Talk:Anthropic principle

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Change Observational evidence Content tittle to Observation[edit]

-Change from; Observational evidence.

-Change to; Observation.


  1. ^ When a scientific truth arises, it is so because of observational and experimental consensus. THE CURIOUS PASSIONS OF MR. COSMOS: NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON ON SPACE, CLIMATE, AND WHY CURIOSITY WINS EVERY TIME|SCOTT BIXBY|JUNE 8, 2014|DAILY BEAST
So if I understand your argument here, you feel the sub-section is about the nature of observation and not observational evidence or if it is not, it should be. Since the whole section is WP:UNSOURCED and is somebody's essay told in Wikipedia's voice, it can really be anything you want. How about we just delete the thing along with culling everything in the article that is not attributed to some academic theorist. Richard-of-Earth (talk) 18:25, 31 March 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Selection bias? or Biased selection, Lede needs work[edit]

The lede uses the phrase "selection bias" which usually means a statistical or informal logical fallacy referring to cognitive and statistical errors. Because there are no WP:RS in the lede, I'm wondering if the people who argue for selection amongst many worlds use the phrase "selection bias." Please let me know as I'm starting to research. I don't think physicists (or Nick Bostrom, or Max Tegmark) argue that the issue is that someone is actually selecting from amongst all the universes. Lee Smolin, for instance, argues for a type of natural selection for universes with black holes, which is not a statistical process, but one akin to Natural Selection in Evolution. But perhaps I'm wrong. At any rate, it should not be linked to an article on statistical error, so I will remove that.

SIDE NOTE: The article on Selection Bias has a subheading which links back to "Anthropic principle." There Bostrom and Tegmark are referenced, but I wonder if this isn't a self affirming but unjustified loop. One page supporting the other, when in fact, neither page has WP:RS. It's a type of meta SYNTH. I will comment on the other page as well.

I'm also going to remove the link to "philosophy" under "philosophical consideration" as I cannot find WP:RS that "Philosophical Consideration" is actually a term used in WP:RS. I mean, I know the words occur together but they are not used as a term of art or a single concept. No Philo Senior thesis have been written on "philosophical consideration" such that it is a distinct linkable concept. And yes, as you can tell, that means the lede needs work. But I'm going to research a little more before I attempt that. Cheers.DolyaIskrina (talk) 15:44, 2 July 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There are so many things wrong with the changes made to the lede that I reverted it back. I left the change made to the book reference. "Philosophical consideration" is a perfectly understandable notion. The anthropic principle simply is a philosophical consideration that observations of the Universe must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it. Unconscious life nor non-sapient life will not be making these observations of the Universe.
And it is not the "Philosophical consideration that a universe that contains observers seems unlikely, and yet here we are." That's rubbish. The AP is not the same consideration that the Fine-tuned Universe is. The Weak AP is simply the understanding that "conditions observed in the Universe must allow the observer to exist." A virtual tautology. The SAP is something more, saying that eventually some conscious and sapient life will have to emerge in the Universe if it is physically possible for it to emerge. And the SAP can be controversial. It is no tautology.
And the Weak AP combined with selection bias most certainly is used as an argument disputing that anthropic fine-tuning is remarkable. Not that everyone buys into that argument but nearly any cosmologist that accepts (or believes in) some reality with other universes in the multiverse, that WAP with selection bias is often cited as an explanation that discounts the notion of remarkability of apparent fine tuning.
Sorry, DolyaIskrina, but not every edit you make is helpful and this one certainly was not. (talk) 06:17, 7 July 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sorry I think I placed my response in the wrong place, or maybe you replied while I was typing.DolyaIskrina (talk) 16:43, 7 July 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You may not like my definition, but you are reverting to a lede that has no WP:RS. Can you find a source that uses the phrase "philosophical consideration" to refer to AP? Secondly, given that there are over 30 definitions of AP, to pick the one you like and put that in the lede is SYNTH. So if you like we can work on a lede that is accessible to the lay reader and does not give any one definition a place of honor. I think Nick Bostrom is the bees-knees, but he is only one among many who treats with this issue, so I don't think we should let him have the first and last word. My first requirement is that the lede contain some sort of indication that this is a complex of ideas dealing with a specific issue. Of course what that issue is varies too. I think fine tuning is the most likely candidate, and Bostrom's book is pretty clear about that. — Preceding unsigned comment added by DolyaIskrina (talkcontribs) 16:37, 7 July 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
So I am not advocating for the title of the section called Variants, but the content of that section has variations on the definitions of the SAP from the likes of Carter, Barrow and Tipler, Bostrom, Wheeler. All variants of the definition are presented and ascribed to those advocating such. There is very little difference in meaning between the Carter definition of the WAP and the Barrow-Tipler definition of the WAP which, in the most concise language, are both consistent with the Merriam-Webster definition. Rather than have the lede reflect or emphasize any specific physicist/author's definition (even Carter), the lede should reflect the common meaning of the term and details and specifics can be dealt with below the lede.
The term "philosophical consideration" was not my composition, but I support it completely. It best describes, in common language, what class or category the AP falls into. It is not a scientific finding nor a "proof" of any sort. It is a consideration (something to consider) and the basis for it lies in philosophy.
The lede is quite good as it is. It does not show any bias between the various authors who have defined the term in their writings. It reflects the dictionary definition faithfully. And it shows, in the lede, where this discussion of the AP pops up and that is most often about either the age of the Universe (like why isn't it 1 billion years?) or about the alleged fine tuning whether that's terrestrial fine-tuning or universal fine-tuning. And it's all about selection bias. Observers would not be around to observe conditions in the Universe that are adverse. (talk) 04:12, 8 July 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You wrote two great sentences above. Much better than the first sentence of the lede now. Would you oppose using a version of this? "The Weak AP is simply the understanding that "conditions observed in the Universe must allow the observer to exist." A virtual tautology. The SAP is something more, saying that eventually some conscious and sapient life will have to emerge in the Universe if it is physically possible for it to emerge." Perhaps a blend of the two? I like these sentences because you wrote them with the intention of being understood. To your expert eye, the current first sentence of the article lede works, but I promise you it is unintelligible to most people, even after having read the article. The lede is the most important part of the article. I worry that it uses arcane constructions to hide several agendas (not uncommon in ledes). As to "a philosophical consideration" I have found 0 occurrences of that phrase in wikipedia except in this article. If you search for "philosophical consideration" there are 16 occurrences in Wikipedia. None of them occur in the lede as part of a definition. 7 of them are quotations of this article. Given all the similar types of concepts covered by wikipedia, all the philosophical and cosmological topics that occur in the encyclopedia that would use the phrase if it were apt, to have it occur only once is proof that it is, in fact, a neologism and a violation of WP:MOS, WP:NOPV and WP:NPOV. If you can't find WP:RS associating "philosophical consideration" with AP it must go per Wikipedia policy. DolyaIskrina (talk) 16:31, 8 July 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Earlier version did have that M-W definition as the lede sentence. In fact, I (with a different IP) was pushing for it. Personally, I think the M-W definition of the WAP is the most clear and concise of them all. But alas, other editors disagreed and you take what you can get. So I don't object from changing that very first definition shown to the M-W definition and citing M-W as a reference. But some other editors may. Let's see if they're paying attention. (talk) 19:51, 9 July 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Moved Schopenhauer here to discuss. If we cast the net wide enough to include him, then Descartes, Kant and all the philosophers who dealt with the relationship between perception and "reality" will also deserve a space. According to Bostrom, there are at least 30 variants of the AP, but I'm pretty sure that none of them deal with the question of perception qua perception. AP is about: fine tuning, selection bias, self selection assumption, teleology. In short the ontological import of observers coming to observe a universe such as ours. The issue is not one of epistemology and most definitely not one of introspection. In suggesting that Schopenhauer is utilizing the AP, Svensson is in essence coming up with a 31st variant of the AP. I think it should be cut or presented in a way to not give it undue weight. Cheers.

Arthur Schopenhauer was among the first atheist proponents of arguments along similar lines to the anthropic principle.[1][2]

DolyaIskrina (talk) 18:39, 24 August 2019 (UTC) Reply[reply]


  1. ^ Arthur Schopenhauer, Arthur Schopenhauer: The World as Will and Presentation, Volume 1, Routledge, 2016, p. 211: "the world [is a] mere presentation, object for a subject..."
  2. ^ Lennart Svensson, Borderline: A Traditionalist Outlook for Modern Man, Numen Books, 2015, p. 71: "[Schopenhauer] said that "the world is our conception." A world without a perceiver would in that case be an impossibility. But we can—he said—gain knowledge about Essential Reality for looking into ourselves, by introspection. ... This is one of many examples of the anthropic principle. The world is there for the sake of man."
It seems to me that this article should be about only the physical cosmology and the philosophy of physics definitions of the AP. Dicke, Carter, Barrow and Tipler. State what these physicists say, compare their definitions, and state what is different and who (that is noteworthy) has commented on any of these definitions and what they say the implications are. I think the article is best without Schopenhauer in it. And, even with him in it, should not be the beginning of the section. 2601:600:8880:5496:F161:52C9:3440:278B (talk) 01:26, 25 August 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@2601:600:8880:5496:F161:52C9:3440:278B: We agree about Schopenhauer. And while I have a personal preference for going even more narrow and talking only about cosmology, I do think that enough people are using the AP for theological and teleological purposes that it'd be too narrow if we cut those out.DolyaIskrina (talk) 22:21, 25 August 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Secondary literature does mention Schopenhauer as a notable precursor (Lennart Svensson 2015). I have never encountered similar mentions about Descartes or Kant. Can we at least have Schopenhauer in the 'See also' section? --Omnipaedista (talk) 14:08, 28 September 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Omnipaedista:Hmmm. Yes, I see the Svensson quote, so I understand why you'd include Schopenhauer. But frankly I personally find Svensson assertion to be a stretch. Is Svensson highly regarded? Did anyone else agree with Svensson's read of Schopenhauer? My worry that proto-AP credit would extend to other thinkers besides Schopenhauer isn't based on any secondary articles, it's based on what seems to me to be the weakness of Svensson's argument. My vote would be to do as you suggest and put Schopenhauer in the "see also". But I could also be persuaded that it's worth including a mention of Svensson's assertion that Schopenhauer was a precursor to AP. But I would not start the section with that, and I would definitely include it as an assertion of Svensson rather than an uncontroversial point about Schopenhauer. Thanks for discussing this here DolyaIskrina (talk) 19:47, 28 September 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Simplification of the lede[edit]

If the lede needs simplification, it should be edited as a whole. A discussion here on the article talk page would be helpful. My feeling is that the clarity and function of the lede should not be compromised. Since the lede is a summary of the body text that follows, some important concepts must be mentioned (multiverse, for example). Too much simplification results in a lede not representative of the article, thus failing the function of the lede. I have reverted the recent changes to the lede for the above reasons. I welcome a discussion here. — Neonorange (Phil) 08:49, 8 September 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Neonorange: Thanks for opening up to discuss on talk. The lead does indeed need simplification. The issue here is not what is the AP, but what is Wikipedia. According to the manual of style, the lead should be written in everyday language and be accessible. MOS:LEAD:

"The lead serves as an introduction to the article and a summary of its most important contents. It is not a news-style lead or "lede" paragraph. The average Wikipedia visit is a few minutes long.[1] The lead is the first thing most people will read upon arriving at an article. It gives the basics in a nutshell... It should be written in a clear, accessible style with a neutral point of view.

What's more, leads are not supposed to have a lot of links, which is good, because it requires us to be disciplined and not outsource the meaning to other pages. Professionalisms such "sapient" and "compatible with" and "emergence of consciousness" are only of use to the initiated. The default assumption of the lay reader is that life=observers=consciousness=sentient=sapient=humans=us, no need to front-load the article with jargon or the oddly disembodied language of observers and observations in a multiverse, which somehow (we'll explain later) accounts for fine tuning (here's a link to what that means). I say let's risk annoying the pros while welcoming the amateurs. I have faith that the AP can survive in everyday language, don't you? The starting point should be that humans are the only known "conscious" things in the universe (because thus far they are) and this is our one and only universe, because that's what universe has meant until a few minutes ago. According to Bostrom the AP is a special case of "selection effects", specifically, "observational selection effects." Bostrom, N. (2002) p 5. Most critically, what needs stressing in the lead is that AP is an attempt to determine the likelihood of our observations given our limited position in the world. Further per Bostrom (Chapter 2), it is only recently that the AP has been deployed to address fine tuning. So, given the starting point of the reader, given the history of the cluster of ideas called anthropic principle, the lead should probably begin with the WAP and the rest can be cashed out in the body. For those reasons here is the previous edit:

"The anthropic principle is the philosophical premise that any data we collect about the universe is filtered by the fact that, for it to be observable at all, the universe must have been compatible with life to start with.[1] In other words, scientific observation of the universe would not even be possible if the laws of the universe had been incompatible with the development of sapient life. The anthropic principle attempts to take these initial requirements into account in order to draw conclusions about the likelihood of our various scientific observations. For instance, proponents of the anthropic principle argue that it explains why the universe has the very specific age and fundamental physical constants necessary to accommodate conscious life."


  1. ^ Bostrom, Nick (9 February 2020). "Was the Universe Made for Us?". Anthropic Principle. The data we collect about the Universe is filtered not only by our instruments' limitations, but also by the precondition that somebody be there to “have” the data yielded by the instruments (and to build the instruments in the first place).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
Let's discuss what you think needs fixing in this edit. I'm still irked by "sapient" and "compatible with" Cheers. DolyaIskrina (talk) 05:18, 15 September 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thank you, DolyaIskrina, for your well aurgued post. I have just read it, but will take time for a thoughtful reply (I have just awakened in the middle of the night—my time, in the eastern US—and was searching the Springer Scientific American for possible help in the language for the lede, when I saw your reply. For now, I am hoping to return to sleep. Will post again tomorrow. Thanks again. — Neonorange (Phil) 09:54, 15 September 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
So much for sleep.
The Anthropic Principle is a set of postulates about why our universe has the characteristics we observe... I suggest a draft of the lede be written as a whole, leaving the buzz words in as a first step. Then edit the draft to meet the criteria you suggest. (I left out 'philosophical' as the possibility of falsification is held out, by Tegmark, for example—for some concepts of WAP—I think 'philosophical' alone is not enough. — Neonorange (Phil) 10:26, 15 September 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sorry you can't sleep. I'm on the smokey west coast. No rush on any of this, so let's take our time. Hmmm. Boltzmann Brain and Doomsday Argument and Simulation Hypothesis present similar challenges of needing to convey deeply counterintuitive, abstract and probabilistic arguments which are often tossed about as though they were settled issues, when in fact they are not. My strongest desire here is that the notion of attempting to "take initial requirements into account to determine likelihood" or "determine probability of" be included. In your above sentence, it seems a little cart before the horse. The starting point is not why the universe is the way it is, rather, the starting point is that we are limited beings making limited observations and we are trying to figure out what we can conclude from our observations. While the current definition in the article takes several sentences to make sense, I'm not sure there is a more streamlined way to do it that won't be taking too strong of a stance on all the cosmological questions at play. But let's try anyway. Bostrom says (we probably don't want to give him undue authority, but still..) the question is " to reason when you suspect that your evidence is biased by observation selection effects."(xiii) In a bare-bones way I think the definition would follow this shape. The AP is...:

(1) a group of principles (2) attempting to determine how likely our observations about the universe are, (3) given that we could only exist in a particular type of universe to start with, and (4) what we can conclude about the universe as a result

DolyaIskrina (talk) 20:41, 15 September 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I like what you say. Except for your being next door to a conflagration—that's situation to cause uneasy sleep. In the early 1960s I was a student in southern California—in the early 80s I worked out of San Francisco. I don't remember notable fires—well, the Mount St. Helens eruption and the horrendous Caldecott Tunnel fire in the Bay Area.
I agree with your long view. I have the idea for harvesting Scientific America articles for cues to expressing difficult cosmological concepts in accessible in English prose. Through the Wikipedia Library Card I have access to all Springer Nature journals—except for Scientific American. Unfortunately it seems a phabricator ticket is the path to SA access. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle made quite an impression on me—I still have my hardback copy.
Boltzman's Brain—I have a few Hofstadter books.
Doomsday argument—I see why you mention that lede.
For smoke, the 3M N95 3511 respirator mask (~$10) with at close sealing gasket and an exhale valve. Masks with exhale valves are not considered adequate to protect others from Covid19 infection. However, when appropriate, the are much more comfortable—easier to breath through and much cooler.
Neonorange (Phil) 23:30, 16 September 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I'm looking at these three sentences and having trouble telling which works best.

1. The anthropic principle is the philosophical premise that any data we collect about the universe is filtered by the fact that, for it to be observable at all, the universe must have been compatible with the emergence of conscious and sapient life that observes it.(Current)

2. "The anthropic principle is the philosophical premise that any data we collect about the universe is filtered by the fact that, for it to be observable at all, the universe must have been compatible with life to start with. (my reverted edit)

3. The anthropic principle is a group of principles attempting to determine how statistically probable our observations about the universe are, given that we could only exist in a particular type of universe to start with. (my most recent proposal)

I think #2 works pretty well. It collapses sentient and sapient into "life" which doesn't bother me at all. There are philosophers' points to be made about that, but I don't think we should be so pedantic here. I think #3 could work too, I'm just worried that some people will feel it doesn't capture the whole story. #1 is awkward because it starts with "data we collect" and then talks about "emergence of consciousness" which is confusing. Thus far, we are the only known conscious beings making observations. DolyaIskrina (talk) 00:47, 23 September 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

    Yeah just hopping on the train here to say that the lead has been edited into confusion: the 2nd sentence should be 1st. Or atleast the idea of it. AP is first and foremost the IDEA that this universe is fine-tuned for human life. It is not a group of principles trying to determine statistics. Statistics is what scientists do when trying to prove/disprove the idea, but statistics is not the idea itself. 2001:BB8:2003:F:ED58:6F70:CE9D:91FC (talk) 19:10, 18 October 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There are very few citations supporting the main points of this article[edit]

There are virtually no citations in the main body paragraphs to support the general description/definition of the Anthropic Principal, identify who the key figures mentioned are, or confirm the veracity of the positions and statements attributed to them. I am very skeptical of the claims that these arguments were made by respected academics. They are exceptionally weak arguments that presuppose their own accuracy and fail to cite any evidence at all...let alone empiracal evidence.

I am new to wikipedia, so I am not sure what the standard procedure is, but I am very suspicious of the accuracy of this article based on the lack of sources and the exceptionally juvenile, unsupported arguments that are being attributed to people who are supposed to be well established scholars at the top of their field. Briandrewdrew (talk) 07:43, 3 October 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yes it's a confounding argument to be sure, along with Boltzmann Brain, Doomsday Argument and Simulation Hypothesis it's a shock that smart people take them so seriously. It's a tradition stretching back to Zeno's Paradoxes. What do we make of apparently sound arguments that have absurd seeming conclusions? However, the article has 76 footnotes and a lot of sources. So I don't think it's unsupported. If you find a particular claim in the article unsupported, you can put [citation needed] at the end of the sentence, and editors will respond specifically to that. The lead of the article, however, is actually not supposed to have many (or even any) sources. The lead is supposed to be an accurate summary of well sourced claims in the body of the article. If you follow this link you can learn a little more about "citation needed" >WP:CITENEED. Cheers. DolyaIskrina (talk) 22:53, 5 October 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Briandrewdrew User talk:Briandrewdrew — Well, like all good Wikipedia articles, the starting point is good, reliable sources. If you have access, The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Physics has a survey that starts with the Everett Interpretition of quantum mechanics by David Wallace (physicist),that maybe of help in approaching the subject. After all, the notion of empirical falsifiability was proposed by a philosopher, Karl Popper. This could be a good start.
I left a welcome to Wikipedia on your talk page. Hope the links prove useful.Neonorange (Phil) 06:32, 19 October 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]