Tuesday, May 8, 2007

What About the Moon?

On the strong anthropic myth & the vagaries of the Moon

The “strong” anthropic principle is often played as a trump card for personal god theists. This concept has been taken back to the origin of the universe and the behavior of subatomic particles and forward to the creation of the earth itself. The universe is the way it is because man is here to observe it: Because man is; therefore the earth and the universe. Like the Goldilocks principle, things on earth had to be “just right” in order for human life to occur.

Focusing on the earth as a general example of this type of reasoning, these theistic constructs can be observed seemingly everywhere. The earth is at just the right distance from the sun to allow water and therefore life to form. The earth rotates at just the right way to produce day and night allowing for the circadian rhythm of nature and humanity. The moon is at just the right place to create the tides and stabilize the climate for humankind to prosper. Our atmosphere has just the right amounts of oxygen for human life....and on.

You may note that there is a profound intertwining of anthropomorphic inclinations with anthropic views in the way these particular kinds of theists reason. I apologise if you might think I am creating a dull straw man version of anthropic theism.There are, in fact, very interesting broader versions of anthropic concepts that provide lovely fodder for discussion. I do not mean to, but like it or not, this particular form of "anthropic ism" is an exceedingly common world view in this neck of the woods and I have to start somewhere!

A critical oversight to this self aggrandizing world view is the concept of chance and time. It has been a difficult task to express this in a way this particular brand of theist can readily accept. Many personal god theists do not conceptualize the vastness of rolling time and the temporal nature of any strong anthropic principle. Little thought seems to be given to the inexorable change, imperceptible as it may be of our “perfect” place in a world by design.

The moons present position is as a rippling wave moving through the titanic effects of a past impact. Imagine slowing down a moving image of a drop of water falling into a pool. I think most of us have marveled at the flowing sequence of events as the drop explodes on the pools surface, causing beautiful rippling effects. As the drop coalesces into the larger body of water, a momentary crater forms pushing outward, only to slow and stop for just an instant before falling back into an ever decreasing pattern of collapsing moments.

The fact that the moon as we see it now is a snapshot of a larger sequence, likely involving a catastrophic impact event eons ago does not seem to register to those firmly adherent to the "strong" human anthropic view. That our moon is slowly tearing away from earths hold, and that earths orbit is slowly decaying seems to be ignored. (Of course, "moderate end of times" enthusiasts could morph a ready answer, but that can be another post! )

This is a moment in time, universal time, where the conditions on earth are passing through a period where humanity has been able to evolve. But, it is a flash in time in a harsh and changing place. That life has managed a tiny beachhead in such vast and contingent celestial events is more inspiring than "Goddidit" man centered anthropic mirages.


island said...

That our moon is slowly tearing away from earths hold, and that earths orbit is slowly decaying seems to be ignored. (Of course, "moderate end of times" enthusiasts could morph a ready answer, but that can be another post! )

Yeah, um... I'm not a creationist, but there is a testable prediction in here...

wandering primate said...

Not sure what you mean...since when do testable predictions matter to this mind set?
That the earth/moon system is decaying is observable...that some conveniently ignore the implications predictable.
As for "end of timers" who can predict what goal post they will pick next (moon wreaking havoc on earth too far off now that I think about it)?

island said...

No, the anthropic physics is extremely pointed and specific about the region of space and the period of existence of carbon based life, and this includes the lunar anomaly.

Those observations are made by physicists and abused by creationists, but they're true anthropic coincidences that make testable predictions from the balance of extreme opposing runaway tendencies that are inherent to them:

The Goldilocks Enigma

wandering primate said...

Although, I was waxing philosophical about a certain kind of mind set...this is interesting

Life is here & it is the
physics(including the moon) that made it possible...if thats what you mean by testable prediction I agree, but are you implying that humans are the inevitable result or life in general?

When you discuss anthropic physics, do you imply something like a Spinoza view point or something else?

island said...

Well, I think that I can establish that it's more like, "goal-oriented thermodynamics".

Basically, a true anthropic cosmological principle necessarily includes a reciprocal connection to the human evolutionary process, so there is an inherent prediction that the universe will "leap" to a higher order of the same basic structure, like we did. This predction is an inherently undeniable self-evident fact of any true strong interpretation.

If this happens, then the second law of thermodynamics is indefinitely preserved, while the arrow of time remains fixed, and this is actually all that we have evidence for, so the implication is that theoretical assumptions to the contrary are flawed.