The Strong Anthropic Principle and the Final Anthropic Principle

The Strong and Final Anthropic Principles are probably the most controversial of the many versions of the Anthropic Principle. They have a ring of creationism, a philosophy that has been frowned on by science since Darwin’s day. Despite their borderline scientific status, they have been embraced by the religious among the scientific community, heralded as proof of God’s existence and of science’s final acknowledgment of the fact.

The SAP is based on the same “cosmic coincidences” as the far more mundane WAP. It cites the same inexplicable and unlikely chance occurrences that make it possible for life to exist in the Universe. Unlike the WAP, however, they attempt to explain why such improbable events occurred, rather than just state what improbable events must have occurred in the Universe to let us be here. They take a position not unlike Aristotle in his use of Final Causes to explain the why of things: the Universe’s end result was to produce us, so the various physical constants and other properties which are pivotal to our existence have to be such that they bring about our existence.

I don’t have to point out how egotistical that sounds. Looking only at that last sentence, the notion sounds ridiculous. However, those who subscribe to this theory have defended it valiantly. For one thing, the coincidences in the physical constants have yet to be truly explained, except by the SAP and theories like it. As I have said before, many of the conditions and properties in the Universe have precise values, and if these values were changed even very slightly, intelligent life would be completely impossible. And all of these far-fetched coincidences happened together. The Universe certainly seems to have been “made” with life in mind.

If you were to accept this argument, then the FAP would be the logical conclusion after the SAP, especially if you believe the Participatory Anthropic Principle as well. If the Universe is indeed made for the benefit of intelligence, and the Universe in fact needs intelligent observers to exist, then it would be in the Universe’s “interest” to keep intelligence going. Therefore, according to those who subscribe to this theory, intelligent life will never die out.

Of course if the Universe was made toward some end, something with enough consciousness and foresight to create so precise a Universe has to have existed, though the idea of a pre-existing creator-god that we cannot observe (and therefore we cannot prove exists) does seem somewhat unscientific. The alternatives, though, have a similar problem. The proposed “many worlds” theory and its variations, which are the long-standing arguments against the SAP and FAP are just as impossible to test as the existence of God, as the worlds they hold up as a rebuttal to the SAP are just as impossible to detect (more on this later). This is a good point, as we really do only have one Universe, our Universe, to consider, no matter how many theoretical ones we construct.

“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 that we were coming.”
-F. Dyson

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