically demanded. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / T. Pyle; Spitzer Space Telescope.

Come find out how the anthropic principle got twisted to be this way, and how we can put it back to its rightful place in science!

More like this

In a way, specious anthropic principle arguments and overreach statements of climate change share the same root: A sample size of one. Science isn't nearly as robust when your sample size is one.

The work of scientists in single sample fields should be viewed more skeptically. To view sample limited science the same as massively sample validated science is not a valid viewpoint, and any supposed moral value to the science doesn't make up the difference.

The work of Climate Scientists is not as reliable as the work of Physicists. It is only a lack of humility among Climate Scientists that states otherwise. Climate Scientists and Anthropic Principle Philosophers are to regular scientists what Chiropractors and New Age Healers are to Medical Doctors.

What utter conflationary rot.

Yup, denier is running his own anthropic principle:if he doesn't see evidence for AGW, there IS no AGW.

And no skepticism for scientists like Lindzen or Monckton... LOL

Sample size of one? There is only one universe too, so by the resident denialist's own argument you can't trust astrophysicists. What a load of crap.

Rereading #1 again.
Couple of thoughts to add to my
unchanged initial one.
Now look mate. If you go and dig
up a single fossilized bit of bone from
a couple hundred million years ago you
have a sample size of one. Yeah?
Well first off no you dont because it
instantly becomes part of several sample
sizes. Think of Venns. It has comparitive
value at an absolute minimum to lots
of other things. And in total isolation it
can yield much data besides.
Do you understand this?

You got a weather station maybe giving
data on a variety of things for say 100 years.
Biggest mob of data indicating all sorts of trends.
Oh its a sample size of one. Useless eh.
Well add it to the data of the one down the road.
And the one down the road from that.
And the one across the world from that.
Which happens to be down the road from
someone who studiously studies butterflies
and their habits and ranges. Over whos
house flys a few sats just pumping out
data. Not just of earth either. Some look at the sun .And the odd balloon as well flies about.

Add about ten million other so called
sample sizes of one and you do not
have a sample size of one do ya?
You got a shit load of data from an enormous
variety of sources.
Its a damn fine thing to have if you wish
to make some conclusions. Such variety.
Backed up by pretty hard to beat physics and
All one has to NOT do is assume a single weather station, or
butterfly, or sat or anything else will conclusivly
tell a story bigger than what its telling. Cuz thats just silly.
But you get a bunch of stories together that tally up,
which includes a completely expected number of stories
that differ markedly , some sound conclusions can be made.

Im gunna ask you mate.
What would you expect to see as
indications of a warming biosphere?

I think that "the hiatus" has passed it as the most abused idea in science.

@Li D

Despite your format
Your prose does not rhyme
Still to let it pass
Would be quite a crime

Warming biosphere!
Scientists agree!
Vast data to see!

No place to argue
Data plots clear trend
There’s no wiggle room
Discussion should end

Experts push farther
It doesn’t end there
Why’s it happening?
What’s warming the air?

The root cause you extol
But Science has rules
It needs a control

A control there’s not
Sample size just one
No conclusive blame
No true smoking gun

In words of Yoda
From galaxy far
Climate Scientists!
Pretenders they are.

"No place to argue"

Sorry, snowflake, people not believing your bullshit is not the same as not letting you argue.

If you want to see No plase to argue, have a look at the USA scientists now trump has gagged them, and the reporters gagged by Trump unhappy that the women's march got nearly 10x the number of people than his inauguration.

Try reading some of the science for a change, and less of the denier blogrolls filling your head with crap.

"Sample size just one"

As has been pointed out elsewhere - that line pegs you as incredibly dishonest. There is only one universe, so by your bit of stupid argument you should say conclusions about it are bogus - yet you don't.

It's clear you don't understand the science of climate change - it seems clear you are completely ignorant about a lot of things, by choice.

You have no idea about controls,
both in observations, and experiment, or
you wouldnt write such rubbish.
You are a friggen idiot.

Remember, LiD, denier cannot think why you would have 5-6 words per line, so assumes it MUST be you are writing poetry. That your device puts hard newlines in when sending in the text in a text entry widget on the small screen you could be using, is something he DOES NOT CONSIDER, because he doesn't have that sort of device.

Neither do I, but I'm enough a member of the human race to work out why I would be doing that if I were you (but still being the me I consider myself).

But deniers don't do that, they project onto others an explanation that they would do if they were bad people and in your place. Then THAT becomes the explanation.

Any human empathy is down to working out why you're unwilling to agree.

It's even more toxic than projection. It's the dark twin of empathy as we are taught in social studies.

Although I dont quite understand the technical explaination,
Im chuffed there exists some explaination as to why anything
I write anywhere looks different to other commenters
And I apologise to any readers for the odd format.

Denier didn't know or care about explaining it as it wanted there to be some way to berate you and make out you're some sort of weirdo.

After all, if you poison the well, it's a lot easier to defend your own crimes.

To me, there was nothing to apologise for, and it's denier who should apologise for thoughtlessness and his lack of empathy or common sense.

Aware of intent
Not tryin’ to be rude
When having some sport
I play with my food

The gauntlet was thrown
But none had the skill
Not clever ‘nuff to
Go in for the kill

Your counters are weak
Just lame sauce dot com
Squeaks from the vanquished
Replies in ad hom

Control is a thing
It’s not invented
Needed for Science
Its place cemented

Not Climate Science
Oh no no not there
All those conclusions
Come from brains of hair

My main point it stands
Like a shining star
Climate Scientists!
Pretenders they are

Being a prick.
That's always you.

Burma Shave.

Does this dingleberry really honestly
believe that there are no controls on
any observations? No references for quality and
No statistical standards?
Does he/she really believe any and every experiment
conducted with our biosphere or part thereof in mind
has no controls? As is standard practice?
Its just bloody absurdity.
Go on denier fool. Link to five published experiments
about um, ooooh jeez what can i choose,
how about nitrogen that hasnt got em.
Why nitrogen? Well theres an awful shit load of it
in the atmosphere. So a reasonable assumption is
maybe its got something to do with climate, greenhouse effect,
etc. Maybe it does and maybe it dosnt. Ya dont know
until its researched and experimented with.
And much is known about nitrogen.
So go on denier. Show us these lack of controls in
the experiments people have done to understand properties of nitrogen .

Of course the turdcluster doesn't. But they're going to insist they do because then you're having to argue insanity without them having to do any of the heavy lifting of making a sane argument and being safe in their ignorance, since you're not arguing what they ACTUALLY think, but the fake front they've put up.

tow possibilities exist:
1. We are the only Observers in the universe.
2. We are Observers, but not the only ones, in the universe.

If the former is true, then what are we doing to ensure that our observations of the universe are compiled, stored durably, and made accessible, to future Observers, should there ever be any?

If the latter is true, then what are we doing to ensure that our observations of the universe are compiled, stored durably, and made accessible, to other Observers when and if we encounter them and/or they encounter our Observation Store?

It seem to me that that an initiative along these lines, if not already undertaken in earnest and robustly, is at least as important, talent-needworthy, and funds-deserving, as SETI.

Interested in information and thoughts from this collection of observers.

By Brian K. Sulli… (not verified) on 03 Feb 2017 #permalink

Please correct the typo "tow" to "two" in the first line of my previous post. Thank you.

By Brian K. Sulli… (not verified) on 03 Feb 2017 #permalink

@Brian K. Sullivan, PsyD wrote:

If the latter is true, then what are we doing to ensure that our observations of the universe are compiled, stored durably, and made accessible, to other Observers when and if we encounter them and/or they encounter our Observation Store?

After you upload your observational record to YouTube, you go in to the video manager. On the right hand side is a drop down box titled 'Privacy Settings'. Select 'Public'. You can do this to only some videos or your entire compilation, but the ones you choose to share will be stored durably and made accessible to future observers if and/or when your channel encounters them. Enjoy!

If you're concerned with preserving our observations of the universe, what are you doing to preserve humanity? We might survive and lose some or all of those observations, but it seems very unlikely that usable records would survive a global nuclear war, much less a Chicxulub-scale impact.

Or the collapse of civilisation caused by doing nothing about AGW until AFTER there's been a worldwide catastrophe.

No need to wait for space rocks or volcanoes to kill off our observations, we're currently doing it to ourselves because we can't find the guts to tell deniers to shut the hell up and get on with solving the problem.

There are various potentials that humanity will not survive any of various means to our end. There is also the potential that we will survive any and all such, but not in a manner that allows us to continue to add to, or perhaps even to remember, an Observation Store. All the more reason to transcend the threat-level discussion and address the solution level so as to ideate an Observation Store that preserves our understandings of things that are not limited to humanity itself, such as chemistry (and subsequently our understandings about star formation), astronomy (and our observations that other systems contain planets that might be hospitable to life), etc. Perhaps it would exist in an array of distributed extra-terrestrial satellites and distributed robotic outbound (not orbital) spacecraft, each exchanging redundant copies of the accumulated observations. And perhaps one or more of those would be programmed to send copies of the observations back to earth periodically (e.g. every 100 years) so that we, ourselves, could be re-acquanited with the knowledge should we endure and survive some catastrophe Earth-side that set us back into a contemporary Dark Ages.

Let's brainstorm, and not bicker.

By Brian K. Sulli… (not verified) on 06 Feb 2017 #permalink