Intelligent Design Arguments and Cumulative Cases

As we saw in my reply to Wintery Knight, he (like many other proponents of intelligent design or ID) propose that there are multiple, independent lines of evidence which favor intelligent design over its alternatives. Here is a partial summary of the evidence ID proponents offer.

  1. “Cosmic Fine-Tuning,” i.e., the initial conditions of the universe and the values of the constants of the fundamental laws
  2. “Biological Fine-Tuning,” i.e., the biological information in the first replicator (origin of life). This is Meyer’s argument in Signature in the Cell.
  3. “Zoological (?) Fine-Tuning,” i.e., the the sudden appearance during the Cambrian period of many new and anatomically sophisticated creatures in the sedimentary layers of the geologic column without any evidence of simpler ancestral forms in the earlier layers below. This is Meyer’s argument in Darwin’s Doubt.
  4. “Biochemical Fine-Tuning,” i.e., the presence of irreducibly complex biological structures such as the bacterial flagella. This is Behe’s argument in Darwin’s Black Box.
How Correct Cumulative Cases Work
 
To make things simple, let’s pretend there are two facts, F1 and F2, and we want to argue that F1 & F2 combine into a cumulative case for one  theory (H1) over another (H2). How to do? Let’s do this in plain English, taking it one step at a time. The first step should be obvious.
 
(1) Fact F1 favors theory H1 over H2.
 
The next step is where I’ve seen a lot of people make mistakes. They will argue:
 
(2) Fact F2 favors H1 over H2.
 
The problem is that this approach doesn’t connect or link F1 and F2 in the needed way for a cumulative case. Instead, they should argue:
 
(2′) Given that fact F1 is true, fact F2 favors H1 over H2.
 
If both (1) and (2′) are true, then F1 combines with F2 to make a cumulative case for H1 and against H2.
 
What’s the Problem for Multiple Intelligent Design Arguments?
 
At this point, someone may wonder, “What’s the big deal? Why can’t intelligent design arguments be combined to follow this pattern?” The problem is that the cosmic fine-tuning argument seems to be at odds with the other arguments, and vice versa.
 
Let’s assume, but only for the sake of argument, that cosmic fine-tuning evidence is evidence favoring theism over naturalism:
 
(1) Cosmic fine-tuning favors theism over naturalism.
 
But observe what happens when we follow the pattern above:
 
(2) Given that the universe is cosmically fine-tuned for life, the fact of zoological (?) fine-tuning during the Cambrian period is evidence favoring theism over naturalism.
 
The first half of of this sentence is in tension with the second half. if  Cambrian animal forms are very improbable given the initial conditions of the universe, then that would be evidence against intelligent design in cosmic fine-tuning. If, despite the life-permitting initial conditions of the universe and the values of the constants of the fundamental laws, there is virtually zero probability that life would arise from non-life, new and anatomically sophisticated animals would arise from simpler animals during the Cambrian, or irreducibly complex biological structures would evolve, then that decreases the probability that an intelligent designer fine-tuned the initial conditions of the universe.
 

Indeed, the laws of the universe are so finely tuned, god “only” has to completely suspend them once or twice every hundred million years, when he suddenly learns that the laws of the universe are tuned so as to make crucial components of biological evolution physically impossible.

It is a clear prediction of the theistic hypothesis that a miracle working god would want to set up a world where he wouldn’t have to constantly perform miracles in order for life as we know it to exist, except for all the times he has to perform miracles for life as we know it to exist.

For more on this problem, see Trenty Dougherty’s and Ted Poston’s, “A User’s Guide to Design Arguments.”

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.

  • Neil Shenvi

    Jeffrey,
    Perhaps I’m missing something, but I’m not sure your objection is valid. The normal argument is that cosmological fine-tuning is a necessary condition for intelligent life, not a sufficient condition for intelligent life. In other words, we’re asking ‘What chance is there that the universe would be the kind of place where biological life could even possibly exist?’ That’s why cosmological fine-tuning is not based on the calculated probability of carbon-based abiogenesis, but on a much coarser condition like the existence of any heavy atoms at all.

    To use the ubiquitous lottery ticket example, we could observe that a necessary condition for you to win the lottery is that you purchased a ticket. But purchasing a ticket is not a sufficient condition to guarantee that you win the lottery. So you could argue both that your purchase of a ticket was very unlikely _and_ that it was very unlikely that the particular ticket in your possession was the winning ticket. The improbability of both of these pieces of evidence independently and cumulatively contribute to the claim that your winning of the lottery was unlikely. And a skeptic who contested one of these claims (e.g. by pointing out that there were only two tickets, so that the chance of any particular ticket winning is fairly high) would not have disproved the other claim (e.g. given my aversion to gambling, it was still highly unlikely that I purchased any ticket in the first place).

    -Neil

    • staircaseghost

      “That’s why cosmological fine-tuning is not based on the calculated probability of carbon-based abiogenesis, but on a much coarser condition like the existence of any heavy atoms at all.”

      I can tell from your comment that you have a dogmatic a priori commitment to metaphysical naturalism.

      Heavy atoms are no necessity whatsoever for a miracle-working god. She could have made life out of light atoms. Or just electrons. Or pixie dust. Or if, as so many theists insist, substance dualism is true, then sentient creatures don’t need any kind of matter at all!

      Given the god of theism, there is literally no such thing as a necessary condition for anything.

      If life were observed in conditions where it was physically impossible (happy bunny rabbits in the vacuum of interstellar space; the corpse of a three-days-dead preacher) apologists point to the clear miracle and say, “see, god must’ve done it.” If life is observed in conditions where it is physically possible, why, that’s a miracle too…

      • Steven Carr

        Correct.

        Who shackled god with these ‘necessary’ conditions?

        Where is the logic which shows that fine-tuned conditions are ‘necessary’ for life to exist?

        • Greg G.

          Why would buying a lottery ticket be a necessary condition if the lottery’s outcome is rigged?

          • Neil Shenvi

            Because you can’t win even a rigged lottery if you don’t purchase a ticket.
            -Neil

          • Steven Carr

            Really?

            You have to buy a ticket?

            Can’t you get given the rigged lottery ticket once it has been ‘drawn’?

          • Neil Shenvi

            See my response to Greg G.

          • Steven Carr

            Your response to Greg where you claimed that despite Greg showing your analogy was inadequate, you still asserted your analogy was adequate?

            Are you still asserting that your god is limited by physical necessities – that he can’t turn water into wine because that is not allowed by the laws of physics?

          • Neil Shenvi

            Greg’s argument missed the point of the analogy, unless he thinks there is some fine-tuning analog to ‘hacking the system and backdating the proper numbers.’ But if you don’t like the analogy, you can still note the distinction between necessary and sufficient conditions.

            “Are you still asserting that your god is limited by physical necessity”

            No. I’ve said repeatedly that God is not limited by physical necessity. But it might also be interesting for you to Google my ‘Miracles, Materialism, and Quantum Mechanics’ talk on YouTube. ‘Laws of physics’ under quantum mechanics are much harder to define than under Newtonian mechanics.

          • Steven Carr

            No, the whole point of the fine-tuning argument is to claim that this hypothetical god was hemmed on by physical necessity.

            Not even the god imagined by Christians can change gravity and get elements to form is the cry of fine-tuning proponents everywhere.

            And it remains the case that if this hypothetical god has created a mechanism which wipes out all life if the speed of light drops below 3 x 10^8 m/s, then this god must be Dennis Hopper…..

          • Greg G.

            One hacks into the system, waits for the drawing, backdates a faux purchase with the proper numbers, and then prints out the ticket. No purchase necessary.

          • Neil Shenvi

            The ticket analogy was merely used to illustrate the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. If you want to dispense with it, you can.

            I’m assuming that your not arguing that there is an actual analogy between ‘hacking the system and backdating the proper numbers’ and cosmological fine tuning. Right?

          • Greg G.

            Sorry I didn’t get back sooner. I had to get on a plane and had post before I was ready.

            Hacking the system would be a better analogy for creationism or evolution, wouldn’t it?

        • Neil Shenvi

          Steven,
          See above. We’re speaking of ‘physically necessary for the existence of physically embodied intelligent agents’ not ‘metaphysically necessary.’ I believe that Robin Collins discuss this, possible in BCNT. Let me get a reference and get back to you.
          -Neil

          • Steven Carr

            You might be talking about physically necessary conditions.

            But I am talking about the Christian god.

            This hypothetical god is not constrained by any physical necessities.

            Apparently, this god created a mechanism which wipes out life if gravity falls below 9.8 metres per second per second.

            Wasn’t it Dennis Hopper who did that – created a mechanism which kills everybody if the speed of the bus drops below 50?

          • Neil Shenvi

            Steven,
            I’m trying to elucidate your position. You are correct in observing that the biblical God could have performed no miracles, or many, or created a universe with no predictable physical laws at all. But can you explain exactly how that observation entails something like ‘therefore, the design hypothesis is false’ or ‘therefore, the designer is not the biblical God’?
            -Neil

          • staircaseghost

            “We’re speaking of ‘physically necessary for the existence of physically embodied intelligent agents’ not ‘metaphysically necessary.’”

            I would love love love to hear you describe the physical conditions under which Yahweh tries to create physically embodied agents but finds himself confounded, hands thrown in the air.

            Does it involve iron chariots?

          • Neil Shenvi

            The physical conditions would be basic postulates like the existence of some form of matter, energy, space and time. For instance, I’ve heard Collins argue that without some kind of universal attractive force (i.e. gravity), any kind of complexity would be impossible.

            As I said, I agree that these are not metaphysical conditions. The biblical God is omnipotent and could indeed create logically possible physical universes so entirely unlike our own that they are inconceivable to us.

            But as I’ve also said, that has no relevance at all to the actual epistemic situation in which we find ourselves. How does the observation ‘If an omnipotent God exists, he could make birds out of gold’ make chance or necessity a more probable explanation than design when considering cosmological fine-tuning?
            -Neil

          • staircaseghost

            “The physical conditions would be basic postulates like the existence of some form of matter, energy, space and time. For instance, I’ve heard Collins argue that without some kindof universal attractive force (i.e. gravity), any kind of complexity would be impossible.”

            Here you conflate two entirely different notions of possibility.

            It is a tautology, and therefore, a logical necessity, that a physical universe exist in order for some particular thing to exist. (Although Christians are being hypocritical here when they also insist minds are not physical.)

            However, saying we “need” gravity for complexity is a claim about nomological necessity. And nomological necessity is exactly what believers in miracles tell scientists over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again is simply their dogmatic a priori metaphysical naturalism talking.

            According to nomological necessity (thermodynamics, conservation laws etc.), three-day-old corpses do not come back to life. But the apologist tells us the gods are not bound by such petty concerns. Except all of a sudden, when the gods are flummoxed by the lack of a strong attractive force.

            “How does the observation ‘If an omnipotent God exists, he could make birds out of gold’ make chance or necessity a more probable explanation than design when considering cosmological fine-tuning?”

            You labor under the misconception that “chance or necessity” are explanations, rather than explanation forms. There simply is no epistemic symmetry between “it’s some kind of optical illusion” and “he really can saw a lady in half”.

            But on an even deeper level (isn’t it amazing how many levels apologetics is capable of being wrong about in so few words?) because explanations by definition constrain expected observation, it is no explanation at all to posit an omnipotent god who is infinitely unconstrained by prior states of the universe when he effects (with an ‘e’) the current one.

          • Neil Shenvi

            “It is a tautology, and therefore, a logical necessity, that a physical universe exist in order for some particular thing to exist.”

            So Platonism and substance dualism are logical impossibilities?

            “However, saying we “need” gravity for complexity is a claim about nomological necessity.”

            But on the Christian view, a nomological “necessity” itself is contingent. If you read my above comment carefully, you’ll see that my claim is conditional: ‘If the universe contains anything in it like matter, energy, space and time, then a law like gravity is necessary for the existence of complexity.’ I already conceded that God is in no way metaphysically ‘flummoxed’ by the need for gravity.

            “You labor under the misconception that “chance or necessity” are explanations, rather than explanation forms.”

            I’m unsure what you’re saying here. Perhaps you could answer the question I posed to Stephen: can you explain exactly how the observation that ‘the biblical God could have created a universe with no predictable physical laws at all” entails something like “therefore, the design hypothesis is false” or “therefore, the designer
            is not the biblical God”?
            -Neil

          • staircaseghost

            “It is a tautology, and therefore, a logical necessity, that a physical universe exist in order for some particular thing to exist.”

            “some particular physical thing” (victim of a bad edit, sorry for the confusion)

          • staircaseghost

            “But on the Christian view, a nomological ‘necessity’ itself is contingent.”

            That. Is. Exactly. What. People. Here. Are. Trying. To. Tell. You.

            Design explanations only make sense when one is constrained by laws and circumstances. God is not constrained. Therefore, design explanations invoking omnigod make no sense.

            Pop quiz: God is making a new universe, and all you know is he wants it to have physically embodied minds in it at some point. What will the universe look like? Will it be so fine-tuned it emerges on its own, with no miracles, in a billion years? Or five? Or will it be mostly lawful, with one or two tweaks in the Cambrian? Or will it be pure chaos, like holding your thumb down on the TV remote and drinking a pint of vodka, and then one day “poof”?

            You have no idea.

            “If you read my above comment carefully, you’ll see that my claim is conditional: ‘If the universe contains anything in it like matter, energy, space and time, then a law like gravity is necessary for the existence of complexity.’”

            And that claim is very clearly false. God can miraculously poof complexity into existence, anti-gravity be damned.

            Unless iron chariots get in her way.

          • Neil Shenvi

            “You have no idea.”

            As I’ve already pointed out, you are making a theological claim here. You are claiming that ‘we have no idea’ how God would act, how frequent miracles would be, or whether we should expect regularity. But that is not true from the Christian perspective, since we that God has revealed himself through the Bible. While God is not metaphysically constrained to do things a certain way, according to the Bible he has chosen to create a universe with regular laws (see Psalm 104 for an excellent window into the Hebrew conception of natural law – and you can’t argue that this conception was a post-hoc rationalization of observed scientific laws, since the Bible predates modern science by roughly 2000 years).

            So even if it is true that some generic ‘omni’ God might lead to an inscrutable probability of the observation of design, the biblical God does not. And, as I’ve said before, you would still not have answered the design inference. The design argument precedes an identification of the designer. So even if you reject a generic omni-God as an explanation for design, you still have to provide a valid alternative explanation.

            -Neil

          • staircaseghost

            ‘You have no idea.’

            As I’ve already pointed out, you are making a theologicalclaim here. “

            Huh?

            Pointing out that you have no idea is a psychological claim. And a true one. (Otherwise you would have answered my question.)

            You have no idea whether an omnipotent designer would do things one way or another way. Therefore by definition you have no explanation.

            “But that is not true from the Christian perspective, since we that God has revealed himself through the Bible.”

            Where in the Bible are we informed of God’s intentions vis-a-vis the number of miracles he would want to perform in the Cambrian Explosion? Chapter and verse please, chapter and verse.

            Christians read a story about God separating an air bubble out of primordial water oceans, stitched to an etiological myth for why humans fear snakes, and claim “clearly, this is talking about a miraculous Cambrian Explosion, surrounded on either side by billions of miracle-free years courtesy of fine-tuning!”

          • Neil Shenvi

            “Pointing out that you have no idea is a psychological claim. And a true one.”

            No. Reread the thread. Your response was to my comment about ‘the Christian view’. I agreed that we may have little information about the motivations, purposes, and activity of a ‘generic omni-God.’ But if the Bible is God’s revelation (and I realize that this is a huge if for you), we can indeed know something about His motivations,
            purposes and activity.

            “Where in the Bible are we informed of God’s intentions vis-a-vis the number of miracles he would want to perform in the Cambrian Explosion? Chapter and verse please, chapter and verse.”

            The Cambrian Explosion isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Nor is Eocene Epoch. Nor is last week’s Ravens game. So I agree that it’s a matter of debate amongst Christians as to how often God intervened during this particular period or, more generally, during the creative acts described in Gen 1.

            But you have repeatedly claimed that we have ‘no idea’ about the frequency of God’s miraculous intervention. Your argument depends on being able to say that the probability of God’s creation of a life-permitting universe is therefore entirely inscrutable so that God does not qualify as a valid explanation at all.

            But that claim is false. If you read through the Bible, you’ll see that God does not regularly perform miracles. They are concentrated at what C.S. Lewis called ‘the great ganglia of history’ where God reveals himself at turning points in the story of humanity. If you disagree, I suggest you read through the historical books of the Old Testament like 1 and 2 Samuel or 1 and 2 Kings. Miracles in the Bible are received with such wonder precisely because they are not the way that the universe normally operates. Or see Psalm 104 as I’ve already suggested (or Ecclesiastes or Proverbs) for the Hebrew view of the laws of nature by which God normally governs the universe.

            So I’m willing to concede for the sake of argument that we have ‘no idea’ what a generic omni-God would do. But that has no relevance to whether biblical revelation gives us some (though not complete) knowledge of what the Biblical God would do. Now, you can reject the Bible of false, but you cannot claim that Christian theology has no more information about God than generic deism.
            -Neil

          • staircaseghost

            “But if the Bible is God’s revelation (and I realize that this is a huge if for you), we can indeed know something about His motivations, purposes and activity.”

            I don’t mind special revelation, as long as people keep it in the home, where it belongs. But by definition, people’s obligation to rationally consider your claims ends where revelation begins.

            Whereas the apologist was claiming to have established something by reason alone.

            “Your argument depends on being able to say that the probability of God’s creation of a life-permitting universe is therefore entirely inscrutable so that God does not qualify as a valid explanation at all.

            But that claim is false. If you read through the Bible, you’ll see that God does not regularly perform miracles.”

            Round and round and round the mulberry bush we go. If you admit you have no idea what the probability of gods intervening in the Cambrian is, then on pain of contradiction you cannot claim they hypothesis increases the probability of the observation i.e. you cannot claim you have explained anything.

            “But that has no relevance to whether biblical revelation gives us some (though not complete) knowledge of what the Biblical God would do.”

            You have conceded through your silence that the whole fable about separating an air bubble from the primordial water ocean with the etiological myth about why we fear snakes doesn’t tell us anything about when or where any of these “ganglia” will be. Where the bible does tell us what happened, it gets it spectacularly wrong (birds and whales before flowering plants?). Forcing the apologist who knows what’s good for him to retreat back to Abstractphilosophergod… that guy who, on the other side of this mulberry bush, we just established is not an explanation for anything.

          • Steven Carr

            ‘For instance, I’ve heard Collins argue that without some kind of universal attractive force (i.e. gravity), any kind of complexity would be impossible.’

            So there goes the Christian god.

            Proponents of fine-tuning believe in a puny god , who cannot create life unless the conditions are just right for it to do so.

            And they are still left with having to say a miracle happened for life to form, because this fine-tuned universe was insufficiently well done to create life.

          • Neil Shenvi

            Steven, read through all of the comments, as they address this issue. I am not claiming that the current laws of physics are metaphysically necessary. God could certainly have created a universe with physical laws incompatible with life and then could have miraculously sustained life moment-by-moment by suspending these laws. But the point is that we do not lived in this kind of universe. We live in the kind of universe in which life is possible without the suspension of the laws of nature. The question is: what is the best explanation for that observation, given how improbable such laws appear to be?
            -Neil

          • Steven Carr

            Well.obviously not the hypothetical Christian god, who is not constrained by physical necessity.

            In particular, this hypothetical god has no need to create mechanisms which wipe out all life if the speed of light drops below 3 times 10^8, like a celestial Dennis Hopper.

            ‘We live in the kind of universe in which life is possible without the suspension of the laws of nature. ‘

            I see.

            So this is the argument from non-miracles.

            Look! A miracle hasn’t happened. The only explanation must be god.

          • Neil Shenvi

            Stephen,
            I’m not even clear what you’re argument is. I agree than an omnipotent God, like the biblical God, is not metaphysically constrained to create any particular physical laws. Are you objecting to this statement?

            “Look! A miracle hasn’t happened. The only explanation must be god.”

            No, the question in the design argument is: why do we live in a universe in which the laws of physics permit the existence of life without continual supernatural intervention when it seems like the vast majority of possible universes would not permit the existence of life without continual supernatural intervention? The existence of the biblical God is one explanation and is argued to be the best.

            -Neil

          • Steven Carr

            That’s correct,

            Your hypothetical god is not constrained by physical laws.

            The god of the fine-tuning was constrained by physical laws, according to all fine-tuning proponents.

            So the god of the fine-tuned universe is not the hypothetical Christian god.

          • Neil Shenvi

            “The god of the fine-tuning was constrained by physical laws, according to all fine-tuning proponents.”

            Stephen, could you find me a few examples of a Christian apologist saying something like ‘God was metaphysically constrained to create the physical laws he did?’
            -Neil

          • staircaseghost

            You misspelled “physically”.

          • Neil Shenvi

            No, I meant ‘metaphysically.’ I’m taking it for granted that you won’t find a Christian apologist claiming that God is ‘physically constrained’ by anything. If you can find an example of a Christian apologist saying that God is ‘physically constrained’, I will be absolutely astonished.
            -Neil

          • staircaseghost

            “No, I meant ‘metaphysically.’ I’m taking it for granted that you won’t find a Christian apologist claiming that God is ‘physically constrained’ by anything. If you can find an example of a Christian apologist saying that God is ‘physically constrained’, I will be absolutely astonished.”

            You just quoted Collins doing this.

            More importantly, you’ve not yet internalized what several people have been saying over and over: explanations only make sense when they constrain observation, and design specifically only makes sense as an explanation when the designer is constrained by circumstance.

            Therefore literally every appeal to fine-tuning must presuppose that that the tuner is physically constrained — for some reason, she can’t just poof her desired result into existence.

            Conversely, every appeal to the miraculous in abiogenesis or the Cambrian diversification presupposes that the universe was poorly-tuned for the purposes of turning non-life into life, or turning several phyla of worms into several more phyla of slightly different worms.

      • being itself

        Why is this hilariousness not pointed out more often? For the theist, every possible condition is evidence for a god. And therefore no possible condition could be evidence against their god.

      • Neil Shenvi

        staircaseghost,
        As Jeffrey knows, design arguments do not have to point to an omnipotent designer. So we need not assume that the Designer ‘could have’ made a universe out of light atoms.

        And even if we identify the designer as the biblical God (who is omnipotent), I fail to see how that somehow counts against the evidence which is typically cited. The question is whether naturalism or Design is a better explanation. Even if we hold to the omnipotence of the Designer, how would that be evidence that naturalism is the better explanation? Perhaps you are implicitly appealing to some kind of divine hiddenness argument (i.e. if an omnipotent God exists, he ought to have created the universe more obviously miraculously)?

        -Neil

        • staircaseghost

          “As Jeffrey knows, design arguments do not have to point to an omnipotent designer.”

          Pure evasion via tactical retreat.

          WK very very clearly and explicitly was arguing for theism i.e. an omnipotent designer. This is one of the more infuriating aspects of conversation with postmodern creationists. Everyone insists we have to pretend they don’t believe what they actually believe. It’s dogwhistle fundamentalism.

          “Even if we hold to the omnipotence of the Designer, how would that be evidence that naturalism is the better explanation?”

          “Naturalism” is not an explanation, it is an explanation form. Or do you suppose if I open my physics textbook to learn how magnets work, the answer will just be “naturalism”?

          But my original point is not that theism is not a good explanation, it is that it is no explanation at all, and that theists contradict themselves when they say of the laws of the universe both that they are configured so as to make life (as we know it) possible, and that they are configured so as to make life (as we know it) impossible.

          This is almost as embarrassing as Meyer selling his Cambrian Explosion snake oil to YECs who believe the Cambrian Explosion never existed.

          In addition to overcoming the minimum threshold of not contradicting itself, an explanation must also constrain our expected observation in some way. What rate and magnitude of miracles would we not expect to see if the god of theism exists? One an aeon? One a week? Try giving an independently motivated answer, not one simply a fined-tuned reverse engineering job, and you’ll start to see why people don’t take these arguments seriously.

          • Neil Shenvi

            I wish I’d seen this comment earlier, as it was quite helpful. I’m not a huge fan of how Disqus handles comments. Oh well. I hope you see this:

            “Pure evasion via tactical retreat. WK very very clearly and explicitly was arguing for theism i.e. an
            omnipotent designer. This is one of the more infuriating aspects of
            conversation with postmodern creationists. Everyone insists we have to
            pretend they don’t believe what they actually believe.”

            As frustrating as this may be to you, it would still be the genetic fallacy if you use this objection as an argument that the design hypothesis is false. Moreover, there are non-Christians and even non-theists (perhaps even atheists – see Lewis Wolpert or Thomas Nagel) out there who argue that design is real. So even if you dismiss all the Christians who do so, you’ll at least have to answer their arguments.

            “that rate and magnitude of miracles would we not expect to see if the god of theism exists? One an aeon? One a week? Try giving an independently motivated answer”

            As I’ve argued above, the design argument need not point to God as the Designer, so we need to keep these two questions separate. It’s only after (and if) we affirm the design argument that it makes sense to identify the Designer. But here, I agree that we’re reaching the limits of natural theology. What we’re really asking now is a theological question about God’s nature. And if you want to figure out how Christians would answer that question, then you do need to turn what we believe to be God’s means of special revelation, the Bible.

            Very briefly, in the Bible, you will find that God’s ‘miraculous acts’ are by no means regularly distributed throughout history. Instead, they are always associated with key turning points in what is sometimes called ‘salvific history.’ This is exactly why Christians historically have assumed the existence of uniform, regular natural laws. If you’d like a longer answer, Google me on YouTube and look for my talk ‘Miracles, Materialism, and Quantum Mechanics’
            -Neil

    • staircaseghost

      “Surely, God could have caused birds to fly with their bones made of solid gold, with their veins full of quicksilver, with their flesh heavier than lead, and with their wings exceedingly small. He did not, and that ought to show something. It is only in order to shield your ignorance that you put the Lord at every turn to the refuge of a miracle.” – Galileo

    • Greg G.

      The fact that there are beings intelligent enough to questions the odds implies that the necessary and sufficient conditions were met. While IDers argue that changing one constant would make complex chemistry impossible, Stenger has shown that by altering multiple constants, complex chemistry could arise about 25% of the time

    • Steven Carr

      ‘ The normal argument is that cosmological fine-tuning is a necessary condition for intelligent life, not a sufficient condition for intelligent life. ‘

      So why couldn’t this all-powerful god have created sufficient conditions for intelligent life when designing a universe?

      Presumably the work this hypothetical god did at creation was insufficient, inadequate and frankly botched.

      Verdict on god when creating a universe – could try harder.

  • staircaseghost

    Q: why do we design things? A: when we lack the power to obtain the result simply by willing it to be.

    Are IDCs saying that god is a tinker-god, unable to simply poof sweet-smelling burning heifer flesh into existence, instead of spending billions of years smashing hydrogen into heavy atoms in stars and then slowly, slowly, sllllooowwwwwwly waiting for microbes to turn into worms to turn into chordates into eutherian ungulates in a wasteful process fully accountable for by known mindless mechanisms?

    Or that she is unwilling?

    Of all the logically possible gods, what are the chances that we just happened to win the lottery and get the one who wants to make the on-again/off-again combination of miracles and natural processes creationists claim to see? The odds are astronomically low.

    The only explanation for the fine-tuning of god is that she must have been designed.

    • Neil Shenvi

      Staircaseghost,
      I’m not sure how your objection is relevant to the OP, which argued that the ‘cumulative case’ label being misused in design arguments.

      In any case, I don’t think your objection argues against the design inference. If the evidence demands a choice between chance, necessity, and design, how do questions about the nature of the designer help boost the probability of chance or necessity?
      -Neil

      • staircaseghost

        It is a solecism to talk about “the probability of chance” or “the probability of necessity”. (hint: the latter is unity.)

        An explanation, like “he killed his mother because he wanted his inheritance, and her being dead was the only way to get it” makes the result more probable given the initial conditions. Grant me the hypothesis of a man with the means, motive and opportunity, and I will give you (i.e. make more probable for you) the shoddy alibi, the fingers on the knife, the witness reports etc.

        Omnipotent designers by definition are infinitely unconstrained in the paths they may take to achieve their desired result. Given the initial conditions “god wants to make physically embodied minds” literally every conceivable series of intermediate conditions is equiprobable. Thus, we can’t even be sure god would make a life-permitting universe, if she wanted to end up with life!

        • Neil Shenvi

          “It is a solecism to talk about “the probability of chance” or “the probability of necessity”. (hint: the latter is unity.)”

          Fair enough. I should have said ‘plausibility’ (although, I should point out that atheistic opponents of the design argument do not necessarily use ‘necessity’ to refer to metaphysical necessity)

          “Omnipotent designers by definition are infinitely unconstrained in the paths they may take to achieve their desired result.”

          Not necessarily. Christians would hold that God is internally constrained by his nature. For instance, God would not (indeed, could not) achieve his desired result through by doing evil [please, let's not get sidetracked into the ED :-) ] Moreover, I would argue that this is where special revelation becomes important. If we assume that the Bible is God’s revelation to humanity (a big assumption for you, obviously), then the self-revelation of the biblical God does seem to militate against God taking ‘any possible path’ to achieve the universe he created. In fact, Judaism and Christianity both undeified Nature, seeing it as subject to God’s regular, governing, natural laws rather than the capricious and arbitrary whims of spirits.

          But how does this have any relevance to the design hypothesis itself? At best, your argument would show that the probability of an omnipotent God being the designer is inscrutable, but would do nothing at all to argue against the design inference.
          -Neil

          • staircaseghost

            “Christians would hold that God is internally constrained by his nature.”

            Just because I am internally constrained by the way I’m put together to only be able to do maybe two dozen pushups, I don’t see why that doesn’t mean I am capable of doing infinite pushups…

            Either “omni” means “omni”, or it doesn’t.

            And you are still fine-tuning your hypothesis to match observation, and not paying the parsimony cost.

            “Moreover, I would argue that this is where special revelation becomes important.”

            Precisely. At this point the apologist has left the building, as far as the language game called “giving objective evidence and arguments” is concerned; it’s a loss by forfeit.

            But WK claimed to be playing the Explanation Game.

            “But how does this have any relevance to the design hypothesis itself? At best, your argument would show that the probability of an omnipotent God being the designer isinscrutable, but would do nothing at all to argue against the design inference.”

            You have just literally said “even if the hypothesis doesn’t increase the probability, I don’t see how you’ve shown the hypothesis doesn’t raise the probability.”

            WK claimed to be giving an explanation. This shows that he has not. This is really a turn the lights off on your way out point in the discussion.

          • Neil Shenvi

            “Either “omni” means “omni”, or it doesn’t.”

            Christians for millenia, since at least Augustine, have understood that ‘omnipotent’ does not mean ‘able to do anything at all, like making rocks too heavy for God to lift.’ In fact, the Bible clearly states that there are things that God cannot do (Tit. 1:2)! You may choose to use a different definition of ‘omnipotence’, but it would be uncharitable to insist that this is what Christians mean when they speak of God’s omnipotence.

            “Precisely. At this point the apologist has left the building, as far as the language game called “giving objective evidence and arguments” is concerned; it’s a loss by forfeit.”

            How is special revelation not objective? I’m not talking about some esoteric mystical experience. I’m talking about a book that is sitting on my shelf. The information contained therein certainly seems objective to me. So even if you reject it as false, I don’t see why it should be considered ‘subjective.’ And if it objectively describes a particular God, then it is legitimate to ask whether the God described works as an explanation for an particular piece of evidence.

            “You have just literally said “even if the hypothesis doesn’t
            increase the probability, I don’t see how you’ve shown the hypothesis doesn’t raise the probability.””

            No, reread what I wrote. I said: “At best, your argument would show that the probability of an
            omnipotent God being the designer is inscrutable, but would do nothing at
            all to argue against the design inference.” In other words, your argument, even if successful, would not show that there was no designer (or even that there was no generic omni-God Designer!), but only that the generic omni-God hypothesis does not function as an explanation, according to your definition. You have not addressed the possibility of a non-generic God (e.g. the biblical God) or a non-God designer (e.g. Wolpert’s immaterial computer) at all. So you would still have to provide an alternative explanation to design.

            “WK claimed to be giving an explanation. This shows that he has not.”

            I can’t speak to WK’s motivations. But he is certainly a Christian and is presumably arguing for the existence of the biblical God. You’ll have to ask him whether he thinks that a generic omni-God designer is valid as an explanation.

            “This is really a turn the lights off on your way out point in the discussion.”

            There is no need for rhetorical flourishes. We can have a conversation without them.
            -Neil

          • PDH

            “But how does this have any relevance to the design hypothesis itself?
            At best, your argument would show that the probability of an omnipotent
            God being the designer is inscrutable, but would do nothing at all to argue against the design inference.”

            There’s no reason to think that a designer of unspecified means and motives would do any one thing rather than any other thing. It could, in fact, do absolutely anything at any time for any reason, so observing a given cosmological constant or the Cambrian Explosion or whatever is no more evidence for that hypothesis than observing something completely different would be. It cannot therefore be an explanation for it as such observations are no more probable on that hypothesis than any other possible observations. It is game over for you at that point.

            You need to add on details about the designer such as ‘he has the properties of the God of traditional theism’ or else it doesn’t give us any reason to expect that there would be these laws or those laws, that universe or another one, sentient beings or none…

            We’re being charitable to your position by assuming that you have in mind, you know, the same God that everyone else is talking about. If that’s not the case then you don’t actually have an explanation at all. You’re just saying, ‘maybe there’s a thing what did it.’

          • Neil Shenvi

            “You need to add on details about the designer such as ‘he has the properties of the God of traditional theism’”

            See above. Yes, I agree. That’s why I personally do start with God’s character as revealed in the Bible and then ask as if the biblical description of God fits the evidence we observe.

            But, as I said to stiarcaseghost, the Design argument is two-tiered. The first question is: is there a designer? The second question is: Who is the designer? It makes no sense to ask the second question before the first is answered in the affirmative.

            Given that the OP was an attempt to undermine the cumulative case for the first question and given that my initial response was similarly directed against this first question, it’s unclear to me why we’re discussing the second.
            -Neil

          • Greg G.

            That’s why I personally do start with God’s character as revealed in the Bible and then ask as if the biblical description of God fits the evidence we observe.

            The first question is: is there a designer? The second question is: Who is the designer? It makes no sense to ask the second question before the first is answered in the affirmative.

            Let’s start with who the designer is not. If omnipotent means anything, it must mean that the omnipotence can achieve any end by any means, in other words, any desire of the omnipotence could be achieved with or without suffering. Ergo, suffering would be unnecessary.

            The fact that we experience suffering shows that if an omnipotence exists, it has chosen for there to be unnecessary suffering, which is sadism which is incompatible with the concept of benevolence.

            So if there is a creator, it is either not omnibenevolent or it is not potent enough to prevent suffering. This is not the creator most Bible readers infer.

            Could Heaven meet up to its billing if it’s run by a being that either chooses for there to be suffering or is incapable of preventing it? The “or” is not exclusive.

            The multiverse hypothesis was not put forth to counter the fine-tuning argument. This universe exists, so a universe coming into existence is a certainty. It is a simpler explanation that the conditions that bring one universe into being will also bring other universes into being than the explanation for that one universe coming into existence prevents other universes from coming into existence.

            The idea that a universe coming out of nothing being impossible is assuming a perfect nothingness, which is as unlikely as a platonic perfect equilateral triangle actually existing. They are concepts that can exist in the imagination but not in reality. The closest thing to absolute nothingness in reality is a sea of quantum fluctuations.

            Thirty years ago, I could have worked out the wave function of an entire universe coming into existence. I once did the calculations for a baseball making a quantum jump and it was infinitesimal in the age of the universe. The probability of a universe coming into being would have been an even smaller infinitesimal probability, but with no limits of time and space, it would happen time and time again.

            So, there is no reason to think the universe was created.

          • Larkus

            PDH is discussing the first question: “Is there a designer?”

            A designer of unspecified means and motives is no better explanation than chance.

            A designer of specified means and motives is a better explanation than chance – if a designer with these specified means and motives exists, but what’s the chance that a designer with these specified means and motives exists instead of a designer with some other means and motives?

            All in all, a designer is no better explanation for fine-tuning than chance.

    • Joseph O Polanco

      Small problem, you’re assuming Common Descent and Macroevolution.

  • sam

    Theists are promiscuous teleologists. The problem with promiscuous teleology is that, inevitably, when you offer “…because god wants it that way” enough times, you eventually run into the reductio ad absurdum of “god wants A because he wants not A”.

    This problem existed long before FTAs. For example, child sacrifice to yhwh & other gods seems to have been a not irregular practice among the Hebrews & ancient Israelites (LE 27:28-29, EX 22:29-30). When later prophets felt unease at these practices, they didn’t deny that these were yhwh initiated mandates (perhaps it was too well known to deny). They simply argued that yhwh commanded child sacrifice to himself in order to horrify people as a punishment for engaging in child sacrifice (to other gods, EZ 20:25-26).

    Eventually, promiscuous teleology turns on its own tail & eats itself.

    • Joseph O Polanco

      What do you understand by “sanctify”? (Numbers 3:12, 13, 46-48.)

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Hello Jeff, I applaud you for taking the time to respectfully deal with the arguments of a rather insignificant and arrogant individual (tough I wish him to become both morally and intellectually a better person).

    Your post confirms my impression that you cannot test the supernatural, only very specific supernatural scenarios can be shown to be wrong.

    Even if evolutionists had absolutely no viable theory, I believe that 2| 3´| and 4| fail completely as argument for the existence of God because we could very well be living in an infinite multiverse where such structures would randomly emerge:

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/category/intelligent-design/

    And this would of course also well explain the cosmic fine-tuning.

    That said, I am agnostic about all these things and don’t exclude the possibility God really acted, I just don’t think it can be shown even if it were the case.

    Generally, while highly admiring Bayes theorem, I find an OBJECTIVE Bayesian epistemology rather dubious, for there is no way to meaningfully define the probabilities in an objective manner, what you get is the subjective confidence of an agent towards a theory.

    Lovely greetings from France and Germany.
    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      Whoa! For the record, I don’t want to engage in (or condone) any personal attacks against Wintery Knight (calling him “rather insignificant and arrogant”). I’ve exchanged private emails with him and found him to be very pleasant to communicate with. Also, his arguments are fairly representative of the “evidentialist” branch of Christian apologetics, so even if he were “rather insignificant” (and I am not sure that I agree he is) his arguments are still worth discussing.

      • staircaseghost

        “I’ve exchanged private emails with him and found him to be very pleasant to communicate with.”

        You must not have had the experience of pointing out his misrepresentations on his blog and having your comments deleted without notice. Any fair-minded person making the attempt will quickly find him a coward and fraud, as well as an unreconstructed misogynist in the Todd Akin mold.

        • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

          That’s true, but I wish him to make progresses in those respects.

          Lovely greetings from France and Germany.
          Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
          http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

      • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

        Shame on me! Jeff, you are a far better follower of Christ than I am.

        Lovely greetings from France and Germany.
        Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
        http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • Joseph O Polanco

      Even if veridical, your metaphysically extravagant Anthropic Philosophy, that is, “if the Universe contains an exhaustively random and infinite number of universes, then anything that can occur with non-vanishing probability will occur somewhere,” does nothing to answer the question why there is anything instead of just nothing. It just punts it further down the line.

      The existence of this supposed multiverse still cries out for an objective explanation.

      To borrow from an illustration by Philosopher Richard Taylor, “Imagine you are walking through the woods on a hike and you come across a translucent ball lying on the forest floor. You would naturally wonder where that ball came from – what is the explanation of its existence? If your hiking buddy said to you, “Don’t worry about it – it just exists, inexplicably!,” you would think either that he was crazy or that he wanted you to keep on moving. But you wouldn’t take seriously the idea that this ball just exists without any explanation of its existence.

      Now suppose that the ball, instead of being the size of a basketball, were the size of an automobile. Merely increasing the size of the ball would not do anything to remove or satisfy the demand for an explanation of its existence, would it? Suppose it were the size of a house? Same problem! Suppose it were the size of a planet or a galaxy? Same problem! Suppose it were the size of the entire universe? Same problem! Merely increasing the size of the object does not do anything to remove or satisfy the demand for an explanation of its existence. And so I think it is very plausible to think that everything that exists has an explanation of why it exists.” (http://bit.ly/Pm4s92)

      “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.” -C.S. Lewis

      That is to say, when compared to the metaphysically extravagant Anthropic Philosophy, Theism is by far much more modest.

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    I.D. is not a scientific hypothesis. I.D. has no hypothesis yet concerning HOW anything was “designed.” But neo-Darwinism along with evo-devo build on data everyone can perceive, and utilize that data to formulate scientific hypotheses as to HOW life and its subsequent evolution came about:

    1) Known mutations which occur naturally to germ cells, sometimes via cosmic rays, or via known mutagenic chemicals inside the cell, or happen during meiosis. These include point mutations, frame shift mutations, whole gene duplication, whole chromosome duplication, even whole genome mutation (all the chromosomes duplicated together with subsequent whittling down of that genome, and this even happens in animals, not just plants).

    2) The smallness of genomic space. There are a vast number of homologous genes found in all species with a similar evolutionary history, so the genomic “gaps” are not as great as one might think looking only at the outward morphologies of different species. Speaking of small gaps, humans and chimpanzees are no further apart genetically than sibling species of fruit flies, or some species of cats.

    3) The fact that only a small percentage of each generation passes along its genes to the next generation. It’s a proven fact that not every fertilized egg or seed reaches the point of sexual maturity where it can pass along its genes to the next generation. And there are obvious examples of evolutionary arms races, predator-prey competition, host-parasite competition, organism-environment competition, even whole groups of cousin species competing with whole groups of nearby cousin species. And the world is one huge graveyard of those individual organisms and species that did NOT make it to the point of passing along their genes to the next generation.

    4) Biologists are also working on figuring out what natural chemical properties inside the genome contribute to a higher probability of some types of mutations rather than others, and some points of breakage in the genome rather than others. But these are natural chemical properties that can be observed, measured.

    5) Yes, cells are complex, and there’s a natural reason for that. In fact, recent experiments indicate that replicating molecules that are more complex and that work in series can out-reproduce other replicating molecules that work alone. So complexity appears to be favored even on a biochemical level. See the new book, What is Life?: How Chemistry becomes Biology by Addy Pross and these other books on modern day biochemical research into the origin of life and rising complexity in the genome: http://amzn.com/w/T3A0XA7HRKMT

    6) Mutations do not have to be fully efficient in order to provide some added function. A famous recent example is the discovery of a simple frame shift mutation in a species of bacteria that allowed it to partially digest nylon, a recent man-made polymer. The bacteria did not receive a lot of energy partially digesting the nylon, but that is only the beginning of further mutations. Same with the recent experiment in which a bacterial colony in a lab evolved the ability to digest citrate. It did not happen all at once, but in stages (see Dennis Venema’s article, which also responds to I.D. assertions http://biologos.org/blog/behe-lenski-and-the-edge-of-evolution-part-5 , Venema is a biologist and ex-I.D.ist, and he also has an ongoing series on understanding evolution that goes into greater depth that you’re liable to see elsewhere on the web, http://biologos.org/blog/author/dennis-venema )

    7) Stephen Meyer, the I.D.ist who recent wrote a book on the Cambrian explosion is a philosopher of science, without a doctorate in the appropriate subjects, such as paleontology, evolutionary biology, etc. and his arguments according to the following reviewers, are ill informed (the third reviewer goes into considerable detail, fascinating reading):

    a) Charles R. Marshall, Prof. at UC, Berkeley, one of the most respected experts on the evolution of early life, specializing in the Cambrian Explosion. His review of Meyer’s book appeared recently in the magazine, Science https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/famous-paleobiologist-savages-stephen-meyers-id-book/

    b) Donald Prothero, paleontologist, currently a research associate in vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles: County http://www.skepticblog.org/2013/08/28/stephen-meyers-fumbling-bumbling-amateur-cambrian-follies/

    c) Nicholas Matzke, doctoral student in evolutionary biology at the University of California Berkeley http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2013/06/meyers-hopeless-2.html

    8) My post on Why More Biologists Are Not Intelligent Design Advocates, http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2012/09/why-arent-more-biologists-idists.html PLEASE NOTE THE DEDICATED SEARCH ENGINE AT THE TOP OF MY POST ON THAT PAGE, since you can plug in the names of particular I.D.ists or the names of their arguments, like “irreducible complexity,” “junk DNA,” “encode,” or “cambrian,” and you will be lead to sites where scientists have responded to I.D. arguments.

    • Joseph O Polanco

      Since you appear to be an expert on the matter I’d like to ask, how many fossils prove Macroevolution?

      • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

        If you are expecting every species to lay down and die on top of its parents with full bone structure fossilized in each case, then I guess you’re a creationist and nothing will convince you — because you already believe that simple addition is the answer to the question of origins, since you just have to add up ages of patriarchs written in an old book, and you have the answer to origins.

        But if you leave the old book on one side and look at the fossil record you can see the relative order in which species arose, i.e., looking only at vertebrate evolution we see wormlike Amphioxus-like species then jawless fish arise, then fish with jaws, then fish moving toward amphibians, amphibians moving toward reptiles, reptiles moving toward mammals, and in the particular case of human vertebrate evolution we see mammals moving toward lemurs, monkeys, ancient extinct species of apes (the world used to be covered with diverse species of apes), then hominids and extinct species of humans.

        Do you know how the first mammal-like reptile fossils were discovered, or Tiktaalik (an amphibian-like fish), or the earliest known cetacean fossils that still had rear legs and more mammal-like skulls? The paleontolgists in each case looked up the geological era in which such changes would have had to have occurred in order for evolution to be true, and then looked for an exposed outcropping from that era that was known to contain fossils, so they found exactly what they expected to find in t hat place in geological time according to the theory of evolution.

        Flood geology however, fails to explain such cases, for the following reasons: http://etb-flood-geology.blogspot.com/2012/03/creationist-flood-geology-versus-common.html

        • Joseph O Polanco

          It seems you’re saying, then, that only a handful of the hundreds of millions of fossils unearthed serve as evidence of Macroevolution, correct?

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    Questioning The Fine-Tuning Argument

    Mark Twain said, “We have tremendous difficulties solving man-made mysteries, as well as mysteries of nature. But when it comes to the mystery of God, everyone’s got the answer.”

    Does the answer to life’s mystery lie in figuring out how many fundamental constants have to be as they are so that we can have

    1) both Beethoven and cancerous tumors?

    2) a cosmos in which living things both arise and go extinct, including mass extinction events?

    3) a cosmos in which living things exist for only small periods of time, while stars exist for billions of years, and, energy and matter are neither create-able nor destructible, they just “are?”

    What if this is “it.” And we are stuck trying to make sense of it, because any organism with enough intelligence would also be stuck with that same question?

    Lastly…

    Whether the cosmos is “fine-tuned” is not the only philosophical question in cosmology, and most cosmologists find it not worth pursuing because we have nothing to compare this cosmos with, which makes the argument problematical.
    ______________________________________________

    QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE FINE-TUNING ARGUMENT
    by Richard Smith

    1) We don’t know if any other set of constants and laws are even possible. We also don’t know that the constants can vary independently from one another. They may all be causally related to one another or to some more fundamental feature. We used to think there were as many as 40 fundamental constants, including the boiling point of water. Now we know that this derives from quantum mechanics, and the number of fundamental constants is now down to six or so. So this universe may be the only way it can go.

    2) It may not be that our universe is as special as we think; there could be many others that are special or interesting in different ways. Life could arise through different means or different chemistries or different physical laws, if those even exist.

    3) There may be standard physical mechanisms for producing multiple separate universes with different laws. If so, the existence of one like ours would no longer be unexpected. We might never be able to detect the other universes, but we may able to prove they should be there.

    4) A very unlikely outcome does not allow you to say the cause wasn’t random. The fact that this universe exists cannot be used to prove we were divinely created.

    SOURCE: Richard Smith, “Scientist-Believers: Troublesome Routes Across the Compatibility Chasm” http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article864.html

    _______________________________________

    A question to add to Smith’s list above would be…

    5) Wouldn’t any organism capable of extended thoughts naturally imagine itself to be “the reason” the universe existed, just so “it” could arise and have such thoughts? But isn’t that also a possible delusion? For instance, humanity could go extinct in future, and the stars would continue to burn for billions of years without us, because they burn by fusion and have plenty of fuel left (and in some places new stars are still arising). Or humanity could mutate into something else in future via genetically enhanced brains or artificial intelligence, and then THAT species might think IT was the reason the cosmos was created, and view humans of our time like we viewed early upright primates. Or humanity could devolve over millions of years after a major asteroid strike, or after a major solar flare makes the world’s transformers explode and perhaps burns some of our atmosphere away, after which humanity devolves into something more animal-like, or some other species supersedes ours a billion years after our extinction.

    Douglas Adams used the illustration of a puddle formed in the night after light rain that marveled at how the hole it was lying in was shaped exactly like it was, just so that the puddle with its exact shape might exist. Then the sun rose and it started growing hot and the puddle began to dry up, all the while marveling at how the hole it lay in fit it exactly, until the puddle was no more.

    Or Voltaire used the illustration of a flea thanking God: “Thank you for creating the sun just for us so we could find our food, and creating our robust hind legs so we could leap longer distances than any other animals for our size and feast upon the limitless bounty you have provided just for us.”

    While other philosophers remark that God appears to have been aiming rather low in creating humanity “in His image.” After all, our brain-minds have been kluged together after a couple billion years of evolution of competing organisms. And the resulting mind includes a long list of “cognitive biases” as recorded in numerous experiments, including a mind that relies heavily on cultural conditioning to pick up ideas, practices, beliefs and feelings, not to mention being subject to hormonal tides. It also has difficulty communicating with other minds, since all communication is limited to a particular language that uses idiomatic analogies and phrases that make sense primarily in a particular culture and time, and the words we utter or write to one another consist of a one-dimensional stream but the ideas we are trying to convey are connected in each person’s individual mind in a particular three-dimensional fashion (four dimensions when you include changes of mind over time), not to mention that few people have all the time to read the same books, and nobody has all the same experiences, so difficulties in communication are sure to be rampant, including of course, discussions in philosophy and religion.
    _________________________

    QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE FINE-TUNING ARGUMENT by Cole Hellier, Professor of Astrophysics at Keele University in the UK

    The essence of the flaw is that the argument depends on regarding humans as “special”, as though a universe without humans would be improper in some way. Thus the argument is simply anthropocentric hubris, and takes as an axiom (the specialness of humans) what it aims to prove (the specialness of God-created humans).

    Yes, we may be special to ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we matter especially to the universe. Theists often err by assuming that what matters to humans must matter in an absolute or universal sense. And without that “specialness” assumption the argument from fine tuning falls apart.

    Entities that are peculiar to and characteristic of their environment are exactly what you would expect from non-intelligent, natural processes. Intelligent design could produce either outcome: inhabitants that are well-fitted to their environment or inhabitants that are not (as in zoos). Non-intelligent processes could only produce the former. Thus, the fact that the universe appears to be “fine tuned” to produce its inhabitants is a direct prediction of atheism, but not of theism. Thus the fine-tuning argument actually argues for an atheistic universe.

    So here is a reasonably succinct summary of those six flaws, in reply to the theologians.

    (1) Who says the universe is tuned for life? As far as we know, intelligent life occurs in only one million-billion-billion-billionth of the universe around us. It’s not the case that the universe is teeming with life, is it? If someone intelligent were going to design a universe to host life, they could do it a heck of a lot more parsimoniously than by inventing our universe.

    Tell you what, pick a random cubic kilometre of our universe; now try making a case for theism given only the contents of that cube. If you object that you want instead a highly particular, specially chosen chunk of universe (Earth) on which to base your case, then that’s anthropocentric special pleading. If your case had merit it could still be made without carefully selecting your data inputs. Afterall, without Earth, you’d still have 99.999999999999% of God’s creation to work with.

    (2) So what if the universe were different? Yes, it wouldn’t be as we know it, and wouldn’t produce the sort of life forms that we know, but do you really know that it wouldn’t produce just as much or more life as our universe? Do you really think you know enough about the various possible types of life, and about the consequences of fiddling with fundamental constants, to work that out? We have a hard enough time figuring out and understanding our own universe, even though it is right here under our noses available for study.

    (3) Of course the universe is “just perfect” for producing us. In the same way – and here Douglas Adams’s analogy is unsurpassed – a puddle thinks that the shape of the hole in the road is just perfect for producing its own shape. “Only if the hole were exactly as it is in every detail could my shape have come about! So clearly an Intelligent Designer must have carefully designed that hole in exquisite detail in order to produce me!”

    Isn’t it obvious that the things that come to be in a universe will be things that are highly characteristic of that universe? Things fitting exactly to their environment is exactly what you expect in a NON-intelligent situation – in the same way that puddles of water fitting their hole is the obvious consequence of a non-intelligent process like gravity.

    (3b) The occurrence of things for which their environment was NOT “just right” would be a far better indicator of intelligent intervention. For example, an animal in a zoo is indicative of intelligent intervention; an animal that fits perfectly into its ecological niche is not an indication of intelligent design, but instead is amply explained by non-intelligent processes such as evolution. Thus, if we found ourselves in a universe that was not suited to creating us then that would be far better evidence for intelligent intervention!

    (4) If the universe is one of myriad different universes, then intelligent life will only appear in those suitable for intelligent life. So the act of an intelligent life-form asking “why is the universe like it is?” will pick out those universes, even if they are a tiny, tiny faction of the total collection of universes. If there were 101000 universes then there needn’t be anything special about parameters that lead to life in order for there to be sentient life-forms asking that question, somewhere.

    For comparison, life as we know it can only exist on planets in the “habitable zone” range of distances from a star. Yet we don’t say that some intelligent agent must have ensured that Earth-like planets are only placed within that zone. Instead, we now know that planets are abundant around stars, and that these planets are strewn around with a whole range of distances. Thus some fraction end up, by chance not design, in the habitable zone.

    (5) Even if the universe were a one-off, so what? The things present in that universe would still be specific to that universe. In the same way, if you throw one dice a thousand times you create a highly improbable number (with a likelihood of only 1-in-61000, which is 1-in-10778). Would you argue that the universe had to have been fine-tuned to produce the number you’ve just got? Nope, there could simply have been some other number. The outcome would only be remarkable if there was something special about that number.

    So do you want to claim as an axiom that there is something special about intelligent life? You need to claim that, but if you do you’ve created an entirely circular argument. You start off with the axiom that there is something special about intelligent life – and guess what, you end up with the conclusion that the universe possesses the special property of intelligence (which you want to be the creator you are hankering after). But you’ve just assumed your conclusion in your axiom! Try repeating the argument without making any assumption that intelligent life is special – then you’d get nowhere.

    (6) And above all: your “creator” explanation gets you nowhere! It explains nothing. All it lands you with is something even harder to explain, even more remarkable, even more improbable. And trying to pretend that your creator god is not, actually, all that remarkable and doesn’t, actually, need an explanation, is a preposterous evasion.

    SOURCE: http://coelsblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/a-fine-tuned-universe-argues-for-atheism/

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    MARK TWAIN’S take on the fine-tuning argument was simply to ask questions, such as how we can be sure the whole drama of life on earth played out just so the human species could arise? With all of the extinctions and dead ends of cousin species over time, and with a species like humanity thinking so highly of itself though it’s only been around a very brief amount of time compared with the length of time other species have been around, like ones that have lived far longer than we have thus far. In fact humanity has only been around for so brief a time that Twain compared humanity’s time to the coat of paint on the tip of the Eiffel Tower, but humans imagine the whole tower was created just to bring them about. Twain concluded, “I dunno.”

    To which I would add, we don’t know where the future leads, so according to Twain’s analogy the history of life on earth is a Tower with unknown future growth potential, as well as unknown extinction potential. Humans could engineer themselves into something with far greater intelligence via biological or AI augmentation and look at our present day species and accomplishments like we look at Homo Habilis the stone chipper. Or AI supersedes us after it learns how to upgrade itself faster than we humans can upgrade our own species. Or, we devolve or become extinct after an asteroid or solar flare or global warming, and a different species evolves consciousness in the next billion years and imagines itself to be “the coat of paint on the top of a tower.” Or only bacteria are left on earth and the planet hobbles along until the sun expands and the remaining stars in the cosmos simply continue to burn for billions more years.

    SOURCE: http://etb-intelligent-design.blogspot.com/2012/03/mark-twain-questions-intelligent-design.html
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    This http://quasar.as.utexas.edu/anthropic.html is a more technical answer to the fine tuning argument that, quite honestly, I don’t understand completely. But the points I get are quite good, and it has generated a lot of counters from apologists.
    _______________________________

    Richard Carrier’s essay on the fine-tuning argument in The End of Christianity is also quite good. I have a version I am attempting to edit into something more concise.

    ________________________________

    POSTSCRIPT, WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?

    Or, why do Christians imagine we are here?

    If Christianity is true then we are here to convince others that one particular “church,” and/or, one particular collection of writings are divinely inspired moreso than any others. No other “church,” or, no other writings or passages found in any other books in the world are more important or more inspired by God than these. And we are here to convince others that there are a limited number of interpretations of those particular writings beyond which one much not suggest further interpretations, nor continue to ask questions, though some versions of Christianity permit more questions than others. And once one is convinced of that, one must go convince others. So we are here to sell each other beliefs, perhaps so that no one will be eyeing anyone suspiciously in the afterlife. In other words, life, the universe, and everything boils down to a heavenly pyramid scheme. You are a salesperson for Christ, and once you get your foot in the door you must continue pressing the sale until the other person has bought everything in the trunk labeled Christianity and then that person has to go round selling the same trunkful to others. If they don’t buy it, or if they only buy some of what’s in the trunk, it’s not enough. And the sales people go back to their retreat every weekend to get fired up by their sales manager, so they can go back out and continue selling, putting bumper stickers on their cars, putting up satellite networks, giving money regularly for evangelism.

    That’s what we’re here for.

    Or maybe everyone who believes their religion is the only true one winds up with blinder on their face or bags over their heads in heaven, just so that they can continue believing they and their fellow church goers are the only ones there?

  • http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/ed_babinski/babinski-bio.html EdwardTBabinski

    Jeff, Your questions are good, in each case the cosmos is only fine-tuned enough to get to the point where it needs more tuning. So it’s miracle piled on miracle, Intervention after Intervention. The clockmaker makes such an excellently tuned clock (cosmos) that he must keep stepping back into the room to add features to the host of smaller clocks that eventually arise from the initial clock (the cosmos). It’s a series of Tinkering events, one after the other, after the other. A Divine Tinkerer at most, with plenty of dead ends along the way. Perhaps even dead cosmoses in the past before ours.


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