Chesterton’s anthropic principle

chesterton_197Jaki’s Chesterton, A Seer of Science, is an enjoyable tour through the Englishman’s common sense understanding of the deliverances of science—it could almost be called a statement outlining his philosophy of science if that term did not conjure up such stodgy material by comparison to the vigorous wit Jaki’s lectures abstract from a variety of Chesterton’s works. A passage from the fourth chapter, “Champion of the Universe,” on Chesterton as cosmologist, captures the anthropic principle in a striking way:

The story of scientific cosmology since 1932 . . . had indeed been a quest for an ever firmer grip on the true shape of the universe. One aspect of that story is particularly Chestertonian, inasmuch as it now seems that the universe was structured from the start in a way so that ultimately man might dwell in it. Scientific cosmologists have been calling this for over a decade now, the anthropic principle. Chesterton in turn would say to them: “I kept telling you long ago and all the time that the universe was cozy.” Coziness could not have turned out to be a more cosmic quality.

Here, Jaki is indeed suggesting what Chesterton would say—the ‘quote’ is an imagined, yet effective, interpolation. This Chestertonian anthropic principle, like its scientifically informed and philosophically more precise version, sounds like both a tautology and a profound discovery at once: the universe is homey, the universe is cozy—it’s koselig. The cozy cosmos isn’t quite the image conjured up by the formal language of modern scientific cosmology—such domestic connotations are spoken in an entirely alien tongue. But the comparison is ancient: the universe as a house that requires the presence of intellectual beings in order to be complete; the material order exists for the sake of the intellectual order as its good. A more ample, Chestertonian cosmology could comprehend both languages in its ambit.

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