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The Strong Anthropic Principle

For some cosmologists the Weak Anthropic Principle does not go far enough. Their response is to invoke the existence of rational carbon-based life forms as an explanation of the anthropic features of the universe. Thus, ‘The universe must have those properties which allow life to develop within it at some stage in its history.’[FTEXT]

The best known version of this principle is Barrow and Tipler’s Final Anthropic Principle (FAP): ‘Intelligent information-processing must come into existence in the Universe, and, once it comes into existence, it will never die out.’[FTEXT] They believe that intelligent life-forms have cosmological significance by virtue of their future capacity to understand and manipulate matter on a cosmic scale.

This belief leads them to develop a non-theistic ‘physical eschatology’. Tipler has amplified this further in his The Physics of Immortality (1995).[FTEXT]Humankind may not exist forever but human culture will persist, being preserved and developed by self-replicating intelligent machines. The transfer of our cultural software to alternative forms of hardware is one factor in encouraging the indefinite growth of the capacity to process information and to manipulate matter. They envisage the inevitable expansion of human culture to the point where it engulfs the entire cosmos. But let them have the final word:

if life evolves in all of the many universes in a quantum cosmology, and if life continues to exist in all of these universes, then all of these universes, which include all possible histories among them, will approach the Omega Point. At the instant the Omega Point is reached, life will have gained control of all matter and forces not only in a single universe, but in all universes whose existence is logically possible; life will have spread into all spatial regions in all universes which could logically exist, and will have stored an infinite amount of information, including all bits of knowledge which it is logically possible to know. And this is the end.[FTEXT]

And, in a footnote, they add, ‘A modern-day theologian might wish to say that the totality of life at the Omega Point is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient!’[FTEXT]

In spite of the metaphysical tone of much of their discussion, Barrow and Tipler stress that the FAP makes clear predictions about the kind of universe we can expect to observe. Most importantly, they argue that, in order for life literally to engulf the universe, the universe must be closed. It must eventually begin to collapse under its own gravitation toward a final singularity.

See Analysing the Anthropic Arguments for an appraisal of this view.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

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