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What's about a biological anthropic principle?

  1. Sep 5, 2004 #1
    Anthropic principle, in its different forms, is cause of discussion in Cosmology.

    My question here is restricted to Biology.

    Are conditions of life's origin and evolution restricted in so form that they allow the emergence of intelligent life?

    The great difference would be that a biological anthropic principle is related to hazardous conditions (for example, extinctions by a meteorite), whereas the cosmological anthropic principle is related to fundamental constants.

    In fact, cosmological anthropic principle could take in account this biological , hazardous, aspect.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 14, 2004 #2
    The absence of answers to this thread suggest that I posted my question in a bad form. So, I will pose it in other form: Is intelligence (in any form, not necessarily human) an inevitable consequence of evolution or simply an hazardous side effect?
  4. Oct 14, 2004 #3


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    I'll admit that I'm still not sure what you're trying to discuss. You've provided two alternatives relating to intelligence:
    1) inevitable consequence of evolution
    2) hazardous side effect

    First, I don't think these two alternatives are necessarily mutually exclusive, nor all encompassing. For example, it could be inevitable that you have a hazardous side effect, or alternatively, it could be a beneficial side effect.

    Within the scope of biological knowledge and, specifically, evolutionary theory, I don't think there is an answer to this question. Any answer I could attempt would be highly speculative and would require a lot of assumptions. In other words, we only know of one example of an evolutionary process leading to the development of intelligent organisms, that being the one that has occurred here on Earth. There is no second, independent, system in which evolution has occurred THAT WE KNOW OF to assess whether the end result would be at all similar. Without that knowledge, your question can't be answered. That is, if I'm understanding your question properly.
  5. Oct 14, 2004 #4
    I believe that intelligence is the consequence of evolution. As our solar system evolved, it achieved intelligent life.

    As other parts of the universe age, they too must achieve intelligent life. I suspect that intelligent life is everywhere in the universe that is as old as this part of the universe or older.
  6. Oct 14, 2004 #5


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    Yes, intelligence has arisen as a consequence of evolution for life on Earth. But I think the question was whether it is an inevitable consequence.

    This can only be speculation. There is no way to know if this is true, unless we discover more systems in which life has evolved independently of life on Earth to determine if the same patterns are followed.
  7. Oct 14, 2004 #6
    Yes. I agree.
    Probably, my question was more philosophical than scientific. As you say, "...without that knowledge, the question can't be answered". My question arose by analogy with the anthropic principle in Cosmology: the nature of physical constants and so the Nature of our Universe "would need" to be so to allow the existence of intelligent beings who question about the Universe. It is a principle very discussed in their both hard and soft forms.
    In Biology, a similar anthropic principle would suggest that restrictions to origin and evolution of life would be related to the later emergence of intelligent life, although in this case, in difference with Cosmology, besides the initial physical and chemical conditions need to origin of life, there is the contingent aspect of evolution.
  8. Oct 14, 2004 #7
    I agree, of course. You are quite right. There is no way to know if this is false, unless ...
  9. Oct 26, 2004 #8
    Probably it isn't inevitable. But the fact of the existence of intelligence is only possible (although not inevitable, because is contingency-dependent) after an evolution following some early conditions which make possible that intelligence arise. That would be a form of anthropic principle for Biology.
  10. Oct 27, 2004 #9
    Wouldn't the anthropic principle already apply to biology? Or you could say "We as intelligent beings exist because of the path evolution followed." Or "We see that evolution evolved intelligence because we exist."?

    Of course, what is intelligence? Are "we" intelligent?
  11. Oct 27, 2004 #10
    We are intellegent to an extent. The way i see it, we use tools, and invent things to make our lives easier. We can count, we can communicate with one another, and although basic these things may be, i believe we are considered to be intellegent life. One we have mastered telepathy, and such, we won't be super intelegent, just ordinarilly intelegent.

    I think natural selection plays a big part in intellegent life. You don't see many animals around now, that arn't somewhat intellegent to an extent. But we must remember that natural selection is always occuring, and will always be occuring, so we (humans of the period 1000 BC to 3000 AD) may not always be as intelegent as we are now. I think that we humans are getting smarter, and taller, and living longer (evidence of natural selection) and this is how i think intellegent life first arose, starting from australipithicus africanus (spelling) or similar, to us.
  12. Oct 27, 2004 #11
    There was an article in New Scientist which explained the role of intelligence quite convincingly.

    Evolution occurs via reproduction and natural selection. That works well, but there is a limit on how fast this can work. On events that occur over a period of years, months or even seconds, such reproduction bound mechanisms will fail and the species will die. Evolution threw up something else, evolution on the fly, also known as intelligence. Things that can adapt to new situations and quickly is paramount in a rapidly changing environment.

    Thats why, you can confidently say, humans are the most intelligent beings on earth (that we know of). Because they can learn and adapt to new situations quickly. But there is a cost, we must start off knowing nothing so that we can conform as soon as we are born. This is in stark contrast to many other animals. Horses for example are able to walk very quickly after birth, yet humans take many months and this can be very dangerous as newborns are completely vunerable.

    The real point is, intelligence is only an advantage in a changing environment. It is a real disadvantage where an environment is static, and it would prevent the emergence of intelligence altogether. But of course no environment is static. So rapid change will cause intelligence to evolve, intelligence will cause more intelligence to evolve (battle of adapting to each others adaptation), and those without intelligence will suffer.

    Quite possibly the reason why so many creatures are becoming extinct, they're not smart enough :eek:
  13. Oct 27, 2004 #12
    Humans on average are getting taller because of a better diet, it's not natural selection. Short people aren't being selected against.

    I also don't think dumb people are being selected against, so that would mean people aren't getting smarter. There were philosophers and poets thousands of years ago who probably could score higher on an IQ test than a lot of us. Could you invent geometry?
  14. Oct 28, 2004 #13
    To be taller and to live longer would be due to nutritional and medical advances. And that in the developped world.
    On intelligence, we lack of basis to say that now,as individuals, we are in mean more intelligent than 5000 years ago.
  15. Oct 29, 2004 #14
    I reckon i could invent geomertry. Just kiddin. I get it now. Thanks guys.
  16. Nov 6, 2004 #15
    I don't understand that. Why?
  17. Nov 7, 2004 #16
    I guess the reasoning is somewhat like this:
    Because it is only useful to be flexible (i.e. intelligent, able to choose what is best in this situation) when being flexible pays. In our world it may be useful to learn to climb or to learn to run or to learn to throw spears (or to learn calculus:wink:). Depending on the circumstances that you are born in you choose to perfect one of your abilities (adapting on the fly). Being able to choose from different possibilities and being able to fulfill these possibilities is advantageous. Therefore natural selection might make a species that is able to do so prosper. In an environment in which nothing ever changes it would be better to be born with certain abilities that are well suited for that never changing environment, so that is what would be naturally selected in such an environment.
  18. Nov 8, 2004 #17
    The best, then, would be to be a plant. A sequoia, for example.
  19. Nov 10, 2004 #18
    Err. What are you saying, that a sequoia's environment never changes? That is not correct. A more correct statement would be that the sequoia has evolved adapations to adjust for a [wide] variety of environmental changes, hence their long lives. You wouldn't find any older than, say, the most recent glaciation.
  20. Nov 12, 2004 #19
    I will pose the question in other form: What general biological laws will apply anywhere carbon-based intelligent life exists?
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