The Anthropic Cosmological Principle

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Borb. Calculating what the value of our Universe's vacuum energy -- the energy inherent to empty space itself -- should be from quantum field theory gives an absurd value that's far too high. The energy of empty space determines how quickly the Universe's expansion rate grows or its contraction rate grows, if it's negative ; if it were too high, we never could have formed life, planets, stars or even molecules and atoms themselves. The anthropic principle guided us where our calculational power had failed.

The Anthropic Cosmological Principle

Vizualization of a quantum field theory calculation showing virtual particles in the quantum vacuum. Image credit: Derek Leinweber. Yet the original two surprisingly simple statements, the Weak and Strong Anthropic Principles, have been misinterpreted so thoroughly that now they're routinely used to justify illogical, non-scientific statements. People claim that the anthropic principle supports a multiverse; that the anthropic principle provides evidence for the string landscape; that the anthropic principle requires we have a large gas giant to protect us from asteroids; that the anthropic principle explains why we're located at the distance we are from the galactic center.

In other words, people use the anthropic principle to argue that the Universe must be exactly as it is because we exist the way we do.

Learning Physics_The Cosmological Principle

And that's not only untrue, it's not even what the anthropic principle says. Our Universe, from the hot Big Bang until the present day, underwent a huge amount of growth and evolution, and continues to do so.

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But the creation of Earth and humanity wasn't a predestined, necessary outcome. The anthropic principle simply says that we, observers, exist.

And that we exist in this Universe, and therefore the Universe exists in a way that it allows observers to come into existence. It doesn't mean our existence is mandatory. And it doesn't mean the Universe must have given rise to us exactly as we are. So how did we wind up here?


The string landscape might be an interesting idea, but it doesn't explain why the value of our Universe's vacuum energy is what it is in any meaningful way. They stated:. The existence of complex, carbon-based molecules in star forming regions is interesting, but isn't anthropically demanded. Pyle; Spitzer Space Telescope. So instead of "our existence as observers means that the laws of the Universe must be such that the existence of observers is possible," we get "the Universe must allow carbon-based, intelligent life and that Universes were life doesn't develop within it are disallowed. If that last one sounds a lot like a bad interpretation of the multiverse, it's because all of Barrow and Tipler's scenarios are based on bad interpretations of a self-evident principle!

The concluding chapter is about the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligent life. It isargued that there probably exists within our own Milky Way galaxy no other intelligent lifewith the capability of interstellar communication.

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For example, the universe must be sufficiently old for our life form to have developed. The authors argue that the WAP therefore is neither solipsistic or hubristic.

The delicately balanced relations between the fundamental physical constants seem to determine very narrowly the possibilityof our existence. Therefore the anthropic axiom, as it were, at its simplest, is that human beingscannot conceivablyobserve a universe with properties that do not permit our existence. Ironically,asthehuman racefiguratively was progressively displaced from the center of the universe through the advancement of scientific thought successivelyfrom Copernican to Newtonian, and then to Darwinian,perspectives and more recently to quantum interpretations of the world , increasingly it became more acutely recognized not only how sensitively balanced in the cosmos was human existence but possibly how significant it was.

The anthropic perspective appears to be part of the current zeitgeist. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide.

Teleological cosmology: the anthropic cosmological principle.

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go site Institutional Login. LOG IN. Barrow, Frank J. Tipler review James A.