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Couch Tomato

Senior Member
Russian & Dutch
We should not give up hope of a better crane arising in physics,
something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in
the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the
biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present
are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently
better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an
intelligent designer.

(The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins)

Is the implication of 'abetted' that the anthropic principle isn't a sound principle? The definition of 'abet' suggests that the anthropic principle 'assits in crime':

Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::

abet /əˈbɛt/ vb (abets, abetting, abetted)
  • (transitive) to assist or encourage, esp in crime or wrongdoing
Etymology: 14th Century: from Old French abeter to lure on, entice, from beter to bait

aˈbetment, aˈbettal n aˈbetter, esp aˈbettor n
My idea is that the implication would change if the sentence were '...when supported by the anthropic principle...'.

What do you think?

Thank you in advance.
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    In normal use, the word 'abet' only occurs in the collocation 'aiding and abetting' (a crime). We know what it means on its own, but it just doesn't get used much on its own. So in Dawkins's sentence it's like a weaker cousin of 'aid' - he doesn't want a strong word that gives the anthropic principle an important place, but one that gives it just a bit of credit. It's also a bit of humorous use - he was certainly thinking of 'aiding and abetting' when he wrote it, and any reader native reader would think of the usual collocation, so perhaps he's also suggesting it's a little bit suspect. We would prefer physical laws without a principle with such a subjective feel about it.
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