Neganthropic Principle

Cosmological neganthropic principle

According to the cosmological neganthropic principle sentient beings would never have arisen in the universe if the amounts and proportions of certain natural constants had been only very slightly different at the point in time of the universe’s origin than they in fact were. The universe, then, awakens the impression of its microstructure’s having been consciously selected by some malign authority in such a way that sentient beings would have, over a period of billions of years, to live within it a life in which they would be hunted by enemies in fear and terror, be eaten alive, be plagued by hunger, thirst, parasites and sicknesses, or in which they might be tortured for months on end.

If just two of these natural constants had existed in different proportions from those in which they actually existed the universe would look completely different and no sentient beings would most likely have come into existence in it. These proportions were on the one hand the quotients derived from the mass of the proton and the electron (the actual numerical value is 1836,104…) and on the other the value of the microstructure constant. The microstructure constant is the quotient derived from the electrical charge of an electron and the product of the numerical value of the speed of light and of Planck’s Constant (the numerical value is 1/137,036). Even a slight deviation from these numerical values would have resulted in there being no trilobites, no placoderms, no leprosy, no barbarian invasions, no world wars, no millions dead from hunger in Bengal in 1943, and no genocides. If the universe really was planned and finely adjusted, then, the intelligence behind this was a malign one which paid the closest attention to figures defined to the extent of numerous decimal points.


Individual neganthropic principle

According to the (as we shall call it here) individual neganthropic principle we can exist only as those beings which we happen in fact to be. Those human beings who suffer from some real or imagined fault or flaw (be it in terms of health, intelligence, beauty etc.) must come to terms with the following thought:

“Your real or imaginary flaw is a conditio sine qua non of your existence. If your parents had begotten, at some other point in time, some other child than the one they actually did beget, then an entirely different genetic recombination would have taken place. Consequently, the person emerging would not have been you but rather someone else. The negativity of your existence is, as it were, the price you have to pay for existing at all.”

If our parents had committed their act of procreation an hour earlier than they did, then someone other than us would have begun to exist. By how many seconds or fractions of a second the time of the act of conception might have differed from its actual time without the child thereby begotten’s ceasing to be “me” (albeit a “me” with different characteristics) – this is a question for which science appears to have no answer.

There arises out of these considerations a further question, which those may wish to pose to themselves who feel at odds with their own existence: if, even despite all the flaws you feel you suffer from, you still prefer your existence to a hypothetical “never-having-existed”, how much worse a state would you have to be in – what further illnesses or failings would you have to be afflicted with – for you to say: it would be better if I had never begun to exist?


Historio-neganthropic principle

According to the historio-neganthropic principle we would never have existed if there had occurred, before our birth, some different historical “setting of the points”. If we imagine that history had indeed, prior to our existence, taken a course significantly divergent from the one it did take, it would under such circumstances have been unlikely that those two human beings who were in fact going to become our parents should have begotten a new human being at exactly the moment that they did in fact beget one or indeed that they – or at least the relevant gametes – should have found their way to one another at all.    

Deployed in the right way, the historio-neganthropic principle can serve to establish individual people’s respective degrees of egoistic attachment to existence. To this end, one might pose, for example, the following question: of what magnitude would an historical catastrophe need to be in order for you to be ready to hypothetically accord preference over one’s own existence, in a thought-experimental rewinding to some different historical “setting of the points” which would be such, indeed, that you would never, had things been so, begun to exist?  The principle is a neganthropic one because it implies that it was only borne by the actual historical “setting of the points” – productive of such suffering – that you could come to be.


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