Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Metaphysical Whopass

This news item about a book called Biocosm came across my inbox thanks to the wonderful world of

The premise is that the evolution of the Universe has been directed by a superior intelligence: If not by design, how could the basic constants of the Universe (gravitational constant, speed of light, delicate balance between constant expansion but not too fast, etc.) have been so carefully arranged to provide the Universe in which we find ourselves?

I've read his article as well as the comments. I'm sorry, but how is this not Creationism?

The main fallacy is in assuming that the scientific method is the best way to answer "why" questions. C'mon! The SM is the way to answer "how" questions, not "why." The very implication of a "why" question implies purpose, hence a goal.

One of my favorite, paradigm-establishing bits of writing was in the middle of Salmon of Doubt. There is a transcript of an extemporaneous (!) speech given by the late Douglas Adams at a tech/science conference. He mentions (paraphrasing here) that they came up with just 3 basic principles:
  1. Anything that happens, happens.
  2. Anything that happens, causes something else to happen
  3. Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen, will happen again

So that's it! Why do you need anything else to explain the fact that we are here? That's the sticky wicket - you don't need to explain why we are here. We know that we are here. We know that cosmological constants have allowed for the evolution of galaxies, solar systems, planets, and intelligent life. The phallacy of asking "why" is based on the adaptive learning neurological patterns that allow us to create a model of our environment, and then predict what will happen based on our models. In large part our learning patterns are devoted to analyzing the behavior of our fellow humans, and the most successful learning patterns in this arena are those which best predict behavior based on assumed intentions. This basic structure of our brains underlies the need to attribute intention to observed actions.


  • You've described the strong anthropic principle, of course.

    Oh, and Salmon of Doubt is fabulous. The water puddle analogy is spot on. Hey look, a hole that is perfectly suited to contain me!

    By Blogger Matt Dick, at 2/15/2006 9:11 PM  

  • I was going to link to this post, but you don't seem to have permalinks.

    By Blogger Josh Gentry, at 2/21/2006 9:11 PM  

  • I keep reading the subject of this post as "Metaphysical Whoopass" instead of "Whopass".

    By Blogger Cool Hand Luke, at 2/24/2006 9:20 AM  

  • He has permalinks. It is the '#' character that preceeds the post footer.

    By Blogger Cool Hand Luke, at 2/24/2006 9:20 AM  

  • I ordered _The Salmon of Doubt_.

    By Blogger Josh Gentry, at 2/25/2006 2:22 PM  

  • Josh - I'm glad you ordered it. I actually have it on audio CD so anyone who would like it let me know.

    My next post is going to be a follow-up on this post, when I get some time to sit down and write...

    By Blogger Carlos, at 3/02/2006 8:23 PM  

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