The anthropic principle is an idea that initially dates to around 1973. The principle, as used by cosmologists and other scientists, states simply that we occupy a particular point in space and time from which we view the universe, due to the basic circumstances of where and when we can survive. Earlier in the universe's history, the ratios of basic elements were wrong for us to be able to exist, and later in the universe's life, they may again be wrong for our existence. Moreover, this planet happens to have the right conditions for us to have come into being, and if conditions had been different - a comet struck the planet at just the wrong time, the mix of oxygen was off, etc. etc., then we wouldn't exist.
Now, in one sense, this is really stating the obvious - "We're here to observe the universe because we happen to live in a universe where we are able to exist in this space and time." On the other hand, it points to something that we should always keep in mind - we are able to observe what we can of the universe because of our place in it, and that place is dictated by forces such as the creation of particular forms of matter, the effects of gravity on space dust, etc. etc. And our position in the universe may constrain what we can see.
So far, so good.
However, some folks have then gone on to claim that the fact that we can exist in the universe must mean that we were MEANT to exist in the universe, and that the fact that we do exist is proof of an intelligent "higher power" that brought us into existence for a purpose*. Now, on the one hand, I personally kind of like this idea. I do not believe in a higher power of any sort, but if you are going to, a belief system that both includes us as part of nature AND puts us in our place as a small part of the universe while still encouraging curiosity and exploration is, I think, a damn fine belief system. I have no problem with this, and as long as we are going to have religious systems (and I suspect that we, as a species, will always have some form of them), I would like to see such an attitude be part of these systems.
At the same time, I have seen this line of reasoning used frequently by people trying to convert me to their belief systems - "Well, the Anthropic Principle demands that there must be a higher power, so my beliefs must be right, and yours must be wrong!"
Uhh, no. the Anthropic Principle simply states that what we see in the universe is both aided and constrained by where and when we live, and that under different circumstances we wouldn't live at all. That's not to say that there would be no life, but that whatever life there would be under different circumstances would not be us. Nonetheless, the humbling implications of the Anthropic Principle - that we are what we are for reasons beyond our control and we should be grateful to get what we can - seem to all-to-easily be turned into an arrogant "we are here because we are destined to be here and the universe exists to bring us into being!"
In fact, fair consideration of the Anthropic Principle will make obvious that there are plenty of times and places where we can not survive. We are relegated to the Earth, and possibly nearby solar system due to the constraints against faster-than-light travel. We can only survive off of Earth with elaborate (and potentially prone to failure) equipment. Any of a number of cosmic accidents (asteroid impacts, comet impacts, astronomical activities that impact local gravity, etc. etc.) could wipe us out, possibly in some rather grizzly ways (I once heard an astronomer talk about a massive asteroid impact resulting int he heating of air to temperatures around that of a broiler, cooking most of the world's population alive). As the astrophysicist (and coolest scientist ever to have lived) Neil DeGrasse-Tyson puts it: "The Universe wants to kill you."
So, I propose a corollary to the Anthropic Principle, what I call the Misanthropic Principle: while it is true that we do have the amazing privilege of being able to view the universe around us coupled with the responsibility of being part of that universe, the same universe can be actively hostile to us. If the universe did have a consciousness, then the data available clearly indicates that it is ambivalent towards us at best, and possibly wants to do us in.
There you have it - the Misanthropic Principle: The universe either doesn't care, or is out to get you.
* This is sometimes called "The Strong Anthropic Principle", to
differentiate it from the accurate, if somewhat obvious, real