Cosmology

Common sense on the so-called Copernican Principle

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  From Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester and author of About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang, at Nautilus,

In his thoughtful article “Goodbye Copernicus, Hello Universe,” astrobiologist Caleb Scharf lays out the foundations of so-called Copernican principle. The idea is central not only to astronomy but to science as a whole. The Copernican principle says that you, as an observer, are not special. You don’t live in a special time. You don’t see things from a special position. The power behind the Copernican principle is that scientists try to never, ever, ever forget its admonition as they attempt to explain the world. Relativity—with its emphasis on the lack of any privileged frame of reference—was a triumph of the Copernican worldview. Thus, from Copernicus’ perspective, you, and everything about you, is mediocre.

Sorry.

Now there was a time when the universe as a whole could be though of as special; it was, after all, the only one there was, by definition. The problem, however, was the universe turned out to be a little too special.

As cosmologists poked around Big Bang theory on ever-finer levels of detail, it soon became clear that getting this universe, the one we happily inhabit, seemed to be more and more unlikely. In his article, Scharf gives us the famous example carbon-12 and its special resonances. If this minor detail of nuclear physics were just a wee bit different, our existence would never be possible. It’s as if nuclear physics were fine-tuned to allow life. But this issue of fine-tuning goes way beyond carbon nuclei; it infects many aspects of cosmological physics.

Well, people will make what they want of that.

But one thing about the Copernican principle in general struck this news writer: It is simply a flat assumption. It doesn’t provide us any means of knowing when it is wrong.

As a matter of fact, there would be nothing unusual (so to speak) about any of us being unusual. You could be the only American citizen in a West African village, or the only biologist at a meeting of physicists. Our entire planet could be unusual. Making a principle of assuming it isn’t has had the unfortunate effect of advancing crackpot cosmologies on the theory that something like that must be true, otherwise the universe might show evidence of design.

Prominent molecular biologist Eugene Koonin put the case at its fatal best:

… in an infinite multiverse with a finite number of distinct macroscopic histories (each repeated an infinite number of times), emergence of even highly complex systems by chance is not just possible but inevitable. …

Adding,

A final comment on “irreducible complexity” and “intelligent design”. By showing that highly complex systems, actually, can emerge by chance and, moreover, are inevitable, if extremely rare, in the universe, the present model sidesteps the issue of irreducibility and leaves no room whatsoever for any form of intelligent design.

Koonin may have unintentionally come up with the strongest argument for design; a multiverse, for which there is no evidence, is the best hope of discrediting it.

5 Replies to “Common sense on the so-called Copernican Principle

  1. 1
    Barb says:

    Copernicus replaced the complex, earth-centered system with one of elegant simplicity. His editor noted in the preface that this was a mathematical ideal, not an astronomical truth.

    British philosopher Bertrand Russell, for example, commends people like Copernicus of the 16th century who had the honesty and courage to question traditional beliefs. They developed a “recognition that what had been believed since ancient times might be false.”

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    The Copernican principle says that you, as an observer, are not special,, You don’t see things from a special position..

    That claim is demonstrably false:

    1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.

    Four intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality (Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, Leggett’s Inequalities, Quantum Zeno effect):
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G_Fi50ljF5w_XyJHfmSIZsOcPFhgoAZ3PRc_ktY8cFo/edit

    as to:

    You don’t live in a special time.

    That claim is also false:

    We Live At The Right Time In Cosmic History – Hugh Ross – video
    http://vimeo.com/31940671

    Hugh Ross – The Anthropic Principle and Anthropic Inequality – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/8494065

    Anthropic Principle: A Precise Plan for Humanity By Hugh Ross
    Excerpt: Brandon Carter, the British mathematician who coined the term “anthropic principle” (1974), noted the strange inequity of a universe that spends about 15 billion years “preparing” for the existence of a creature that has the potential to survive no more than 10 million years (optimistically).,, Carter and (later) astrophysicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler demonstrated that the inequality exists for virtually any conceivable intelligent species under any conceivable life-support conditions. Roughly 15 billion years represents a minimum preparation time for advanced life: 11 billion toward formation of a stable planetary system, one with the right chemical and physical conditions for primitive life, and four billion more years toward preparation of a planet within that system, one richly layered with the biodeposits necessary for civilized intelligent life. Even this long time and convergence of “just right” conditions reflect miraculous efficiency.
    Moreover the physical and biological conditions necessary to support an intelligent civilized species do not last indefinitely. They are subject to continuous change: the Sun continues to brighten, Earth’s rotation period lengthens, Earth’s plate tectonic activity declines, and Earth’s atmospheric composition varies. In just 10 million years or less, Earth will lose its ability to sustain human life. In fact, this estimate of the human habitability time window may be grossly optimistic. In all likelihood, a nearby supernova eruption, a climatic perturbation, a social or environmental upheaval, or the genetic accumulation of negative mutations will doom the species to extinction sometime sooner than twenty thousand years from now.
    http://christiangodblog.blogsp.....chive.html

    To solidify the fact that man is not just some flotsam that random chance does not, and cannot, care about, Dr Michael Denton recently released this paper which shows that the chemistry of the universe is especially ‘fit specifically for warm-blooded, air-breathing organisms such as ourselves’

    The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis – Michael J. Denton – February 25, 2013
    Summary (page 11)
    Many of the properties of the key members of Henderson’s vital ensemble —water, oxygen, CO2, HCO3 —are in several instances fit specifically for warm-blooded, air-breathing organisms such as ourselves. These include the thermal properties of water, its low viscosity, the gaseous nature of oxygen and CO2 at ambient temperatures, the inertness of oxygen at ambient temperatures, and the bicarbonate buffer, with its anomalous pKa value and the elegant means of acid-base regulation it provides for air-breathing organisms. Some of their properties are irrelevant to other classes of organisms or even maladaptive.
    It is very hard to believe there could be a similar suite of fitness for advanced carbon-based life forms. If carbon-based life is all there is, as seems likely, then the design of any active complex terrestrial being would have to closely resemble our own. Indeed the suite of properties of water, oxygen, and CO2 together impose such severe constraints on the design and functioning of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems that their design, even down to the details of capillary and alveolar structure can be inferred from first principles. For complex beings of high metabolic rate, the designs actualized in complex Terran forms are all that can be. There are no alternative physiological designs in the domain of carbon-based life that can achieve the high metabolic activity manifest in man and other higher organisms.
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2013.1

    And before the paper by Dr. Denton, the ‘Privileged Planet Principle’ was worked out by Ross, Gonzalez and others:

    Linked from Appendix C from Dr. Ross’s book, ‘Why the Universe Is the Way It Is’;
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters ? 10^-1333
    dependency factors estimate ? 10^324
    longevity requirements estimate ? 10^45
    Probability for occurrence of all 816 parameters ? 10^-1054
    Maximum possible number of life support bodies in observable universe ? 10^22

    Thus, less than 1 chance in 10^1032 exists that even one such life-support body would occur anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles.
    http://www.reasons.org/files/c....._part3.pdf

    Hugh Ross – Evidence For Intelligent Design Is Everywhere (10^-1054) – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4347236

    The Privileged Planet – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnWyPIzTOTw

    Privileged Planet – Observability Correlation – Gonzalez and Richards – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5424431

    The very conditions that make Earth hospitable to intelligent life also make it well suited to viewing and analyzing the universe as a whole.
    – Jay Richards

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, although man on the earth may not be at the center of the of the solar system, the earth seems to demonstrate centrality in the universe in this video Dr. William Dembski posted a while back on this blog;

    The Known Universe – Dec. 2009 – a very cool video (please note the seeming centrality of the earth in the universe)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U

    Moreover, there is very good reason to believe that the centrality of the earth in the universe is not sufficiently explained by the 4-D space-time of General Relativity, but that each human (even each conscious being), because of the centrality of conscious observation in quantum mechanics, is ‘central’ in the universe:

    Centrality of Each Individual Observer In The Universe and Christ’s Very Credible Reconciliation Of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/17SDgYPHPcrl1XX39EXhaQzk7M0zmANKdYIetpZ-WB5Y/edit?hl=en_US

    verse:

    Psalm 33:13-15
    The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

    As to the fact that man is not at the center of the solar system:

    The Galileo Affair and the true “Center of the Universe”
    Excerpt: As to the fact that, as far as the solar system itself is concerned, the earth is not ‘central’, I find the fact that this seemingly insignificant earth is found to revolve around the much more massive sun to be a very fitting ‘poetic reflection’ of our true spiritual condition. Please reflect on this for a moment, in regards to God’s ‘kingdom of light’, are we not to keep in mind our lives are to be centered on the much higher purpose which is tied to our future in God’s kingdom of light? Are we not to avoid placing too much emphasis on what this world has to offer, since it is so much more insignificant than what heaven has to offer?

    Matthew 16:26
    And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

    Here is a quote from evangelist Louie Giglio which I think captures this ‘poetic reflection’ of our true spiritual condition

    You could fit 262 trillion earths inside (the star of) Betelgeuse. If the Earth were a golfball that would be enough to fill up the Superdome (football stadium) with golfballs,,, 3000 times!!! When I heard that as a teenager that stumped me right there because most of my praying had been advising God, correcting God, suggesting things to God, drawing diagrams for God, reviewing things with God, counseling God. – Louie Giglio [16]

    Thus, as is extremely fitting from the basic Christian view of reality, the centrality of the world in the universe, comparatively speaking, is found to be rather negligible, save for ‘the privileged planet’ principle which reflects God’s craftsmanship, whereas the centrality of each individual ‘conscious soul’ in the universe is found to be primary,,,

    ,,,”Is anything worth more than your soul?”
    Matthew 16:26

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BHAcvrc913SgnPcDohwkPnN4kMJ9EDX-JJSkjc4AXmA/edit

    Verse and Music:

    Isaiah 45:18-19
    For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘seek me in vain’; I, the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.”

    Carrie Underwood with Vince Gill How Great thou Art – Standing Ovation!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLLMzr3PFgk

  4. 4
    tjguy says:

    The Bible says the earth was created on day 1(Gen. 1:1-3)while the sun, moon, and stars were created on day 4.

    “And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons,[f] and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.”

    And, in Is. 45:18, we see that earth is very special to God.

    For thus says the Lord,who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the Lord, and there is no other.

    The Bible is clear that the earth is special as well as each person.

    Like the above posters pointed out, the Copernican Principle, which says the opposite, “is not an observation of science, but a presupposition, driven by a desire for Earth and mankind not to be special.”

    There is no evidence to support it. It is simply assumed. This is because if Earth is in a privileged position, the probability of this happening by chance, in a naturalistic origin, would be so low that it would be much more reasonable to believe in divine creation(and all the unwanted baggage that comes with that like moral accountability, etc.)

    For evidence to support the Bible’s teaching that the earth and man are special, here is a good article to check out:

    “Our galaxy is the centre of the universe, ‘quantized’ redshifts show”

    http://creation.com/our-galaxy.....hifts-show

  5. 5
    Mung says:

    The Bible says the earth was created on day 1

    No it doesn’t.

    Or something is wrong with the search software I am using.

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