When is a prediction anthropic? Fred Hoyle and the 7.65 MeV carbon resonance

Publication Year:
2010
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Repository URL:
http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/5332
Author(s):
Kragh, Helge
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preprint description
The case of Fred Hoyle’s prediction of a resonance state in carbon-12, unknown in 1953 when it was predicted, is often mentioned as an example of anthropic prediction. An investigation of the historical circumstances of the prediction and its subsequent experimental confirmation shows that Hoyle and his contemporaries did not associate the level in the carbon nucleus with life at all. Only in the 1980s, after the emergence of the anthropic principle, did it become common to see Hoyle’s prediction as anthropically significant. At about the same time mythical accounts of the prediction and its history began to abound. Not only has the anthropic myth no basis in historical fact, it is also doubtful if the excited levels in carbon-12 and other atomic nuclei can be used as an argument for the predictive power of the anthropic principle, such as has been done by several physicists and philosophers.