Anthropic Principle

The Anthropic Principle

by Paul J. Dejillas, Ph.D.


The question as to what causes the primal fiery explosion is well explained by quantum physics through the initial singularity that is discovered to be very much alive and vibrating with restless energy, which eventually explodes by itself. What causes this primal explosion is one primary concern of quantum physics and their efforts unexpectedly leads to a race for finding the ultimate cause of reality. For, as Primack and Abrams maintain, the : “Standard Big Bang theory explains the creation of the light elements of matter in the first three minutes and seems to be right as far as it goes, but it does not explain what preceded that or what has followed.” After more than a century of searching, the ultimate singularity is still not within sight for as soon as the last particle is discovered another one comes up. Quantum physicist, however, are very optimistic that science will eventually discover what this ultimate reality that causes the Big Bang is. In the meantime, within the circle of pioneering quantum physicists some discussions are still ongoing trying to consider the possibility of integrating into their model the idea of a God, who started the appearance of everything in the Cosmos. But, so far, what is clear in these discussions is that if indeed there is a Divine Creator or God that parallels the ULTIMATE PARTICLE that quantum physicists are looking for, then, its discovery must proceed from the rigor of science, not from pure myths and legends.


Without going outside the bounds of their academic specialization, recent studies by physicists have appeared offering highly revolutionary, but controversial as well as thought-provoking ideas, about the beginnings of the Cosmos. The most famous of these ideas are: (1) the Anthrophic Cosmological Principle; and (2) the Intelligent Design theory introduced earlier in Chapter 1 of this study (see p. 23). The ideas “anthropic principle” and “anthropic cosmology” are introduced by Brandon Carter, an astrophysicist and cosmologist from Cambridge University, in his paper titled "Large Number of Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology" (1974, 2000). The Anthropic Principle explains that the emergence of such nonphysical phenomena as life is facilitated by the existence of a unique set of physical conditions existing throughout the universe. These physical conditions are the six “fundamental physical constants:” (1) the gravitational constant (G); (2) the speed of light (c); (3) Planck's constant (h); (40 the electric charge of the electron and the proton (e); (5) the rest mass of the proton (mp); and (60 the rest mass of the electron (me). These six fundamental physical constants are the necessary conditions (A) for life to exist and humanity to appear (B). The Anthropic Principle asserts that “if the calibrations for these physical forces … were even slightly different, the human species could not have emerged” (Carter 1974). In 1986, John Barrow and Frank Tipler pursue this reasoning in their 700 page book titled: The Anthropic Cosmological Principle when they reinforce the observation that “the values and strength of these constants are found to be so well proportioned and fine tuned, that any tinkering with their values or ratios would make life impossible.” “The Universe,” say Barrow and Tipler, “must have those properties (the six fundamental physical constants, also referred as anthropic cosmological parameters-ACP) which allow life to develop within it at some stage in its history” (1989).


But as to where these parameters come from remains contentious in the physical sciences. In fact, physicist Dan Lincoln, in his Understanding the Universe: From Quarks to the Cosmos (2005) maintains that this is the kind of concern which physics are unable to answer. A parallel view is expressed by Steven Weinberg when he opines that this subject matter is one mystery that lies outside the field of science, a subject which, according to him, can only be explained in terms of deeper, non-scientific principles. In his words (2003:31-40):

There are mysteries at the outer boundaries of our science, matters that we cannot hope to explain in terms of what we already know. When we explain everything we observe, it is in terms of scientific principles that are themselves explained in terms of deeper principles. Following this chain of explanations, we are led at last to laws of nature that cannot be explained within the boundaries of contemporary science.


Neither do the issue of why these initial conditions exist at all in the first place is touched in any scientific models, hinting further that the task of resolving this issue can neither belong to physics nor to any of the other disciplines in the physical sciences. At this point, science appears to have reached a cul de sac. But passionate as it is in its search for the ultimate reality, science, at least a few unyielding scientists, is even becoming more enthused and relentless in pursuing the issue of the role of a transcendent being. Physicist Sean Carroll, in his “The Cosmological Constant” (1999), expresses his doubt that the physical parameters of the Cosmos maybe directly caused by the fundamental laws of physics and entertains the idea of “intelligent observers” who could be behind all this. In his own words:

The anthropic principle is essentially the idea that some of the parameters characterizing the universe we observe may not be determined directly by the fundamental laws of physics, but also by the truism that intelligent observers will only ever experience conditions which allow for the existence of intelligent observers.


In 1979, Bernard Carr and Martin Rees, in their work “The Anthropic Principle and the Structure of the Physical World,” and many sympathetic physicists later highlight many alleged “cosmic coincidences,” starting with the numerical relations among physical magnitudes that, if allowed to change (keeping everything else in the theoretical structure constant), life would not have been possible in the Cosmos. But whether these are really coincidences or not is a subject that occupies the writings of both protagonists and antagonists of the drama. Craig (1988) observes that: “We appear … to be confronted with two alternatives: posit either a cosmic Designer or an exhaustively random, infinite number of other worlds. Faced with these options, is not theism just as rational a choice as multiple worlds?” But is it convincingly conclusive to accept, even in theory, that the entire Cosmos is a product of chance or random mutations?


In the field of biology, Alfred Russell Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin, also raises this question in human evolution: Is the evolution of species from simple to complex, from chimp to human, simply accidental, random, and coincident? But, like Wallace, biologist Michael Behe also highlights the “impotence” of Darwin’s theory and argues that “if something was not put together gradually, then it must have been put together quickly or even suddenly” (1996:187). That nature harbors these remarkable coincidences requires, say Carr and Rees, some explanations and “the anthropic explanation is the only candidate and the discovery of every extra anthropic coincidence increases the post hoc evidence for it” (ibid.). Indeed, British physicist and astronomer Fred Hoyle propounds that there are so many bizarre coincidences necessary to produce life that require some clear scientific explanations to justify them. And as Mosterin, in his “Anthropic Explanations in Cosmology, reechoes this view: “The application of the anthropic principle is to explain the many ‘cosmic coincidences’ that allow for life and ultimately for humans to exist” (see also his other work, 1996:57-89). Physicist and Nobel laureate Arno Penzias, in his Our Universe: Accident or Design, asserts the improbability that these “cosmic coincidences” really happen due to chance, random mutation, or accidence, hence, science is left with nothing else but to invoke for some “underlying supernatural plan.” In his words (1992:52): 

Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe that was created out of nothing and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan.


The only alternative explanation left, then, is that the coincidences must not have been due to mere chances or accidents at all, but must have been choreographed by an Intelligent Designer and “if the beginnings of life were not random,” says Hoyle in his The Intelligent Universe (1983), “they must therefore have been the product of purposeful intelligence."

Another British physicist Paul Davies, in his Cosmic Blueprint (1988:203), unhesitatingly admits that: "There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all.... It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe....The impression of design is overwhelming."