Anthropic arguments outside of cosmology and string theory

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Cirkovic, Milan M.
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Anthropic reasoning has lately been strongly associated with the string theory landscape and some theories of particle cosmology, such as cosmological inflation. The association is not, contrary to multiple statements by physicists and philosophers alike, necessary. On the contrary, there are clear reasons and instances in which the anthropic reasoning is useful in a diverse range of fields such as planetary sciences, geophysics, future studies, risk analysis, origin of life studies, evolutionary theory, astrobiology and SETI studies, ecology, or even strategic studies and global policy. The association of anthropic reasoning with string theory and particle cosmology has not only become the standard wisdom, but has been often construed in a negative way, in order to demonstrate or insinuate that such reasoning is too abstract or even belongs to “fringe science”, remote from run-of-the-mill research practices in any other more “mundane” and less theoretical scientific discipline. The purpose of this paper is to (i) analyse some of the counter-examples to the standard wisdom, (ii) suggest that the anthropic reasoning is more flexible, more general, and less fashion-driven than the detractors state. In addition, we consider some historical and/or extrascientific motivation for this persistent prejudice.