The Dracula Argument:
God, Vampires, and the Anthropic Principle

Apologetics — By on January 8, 2008 at 1:17 am

In debates over the existence of God and man, the ontological status of vampires rarely enters the discussion. Whether Count Dracula and his kin exist hardly seems to be a relevant concern. But after reading a fascinating paper by a pair of physicists, I’ve become convinced that the existence–or rather the non-existence–of vampires lends support to the argument from fine-tuning.
In “Ghosts, Vampires and Zombies: Cinema Fiction vs Physics Reality” (PDF), Costas J. Efthimiou and Sohang Gandhi use math and physics to illuminate inconsistencies associated with the popular myths about ghosts, zombies, and vampires. “The fact of the matter is,” they note, “if vampires truly feed with even a tiny fraction of the frequency that they are depicted to in the movies and folklore, then the human race would have been wiped out quite quickly after the first vampire appeared.”
Vampires feed on human blood which not only causes the victim to suffer blood loss but also to bear the indignity of turning into a vampire themselves. Each feeding therefore decreases the human population by one and increases the vampire population by one. If only one vampire where to exist on earth it wouldn’t be long before the entire human population was decimated.
To illustrate this point, the authors of the paper show what would happen if the first vampire made his appearance in the year 1600. They note that the global population of humans at the start of that year is estimated to be 536,870,911. Using the conservative estimate that a vampire would only need to feed once a month, they are able to calculate the effect on the human race.

On February 1st, 1600 1 human will have died and a new vampire born. This gives 2 vampires and (536, 870, 911−1) humans. The next month there are two vampires feeding time a single vampire feds on a single human in the first month, this would create two vampires — and decrease the human population by one and thus two humans die and two new vampires are born. This gives 4 vampires and (536, 870, 911−3) humans. Now on April 1st, 1600 there are 4 vampires feeding and thus we have 4 human deaths and 4 new vampires being born. This gives us 8 vampires and (536, 870, 911 − 7) humans.

The result is a geometric progression with ratio 2. Since all but one of these vampires were once human, the human population is its original population minus the number of vampires (excluding the original one). So after n months have passed there are 536, 870, 911 − 2n + 1 humans. As the authors note, the vampire population increases geometrically and the human population decreases geometrically.
This chart shows the vampire and human population at the beginning of each month during a 29 month period.

vpopchart.gif

The authors determine that if the first vampire appeared on January 1st of 1600 AD, humanity would have been wiped out by June of 1602, two and half years later:

We conclude that vampires cannot exist, since their existence contradicts the existence of human beings. Incidentally, the logical proof that we just presented is of a type known as reductio ad absurdum, that is, reduction to the absurd. Another philosophical principal related to our argument is the truism given the elaborate title, the anthropic principle. This states that if something is necessary for human existence, then it must be true since we do exist. In the present case, the nonexistence of vampires is necessary for human existence.

It is this last principle that I find particularly intriguing and suggestive. The anthropic principle is often stated in a positive way, assuming that certain conditions must be met before human life can exist. At least two dozen demandingly exact physical constants must be in place for carbon-based life to exist, the slightest variation in any of these conditions–even to a minuscule degree–would have rendered the universe unfit for the existence of any kind of life, much less for humans.
But I believe Efthimiou and Gandhi’s paper provides an example of how the anthropic principle can be stated in a negative way. Vampires are a prime example of a class of objects (let’s call them V-class objects) whose non-existence is necessary for the existence of humans. In other words, if humans exist, then it is necessary that V-class objects do not exist.
At first glance this seems so obvious as to be unworthy of notice. Since we humans do, in fact, continue to exist, it shouldn’t be surprising that vampires (and other V-class objects) do not exist. But this begs the question of why humans exist and V-class objects do not. Their existence is, after all, as probable (or improbable) as the existence of humans. And the non-existence of any V-class objects is as statistically improbable as the aligning of dozens of independent physical constants that give rise to life.
The anthropic principle could therefore be restated as claiming that the existence of human life requires both (a) the alignment of several cosmological, chemical, and physical constants and (b) the non-existence of all V-class objects. The probability that each of these stochastically independent events could align precisely as they have, without any intervention, is roughly 0 — in other words, it can’t happen. The evidence therefore points to “fine-tuning” of these conditions.
Having reduced the chance hypothesis to a virtual impossibility we are left with the obvious conclusion that the fine-tuning is not only apparent but actual. The fine-tuning implies the existence of a tuner, hence we can conclude that the scientific evidence supports the conclusion that God exists.
As I have stated ad nauseam, the uses of such an argument are not to prove that God exists but to highlight the metaphysical and illogical knots that the agnostically inclined will twist themselves into in order to deny the obvious. The fact that vampires don’t exist doesn’t prove that God does — but it does make that inference more reasonable and probable than its alternative.
Addendum One argument against this conclusion is that there are vampire killers (e.g., Buffy the Vampire Slayer) who are able to keep the vampire race in check. Clive Thompson runs the numbers and concludes that the precise number of vampires that could exist in a Buffy universe is no more than 512.
See Also: For more on the fine-tuning argument and answers to objections against it, see Dismantling Implausibility Structures: The Argument from Fine-Tuning.



  • Ludwig

    actually, as an avid fan of vampire literature and movies the argument about vampire wiping out human populations is absurd and ignores several “facts” of vampiric mythos….the main one being that vampire chose whom they “sire/emprace” very carefully and the process of turning a human into a vampire requires that the vampire drinks the human to the point of near death and then feed the human some of its blood,which only then turns the human into a vampire (in a matter of minutes,hours or days, depending on whom you are reading). The point being that without that key mutual blood transfer,no trsansformation can take place…and a vampire would usually be loath to sharing this kind of power with anyone else and thus creating a potential rival. Vampiric literature usually illustrates quite convincingly how turning a human into a vampire rarely turns out well for the “sire”…vampires are predatory creatures that have no innate concept of loyalty or friendship and a new born vampire will usually go to great lenght to escape the shadow of its maker,going so far as to killing the later if the opportunity presents itself. Furthermore,vampires do not need to kill every people they drink from….most vampire literature makes them out to be experts at seducing their victims into agreeing to becoming “blood donors” of their own volition. In fact,a vampire living in a major city would have a lot of problems keeping its presence from becoming known if drained dead bodies kept turning up on a regular basis.

  • http://decorabilia.blogspot.com Jim Anderson

    If the “vampire argument” is fatally flawed, just like the old creationist population argument, why trot it out as an example of anything?

  • http://grkndeacon.blogspot.com Chris Larimer

    One problem – as anyone who has played “Vampire: The Masquerade” or read Anne Rice would know: Vampires don’t have to kill the living in order to feed. Moreover, simply being bitten by a vampire isn’t sufficient to turn the victim into one. Therefore, the smart vampire would feed selectively and never deplete the food supply.
    Zombies, however, have no such finesse. They are a true scourge. And they hold particular horror for those of us who actually do believe that the dead have risen in the past and will rise in the future. And whose original sect was persecuted for “cannibalism” by the Romans. I’m starting to smell Jungian archetypes….

  • RiceStinks

    Ludwig, you did NOT just say you’re an Ann Rice fan!! AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!
    She has bastardized and destroyed the entire concept of what a Vampire is!!!! They are NOT Ann Rice creatures!!! She has written a drastic change (for the worse!) of what vampires have always been. Hell, even the Blade movies did better at keeping to the original idea of vampires, though they weren’t anywhere close either. The closest (though still not accurate) recent movies were the Underworld movies – and even in that world, the human race would realistically become quickly extinct.
    Count Dracula is a very civilized vampire compared to the earlier concepts of vampires, and he’s an animalistic monster compared to the Ann Rice crap. The study was using the original and most “realistic” concept of vampires.
    “most vampire literature makes them out to be experts at seducing their victims into agreeing to becoming “blood donors” of their own volition.” – Only the crap since Ann Rice has done this. MOST vamp literature had them ‘properly’ infecting or killing everyone they bit – no middle ground.

  • http://decorabilia.blogspot.com Jim Anderson

    In fact, I see where the argument goes wrong: “Their existence is, after all, as probable (or improbable) as the existence of humans.”
    There are an infinity of conceivable V-class objects. The probability of their existence or nonexistence is simply incalculable.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I think Joe might have forgot to put his ‘rerun’ warning on top of this post because I know I’ve seen this before. Anyway, I’ll rerun my demolishing of this argument:
    Their existence is, after all, as probable (or improbable) as the existence of humans. And the non-existence of any V-class objects is as statistically improbable as the aligning of dozens of independent physical constants that give rise to life.
    Really? How improbable? Joe is making a mathematical statement, that the probability of V-class objects not existing is the same as the probability of aligning of dozens of physical variables. OK, what is that probability and how does one calculate it?
    Joe will not answer that question because he cannot answer it. Probability requires that you know the entire population of possibilities. Consider your state lottery:
    Say it is done by picking 12 balls out of the bin. Well it’s pretty easy to calculate the probability that the winning number will be 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12. You just have to know how many balls of each number are in the bin. But what if you don’t know? Well then you can’t calculate the probability. If there are only 12 balls numbered between 1 and 12 then the odds of that combination are a lot higher than if you have thousands of balls numbering between 1 and 1,000.
    To show how absurd the argument is, the odds of getting 12 ‘ones’ are 100% if the bin contains nothing but balls with one on them or 0% if the bin contains no ones. Just like the bins you can say nothing about the supposed dozens of independent physical constants unless you know how much they can vary to begin with. If they can’t vary at all then the probability of them being what they are is 100% and nothing is improbable.
    Needless to say the ‘dozens of independent constants’, when Joe previously presented some of them turned out to be neither constants nor independent for the most part. Many of them turned out to be easily eliminated as dependent on each other. For example, the Gravitational force constant
    and the average distance between stars and galaxies. Clearly these are not independent. If gravity was stronger then stars would pull closer together and galaxies too, if gravity was weaker then stars and galaxies would pull further away. So unlike the lottery balls, the average distance ‘constants’ are revealed to be totally dependent rather than independent.
    But I believe Efthimiou and Gandhi’s paper provides an example of how the anthropic principle can be stated in a negative way. Vampires are a prime example of a class of objects (let’s call them V-class objects) whose non-existence is necessary for the existence of humans. In other words, if humans exist, then it is necessary that V-class objects do not exist.
    Indeed but this isn’t really an anthropic principle but an existence one. If something is known to exist then something that would have ruled out that things existence must not exist. So we have trees today therefore an ‘infinite tree eating monster’ must not exist since he would have ate all the trees. Likewise we have Mt. Everest so there was no alien UFO that hit earth with a planet side sander to make the earth perfectly smooth.
    The ‘V class’ argument is weak, though, because members of the v-class must be carefully defined so their existence would certainly rule out the existence of something known to exist. Joe’s vampires must feed once a month and each feeding produces a new vampire. Additionally Joe also assumes that such vampires must be free to feed once a month. If the first vampire, say, got trapped in a castle dungeon then even a ‘V class’ object might exist today while humans are doing a great job at existing.

  • http://decorabilia.blogspot.com Jim Anderson

    Boonton, high five.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    As I have stated ad nauseam, the uses of such an argument are not to prove that God exists but to highlight the metaphysical and illogical knots that the agnostically inclined will twist themselves into in order to deny the obvious.
    Actually the same argument works against the theist just as well. Let’s say God had a universe making machine with three dozen dials, each dial with a thousand notches or so on it and God made the universe by setting the machine’s dials and hitting ‘run’.
    Well with all the possibile universes what are the odds that God would have created this one? After all, while zillions of those universes would have been lifeless there’s probably thousands that could have supported our type of life if that’s what God wanted….and no doubt many of those possibile universes could support life of a different sort than we know.
    You’re still left with an assertion that boils down to “something highly improbable happened” and you’re trying to twist logic to say “the highly improbable cannot happen”. So Joe’s argument is left with the following problems:
    1. He uses probabily to mount an argument when the situation does not allow for any proper calculation or even estimate of probability.
    2. His list of ‘independent constants’ is botched.
    3. He is trying to assert improbable must mean the same thing as impossible (barring supernatural causes I suppose).
    Since the entire structure of the argument collapses there’s little left that can be salvaged.

  • Ludwig

    RiceStinks
    Anne Rice is just one author among many in vampire literature and i ve never been much of a fan of her vampires…but at least in that she was in sync with most vampie mythology regarding the required mutual blood transfer to create a vampire…even dracula had to give some of his blood to both mina and lucy to make them into vampires and you would know that if you actually bothered to read Bram Stocker’s novel…the schtick about vampire turning anyone they bite into another vampire is the bastardized version of the myth…furthermore,in Anne rices’s novels,no one is ever a willing victim and everyone a vampire feeds from dies,without exception and without being turned into a vampire ,whereas in most other vampiric literature there are always people who are willing and even crave the bite of a vampire. Trust me buddy,you re not going to be teaching this old dog any new thing regarding vampire myth.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Ludwig,
    I think you’re wrong. Rice does have some people who seek to become vampires so they are ‘willing victims’. Additionally, I remember her having some vampires (Louis I think) ‘calling out’ to the suicidal so there are at least a few ‘willing victims’ on some level.
    Also I believe in her books vampires can partially feed from a human so as not to kill them but feeding on humans is like eating potato chips…its’ pretty hard to stop yourself once you start.

  • Ludwig

    Boonton
    Yes Louis did have the ability to seduce a human into giving its blood freely but the victim always would die as a result and it was Armand who could call out people who wanted to die…either way,no one would ever survive the vampires bite…but as i said,they certainly did not transform into a vampire everyone they bit.

  • Vance

    The whole fine-tuning argument just doesn’t work, in my opinion.
    For the improbability factor to be at all compelling, you have to start off with the assumption that the state of things as they are is the only way they could have been. We look at what ACTUALLY exists and say “wow, what are the odds of THIS happening!!??”. But, the simple point is that if any of those miniscule variations happened, then we would not be here (agreed), but SOMETHING ELSE would be. If go back to the big bang and just let things happen again, it might all turn out very different, but could end up just as complex and interdependent, and just as much contrary to the odds of it happening again that way. If you rolled the “Big Bang” dice a bazillion times, you would get a bazillion different results, and you could look at each and say the same thing “wow, what are the odds of THIS happening!!!???”
    As a Christian, I say that Mankind IS what God intended, so God rolled the Big Bang dice in the exact way (among the infinite choices) that it would result in exactly what we have. But that is because I have a pre-existing belief that we are God’s intended result, NOT because I think there is any objective logical support from the fact that we DO exist.

  • http://thechristiancynic.wordpress.com The Christian Cynic

    Vance, it’s not just improbability that matters in anthropic considerations; it’s the specificity of constants that make the universe habitable. To use your analogy, the “THIS” in the exclamation “wow, what are the odds of THIS happening!!??” isn’t just what we see but also the fact that we are able to wonder at our existence despite the conditions upon which our existence is contingent being so improbable. The question of what would happen if the Big Bang was reenacted is moot if fine-tuning is true – we wouldn’t even be around to exclaim “wow, what are the odds of THIS happening!!??”
    I will agree to an extent that there may be some subjectivity in interpretation, though, so I sympathize with your position. I just don’t think that you’re correctly characterizing the strongest fine-tuning arguments.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    The problem with the fine-tuning argument is that it assumes that something was or could have been fine tuned to begin with. When Vance writes “wow what are the odds of this happening”, to answer that question you have to be able to calculate odds. No one has presented a convincing case that they have the knowledge needed to perform such a calculation or even to estimate it.

  • Vance

    Christian Cynic:
    But when you consider the infinity of possibilities, the fact that there are constants and that there is a sentient being around to wonder about it is simply another highly improbable phenomenon. The degree of improbability is increased, that is all. On a much smaller scale, if you took a single person and asked how likely it would be for that person to win the lottery, you would say the odds are astronomically against that happening. But the fact that SOMEONE will win the lottery is 100%. No matter HOW improbable the event is, you can’t look at the end result and then factor the odds from there.
    IF a randomly acting universe is let go for an infinite time, at some point something exactly THIS improbable (making the anthropic improbability as huge as you like) would happen. And, when it did, you could not look at it and say that it is just too improbable to be random.
    In short, you can not say that ANY degree of improbability is too large for a random, but infinite, universe.
    Ultimately, although I believe in an intelligent designer, I think it is wrong to think that the Designer left conclusive evidence that He exists. Faith is the evidence of things NOT seen.

  • http://thechristiancynic.wordpress.com The Christian Cynic

    Vance, your awful misquote of Hebrews 11:1 makes me not want to continue this. (Did you read on past that verse? That’s not what the author was getting at with that statement about faith.) But I’ll say that I find the ways around anthropic considerations (like postulating an infinite universe – as if that doesn’t have its own problems) don’t impress me. Certainly saying “If this happened trillions of times, it was bound to happen, and we’re the lucky ones who happen to inhabit the habitable universe that resulted from the cosmic trial and error” is completely counter-intuitive (although science does tend to be that way sometimes – another topic for another day).
    Boonton, fine-tuning isn’t simply about odds. Moreover, it is precisely our knowledge of the laws of physics that makes fine-tuning arguments possible – we can predict what would happen if the strong nuclear force (for instance) was stronger or weaker, even to very small degrees (hence the fine-tuning part), and the slim margin by which the coinciding of all these very specific values of significant constants makes the probabilistic argument rational – for if there is a great range (a lack of fine-tuning) in which the universe would be habitable, the probability of the values falling within that range would of course be greater. Your counter seems to be that we don’t have a good knowledge of physics, but I would venture a guess that this is one of those few areas where you would claim ignorance of the laws of physics. I definitely don’t see physicists or cosmologists jumping all over themselves to say that they don’t know enough about how the physical universe works!

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Boonton, fine-tuning isn’t simply about odds. Moreover, it is precisely our knowledge of the laws of physics that makes fine-tuning arguments possible – we can predict what would happen if the strong nuclear force (for instance) was stronger or weaker, even to very small degrees (hence the fine-tuning part),
    True we can predict in a very limited way what the implications would be if various forces were stronger or weaker. But what makes a change ‘slight’? It’s slight because we are used to looking at much larger scales. A hundredth of a pound is a slight weight if you’re working with weighing fruit and veggies in a supermarket but is a huge amount if you’re in the pharmaceutical business.
    When your business is making universes whose to say such changes are slight? Maybe they only appear slight if you’re looking at it from inside the universe.
    Also we only have a limited ability to predict what the universe would be like with different values. Whose to say that the supposedly uninhabitable different universe might not be able to host its own type of intelligent entities (think of those talking ‘energy clouds’ from Star Trek) that might be totally unlike life here but intelligent nevertheless.

  • Vance

    Cynic, the problem is still that you are sitting in a complex, interdependent universe that could only work the way it works, or it would be VERY different, without accepting that ANY universe that would develop would be the same way. If we took our universe, and changed just one thing, you are right, we would not be here. But SOMETHING ELSE would be here, some other combination that would look just as complex and interdependent and “fine-tuned” for THAT to exist. This is not against the odds at all, in fact is what WOULD happen.
    As complexity arises in a random universe, no matter how that complexity develops, at any given moment it is entirely fine-tuned for THAT exact set of circumstances. Any minute difference would have resulted in something very different, and that “something different” would look entirely fine-tuned for THAT, etc.
    It does not take positing the actual existence of an infinity of universes to arrive at ours, only the idea that there is an infinite number of things that COULD have happened, and with complex systems, complete and utter interdependence and “fine-tuning” for that set of circumstances will be the result.
    If you start an organic, random universe running, and then stop it in take a snap-shot of the state of its existence at a given point, you will find that everything in that scenario is dependent on everything else being exactly the way it is as well. If you “rewound the tape” and changed one tiny thing, and let it go again for the same length of time, and then stopped it again, you would have something very different, but equally interdependent and fine-tuned *to itself* as the first go ’round.
    As complexity develops, there are a series of things that will work, and things that won’t work. One of the things that WORK will happen. So, it is not surprising that we live in a universe that works.
    The bottom line is that the fine-tuning, anthropic approach doesn’t work because it does two things:
    1. It forgets that idea that ANY complex, organic universe is going to be entirely fine-tuned to itself, by definition.
    2. It assumes that our current flavor of complexity is somehow inherently the goal, and so calculates the odds of THIS happening.
    For those of us who DO believe that human-kind was “meant to be”, then sure it is an argument to make, but those who think that do not NEED anthropic arguments, since they accept that Truth before such evidence existed. In short, it can only be used to preach to the choir.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Vance,
    Another point is that even if human type life was ‘meant to be’ then there is still probably an infinite number of universes that would provide for human life.
    For example, someone here once said something like if some constant had been off by the 23rd decimal life as we know it couldn’t exist. Well what about the 24th decimal place? 25th? 20,005th?