A List of Anthropic Coincidences

The Anthropic Principle

The anthropic principle states that overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that the precise design and finely balanced fundamental forces governing our Universe argue persuasively that our Universe was either designed by a supernatural intelligence, namely God, or that there are an infinity of Universes that don’t support life and we just happen to exist in the only one that does. The claim by those who admit that our Universe was “fine-tuned” to “one in a trillion” to allow life, but who suggest that we should ignore this evidence, is laughable. If someone was to suggest in any other area of life that we should accept the theoretical (and inevitably unprovable) existence of an infinity of imaginary Universes of which we are the only one that accidentally allows human life, they would be rejected with derision. Their theory of an infinity of other (forever unprovable) Universes demonstrates their absolute determination to reject God, regardless of the evidence.

Professor Paul C. W. Davies, the author of God and the New Physics, wrote that powerful evidence from new scientific discoveries confirmed that the remarkable nature of the known Universe provided only two rationally possible conclusions: 1) a divinely created Universe, or 2) an accidental and randomly formed Universe within an infinite number of other randomly formed Universes that did not contain the conditions required for life. The atheistic scientists acknowledge that it is scientifically impossible to ever find evidence for the existence of a single additional Universe, let alone an infinity of other hypothetical Universes. This assertion of a belief in an infinity of untold trillions of other random Universes takes more faith than to believe in God as Creator. It reveals the pathetic intellectual desperation of those atheists who desire to escape the overwhelming scientific evidence that points to a Creator of our Universe.

Davies wrote:

Alternatively the numerical coincidences could be regarded as evidence of design. The delicate fine-tuning in the values of the constants, necessary so that the various branches of physics can dovetail so felicitously, might be attributed to God. It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the Universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in the numbers, has been rather carefully thought out. Such a conclusion can of course, only be subjective. In the end it boils down to a question of belief. Is it easier to believe in a cosmic designer than the multiplicity of Universes necessary for the weak anthropic principle to work? It is hard to see how either hypothesis could ever be tested in the strict scientific sense. As remarked in the previous chapter, if we cannot visit the other Universes or experience them directly, their possible existence must remain just as much a matter of faith as belief in God. Perhaps future developments in science will lead to more direct evidence for other Universes, but until then, the seemingly miraculous concurrence of numerical values that nature has assigned to her fundamental constants must remain the most compelling evidence for an element of cosmic design. (God and the New Physics, pg. 189)

  1. The strong nuclear force: Astronomer Sir Martin Rees noted in his book, Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe, that the strength of the fundamental strong nuclear force, which expresses the strength of the electrical force that holds atoms together, was precisely balanced and calibrated to the force of gravity to allow the existence of the Universe.
  2. The weak nuclear force: Sir Martin Rees also commented on another fundamental force in the Universe, the weak nuclear force, that was also precisely calibrated to allow our Universe to exist and humanity to flourish. If the nuclear weak force were even slightly stronger than the expansion force at the moment of Creation it would have burned up all of the hydrogen atoms in the Universe to leave only helium—a result that would have prevented our present Universe and life from ever existing. Rees wrote: Another number, E [the Weak Nuclear Force], whose value is 0.007, defines how firmly atomic nuclei bind together and how all the atoms on Earth were made. Its value reflects the power from the Sun and, more sensitively, how stars transmute hydrogen into all the atoms of the periodic table. Carbon and oxygen are common, whereas gold and uranium are rare, because of what happens in the stars. If E were 0.006 or 0.008, we could not exist. (Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape Our Universe, pg. 2)
  3. The gravitation force and electromagnetic force: The extraordinary precise balance between another two fundamental forces, the gravitation force and the electromagnetic force, allows stars like our Sun to exist and radiate energy. The gravitational force holds the star together while the electromagnetic force energizes the star to radiate its energy. The physicist Brandon Carter determined that if the gravitation force were even slightly stronger or weaker, then our Sun would be a red dwarf star or a blue giant, neither of which could provide the energy to sustain life on Earth. Professor Carter calculated that even a tiny adjustment in gravitation force by one part in 10^40 would eliminate the possibility of life on Earth. (Davies, pg. 188) There is an incredible balance and interplay between the fundamental universal forces that govern the nature of atoms, stars, and galaxies. The science writer John Leslie wrote in Universes about the remarkably delicately balanced ratios between these forces. Important, too, is that force strengths and particle masses are distributed across enormous ranges. The nuclear strong force is (roughly) a hundred times stronger than electromagnetism, which is in turn ten thousand times stronger than the nuclear weak force, which is itself some ten thousand billion billion billion times stronger than gravity. So we can well be impressed by any apparent need for a force to be ‘just right’ even to within a factor of ten, let alone to within one part in a hundred or in 10^100—especially when nobody is sure why the strongest force tugs any more powerfully than the weakest. (John Leslie, Universes, pg. 6)
  4. The amount of matter in the universe: Professor Rees wrote about the significance of the amount of matter existing in the Universe: The cosmic number Ω (omega) measures the amount of material in our Universe—galaxies, diffuse gas, and ‘dark matter’. Ω tells us the relative importance of gravity and expansion energy in the Universe. If this ratio were too high relative to a particular ‘critical’ value, the Universe would have collapsed long ago; had it been too low, no galaxies or stars would have formed. The initial expansion speed seems to have been finely tuned. (Rees, pg. 2) Rees wrote about the astonishing qualities of the Universe that together allowed our present human inhabited Universe to exist. These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a Universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life. (Rees, pg. 4)
  5. The elements hydrogen and oxygen are essential: The biologist Dr. Lawrence J. Henderson wrote about the remarkable appearance in our Universe of the absolutely essential elements necessary to the existence of our Universe and human life—hydrogen and oxygen—and the incredible odds against these particular elements being formed by random chance rather than through intelligent design: There is, in truth, not one chance in countless millions of millions that the many unique properties of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and especially of their stable compounds water and carbonic acid, which chiefly make up the atmosphere of a new planet, should simultaneously occur in the three elements otherwise than through the operation of a natural law which somehow connects them together. There is no greater probability that these unique properties should be without due cause uniquely favorable to the organic mechanism. These are no mere accidents; an explanation is to seek. It must be admitted, however, that no explanation is at hand. (Lawrence J. Henderson, The Fitness of the Environment: An Inquiry into the Biological Significance of the Properties of Matter, p. 276.) Of course, to anyone who considers this situation objectively, an obvious explanation comes to mind: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.” Oxygen is absolutely essential to life. It is one of the most reactive elements in that it will quickly combine chemically with other elements. It is the most abundant element on our planet, making up almost 46 percent of the Earth’s crust, as it is found combined with other elements in rock. The rest of the oxygen is found combined with hydrogen in water and making up 21 percent of the atmosphere. (Nitrogen forms virtually all of the rest of the Earth’s atmosphere.) The theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking acknowledged that the fact that the proton in the atom is precisely 1,836 times heavier than the electron is essential to the formation of molecules that are the building blocks of all life. The precise ratio between the proton and the electron is a fundamental number governing our Universe. Hawking stated, “The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” (Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time—From the Big Bang to Black Holes, pg. 125)
  6. The curious nature of water: The astronomer John D. Barrow has written about the significance of the anthropic principle in his book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. He noted that water, one of the most vital elements in the existence for all life, is an incredibly unusual and unlikely element to have formed in our Universe unless it were purposely designed by God. Professor Barrow wrote: Water is actually one of the strangest substances known to science. This may seem a rather odd thing to say about a substance as familiar but it is surely true. Its specific heat, its surface tension, and most of its other physical properties have values anomalously higher or lower than those of any other known material. The fact that its solid phase is less dense than its liquid phase (ice floats) is virtually a unique property. The fact that ice floats allows aquatic life to exist in cold temperature zones. These aspects or the chemical and physical structure of water have been noted before, for instance by the authors of the Bridgewater Treatises in the 1830s and by Henderson in 1913, who also pointed out that these strange properties make water a uniquely useful liquid and the basis for living things. (John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, p. 524) If water as a solid (ice) were not less dense than as a liquid, ice would not float. Without this unique quality marine life would die as water would freeze from the bottom and kill all aquatic creatures in cold climates. Water is the most abundant substance on the Earth’s surface and is essential for all life. The proteins and nucleic acids in DNA that govern all life could not exist without the unique qualities of water.
  7. The size of the Sun and Earth: The size of the Earth is vital for life to exist. A much smaller planet would not have the gravitational pull to retain the water and atmosphere essential to life. A smaller Earth would produce a much thinner atmosphere that would diminish our protection from the thousands of meteors that daily assault our planet. The thinned atmosphere would produce less protection from the Sun, causing the temperature to rise till life could not flourish. A much larger planet would have a much more powerful gravitational field that would greatly increase the weight of every creature, making life almost impossible. If planet Earth were twice as large, the effect of increased gravity would make every organism on it’s surface weigh eight times what it weighs today. This increased weight would destroy many forms of animal and human life. In addition, if the magnetic forces within our planet were significantly stronger or weaker, life could not exist.
  8. The distance of the Earth: from the Sun If our Earth were located much farther away from our Sun, we would experience temperatures such as the minus 70°F measured on the planet Mars, and we would freeze. If the Earth were much closer to the Sun, then we would have temperatures like the extremely hot surface of Mercury or the 860-degree temperature on Venus, and we would burn up. Our Earth’s circular orbit is very unusual and it makes life possible on our home planet. All of the other planets in our solar system have elliptical orbits that take them much further away from the Sun for part of their orbit and much closer to the Sun for the other part of their orbit. If our Earth followed an elliptical orbit as the other planets in our solar system do, life would be impossible because it would be too cold for part of the year and far to hot the other part of the year. Our unique circular orbit keeps us 93 million miles from the Sun, precisely the right distance to maintain the temperature range conducive to life.
  9. The 23-degree inclination of the Earth: Our Earth is tilted from an upright position at a 23-degree inclination. This tilt provides for the seasonal variation that allows such a wide variety of crops to feed life. This 23-degree tilt prevents the North and South Poles from becoming too cold and moderates the high temperatures at the Equator. It has been estimated that almost half of the Earth’s surface would become uninhabitable without the tilt of the Earth. Without the tilt, less than half of the present land used for cultivation of crops would grow vegetables.
  10. The rotation speed of the Earth: Our Earth rotates at 1,002 miles per hour, which allows our planet to rotate completely once every twenty-four hours. If our planet did not rotate, then one-half of the stationary Earth facing the Sun would become so hot that no vegetation or any other life could possibly survive. The side of the non-rotating planet facing away from the Sun would be so cold that life could not exist. Why does everything in our Universe, from galaxies to our solar system, orbit at precisely the correct velocity to perfectly counterbalance the force of gravity? If the velocity of our solar system’s planets or our massive, revolving Milky Way galaxy, with its 300+ billion stars, was slightly less than the force of gravity, then the various components would rapidly be drawn by gravity toward the center of the system. This would result in each system’s collapse and destruction. If the velocity of each orbiting system were slightly greater than gravity, the components would fly apart into space, thus destroying each system. When we consider the remarkable balance between velocity and gravity that exists in billions of systems throughout the Universe, we are forced to admit that there is no reason why this elaborately tuned and balanced system should exist unless a divine Creator supernaturally designed it. A precise controlling power is thus demonstrated to be holding together every astronomical system throughout the known Universe.
  11. The balance of gasses in Earth’s atmosphere: The atmosphere of the Earth is composed of precisely the right gasses necessary for life to flourish. In addition, these gasses exist in precisely the correct ratio to facilitate the complex biological processes that are essential for the enormously complex demands of plant and animal life as well as for humans. The atmosphere is composed of: 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, a small amount of other gasses, and water. Sigmund Brouwer wrote, in his book The Unrandom Universe (pg. 64), that the odds against this essential atmosphere together with the water cycle forming on Earth by random chance alone are approximately one chance in a hundred trillion trillion.
  12. The existence of carbon: All life systems on Earth are based on the existence of the element known as carbon. However, scientists discovered that it is extremely unlikely that carbon could have come into existence by random chance in the beginning of the Universe. Professor Steven Weinberg wrote about the absolute necessity of carbon for life to exist at all. Life as we know it would be impossible if any one of several physical quantities had slightly different values. The best known of these quantities is the energy of one of the excited states of the carbon 12 nucleus. There is an essential step in the chain of nuclear reactions that build up heavy elements in stars.  (Steven Weinberg, “Life in the Universe,” Scientific American (October 1994) p. 49) In the first fraction of a second following the Big Bang, the Universe consisted only of hydrogen and helium. However, the collision of a helium nucleus with another helium nucleus produced an extremely short-lived and very unstable new element called beryllium. Another helium nucleus then collided with the beryllium nucleus, producing a new element: carbon. All of this took place in the first second of God’s Creation. A Harvard University astronomer, Robert Kirshner, wrote, “A delicate match between the energies of helium, the unstable beryllium and the resulting carbon allows the last to be created. Without this process, we would not be here.” (Robert Kirshner, “The Earth’s Elements,” Scientific American (October 1994), pg. 61) The incredibly unlikely creation of carbon also resulted in the formation of all of the other heavy elements in the Universe that are essential for life to exist, including nitrogen and oxygen. The astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle admitted that, when he considered how totally unlikely it was that the element carbon could have been formed by accident, his atheism was shaken to the core. He wrote, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.” (Fred Hoyle, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections,” Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Vol. 20, 1982, p. 1–35, 16)

The accumulated evidence supporting the intelligent design of the Universe and the anthropic principle is convincing many leading scientists to abandon atheistic, materialistic worldview and accept the fact that our Universe is the purposeful creation of God. Dr. Chandra Wickramasinghe, one of the most eminent scientists in Britain, has stated that the anthropic principle strongly supports the theory of God’s special creation. When he was asked if his scientific research proved that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was fatally flawed, he agreed. When asked how he would evaluate the scientific arguments of the Creationists, who suggest that only God could have created the Universe and life itself, Professor Wickramasinghe responded, “You mean the arguments that are justifications of their position? I think they have a very good case by and large.” (Chandra Wickramasinghe, The Intellectuals Speak out about God, (Chicago:Regnery Gateway, 1984), 36) Significantly, the most respected physicist in the world, Stephen Hawking, summarized the implications of his remarkable discoveries about the Universe’s first moments.

The odds against a Universe like ours emerging out of something like the big bang are enormous.… I think clearly there are religious implications whenever you start to discuss the origins of the Universe. There must be religious overtones. But I think most scientists prefer to shy away from the religious side of it. [Stephen Hawking, quoted by John Boslough, Masters of Time-Cosmology at the End of Innocence (New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1992), p. 55]


[Information from Chapter 4 of Creation: Remarkable Evidence of God’s Design, by Grant R. Jeffery. The information presented is for non-profit, educational purposes only.]

Water Lillies and Intelligent Design

Excerpt from Grant R. Jeffrey’s book, Creation: Remarkable Evidence of God’s Design. (Ch. 2)

The flowers we encounter everyday when we walk in the city or the country are taken for granted, despite the incredible perfection of their design. Unfortunately, most people fail to recognize the miraculous nature of these flowers because they are so common. If we examine an uncommon and unfamiliar flower from a distant part of the world—the Amazon water lily from the jungles of Brazil—we may awaken to see the evidence and wonder of God’s design. 

Amazon water lilies first start to grow in the thick mud at the bottom of the Amazon River. However, since these plants require sunlight to live, they quickly begin to grow up to thirty feet toward the surface of the river. When the water lilies finally reach the water’s surface, they cease their upward growth and begin to grow round buds with thorns. The buds of the lilies grow into massive leaves on the water’s surface, reaching a diameter of up to six feet in as little as a few hours. As the lilies grow to cover the water’s surface with very large leaves, they use the sunlight during daylight hours to perform the essential chemical process known as photosynthesis. If the lilies failed to reach the river surface, they would die due to the lack of sunlight and oxygen. Thus, it is vital for the plant’s survival that the water float these leaves from these stems that can grow up to thirty-five feet tall and carry the oxygen between the leaves and the roots below. The water lilies curl the brims of their huge leaves upward to prevent them from sinking below the water’s surface. 

In order to successfully reproduce, the water lilies need the cooperation of another living creature that will carry their pollen from their leaves to another water lily. This reproduction system depends on the actions of a water beetle, which was created by God with a powerful attraction to the color white. Despite an abundance of beautifully multi-colored flowers that are found throughout the Amazon River, these white water lilies exert a compelling attraction to the water beetle that causes these beetles to ignore all other flowers except the white water lily. 

When this water beetle lands on the leaf surface, the water lily immediately closes its leaves to imprison the creature for one night, forcing it to become exposed to its pollen. In the morning, the water lily opens its leaves to allow the water beetle to escape to go visit other water lilies and pollinate them. However, the original water lily, having succeeded in transferring its pollen to the beetle, now quickly changes its color to a beautiful pink to prevent that beetle from bringing its own pollen back to it. This remarkable cooperative symbiotic reproductive system involving two species provides compelling evidence of God’s intelligent design.

[Only for educational purposes]

Monarch Butterflies and Intelligent Design

Excerpt from Grant R. Jeffrey’s book, Creation: Remarkable Evidence of God’s Design, connects the life-cycles of monarch butterflies to proof of intelligent design. (Ch. 2 “Wonder’s of God’s Creation”)

Monarch butterflies are among the most gloriously beautiful and ingenious of the millions of insects who migrate across great distances in the course of their lives. However, the life and migration pattern of the monarch butterfly is significantly more complex than that of most other birds, fish, or insects. 

There are four generations of butterflies in the course of a year. The first three generations of butterflies only live for up to six weeks from the time they develop out of the caterpillar stage till death. During the annual cycle of the monarch, three separate generations live their short lives in Canada during the spring and summer months.

The fourth generation that will migrate from Canada three thousand miles south to the mountainous plateaus of Mexico and home again are born in the late summer and will live for eight months. Hundreds of millions of monarchs from across Canada begin their remarkable, 3,000-mile-long migration on the night of the autumn equinox—September 21—when the amount of day is precisely balanced by the amount of night. The monarchs finally arrive in Mexico on the plateaus and ridges of volcanic mountains almost two miles above sea level. These butterflies now survive on water alone for four months, from December till March. When their fast ends toward the middle of March, the monarchs begin to feast on the abundant nectar of the tremendous number of flowers available on the mountains, building the fuel reserves they will need for the long flight ahead. The butterflies will mate in the middle of March just before setting out on their extraordinary migration back to Canada. 

On the night of the spring equinox—March 21—the enormous colony of millions of monarch butterflies ascends from its southern Mexican home into the heavens to begin the epic migration back to Canada. When it arrives back in Canada, the whole generation of monarchs give birth to the next generation of their species. Then the complete fourth generation of butterflies dies. The new first generation of the new cycle born in Canada will live six weeks. This will be followed by the second and third generations, each of which will live only approximately six weeks. 

This remarkable situation raises a number of questions: How can the genetic code of the monarch instruct the fourth generation to live over six months longer than the other three short-lived generations? How can the fourth-generation monarchs know to migrate three thousand miles to arrive at a plateau in Mexico when the other three short-lived generations do not have these DNA migration instructions? How could an evolutionist ever explain how the fourth generation knows to begin its long southern migration on the night of the autumnal equinox and to begin its northern migration on the night of the spring equinox? The only reasonable explanation is that the Creator has programmed the beautiful monarchs to follow these precise instructions since their original creation.

[Only for non-commercial, educational purposes]

Honey Bees and Intelligent Design

The following is a fascinating excerpt from Grant R. Jeffrey’s Creation: Remarkable Evidence God’s Design about honey bees that leaves evidence of divine design. (Ch. 2 “The Wonders of God’s Creation”)

​The honeybee is an absolute wonder of God’s Creation. Bees construct their hive into a complex honeycomb structure using beeswax produced from their own bodies to house a colony of up to 75,000 insects. All honeycombs found in the hive and in all hives throughout the world are constructed to the same precise engineering specifications. The hexagonal structure of the honeycomb has intrigued scientists for a century because mathematicians have calculated that it is the best possible geometric structure to maximize storage. It is the most efficient storage structure possible and uses the least amount of beeswax in its construction because each cell utilizes the walls of surrounding cells.

The honeycomb is constructed with cells inclined precisely thirteen degrees on two sides to prevent the honey from escaping the mouth of the cell. One of the most astonishing aspects of a hive is that the tens of thousands of worker bees simultaneously begin construction of their hive from three different starting points and directions. The completed hive has thousands of individual cells that are precisely joined together with hundreds of separate angles, forming a perfectly engineered hexagonal comb structure that rivals anything produced by computers and human engineers. To have the final structure so perfectly engineered, the bees would have to know at the very beginning and throughout construction the precise distances between each starting point, and adjust the construction accordingly. However, it would take a computer to do the calculations. Engineers have wondered how the bees can possibly accomplish this marvel of construction. The only logical conclusion is that the tens of thousands of bees are receiving instructions from a single source—the Creator. 

The social organization of the bee colony involves different groups of bees following entirely different duties to serve the hive. One group of worker bees stays at the entrance and fans their wings to ventilate the hive and maintain the proper humidity and keep the temperature at precisely 95°F. If the hive temperature rises or lowers more than a few degrees, the precious honey will spoil and lose its nutritional qualities. Some worker bees are tasked with protecting the hive from contamination from harmful bacteria or other insects. As soon as the guardian bees detect a problem, they alert the rest of the hive to begin a mass attack on the intruder. If any intruder actually succeeds in getting into the hive and is too large to remove, the worker bees actually embalm the object with their very effective antibacterial bee resin (propolis) to protect the integrity of the colony. 

The bees collect flower nectar during the summer months and combine this with chemicals secreted from their body to produce honey, one of the most perfect foods on Earth. The bee marks the flower that it has visited with a small drop of scent that tells every other bee to ignore it, as the pollen is already consumed. This unusual action is very efficient because it saves other bees from wasting time on an empty flower. 

The bee locates pollen from flowers in an area up to half a mile from the hive. The bee that finds the flowers returns to the hive to let its fellow workers know precisely where they must fly to locate the food source. Incredibly, rather than lead the others back, the bee instructs the other bees where to find the pollen through the means of a very complex dance. Biologists have determined that the precise information regarding the direction, distance, and amount of pollen is conveyed to the other bees through a repeated zigzag dance following a figure-8 pattern. The precise line between the Sun’s position and the hive and the angle between the zigzags of the dancing bee provides the exact location of the food source. Other body movements include wagging its bottom and producing air currents through wing movements. For example, to communicate to the other bees that the pollen is located five hundred yards from the hive, the bee will wag the bottom of its body twenty times per minute. 

There is an apparent problem in providing precise orientation to the other bees in that, during the time taken by the bee to fly home to the hive, the Sun’s position keeps changing. Every four minutes the Sun moves one degree of longitude. However, the bee has remarkable eyes composed of hundreds of microscopic hexagonal lenses that focus on a narrow beam enabling the bee to identify the Sun’s position based on the time of day. As the minutes pass, the bee alters its precise dance to adjust its instructions to compensate for the Sun’s movement. Experiments that upset the bee’s time sense by altering its internal clock with artificial light changes proved that this also interfered with its ability to calculate the Sun’s correct position. Only the Creator could have formed such a masterpiece of engineering. 

God’s gift to mankind, honey, is one of the most complex foods produced in nature. The primary components of honey are sugars including fructose and glucose. It also contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and C, as well as minerals including calcium, sodium, chlorine, sulfur phosphate, magnesium, potassium, and iron. The products of the honeybee are remarkable in their nutritional and disease-fighting powers. It is well known that honey, bee resin, and royal jelly are all extremely helpful in the cure of many diseases. It is very unusual that the bees that use honey for a food source for the bee colony during the cold months of winter actually, produce a great abundance of honey, far beyond their own needs. Why? It appears that this overproduction is part of the Creator’s plan to provide a perfect food source for humanity. This phenomenon of over production beyond the species own needs is also seen in cows that produce amounts of milk far beyond that needed for its calves. We also see this in chickens, which daily lay eggs.

[Only for non-commercial​, educational purposes]

LESSONS LEARNED from Plato: A Model For Self-mastery

Nowadays, more than ever, everyone fights for our attention. Consider the fact that the market determines the value of tech-companies by how many clicks we give them—how much of our attention they occupy. Self-mastery is essential so that we can avoid getting sucked in and put time into things that we value most. Especially, since there are only 24 hours in a day, and we spend about two-thirds of them working or sleeping. Do we spend the time we do have power over with people and activities we care most about? In Book 9 of The Republic of Plato, Socrates shares an excellent allegory suitable for anyone who wants to gain self-mastery.

The Republic, like many of Plato’s writings, contains dialogues between Socrates and other people philosophizing about various topics. In this work, Plato focuses on the concept of justice as it applies to cities and within individuals. In Book 4, he demonstrates how the soul has three parts: calculating, spirited, and desiring (436a-441c). The calculating part is in charge of making decisions, reasoning and thinking. The spirited part energizes the body to take action; it houses emotions and convictions. The desiring part has to do with bodily needs, such as hunger or fatigue. Plato describes Socrates as using the soul-city analogy to compare different governments throughout The Republic (e.g. 441d-442d).  This article is not meant to go into how Plato compares the soul to governing types, so the information provided will suffice.

The Allegory of the Many-headed Beast, paraphrased:
Socrates asks Glaucon to imagine a colorful beast with many heads. Some of the heads are of tame animals and others of savage ones. Then, there is also an image of a lion and man. They are all molded together in one, and put into a human body; so that, from the outside, no one knows which creature is being feed—which is the strongest of all. Socrates says unjust people are those who feed all the different beasts and starves the man. He says, we do justice to our lives when the human being takes charge and, like a farmer, nourishes the tame animals and uses the lion to hinder the growth of the savage beasts. (Original text below.)

The many-colored, many-headed beast are the many desires within human beings. The lion symbolizes the spirited part of the soul. The man represents the calculating, decision-making mind. According to Socrates, one is just if the “man” is the dominate force within us; that means, we put knowledge and reason over our personal ambitions, desires, or biases. If we were to reflect on injustices we have witnessed in our life, we would see that they were the result of partial information or not being able to understand all the possible perspectives. That concept, in and of itself, is a lesson to be slow to judge and quick to try to understand.

Returning to our intent to gain self-mastery, I will propose some steps to put the human being in charge of the little beasts within us:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Assess values
  3. Create plans for adjustments
  4. Implement
  5. Reassess regularly

Self-awareness — Many times we are unaware of our behavior or our use of time. Try keeping track of how much time you spend on activities for a c0uple of days; this may reveal where you tend to lose time. One way to become aware of imperfect behavior is to humbly ask a loved one about them. It is important to keep an open mind and not get defensive. If you do not know how to react or are having a negative emotional reaction, it is better so say: ‘Thank you for your honesty. I will think about what you have suggested.’ Humility is the key to self-improvement. We should be able to pinpoint our shortcoming or there can be no improvement.

Assess values — After we are aware of how we spend our time and are more conscious of our behavior, we need to assess if they align with what we value. You may need to take inventory of what you value most. Do you value time with family, a hobby, or some other activity? Jesus said: Where your treasure is, there will be your heart be also (Matt 6:21). I would add: Where your time is spent, there will be your treasure. Of course, we should all sleep the recommended 7-8 hours, get the chores done and “make a living.” The question is: how much are you actually living? Maybe you found that you spend too much time wandering the internet or watching TV, but you value family time or have always wanted to get active in the community; your actions do not agree with your values and it may (consciously or unconsciously) cause internal turmoil. With sincere introspection, you will meet at the crossroads of the self and cultural practices. There could be values you inherited from family, society, or religion that have been deeply ingrained but are not really a part of your core values. We need to harmonize our true values with our action because it can be a source of satisfaction in our lives. If we put reason in charge, we are no longer feeding the beasts of compulsive living.

Create plans for adjustments — “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” (Benjamin Franklin) When are you going to take action? New habits and skills are developed through repetition. It is best to couple a desired behavior with a practice already a part of our daily routine, otherwise it will never become a new habit. For example: ‘Everyday after dinner, I will give my undivided attention to a family member for 15 minutes.’ Or, ‘An hour before I go to bed, I will make time to study and read.’ Do not over schedule yourself. Leave time for flexibility and spontaneity. But do not uncouple the new behavior, it should become automatic—it will become a part of you.

Implement — If we are talking about a physical action, we have already covered it. Now do it!  However, if we are talking about a character trait, Plato might suggest really contemplating the idea until you get to the essence of it. In The Republic, Socrates takes the audience through an exploration of the meaning of justice. In the end, Socrates arrives to an eternal, spiritual concept for the individual rather than a societal application. We can find the truth about anything by reading about it in books and taking time to ponder it. Your new understanding should fuel new actions and, like I said before, become a part of you. 

Reassess — For better or worse, we are creatures of habit. If we do not practice a life of contemplation on a regular basis, we will be prone to fall into old habits. Maybe you will need to schedule in your calendar or phone a reminder to reasses your progress. Also, reassessments could be an opportunity go through steps 1-4 again. The process of gaining self-mastery should be freeing, not a burden. Human beings naturally find it rewarding to put our heart, body, and mind in harmony; so don’t give up, it is worth it.

Most cultures and religions speak of a soul or a spirit that gives life to the body; although, those who do not believe can still use this analogy symbolically to their benefit. However, because that is what I am familiar with, I will take the liberty to draw connections between LDS doctrine and Plato’s belief of the soul.

The Bible teaches that “the body without spirit is dead” (James 2:26, KJV). The body (or the flesh) has its own tendencies. In a letter to the early Christians in Galata from Paul, he wrote:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: o the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

The manifestations of the flesh, as listed by Paul, could easily be desires of a “many-colored, many-headed beast.”

LDS doctrine holds that “the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15). Therefore, in terms of vocabulary, the tri-part nature of the soul can be soul described by Plato can be reaffirmed by modern revelation. The Doctrine and Covenants (a collection of prophetic revelations), speaks of two parts of the spirit, one intelligent and the other material (D&C 131:7-8); both are eternal (D&C 93:33). The intelligent part of the spirit is responsible for making decisions (D&C 93:30).

The Allegory of the Many-headed Beast, original English text:

Socrates: “By molding an image of the soul in speech so that the man who says these things will see just what he has been saying.”
Glaucon: “What sort of image?”
“One of those natures such as the tales say used to come into being in olden times—the Chimæra,Scylla, and certain others, a throng of them, which are said to have many ideas grown naturally together in one.”
“Yes,” he said, “they do tell such things.”
“Well then, mold a single idea for a many-colored, many-headed beast that has a ring of heads of tame and savage beasts and can change them and make all of them grow from itself.”
“That’s a job for a clevar molder,” he said. “But, nevertheless, since speech is more easily molded than wax and the like, consider it as molded.”
“Now, then, mold another single idea for lion, and a single one for a human being. Let the first be by far the greatest, and the second, second in size.”
“That’s easier,” he said, “and the molding is done.”
“Well, then, join them—they are three—in one, so that in some way they grow naturally together with each other.”
“They are joined,” he said.
“Then mold about them on the outside an image of one—that of the human being—so that to the man who’s not able to see what’s inside, but sees only the outer shell, it looks like one animal, a human being.”
“The outer mold is in place,” he said.
“Then let’s say to the one who says that it’s profitable for this human being to do injustice, and that it’s not advantageous for him to do just things, that he’s affirming nothing other than that it is profitable for him to feast and make strong thr manifold beast and the lion and what’s connected to the lion, while starving th human being and making him weak so that he can be drawn wherever either of the others leads and doesn’t habituate them to one another or make them friends but lets them bite and fight and devour each other.”
“That,” he said, “is exactly what would be meant by the man who praises doing injustice.”
“On the other hand, wouldn’t the one who says the just things are profitable affirm that it is necessary to do and say those things from the human being within must be in control of the human being and take charge of the many-headed beast — like the farmer, nourshing and cultivating the tame heads, while hindering the growth of the savage ones — making them friends with each other and himself, and so rear them?”
“That is exactly what in turn is meant by the just man who praises the just.”
“In every respect, surely, the man who lauds the just things would speak the truth and the man who lauds the unjust ones would lie. For, considering pleasure, good reputation, and benefit, the praiser of the just tells the truth, while the blamer says nothing healthy and blames without knowing who he blames.”

(588b-589c, translated by Allan Bloom)

I, originally, had no intention to write a self-help article, but that is what it turned out to be. I felt that the insight I learned from the allegory, left in the abstract, would be of little use to anyone, so I added some personal advise as to how it could be applied. I hope it was helpful and you enjoyed reading it. Best wishes, TH