Talk:Mediocrity principle

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Unfounded Implications[edit]

How does the Copernican Mediocrity Principle imply the existence of extra-terrestrial life? If it implies extra-terrestrial life, wouldn't it also have to maintain continuity by implying that there is life on other planets within our solar system? For example, shouldn't there be life on the planet Saturn? Of course, there isn't life on Saturn, but doesn't this violate the principle of mediocrity? The fact that there isn't life on Saturn means that life on Earth is in fact special, relative to Saturn - as well as Mercury, Venus, and indeed all other planets within our solar system. From this, we have already found a lack of continuity in the Mediocrity Principle - and since the extent of this lack in continuity is unknown, we can not use the Mediocrity Principle as evidence towards implying (or even suggesting) the existence of extra-terrestrial life. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:24, 15 February 2010 (UTC)

The purpose of Wikipedia talk pages is to improve articles, which are supposed to reflect cited sources -- the purpose is not to debate arguments put forth by those sources. (As for your very poor argument -- it's only a principle, not a law; there are specific reasons why life is more likely on Earth than on Saturn, but none why life in this corner of the galaxy is more likely than in other corners; such "lack of continuity" in principles is normal and expected, just as "smoking decreases life expectancy" isn't false just because some smokers live longer than some non-smokers.) -- (talk) 04:23, 8 June 2011 (UTC)
In the past the [[Mediocrity principle]] was the unspecified basis that some assumed that life would be likely on the moon, on Mars, and on other planets. Since we have observed the properties of the other planets sufficiently to determine that they are so different from Earth as to be unsuitable for vertebrate life on their surfaces, the suggestions of civilizations on Venus and Mars have lost respect. Now it is suggested that Earth-like planets about other stars ought to support life. If the mediocrity principle was insufficient to truly indicate probability of life in the instances of the planets of the solar system, it is insufficient to truly indicate the probability in the case of the universe. As we were ignorant of the habitability of other planets, we are still ignorant of the likelihood of abiogenesis. There could be one chance in two of life originating on a planet about a randomly chosen star or there could be one chance in ten raised to the thirtieth power. We have no way for preferring one guess of the odds or the other on the basis of evidence. We do not know the details of the origin of life; we can not reproduce abiogenesis as an experiment; and the one instance of the origin of life that we know about is not statistical data.
Now User: suggests on his own authority (of which Wikipedia recognizes none) that there is no reason that life in this corner of the galaxy is more likely than in other corners. That humanity is ignorant of what factors might favor life forming in one corner of the galaxy or another is certain. That some are ignorant of this ignorance is a special case. It is not merely the failure of the mediocrity principle in the case of the planets of the solar system that makes it inapplicable to the question of life originating elsewhere in the universe, but the lack of an iota of evidence that it is applicable to the question and humanity's ignorance of just what the question of the origin of life entails that makes the mediocrity principle irrelevant in this case.
This argument against the applicability of the Mediocrity principle is so straightforward that some version of it must be available from a reliable source somewhere. I am not well practiced in finding such things on the internet, but I hope someone can so the argument can be placed into the article. - Fartherred (talk) 22:41, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
Why is the origin of life on Earth not statistically significant? It is because if the odds against life originating on Earth were ten raised to the thirtieth power to 1, and life on Earth were the only example of life originating anywhere in the observable universe, the result would be that we are here to see ourselves and our related biology as one example in exactly the same way as if there were a hundred million unseen examples of life in our galaxy. The problem is that a sample size of one has no statistical significance. This is also an arguement that ought to be found from a reliable source. - Fartherred (talk) 23:05, 10 November 2012 (UTC)


This section is given far too much prominence. Zazaban 01:55, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

Not only that, it seems unsubstantiated as hell. It was probably added by the same person who put 'citation needed' markers all over the place. I am summarily deleting it. (talk) 12:35, 31 January 2009 (UTC)


The introductory paragraph says:

The mediocrity principle is further boosted by:
  • Fossil evidence supported by genetics concluding that all humans have a common ancestor about 100,000 years ago and that they share a common ancestor with chimpanzees about six million years ago. Therefore humans are part of the biosphere, not above it or unique to it.
  • Humans share about 98% of their DNA with chimpanzees. Chimpanzees have actually undergone more genetic change than humans[1].
  • The answering of Schrödinger's question What is Life? through the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA and the reduction of life to organic chemistry, negating the vitalism of previous centuries.
  • Francis Crick's "Astonishing Hypothesis" suggests that consciousness is simply the function of the brain.
  • When the Human Genome Project released its findings in 2003, it was discovered that the human genome only has 24,000 genes. As recently as the 1990s, humans were considered so complex as to have about 300,000 genes.
  • Evolutionary psychology is discovering the limits to human rationality, biological psychology exposes the material nature of cognition and moral sense with fMRI scans, economic and political studies find regularities in the behaviors of large groups of humans.

These are not supporting evidences at all, since they have nothing specific to do with the mediocrity principal, and apply just as equally to its alternative hypothesis, the Rare_Earth_hypothesis. The following is the only point currently listed that has any credence in distinguishing this theory from any other:

  • Edwin Hubble discovered the universe is a lot larger than humans first thought and James Hutton discovered the Earth is a lot older. The Hubble Deep Field is a long exposure of thousands of galaxies, making it one of the best pictorial representations of the principle of mediocrity. 14:49, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

It looks like someone's gone to a lot of trouble to tinker with the opening, but still there's nothing really logical about what's there now - how does the picture of the Earth taken from the outskirts of the solar system add to the argument that the Earth is somehow just an ordinary planet like, presumably, thousands or millions or whatever out there. Now if you had a picture of an Earth-like (assuming of course that Earth-like planets are needed for intelligent life - I'm not even sure that Earth provides a meaningful example of such) planet orbiting some other star or better yet pictures of a hundred or a thousand Earth-like planets orbiting other stars, then you've got something of an argument. Unfortunately, no such empirical information exists - while I wouldn't be surprised to find intelligent life out there somewhere, I don't think we know enough to make even educated guesses.

jmdeur 15:30 24 April 2008 (UTC)

I, too, think that the bullet points do very little to support the Principle, and some are very suspicious in themselves. In fact, they also seem very much like Original Research. IMHO definitely to be edited or removed. (talk) 23:26, 1 May 2009 (UTC)

The comments above are rather clueless. The principle isn't just about whether the Earth is a special place, but also whether humans are a special species, and even whether one's nation, state, city, family, or self are special. -- (talk) 04:28, 8 June 2011 (UTC)

Reasons for adding rewrite template[edit]

This article is a mess! I added a complete rewrite template since every section needs to be rewritten. The problems I see are:

  • No clear structure.
  • No clear definitions. (The article gives a vague impression that something about humanity is common to something else—and that's about it. Definitions seem to range from "Human DNA is mediocre in relation to other animals" to "Earth is mediocre in relation to the universe.")
  • Confusing or irrelevant facts. (In one place an appeal is made to evolutionary / biological psychology as support for the non-uniqueness of humanity. Well, without a clear definition(s) of the topic, this is just confusing. And depending on the definition(s) it may be irrelevant. Granted that human rationality is limited [whatever that means], and conscious thought is merely an epiphenomena of material states in the brain [both of which are controversial assertions]—that has nothing to do with the question of whether Earth-like planets are rare in the solar system or universe, whether intelligent life is rare in the solar system or universe, whether human traits are rare among animals, &c.)
  • No criticism or counter-factual data presented. (This isn't required, but if there are WP:RS sources with WP:N opinions, they should be included.)
  • Too many "See Also" links. (Nihilism? Fatalism?)

As it stands now, the article looks more like an apologetic for a particular point of view than an encyclopedia article about a scientific or philosophic principle. (talk) 03:11, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

Definitions seem to range from "Human DNA is mediocre in relation to other animals" to "Earth is mediocre in relation to the universe." -- These aren't "definitions", they are two different instances of the same principle, which I think is clearly stated. The article is about a principle that some people have argued for, and the arguments they have given for it. If you have reliable sources that have offered rebuttals of the principle, then you can include those ... although it might be better to have a link to articles describing contrary views, such as Dominionism. -- (talk) 04:38, 8 June 2011 (UTC)

What's going on in this paragraph?[edit]

Although this is a popular interpretation of history and of man's position in the cosmos, it is not historically accurate. The view of medieval theologians, most vividly illustrated in Dante's Divine Comedy, held the heavens to be perfect, and saw Earth (and humans) as the dregs (rather than the pinnacle) of creation. Thus it seemed that Copernicus was actually promoting rather than demoting the Earth by removing it from the "basement", and the paradigm shift was of a very different character.

I'm bringing this paragraph here from the article, because it seems like original research. It seems to be some kind of reaction to the content in the "As a philosophical statement" section, which is where it was. Is this rebuttal of the mediocrity principle published somewhere that we can cite? - (talk) 17:04, 7 March 2009 (UTC)


As part of my history of psychology class I will be editing and improving the content of this article as it pertains to both psychology and philosophy. I am open to all comments and suggestions to help me through this process Allenmad2234 (talk) 04:16, 26 March 2012 (UTC)

Please don't sign your changes to the article, or use a red color and <del> tags to strikeout material. Perhaps a WP:SANDBOX (here: User:Allenmad2234/Mediocrity principle) might be more appropriate for your classwork?—Machine Elf 1735 19:29, 26 March 2012 (UTC)

Andre Kukla's book ad?[edit]

At this moment the article seems too much to be just an Andre Kukla's book advertising... -- A man without a country (talk) 10:15, 1 December 2012 (UTC)

I agree. Don't have a problem with including Kukla's arguments, but the page does need more from other sources. I've added a "one source" template to the top. Kalidasa 777 (talk) 08:16, 22 December 2012 (UTC)