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Frank Turek’s Criminally Bad C.R.I.M.E.S. Argument: Fine Tuning

This is a continuation of a critique of Frank Turek’s arguments in favor of Christianity made during a recent debate. See the beginning of the discussion here.

Let’s conclude the critique of Turek’s first argument, Cosmos.

Fine tuning of the universe

Turek says that if the expansion rate from the Big Bang were different by 10–15, the universe would have either collapsed or never developed galaxies. What explains this fine tuning?

Good question. Why does the universe look fine tuned? This is a scientific question, not incontrovertible evidence of the hand of God. Replacing “Science doesn’t know” with “Well, if you don’t, I do—it was God” doesn’t help. Positing a god as the cause of the universe simply moves the question back one level: if we assume that a deity did it, where did it come from? We’ve resolved nothing. It is yet one more supernatural claim that science must push aside on its way to finding the truth.

And what is the universe fine tuned for? There is life on earth, a tiny speck in an inhospitable and inconceivably vast sea of space. Most of the mass in the universe isn’t ordinary matter, and almost all of that isn’t part of a habitable world. It’s hard to call the harsh wasteland that is the universe “tuned for life,” so why imagine that life was what it was fine tuned for? There are probably trillions of black holes in the universe—maybe it was fine tuned for them.

Turek argues that we have two possibilities: (1) that our universe just got really lucky with its constants or (2) a supernatural being created it. He concludes: (1) is really improbable, so therefore (2). But what is the probability of (2)?? How can we compare these two options when we haven’t even analyzed one of them? He doesn’t even acknowledge the problem.

Multiverse

Of course, the in-your-face response to the fine tuning argument accepts that the universe is finely tuned but argues for a multiverse—uncountably many universes with varying cosmic constants, of which ours is just one. A very unlikely universe tweaked just so will pop up eventually if you have enough of them. In fact, Alexander Vilenkin, the cosmologist that Turek praised earlier, makes clear his view on the multiverse question in an article titled, “The Case for Parallel Universes: Why the multiverse, crazy as it sounds, is a solid scientific idea.”

(Does Turek still want to cite Vilenkin as a reliable source?)

Just to hit this a little harder, Jerry Coyne wrote a post subtitled with the very question that I had been asking: “Is the multiverse a Hail Mary pass by godless physicists?” No, the multiverse is not just a “well, it’s possible” gambit that atheists admit they have no evidence for but which they toss out simply to interfere with apologists. He quotes physicist Sean Carroll, who makes clear that the multiverse is a prediction made by other well-accepted theories. It wasn’t pulled out of a hat; it is a consequence of accepted physics.

Cause and causelessness

Turek says, “If the universe had a beginning, it must’ve had a Beginner.” Does everything have a cause? When an electron comes out of a decaying nucleus or a photon comes out of an electron decaying to a lower energy level, what was the cause? Nothing. Quantum events (like the Big Bang presumably was) don’t necessarily need causes. “Everything has a cause” feels right, but common sense isn’t a reliable tool at the edge of science.

Turek has one final salvo for this argument: “Either no one created something out of nothing or someone created something out of nothing.” Huh? So we’ve already established that the universe came from nothing? That’s possible, but there is no consensus. Why imagine that nothing is more likely before the Big Bang than something?

Lacking evidence but not confidence, Turek picks the latter option, as if it makes more sense that someone created something out of nothing. But how does anyone make something out of nothing?

Turek falls back on an uncaused god, without evidence.

And even if we grant fine tuning, a supernatural agent creating the universe is just one of lots of explanations. Maybe our universe was created by powerful but limited aliens. We could be in the Matrix of a computer designed by an alien race. And so on. No need to imagine an unlimited god.

Unless there’s evidence, of course.

Continue with Part 3.

“In God We Trust.”
I don’t believe it would sound any better if it were true.
— Mark Twain

There’s a phrase we live by in America: “In God We Trust.”
It’s right there where Jesus would want it: on our money.
— Bill Maher

Photo credit: Lee Bennett

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    Whenever I run across the name Sean Carroll, I am always at pains to promote an appropriate distinction. Here the reference is to the physicist Sean M. Carroll of Caltech, but in other freethinking contexts you might very well encounter the equally eminent, articulate, and accomplished evolutionary biologist Sean B. Carroll of my own beloved University of Wisconsin at Madison.

    • ZenDruid

      M. is for multiverse and B. is for…umm…

      • Greg G.

        B is for Biology. Thanks for the mnemonic.

  • Makoto

    I always say that within our vast universe, even tiny chances happen quite often. That, and the mere fact that we’ve evolved to observe our circumstances just means that we won that cosmic lotto, not that this planet was set up for us (otherwise, how do you explain Australia, which seems to have evolved life to kill us humans in nearly any situation? That’s not exactly fine tuned down under!)

    • RichardSRussell

      Million-to-one coincidences happen 8 times a day in New York City.

  • Peter Callan

    Does anyone else think that theists are now at the point that overwhelming scientific evidence is forcing them to clutch at straws?

    • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

      That seems quite likely.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I used to think that I might’ve missed some good pro-Christian argument and that I needed to stay humble because, hey, who knows what I’ve missed?

      While I’m sure there are nuances that strengthen pro-Christian arguments that I’ll continue to uncover, it’s been years since I’ve learned anything fundamentally new or interesting from the Christian side. Have I just missed the good stuff? I doubt it.

      • ZenDruid

        I learned over the past couple months at an apologia blog, ‘Strange Notions’, that Catholics are not aware of all their equivocation, or even get the message when they’re called on it. That’s an interesting, if frustrating, fact.

        [slaps self.... of course you know about that piece of business]

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That is interesting and worth understanding further.

          I cross-posted at Strange Notions a while back (kudos to any Christian blog that wants to engage with non-Christians, even if they get the last word). There are just too many blogs happening for me to be aware of all the great ideas out there.
          :-(

        • ZenDruid

          They lost almost all of the atheists in the last 24 hours or so, because the mod thought one of our most articulate responders was ‘snarky’ and consequently banned him. I was banned the previous day, but everybody else re-enacted Exodus at the news.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Ouch. The noble experiment has hit a speed bump.

          You do look rather Moses-like, assuming that’s you in the picture. I could imagine you at the head of the crowd, carrying your staff and leading the chosen out of the land of bondage.

        • ZenDruid

          Rats. I was hoping to impersonate Radagast the Brown with his Rhosgobel rabbits.;-)>

        • Mikegalanx

          Not only that, but the level of original postings over there has deteriorated sharply- seems they ran through the cream rather quickly.

          Now, it’s basically Catholics talking to each other about how terrible atheist arguments are.

          Sad, because there were a lot of sharp atheists getting into interesting discussions.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Is there anything to their concerns? Were the atheists indeed getting out of control, or was the site using “bad behavior” as an excuse to make a nicer environment for Catholics?

        • ZenDruid

          A bit of both.. I think the A team was getting a bit boisterous, and we didn’t give the host team much slack. The central issue for us, imo, was the low quality of the articles.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I haven’t been there since a post of mine was republished there in May. The response was startlingly elementary (I dismantle it here). If that’s any indication for what passes for top-end scholarship, I see your point.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Bob, I wrote a blog post on the implosion at SN.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Very strange. I didn’t see that coming. I can see that imagining people would just play nice wouldn’t work to everyone’s satisfaction, but we stumble along at this blog fairly well. I imagine some Christians don’t feel comfortable because the comments lean atheistic, which is probably a new experience for many of them.

          Anyway, too bad about SN and thanks for the inside story.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          You are welcome.

      • Rick

        Have you read Steven Meyer’s new book, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design? It doesn’t appear the theists are anywhere close to being overwhelmed by science. Quite the contrary, in fact.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No, I haven’t. I stay in touch with Disco Institute events, but there was no book launch event there. I’m not holding my breath on this book, however. I’m always wary of an agenda with critics from outside the domain of expertise.

          But I’m missing your point about theists being (or not being) overwhelmed by science. Could you explain?

        • Rick

          Not sure who you are addressing. My comment was pretty clear. Theists aren’t overwhelmed by the evidence (or lack of it) in science. The original comment was made by Peter Callan. Are you asking him or me for clarification?

          As the review reference by Rob above shows, a very narrowly educated paleontologist has disagreed with Meyer’s book. Fine. The paleontologist also points out that someone with a PhD like his is very narrowly focused and (what he doesn’t state) is also prone to miss the bigger picture. He misses it. Meyer gets it. We will have a difference of opinion on that, I’m sure.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m clearer now on your original point, thanks.

          a very narrowly educated paleontologist
          has disagreed with Meyer’s book

          As has the entire community of biologists.

          We will have a difference of opinion on
          that, I’m sure.

          I’m sure. I get my science from scientists.

        • Rick

          Chalk one up for snarky and arrogant on your side. I don’t see a need to respond to that.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I was going for terse, but I see your point about it sounding a bit snarky. Respond or not as you choose, but Meyer’s commenting on biology when not a biologist–and then being taken seriously though he rejects the consensus view–is bizarre to the point of being surreal.

          You’d asked if I’d read the book, and here’s an update: if my schedule allows, I’ll be going to a Disco Institute book part for Meyer’s new book on Saturday. I won’t be reading it, though.

        • Rick

          No matter what qualifications an “expert” on your side of the debate has, he is considered qualified by your cheering section. No matter what qualifications a source cited on my side of the debate has, his qualifications are attacked. This is simply silly.

          A PhD is a PhD because he has subject matter expertise and because he/she has demonstrated the discipline needed to do quality research. A PhD like Meyer assessing the state of science in a particular area is valid because he knows how to do research and documents it. You can disagree with his research, but in effect, by your own rules, only Meyer and the paleontologist are qualified to answer each other’s arguments to the points raised. Raising them here in a vacuum without Meyer to respond is never going to be successful with the audience of cheerleaders you have assembled.

          That is why snarkiness is never as satisfying as discussing the merits, which you choose not to do. You’d rather hide behind the god of consensus you allege is always on the atheist side because science is by nature only the study of materialistic causes. Q.E.D. —you win.

          But we do have the ability to reason and discuss, not just to fall back on supposed experts who only know their narrow field. But for that reason, a generalist approach that assesses data across disciplines is sometimes more valuable than a specialist mired in the weeds. That is what Meyer is doing—surveying data across a spectrum of disciplines. And your refusal to read his book or others like it means you are criticizing without assessing the evidence you are belittling.

          There is such a think as common sense, but as many have pointed out, it is not commonly used.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No matter what qualifications an “expert” on your side of the debate has, he is considered qualified by your cheering section.

          The cheering section are those people who value science done correctly. The qualifications are a terminal degree in that field. Are you suggesting that this is controversial?

          No matter what qualifications a source cited on my side of the debate has, his qualifications are attacked.

          I rarely say, “But he’s not a biologist!” when the source is a biologist. Sometimes, sure, but not often.

          Stephen Meyer isn’t a biologist. I think my “But he’s not a biologist!” is accurate and relevant, since the topic here is biology.

          A PhD like Meyer assessing the state of science in a particular area is valid because he knows how to do research and documents it.

          What could Meyer possibly say about a field in which he’s not an expert that should cause either of us to reject the consensus in that field?

          by your own rules, only Meyer and the paleontologist are qualified to answer each other’s arguments to the points raised.

          The issue is Meyer vs. the consensus of the field of biology. If your point is that the paleontologist doesn’t trump the field of biology, I agree.

          Raising them here in a vacuum without Meyer to respond is never going to be successful with the audience of cheerleaders you have assembled.

          I’m not sure what your point is. If you’re saying that I will lampoon the ridiculousness of Meyer’s project—overturning evolution even though he’s not qualified to evaluate the evidence—and that some people here will think that’s hilarious, yeah.

          Or perhaps “audience” is all biologists. I don’t think they’ll be impressed with Meyer’s argument either.

          That is why snarkiness is never as satisfying as discussing the merits, which you choose not to do.

          In our many conversations, I keep coming back to Creationist or IDer vs. the consensus of an entire field of science. This defeats both your position and theirs. You don’t like that, but I don’t understand why you imagine that you’ve won somehow.

          You’d rather hide behind the god of consensus …

          Well, more celebrate, not hide behind.

          … you allege is always on the atheist side

          When have I made this argument? Maybe you’re thinking of someone else.

          But we do have the ability to reason and discuss, not just to fall back on supposed experts who only know their narrow field.

          You mean the narrow field of evolution? For the topic of evolution, who better to look to?

          But if you’re saying that we laymen can discuss the evidence, sure. And that can be educational for me. But you know the trump card that I will always play.

          And your refusal to read his book or others like it means you are criticizing without assessing the evidence you are belittling.

          I will belittle only to the extent that I understand the other guy’s argument. I don’t need to have read Meyer’s book to understand critics’ complaints about it. And I’ll be happy to accept Meyer’s thesis once the scientific community accepts it first. That’s fair, no?

        • WalterP

          Stephen Meyer isn’t a biologist. I think my “But he’s not a biologist!”
          is accurate and relevant, since the topic here is biology.

          What about dinosaur researchers doing social science? Does he get a free pass if we just really like his conclusions?

          What could Meyer possibly say about a field in which he’s not an expert that should cause either of us to reject the consensus in that field?

          Wow Bob you’re making my arguments for me, thanks.

        • Rob

          They just continue to show a complete lack of understanding of science. “Overwhelmed” is an understatement.

          http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2013/07/donald-prothero-reviews-darwins-doubt.html

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s a nice review. The bizarre thing, which I continue to be unable to process, is Creationists who see their theories shot down by the people who understand this stuff, blithely blundering along, unconcerned.

        • Kodie

          Dogma, conspiracy, and indoctrination.

  • Marcion

    Has any apologist ever explained why god would prefer a universe with life to a universe without life? Or why he’d prefer an enduring universe over a universe that almost instantly collapses? That god wants a universe with specific properties seems pretty central to this argument, and I don’t see any reason to think that this is true.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Some thoughts came to mind in response to your comment.
      Imagine a universe without life. Suppose that was the only universe Mr. X the scientist knew about (kind of a contradiction, but forget that for now).

      Then he learned about our universe, which allows life. That would be an amazing revelation for him. Life can repurpose matter to make copies of itself without intelligence, like an acorn growing into a tree?? Who knew?

      Now imagine us discovering a universe that has something equally incredible. Imagine a step as big as the one for Mr. X. Of course, we can’t describe that now because this new universe would have properties that we can’t even imagine.

      We marvel at life because we’re alive. Who knows what stuff we don’t know about because it only exists with different physics?

  • John B Hodges

    The “fine tuning” argument depends on the judgement that the universe we observe is highly unlikely. This judgement is without basis. It is in fact a category mistake, applying a concept (probability) to a case where it simply does not apply. We only observe one universe. You cannot say ANYTHING about probability with a sample size of one.

    Contrary to the “fine tuners”, it is not miraculous that the universe we observe (from inside of it) is one that allows our existence. It would be miraculous if the universe we observe was one that did NOT allow our existence.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      None of the apologists understand the physics behind the argument. They cite impressive numbers that they didn’t work out themselves.

      Having seen so many examples of math or logic that crumbles under investigation (I wrote about one example here), I wonder at their logic. And, of course, they don’t understand it themselves–they just like what it says and that’s the end of their analysis.

      Can you just imagine a universe with all the constants as dials? Can any constant actually be anything? Since we only have one universe, how do we know that?

      • UWIR

        If they can be fine-tuned, they aren’t really constants, now are they?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          With respect to our current universe, I guess they’re constants.

      • Greg G.

        I have seen a study that shows that if you change one constant, LAWKI couldn’t exist but if you fiddle with multiple constants, about 1 in 4 resultant universes could support life. The strength of the weak nuclear force is an exception as it could vary even to zero without major implications.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You may be thinking of Vic Stenger’s Monkey God experiment. There are 4 constants that define things like how long stars last and so on. Like you say, he found that you could move them up and down randomly within a range of 5 orders of magnitude and get a decent fraction with life-supporting universes. (If you look for that, you’ll get a more precise statement of the experiment.)

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        It’s voodoo. They think that because we have a model for physics, they can stick pins in it (alternate constants) and that has some kind of relationship to reality. Map v. territory error. I wrote about it a while back here.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          P.S. I saw a presentation by Sean Carroll on “fine-tuning” and he almost got to the core of the problem, but not quite. You can see that video and my reply to it here.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Interesting. In fact, I do need more input on the fine tuning question. Thanks for the link.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Physicists don’t spend time worrying about the map/territory distinction, because it does not make a difference to what they do. In their field you can say “the world is this way” when strictly you only found out “the world can be modeled this way.” Again, that does not make any difference in what they are doing or how they talk among themselves. However, stepping outside Physics, if you take their work as how the world “is,” then you can sell people on the idea that some change in the model indicates how the world “could have been.” That is not justified, but if they don’t notice the trick, you can then use that to back up bogus conclusions.

  • John B Hodges

    Postscript: the fact that we can IMAGINE other universes, even imagine them in full mathematical detail, is not EVIDENCE that these other universes exist. It’s not even evidence that these other universes are possible. Imagining other universes is NOT the same as observing them. Our sample size of universes is exactly one, and therefore the concept of “probability” cannot be applied. All we can say is that the universe we observe must be “likely enough” to have happened at least once.

  • MNb

    As Herman Philipse pointed out: the fine-tuning argument assumes an metaphysical entity fine tuning the natural constants (there are something like 20-30), ie a First Cause. Hence the fine-tuning argument depends on the validity of the cosmological argument, which is zero. The fine-tuning argument also is teleological. It says that the natural constants are fine-tuned with the specific goal to make self-reflecting beings like Homo Sapiens possible. It’s this teleological element that makes the difference with the various Anthropic Principles.
    It gets even weirder if we consider the relation with Evolution Theory. ET specifically states that speciation occurs by adapting to environmental circumstances. So self-reflecting Homo Sapiens is adapted to Earthly environment, which in the end depends on those natural constants. Fine-tuning argues exactly the opposite, ie that natural constants are adapted to Homo Sapiens. Thus it conflicts with ET. You can safely bet that anyone using the fine-tuning argument is in the end anti-scientific, ie trying to dictate science on metaphysical, filosofical and/or religious grounds which theories to accept and which to reject. In my limited experience this is true even for highly educated philosophers of religion. Note: being a scientismist myself (and proud of it) I will be happy to be proven wrong by a counterexample. Feser is not one, I can tell you; Craig and Plantinga have anti-scientific tendencies as well. Swinburne might qualify.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      What I want to see (but am not holding my breath for) is an apologist who actually believes his argument. Someone who puts it on the line. Someone who says, “This is such a part of the foundation of my belief that if science showed that the universe was not fine tuned, I would reject my faith.”

      But of course they don’t. In that situation (and how many times has this happened in the history of science?) they just brush themselves off as if nothing happened and they’re off on the next puzzle at the edge of science.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

        –Winston Churchill

  • MNb

    Underneath the previous article I wrote that if we accept fine-tuning this rather supports polytheism instead of monotheism. I just have read a rebuttal by a Dutch apologist. I quote:

    “Een eerste oorzaak van de wereld is een onveroorzaakte entiteit die de directe of indirecte ontstaansoorzaak is van alles wat buiten deze entiteit bestaat. Een eerste oorzaak is dus de ultieme grond van de wereld. Het is de uiteindelijke oorsprong van alles wat bestaat. Er kan dan ook maar één eerste oorzaak zijn. Stel namelijk dat er twee of meer eerste oorzaken van de wereld zouden zijn. In dat geval is de ene wereldgrond per definitie ook de directe of indirecte oorzaak van één van de overige wereldgronden, wat in strijd is met het feit dat een eerste oorzaak zelf niet kan zijn veroorzaakt.”

    “A First Cause of the Universe is a non-caused entity which is the direct or indirect origin-cause of everything that exists outside of this entity. So a First Cause is the ultimate foundation of the Universe. It’s the ultimate source of everything that exists. So there can only be one First Cause. Assume there are two or more First Causes of the Universe. In that case the one origin-ground is by definition also the direct or indirect cause of one of the other origin-grounds, which contradicts the fact that a First Cause can’t be caused itself.”

    Emanuel Rutten is higher educated than me. He has grades in math and philosophy of religion while I’m just a teacher at a secondary school. Still it’s obvious to my simple mind that he is just defining a single ultimate First Cause into existence and thus by no means refutes the idea of multiple independent First Causes, each of them fine-tuning a natural constant. But yeah – he also combines fine-tuning with theistic evolution (because of immaterial consciousness, ie the soul); he accepts quantummechanics if it suits him (to argue for a beginning of the Universe), but rejects its probabilism to make the cosmological argument work.
    Anyone surprised that my atheism has become more radical last five years? Religious deepthinkers can’t be objective. Well, I actually know two Dutchies who do a pretty good job, so I have to be a bit moderate.
    If you can read Dutch:

    http://www.gjerutten.nl/Kosmologischargument_ERutten.pdf

    It’s a pretty good exercise spotting the anti-scientific statements.

  • MNb

    It’s quite fun how Turek’s thinking coincides with Rutten’s. Of course the latter doesn’t deal either with the vastness of the Universe. Let’s face it – for Homo Sapiens the Solar System plus some extra (say a million times the size to get rid of the superfluous solar energy) would have sufficed. Shooting with a canon on a musquito is more efficient than creating the entire Universe for the sake of mankind.

    “is really improbable”
    Statistics with population 1.

    “(Does Turek still want to cite Vilenkin as a reliable source?)”
    Ain’t it fun? Rutten does – of course only the part he likes.

    “Everything has a cause” feels right, but common sense isn’t a reliable tool at the edge of science.
    The first part is exactly the argument Rutten gives. “It’s absurd to think that any event can happen without a cause”.

    “Why imagine that nothing is more likely before the Big Bang than something?”
    Rutten answers that one: because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (ie if there was something before the Big Bang that something had to have a beginning). Here is what two theoretical physicists say about it:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/astronomy/bigbang.html

    Paragraph 3A and B.
    They also address the “something came out of nothing” issue.
    Not that any apologist cares. Remember? They only cite physics when it suits them. I despise that.
    Now the real fun part is that the cosmological argument, including fine-tuning, might work if we assume a god playing dice. It seems that the Universe presupposes one (perhaps more) probabilistic field, namely for gravity. Hey, you apologists, all reconvert! The Flying Spaghetti Monster loves playing dice too.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The first part is exactly the argument Rutten gives. “It’s absurd to think that any event can happen without a cause”.

      That’s why I get my reality from physicists, not philosophers. “Just because” as an explanation isn’t adequate in physics, though apologists and philosophers seem content with it.

  • Jack Mudge

    Even if you don’t assume the multiverse, order falls out of chaos thanks to mathematics. Unless one wants to posit that God invented math (and that math could have been different if God so chose), this means that a universe that seems finely tuned now is very likely given a disorderly (i.e., high entropy) early universe. It would, in fact, be much more surprising if the universe were *not* ordered.

    Having said that: Personally, I prefer the anthropic objection. Of course we see a finely tuned universe. If the universe weren’t tuned sufficiently for life (whether that means “finely” is a different question), then we wouldn’t be here to notice.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve heard apologists respond to “can God make a rock so heavy he can’t lift it?” or “can God make a square circle?” by saying that God can’t do things that are logically impossible.

      Huh? So then God is bound by logic.

      As for God inventing math, I imagine they’d have the same response to “Could God have made 1 + 1 = 3?”–that God is bound by math.

      I don’t think you can invent something if everything is constrained and there’s only one way it could be.

      • Greg G.

        Isn’t 1 + 1 = 3 a valid statement in the study of population dynamics?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      As for the anthropic objection, I don’t find it persuasive. Yes, of course if the universe were lifeless, we wouldn’t be here to marvel about its being enabling to life. But that doesn’t respond to the fine tuning question. If indeed the constants are finely tuned, this objection avoids the issue rather than dismantling it.

      Or am I missing something?

      • Jack Mudge

        I’ve always considered that the anthropic principle doesn’t so much avoid the question as obviate it. What does it mean to say “fine-tuned” when any universe in which we exist would exhibit such features?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Right, but what fraction of universes are so tuned? If that’s insanely unlikely, what does that say?

        • Matt Thornton

          Everything that happens has a probability of 1. The universe is. It isn’t otherwise, through it could be, in ways both large and small.

          That the universe isn’t otherwise says very little (perhaps nothing at all) about how it came to be the way it is. The number of potential paths is simply too large.

          You can play this game at home without all the tricky math of cosmology. Assume you exist because one particuar sperm cell from your father combined with an egg in your mother. There are demonstrably many sperm, so the chances of you happening are really quite small – a different sperm means different genetics and a different you. But wait. Think of your father’s father – the same small probability exists for his particular existnce. Now think of his father – you can go back lots of generations, but you don’t need to.

          The probability of the event that is you is the product of the probablity of you (vs. the other genetic combinations possible in your parents’ mating), times the probability of your father, etc. The number gets vanishingly small almost immediately.

          With that, do you therefore assume you were caused, and thus evidence for God?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t think your conception example is relevant. The fine tuning proponent is talking about an unlikely situation that is very different from the other situations: the universe that permits life.

          To change your conception example, perhaps we imagine a world in which a woman could give birth to Superman, but it was super unlikely–so unlikely that him ever getting born on the earth in all of history would be almost inconceivable. If Superman did indeed get born, we’d be justifiably amazed.

        • Matt Thornton

          I guess I’m not seeing how a superman(baby) changes the logic much. We’re still talking about insanely small probablities, which was really the point.
          Is the fine-tuning argument that this is the *only* version of the universe that could support life?
          In the simple conception example, the unlikely situation (you existing) is very different from all the other situations (you not existing). Is the superman example different in a way other than degree?
          Like the superman example, I’m trying to say that the liklihood of *you* having been born, when you look at the path dependency, is likewise “almost inconceivable”.
          Am I missing something essential about the argument?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The fine tuning argument is that a random universe has an insanely small probability of being life supporting. Let’s just assume that that’s the case. In your example, it’s more an a priori kind of thing: what are the chances that I will come out of the pairings of my ancestors, 10 generations back? But, of course, if it hadn’t been me, it would’ve been another person (who really isn’t all that different from me).

          The fine tuning argument isn’t like 1 person out of a possible set of 10^100 person; it’s like 1 person out of a possible set of 10^100 options, of which only 1 has a person in it.

  • UWIR

    The fine-tuning argument appears to be
    making an implicit appeal to an intuitive Bayesian-type reasoning,
    but doesn’t actually present an explicit rigorous argument. So we
    should look at what the actual epistomological basis for the
    argument. Here’s how Baysian reasoning works:

    Suppose you have some collection of
    knowledge K, and given K, you can find the probability of some
    hypothesis H. Now suppose you acquire some additional piece of
    evidence E. Let’s call your new set of knowledge K’. That is, K’ =
    K+E. Then P(H|K’) = P(K’|H&K)*P(H|K)/P(K’|K). So, is the case of
    FTA, what are K, E, K’, and H? Well, H is “God exists”. K’ is
    “Life exists”. But what are E and K? To apply Bayes’ theorem, we
    have to come put a value on P(H|K). This is known as “the prior
    probability” (often shortened to just “prior”). This is the
    probability that someone would calculate for H, prior to knowing that
    life exists. But how can anyone possibly do so? If someone exists to
    calculate the probability, then they already know that life exists.

    Also, suppose I argue:

    If an electron were more massive than a proton, then life couldn’t exist. Now, a proton has a mass of about 10^-27 kg. There’s no reason an electron couldn’t have a mass of 10^20 kg. So the mass of an electron can range from 0 to 10^20 kg, and only a range of 10^-27 allows life. So the mass of an electron has to be fine-tuned to one part in 10^-47.

    Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you accept the first sentence. Given that, would you find the rest of the argument convincing? Is there any reason to stop at 10^20? Is there any limit to how much “fine-tuning” we can claim the universe has? I mean, it’s possible for an asteroid bearing a virus that wipes out all mammalian life to hit the earth. It’s possible for 10^20 such asteroids to hit the earth. For our species to exist, the number of such asteroids has to be less than 1. So our planet is fine-tuned to one part in 10^20. Are any of these arguments any less valid than Turek’s? If so, why?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Yes, the Bayesian approach does demand prior knowledge that no one has. Too bad the apologists never acknowledge this.

      Have you heard of the coarse-tuning argument? A fine tuning argument might say that the mass of the electron can’t be changed up or down by 10^–10 (say) for life to still exist. It’s fine tuning because the range is really tiny. But if any cosmic constant can be any value, then we could imagine a life-sustaining universe in which the life-sustaining range for an electron could be 10 orders of magnitude. Or 1000. But this “coarsely tuned” universe is just as unlikely as the finely tuned one—negligibly so.

      I’ve heard that any valid appeal to fine tuning must be with unit-less quantities—say the ratio of two weights, for example.

      As for your asteroid example, if any planet gets too many big asteroid impacts, bad stuff happens to life. But then I think the sheer magnitude of planets (some of which aren’t getting bombarded) means that there’s no fine tuning appeal possible. If our planet was the only planet out of the trillions that we were aware of that wasn’t getting relentlessly bombarded, then that could be fine tuning.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    The “everything needs a cause” is a bogus premise in a forcing argument unless you have checked “everything” (which, of course, they have not). Read more here.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Especially since events within quantum physics (which the Big Bang presumably was) don’t need causes.

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        The key is that they *may* not need causes, which is a defeater for “must have causes” but does not require the backing that would be necessary for “don’t need causes.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Agreed. I haven’t found a good authoritative source that summarizes quantum causality. I understand that there are some who hypothesize that some things don’t have causes and others who say that causes exist but we just don’t know what they are. Thoughts?

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