Overheard: Fine-tuning annoys us; we must show it isn’t true. So we have tried three strategies: Denial, nonsense, and the Copernican Principle, which was by far the best.
So shove off, Kopernik. We are using your name, because it sells, not your ideas.
A third, far more effective, response has been to develop the “Copernican” Principle (though Copernicus would have rejected it), sometimes called the Principle of Mediocrity: Scientists must assume—as a principle—that our planet is mediocre. At present, there is no way of knowing if that is true. It is a guiding assertion.
Media star astronomer Carl Sagan (1934-1996) dramatized the Principle in Pale Blue Dot:
You might imagine an uncharitable extraterrestrial observer looking down on our species over all that time — with us excitedly chattering, “The Universe is created for us! We’re at the center! Everything pays homage to us!” — and concluding that our pretensions are amusing, our aspirations pathetic, that this must be the planet of the idiots. (p. 12)
People don’t want to be thought idiots. The Principle sold. As a BBC writer riffs, “Far from being unique, many now regard Earth as an ordinary lump of space rock and believe that life ‘out there’ is almost inevitable.”
But mark what follows: More