Evolution and the anthropic principle
January 12, 2004 1:26 AM   Subscribe

Is the idea that "we evolved because we did" different from the weak anthropomorphic principle?
posted by timb to Science & Nature (10 answers total)
can you explain a bit more? i understand the wap to mean that the universe is suitable for us because otherwise we wouldn't be here to notice. but i don't understand what you mean by "we evolved because we did". what's the parallel you're trying to draw?
posted by andrew cooke at 5:23 AM on January 12, 2004

I can't rationalise "we evolved because we did" in any way that matches andrew's brief wap synopsis, which more or less matches my understanding. So, without further data, I'll go out on a limb and say yes.
posted by nthdegx at 6:36 AM on January 12, 2004

They are not identical statements. Although each draws a conclusion from observed evidence, the amount and nature of the evidence for each claim is different. The notion that we evolved rests on evidence from anthroplogy, biology, and geology that differentiates that story from the alternatives, and makes it the most plausible answer. Although as formulated your statement about evolution is a tautology, I think that if we parse it carefully it's really just a restatement of basic scientific observation and conclusion.

The WAP, on the other hand, relies only on the "evidence" that we exist at all. If the universe was not well adjusted for us to live in it, we wouldn't be here to observe it. Ergo, it must be well adjusted for us. The WAP principle is different than the Strong Principle Anthropomorphic, in that it doesn't require a designer to adjuest the universe for our benefit.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:55 AM on January 12, 2004

I think it's the anthropic principle.
posted by carter at 7:11 AM on January 12, 2004

I think it's the anthropic principle.

Of course! I can't believe I wrote anthropomorphic. *hangs head in shame*
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:26 AM on January 12, 2004

A verbose statement of the wap ("we evolved to be what we are because we evolved under the selection history imposed by our particular universe") can be restated to look tautological ("we evolved the way we did because we evolved the way we did") but it's only an apparent tautology because it depends on two different takes on "way."
posted by jfuller at 8:50 AM on January 12, 2004

I'll have to stare at that for a few minutes more to fully appreciate it, jfuller, but I really appreciate your posting it. On several occasions I've inadvertently made the anthropic principle(s) seem tautological when trying to explain them to people.
posted by Songdog at 11:41 AM on January 12, 2004

fuller tips hat. Way #1 = the way we are right now (cross-sectional description, as it were); Way #2 = the way that brought us here (longitudinal account.)
posted by jfuller at 12:04 PM on January 12, 2004

i used the incorrect word because google suggested it to me. oops!

thanks for your answers!
posted by timb at 9:58 PM on January 12, 2004

for more reading: I remember Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" having a decent explanation of the wap.
posted by milovoo at 11:37 AM on January 14, 2004

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