WickedEye's Quotient

3/17/2006 at 07:26

In matters concerning religion and politics...

...a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's. –Mark Twain in Eruption (Bernard DeVoto, Ed.)

Rewarding richly people who corrupt science with theology (and make no mistake, importing ideas which are not, under any conceivable circumstances, falsifiable is a corruption of science), in an attempt to shore up ideas which are faltering because of the fact that they are empirically untenable, seems like the worst kind of desperately wishful thinking- something akin to a horrifically ugly wealthy man who pays high-priced prostitutes to tell him he’s devastatingly handsome.

On a not entirely unrelated note, the recipient of this year’s Templeton Prize was announced this past Wednesday.

The recipient is, by all accounts, an accomplished and talented mathematician & playwright. I would add to that “procurer”; and I’ve always thought that a scientist who prostitutes science to fit her or his own prejudices is one of the worst possible kinds of pimps.

They make a pretty team, don’t they? John, pimp- whore. I guess it’s pretty intuitive.

The whore? The anthropic principle.

Basically, the anthropic principle says that the probabilities attached to physical/cosmological properties are weighted in favor of those values which allow the development of life. Why? Because most of the ways the universe could have developed wouldn’t have allowed for life (or at least, the types of life with which we’re familiar).

But look- we’re here! This clearly means that the odds- never mind that the actual concept of probability has by now been decapitated- were weighted in our favor.

We might not have been here, but we are here, so clearly we’re meant to be here and the odds were weighted in our favor (said the bacteria in the garbage can).

Does anyone see something wrong with this- and I use the following word in the sense of “illogic”- logic?

Sheer brilliance. ‘Tautology’ barely describes it.

This is the heart of the “physics research” which won this year’s Templeton Prize for Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, to the tune of about 1.4 million dollars. Quite the fee for this particular prostitute, but then, it’s gotten about 33 years of experience by now.

Any kind of scientific theory, even one in theoretical physics, has got to have some method by which it may be disproved. Gravitational waves, top quarks, Ia supernovae: every theory, no matter how farfetched, must have some set of predicted observations- even if we do not yet have the instruments with which to make them- whose presence would confirm, or lack negate, the basis of its hypothesis.

The anthropic principle, on the other hand- well, guess what? Nah, you probably don’t need to guess. Yep. Nothing.

But then again…

Fluttering eyelashes. “Oh, Mr. Templeton, we were meant to be here,” hands on his arm, “look at the odds against it if it weren’t destined!” Hands move up, and then, “It proves we're favored, it really does,” pressing against his chest, “I couldn’t say who or how, of course,” coy smile, “but it does seem to imply a design of some kind...” loosening his tie…

I guess it’s worth the money.






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Blogger island said...

Ia supernovae: every theory, no matter how farfetched, must have some set of predicted observations

The anthropic principle makes testable predictions and it also includes "bacteria in the garbage can"... as well as other carbon-based life forms.

Can you eat your words as well as you drool?  

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Blogger Scientiae said...

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Blogger Scientiae said...

Why do you ask? Does the thought of me eating and drooling at the same time make you feel more at home, island?

I can do both about as well as Lee Smolin, Nick Bostrom, or any one of the many physicists who can reason through the structure of- for example- Weinberg's argument. None of those people have done either, so far, since they point out quite correctly that the anthropic principle is tangential to that argument- thrown in, as it were, to an argument and evidence which would stand without any mention of the AP.

The same is true of many other cases in which so-called "testable predictions" are offered: the evidence on which the predictions are based stands independently of the AP.

With your enquiring mind and vast curiosity, which encompasses even my eating and drooling habits, surely you must have done the background research which would have told you that this is a topic of ongoing debate in the physics community- and that the Templeton prize for advancement in spiritual realities would not suddenly convince those scientists who question the validity of the AP that it is a sterling and profoundly useful scientific idea?

And as concerns your strictures on carbon-based life and the bacteria in the garbage can- in this scenario, you would be the bacterium in the garbage can who was lecturing on asepsis and holding itself up as a model.

In other words, island, the reference to bacteria and their placement is a metaphor- an illustration of the human propensity for finding meaning and purpose in situations which are based entirely on chance.

If you had understood that parenthetical remark, perhaps you'd have refrained from attempting my enlightenment. -And I do realize that I'm speculating on the most improbable circumstance.

How appropriate.  

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