Physicist Sean Carroll Dismisses Fine Tuning Argument

This is the conclusion of a summary of the 2014 debate between philosopher William Lane Craig and cosmologist Sean Carroll. In part 1, I summarized Carroll’s response to the Kalam cosmological argument. Here, it’s a response to the other half of Craig’s argument, the fine tuning argument.

Carroll began with a compliment of sorts.

This is the best argument that the theists have when it comes to cosmology. That’s because it plays by the rules. You have phenomena, you have parameters of particle physics and cosmology, and then you have two different models, theism and naturalism, and you want to compare which model is the best fit for the data. I applaud that general approach. Given that, it is still a terrible argument. It is not at all convincing.

 1. What fine-tuning problem?

Carroll raises five points. First, he’s not convinced that there is a fine-tuning problem. Yes, changes in the parameters that define our reality would change conditions, but it does not follow that life could not exist. “I will start granting that [life couldn’t exist with different conditions] once someone tells me the conditions under which life can exist.” We don’t even fully understand life on this planet, nor do we understand it on the other planets in the universe that hold life (if any), nor do we understand it within the other possible universes (if any).

For example, is life just information processing? That raises lots of possibilities for life. “They sound very science fiction-y,” Carroll admits, “but then again, you’re the one who’s changing the parameters of the universe.”

Biologists are continually playing catch-up when studying the diversity of life. They rarely predict a novel place for life to exist and then go find it there; instead it’s “Wow! We just found complex, multicellular life in undersea thermal vents!” (or glaciers, or deep mines, or ponds full of saline or superhot or radioactive water).

2. Don’t limit God

God can do anything, and he isn’t limited by the parameters of the universe. If life were impossible naturally, God could make it happen anyway. Carroll says about theism, “No matter what the atoms were doing, God could still create life.” That means that apparent fine tuning points to naturalism, since it must do everything naturally and can’t fallback on magic. If you insist that the parameters must be just so, then you’re arguing for naturalism.

Physicist Vic Stenger made the point this way in The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning:

Certainly an all-powerful creator could have made a universe delicately balanced to produce life. But he also could have made life exist in any kind of universe whatsoever, with no delicate balancing act necessary. So if the universe is, in fact, fine-tuned to support life, it is more—not less—likely to have had a natural origin. (p. 115)

3. Illusory fine tuning

Some apparent fine tuning vanishes on closer inspection. The expansion rate of the early universe is often cited as one example of fine tuning. In fact, Stephen Hawking in his A Brief History of Time says that it was tuned to 10–17, to the delight of apologists. What they avoid quoting is Hawking just a few pages later:

The rate of expansion of the universe [in the inflationary model] would automatically become very close to the critical rate determined by the energy density of the universe. This could then explain why the rate of expansion is still so close to the critical rate, without having to assume that the initial rate of expansion of the universe was very carefully chosen.

Carroll makes the same point when he says that the apparent fine tuning vanishes when you look to general relativity. The probability of the universe expanding as it did wasn’t 10–17; it was 1.

4. Multiverse

Apologist Richard Swinburne isn’t on board with the multiverse. He says, “To postulate a trillion trillion other universes, rather than one God in order to explain the orderliness of our universe, seems the height of irrationality.”

He doesn’t acknowledge that we have no supernatural precedents by which to evaluate the probability of his god proposal. He doesn’t seem to know that the number of other universes isn’t the point—there are an infinite number of integers, for example, but bringing integers into a discussion isn’t infinitely complicating. He doesn’t admit that the multiverse is a prediction of well-established science (cosmic inflation). He ignores that there isn’t just one proton, one star, or one black hole—there are enormous numbers of each—so why insist that there must be only one universe?

Carroll disagrees that the multiverse is extravagant: “It’s a prediction of a simple physical model.” The multiverse hypothesis can make testable predictions. He showed a graph of the density of dark matter in the universe as an example. “You do not see graphs like this in the theological papers trying to give God credit for explaining the fine tuning because theism is not well defined.”

5. Theism isn’t the default

Even if you reject naturalism as an explanation, you can’t fall back on theism. To be taken seriously, apologists must come up with a model of a universe that one would expect with theism and then compare it to the data to see if it fits. So, what would you expect a theistic universe to look like, specifically?

Theism would predict a just-right tuning of parameters, while we find that the entropy of the early universe (to take one example) was far, far lower than it needed to be for life. Theism would predict far less matter than the 100 billion galaxies (each with 100 billion stars) in our universe. Theism would predict that life would be important to the universe; naturalism says that it’s insignificant. Theism demands that we look at the Hubble Deep Field image of thousands of ancient and incredibly distant galaxies and conclude, “This is all here because of us!”

Over and over, the data shows a universe that matches the predictions of naturalism and not theism.

Which worldview predicts best?

He went on to contrast the predictive success of theism vs. naturalism.

  • Theism predicts that God’s existence would be obvious (in fact, the evidence is poor, and faith is not only required but celebrated)
  • Theism predicts that religious belief should be universal; there should be just a single, correct religion (in fact, we have thousands of denominations within just Christianity, plus many thousand more other religions)
  • Theism predicts that religious doctrines would be permanent (in fact, they evolve and adapt to social conditions)
  • Theism predicts that moral teachings would be transcendent and progressive (in fact, Western society rejected slavery and embraced civil rights in spite of Christianity, not because of it)
  • Theism predicts that sacred texts would provide practical advice like how to stay healthy
  • Theism predicts that life is designed (in fact, evolution explains life’s Rube Goldberg features)
  • Theism predicts a mind independent of the body (in fact, “mind” changes as the brain grows or is damaged, or even if one is tired or hungry)
  • Theism predicts a fundamentally just world without gratuitous evil (in fact, the Problem of Evil is often cited as Christianity’s toughest challenge)

Carroll is quick to agree that, yes, the theist can whip up reasons to explain away any of these problems. It’s not hard because theism is not well defined and can be reshaped as necessary, like clay. Ad hoc justifications are easy to come up with, but no, that’s not a good thing.

Contrast that with science—when new data causes problems for a theory, science looks for a new theory. And that is a good thing.

The reason why science and religion
are actually incompatible is that, in the real world,
they reach incompatible conclusions.
— Sean Carroll

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 4/28/14.)

Image credit: Terry Robinson, flickr, CC

 

"Because your the type of person that will ridicule the police but then call when ..."

The Atheist’s Gift Giving Guide
"The author of this poorly researched article has allot to explain given they have chosen ..."

Combat Myth: The Curious Story of ..."
"Uh oh! I look forward to reading that one. Maybe there is a hidden code ..."

10 Reasons the Crucifixion Story Makes ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Grimlock

    Consider the supposed fine-tuning. Our universe is supposedly defined by equations that includes some fairly arbitrary constants. Not especially elegant, but hey, they work.

    Then consider the claim that our universe is explicable in mathematical terms, therefore god. (Plus some other reasoning.) Sure, I guess – but not explicable in very elegant terms!

    I find these positions to be somewhat in conflict with each other.

    • Pofarmer

      The Universe isn’t defined by equations, equations are the language that we humans use to understand the Universe. And they aren’t exact understandings, they are approximations, at best. The universe isn’t “based” on equations, our understanding of the Universe is based on equations. As usual, the apologist get’s it exactly backwards.

      • Grimlock

        I agree. I was simply trying to state the apologist’s position in order to display what I find to be an inconsistency in two different attempts to argue for a god.

  • skl

    “I will start granting that [life couldn’t exist with different conditions]
    once someone tells me the conditions under which life can
    exist.” We don’t even fully understand life on this planet, nor do we
    understand it on the other planets in the universe that hold life (if any), nor
    do we understand it within the other possible universes (if any).”

    That sounds like a lot of lack of understanding. That sounds like a shaky platform from which to be dismissive.

    “The probability of the universe expanding as it did wasn’t 10–17; it was 1.”

    That sounds like the probability of you winning the lottery wasn’t 10^-17, it was 1, because you won.

    “Even if you reject naturalism as an explanation, you can’t
    fall back on theism. To be taken seriously,
    apologists must come up with a model
    of a universe that one would
    expect with theism and then compare it to the data to see if it fits.”

    Perhaps, to to be taken seriously,
    cosmologists must come up with 1 model instead of 17 models
    . http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2017/11/when-christianity-hits-reality-the-william-lane-craig-vs-sean-carroll-debate/

    In other words, to be taken seriously, cosmologists must have a virtually unanimous consensus on
    1 model, instead of 17 models with no consensus.

    • Tony D’Arcy

      To be taken seriously you have to present the God hypothesis and the accompanying evidence, and not just rely on scientific uncertainties.

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

      cosmologists must have a virtually unanimous consensus on
      1 model, instead of 17 models with no consensus.

      Cosmologists have models based on science and that work with the evidence. Christian apologists have nothing. See the difference?

      This is only hard because you’re determined to make it so.

    • Doubting Thomas

      That sounds like a lot of lack of understanding.

      It is something we don’t understand, which is why apologists shouldn’t use it as a foundation for an argument. But as we’ve seen time and time again, religion revels in ignorance like a pig in shit.

    • Grimlock

      “The probability of the universe expanding as it did wasn’t 10–17; it was 1.”

      That sounds like the probability of you winning the lottery wasn’t 10^-17, it was 1, because you won.

      My understanding of part is that the rate of the expansion of the universe is determined by other factors. As such, that particular rate would be necessary, and your analogy does not work.

      That sounds like a lot of lack of understanding. That sounds like a shaky platform from which to be dismissive.

      It does, however, seem like an even worse position from which to make an assertion of probability. It’s rather like stating that tossing a five or higher on a die is improbable without knowing how many sides the die has. But if I’m mistaken I’d very much like to see how the probability calculus looks like with this many unknowns.

      • Pofarmer

        But if I’m mistaken I’d very much like to see how the probability calculus looks like with this many unknowns.

        I’m not sure that Cosmologists, Biologists, whatever, are really very interested in it. It really doesn’t matter all that much in the end. Here we are! The only ones that I’ve seen try to do this “math” are apologists.

        • Grimlock

          To be fair, it was more of a rhetorical challenge than serious request. There are simply too many unknowns for such a calculation to be anything other than sheer speculation.

    • Michael Neville

      Christians and other theists argue that that the requirements for life in our universe and on our planet are so exacting that the only way for life to have happened is GODDIDIT! Essentially the fine tuning argument is an argument from incredulity. “It’s impossible that our universe and world could have the necessary parameters to support life so it must have been my favorite god what created everything.”

      There are several flaws with the fine tuning argument. One that comes immediately to mind is that the universe and the world aren’t fine tuned for humans, humans are fine tuned for the universe and world, specifically the African savannah of half-a-million years ago.

      Another problem with fine tuning is it looks at physics equations and inserts the constants found in the universe, then proclaims that if the constants were changed then life would be impossible. However let’s consider what happens if the equations are changed. We don’t know what would happen. Even if the current equations with changed constants make life impossible completely different equations (and constants) might be life-producing. We don’t know enough about physics to say either way. Arbitrarily requiring that only the constants may be changed is begging the question.

      • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

        To put it bluntly, it’s an argument from ignorance.
        Apologists throw impressively large probability numbers into the ring based on the range they allege those constants could take, but they have no way other than hand-waving to demonstrate those ranges are valid or that the different constants are independent.

      • skl

        “There are several flaws with the fine tuning argument. One that comes
        immediately to mind is that the universe and the world aren’t fine tuned for
        humans, humans are fine tuned for the universe and world”

        Yours is still a fine-tuning argument.

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

          Not even close. Look up Douglas Adams’ puddle.

        • Greg G.

          I think you are missing the point of fine-tuning arguments. Life is fine-tuned to environments by natural selection. That is the converse of a fine-tuning argument.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Humans are fine tuned, or at least adequately tuned. We know this because we understand evolution.

        • Pofarmer

          We aren’t really “fine” tuned. There’s a pretty small set of conditions that we can survive in without our technology. Beginning with clothes.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Nope, merely adequately tuned.

          The human eye is poorly designed compared to the octopus eye, and prone to retinal problems.

          There’s a nerve path in giraffes that goes from the shoulder, up the neck, and back down again, for something that would be MUCH better served by a short, direct nerve path.

          And remember that we eat and breathe through the same tube, making it possible to choke and suffocate.

          If we’re designed, it’s by a pretty shitty designer.

        • Greg G.

          The human eye is poorly designed compared to the octopus eye, and prone to retinal problems.

          This where creationists will point out that they live in a different environment than we do. So then you have to tell them that our eye is designed like all other vertebrates, including fish that live in the same environments where octupi live.

          There’s a nerve path in giraffes that goes from the shoulder, up the neck, and back down again, for something that would be MUCH better served by a short, direct nerve path.

          That nerve follows the same path for all vertebrates. It was an efficient run in our fish ancestors without necks and shoulders. But when gill supports became shoulder supports, it is impossible for evolution to reroute the nerve without a generation that cannot swallow. Imagine the path of that nerve in a Diplodocus.

        • Jim Jones

          And then there’s the prostate!

      • Joe

        Another problem with fine tuning is it looks at physics equations and inserts the constants found in the universe, then proclaims that if the constants were changed then life would be impossible

        If my waist were 1×10*-17 miles wider, my pants would still fit.

        Creationists give too much weight to these supposedly minuscule figures, without putting them in context.

        • Greg G.

          They always look at changing one and only one constant except for the weak nuclear force, which could be eliminated with very little change. Changing two or more of the others can compensate each other so the universe could last a long time and still allow complex chemistry.

        • Joe

          There’s also a vast range of parameters of conditions here on Earth that could change and life would still be possible. If they think that setting the fundamental forces of physics is the only way to facilitate life in one minuscule portion of the galaxy then they have very little imagination.

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

          If Michael Jordon was 10^-16 light years shorter, he would’ve been just a regular guy. His basketball career must’ve been fined tuned!! :-)

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

        Yes, and this is the key point that Carroll makes: you tell me the conditions that life requires, and I’ll have some data to evaluate your fine-tuning claim. But of course we have little idea what those conditions are.

        The apologists get confused when they say, “but think how delicate the conditions must be for human life” and not realize that they’ve got it backwards.

    • John-Hugh Boyd

      In other words, to be taken seriously, cosmologists must have a virtually unanimous consensus on 1 model, instead of 17 models with no consensus.

      Nice “God-of-the-Gaps” you got there, skl!

      • Susan

        Nice “God-of-the-Gaps” you got there, skl!

        I see you’ve met skl.

        • John-Hugh Boyd

          I just wish these trolls would actually come up with decent arguments rather than ones with so many holes, a slice of swiss cheese looks solid…..

        • Susan

          I just wish these trolls would actually come up with decent arguments rather than ones with so many holes

          So do I. skl shows up occasionally, jaqs off and ignores responses to his “thoughtful” questions.

          Another strategy is to take offense when people point out how annoying and dishonest that tactic is.

          Everyone’s on to him. Most of us ignore him.

          Sometimes, it’s worth a response for the sake of lurkers but skl is a waste of time.

        • John-Hugh Boyd
        • Joe

          I just wish he would stop pretending to be a skeptical atheist.

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

          I was going to say–isn’t that the persona he’s chosen? He never sounds like an atheist.

        • Joe

          I’ve said that almost from the get-go, though I have seen him posting progressive views on social issues before. Who knows?

      • skl

        I might settle for a Model-of-the-Gaps.
        But there isn’t one.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Scientific models have predictive power, and are based on math.

          YOUR ‘model’, based on superstition, has zero or negative predictive power, and is based on bronze-age myths.

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

          You seem to be imagining some sort of dark cloud over science because they have unanswered questions.

          Put on your big girl panties. That’s life.

        • skl

          “Put on your big girl panties.”

          I don’t know which Model of panties to put on.

        • Kodie

          You’re a moron.

    • Geoff

      If the fundamental parameters of the universe can be changed, such that the odds of a randomly-chosen configuration for a universe being able to support life are astronomically low, then despite the odds being low it is still entirely possible that life arose through chance and therefore that does not provide any evidence for an omnipotent creator god. To be taken seriously, theists need to propose a model to which the existence of a god is required as part of the solution.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      17 models with *some* predictive power.

      1 (superstitious) model with ZERO OR NEGATIVE predictive power.

      I know which way I’d choose.

      Also, how divergent are the 17 models you’re decrying? Black vs. white? Or near indistinguishable shades of grey?

    • RichardSRussell

      That sounds like a lot of lack of understanding. That sounds like a shaky platform from which to be dismissive.

      And a still shakier platform from which to pronounce that one has found the single inarguable and incontrovertible (even if undemonstrable and evidence-less) answer to the whole issue.

      • skl

        I’m not aware of any one story or model about origins which
        is inarguable and incontrovertible.

        • RichardSRussell

          Me either. Which sure hasn’t stopped a whole lot of religions claiming that there is one, and they know what it is.

    • Joe

      That sounds like a lot of lack of understanding. That sounds like a shaky platform from which to be dismissive.

      Yet, in the very same post you offer up this in way of dismissal:

      Perhaps, to to be taken seriously,
      cosmologists must come up with 1 model instead of 17 models. http://www.patheos.com/blog

      In other words, to be taken seriously, cosmologists must have a virtually unanimous consensus on
      1 model, instead of 17 models with no consensus.

      Which shows a lack of understanding at a very basic level.

    • MNb

      To be taken seriously, believers must have a virtually unanimous consensus on 1 religious model, instead of the Joe knows how many with no consensus. I mean, all cosmologists agree that there was just one Big Bang for our Universe.
      Especially christians must have a virtually unanimous consensus of which version of the same they worship is the correct one, instead of the thousands of denominations with no consensus.
      Finally it might be advisable if christians took their own Holy Book seriously. Then they might remember things their Great Hero said about motes and beams in what those very same christians claim to be the most important part of the entire book …..
      In other words: once again you have managed to look like a complete idiot.

      • skl

        “To be taken seriously, believers must have a virtually
        unanimous consensus on 1 religious model”

        You seem to be trying to put science models and religious “models”
        on a level playing field. But they shall never be.

        The former model natural and/or repeatable and/or testable phenomena.
        The latter model miracles.

        • MNb

          You seem to be trying to pull off special pleading.
          But we agree that they shall never be on the same level playing field.
          Science yields knowledge.
          Religiosity doesn’t.

        • skl

          “You seem to be trying to pull off special pleading.”

          No special pleading. Just an acknowledgment of apples vs. oranges.

          “Science yields knowledge. Religiosity doesn’t.”

          I think, to be more precise, the Religious would claim their
          Religiosity also yields knowledge, but it’s divinely-revealed knowledge.

        • MNb

          Apples and oranges both belong to the same category: fruit.
          Your argument goes like “You should eat apples, they taste good and are healthy. You shouldn’t eat oranges though, even if they also taste good and are healthy, because they are not apples.”

          “it’s divinely-revealed knowledge”
          Very, very accurate indeed. So accurate that everyone with an IQ above room temperature understands that this is not knowledge at all, but faith. And exactly that results in the total lack of religious consensus.

        • skl

          Maybe English isn’t your first language.

          ‘Apples and Aardvarks’ may serve you better.

        • MNb

          Yeah – calling an Aardvark fruit is as stupid as calling what religion yields knowledge.

        • Kodie

          We know the religious would claim that. Why are you pretending you’re not religious?

    • Jim Jones

      As a rule of thumb, if you think you have 17 models you should not be surprised to find that you have 1 model and 17 views of it.

  • Michael Neville

    With over 100 billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of over 250 billion galaxies in the observable universe, it’s not even improbable that life as we know it wouldn’t arise on the planet we happen to inhabit.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Even the name of the argument is question begging. We know neither that the parameters can be tuned nor that they must be finely tuned.

    • Grimlock

      My understanding is that the argument boils down to this: If there had to be something, why did it have to be something with life in it?

      Which strikes me as a fair question to ask. I’m not immediately sure if that’s a question that can – or should – be dismissed easily.

      • Doubting Thomas

        I don’t think it did have to have life in it as it seems there was no life present for the first few billion years that something was around. As to why it’s present now can most likely be distilled to simple chemistry.

        • Grimlock

          I guess it’d be more appropriate to say why existence is such that it’s capable of supporting life. Why chemistry works as it does.

        • Geoff

          The question is redundant. This universe self-evidently supports life. The probability of it supporting life is 1. If the fundamental parameters of the universe can be changed, such that the odds of a randomly-chosen configuration for a universe being able to support life are astronomically low, then despite the odds being low it is still entirely possible that life arose through chance and therefore that does not provide any evidence for an omnipotent creator god.

          It is like winning the lottery and saying that because you’ve won the lottery god must exist. No; there is a chance you will win, there is no need to resort to a supernatural explanation.

        • Grimlock

          Forget about the so-called parameters. Let’s make it more general:

          Existence is such that it enables a particular configuration that we refer to as life. Why is existence such that life is possible?

        • Geoff

          In order for sentient life to ask that question, ‘existence’ must permit intelligent life to exist.

          If your question is “please explain in detail exactly why the laws of physics and the universe are exactly as they are” then we don’t know all the details yet. However, if you look at how far our understanding of the universe has progressed over the last 200 years or so, I suspect we will uncover a great deal more in the next 200. Exciting!

        • Grimlock

          What I suppose I’m getting at, or at least attempting to get, is the core of the fine tuning argument, to see if it’s valid. As I believe Hitchens said once, I’m playing the devil’s advocate pro bono.

          I think the core of the argument is that life is set up as special, and it is then found to be curious why life exists. The references to the parameters of the universe is just a nice rhetorical device to make this intuitive implausibility more measurable.

        • Doubting Thomas

          The fine tuning argument isn’t valid because, just to start, we don’t know that the universe is tunable.

          I do appreciate the discussion though.

        • Grimlock

          I agree, both about the argument not being valid and about enjoying the discussion.

          If one wants to dismiss the argument, then pointing out the ways it is invalid is enough. But in order to convince someone, one should, I think, get at the underlying assumptions and intuitions. The appeal to the parameters are just the wrapping.

        • Doubting Thomas

          The argument is very superficially convincing because people like to see themselves as special. That’s why apologists don’t point to atoms, or stars, or dog turds even though they are just as dependent upon the universal parameters as life is. They play to people’s emotions by claiming that everything was set in motion so that Suzy could praise Jeebus. How wonderful!!

        • boneheadaudio

          A sloppy attempt:
          Life arises because it is a faster way to dissipate energy on the universe’s journey towards maximum entropy.

        • Doubting Thomas

          The chemistry works the way it does because of the universal parameters discussed in the article. Why these parameters are what they are is indeed an interesting question. But just because we don’t know doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to insert god into the equation.

        • Grimlock

          Then it’s good thing that I’m not proposing that we insert a vaguely defined concept into well-defined equations. That would’ve been embarrassing for me.

        • Doubting Thomas

          It is a good thing.

          I do think you’re focusing too much on the fact that our universe contains life. Life is a byproduct of the physical parameters of the universe, as are stars, black holes, comets, etc. Life is only special because we deem it so.

          Our universe is the way it is because of the universal parameters. We don’t know why those parameters are what they are, but we can be fairly sure that they aren’t what they are in order for life to be the end result.

        • Grimlock

          I prefer to think that the parameters are the way they are because the universe that we can observe is modelled by an approximation using mathematical models. There is no reason that I can think of for these models to be so suitable that there are no apparently arbitrary constants.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I don’t get what you’re trying to say.

        • Grimlock

          Thanks for letting me know. Let me try again.

          We use mathematical models to describe the world around us. This is usually done by using equations to model some phenomena. These models, however, are approximations of the actual worlds, and depend on how accurate our starting assumptions (axioms) are.

          The so-called parameters are constants in equations used to model the universe. The alternative to there being some constants is there not being any constants. But it see no reason why our models of reality should be so that they do not have any constants. That would be a coincident in need of an eexplanation.

          Did that make more sense?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          “Models are never accurate but often useful” — Jerry Pournelle, quoting somebody else.

        • Doubting Thomas

          You seem to be conflating forces for parameters.

          The universe has forces.

          We attempt to describe these forces using math. Our mathematical models consider these forces “constants” because they do not change due to location or time.

          This may address your point, but I still think I might not get what you’re trying to say.

        • Grimlock

          Well, I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to say myself, so I appreciate the chance to get it out of my head.

          These models of forces. They are equations, right? And in these equations we have some constants or parameters or whatever. Should we expect our models to not have any constants in them? I do not think so.

          A related point is how the fine tuning argument seems to require that our current models are final. That there is no underlying reality for us to discover. That seems presumptuous, and my impression is that it’s usually the atheists being accused of claiming that science knows everything…

        • Doubting Thomas

          Our equations have constants because they’re modeling forces that are constant. If the equations didn’t have constants then they wouldn’t be good mathematical models.

          We should expect our equations to have constants because our universe has forces which are constant.

        • Grimlock

          Interesting. Thank you for clarifying this for me. I think I shall discard whatever it is I was trying to say in this exchange in favour of reading some more physics.

      • koseighty

        If there had to be something, why did it have to be something with life in it?

        Only in universes that have life is it possible for something to ask the question. If there are other universes, the ones without intelligent life came and went, will come and go, without anything ever asking. So the question itself is begging the question.

        • Grimlock

          Well, that will be true if there is a large sample from which to draw from, right?

        • koseighty

          It is true if there be one universe or an infinite number of them.

        • Grimlock

          Hmm, I’m not sure I follow.

          It would be like winning the lottery. It’s likely that someone will win the lottery, given that a lot of people are playing. But if only one person plays, it is indeed very unlikely. So too with the universe permitting life.

          Thus, I do not think this quandary has been solved by your proposed solution.

        • Greg G.

          It doesn’t matter how many universes there are. Only those with life that is intelligent enough to ask the question will have the question asked. If intelligent life is extremely unlikely, then it is unlikely that one or a few universes would have any, so life asking the question would imply that there are many universes.

          If the lottery has long odds, it is unlikely to have a winner for any given drawing. It is likely to take many drawings to get a winner.

        • Grimlock

          So, turn it around, yeah? Use it as a point in favour of a multiverse of some kind? I like that, but it does seem somewhat akin to theists claiming that our world is the best possible world because god exists. So I’m a bit cautious of accepting it.

          I think a more reasonable way of phrasing it is to say that existence is such that at some level of aggregation, we have some phenomena X. But why do we have X? Well, we can conceive of a shitload of different phenomena, and most of these don’t exists.

          Asking why life exists presupposes that life, or phenomena X, is somewhat special as opposed to the other states that don’t exist.

        • Priya Lynn

          Claiming that life is unlikely is like claiming it is unlikely a rock will fall down when it is thrown off a cliff, why there are an infinite number of directions it could go in, surely the probability that it would go in this one direction is very unlikely. It may be that given the nature of matter and physics that things must work out this way, that it is impossible for them to work in a different way such that the parameters of the universe are unable to support life or that it is impossible or unlikely for life to develop.

        • Grimlock

          I’m not claiming to be able to assess the probability of life. Though it seems you must claim to know something of the probabilities of life existing in order for your analogy with the rock to work.

          While it’s certainly possible that our universe simply had to allow for life, two things must be noted. First, going from possible to probable on that basis is not warranted. It’s not convincing when theists do it to shore up the problem of evil, and I don’t see why it should be convincing here.

          Second, this does not explain why the universe has to be so that it allows life.

          (I also have quibbles with the idea of “parameters” for the universe, but that’s a bit off-topic, and I’m really sleepy.)

        • Pofarmer

          The probability of life existing, is, apparently, 1.

        • Grimlock

          The probablity of winning the lottery after you’ve won it was apparently 1 as well. So what?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Nope.

          The probability that *someone* will win the lottery is 1, over time.

          But if winning was 1, EVERYBODY would win every time they played.

        • Grimlock

          Only given an infinite amount of time, if you wanna be pedantic.

          My point is that saying that life exists, does not establish that life had to exist.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Which isn’t the point.

          Since it HAPPENED, the probability is NOW 1.

        • Grimlock

          Yes. But how does that relate to the problem?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          The question was ‘what is the probability that the Universe contains life?’ Answer: 100%

        • Pofarmer

          The chance of someone winning the lottery is 1, not you personally.

        • Grimlock

          Only if you are given multiple tries, and technically not true even then. There’s always a slim (but non-zero) chance that nobody wins.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, it does depend on the type of the lottery. The point is just because someone wins a lottery, that doesn’t tell you anything about the odds. They could be 1 in 2 or 1 in 100 or 1 in several Million. You need a whole lot more information to calculate the odds. In the case of abiogenesis we don’t have nearly all the info.

        • Greg G.

          Asking why life exists is not presupposing that life it exists, it proves that life exists.

        • Grimlock

          True. But it still seems fair to ask why a particular state of affairs exists that enables life.

        • koseighty

          But if only one person plays, it is indeed very unlikely.

          If only one person plays the lottery week after week, eventually s/he will win.

        • Grimlock

          Which is simply another way to state that there needs be multiple possibilities, and doesn’t get around the problem. In order for that approach to be valid you still require multiple universes.

        • koseighty

          No.

          If you have a single universe that’s running a lottery (is capable of supporting life), someone will win.

          If you have multiple universes and some of them are running lotteries, someone will win in the universes that are running lotteries and no one will win in the universes that aren’t.

        • Grimlock

          In those scenarios you either have a universe capable of supporting life, or multiple universes. The question is if you assume only one universe, then why is the universe capable of supporting life?

          Edit: I should point out that I’m not trying to be difficult, but rather working on assessing arguments in favour of my own position in a rigorous and crirocal manner.

        • Priya Lynn

          No one said there had to be a universe with life or a universe without life, I don’t see why we need an answer to why there is life. Its like saying why is this rock lying in the middle of the field, why does it have to be there rather than not there. The rock being there doesn’t imply anything about it being likely or unlikely that it is there.

        • Grimlock

          Well, I’d like to just accept that, but it seems to me that simply asserting it to not be an issue is not very satisfactory. What we requires is some framework within which the universe being compatible with life doesn’t seem puzzling. One option is appealing to multiple universes.

          Another option is, I think, what I sketched out below, which is to note that life is simply one possible configuration. There’s nothing special about, beyond some characters of which we approve. If there’s only one universe there would necessarily be some configurations of which one could ask why they are present. Life just happens to be one such configuration.

          Does this make sense to you, or am I being incoherent?

        • Priya Lynn

          I realize that asserting it to not be an issue is not very satisfactory but that does not remove the possibility that it may not be an issue. We simply have to accept that the universe is a very complicated place and that we are likely to never feel satisfied with our knowledge about why it is the way it is. For all my life I’ve felt extremely frustrated by not knowing what amazing things may exist in the universe, I’ve had to learn to accept that no matter how badly I want to understand these things I’m never going to know the answers. Sure its not very satisfactory, but that’s inevitable. I choose not to fret about it now as doing so was diminishing my happiness.

        • Grimlock

          Well, I can certainly agree with all of that!

        • Greg G.

          But the player most likely would have spent more playing the lottery than the winnings, which means that the player actually lost, even before taxes.

        • al kimeea

          noope. same tiny fraction of a chance every week.

        • koseighty

          But if he plays an infinite amount of time, he will win eventually. Maybe the first day. Maybe after trillions of years.

        • RichardSRussell

          This distinction is essentially between the strong and weak anthropic principles. (There’s also a 3rd flavor, the “final” anthropic principle advanced by Frank J. Tipler et alii.) I cover these briefly in the “How Rare Is Earth?” paper I alluded to above.

    • Chuck Johnson

      Instead of the environment being finely-tuned, living organisms finely-tune themselves to exploit that environment.

      The environment only needs to be reasonably-tuned for life to get started.

    • Joe

      We know neither that the parameters can be tuned

      I always invite fine tuning proponents to “change a parameter and see what happens”.

  • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

    That is a very good point on fine-tuning. Arguments like this put God in a box, so to speak. Very odd for an all-knowing and all-powerful being. We’ve gone from simply having God order “Let there be light” etc. to carefully manipulating physics. There is no discernible reason why such a being must do so. However, when only natural causes are posited, it makes sense that life must “fine-tune” itself to the universe. Evolution is a similar case-special creation makes far more sense with God.

  • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

    I don’t think fine tuning fits well with an interventionist god.
    To have any meaning, it has to assume this god set everything up from the very beginning to reach our current state naturally.
    But why would they do that if they could just twiddle something at the year 100 million mark to make the universe even better than it would be naturally?

    This is in fact the reasoning a majority of Christians use for God creating life: It’s so improbable that life would come of its own accord (even in our “finely tuned” universe) that God must have stepped in and created it here on Earth.

    It really becomes a “heads-I-win, tails-you-lose” scenario. Anything we see that is finely tuned in support of life shows the hand of God in his foreknowledge as the creator of the universe. And anything that makes it improbable for life as we know it to exist shows the mighty hand of God was required to intervene and make it happen.

  • Chuck Johnson

    “(in fact, Western society rejected slavery and embraced civil rights in spite of Christianity, not because of it)”

    Actually, Western society rejected slavery and embraced civil rights because of Christianity.
    At the same time, Western society embraced slavery and rejected civil rights because of Christianity.
    Christianity is like a box of chocolates. – – – You never know what you’re gonna get.

    There was a noticeable difference of opinion between the Northern Christians and the Southern Christians on this matter.
    Northern Christians made money using mechanical slaves.
    Southern Christians made money using human slaves.
    It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his wealth depends on his not understanding it.

    It’s God as the ventriloquist dummy, again.

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

      If Christianity were the driving factor, you’d expect slavery to be eliminated in the Old Testament period because God said so. But since he didn’t, then in the NT period because Jesus said so. But since he didn’t, maybe the period of the early church fathers.

      You can see where this is going.

      • Chuck Johnson

        The real and powerful driving factor here is cultural adaptive evolution.
        The human race learns by doing.

        In ancient times, supernatural worldviews helped human cultures to survive and to evolve.
        Those ongoing benefits have declined over time as the benefits of rational, skeptical worldviews have grown and have replaced the superstitions.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Christianity was one driving factor of many.
        Its traditionalism was largely counterproductive (although Christians were proud of traditionalism). Its superstition was largely counterproductive (although Christians were proud of the supernatural tales).

        So, Christianity contributed a lot of foot-dragging to the evolution of Western civilization.

        The progressive contributions that Christianity made were based upon the arguments, writings and conversations that Christianity inspired.

        A notable example was Martin Luther King. He was not much of a Bible-thumper. His Christian studies somehow inspired in him some uppity notions. His eyes were on the prize.

        https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

      • Chuck Johnson

        The ways that Christianity contributed to humanity for centuries, but is now failing to contribute is the key to understanding why Christianity was such a big deal for two thousand years, but is now disappearing.

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

          How has it contributed in the past? By providing infrastructure? By being an antagonist to government?

        • Chuck Johnson

          How has it contributed in the past? By providing infrastructure? By being an antagonist to government?-Bob

          I would say yes to both.
          Infrastructure includes public education and entertainment and a sense of community.

          It was antagonist to government, and was powerful enough to act as government itself. This constituted a system of checks and balances, or a second opinion on political and moral questions throughout Christendom (largely Europe) .

          Christianity also acted as an antagonist to competing religions.

          It seems to have moral advantages to the Roman polytheism that it replaced. Morality in the form of peace, love and understanding apparently was in short supply at the time that the Jesus stories came into existence. It seems to me that the short supply is a part of the reason that the Jesus stories came into existence.
          Necessity is the mother of invention.

          When I was in grade school, I was taught that invasions of barbarians brought about the fall of the Roman Empire. That was a popular story to tell back then.

          Over the years, it has become obvious to me that Christianity brought about the evolution of the Roman Empire. That needs to be added to the story about barbarians.

          Check out the flag of Sweden and other countries in Scandinavia.
          First the Vikings were conquered by Christianity, and then that Christianity was conquered by rationalism and secularity.

          “Over 60 percent of all English words have Greek or Latin roots. In the vocabulary of the sciences and technology, the figure rises to over 90 percent. About 10 percent of the Latin vocabulary has found its way directly into English without an intermediary (usually French).”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cb7d1eaf0ad75133c54d146c97a31f65d0ee403d88ddd0072beff5e9949abb5e.jpg

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuDqEGlKOus

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

          It seems like you could’ve made a similar argument for a centuries-long positive influence by looking at (say) the Roman Empire. Or the Islamic Golden Age. Or imagining if we’d had some other Pax Romana equivalent if this or that empire hadn’t been stillborn.

          Infrastructure includes public education and entertainment and a sense of community.

          Why is the Christian version special? Why wasn’t the Frankish or Saxon or Whatever government sufficient?

          I could be misunderstanding, but your argument seems to be this: look at the history of Europe and point to the largest, strongest, most enduring bureaucratic thing. It’ll be Christianity. Of course, it could’ve been a benign and wise empire, but it just happened to be Christianity. The spiritual aspect isn’t the thing, it was the bureaucratic (and perhaps the philosophical) aspect.

          Is that close?

        • Chuck Johnson

          It seems like you could’ve made a similar argument for a centuries-long positive influence by looking at (say) the Roman Empire. Or the Islamic Golden Age. Or imagining if we’d had some other Pax Romana equivalent if this or that empire hadn’t been stillborn.-Bob

          Yes, just about any form of politics or religion can be analyzed and then positive social influences can be discovered.

          Christianity should be viewed as a cause of social progress.
          Christianity should also be viewed as an effect of social progress.
          Christianity has been forced to evolve and improve along with the secular evolution of Western Europe.

          Could non-Christian ideologies have evolved and benefited humanity as they evolved ? – – – Yes, of course.
          The could have done so, and they have done so.

          Looked at over tens of thousands of years, Christianity is just a detail of cultural adaptive evolution.

          It’s the Christians who will tell us that Christianity is uniquely suited to benefiting humanity. I don’t have such a nearsighted view.

          The big story here is human cultural adaptive evolution.
          That has been going on for one hundred thousand years or more.
          Christianity is just one tool of many involved in that evolution of human understanding and human morality.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Why is the Christian version special? Why wasn’t the Frankish or Saxon or Whatever government sufficient?-Bob

          I haven’t studied those cultures, but I can give you a generalized answer.

          Christianity had the ability to insinuate itself into government politics and to assert its own version of morality.

          This created a diversity of opinion, power and control.
          The result was a system of checks and balances.
          Popes and princes both had their say as to how governments would be run.

          A further improvement in this diversification of power and control came with the American revolution.
          Then, the opinions, power and authority of individual citizens added to the system of checks and balances.

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

          Yes, it established its morality. That morality is so-so. We can do a lot better now, though it’s better than others. if another empire had had similar widespread power, it could’ve provided that same push toward better morality or maybe even a superior push.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Yes, but we are dealing in specifics here.
          Sometimes dealing in specific cultures can be confusing.
          Especially if viewed over a short period of time.

          The trend over tens of thousands of years is clear.
          Whatever tools of morality and social justice are invented, the long-term trend seems to be towards better morality and better living for humans.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ramBFRt1Uzk&t=51s

        • Chuck Johnson

          Of course, it could’ve been a benign and wise empire, but it just happened to be Christianity.-Bob

          No, it could not have been a benign and wise empire that would have been able to satisfy my requirements or yours.

          My requirements and yours are the products of twenty-first century thinking.

          The knowledge and morality of Europe many centuries ago was inferior to what we presently have.

          Understanding the parameters of a truly “wise and benevolent empire” was a work in progress. – – – It’s still a work in progress.

        • Chuck Johnson

          The spiritual aspect isn’t the thing, it was the bureaucratic (and perhaps the philosophical) aspect. Is that close?-Bob

          Yes, that’s close.
          But the spiritual aspect is a part of it.

          That is, not the spiritual presence of a real, actual living God.
          The public perception of the presence of God informed and improved European societies.

          And that religious belief in God simultaneously corrupted and degraded European societies. The belief in a supernatural God had both positive and negative effects on society.

          Rationality and secularism helps to reduce the contradictions and mysteries that superstitions have caused.
          Rationality is a better guiding light to the future.

        • adam

          “It was antagonist to government, and was powerful enough to act as government itself.”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c34fc7352daf9a5a303932581c1d6fdf6df8670ef3e0dd882dbba5653cdd2368.png

        • Chuck Johnson

          People are perceived to be more important now than they were in ancient times.

        • adam
        • adam
        • Chuck Johnson
        • adam

          How is this related to christianity?

          Hitler was christian
          The Crusaders were christian
          The Inquisition was christian.
          The killers of Native Americans were christian

          The only decrease in violence is the decrease in violence caused by the decrease OF christianity.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fe40700e18404309d4bce8bb2b9a25c942a8b8423e2194225a3f0743c752dd7d.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c8d5bd08c8b3b8360c2087d04c839f3dbdda32730bcc5d35cb37e46f751cd979.jpg

          BTW, I have no sound to listen to your videos.

        • Chuck Johnson

          People are perceived to be more important now than in past ages.
          Since you are eager to not believe that, then you won’t.

        • David Cromie

          There is not much evidence of that in today’s world, especially in America.

        • Chuck Johnson

          There is massive historical evidence of that.
          There is massive evidence of that in today’s world, including in America.

        • Rick
        • Kevin K

          No.

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

          Thanks for the suggestion. Here’s part of the summary from Amazon:

          Many books have been written about the success of the West, analyzing why Europe was able to pull ahead of the rest of the world by the end of the Middle Ages. The most common explanations cite the West’s superior geography, commerce, and technology. Completely overlooked is the fact that faith in reason, rooted in Christianity’s commitment to rational theology, made all these developments possible. Simply put, the conventional wisdom that Western success depended upon overcoming religious barriers to progress is utter nonsense.

          In The Victory of Reason, Rodney Stark advances a revolutionary, controversial, and long overdue idea: that Christianity and its related institutions are, in fact, directly responsible for the most significant intellectual, political, scientific, and economic breakthroughs of the past millennium.

          In Stark’s view, what has propelled the West is not the tension between secular and nonsecular society, nor the pitting of science and the humanities against religious belief. Christian theology, Stark asserts, is the very font of reason: While the world’s other great belief systems emphasized mystery, obedience, or introspection, Christianity alone embraced logic and reason as the path toward enlightenment, freedom, and progress. That is what made all the difference.

          I haven’t read the book and don’t have time to. If you want to summarize some of the best arguments, go ahead.

          In response to this summary, I’ll note that this argues that Christianity is useful, not that it’s true, and my primary focus here is the question of whether it’s true or not. But in response to the “Christianity is useful” argument, I’d note that science and technology (or innovation in general) wasn’t restricted to Europe (or Christianity-dominated nations), that Christianity certainly took its time to deliver on its promise (it really takes nearly 2000 years to jump start the Industrial Revolution if it’s so useful?), and I see little evidence that “Christianity alone embraced logic and reason” (I see little evidence that Christianity at all embraced logic and reason).

        • Greg G.

          I read the New York Times review. I think that is the one Amazon quotes.

        • Rick

          This was in response to your question, “How has it contributed in the past?”

          The issue of “Is it true?” is handled in other references. Changing the subject doesn’t change the fact that reference is an on point answer to your question.

          I’m not interested in summarizing the book so you can take pot shots at my summary. The idea of reducing book length arguments to sound bytes you and your band of merry men and women can lampoon is very attractive… but I think I will pass!

          Read the book when you have time. Or make time! I did and it was worth consideration.

        • adam
        • Michael Neville

          In other words you don’t feel like summarizing Stark’s book and it’s our fault that you don’t feel like doing it.

        • Rick

          I didn’t word it that way, but you are free to conclude what you will. If you read the book, and have substantive disagreements, perhaps you could write a review.

        • Kodie

          I think if you took the time to make a summary of the book, you would not receive “pot shots”, but if you are afraid of valid criticism, and don’t want to take the time and effort to get into it, just get out. I feel like if you know something you want to share, but you realize if you share it, it’s going to be challenged in ways you’re superficially unavailable to do, but then you insist on hanging around pretending you have anything substantial to say in its place, you’re kidding yourself like Ed Senter, and for that matter, Karl Udy. Udy is always telling us to read a long book and refuses to summarize it, but his comments are stale, repetitive, etc. We’re interested in having a conversation, and we’re interested in evidence. We get a lot of Christians by here, and zero percent of them have evidence. They pitch an argument or two or a hundred, and they’re all really terrible. Often, OFTEN, they got these arguments from a book, and those arguments sounded good to them! And then, we’re just too picky and overthinking and fundamentally satanic at heart, and get off on mocking theists for no reason, whatever rationalizations they can scrounge up.

          So – if you think you have something we’ve never heard of before, and better than every other Christian – you are prepared that we’re just nasty sons of bitches who shoot down everything, right? No. Likely, it’s just a terrible argument, we explain how it is terrible, and Christians, without fail, become suddenly illiterate. They don’t understand our good arguments for rejecting their bad arguments. They regress, they switch channels and try something else, they post irrelevant responses because we don’t give them the answers they have prepared responses for. Do you have something new?

        • Rick

          The Amazon summary was adequate to summarize the key ideas. Thanks for your response.

        • Kodie

          I must not have noticed a link in a previous comment.

        • Phil

          There was one idea that I found interesting. It was down to climate. People living in harsh environments spent all their time surviving. Those in ideal climates had everything on a plate, abundant food, no need to heat houses, no need to plan as every year was the same. Whereas those living in temperate climates had to plan for the winters etc And that led to innovation. Simplistic but an idea nonetheless.

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

          I read that the Native Americans of the eastern part of the US had a pretty easy life and had to spend 2 hours/day on average to provide for their necessities (hunting, farming, maintaining weapons, building houses, firewood, etc.) and that they had the rest of their time as potential leisure. You’d have thought that that culture would have produced art, music, sculpture, and so on.

          You may be familiar with the Mississippian culture, which I guess was North America’s contribution to the great pre-Columbian civilizations of the Americas. Did they produce art in perishable wood that hasn’t survived, perhaps? Or is this a counter example?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippian_culture#/media/File:Mississippian_cultures_HRoe_2010.jpg

        • Phil

          Interesting. I came across this idea many many years ago and the only examples offered were tribes in rain forests.

        • Joe

          How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success.

          Alternative title: How Christianity was to blame for these untrue and mutually exclusive ideals.

        • adam
        • adam
      • Phil

        I sometimes wonder if a god gave us morals and the basic tenet of religions is that you can’t be moral without god in your life, then if an animal displays moral behavior like a dolphin or dog saving a human life, sharing food or just not killing each other willy nilly, do dolphins and dogs believe in god?

        • Kodie

          I once had an idea that animals might, to the best of their abilities, believe in some kind of god. I mean, humans are pretty dumb animals, and come up with some really bizarre stories of cause and effect. Where do animals think stuff comes from. What are the limits here? Memory and language?

    • Joe

      Actually, Western society rejected slavery and embraced civil rights because of Christianity.
      At the same time, Western society embraced slavery and rejected civil rights because of Christianity.

      That’s why I prefer to bring up the ineffectiveness of religions as moral or epistemological tools instead of attempting the more difficult task of “disproving god.”

      Christianity can’t be a moral arbiter because it’s been on both sides of every moral decision throughout its history.

      • Chuck Johnson

        I agree.
        But haven’t you noticed the correlation between people’s worldview and moral understandings ?

        The Christian worldview derives largely from the Genesis creation story (We should be grateful that we are alive) along with the Gospels ( We should be grateful for heaven rather than hell when we die.)

        My worldview derives from the discovery that we are all the result of chemical reactions billions of years ago which resulted in self-replicating molecules.

        And then countless iterations of mutation and selection events turned those molecules into us.

  • Chuck Johnson

    This is all very theoretical.
    Empiricism helps to clarify things.

    Abiogenesis along with the Darwin-Wallace discovery points the way to understanding life on Earth and humanity.
    Miraculous origin stories are of historical interest.
    In this day and age, miraculous stories tend to subvert morality rather than to enhance it.

  • Chuck Johnson

    If our Earthly home were not finely-enough tuned to support life and evolution, then we would be on some other planet debating these cosmic questions. – – – Some finely-tuned planet.
    And clueless theists would be embarrassing themselves there, instead.

    • mlj11

      Imagine if we made contact with a sentient alien species… And discovered they were god-fearing! That would be pretty dang disappointing :/

      • Chuck Johnson

        That would be a cosmic teaching opportunity for us and learning opportunity for them.

        The crew of the Enterprise always spoke about the Prime Directive.
        But they violated it every chance that they got.
        Just lip service.

  • Chuck Johnson

    Excellent explanations from the scientists and from Bob.

  • WayneMan
  • Herald Newman

    The fine tuning problem assumes that there are lots of other values for the fundamental constants, and then also assumes that these other values cannot give rise to life.

    On the first assumption, nobody has ever shown that the fundamental constants can actually take on other values. We have a sample size of exactly one universe, and for all we know, the values we see in our universe are the only possible values that the fundamental constants take on. It’s not like we have other universes to examine to see what fundamental constant values they have. In other words, their assumption is little more than an assertion.

    You addressed the second assumption in your article. I really don’t know that there is a “fine tuning problem” to even speak of.

    • RichardSRussell

      … nobody has ever shown that the fundamental constants can actually take on other values.

      Geez, I’m not so sure of that. There’s a passage in the Bible (that infallible source of all worldly wisdom) that refers to a giant iron kettle that was a cubit across and 3 cubits around. That must mean that, at that point in unarguable history, the value of π had to have been exactly 3, so clearly those fundamental constants can change over time, right?

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

        young earth creationists cherry pick old estimates of the speed of light and show that it has been slowing with time. So you see, that “20 billion year old” light is actually only 6000 years old.

        Stupid naturalists.

      • Yeoman Roman

        The gems in this thread are marvelous. Thank you for this one Richard.

    • Kevin K

      It’s my understanding that there is agreement that the fundamental constants can be changed … but only in concert with one-another. I think (not sure) it was Stenger who calculated that if you held the values to their relative positions to one-another, that you could tweak the constants as much as 14 exponents and get the same outcome. That’s a lot of zeros, either before or after the decimal point.

  • Grimlock

    I’d like to toss out an idea and see if it sticks. Hoping for some comments.

    The fine tuning argument is at its core the observation that life exists, an assumption that life is special, and the question of why something so special as life happens to exist. The appeal to the so-called parameters is just a way to make the intuition that this is improbable more concrete, because you can refer to numbers which can appear to confirm this intuition.

    I don’t think it’s therefore enough to simply explain why appealing to the parameters are nonsensical. I think one should also get at the assumption that life is special. Life is simply one configuration that existence could contain, and it – as far as we can tell – does not contain a whole bunch of other configurations. So however existence turned out, you’d always be able to ask why these particular configurations exist.

    At this point I think the fine tuning argument simply boils down to the fact that something exists, and this is found to be curious.

    Thoughts?

    • RichardSRussell

      Religion and science both got started from the same basic human impulse, that understanding the world around us is good and has survival value. All animals have this to some extent, but Homo sapiens alone made it the centerpiece of its reproductive strategy. Using the tool of language, the elders passed on their accumulated knowledge to the younglings, and the little ones who took those lessons to heart were, over the long haul, more successful at surviving and reproducing than those who didn’t. This successful verbal process sped up and became even more reliable and portable with the advent of written communication.

      The divergence between religion and science arose from the priesthood’s insistence that the old, established answers had to be the correct ones, beyond challenge (often upon pain of death for heresy), whereas those who were more curious and critical kept wanting to change the answers to match more recent observations and deeper thinking.

      To really stretch the point, this is also, to some extent, the traditional political difference between conservatives and liberals.

  • RichardSRussell

    I am always at pains to point out the distinction between physicist Sean M. Carroll of Caltech and evolutionary biologist Sean B. Carroll of my own beloved University of Wisconsin – Madison. Each is just as distinguished in his own field, equally respected, similarly articulate, with comparable-quality books under his name, and just as much death on the TBs as the other, so one might easily imagine it’s just a single almost super-human intellect named Sean Carroll. But it’s not.

  • RichardSRussell

    About a decade ago, I was on a panel discussion at a science-fiction convention on the subject of “How Rare Is Earth?”. I put together an 8-page handout that, among other things, compares the books Rare Earth and What Does a Martian Look Like?. It also tangentially gets at the fine-tuning question. I’m still rather proud of it. A PDF copy is available for the asking from RichardSRussell@tds.net.

  • Joe

    If these constants were “fine tuned” with the help of a creator, wouldn’t we expect to see whole numbers instead of, for example, 9.10938356 × 10-31 kilograms for the mass of an electron?

    To say 9.10938356 instead of simply 9 x 10*-31 is the only thing that would work would put limitations on god.

    • Bob Jase

      You have to realize that god has 9.10938356 fingers/

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

      Maybe God uses base 9.10938356 arithmetic.

  • Kevin K

    Honestly, when what we could see was a flat-fixed Earth with a dome of waters above the sky and the greater (sun) and lesser (moon and stars) lights fixed in that dome, when the Earth was all there was at the center of the universe, when the entire thing seemed to be made precisely and exactly to benefit our species … then you could make a fine-tuning argument.

    Once Galileo proved the Copernican model, however, that argument was made far-less likely. And when Hubble destroyed the notion that the Milky Way galaxy was the entire universe, that argument should have been abandoned entirely, like the notion that “ill humors” are responsible for disease instead of germs.

    • Greg G.

      At least the Ill Humor Theory of Disease wasn’t as wrong as wrong as the Demon Theory of Disease. Diabetes or a neurotransmitter imbalance might follow under Ill Humors in a way. I am not a doctor but I play one on the internet sometimes.

      • Kevin K

        Malaria is quite literally “bad air”.

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

          I’ve used that definition of malaria with people who should’ve taken some Beano before that last meal. They never get it.

  • Jim Jones

    Until theists can define a god which matches their claims, further discussion of such answers is pointless.

  • Grigori Schmidt

    Nose is really “fine-tuned” for wearing glasses

    • Michael Neville

      That was pointed out by Dr. Pangloss in Candide in the 1700s.

      It is demonstrable that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles, therefore we wear spectacles. The legs are visibly designed for stockings, accordingly we wear stockings.

      • Max Doubt

        “Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles, therefore we wear spectacles.”

        As a sometimes carpenter, often needing two hands to hold a board and a measure tape while also having a pencil at ready access to mark the measurement, I’ve often pondered the question, was the pencil designed to fit above the human ear, or did the ear evolve to accommodate holding a pencil.

        • Greg G.

          I want to know how spectacles developed the ability to hide on top of your head.

        • Michael Neville

          Natural selection would improve the breeding chances of spectacles which could hide and so have a smaller probability of being sat on or lost in a drawer.

        • MR

          I want to know how spectacles developed evolved the ability to hide on top of your head.

          FTFY

    • David Cromie

      The banana is ‘fine tuned’ to fit in the hand, apparently!

  • earl e

    to moderator: it is beyond annoying that many ads cover your content. can’t you fix this?

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

      Is it just the FFRF ads? They have sort of a stained glass look on the edges. Let me understand the issue and I’ll pass that along.

      • earl e

        best buy, mack weldon, and the ones you referenced too…

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

          What do they do? Are they all of the FFRF sort where they make a big border? Are they video? Does anything get better when you click the scroll bar up or down?

          Maybe take a screen shot (Alt-PrtScn on a PC) and paste it in a comment.

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

          Does it look like this? I just discovered this at another Patheos blog, and I’ve reported it. Very messed up.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4c1e3d42e0fcb57cb1134e1c10df3b9aab09bfb991003046f3fe4050e623fd1c.jpg

        • earl e

          yes! just like that. also, there were some with the stained-glass effect you mentioned. they were at the start of the article.

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

          Thanks. That’s a new thing. Have you seen it before today?

          Double plus ungood, as they said in 1984. Big Brother has been informed.

        • earl e

          not a problem i’ve seen before. i don’t visit the site daily though. thanx for helping get it fixed! peace