8th May 2011

“Modern science directly implies that the world is organized strictly in accordance with mechanistic principles. There are no purposive principles whatsoever in nature. There are no gods and no designing forces that are rationally detectable.”

Stephen Jay Gould1941 – 2002

16 Responses to “8th May 2011”

  1. greateighthsin Says:

    Which makes all this bickering and fighting over who’s right and who’s wrong completely worthless as it does absolutely nothing for the universe and only seeks to disrupt and divide humanity.

  2. CaptainZero Says:

    Personally, I’d rather have a universe of chance that an omniscient deity that knew in advance that I’d be an atheist and therefore condemned. Compared with the ethics of that monstrosity, blind chance seems warm and comforting.

  3. Defiantnonbeliever Says:

    I like this one a lot although am a little surprised Gould said it. Standing up for the truths of science and the implications that can withstand the tests is well worth bickering over to unite people it seems to me.

  4. R J Says:

    he got the idea right that there are no gods. the rest of the
    quote is ridiculous……and STUPID.

    there are ” purposive principles ” EVERYWHERE in nature………..
    and they are OBVIOUS and ” rationally detectable .”

    this little quote is, at best, dimwitted.

  5. Dan Says:


    there are ” purposive principles ” EVERYWHERE in nature………..
    and they are OBVIOUS and ” rationally detectable .”

    Could you provide an example of one?

  6. Atheist MC Says:

    He can’t but I can.
    My nose was obviously specifically designed for the “purpose” of keeping my glasses in place. Therefore …

  7. Dan Says:

    @AMC LOL
    I didn’t think that RJ was channeling Professor Pangloss, but now that you mention it…

  8. Jeff Says:

    Frankly, I’m a proponent of the weak anthropomorphic principle in cosmology. The universe is as we understand it (so far) because for it to be otherwise, we would not exist to try to understand it. We can imagine universes in which the physical laws would preclude our existence, but since we cannot live in one, we will never see them. Just another branch on the tree of the uncertainty principle.

    The only purposive principle is that, and Gould was wrong in that, and only that, particular. The purpose of the physical laws of THIS universe is because they make those who would try to understand it possible.

  9. Dan Says:

    Jeff: More Professor Pangloss?

  10. Jeff Says:


    No, sir. Professor Pangloss optimism was a fictional creation, whereas the strong and weak anthropomorphic principles have been argued among cosmologists for at least a couple of decades. The strong argues that the only possible universe is one in which we exist, and is therefore an artifact of the creator. The weak argues that it only appears that way because in a universe where we could not exist there would be no one asking the question.

    The uncertainty principle remark was based on the presumption that quantum decisions in the billionth of a second after the bang resulted in the value for Planck’s constant that, in tern, resulted in the physical laws by which we came into being. As I recall from my reading, it has been calculated that a .01% difference in Planck’s would result in a universe where we could not exist.

    Since we know that quantum mechanics works (the transistor is a quantum device), we can seek to understand the universe as described by the math. I’m personally a subscriber to the many universes explanation, that each quantum resolution results in a break in the universe, one where the resolution came up heads, the other, tails. Under those conditions, the bang would result in an effectively infinite number of universes, some of which could support life (Planck’s just about equal to ours), most of which could not.

    A chance remark of Isaac Asimov’s set me on this particular path. He once said that in science there are no real numbers between zero and infinity. What he was saying is that if a phenomena can occur once, it must be able to happen an infinite number of times. I can see no reason why that should not be as true of the phenomena of a universe as it is of the boiling point of pure water at sea level. I make no judgement as to the quality of the phenomena, only its existence.

  11. Dan Says:

    Yeah, I see what you’re saying, but the view that “…only appears that way because in a universe where we could not exist…” is no more than a truism. As with any recipe or experiment, if you change a variable or two, the observer will experience something different (and if they’re part of the recipe, as in the case of universes, they themselves would be different). But the assertion that there’d be no observer or universe to experience if a variable or two is changed? That, my friend, is not all that different from a Panglossian assertion.

  12. Dan Says:

    Sorry, change the question to:
    But the assertion that there’d be no observer in a universe who’s had a variable or two is changed?

  13. Jeff Says:


    The strong principle would argue that without an observer, there is nothing to observe – the tree falling in the woods. The weak principle argues that the neutral observer still exists, even if it cannot be a conscious observer. I can accept that the former is a Panglossian assertion (the reason I reject it, by the way), but not the latter. The latter accepts the existence of a universe where the value of Planck’s precludes the existence of life, but also accepts that it is an unobservable existence except in the conceptual sense.

    Please accept that I am not an expert in these things, merely a semi-well informed reader, but that far better than I have argued both ways.

  14. Dan Says:

    That’s neither the Strong nor Weak Anthropic Principles you describe.

    SAP is the “philosophical argument that observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it” – what you describe there is more like something out of Buddhist Zen philosophy I’m pretty certain.

    WAP is “…conditions that are observed in the universe must allow the observer to exist.”

    You can look these up, along with plenty of citations to back it up, on their respective Wikis.

  15. downtown dave Says:

    God has given evidence of Himself. http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

  16. Eileen A. Davidson Says:

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