Physics Question #651

Elizabeth, a 13 year old female from Oshawa asks on February 12, 2002,

How was life created and why did we start living on earth, or why was it the "chosen" place? i would like to know the answer or your opinion to tell my science teacher. His explanation was "It was merely being at the right time at the right place with chemicals that worked together." Do you have a different view?

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The answer

Barry Shell answered on February 13, 2002

I fundamentally agree with your teacher. That's my opinion, too. However, there is such a thing as the Anthropic Principle which goes something like this: The existence of human life entails certain features of the physical world. Basically, we would not be here to observe natural phenomena were they not compatible with our existence. Stronger versions of the anthropic principle, have the idealistic notion that the universe could not exist without intelligent observers.

These books explain it, and they are available at the library: John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford, 1988) and Errol E. Harris, Cosmos and Theos: Ethical and Theological Implications of the Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Humanity, 1992).

Here's the wikipedia entry on the anthropic principle where you can read more about it. In my opinion, this is a fascinating theory, but it's more likely that your teacher is correct.

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