The Anthropic Principle and Paris Hilton

26
Jun

I am in no way qualified as an expert in science, but nonetheless I find myself fascinated by the bits and pieces I hear of from the dialogue that occurs between science and religion. From the little bit I understand, the most compelling suggestion for the hand of God arising in science comes not from biology, where the theory of evolution suggests a random process of trial and error, but from the field of physics and cosmology, where something called the “anthropic pinciple” has been uncovered. As best I understand it, this principle focuses on the extraordinary fact that in the moment of the proverbial “big bang” all the conditions were in place in our universe in terms of the vast array of laws of physics that were necessary for the eventual evolution of not only life, but of what we refer to as “intelligent life.”

If you start from the assumption that the laws of the universe could, in theory be established in an infinite variety of possible ways, the vast majority of which would never permit the development of intelligent life, you are left with the question of why is this so? Even the slightest variation from the laws as they are established would have made the ultimate appearance of you and me quite impossible.

There are basically two ways to account for this extraordinary set of affairs. One is to credit it to mere chance.  The other is to theorize that there is a great designer with an intention, in other words, God.

In order to make the “chance” explanation more palatable, some cosmologists have theorized the notion of an infinity of parallel universes, each with a separate set of physical laws, in which our life-friendly universe is only one. In such a context, the fact that the known universe is so life-friendly loses its impressive distinction.

Many have suggested that the design explanation is far more plausible than the chance one, and that the parallel universe theory arises from a bias on the part of the theorists to avoid at all costs resorting to God to account for the way things are.

If, as I do, you find the notion of design more plausible than chance, then it leads to an extraordinary sense of awe and wonder (if you let yourself go there.) On this earth alone, something like eight billion years have passed in anticipation of the appearance of we so-called intelligent beings. (The number gets many, many times greater if you figure in the “years” prior to the creation of the earth, leading back to the original “big bang” of the universe.)  The anthropic principle can make you wonder whether the whole blessed thing was designed with an end in mind that is tied into our appearance,  and that Genesis 1 is on to something when it describes us as being created in the image and likeness of the creator on the final day of creation.  All those billions and billions of years of anticipation is quite a drum roll, if you know what I mean?

On the other hand, if after such a long drum roll all the Creator has to show for it is Paris Hilton and masses of human beings obsessed with the details of her life, well, you can’t help but feel a cosmic sense of let down.

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