Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Anthropic Viewpoint

Poor Ol' Anthropic Principle - it sure gets kicked around a lot. The first time I read about it in Stephen Hawking's writing it immediately clicked for me: for most of my life I had held the intuition that there are a multitude of other universes out there with different basic physical laws and different timelines than our own. Now that intuition had a name.

If you're not familiar with the term, you can read about the different variations of the Anthropic Principle at wikipedia. There are some variants listed in the article which I had not heard of before - I was familiar with the Weak Anthropic Principle ("WAP"), and the Strong Anthropic Principle ("SAP"), but I was amused to learn that there is also the "FAP" (Final) and the "CRAP" (Completely Ridiculous) versions of this concept as well.

If our universe really is only one of many in a multiverse of universes, then the anthropic principle is a no-brainer: it would be like asking how humans came to be so lucky as to live on land, because if we lived on the bottom of the ocean we would all have drowned. But the anthropic principle certainly has some passionate opposition - some people believe it is an argument in support of Intelligent Design, some dismiss it as unsupportable conjecture (and therefore not a scientific viewpoint), some people believe it proves there is no need for a Creator because every possible arrangement of matter and energy exists out there in the multiverse.

In my song "The Anthropic Viewpoint" I examine the ideas behind the anthropic principle - how did we end up in a universe whose basic laws have been uniquely tuned to support life as we know it? This song blends a number of ideas: determinism, free will, the voices of intuition, the multiverse as it relates to the Anthropic Principle, and Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems (which I also sometimes use to describe how my version of "dimension ten" is different from the other nine in my model). And it's got a good beat and you can dance to it.

Music and lyrics by Rob Bryanton (SOCAN)

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain
The only thing that I know for certain
In everything that you say and do
The only thing you know for sure is you
Believe in that and you will be okay
You could live to fight another day, some day

Pay no mind to those tiny little voices
Every day you gotta make some choices
Make ‘em right and you can carry on
Make ‘em wrong and you will soon be gone
And if it seems just a little unfair
Get used to it, cause the stars don’t care, don’t care

In the anthropic viewpoint
The reason we’re here is because we’re here
And if it were impossible
Then we wouldn’t be

If there’s other worlds then we’ve just missed ‘em
No way to know what’s outside our system
We’re like goldfish livin in a bowl
What’s beyond it we can never know
All we can do is theorize
Cause we can never… get outside, outside

In the anthropic viewpoint…

So here we are in the Hydrogen Conspiracy
That’s the way that it certainly appears to be
What’s the reason, where’s the rhyme
How’d we end up on this line
All those other possibilities
They’re just as real, but they don’t have me
It’s no big deal, not worth a fuss
They’re just as real, but they don’t have us, have us

In the anthropic viewpoint
The reason we’re here is because we’re here
And if it were impossible
Then we wouldn’t be

And here is a cool video created by Ryan Hill, using as its starting point an extreme closeup of my ugly mug singing the song. Crank it up!

A link to this video can be found at

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

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