Creationist Wisdom #89: Anthropic Principle

IN the Sun News, the largest daily paper serving Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, we find a letter-to-the-editor with this stunning headline: Scientists find evidence of design.

Wow! That’s hot news. We know you’ll want to hear about this.

We’ll excerpt some of today’s letter, adding some bold font for emphasis, and some Curmudgeonly commentary between the paragraphs. As usual, we’ll omit the writer’s name and city, Here we go:

In a piece in Scientific American, Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionist, concluded, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” Dawkins’ statement either reveals willful ignorance or he seems unaware of the scientific principle put forth in the United Kingdom that the universe has been precisely tuned for a purpose, and that purpose is life.

There was such a “scientific principle put forth” in the UK? Are we all bound by it? Is that how these things are done? Let’s read on:

Stephen Hawking, the United Kingdom’s brilliant physicist, ranked with Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, has a different take on the subject. Hawking said, “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of the Big Bang are enormous.”

We can’t find that exact quote anywhere, but Hawking has said similar things when discussing the Anthropic Principle. This seems to be the “scientific principle put forth” in the UK of which today’s letter-writer claims Dawkins is ignorant.

The Anthropic Principle is an interesting speculation, but as a scientific theory it’s a bit of a dead end, as it’s utterly untestable. Being a Curmudgeon, we’ve spoofed it: Intelligent Design: The Dung Beetle’s Tale.

Whenever the Anthropic Principle is mentioned, we find ourselves compelled to ask: How does one compute the odds against the universe? From where we sit, the odds favoring the universe seem to be 100%. Where is the evidence suggesting that the universe shouldn’t exist, or that its attributes should have been different from what they are?

We could go on with that, and we did last year in a series of posts about the “odds” against evolution, but let’s continue with today’s letter:

Michael Denton, senior research fellow in human molecular genetics, decided to investigate the possibility of extending the anthropic principle to the laws of biology, chemistry and physics here on Earth. Denton’s scientific research is detailed in his book, “Nature’s Destiny.”

Who is Michael Denton? He’s a former “Senior Fellow” among the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). Surprised? We’re not. Wikipedia informs us:

He no longer associates with Discovery, and the Institute no longer lists him as a fellow. Richard Dawkins writes that Denton is “beloved of creationists who conveniently overlook the fact that, in his second book Nature’s Destiny, he recanted his earlier anti-evolutionary stance, while remaining theistic.

Whatever Denton’s current views may be, Hawking has no problem whatsoever with evolution. See: Hawking is Steve #300. Somehow, Hawking seems unaffected by “the scientific principle put forth in the United Kingdom” that has so impressed today’s letter writer. He concludes his letter by saying:

Denton’s dramatic and powerful conclusion supports intelligent design, which of course implies a Designer as indicated in Genesis and the words of the psalmist. The psalmist, apparently aware of man’s special place in the universe, asked God: “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4)

So there’s your evidence, dear reader. The universe exists, and so do we. Therefore, Oogity Boogity!

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #89: Anthropic Principle

  1. Gabriel Hanna

    Denton’s dramatic and powerful conclusion supports intelligent design, which of course implies a Designer as indicated in Genesis and the words of the psalmist.

    And the Koran and Rig Veda, and every other religion that ever existed, pretty much.

    But if ONE religion is true, than any evidence in favor of ANY religion makes ALL the others less likely to be true.

    People should think before they write.

  2. Nope, you have no idea what the physics for the anthropic principle is, nor how to apply it:

    http://knol.google.com/k/richard-ryals/the-anthropic-principle/1cb34nnchgkl5/2#

  3. The Saskatchewan Roughriders were beaten with a last second field goal by the Montreal Alouettes winning the 97th Grey Cup.

  4. Gabriel Hanna

    @Ricky:

    If you win the lottery and get the money you needed for your mother’s lumbago operation, was that event built in to the structure of the universe?

    The anthropic principle isn’t any different. Our sample size of universes is 1. If the physical constants that we have are constrained by some undiscovered principle, then our universe is the only kind we should see. But if it’s not, we have no way to investigate what sorts of universes are really possible and what sorts are not.

    If you win the lottery, it doesn’t mean that the physical constants of the universe are so constrianed to necessarily produce that end, and it’s no different that carbon based life won the lottery.

  5. Tundra Boy says: “The Saskatchewan Roughriders were beaten with a last second field goal …”

    Still more proof of intelligent design!

  6. Just for you, Gabe, I restored Ricky’s comment.

  7. From the letter: “Denton’s scientific research is detailed in his book, ‘Nature’s Destiny’.”

    Wow, that’s a rare one! The writer is apparently unaware that it’s a no-no in the “big tent” to cite Denton’s later book. Everyone else who cited Denton after the publication of “Nature’s Destiny” (1998) – and I have read dozens – cites only his earlier, more creationism-friendly, “Evolution, a Theory in Crisis.”

    If all of those dozens of writers were simply unaware that Denton had retracted most of his earlier views, that would be one huge “anthropic” coincidence. Here’s one example where I prefer the “design” explanation (that most writers deliberately omitted the later book).

  8. Existence isn’t so special. We know that there are almost infinite configurations to how the universe could have turned out. As such the probability of existence approaches 1.