The Anthropic Principle and its Implications for Biological Evolution [and Discussion]

B. Carter, W. H. McCrea

Abstract

In the form in which it was originally expounded, the anthropic principle was presented as a warning to astrophysical and cosmological theorists of the risk of error in the interpretation of astronomical and cosmological information unless due account is taken of the biological restraints under which the information was acquired. However, the converse message is also valid: biological theorists also run the risk of error in the interpretation of the evolutionary record unless they take due heed of the astrophysical restraints under which evolution took place. After an introductory discussion of the ordinary (`weak') anthropic principle and of its more contestable (`strong') analogue, a new application of the former to the problem of the evolution of terrestrial life is presented. It is shown that the evidence suggests that the evolutionary chain included at least one but probably not more than two links that were highly improbable (a priori) in the available time interval.

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