“There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
‘I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.’” -Shel Silverstein

When it was first proposed in 1973 by Brandon Carter, there were only two simple statements that one could hardly disagree with concerning the anthropic principle:

1.) We must be prepared to take account of the fact that our location in the Universe is necessarily privileged to the extent of being compatible with our existence as observers.
2.) The Universe (and hence the fundamental parameters on which it depends) must be as to admit the creation of observers within it at some stage.

A young star cluster in a star forming region, which may be giving rise to future observers right now. Image credit: ESO / T. Preibisch.

A young star cluster in a star forming region, which may be giving rise to future observers right now. Image credit: ESO / T. Preibisch.

Somehow, that’s evolved into a line of thinking where you can make probabilistic arguments about the initial conditions that spawned the Universe, about the necessary emergence of humans or about the string landscape. In other words, what started as a reframing of the obvious has become an oft-abused scientific principle, yet one that still has a germ of validity and usefulness at its core, if only we can recover it.

The existence of complex, carbon-based molecules in star forming regions is interesting, but isn't anthropically demanded. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / T. Pyle; Spitzer Space Telescope.

The existence of complex, carbon-based molecules in star forming regions is interesting, but isn’t anthropically demanded. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / T. Pyle; Spitzer Space Telescope.

Come find out how the anthropic principle got twisted to be this way, and how we can put it back to its rightful place in science!


  1. #1 Denier
    United States
    January 26, 2017

    In a way, specious anthropic principle arguments and overreach statements of climate change share the same root: A sample size of one. Science isn’t nearly as robust when your sample size is one.

    The work of scientists in single sample fields should be viewed more skeptically. To view sample limited science the same as massively sample validated science is not a valid viewpoint, and any supposed moral value to the science doesn’t make up the difference.

    The work of Climate Scientists is not as reliable as the work of Physicists. It is only a lack of humility among Climate Scientists that states otherwise. Climate Scientists and Anthropic Principle Philosophers are to regular scientists what Chiropractors and New Age Healers are to Medical Doctors.

  2. #2 Li D
    January 26, 2017

    What utter conflationary rot.

  3. #3 Wow
    January 26, 2017

    Yup, denier is running his own anthropic principle:if he doesn’t see evidence for AGW, there IS no AGW.

    And no skepticism for scientists like Lindzen or Monckton… LOL

  4. #4 dean
    January 26, 2017

    Sample size of one? There is only one universe too, so by the resident denialist’s own argument you can’t trust astrophysicists. What a load of crap.

  5. #5 Li D
    January 27, 2017

    Rereading #1 again.
    Couple of thoughts to add to my
    unchanged initial one.
    Now look mate. If you go and dig
    up a single fossilized bit of bone from
    a couple hundred million years ago you
    have a sample size of one. Yeah?
    Well first off no you dont because it
    instantly becomes part of several sample
    sizes. Think of Venns. It has comparitive
    value at an absolute minimum to lots
    of other things. And in total isolation it
    can yield much data besides.
    Do you understand this?

    You got a weather station maybe giving
    data on a variety of things for say 100 years.
    Biggest mob of data indicating all sorts of trends.
    Oh its a sample size of one. Useless eh.
    Well add it to the data of the one down the road.
    And the one down the road from that.
    And the one across the world from that.
    Which happens to be down the road from
    someone who studiously studies butterflies
    and their habits and ranges. Over whos
    house flys a few sats just pumping out
    data. Not just of earth either. Some look at the sun .And the odd balloon as well flies about.

    Add about ten million other so called
    sample sizes of one and you do not
    have a sample size of one do ya?
    You got a shit load of data from an enormous
    variety of sources.
    Its a damn fine thing to have if you wish
    to make some conclusions. Such variety.
    Backed up by pretty hard to beat physics and
    All one has to NOT do is assume a single weather station, or
    butterfly, or sat or anything else will conclusivly
    tell a story bigger than what its telling. Cuz thats just silly.
    But you get a bunch of stories together that tally up,
    which includes a completely expected number of stories
    that differ markedly , some sound conclusions can be made.

    Im gunna ask you mate.
    What would you expect to see as
    indications of a warming biosphere?

  6. #6 Wow
    January 27, 2017

    I think that “the hiatus” has passed it as the most abused idea in science.

  7. #7 Denier
    United States
    January 27, 2017

    @Li D

    Despite your format
    Your prose does not rhyme
    Still to let it pass
    Would be quite a crime

    Warming biosphere!
    Scientists agree!
    Vast data to see!

    No place to argue
    Data plots clear trend
    There’s no wiggle room
    Discussion should end

    Experts push farther
    It doesn’t end there
    Why’s it happening?
    What’s warming the air?

    The root cause you extol
    But Science has rules
    It needs a control

    A control there’s not
    Sample size just one
    No conclusive blame
    No true smoking gun

    In words of Yoda
    From galaxy far
    Climate Scientists!
    Pretenders they are.

  8. #8 Wow
    January 27, 2017

    “No place to argue”

    Sorry, snowflake, people not believing your bullshit is not the same as not letting you argue.

    If you want to see No plase to argue, have a look at the USA scientists now trump has gagged them, and the reporters gagged by Trump unhappy that the women’s march got nearly 10x the number of people than his inauguration.

    Try reading some of the science for a change, and less of the denier blogrolls filling your head with crap.

  9. #9 dean
    United States
    January 27, 2017

    “Sample size just one”

    As has been pointed out elsewhere – that line pegs you as incredibly dishonest. There is only one universe, so by your bit of stupid argument you should say conclusions about it are bogus – yet you don’t.

    It’s clear you don’t understand the science of climate change – it seems clear you are completely ignorant about a lot of things, by choice.

  10. #10 Li D
    January 27, 2017

    You have no idea about controls,
    both in observations, and experiment, or
    you wouldnt write such rubbish.
    You are a friggen idiot.

  11. #11 Wow
    January 28, 2017

    Remember, LiD, denier cannot think why you would have 5-6 words per line, so assumes it MUST be you are writing poetry. That your device puts hard newlines in when sending in the text in a text entry widget on the small screen you could be using, is something he DOES NOT CONSIDER, because he doesn’t have that sort of device.

    Neither do I, but I’m enough a member of the human race to work out why I would be doing that if I were you (but still being the me I consider myself).

    But deniers don’t do that, they project onto others an explanation that they would do if they were bad people and in your place. Then THAT becomes the explanation.

    Any human empathy is down to working out why you’re unwilling to agree.

    It’s even more toxic than projection. It’s the dark twin of empathy as we are taught in social studies.

  12. #12 Li D
    January 28, 2017

    Although I dont quite understand the technical explaination,
    Im chuffed there exists some explaination as to why anything
    I write anywhere looks different to other commenters
    And I apologise to any readers for the odd format.

  13. #13 Wow
    January 28, 2017

    Denier didn’t know or care about explaining it as it wanted there to be some way to berate you and make out you’re some sort of weirdo.

    After all, if you poison the well, it’s a lot easier to defend your own crimes.

    To me, there was nothing to apologise for, and it’s denier who should apologise for thoughtlessness and his lack of empathy or common sense.

  14. #14 Denier
    United States
    January 28, 2017

    Aware of intent
    Not tryin’ to be rude
    When having some sport
    I play with my food

    The gauntlet was thrown
    But none had the skill
    Not clever ‘nuff to
    Go in for the kill

    Your counters are weak
    Just lame sauce dot com
    Squeaks from the vanquished
    Replies in ad hom

    Control is a thing
    It’s not invented
    Needed for Science
    Its place cemented

    Not Climate Science
    Oh no no not there
    All those conclusions
    Come from brains of hair

    My main point it stands
    Like a shining star
    Climate Scientists!
    Pretenders they are

  15. #15 Wow
    January 28, 2017

    Being a prick.
    That’s always you.

    Burma Shave.

  16. #16 Li D
    January 29, 2017

    Does this dingleberry really honestly
    believe that there are no controls on
    any observations? No references for quality and
    No statistical standards?
    Does he/she really believe any and every experiment
    conducted with our biosphere or part thereof in mind
    has no controls? As is standard practice?
    Its just bloody absurdity.
    Go on denier fool. Link to five published experiments
    about um, ooooh jeez what can i choose,
    how about nitrogen that hasnt got em.
    Why nitrogen? Well theres an awful shit load of it
    in the atmosphere. So a reasonable assumption is
    maybe its got something to do with climate, greenhouse effect,
    etc. Maybe it does and maybe it dosnt. Ya dont know
    until its researched and experimented with.
    And much is known about nitrogen.
    So go on denier. Show us these lack of controls in
    the experiments people have done to understand properties of nitrogen .

  17. #17 Wow
    January 29, 2017

    Of course the turdcluster doesn’t. But they’re going to insist they do because then you’re having to argue insanity without them having to do any of the heavy lifting of making a sane argument and being safe in their ignorance, since you’re not arguing what they ACTUALLY think, but the fake front they’ve put up.

  18. #18 Brian K. Sullivan, PsyD
    February 3, 2017

    tow possibilities exist:
    1. We are the only Observers in the universe.
    2. We are Observers, but not the only ones, in the universe.

    If the former is true, then what are we doing to ensure that our observations of the universe are compiled, stored durably, and made accessible, to future Observers, should there ever be any?

    If the latter is true, then what are we doing to ensure that our observations of the universe are compiled, stored durably, and made accessible, to other Observers when and if we encounter them and/or they encounter our Observation Store?

    It seem to me that that an initiative along these lines, if not already undertaken in earnest and robustly, is at least as important, talent-needworthy, and funds-deserving, as SETI.

    Interested in information and thoughts from this collection of observers.

  19. #19 Brian K. Sullivan, PsyD
    February 3, 2017

    Please correct the typo “tow” to “two” in the first line of my previous post. Thank you.

  20. #20 Denier
    United States
    February 3, 2017

    @Brian K. Sullivan, PsyD wrote:

    If the latter is true, then what are we doing to ensure that our observations of the universe are compiled, stored durably, and made accessible, to other Observers when and if we encounter them and/or they encounter our Observation Store?

    After you upload your observational record to YouTube, you go in to the video manager. On the right hand side is a drop down box titled ‘Privacy Settings’. Select ‘Public’. You can do this to only some videos or your entire compilation, but the ones you choose to share will be stored durably and made accessible to future observers if and/or when your channel encounters them. Enjoy!

  21. #21 Vicki
    February 5, 2017

    If you’re concerned with preserving our observations of the universe, what are you doing to preserve humanity? We might survive and lose some or all of those observations, but it seems very unlikely that usable records would survive a global nuclear war, much less a Chicxulub-scale impact.

  22. #22 Wow
    February 5, 2017

    Or the collapse of civilisation caused by doing nothing about AGW until AFTER there’s been a worldwide catastrophe.

    No need to wait for space rocks or volcanoes to kill off our observations, we’re currently doing it to ourselves because we can’t find the guts to tell deniers to shut the hell up and get on with solving the problem.

  23. #23 Brian K. Sullivan, PsyD
    February 6, 2017

    There are various potentials that humanity will not survive any of various means to our end. There is also the potential that we will survive any and all such, but not in a manner that allows us to continue to add to, or perhaps even to remember, an Observation Store. All the more reason to transcend the threat-level discussion and address the solution level so as to ideate an Observation Store that preserves our understandings of things that are not limited to humanity itself, such as chemistry (and subsequently our understandings about star formation), astronomy (and our observations that other systems contain planets that might be hospitable to life), etc. Perhaps it would exist in an array of distributed extra-terrestrial satellites and distributed robotic outbound (not orbital) spacecraft, each exchanging redundant copies of the accumulated observations. And perhaps one or more of those would be programmed to send copies of the observations back to earth periodically (e.g. every 100 years) so that we, ourselves, could be re-acquanited with the knowledge should we endure and survive some catastrophe Earth-side that set us back into a contemporary Dark Ages.

    Let’s brainstorm, and not bicker.

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