Methodology and anthropic reasoning There are good reasons to view attempts to deduce basic laws of matter from the existence of mind with scepticism. Above all, it seems gratuitous. Physicists have done very well indeed at understanding matter on its own terms, without reference to mind. We have found that the governing principles take the form of abstract mathematical equations of universal validity, which refer only to entities — quantum fields — that clearly do not have minds of their own. Working chemists and biologists, for the most part, are committed to the programme of understanding how minds work under the assumption that it will turn out to involve complex orchestration of the building blocks that physics describes ; and while this programme is by no means complete, it has not encountered any show-stopper and it is supporting steady advances over a wide front. Computer scientists have made it plausible that the essence of mind is to be found in the operation of algorithms that in principle could be realized within radically different physical embodiments (cells, transistors, tinkertoys) and in no way rely on the detailed structure of physical law . To put it shortly, the emergence of mind does not seem to be the sort of thing we would like to postulate and use as a basic explanatory principle. Rather, it is something we would like to understand and explain by building up from simpler phenomena. So there is a heavy burden to justify use of anthropic reasoning in basic physics. And yet there are, it seems to me, limited, specific circumstances under which such reasoning can be correct, unavoidable and clearly appropriate.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)