ABSTRACT: Recently the Anthropic Principle has been misapplied, telling more about the people who try to apply it than its supposed application to the rest of the world.
This paper is so famous, it needs no
1. Contents you're already there 2. Introduction look down a little 3. Misdirection just a page away 4. String theory OK, click on the link, lazy 5. Cosmology the link is on the left 6. Concussions no, your other left 7. Glossary at the end, obviously
Recently this principle has been applied to astronomy. A proper example is
An inappropriate use of this principle would be
- There's lots of water on Earth.
- There isn't a whole lot of water on any other planet I've seen (or star, for that matter).
- Therefore, the fact that I see water on Earth is just because I wouldn't want to live here otherwise, as the real estate values would be too low.
Or as Descartes might put it,
- Water is wet on Earth.
- On some planet I can't possibly ever see, water is not wet.
- Therefore, the fact that I find water on Earth to be wet is just because I wouldn't be able to wash otherwise.
- 1 Generally, there is a lot of confusion. This makes it hard to distinguish the present confusion from the rest. Of course, this just leads to more confusion. In that regard, this footnote hasn't really helped very much. Sorry.
- 2 This should not be confused with
- the Anthropoid Principle: the statement that the nature of the world as we know it is due to the existence of monkeys,
- the Arthropod Principle: the same but for bugs,
- the Anthophilous Principle: for flowers.
- 3 A corollary is "I think I am thinking, therefore I think I am."
The basic idea is clearly, "How dare you try to tell me that my theory has been unsuccessful in predicting this experimental result, when the fact that my theory doesn't imply this result obviously proves it can't be predicted!" Some time in the past, a similar widely accepted idea was the Anthropocentric Principle, which led to the idea that the Earth must be the center of the Universe (geocentrism), since that's where people are. Eventually this was disproven by monkeys living on the Sun.
- I can't solve this problem.
- Therefore, you can't solve this problem.
- Hence, this problem can't be solved.
- So, it's got to be just dumb luck.
Interestingly, the Misanthropic Principle can be applied to experiment as well as to theory:
For example, astronomers once concluded that the Milky Way was the center of the Universe, since it was 10 times larger than all the other galaxies, until Hubble realized he was missing a "0".
- I can't see anything reasonable, just this highly unlikely coincidence.
- We couldn't have made any systematic errors, we just made the same assumptions everybody's been making all along.
- So, it's got to be just dumb luck.
- 4 We call a lot of things, as you may have noticed from other articles in this series.
- 5 The step that relates the first 2 statements is actually a corollary of the Sour Grapes argument. The argument encompassing the first 3 statements is often used independently, generally by referees for journals.
This application of the misanthropic principle is called the Landscape. The landscape is almost infinite, but it is also rather barren (except for a few gerbes), so if you are nearsighted enough it may seem that there are not too many possibilities around.
- 6 "Originally" means around the time of the Heterotic String Revolution, not to be confused with the slightly earlier Superstring Revolution.
- 500 No, it's really an exponent, not a footnote. You don't seriously think there could realistically be 500 footnotes, do you?
- 491 Still an exponent, though 491 seems a much more reasonable number of footnotes.
Of course, string theory has the same problem, but at least in string theory, when you compactify a dimension, it stays compactified. So you can try combining string theory with cosmology, hoping their problems will cancel each other out. But instead they combine into one big problem, namely,
- When are the other 6 or 7 going to come out, too?
- If they aren't, then why did the original 3 in the first place?
Now it's time to apply the misanthropic principle. There has been some work in this area7, trying to prove people can't exist in 2 spatial dimensions; unfortunately, it seems they can, even if they are a bit disgusting8. And there is no proof people can't exist in more than 3 spatial dimensions.
- 7 A. Square, Flatland (1884)
- 8 2 spatial dimensions could thus be eliminated on the basis of the Anthropomorphic Principle.
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- 9 discuss, from Latin dis- ‘apart’ + quatere ‘shake’
- 10 concuss, from Latin con- ‘together’ + quatere ‘shake’