WHAT IS THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE?

 Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man.   –Alexander Pope
 
 
Whether Man is central to the scheme of Universe is a question that different cultures have answered differently. For Christians, Man is created in the image of God and all other beings- fish, fowl, bird and beast- exist only for Man. For Hindus, Man is just one other being as is manifested by  Avatars took various forms - from fish to Lord Krishna with Narasimha [Man-Animal] in between.  Humanism, with its emphasis on Perfection through knowledge  regards Man at the very center of things. Now scientists are asking and answering the questions philosophers have been posing, adding more, albeit, very interesting confusion to the debate.
 

Brando Carter was perhaps, the first to propose “anthropic principle” in 1973 at a symposium held in Kraków, Poland as a part of celebrations on Copernicus’ 500th birthday. He proclaimed: “humanity does hold a special place in the universe after all”. In his Paper, “Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology”, he observed: “Although our situation is not necessarily central, it is inevitably privileged to some extent”

 
 
In Philosophy, the anthropic principle basically postulates that "If something must be true for us, as humans, to exist; then it is true simply because we exist."  Or, any valid theory of the universe must be consistent with our existence as carbon-based human beings at this particular time and place in the universe.
 

According to Wikipedia, “the proponents of the anthropic principle suggest that we live in a fine-tuned universe, i.e., a universe that appears to be “fine-tuned” to allow the existence of life as we know it.” It has been argued that the anthropic principle will explain the physical constants such as the number of dimensions in the universe, and other cosmological constants.

The values of one or two of nature’s fundamental constants, if slightly changed or get slightly different, then, we will have altogether a different world, or Universe. For example, if the strengths of forces that hold atoms together were slightly different, one possible consequence might be that the Earth’s oceans would freeze. Water — basic element to sustain life — is unique in its property to be lighter as a solid than as a liquid. Therefore, ice sheets float and form an insulating layer that stops the deeper waters from freezing. Had water lacked this property then the primordial oceans would never have stayed liquid long enough for life to evolve. And, logically, we would not be here to ponder over our fate and fortune or read or write this essay!

This is the essence of the anthropic principle. It starts from the fact of our existence and then argues that the precise properties of the universe that emerged from the big bang had to be those that made the emergence of humans inevitable. The unique and peculiar properties of water depend on a precise fine-tuning of the fundamental constants. Why are these constants just right? Because, if they weren’t we wouldn’t be here, that is, to favor our existence.

There are many other fine tunings. Take Carbon, which is also essential for life. It is made in stars by the fusion of three helium atoms. It is by an extraordinary “coincidence” in the resonant energies of helium, beryllium, and carbon that stars make a profusion of carbon. Change it by just 0.0001 per cent and there shall be no carbon. And NO MAN!

 Stephen Hawking suggests that our universe is not as ‘special’ as the anthropic principle proposes.  Hawking puts a 98% chance for a universe like ours to result from a Big Bang. Or, it is even possible for it to come out of nothing. His new theories are being debated but earlier, Hawking himself asked: “ Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?”

The anthropic principle discounts theoretical explanations for the precise values of the fundamental constants. They are what they are because we are. Its opponents debunk it because this principle disallows us from imagining other possible forms of life than our own. True, but imagine: If the weak force that binds atomic nuclei had been just a bit weaker, all hydrogen would have turned to helium without making any of the heavier elements. If the strong force had been a bit stronger, the universe would not even have had any atoms. A very fine balance of constants it is that make the Universe, Man and the “Anthropic Principle” tick. [750 words Approximately]

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