In part 1, I listed a few other posts that respond to the fine-tuning argument (the physical parameters that define our universe had to be pretty much exactly what they are or else life would’ve been impossible). I also gave four innovative responses that you rarely hear. We’ll conclude with the final two.
5. Atheist Single Universe Hypothesis
Another response is Keith Parsons’ critique of the Atheist Single Universe Hypothesis (ASUH). The fine-tuning argument says that our universe is very unlikely. The multiverse is the obvious atheist response, but what do you say if the multiverse isn’t an option? That’s the ASUH.
If there is only one universe, Parsons wonders, what sense does it make to say that the constants that define that universe could be something else? How could they be anything else without other universes for them to be in? “If the universe is the ultimate brute fact, it is neither likely nor unlikely, probable or improbable; it simply is.” We don’t have billions of universes to evaluate, some designed and some natural, so that we have some probabilistic framework in which to place our own universe and evaluate its likeliness. Therefore, imagining that we can evaluate the likelihood of our own poorly understood universe makes no sense. You say our universe looks designed? Compared to what?
We must say that the values of the constants are neither probable nor improbable; they just are. In that case, as the proponent of the ASUH sees it, the only rational expectation of the values of the constants is that they will be whatever we find them to be.
ASUH supporters posit the universe and its laws as brute, inexplicable facts, but Christian apologists do the same. They posit God as a brute, inexplicable fact.
Parsons concludes by turning the fine-tuning argument on the apologist. If we’re insanely lucky to be in a life-friendly universe (according to the apologist’s thinking), there must have been a supernatural Fine Tuner to create this universe. But, by recursively applying this thinking to the Fine Tuner, the fine-tuning problem falls on the Christian. There’s a myriad of conceivable supernatural beings. Christians must marvel at our good fortune to have one who wanted humans (rather than any of the infinite number of other possible intelligent life forms) and had the power to fine tune the universe so that we’re here to seek out this Creator.
6. Evaluating all the probabilities
Is the fine-tuning argument even well formed? It weighs the likelihood of (1) the universe is all natural vs. (2) God created it, and it concludes: The probability of Hypothesis 1 is very small; therefore, Hypothesis 2 is true
Wait a minute—let’s find out the probability of Hypothesis 2 before we make any conclusions!
We’re evaluating the probability of the parameters that define our universe being natural vs. being created by a supernatural Creator without having any idea what the probability of this Creator is. And since the fine-tuning argument is trying to establish the probability of the Creator (its conclusion is typically “therefore, the Creator probably exists”), it’s circular reasoning if that’s one of the inputs to the process!
One snappy answer is to say that most people throughout history have been theists, so atheist skepticism at least loses the popularity contest. However, this unanimity falls apart when probe theists’ beliefs with the most basic questions: How many gods are there? What are their names? Why are humans here, and what is our purpose with respect to these god(s)? Pick any religion, and the majority of the world thinks that its answers to those questions are wrong.
What does the theist admit when using this argument?
Consider the theist’s desperation in advancing an argument like this. For most plausible claims of existence, we are given evidence. You want to know what “the sun” is? Just look up on a sunny day, and there it is. Some things need indirect evaluation, and for this we use instruments such as telescopes or microscopes, but this evidence can be just as compelling.
But for God, the most important thing of all, we get just a vague shadow. If God loves us and desperately wants us to know him, he would make his existence known. He doesn’t.
So—option B—we assume God’s existence (for no good reason, but ignore that for now) and say that he wants to be an enigma for his own reasons that are unknowable to us. This thinking is necessary for the fine-tuning argument. But, of course, if he wanted to be hidden, he would be so! If you’re playing hide and seek with God, you will lose. He’s God—he could leave no trace, and there would be no enigma.
That leaves only option C for the Christian: that God deliberately leaves the vaguest of clues—only enough to tease the seeker. This is rarely enough to give much confidence, so the Christian is always on edge, never quite sure whether he’s got it right or is going to hell. The Christian is like a pigeon in a Skinner experiment on intermittent reinforcement.
Mother Teresa wrote about her doubts, “The damned of hell suffer eternal punishment because they experiment with the loss of God. In my own soul, I feel the terrible pain of this loss. I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God and that he does not really exist.”
By arguing for deistic arguments like the fine-tuning argument, apologists argue for this trickster god.
The skeptical mind prefers to rest in the mystery of the visible world
without going beyond it to a further invisible mystery.
— John Hick
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 4/30/14.)
Image credit: Ed Garcia, flickr, CC