Hostility of the Universe to Life: Understated Evidence about Cosmic Fine-Tuning?

I’ve blogged before about the fallacy of understated evidence. Here I want to explore further how it applies to fine-tuning arguments.

Let us define the “general fact of cosmic ‘fine-tuning’” as follows.

FT: some universe or other has the initial conditions, laws, and constants which make the existence of complex intelligent life of some sort possible.

Even if we assume that so-called cosmic “fine-tuning” is evidence favoring theism over naturalism, that argument commits the fallacy of understated evidence. In other words, even if the general fact of fine-tuning is more probable on the assumption that theism is true than on the assumption that naturalism is true, it ignores other, more specific facts about fine-tuning, facts that, given fine-tuning, are more likely on naturalism than on theism.

What are these other facts? Draper has identified three in his writings. (Click on the FT# for links to the supporting arguments.)

FT1: Our universe is not teeming with life, including life much more impressive than human life. (Given that intelligent life of some sort exists in some universe, the fact that our universe is not known to have relatively more impressive life is much more probable on single-universe naturalism than it is on theism.)

FT2: The only intelligent life we know of is human and it exists in this universe. (Given that intelligent life of some sort exists in some universe, the fact that the only intelligent life we know of is human and that it inhabits this universe is very many times more probable on single-universe naturalism than it is on theism.)

FT3: Intelligent life is the result of evolution. (Given that intelligent life of some sort exists in some universe,
the fact that it developed as a result of biological evolution is more probable on naturalism than on it is on theism.)

I think we can add a fourth fact to this list, one which is highly related to FT1.

FT4: So much of the universe is highly hostile to life. (Given that intelligent life of some sort exists in some universe, the fact that so much of our universe is highly hostile to life is more probable on naturalism than it is on theism.)

One objection to the claim that FT4 is more probable on naturalism than on theism might be this. If most of the universe were not hostile to life in the specific ways it is hostile to life–such as containing vast amounts of empty space, temperatures near absolute zero, cosmic radiation, and so forth–then there would be no life. This is because there would be no essential elements and no stars “small enough” to allow planets hospitable to life. (I have no idea if this objection is supported by physics, but let’s assume for the sake of argument it is.) Even if this were true, this doesn’t change the fact that God is, by definition, an omnipotent being who could have designed the universe in such a way that much more of it is conducive to life, not hostile to it.

The upshot is this. Even if the general fact of cosmic “fine-tuning” is more probable on the assumption
that theism is true than on the assumption that naturalism is true, there are other, more specific facts about cosmic “fine-tuning,” facts that, given cosmic “fine-tuning,” are more likely on naturalism than on theism. One of these more specific facts is that so much of our universe is hostile to life. Once all of the evidence about cosmic “fine-tuning” has been fully stated, however, it’s far from obvious that facts about cosmic “fine-tuning” favor theism over naturalism.

ETA: Revised entire post: added a definition of fine-tuning and the FT labeling scheme, clarifying FT1 and FT2, and clarified that FT4 is highly related to FT1.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • http://carnedes.blogspot.com Carneades-Skeptic Griggsy

    Carneades atelic argument notes that all teleological arguments beg the question of directed outcomes [ I named this, in response to Carneades finding that Chrysippus begs the question in his builder and building analogy.].
    Lamberth’s teleonomic argument argues that science finds no directed outcomes- no divine intent, so to add teleology to science contradicts science instead of complementing it. Thus, theistic evolution is an oxymoronic obscurantism!
    The theistic claim that God uses evolution as His means of creation is just a false assumption.
    Furthermore, Lamberth’s new Omphalos argument intrudes in that theists would, in effect, claim that He deceives us with that apparent mechanism when He creates. No, that would be just as far- fetched as Philip Gosse’s original one that He deceives with apparent ancient looks to things.
    Lamberth’s argument from pareidolia notes that just as people see the man in the Moon or Martian canals, people see the pareidolias of divine intent and design when reality shows only mechanism- teleonomy- causalism.
    Lamberth’s reduced animism = theism is that with no divine intent, then theism like animism and polytheism is animistic, and thus, superstitious!
    Lamberth’s the Malebranche Reductio is that Nicholas Malebranche himself with his occasionalism that when we strike a ball, God does the real action!
    The Aquinas- Shelley superfluity argument boomerangs on Aquinas’ own five ways. As Percy Bysshe Shelley proclaims :” To suppose that some existence, beyond or above them [ the descriptions-laws- of Nature]C-S.K.] is to invent a second and superfluous hypothesis to account for what already is accounted for.” No, theists, you would beg the question that that is a metaphysical mistaken category!
    The Flew-Lamberth the presumption of naturalism is that all natural causes themselves are efficient, necessary, primary and sufficient: they are that sufficient reason. Thus, He’d be just a secondary cause depending on them as the Euthyphro shows Him dependent on morality!
    The Lamberth ignostic-Ockham argument is that He is either incoherent and thus, cannot exist or else , despite Alister Earl McGrath, He’d be a useless redundancy,
    Thus, we naturalists have plenty new arguments against Him! And there are also others.
    My arguments make explicit what is already implicit in the literature. Jeffrey, please do vet these arguments!

  • Sebastian

    I don’t see how we even can put a probability on Pr(FT|T) given that most theist adhere to skeptical theism.


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