THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
On more than one occasion, evolutionary scientists, while diligently struggling
to banish God from His own Universe, have inadvertently accomplished exactly
the opposite, and in so doing, have come face-to-face with evidence so powerful,
and so astonishing, that it enshrines Him all the more as Creator. However, rather than
simply admitting that their findings confirm both a creation and a Creator,
they have gone to great lengths to ?explain away? the data, or their implications,
so that evolution can persist as the most popular explanation for origins. The
literature provides multiple instances of this kind of thinking.
For example, Stephen Hawking, in his book, A Brief History of Time, observed:
?The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do
not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying
order, which may or may not be divinely inspired? (1988, p. 122). But, after
acknowledging the ?underlying order? in nature, Dr. Hawking quickly dispensed
with it, and throughout his book extolled the rich virtues of evolution as ?the
way it happened.? Paul Davies, the eminent British physicist, has written a
book in which the beauty, structure, and extreme complexity of both the Universe
and the Earth are examined in depth. Yet Dr. Davies says we exist because of
?apparent numerical accidents? and ?many more apparent accidents of fortune? (1982,
p. 111). Not surprisingly, then, do we discover that he titled his book The
Accidental Universe. In that volume, we find this amazing statement:
Many of the rather basic features of the Universe are determined in essence
by the values that are assigned to the fundamental constants of nature,…and
these features would be drastically altered if the constants assumed even moderately
different values. It is clear that for nature to produce a cosmos even remotely resembling
our own, many apparently unconnected branches of physics have to cooperate to
a remarkable degree (1982, p. 111).
John Gribbin, the renowned evolutionary cosmologist, has voiced his belief that
?our form of life depends, in delicate and subtle ways, on several apparent
?coincidences? in the fundamental laws of nature which make the Universe tick.
Without those coincidences, we would not be here to puzzle over the problem of
their existence…. What does this mean? One possibility is that the Universe
we know is a highly improbable accident, ?just one of those things? ? (1981,
pp. 307,309). In the May, 1983 issue of Science Digest, Dr. Gribbin penned an article
that discussed in clear terms the design which is apparent in every aspect of
the creation. The article concentrated specifically on the Earth, noting how
it had exactly the right distance from the Sun, exactly the right distance from
the Moon, exactly the right tilt, exactly the right mass, exactly the right
atmosphere, and so on. Ironically, the article was titled ?Earth?s Lucky Break?
THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE
Perennially, evolutionists have busied themselves with avoiding the obvious
design in nature, and the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from such design:
there must be a designer. Realizing that design demands a designer, they have
spent considerable time and effort attempting to ignore, explain away, or otherwise
weaken the implications of the data. Valiant attempts have been made to give
their distorted views respectability. Various ?principles? of science have been
elucidated to confer such respectability. For example, there is the Copernican Principle,
which holds that no part of the Universe is more privileged than any other part.
The Principle of Mediocrity holds that life on Earth is nothing special and
that because of this, the galaxies are likely filled with other civilizations.
The Perfect Cosmological Principle states that the Universe should be identical
at all times. And so on.
?It is, then, astonishing indeed to learn of the naming and development of one
of the newest principle in science?the Anthropic Principle. As its name (from
the Greek anthropos, meaning ?man?) implies, this principle hinges on man?s
part in the existence of the Universe. To quote Gribbin: ?The ?Anthropic Principle?
says that our Universe seems to be tailor-made for us because people like us
can only evolve in this kind of Universe? (1981, p. 309).
?Did Dr. Gribbin say ?tailor-made?? Yes, and Robert Jastrow, founder and former
director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, explained why:
?Thus, according to the physicist and the astronomer, it appears that the Universe
was constructed within very narrow limits, in such a way that man could dwell
in it. This result is called the anthropic principle. It is the most theistic
result ever to come out of science, in my view…. I really do not know what
to make of this result?the Anthropic Principle (1984, pp. 21,22, emp. in orig.).
Dr. Jastrow hardly is alone in his consternation over these latest findings
in science. The obvious implications of a ?tailor-made? Universe have not escaped
many of his colleagues. Freeman Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study at
Princeton commented: ?As we look out into the Universe and identify the many accidents
of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost
seems as if the Universe must in some sense have known we were coming? (1971,
p. 50). Sir Fred Hoyle of Great Britain has stronger feelings on the matter. In
speaking of the precise requirements needed in nature to synthesize the proper
carbon and hydrogen atoms necessary to life, Dr. Hoyle observed:
?If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar
nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing
would have to be just about where these levels are actually found to be….
A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has
monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are
no blind forces worth speaking about in nature (1954, p. 121).
Paul Davies also is troubled over these events.
?A clear inspection shows that the Earth is endowed with still more amazing
?conveniences.? Without the layer of ozone above the atmosphere, deadly ultraviolet
radiation from the sun would destroy us, and in the absence of a magnetic field,
cosmic subatomic particles would deluge the Earth?s surface. Considering that the
Universe is full of violence and cataclysms, our own little corner of the cosmos
enjoys a benign tranquility. To those who believe that God made the world for
mankind, it must seem that all these conditions are in no way a random or haphazard
arrangement of circumstances, but reflect a carefully prepared environment in
which humans can live comfortably, a pre-ordained ecosystem into which life
slots naturally and inevitably?a tailor-made world (1980, p. 143).
What is the origin of this novel and controversial position? While the words
?anthropic principle? are not new, their use in this respect is. They were first
applied to these matters by Brandon Carter in 1974 in a lecture to the International
Astronomical Union. Dr. Carter, then at Cambridge and now at the Paris Observatory, published
his comments in an article titled ?Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic
Principle in Cosmology.? In his lecture, Dr. Carter observed: ?What we can expect
to observe must be restricted by the conditions n
ecessary for our presence as observers?
(1974, p. 291). In other words, the conditions that we observe in the Universe
must include those necessary to give rise to intelligent life, or else we would
not be here to observe them.
?Stephen Hawking paraphrased Carter?s point like this: ?We see the Universe
the way it is because we exist.? He elaborates as follows: ?The idea is that
there are certain conditions which are necessary for the development of intelligent
life: out of all conceivable universes, only in those in which these conditions
occur will there be beings to observe the Universe. Thus our existence requires
the Universe to have certain properties…? (1974, pp. 285-286). In his lecture,
and subsequent scientific articles, Dr. Carter set forth what he called the Weak
Anthropic Principle, as opposed to what he called the Strong Anthropic Principle.
Here is the difference.
?The Weak Anthropic Principle
Carter said that there was a ?biological selection effect? in operation. These
were his words, but the idea for them, and thus the idea for the Weak Anthropic
Principle (which is based on the concept of ?biological selection?) actually
were presented thirteen years earlier in a paper in Nature by Robert Dicke (1961,
192:440). Here, using Dicke?s illustration, is how the Weak Anthropic Principle
would work. Dicke (as an evolutionist) was attempting to answer the question,
?Why do we observe the Universe to be approximately 10 billion years old?? One response,
of course (from a strictly evolutionary viewpoint) might be that it is merely
a coincidence that we see a Universe that is 10 billion years old. Tony Rothman,
writing in the popular science magazine Discover, explained how this problem was
?But Dicke reasoned that the Universe must be at least old enough to have generated
elements as heavy as carbon because ?it is well known that carbon is required
to make physicists??at least physicists as we know them.
Carbon, as it happens, was not created in the Big Bang. Rather it was first
synthesized in the earliest stars, and then scattered through space when the
stars exploded in supernova, a process that continues today. The cooking time
for carbon depends on the mass of a star, but averages a billion years or so.
Thus, said Dicke, it would be impossible to observe a Universe younger than
the shortest-lived stars, because the very elements we?re composed of wouldn?t
exist. On the other hand, if the Universe were much older than it is, most stars
would already have collapsed into white dwarfs, neutron stars, or black holes,
rendering our type of life impossible for many reasons. Dicke concluded that
the fact that we see the Universe to be about ten billion years old is no accident
but a necessary result of the biological selection effect. The Universe?s observed
age, he said, ?is limited by the criteria for the existence of physicists? (1987,
This is an example of the weak anthropic principle, and is a good illustration
of what Carter meant when he said, ?What we can expect to observe must be restricted
by the conditions necessary for our presence as observers.? The observed values
of physical quantities are restricted by the requirement that they be compatible with
the development of Homo sapiens.
Stephen Hawking, in his book, A Brief History of Time, provided a simple explanation
of what this means:
?The weak anthropic principle states that in a Universe that is large or infinite
in space and/or time, the conditions necessary for the development of intelligent
life will be met only in certain regions that are limited in space and time.
The intelligent beings in these regions should therefore not be surprised if they observe
that their locality in the Universe satisfies the conditions that are necessary
for their existence. It is a bit like a rich person living in a wealthy neighborhood
not seeing any poverty (1988, p. 124).
And, said Dr. Hawking, ?Few people would quarrel with the validity or utility
of the weak anthropic principle? (1988, p. 124).
?Of course, creationists would agree, but for different reasons. We accept the
fact that the Universe is intricately designed so that it supports life as we
know it. We accept the fact that if this were not the case, we wouldn?t be here
to observe it (for how, pray tell, could we exist in a Universe that would not
support our existence?). We accept Dr. Dyson?s conclusion that the Universe
looks as if it ?knew we were coming.? We accept Dr. Hoyle?s assessment that
a superintellect has ?monkeyed with? the physics, chemistry, and biology of the
Universe, and that ?there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.?
We even would gladly accept Dr. Davies? suggestion that our Universe appears
to be ?tailor-made.? And we concur with all these statements because: (a) The scientific
evidence is in agreement with them; and (b) We know the Tailor!
The Strong Anthropic Principle
What, then, is the Strong Anthropic Principle? Carter stated it as follows:
?The Universe must be such as to admit the creation of observers within it at
some stage.? Most scientists interpret this strong version of the Anthropic
Principle to mean that the Universe must be nearly as we know it, or life could
not exist. Conversely, if life did not exist, neither, then, would the Universe.
?But some scientists, while passively content to accept the Weak Anthropic Principle,
are visibly upset over the implications of the strong version. There is good
reason for their discomfiture. Paul Davies explained why.
?Now clearly the strong anthropic principle is founded on a quite different
philosophical basis from the weak principle. Indeed, it represents a radical
departure from the conventional concept of scientific explanation. In essence,
it claims that the Universe is tailor-made for habitation, and that both the laws
of physics and the initial conditions obligingly arrange themselves in such
a way that living organisms are subsequently assured of existence. In this respect
the strong anthropic principle is akin to the traditional religious explanation
of the world: that God made the world for mankind to inhabit (1982, pp. 120-121).
Astronomers, physicists, astrophysicists, biologists, and many others of an
evolutionary bent have seen the serious implications of the Strong Anthropic
Principle. Dr. Hawking thus observed:
?The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers,
like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses
of the proton and the electron. We cannot, at the moment at least, predict the
values of these numbers from theory?we have to find them by observation. It may
be that one day we shall discover a complete unified theory that predicts them
all, but it is also possible that some or all of them vary from Universe to
Universe or within a single Universe. The remarkable fact is that the values of
these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development
of life. For example if the electric charge of the electron had been only slightly
different, stars either would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium, or
else they would not have exploded. Of course, there might be other forms of
intelligent life, not dreamed of even by writers of science fiction, that did
not require the light of a star like the Sun or the heavier chemical elements that
are made in stars an
d are flung back into space when the stars explode. Nevertheless,
it seems clear that there are relatively few ranges of values for the numbers
that would allow the development of any form of intelligent life. Most sets
of values would give rise to Universes that, although they might be very beautiful,
would contain no one able to wonder at that beauty. One can take this either
as evidence of a divine purpose in Creation and the choice of the laws of science
or as support for the strong anthropic principle (1988, p. 125, emp. added).
Dr. Davies similarly stated: ?If we believe in only one Universe then the remarkable
uniform arrangement of cosmic matter, and the consequent coolness of space,
are almost miraculous, a conclusion which strongly resembles the traditional
religious concept of a world which was purpose-built by God for subsequent habitation
by mankind? (1980, p. 162). Dr. Rothman was quite blunt in his remarks about
where acceptance of the Strong Anthropic Principle will lead.
?It?s not a big step from the SAP to the Argument from Design. You know the
Argument from Design: it says that the Universe was made very precisely, and
were it ever so slightly different, man wouldn?t be here. Therefore, Someone
must have made it.
Even as I write these words my pen balks, because as a twentieth century physicist
I know that the last step is a leap of faith, not a logical conclusion.
When confronted with the order and beauty of the Universe and the strange coincidences
of nature, it?s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion.
I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it (1987, p.
Realizing the obvious implications of the scientific evidence supporting both
the weak and strong versions of the Anthropic Principle, many evolutionary scientists
have rebelled at even the mere mention of it in the halls of science. Yet, in
their more candid moments, even these evolutionists are hard pressed to avoid
the clear implications of their findings. Listen to Dr. Hawking?s admission
on this very topic.
?In the hot big bang model described above, there was not enough time in the
early Universe for heat to have flowed from one region to another. This means
that the initial state of the Universe would have to have had exactly the same
temperature everywhere in order to account for the fact that the microwave background
has the same temperature in every direction we look. The initial rate of expansion
also would have had to be chosen very precisely for the rate of expansion still
to be so close to the critical rate needed to avoid recollapse. This means that the
initial state of the Universe must have been very carefully chosen indeed if
the hot big bang model was correct right back to the beginning of time. It would
be very difficult to explain why the Universe should have begun in just this way,
except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us (1988, pp.
126-127, emp. added).
Little wonder, then, that Dr. Jastrow referred to the Anthropic Principle as
?the most theistic result ever to come out of science.? And, it hardly is surprising
to hear Dr. Davies state: ?Many people of a religious persuasion will no doubt
find support from these ideas for the belief that the Creator did not aim the cosmic
pin at random, but did so with finely computed precision, with the express purpose
of selecting a Universe that would be suitable for habitation? (1982, p. 123).
That is exactly what the creationists have said all along! It is comforting to
see that certain evolutionary scientists finally understand why.
Carter, Brandon (1974), ?Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle
in Cosmology,? Confrontation of Cosmological Theories with Observational Data,
ed. M.S. Longair (Dordrecht, Holland: Reidel).
?Davies, Paul (1980), Other Worlds (New York: Simon & Schuster).
?Davies, Paul (1982), The Accidental Universe (Cambridge: Cambridge University
?Dyson, Freeman (1971), Scientific American, September.
?Gribbin, John (1981), Genesis: The Origins of Man and the Universe (New York:
?Gribbin, John (1983), ?Earth?s Lucky Break,? Science Digest, 91:36,37,40,102,
?Hawking, Stephen (1974), ?The Anisotropy of the Universe at Large Times,? Confrontation
of Cosmological Theories with Observational Data, ed. M.S. Longair (Dordrecht,
?Hawking, Stephen (1988), A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam).
?Hoyle, Fred (1954), in Astrophysics Journal Supplement, Vol. I; see also Hoyle,
Fred (1964), Galaxies, Nuclei and Quasars (New York: Harper & Row).
?Jastrow, Robert (1984), ?The Astronomer and God,? The Intellectuals Speak Out
About God,? ed. Abraham Varghese (New York: Regnery Gateway).
?Rothman, Tony (1987), ?A ?What You See Is What You Beget? Theory,? Discover,
?[AUTHOR?S NOTE: Probably the most definitive book yet written on the subject
of the Anthropic Principle is the 706-page volume, The Anthropic Cosmological
Principle, co-authored by John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler (1986, Oxford University
Press). Those interested in additional information on this topic may wish to examine
this book for further insight.]
?Originally published in Reason & Revelation, December 1990, 10:49-52. Copyright
? 1990 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
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