Language

Language is a dicey thing. It’s especially dicey for scientists. Take Einstein for example. He used to use the word “God” quite often. He usually did not mean anything related to the Christian god (or any other god concept). Let’s look at the Einstein phrase “Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?” He wasn’t literally asking if any particular god had a choice. He was asking if the Universe could have come into being in more than one way. Incidentally, the fact that the answer to this question is unknown should throw some light on that awful argument, the “anthropic principle“. Allow me to digress.

The anthropic principle is the creationist delusion that their particular god made the Universe with humans soley in mind. It’s likely the most arrogant concept ever presented. Beside that, it basically says “Humanity (or life in general) is too well adapted to the Universe for everything not to have been made for humans/life”. Humans are evolved to the Universe (at least one, insignifcant part of it that holds no special relevance). The whole argument ignores this fact. Of course, that is the creationist motif: hear no facts, see no facts, speak no facts. What’s more, it’s just an argument from personal incredulity: “The Universe is just too perfect to not be for me! I can’t believe anything else! It’s too much!” Mooks.

But I return. Language in biology can be difficult. In order to popularize the subject, scientists will use personifying terms. “Genes want to replicate”, or “Cuts and bruises want to heal”. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with this. It’s human nature to do this. We call computers stupid or say “the flowers danced in the sun” (for the more poetic among us). Of course, there is a contingent of people who hear these terms and think they are literal. They also happen to often be people who don’t realize the Bible is metaphoric in its entirety and therefore take it literally.

Take the comment section from a recent thread. Not to harp on a particular commenter, but the term “code” is taken wildly out of context. Rather than read for what it is, it is read as being something with intention at its root. Let’s examine.

Biologists may say “DNA codes for the genome”. This is true, but it has no connection to intentionality. What it means is simply that DNA is in one form until it is translated and transcribed into another form. In other words, it goes from being a series of amino acids into a series of proteins and enzymes. This does not require some grand creator or intelligence. It requires a slow, gradual process that provides for plenty of random variation while being governed by a non-random mechanism. Evolution by natural selection fits the bill.

5 Responses

  1. The anthropic principle is the creationist delusion that their particular god made the Universe with humans soley in mind. It’s likely the most arrogant concept ever presented

    yuk yuk… no, the Anthropic Principle was originally formalized by Brandon Carter as an ideological statement against the dogmatic non-scientific prejudices that scientists commonly harbor, that cause them to consciously deny anthropic relevance in the physics, so they instead tend to be willfully ignorant of just enough pertinent facts to maintain an irrational cosmological bias that leads to absurd, “Copernican-like” projections of mediocrity that contradict what is actually observed.

    However unfortunate, Carter’s point lends a certain amount of real scientific credence to the claims of IDists, that scientists willfully suppress credible evidence that they wrongly perceive to be in support of the creationist’s position. It is just as unfortunate that this makes the lies and embellishments of the ID movement into a necessary evil, to counterbalance to the unscientific dogma that scientists commonly project into science.

    Carter was talking about an equally extreme form of counter-reaction-ism to old historical beliefs about geocentricism that cause scientists to automatically dismiss evidence for anthropic “privilege” right out of the realm of the observed reality. I intend to put very heavy emphasis on this point, because people go to unbelievable lengths to distort what Carter said on that fateful day in Poland, in order to willfully ignore this point as it applies to modern physics speculations and variant interpretations, which are neither, proven, nor definitively justified, theoretically.

    People like you, who learn science from wikipedia and other popularly distorted sources…

    http://knol.google.com/k/richard-ryals/the-anthropic-principle/1cb34nnchgkl5/2#

  2. Better Wikipedia than Conservapedia. Not that this ‘principle’ is science at all.

    “If the Universe were different, our experience would be different, if not non-existent.” That is the anthropic principle in a nutshell. It’s religiously-motivated malarkey. People want to think they’re the most special thing in the Universe. They are not. Their arrogance disables them from seeing this.

  3. And Brandon Carter’s point would be that this abuse of the science by creationists causes ideologically predisposed people like yourself to *automatically* deny the significance of evidence.

    Unfortunately, there has been a strong and not always subconscious tendency to extend this to a most questionable dogma to the effect that our situation cannot be privileged in any sense.
    -Brandon Carter

    Carter’s point was that unscientific ideological bias should be honestly weighed into consideration whenever a scientist is faced with anomalous features of the universe that are also relevant to our place in it, in order to serve as a counterbalancing constraint on their preconceived prejudices against evidence for “preference” or “specialness”. Unfortunately for science, this is rarely the case, as these words will fly right past the theoretical confidence of the “cutting-edge”.

    Add to that the creation/evolution “debate” and you have all the makings for a very bad situation for science, where zealots will either, embrace what physicists commonly call the “appearance of design”, as being just that, or, on the other side of the fanatical coin, anti-zealots will all together deny that there is any such implication for “specialness” in the physics whatsoever, while appealing to multiverses and quantum uncertainty, in lieu of causality and first principles. This is done in order to “explain-away” the evidence, rather than to honestly recognize and give credible time to the most readily apparent implication for a biocentric cosmological principle that is indicated by the “appearance of design”. The anticentrist’s tendency to deny the significance of the observation is an over-reaction to pressure from religious extremists and from ill-considered assumptions about human arrogance, which doesn’t even make sense if we’re spread-out across the universe like bacteria on a thin slide of time. Unfortunately for science, it is also a perfectly true example of Carter’s point, as anticentrists typically and wrongly believe that such an admission constitutes evidence in favor of the religious fanatic’s argument, so willful ignorance takes the place of science when the argument is a culture war between zealots and their antifanatical counterparts.

    But it is an unavoidable fact that the anthropic physics is directly observed to be uniquely related to the structuring of the universe in a way that defies the most natural expectation for the evolution of the universe in a manner that is also highly-pointed toward the production of carbon based life at a specific time in its history, (and over an equally specific, fine-layer or region of the Goldilocks Zone of the observed universe).

    If you disallow unproven and speculative physics theory, then an evidentially supported implication does necessarily exist that carbon-based life is somehow intricately connected to the structure mechanism of the universe, and weak, multiverse interpretations do not supercede this fact, unless a multiverse is proven to be more than cutting-edge theoretical speculation.

  4. That whole rant leads up to this paragraph:

    But it is an unavoidable fact that the anthropic physics is directly observed to be uniquely related to the structuring of the universe in a way that defies the most natural expectation for the evolution of the universe in a manner that is also highly-pointed toward the production of carbon based life at a specific time in its history, (and over an equally specific, fine-layer or region of the Goldilocks Zone of the observed universe).

    In other words, “people who reject the anthropic principle are reactionists to creationists who believe it states our position is privileged…oh, by the way, our position is privileged.”

    You seem to be under the impression that there is scientific evidence that suggests Earth or the Milky Way is special. There is not. All the evidence says our star is common, planets are more common, and life may be a very probable event indeed.

    But back to Einstein – “Did God have a choice?” Do we know this is the only way the Universe can exist?

  5. You seem to be under the impression that there is scientific evidence that suggests Earth or the Milky Way is special.

    mmmm, well, it’s only as special as the rest of Earthlike planets in the Goldilocks Zone, but that is confined to a specific region and time of the observed universe.

    There is not. All the evidence says our star is common, planets are more common, and life may be a very probable event indeed.

    Actually, the Goldilocks Enigma makes equally specific and falsifiable predictions about where we will and will not find life elsewhere in the universe, but people are also conveniently ignorant of this fact, as well, in order that they can throw out a bunch of highly speculative crap about “other” possible life forms and whatnot, but that only proves that they really don’t have a clue why that hype is not fathomable.

    But back to Einstein – “Did God have a choice?” Do we know this is the only way the Universe can exist?

    This will be determined by a final theory, but David Gross calls scientists failure to produce the “no-choice” dynamical principle that would “make the landscape go away”… THE single biggest failure of science in the last 30 years, and he is so correct about this that it isn’t even funny.

    But, like yourself, they refuse to add one and one… so this will remain the case for as long as this is true.

    Mark my words, as long as they willfully ignore the bio-oriented cosmological principle there will be no complete theory of quantum gravity and no final theory of everything.

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