Anthropic Principle and Anthropocentrism
By: Jim Virkler
Physicist Brandon Carter proposed the AnthropicPrinciple in 1973. It has become the topic of many fascinating scientific, philosophical, and theological discussions. William Lane Craig, philosopher and theologian, has written extensively on matters of faith, including the Anthropic Principle. The following Craig quote strikes a balance between scholarly complexity and simplicity:
In recent years, however, the scientific community has been stunned by its discovery of how complex and sensitive a nexus of conditions must be given in order for the universe to permit the origin and evolution of intelligent life on Earth. The universe appears, in fact, to have been incredibly fine-tuned from the moment of its inception for the production of intelligent life on Earth at this point in cosmic history. In the various fields of physics and astrophysics, classical cosmology, quantum mechanics, and biochemistry, various discoveries have repeatedly disclosed that the existence of intelligent carbon-based life on Earth at this time depends upon a delicate balance of physical and cosmological quantities, such that were any one of these quantities to be slightly altered, the balance would be destroyed and life would not exist.
More succinctly, astrophysicist Hugh Ross says the anthropic principle is “…the conclusion that the universe, Milky Way Galaxy, solar system, and Earth are all exquisitely fine-tuned so that human life can exist and flourish.” The previous quote supports the scriptural concept that the universe was created with its life supporting properties for the benefit of life, particularly humanity. But the fine tuning of the physical universe was inherently built into the physical world even before the arrival of humanity. God repeatedly pronounced the creation “good” even in the sequential time frames prior to the arrival of life. The adverb very is not used in Scripture translations, however, until the final creation of humans.
Scientists and philosophers have expanded upon the simplest concepts of the anthropic principle. The reactions of non-scientists may range across a wide spectrum. Perhaps this is because many analysts have substituted philosophical speculation for scientific inquiry. We do not disparage philosophical analysis, but it is possible to divert from and lose our grip on the main point. For example, some commentators state that the universe is “compelled” to produce conscious life such as human life. Others say the anthropic principle points to the existence of the “multiverse.” Still others connect the anthropic principle with naturalistic evolution of human life.
The term anthropocentrism is related to the anthropic principle. It suggests humanity is the central “being” or “fact” of universal existence, the final “aim” or “end” of the universe. Everything is conceived in terms of human values and experience. This point of view may have marginal validity, but not to the exclusion of all other life values and a healthy theistic worldview: How do we see the world in terms of our everyday outlook in all areas of life and belief? Extreme anthropocentrists may have limited environmental concerns, for example.
Anthropocentrism is not one-dimensional. Believers in the Biblical theistic worldview, while they recognize the primacy of man, are multidimensional in terms of interests, values, and responsibility toward their Creator, fellow man, and the environment. In respect to belief in God, we cite a personal quote from our post of 3-16-2016: “The evidence points to a Creator who transcends our space-time dimensions and acts as the cause of all that exists. Our universe could not have “self-created.” God fashioned a universe where life could exist. The presence of life in our space-time continuum is evidence for the Creator of All Things.
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Jim Virkler, a retired New Jersey public school science educator, now devotes his time investigating the harmony of scientific discoveries and Christian faith. He and his wife, Eleanor, now reside in the mid-west near their children and grandchildren.