Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Misuse of the Anthropic Principle

The fundies have succeeded in usurping the phrase "Anthropic Principle," along with the names of the serious philosophers and scientists who published articles based on the traditional definition. The fundamentalists spout circular arguments invoking the "Anthropic Principle" to dispute the Theory of Evolution or to "prove" that God exists.

In my mind, God requires faith of his believers. This means that there will never be "evidence" that will "prove" or "disprove" his existence. You are going to have to decide to believe or not all on your own.

God will permit people to have "religious experiences," but these will always be dismissable as hallucinations by non-believers. Again, each individual has to decide whether or not to have faith.

The upshot of this is that religion and science are incompatible because religion requires faith, and science doesn't recognize faith as a valid way of identifying "useful" theories or models. (Remember, I am saying that a "useful" theory is one that is called "true" by people who are not being precise.)

While religion and science ARE compatible in the sense that a single individual may choose to be a religious scientist, I do not believe that religion (such as creationism or intelligent design) should be taught in a science classroom. I don't have a particular problem with teaching either in a philosophy or comparative religions class, as long as divergent points of view are also presented.

None of the anthropic principle stuff published by the fundamentalists is able to contradict evolution. It is based on some fairly dubious calculations which are themselves based on some fairly dubious assumptions--all of which are related to the physical characteristics of Earth, not to whether or not evolution is taking place here.