Saturday, 10 April 2010

Anthropic Principle

People get exercised by the antrhopic principle (weak or strong): 'it turns out that this [dark] energy would have to be "tuned" to about one part in 10-to-the-120th. That is a very substantial number, to say the least, way higher than the number of atoms in the visible universe. In a recent issue of the magazine Discover, the robust atheist and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg described this as "the one fine-tuning that seems to be extreme, far beyond what you could imagine just having to accept as a mere accident."' [Mark Vernon 'Incredible Views', TLS April 2 2010]
It's the size of the numbers that fools us, but only because we're so familiar with small numbers that large ones are wreathed about with sublime mystery. But it's a failing of perspective, rather than anything integral: like somebody who's lived all their life in a living room finally being shown the whole expanse of Hull ... 'but Hull is much too big to be human! It must be evidence of divine power!'

My take on the 'anthropic' angle is to wonder why we don't apply it to other situations. Given that there are 6 billion humans alive, and more than that number who have lived and died, isn't it a vanishingly small co-oincidence that I happen to be me, rather than one of the other 15 billion? Impossible to believe! Yet here I am. I type a number at random:
12.37 x 10-to-the-12093851285601987347012th
But given the infinite number of possibilities open to me, isn't a vanishingly small co-oincidence that I happen to have typed precisely that one? Nevertheless, the explanation for the appearance of that number is me, not God.

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