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Mr. Graham Hancock in his book "The Mars Mystery" quotes Hoyle, "Origin of Universe"

I saw that the answer to this question lies in what is now called the anthropic principle, which says that the fact of our existence can be used to discount all improbabilities necessary for our existence. If history and civilization were caused by the arrival of a periodic giant comet, all accident is removed from our association in time with such a comet. The arrival of the comet was random but our association with the effects of the comet is not.

The paragraph is full of riddles for me. The hardest is "to discount all improbabilities necessary for our existence" I can understand the "improbabilities" word here, multiple quite rare natural conditions should be accomplished for the human civilization to appear and evolve. What I don't understand is why we shall 'discount' (=dismiss) such improbabilities. To the contrary, I would think we should justify them , make them more probable (none of the dictionaries I use gives even distantly similar to "justify" meaning to "discount")

Oft it is natural to follow the current of the author's thought. This particular instance for me is quite the opposite. Feel myself paddling upstream against strong current. The last sentence is the example (IMHO) of the strong disagreement between logics used in the sentence and what I got accustomed is applied in the life ^H^H^H^H common sense logic.

  • To 'discount an improbability' is being used loosely here. Relevant new (or otherwise additional) information alters probability values. I'd want 'the fact of our existence can be used to discount what might well otherwise be termed "the improbabilities necessary for our existence" '. // Note that you can't strictly 'make [im]probabilities more probable' (as you say) either. You can attempt to redetermine probabilities, using new/'new' data and/or better analysis, and perhaps hope that your new estimates turn out higher than previous ones. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 15 '17 at 11:19
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not about the use of English - it's just about the fact that OP disagrees with Hoyle's position. – FumbleFingers Jul 15 '17 at 16:13
  • To disagree with something I always try to understand first. That is why I asked the question. It's hard for me to follow Mr. Hoyle's reasoning. It may be because the lack of specific scientific knowledge. It is also possible that my limited English hinders me. I thought the latter problem could be resolved here. – Vladimir Zolotykh Jul 15 '17 at 17:34
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    If this question is primarily about interpretation of a book passage, you might want to try Literature SE. (I say "if" because I'm not certain exactly what you're asking here.) – Rand al'Thor Jul 18 '17 at 18:37
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I saw that the answer to this question lies in what is now called the anthropic principle, which says that the fact of our existence can be used to discount all improbabilities necessary for our existence. If history and civilization were caused by the arrival of a periodic giant comet, all accident is removed from our association in time with such a comet. The arrival of the comet was random but our association with the effects of the comet is not.

The author does NOT mean "just dismiss these ideas" or dismiss logic or probabilities. What that sentence means is that, from a philosophical perspective, the very fact of our existence dictates that we must dismiss any, and all, factors which would be used as arguments for the improbable arrival or nature of our existence (obviously we exist - so improbability is a non-factor). We have to discount those things. It's part of what he is talking about: the anthropic principle.

For example, however improbable the arrival of that comet were (in his example, in the quote), and if it was the necessary catalyst for life on Earth, we must dismiss any improbability fact and consider only the results and our association of our existence after it (after all, we DO exist - no matter how improbable we must discount that idea - because it DID happen or else we wouldn't be here talking about it).

Does that make more sense now?

  • I believe with your help I got the meaning of the 'discount improbabilities' sentence. I'd also like do with same with 'all accident is removed' part. However, I'm not brave enough to ask having in mind that seems I have already trespassed the threshold of allowed inquisitiveness. – Vladimir Zolotykh Jul 17 '17 at 11:28
  • BTW how a collision with the comet could be called 'random' or 'improbability' ? They follow the same mathematically strict orbits as planets do. To me it is a calculated certainty. Even less I'm inclined to agree that the collision with the comet caused life on Earth, however , indeed it is not a linguistic question. – Vladimir Zolotykh Jul 17 '17 at 11:33

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