God and cosmology

Gokul43201

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Oh, and the gene isnt the unit of selection(reductionism at its finest), so the premise of most of Dawkins' work is wrong anyway.
Not sure exactly what you are saying here (and this is not my field, not by a long shot), but (just looking up his publication list I see that) Dawkins has published dozens of papers in respected peer-reviewed journals. Simply dismissing them as wrong is in direct violation of the Forum Guidelines. What you can do, if you choose to, is cite other peer-reviewed work that points out the errors in Dawkins' research.
 
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apeiron

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Could you define fundamentalism, and for extra clarity, whatever you would call the opposite of fundamentalism?
In this case, it would be that we have a dichotomy - is reality founded on material explanation or is it fundamentally about immaterial causes. And fundamentalism would be monadic - the assertion that one or other extreme must be "the truth".

Though that deals with the ontology - the basis of being. When it comes to epistemology, science says it is modelling and religion says it is faith. Although it also makes appeal to reason (god is the only logical answer), and in earlier times evidence (god is evident in the miracles we see and facts like the rising of Christ). And an evidence-based religion would be doing modelling as well.

So fundamentalism would be about arriving at the most opposed possible extremes of view. If I say the monadic principle, the ultimate source of being, is material causation, then you say it is immaterial causation. Or vice versa. They are mirror image choices that want to exclude all positions in-between.

The way to avoid the sterility of fundamentalism is always to embrace the underlying dichotomy (which must have some rational "truth" because it is a division of what seems possible) and then build models that mix the two complementary perspectives.

For example, the dichotomy of substance~form does step back from the material/immaterial bogus debate. We can return to Aristotle's four causes and see that there are always a pair of substantial causes and a pair of formal causes involved in any being.

In accounting for the universe, for instance, we need to explain both the origin of its substance (particles, entropy, energy, spacetime, etc) and its physical laws (the regularities or boundary constraints that are its natural form).

Science is actually full of spooky action at a distance. Newton's gravity. QM non-locality. The attractors of chaos theory and teleology of Darwinian evolution. Not to mention "the mind" and downward causation.

So this is the problem. If science allows itself to be driven towards monadic fundamentalist positions of any kind, it will end up always with only half a story.

I recently spent a few weeks in Taiwan where it was interesting to see "non-fundamentalist" religion in operation. Buddhist and Tao imagery side by side on the altar. Temples to Confucius.

The Western problem really is not fundamentalism, I guess, but monadism. The dichotomy is fundamental. It is then taking either/or positions on the extremes made visible by a dichotomy which is the wrong move.

Never think either/or, always find the way to see the truth of both.

BTW, this does not re-open the door to a creating immaterial god because reality~god is not a proper dichotomy. The standard notion of god is just a souped up human level of autonomy and control - complexity in other words. And the proper complementary of complexity is simplicity. (Or simplexity~complicity as Stewart/Cohen neatly put it).

God, like consciousness, is a word many use but just is not philisophically well grounded. Not fundamental as a concept we may say!
 

Gokul43201

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Thanks for the explanation. While I disagree with many parts of the content of that post, I am grateful for your effort in putting it together. There is one lingering doubt though, that I'm not sure is covered clearly in your post (or if it is, I'm not seeing it clearly): can I be a fundamentalist if I am unaware of the dichotomy?
 
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Definition 3 would put many of my hobbies and most of my work under the religion column. I consider that too broad (or circular, if you then have to carefully define the word 'devotion'). Oxford has three definitions for 'devotion', two of which concern religion, but the third applies perfectly to my hobbies and work.

indeed.

baseball players and so on .....lol......
 

apeiron

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can I be a fundamentalist if I am unaware of the dichotomy?
Tell me what you believe in fundamentally and I can certainly tell you how or if it maps to the classical metaphysical dichotomies.

Note, I would argue that god is not a good candidate for a fundamental notion because it is not sufficiently simple. The Christian god especially has too many hopes, desires and plans.

If we reduce (or actually, generalise) towards the simple, then we arrive at an asymmetry between the material and the non-material (the A and not-A). Or material and immaterial.

Again, this is unsatisfactory because we don't just want a Hegelian thesis and anti-thesis - a positive and its negation. A proper dichotomy is two positives. So that is why we would keep generalising to arrive at a dichotomy like substance~form. Now we have a complementary pair, allowing both to be "true", while both also exclude all other possibility inbetween.

So now religion still fails as explanation, but for more grounded reasons.

The concept of god fails as it is not defined as fundamentally simple. Though perhaps it might succeed if we can define it in terms of the "fundamentally complex" - the Noosphere or Omega Point argument for example.

And the concept of immaterial causation fails because it is monadic. The cause of being must have both substantial and formal aspects.
 
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Basically that atheism can save the world. It is the best, most moral, and most advanced lifestyle for humans to embrace. And those who dont embrace it should be smeared. Which is what the movement is all about. Demonizing the other side. Sounds familiar again, huh?
This is nonsense.

Dawkins has never said atheism can save the world. In fact, if anything one could reasonably accuse him of 'scientism'. The idea that science will eventually find all the answers. But even he doesn't go that far.

What he does say say, is that both institutions based on dogma, and supernatural beliefs are detrimental to society, on the basis that, unquestioned beliefs lead to error, and irrational beliefs lead to irrational actions. He has never advocated for blindly following any doctrine(faith).

Also, there is no atheist morality or atheist lifestyle to embrace. In fact, atheism doesn't describe either of these, it simply describes a lack of belief in gods. Religions do have common elements, such as supernatural explanations, and claims. Atheism may have advocates, but it is not a belief system, nor an institution.
 
Not sure exactly what you are saying here (and this is not my field, not by a long shot), but (just looking up his publication list I see that) Dawkins has published dozens of papers in respected peer-reviewed journals. Simply dismissing them as wrong is in direct violation of the Forum Guidelines. What you can do, if you choose to, is cite other peer-reviewed work that points out the errors in Dawkins' research.
Ya, on things like the attention span of bees. Which gives him no insight into all the things/fields things he asserts himself as an authority on. His CV is actually very weak for someone of his age and stature. Compare it to someone like John Barrow's. Who is like a decade younger than Dawkins and has children. Barrow has also written a ton of pop books.

Ernst Mayr>Dawkins

Even though most evolutionists agree that the individual organism is the principal object of selection, there is great dissension about also accepting as the object of selection the lower or higher levels in the hierarchies of the living world.
The Gene.

The proposal by Williams (7) to adopt the gene as the object of selection not only conformed to the prevailing reductionist spirit of the time but also fitted into the thinking of many geneticists who in the mathematical analyses of population genetics had adopted the gene as the principal entity of evolutionary change. Williams’s proposal was strongly endorsed by Dawkins (9). This idea of the gene as the target of selection was at first widely accepted, for instance by Lewontin (10). But eventually it was severely criticized (11, 12), and even its original supporters have now moderated their claims. The critics pointed out that “naked genes,” “not being independent objects” (9), are not “visible” to selection and therefore can never serve as the target. Furthermore, the same gene, for instance the human sickle cell gene, may be beneficial in heterozygous condition (in Plasmodium falciparum areas) but deleterious and often lethal in the homozygous state. Many genes have different fitness values when placed into different genotypes. Genic selectionism is also invalidated by the pleiotropy of many genes and the interaction of genes controlling polygenic components of the phenotype. On one occasion Dawkins (ref. 13, point 7) himself admits that the gene is not an object of selection: “. . . genetic replicators are selected not directly, but by proxy . . . [by] their phenotypic effects.” Precisely! Nor are combinations of genes, as for instance chromosomes, independent objects of selection; only their carriers are.
http://www.pnas.org/content/94/6/2091.full

Mayr said there are two types of scientists, media scientists and scientist scientists. He used Dawkins as a specific example of a media scientist.

Btw, Dawkins usually discusses, defends, and even introduces his ideas in popular books mainly, and not in scientific journals. Notice how every time Mayr cites Dawkins' claims they are from pop books?
 
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In this case, it would be that we have a dichotomy - is reality founded on material explanation or is it fundamentally about immaterial causes. And fundamentalism would be monadic - the assertion that one or other extreme must be "the truth".

Though that deals with the ontology - the basis of being. When it comes to epistemology, science says it is modelling and religion says it is faith. Although it also makes appeal to reason (god is the only logical answer), and in earlier times evidence (god is evident in the miracles we see and facts like the rising of Christ). And an evidence-based religion would be doing modelling as well.

So fundamentalism would be about arriving at the most opposed possible extremes of view. If I say the monadic principle, the ultimate source of being, is material causation, then you say it is immaterial causation. Or vice versa. They are mirror image choices that want to exclude all positions in-between.

The way to avoid the sterility of fundamentalism is always to embrace the underlying dichotomy (which must have some rational "truth" because it is a division of what seems possible) and then build models that mix the two complementary perspectives.

For example, the dichotomy of substance~form does step back from the material/immaterial bogus debate. We can return to Aristotle's four causes and see that there are always a pair of substantial causes and a pair of formal causes involved in any being.

In accounting for the universe, for instance, we need to explain both the origin of its substance (particles, entropy, energy, spacetime, etc) and its physical laws (the regularities or boundary constraints that are its natural form).

Science is actually full of spooky action at a distance. Newton's gravity. QM non-locality. The attractors of chaos theory and teleology of Darwinian evolution. Not to mention "the mind" and downward causation.

So this is the problem. If science allows itself to be driven towards monadic fundamentalist positions of any kind, it will end up always with only half a story.

I recently spent a few weeks in Taiwan where it was interesting to see "non-fundamentalist" religion in operation. Buddhist and Tao imagery side by side on the altar. Temples to Confucius.

The Western problem really is not fundamentalism, I guess, but monadism. The dichotomy is fundamental. It is then taking either/or positions on the extremes made visible by a dichotomy which is the wrong move.

Never think either/or, always find the way to see the truth of both.

BTW, this does not re-open the door to a creating immaterial god because reality~god is not a proper dichotomy. The standard notion of god is just a souped up human level of autonomy and control - complexity in other words. And the proper complementary of complexity is simplicity. (Or simplexity~complicity as Stewart/Cohen neatly put it).

God, like consciousness, is a word many use but just is not philisophically well grounded. Not fundamental as a concept we may say!
Heard about this from many people but mainy from Jung. There is more nuance and balance in the Eastern way. The kind of nuance and balance that drives materialists like Dawkins crazy. The west is too unbalanced on the side of materialism.

Old Eastern saying:

Ekam Sat Vipra Bahuda Vadanthi

"Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names." or "There is but one reality, though the wise speak of it in many ways."
 

Chalnoth

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With all the complaining about Dawkins here, I have to say that I have yet to see any critique of him that doesn't horribly misrepresent what he has to say. The statement that he is a "fundamentalist" of any sort, for instance, is patently ludicrous given what he has said. All he has been doing, basically, is repeating the same critiques of religion that have been voiced by scientists time and again for quite a long time. Some of them were even voiced by ancient Greek philosophers.

As far as Eastern religions are concerned, why should Dawkins seriously care? Eastern religions have little to no impact on his life or his countrymen. I should mention that while there are good aspects to Eastern religions, in other regards they fall into some of the exact same pitfalls as Western religions, as well as a few new pitfalls of their own.
 

Chalnoth

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If truth relied only on divine intervention, then there would not be any religious scientists.
Again, it is entirely possible for people to have two (or more!) conflicting ideas within their heads.

When it comes to facts about their religion, religious people don't rely upon scientific investigation: they can't, because if they did, they'd find their religion false (or likely false) and would cease believing.
 
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I think an interpretation of a personal God can be a very good thing for great number of people. However, this often leads some unique people to think my interpretation should be the same as their interpretation. Better to just be done with all of it. Logic should be the new religion. I think the order in the Universe that we see, makes it easy to question a materialistic world being all there is. But, this is less of a stretch than accepting an objective personal God that knows and cares about me.
 

Chalnoth

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Regarding God and cosmology:

I am an agnostic that tends towards atheism but have found myself defending religion on more than one occasion. My issue with your prototypical, every-day atheist is not that I believe he/she is wrong, rather my issue is with their argument.
Well, it's certainly the case that there are a lot of horribly bad arguments out there. But there are also some good ones. Any good argument doesn't rely much upon specific things which we just don't yet know.

It shouldn't be too surprising, though, that the majority of atheists don't have a terribly good understanding of cosmology, simply because they aren't cosmologists.

In order to argue against a god, though, you first have to define what you mean. This can be a bit difficult, because different people mean very different things. I somewhat like the way Sean Carroll put it in the essay linked on the first page of this thread, but I would place it in somewhat different words:

By a god, I mean a creator that formed the universe, and had some choice in how it went about doing so. That is, it could have made the universe one way, but decided to make it the current way instead.

This obviously won't encompass every definition of a god. But it captures pretty well the idea of a monotheistic god as worshiped in most Western religions. Given this definition, we can very strongly say that there's no reason to believe it exists. The argument goes as follows: let's imagine that our argument in favor of this deity is to attempt to use it to explain some curious fact about our universe. Take your pick, it doesn't matter. We could be talking about the origin of the universe itself, or of the tiny value of the cosmological constant, or of the fact that life is possible. Whatever.

Now, we're also going to state that we have no direct evidence that this god exists, we're only attempting to use it to explain certain facts that otherwise seem difficult to explain (in other words, we're directly addressing the "argument from design"). Given this, we can compare this god hypothesis against a simple physical theory:

1. God hypothesis: this set of facts about the universe are the way they are because this god decided that it should be that way.
2. Physical theory: this set of facts about the universe simply are.

Now, this physical theory is basically the worst physical theory you could come up with: it's a complete non-explanation. But how does this worst possible physical theory compare against the god hypothesis? Well, there's a tried and tested philosophical tool that we can use here: Ockam's Razor. Since the two alternatives are exactly in the same accordance with the evidence, the question is which of the two is simpler.

Naively one might think that the god hypothesis is simpler: you are proposing one single entity to explain a variety of facts of the universe. But it's not quite as simple as this: the statement isn't as simple as "god exists", but also must include the properties of this deity. That is, we're not just talking about the number of entities, but the "algorithmic complexity" of the proposal. For example, if our proposal includes A = 2, B = 1, it doesn't mean anything to call the two one and the same thing, unless you can derive A = 2, B = 1 from some other, single fact.

What this means, then, is that if we want to reduce the number of parameters in the theory, it means that we have to explain two or more parameters as being directly derivable from the theory. So with the god hypothesis, for it to be an improvement, it means that we have to explain, say, the fact that the universe began and the fact that the cosmological constant is small as being derivable from one single fact that is a property of this god.

The problem is, the god hypothesis doesn't permit this: facts about the universe that the god hypothesis is purported to explain aren't derivable from any properties of this god. Instead, they are that way because this god decided that they should be. In principle, a generic god could have decided entirely differently, and so to fully specify this god hypothesis, we not only have to propose the aspects that are unique to the deity, but we also have to list out all of this god's decisions. In doing so, we end up with an explanation that has more parameters than that which it is purported to explain! By Ockam's Razor, then, the argument from design falls flat before it even begins, as it's not even as good as the worst possible physical model you could come up with, that those facts simply are.

So there you go, a simple argument that it's completely unreasonable to believe in a creator god without even referencing any specific facts about our universe.
 

Chalnoth

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I think the order in the Universe that we see, makes it easy to question a materialistic world being all there is.
It sorta kinda seems reasonable, but it really isn't, for the reasons I gave in my previous post. A much more reasonable explanation is just this: the universe is, at its heart, mathematical in nature.

First, let me state that this isn't actually much of an assertion. If we define mathematics to include all fully self-consistent structures, then the universe must be mathematical in nature, if only because it must be consistent with itself. Now, we don't know what mathematical structure is the correct description of our universe, but the simple fact that our universe must be self-consistent necessarily means that some mathematical structure must describe it.

Given that, we can just take a look at the properties of the mathematical structures that we know of. One completely general property is that it is vastly, vastly easier to have order than disorder. That is to say, defining an orderly, highly-patterned system takes fewer parameters that defining a disordered, chaotic system. It is therefore easier for a mathematical universe to be ordered than disordered.
 
With all the complaining about Dawkins here, I have to say that I have yet to see any critique of him that doesn't horribly misrepresent what he has to say. The statement that he is a "fundamentalist" of any sort, for instance, is patently ludicrous given what he has said. All he has been doing, basically, is repeating the same critiques of religion that have been voiced by scientists time and again for quite a long time. Some of them were even voiced by ancient Greek philosophers.

As far as Eastern religions are concerned, why should Dawkins seriously care? Eastern religions have little to no impact on his life or his countrymen. I should mention that while there are good aspects to Eastern religions, in other regards they fall into some of the exact same pitfalls as Western religions, as well as a few new pitfalls of their own.
Dawkins is a fundamentalist and a bomb thrower. His level of discourse is that of Glen Beck and Ann Coulter. This is a man who finds it hard to live in a world where children read books like Harry Potter. And thinks the series needs to be investigated.
 

Chalnoth

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Dawkins is a fundamentalist and a bomb thrower. His level of discourse is that of Glen Beck and Ann Coulter. This is a man who finds it hard to live in a world where children read books like Harry Potter. And thinks the series needs to be investigated.
Yeah, it sounds to me like you're describing some person that doesn't even exist. I challenge you to back any of this up with some evidence.
 
Yeah, it sounds to me like you're describing some person that doesn't even exist. I challenge you to back any of this up with some evidence.
Ever heard of google?

The prominent atheist is stepping down from his post at Oxford University to write a book aimed at youngsters in which he will warn them against believing in "anti-scientific" fairytales.
"I think it is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know," he told More4 News.

"I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research."
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/3255972/Harry-Potter-fails-to-cast-spell-over-Professor-Richard-Dawkins.html

Dawkins on the X Files:

Each week The X-Files poses a mystery and offers two rival kinds of explanation, the rational theory and the paranormal theory. And, week after week, the rational explanation loses. But it is only fiction, a bit of fun, why get so hot under the collar?
Imagine a crime series in which, every week, there is a white suspect and a black suspect. And every week, lo and behold, the black one turns out to have done it. Unpardonable, of course. And my point is that you could not defend it by saying: "But it's only fiction, only entertainment".
http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/quotes/dawkins.htm [Broken]

The guy is a miserable fanatic.

Dawkins thinks being raised in a religious household is worse than being sexually molested as a child:

Regarding the accusations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, deplorable and disgusting as those abuses are, they are not so harmful to the children as the grievous mental harm in bringing up the child Catholic in the first place.
Those are just ones I knew off the top of my head. He even runs an atheist camp for kids. I wonder if pedophilia is more welcome there than religion.
 
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Chalnoth

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Uh, what? Did you actually read the article? Here is one of his quotes:
I haven't read Harry Potter, I have read Pullman who is the other leading children's author that one might mention and I love his books. I don't know what to think about magic and fairy tales.
How, precisely, is that a condemnation?

Dawkins on the X Files:
Why is this unreasonable? We do have real problems with large numbers of people who continually and consistently turn to paranormal explanations even when there are perfectly rational ones staring them straight in the face.

Dawkins thinks being raised in a religious household is worse than being sexually molested as a child:
Uh, Dawkins was sexually molested by a priest as a child. In his opinion, it certainly wasn't a walk in the park, but it was hardly a life-destroying event. By contrast, being raised in imposed ignorance can very much be.

Those are just ones I knew off the top of my head. He even runs an atheist camp for kids.
Why is this a problem?
 
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He even runs an atheist camp for kids. I wonder if pedofilia is more welcome there than religion.
Equating a camp for kids, with pedophilia, says more about you, than Dawkins.

In fact it sounds like 'bomb throwing'.

Since you're so good at googling, try:
Pot Kettle Black
 
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Sorry to drag the thread back a few pages but I wan't to answer why the anthropic principle seems to contradict the Copernican principle. From the first line of Wiki's Copernican principle page - "In physical cosmology, the Copernican principle, named after Nicolaus Copernicus, states that the Earth is not in a central, specially favored position". Citing the weak anthropic principle you claim that we are in a specially favoured position by the very fact that we are here to observe it. Is this not a contradiction?
 

Chalnoth

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Sorry to drag the thread back a few pages but I wan't to answer why the anthropic principle seems to contradict the Copernican principle. From the first line of Wiki's Copernican principle page - "In physical cosmology, the Copernican principle, named after Nicolaus Copernicus, states that the Earth is not in a central, specially favored position". Citing the weak anthropic principle you claim that we are in a specially favoured position by the very fact that we are here to observe it. Is this not a contradiction?
I guess I don't really understand your objection here. One could raise the same objection about the Earth: we don't know a whole lot (yet) about the total probability distribution of planetary bodies. But we do have quite a few bodies within our own solar system that are massive enough to become spherical (including planets, dwarf planets, and moons). Of these places, we happen to find ourself on the only one that has just the right distance from the Sun, just the right mass, and just the right constituents to be supportive of life (well, some others may have some form of life, but certainly nothing more complex than microbes).

Therefore, doesn't the simple observation of our place in our solar system seem to put us in violation of the Copernican principle in the exact same way that you are claiming?
 
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It does in a way. I was thinking more along the lines of physics on a cosmological scale. Why suppose the universe is homogeneous if we know we are in a specially favoured position?
 

Chalnoth

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It does in a way. I was thinking more along the lines of physics on a cosmological scale. Why suppose the universe is homogeneous if we know we are in a specially favoured position?
Well, supposing that our observable region was homogeneous was simply an easy thing to do. There is no fundamental reason that it had to be. But, observations have borne out that on large scales, our observable region is indeed homogeneous.

I don't think we should really expect that everything beyond our cosmological horizon is also homogeneous.
 

DaveC426913

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Sorry to drag the thread back a few pages but I wan't to answer why the anthropic principle seems to contradict the Copernican principle. From the first line of Wiki's Copernican principle page - "In physical cosmology, the Copernican principle, named after Nicolaus Copernicus, states that the Earth is not in a central, specially favored position". Citing the weak anthropic principle you claim that we are in a specially favoured position by the very fact that we are here to observe it. Is this not a contradiction?
I do not see this as a contradiction.

Look at it this way:

There is no possible way it could not be true. There is no possible way that an entity could observe their position in the universe without, by the above logic, making it favoured.

If it can't not be true, then it is trivially true. i.e. it being true means nothing.


Looking at it another way:

If we were suddenly 6Gly to the left, and observing our position from that point, we would come to the exact same conclusion - that our position is favoured because of our presence. In fact, no matter what position we place ourselves as observer, your logic makes it favoured. Moreso, we can move this favoured place by moving ourselves.

If every place is favoured then no place is favoured.
 
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I do not see this as a contradiction.

Look at it this way:

There is no possible way it could not be true. There is no possible way that an entity could observe their position in the universe without, by the above logic, making it favoured.

If it can't not be true, then it is trivially true. i.e. it being true means nothing.


Looking at it another way:

If we were suddenly 6Gly to the left, and observing our position from that point, we would come to the exact same conclusion - that our position is favoured because of our presence. In fact, no matter what position we place ourselves as observer, your logic makes it favoured. Moreso, we can move this favoured place by moving ourselves.

If every place is favoured then no place is favoured.
I don't agree with your logic. If we were 6 light years to the side, we wouldn't exist, that's the whole point of the anthropic principle.
 

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