Fine tuning Intelligent Design Naturalism

Uses and misuses of the Anthropic Principle

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This image represents the evolution of the Universe, starting with the Big Bang. The red arrow marks the flow of time.
Big Bang/NASA

Roughly, the Anthropic Principle means that any qualities we attribute to the universe must be consistent with the facts of our existence. Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel offers some examples of how the Principle has been fruitfully used but cautions,

Unfortunately, the Anthropic Principle has been grossly misinterpreted, and is often misapplied. Claims are common in the scientific literature today that the Anthropic Principle:

– supports a multiverse,

– provides evidence for the string landscape,

– demands that we have a large gas giant to protect us from asteroids,

– and explains why we’re located at the distance we are from the galactic center.

In other words, people argue that the Universe must be exactly as it is because we exist the way we do in this Universe, which exists with its presently observed properties.Ethan Siegel, “The Anthropic Principle Is What Scientists Use When They’ve Given Up On Science” at Forbes

He goes on to say that universes with quite different properties might have produced observers too. Maybe so but that’s science fiction.

He is surely mistaken in thinking that the Anthropic Principle motivates people to believe in a multiverse or a string landscape. Such beliefs exist comfortably without evidence; the evidence points to a coherently designed universe.

Theories multiply because the facts favor fine-tuning of the universe.

Any abyss will seem preferable to many theorists and many have been proposed. To the extent that evidence rears its ugly head, it sometimes triggers private wars on falsifiability as well. A fully naturalist universe will be one in which no one does or can do science.

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See also: Ethan Siegel tackles fine-tuning at Forbes

How naturalism rots science from the head down


What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?

5 Replies to “Uses and misuses of the Anthropic Principle

  1. 1
    vmahuna says:

    “- demands that we have a large gas giant to protect us from asteroids,

    – and explains why we’re located at the distance we are from the galactic center. ”
    Well, YES. Any competent cosmologist knows THAT. The universe is FILLED with stuff apparently designed to KILL Life, and this includes large numbers of random and quite deadly asteroids and the DENSE concentration of LETHAL radiation near the centers of galaxies. We’re talking radiation severe enough to STERILIZE any planet unfortunate enough to form there.
    There is a similar problem with being too far out or located in a zone that encourages the creation of novas: the radiation blast is also Sterilizing, and any planet within a hundred light years or so will simply be wiped clean.
    And there is the problem that ALL 1st and 2nd Generation Galaxies lack, and will NEVER acquire, any of the “heavy” elements. We’re talking carbon and iron, not Einsteinium. And ALL of the new galaxies (5th and 6th generation) have TOO MANY heavy, radioactive elements. So the planets themselves kill all Life just from their rocks.
    Factoid: if the amount of Thorium in Earth’s crust was only SLIGHTLY higher, the heat from radioactive decomposition would MELT the crust. (Talk about yer “Global Warming”)
    So Earth is a RARE planet, in every way we can imagine. And there is the very good chance that Luna, our moon, was built and installed not only as a final shield against meteors, but as a Remarkable Thing for humans to stare at and Wonder. There is simply nothing like Luna anywhere else in the Solar System. Among other things ONLY Luna produces the spectacular Total Eclipse of Sol (which requires EXACTLY the right diameter at EXACTLY the right orbital radius). And so manpacks of Humans can stand together and Wonder about the Cosmos.

  2. 2

    Actually, the first scientist I know who used the Anthropic principle was atheist, Sir Fred Hoyle. He observed that carbon is only made in stars. And stars are burning hydrogen, so they need some way to make carbon that might actually be found in large quantities. He proposed that C-12 had a resonance that allowed He + He -> 8Be, and then 8Be + He –> 12C. The resonance in 12C would then permit the last He to “stick”. He pestered William Fowler to measure it, and finally after 3 years he measured it, and Fowler (not Hoyle) got the Nobel prize. When Hoyle was asked why he was so sure it was there, he replied that it had to be there or we wouldn’t be here. I read a quote where Hoyle said this discovery was the best evidence he had for believing in God.

  3. 3
    Axel says:

    ‘Theories multiply because the facts favor fine-tuning of the universe.’
    A hilarious, wonderful non sequitur, expressed as a madman’s sequitur ! Can’t beat that kind of ‘faux innocent’ irony. Once again, the atheists seem fated to have to wait for a Christian paradigm-shifter, before they can make their necessarily plagiaristic contributions, as the drudges of science. Evidently, by their own choosing, they are denied access to sound metaphysical conjecturing.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Vmahuna at 1, beautifully put. If I may add to what you stated here,,,

    ,,, there is the very good chance that Luna, our moon, was built and installed not only as a final shield against meteors, but as a Remarkable Thing for humans to stare at and Wonder. There is simply nothing like Luna anywhere else in the Solar System. Among other things ONLY Luna produces the spectacular Total Eclipse of Sol (which requires EXACTLY the right diameter at EXACTLY the right orbital radius). And so manpacks of Humans can stand together and Wonder about the Cosmos.

    Indeed, ‘perfect solar eclipses’ were one of the main motivations behind Guillermo Gonzalez working out the details behind the privileged planet principle.

    The Privileged Planet – The Correlation Of Habitability and Observability
    “The same narrow circumstances that allow us to exist also provide us with the best over all conditions for making scientific discoveries.”
    “The one place that has observers is the one place that also has perfect solar eclipses.”
    “There is a final, even more bizarre twist. Because of Moon-induced tides, the Moon is gradually receding from Earth at 3.82 centimeters per year. In ten million years will seem noticeably smaller. At the same time, the Sun’s apparent girth has been swelling by six centimeters per year for ages, as is normal in stellar evolution. These two processes, working together, should end total solar eclipses in about 250 million years, a mere 5 percent of the age of the Earth. This relatively small window of opportunity also happens to coincide with the existence of intelligent life. Put another way, the most habitable place in the Solar System yields the best view of solar eclipses just when observers can best appreciate them.”
    – Guillermo Gonzalez – Astronomer – per Privileged Planet the book

    The ‘privileged planet principle is, simply stated, as such:

    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 – Privileged Planet

    A more in depth explanation of the ‘privileged planet principle’ is available in the following video:

    The Privileged Planet – video

    Robin Collins, building off the work of Gonzalez, predicted and confirmed that the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) is such “as to maximize the intensity of the CMB as observed by typical observers.”

    The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability – Robin Collins – March 22, 2014
    The most dramatic confirmation of the discoverability/livability optimality thesis (DLO) is the dependence of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) on the baryon to photon ratio.,,,
    …the intensity of CMB depends on the photon to baryon ratio, (??b), which is the ratio of the average number of photons per unit volume of space to the average number of baryons (protons plus neutrons) per unit volume. At present this ratio is approximately a billion to one (10^9) , but it could be anywhere from one to infinity; it traces back to the degree of asymmetry in matter and anti – matter right after the beginning of the universe – for approximately every billion particles of antimatter, there was a billion and one particles of matter.,,,
    The only livability effect this ratio has is on whether or not galaxies can form that have near – optimally livability zones. As long as this condition is met, the value of this ratio has no further effects on livability. Hence, the DLO predicts that within this range, the value of this ratio will be such as to maximize the intensity of the CMB as observed by typical observers.
    According to my calculations – which have been verified by three other physicists — to within the margin of error of the experimentally determined parameters (~20%), the value of the photon to baryon ratio is such that it maximizes the CMB. This is shown in Figure 1 below. (pg. 13)
    It is easy to see that this prediction could have been disconfirmed. In fact, when I first made the calculations in the fall of 2011, I made a mistake and thought I had refuted this thesis since those calculations showed the intensity of the CMB maximizes at a value different than the photon – baryon ratio in our universe. So, not only does the DLO lead us to expect this ratio, but it provides an ultimate explanation for why it has this value,,, This is a case of a teleological thesis serving both a predictive and an ultimate explanatory role.,,,

    Moreover, besides the CMB being such “as to maximize the intensity of the CMB as observed by typical observers”, we also, as Dr. Hugh Ross points out in the following video, “Live At The Right Time In Cosmic History to see the Cosmic Background Radiation”:

    We Live At The Right Time In Cosmic History to see the Cosmic Background Radiation – Hugh Ross – video (7:12 minute mark)

    Moreover, there are ‘anomalies’ in the Cosmic Background Radiation that strangely line up with the earth and solar system.

    What Is Evil About The Axis Of Evil? – February 17, 2015
    The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) Radiation contains small temperature fluctuations.
    When these temperature fluctuations are analyzed using image processing techniques (specifically spherical harmonics), they indicate a special direction in space, or, in a sense, an axis through the universe. This axis is correlated back to us, and causes many difficulties for the current big bang and standard cosmology theories. What has been discovered is shocking.
    Two scientists, Kate Land and João Magueijo, in a paper in 2005 describing the axis, dubbed it the “Axis of Evil” because of the damage it does to current theories, and (tongue in cheek) as a response to George Bush’ Axis of Evil speech regarding Iraq, Iran and, North Korea.
    (Youtube clip on site)
    In the above video, Max Tegmark describes in a simplified way how spherical harmonics analysis decomposes the small temperature fluctuations into more averaged and spatially arranged temperature components, known as multipoles.
    The “Axis of Evil” correlates to the earth’s ecliptic and equinoxes, and this represents a very unusual and unexpected special direction in space, a direct challenge to the Copernican Principle.

    At the 13:55 minute mark of this following video, Max Tegmark, an atheist who specializes in this area of study, finally admits, post Planck 2013, that the CMBR anomalies do indeed line up with the earth and solar system

    “Thoughtcrime: The Conspiracy to Stop The Principle” – video

    Moreover besides the earth and solar system lining up with the anomalies in the Cosmic Background Radiation, Radio Astronomy now reveals a surprising rotational coincidence for Earth in relation to the quasar and radio galaxy distributions in the universe:

    Is there a violation of the Copernican principle in radio sky? – Ashok K. Singal – May 17, 2013
    Abstract: Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) observations from the WMAP satellite have shown some unexpected anisotropies (directionally dependent observations), which surprisingly seem to be aligned with the eclipticcite {20,16,15}. The latest data from the Planck satellite have confirmed the presence of these anisotropiescite {17}. Here we report even larger anisotropies in the sky distributions of powerful extended quasars and some other sub-classes of radio galaxies in the 3CRR catalogue, one of the oldest and most intensively studies sample of strong radio sourcescite{21,22,3}. The anisotropies lie about a plane passing through the two equinoxes and the north celestial pole (NCP). We can rule out at a 99.995% confidence level the hypothesis that these asymmetries are merely due to statistical fluctuations. Further, even the distribution of observed radio sizes of quasars and radio galaxies show large systematic differences between these two sky regions. The redshift distribution appear to be very similar in both regions of sky for all sources, which rules out any local effects to be the cause of these anomalies. Two pertinent questions then arise. First, why should there be such large anisotropies present in the sky distribution of some of the most distant discrete sources implying inhomogeneities in the universe at very large scales (covering a fraction of the universe)? What is intriguing even further is why such anisotropies should lie about a great circle decided purely by the orientation of earth’s rotation axis and/or the axis of its revolution around the sun? It looks as if these axes have a preferential placement in the larger scheme of things, implying an apparent breakdown of the Copernican principle or its more generalization, cosmological principle, upon which all modern cosmological theories are based upon.

    What is interesting about these large scale structures of the universe, i.e. quasar and radio galaxy distributions in the universe, (i.e. distributions that reveal a “surprising rotational coincidence for Earth”), is that the tiny temperature variations (in the CMBR) correspond to the largest scale structures of the observable universe.

    How do we know the universe is flat? Discovering the topology of the universe – by Fraser Cain – June 7, 2017
    Excerpt: With the most sensitive space-based telescopes they have available, astronomers are able to detect tiny variations in the temperature of this background radiation.
    And here’s the part that blows my mind every time I think about it. These tiny temperature variations correspond to the largest scale structures of the observable universe. A region that was a fraction of a degree warmer become a vast galaxy cluster, hundreds of millions of light-years across.
    The cosmic microwave background radiation just gives and gives, and when it comes to figuring out the topology of the universe, it has the answer we need. If the universe was curved in any way, these temperature variations would appear distorted compared to the actual size that we see these structures today.
    But they’re not. To best of its ability, ESA’s Planck space telescope, can’t detect any distortion at all. The universe is flat.,,,
    Since the universe is flat now, it must have been flat in the past, when the universe was an incredibly dense singularity. And for it to maintain this level of flatness over 13.8 billion years of expansion, in kind of amazing.
    In fact, astronomers estimate that the universe must have been flat to 1 part within 1×10^57 parts.
    Which seems like an insane coincidence.

    Thus, contrary to the presumption of atheists, far from the temperature variations in the CMBR being a product of randomness as they presuppose, the temperature variations in the CMBR correspond to the ‘largest scale structures of the observable universe’ and these ‘largest scale structures of the observable universe’ reveal “a surprising rotational coincidence for Earth”. Moreover, we were only able to discover this correlation between the tiny temperature variation in the CMB and the largest scale structures in the universe via the ‘insane coincidence’ of the universe being fine-tuned to at least 1 in 10^57 flatness.

    Moreover, the way in which they were able to detect the anomalies in the CMBR, which ‘strangely’ line up with the earth and solar system, is that they ‘smeared’ and/or ‘averaged out’ the tiny temperature variations in the CMBR.

    Here is an excellent clip from the documentary “The Principle” that explains, in an easy to understand manner, how these ‘anomalies’ were found, via ‘averaging out’, in the tiny temperature variations in the CMBR data.

    Cosmic Microwave Background Proves Intelligent Design (disproves Copernican principle) (clip of “The Principle”) – video

    Thus, the “tiny temperature variations” in the CMBR, (from the large scale structures in the universe, to the earth and solar system themselves), reveal teleology, (i.e. a goal directed purpose, a plan), that specifically included the earth from the start. ,,, The earth, from what our best science can now tell us, is not some random cosmic fluke as atheists presuppose.

    Genesis 1:1
    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

    Of supplemental note, here are many more examples of the fine-tuning of light

    Fine tuning of Light, to Atmosphere, Water, Photosynthesis, and Human Vision (etc.) – video

  5. 5
    jstanley01 says:

    Bornagain77 @4
    It is humorous to me that the scientists who discovered the so-called Axis of Evil dubbed it as “evil.”

    It shouldn’t seem odd I suppose — we’re living almost 500 years after Copernicus after all. Maybe I’ve spent too many hours in church. But to be honest, I find it all but impossible to relate to the attitude that it is somehow evil to find out that our place in the cosmos, instead of being random and insignificant, is meaningful and self-evidently planned-for.

    In addition to the map of the universe putting the lie to the Copernican Principle, it seems to me that the more easily-perceived scale of the universe does the same thing.

    If humans appear insignificantly small when pondering how big the universe is, does that mean that humans appear significantly big when pondering how small its particulars are? Because, in fact, when looking at the entire scale of the cosmos – from a Planck length to the size of the whole – what sits smack-dab in the middle is the human egg. And even more strangely, the human egg also happens to be the size of the smallest objects that the unaided human eye can see.

    Considering the scale of the universe in which we live, to me, Sagan waxing poetic about the meaninglessness of earth and humanity when pondering “the pale blue dot” as viewed 4 billion miles away, sounds ridiculous.

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