Saturday, May 10, 2003

Steven den Beste discusses the anthropic principle, and responds with an argument that I've seen in many other places:
Why are the relative strengths of the natural laws tuned to make star formation, and planetary formation, and life formation possible? Is it the result of intelligent design? It doesn't have to be. The thing to point out is that if they were not properly tuned, there'd be no intelligent life in the universe to even ask the question.

Is intelligence itself so improbable that the only explanation for its formation is supernatural intervention? It's not clear that it is all that improbable; we're not in a position to know that yet. But even assuming that it is improbable, even long shot bets can pay off. But if the odds against natural development of intelligence, without supernatural intervention, were fantastically long, then if it hadn't actually happened in this universe there would be no intelligent beings worrying about the problem.
Den Beste's response is, in the most precise meaning of the phrase, begging the question. If the question is why the universe is so fine-tuned for life, when there are so many plausible alternative universes in which life would have been impossible, it is simply not responsive to say, "If our universe weren't inhabitable, we wouldn't be here to ask the question." Yes, indeed, we wouldn't be here -- and that is precisely the thing for which the anthropic argument is asking an explanation.


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