apologetics, arguments for God, philosophy, The Teleological Argument

Our Spooky Universe: Fine-Tuning and God

The Fine-Tuning Argument for the existence of God has been acknowledged as one of the most powerful arguments for theism. Proponents of this argument, also known as the teleological argument note that our universe is “spooky.” So many facets of our universe appear designed. It is startling to me to read about many of these in literature and realize that the very fingers of God seem apparent in these qualities of our universe. The way that these pieces fit together should not be viewed as independent variables. Any theory which seeks to explain the features of our universe must take into account the full range of factors.

The Argument Stated

The fine-tuning argument for the existence of God can be stated fairly simply:

1) The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design

2) It is not due to physical necessity or chance

3) Therefore, it is due to design (Craig 1, 161 cited below)

The first premise turns on the notion of “fine-tuning”–something which is widely acknowledged to exist. It is the explanation of this fine-tuning that becomes controversial. Before trying to offer a way forward in this controversy, it will be prudent to list some of these evidences for fine tuning. Finally, before diving it it should be noticed that this argument can be seen probabilistically: that is, one should view it in light of which is more probable- are the properties we observe more probable in a universe that came about by chance, design, or necessity?

Various Evidences for Fine-Tuning

There are any number of independent, fine-tuned factors which make our universe capable of sustaining life. Without these factors in place, our universe would be uninhabited, and we would not exist.

Low Entropy

If the entropy in our universe were high, then the energy required for life to function would be distributed in such a way as to make the complexity required for life impossible. In order to determine the likelihood of a life-permitting range for a universe, Roger Penrose calculated the total entropy in our universe as “equal to the total number of baryons (protons and neutrons) in the universe… times the entropy per baryon… which yields a total entropy of 10^123.” This means that our universe falls within a range of accuracy regarding entropy of one part in 10 to the 10th to the 123rd power, 10^10^123. As Penrose put it, “the Creator’s aim must have been… to an accuracy of one part in 10^10^123″ (quoted in Spitzer, 58).

The Existence of Matter

The very existence of matter is something which cries out for explanation. Why? Well, to put it as simply as possible, the basic particles of matter, quarks and anti-quarks form via pair production. They annihilate each other.

However, during the Big Bang, a slight asymmetry in this pair production resulted in approximately 1 extra particle of matter for every 10 billion produced.

It turns out that this 1 in 10 billion ratio of “leftover particles” happens to be the exact amount of mass necessary for the formation of stars, galaxies, and planets. As much as 2 in 10 billion, and the universe would have just been filled with black holes. As little as 0.5 in 10 billion, and there would not have been enough density for galaxies to form. (Bloom, cited in Rodgers).

The Nuclear Binding Force

If the nuclear binding force were much about 2% stronger, then the universe would form mega-elements which would make life impossible. Our universe would be filled with black holes and neutron stars. Furthermore, if it were weaker by about 5%, we would eliminate a large portion of the periodic table…. in fact, it would reduce it so much as to make the universe composed entirely of hydrogen (Bloom, cited in Rodgers).

Rock_StrataThe Properties of Water

Water is required for life. Don’t take my word for it: just look into the works of those who are working on investigating the origins of life, people like Iris Fry or Paul Davies. Yet water itself has a number of very unique properties. Water is a simple compound to form, but it is enormously versatile and unique. For example, it takes up more space a solid than as a liquid, which is extremely strange. This allows there to be liquid water that doesn’t freeze from the bottom of the oceans. If water froze from the bottom, it would turn planets like Earth into a frozen wasteland because the water would never melt–there wouldn’t be enough energy to melt all the ice. Furthermore, the chemical structure of water suggests that it should be a gas as opposed to a liquid at the temperatures that it remains a liquid. Water being liquid at its temperature range also makes it optimal for life, because the temperature that other compounds would be liquid would be prohibitive for life. Water also has an unusual specific heat, which means that it takes a lot of energy to change its temperature. Water also becomes more dense when it is liquid than when it is solid, which is highly unusual.

Water also has high adhesion which is critical for plants to grow. They rely upon capillary action with cohesion to grow upwards. This would be impossible if water were less cohesive. Water is a universal solvent, which is important for life because life relies upon a medium for chemistry to occur. If the medium were gas, the interactions would be too far apart, while if it were solid the interactions would occur to slowly or there wouldn’t be enough movement within the substance for chemical interactions needed for life to occur. Perhaps most “spooky” of all, a more recent discovery hints that water has quantum effects which cancel each other out, reducing the effects of quantum indeterminacy on the covalent bonds in water. This allows for water to have many of the properties outlined above.

There is no set number to assign to this chemicals of water, but it should be seen that property after property regarding water lines up exactly with the needs for life.

For a more in-depth discussion of the “spooky” properties of water, see the RTB Podcast on the topic.

Gravity

If gravity were increased by a significant margin, complex life could not exist due to their own weight. Even if life only came to be in water, the density of such life would have to be high simply to resist gravitation, which would again make complex life impossible. The lifespan of stars would also be reduced if gravity were increased by about a factor of 3,000 (or more). Robin Collins, in noting gravity as fine-tuned, argues:

Of course, an increase in the strength of gravity by a factor of 3,000 is significant, but compared to the total range of strengths of the forces in nature… this still amounts to a… fine-tuning of approximately one part in 10^36 (Collins, 190, cited below).

More

There are more of these requirements for fine tuning found in a number of the sources I cite below. But even looking at those I have outlined here, the possibility for our universe to exist as a life-permitting universe is absurdly low. It is so small that it baffles the imagination.

exoplanet-2The Fine-Tuning is Neither Chance nor Necessity

Robert Spitzer outlines the argument which leads from these constants to design:

1) The values of universal constants… must fall within a very narrow, closed range in order to allow any life form to develop

2) …the possible values that these universal constants could have had that would have disallowed any life form from developing are astronomically higher (falling within a virtually open range)

3) Therefore, the odds against an anthropic condition occurring are astronomically high, making any life form… exceedingly improbable. This makes it highly, highly unlikely that the conditions for life in the universe occurred by pure chance, which begs for an explanation (Spitzer, 50, cited below)

Thus, the argument turns on this  contention: is it reasonable to think that the fine-tuning we observe in our universe is based merely upon chance? Now it is important here to realize that any of the three proposed explanations for the fine-tuning of our universe must carry the burden of proof for their position. That is, if someone puts “chance” out there as the explanation for the fine-tuning in the universe, they must defend their position as being more probable than the hypotheses of necessity and design.

Therefore, it is not enough to simply say that “anything is possible.” The key point is that any theory must take into account the full range of intersecting evidences for fine tuning. To make the inference for design, furthermore, is not a failure to attempt explanation. Instead, it is itself an explanation. The argument is that design is the best way to explain the evidence for fine-tuning in the universe.

William Lane Craig notes that it is important to take into account that the probability in play in the teleological argument is epistemic  probability. That is, is it reasonable to believe that our life-permitting universe occurred merely by chance (Craig 2, 169)? Again, turning to Spitzer’s contention above and taking into account the enormously huge range of possibilities that turn against a life-permitting universe, one has to take into account the fact that it is almost infinitely more probable that a universe would be lifeless than to be one that has life. Yet Spitzer’s point is also that there is a “closed range” for values which are life-permitting. That is, there is only a limited set of values which will allow for their to be life. Yet the range of values which are life prohibiting is essentially open–that is, it is infinite. Therefore, the fact that our universe exists and is life permitting makes it reasonable to believe that it was designed. Design is the only explanation which can account for the full range of the evidence, for it explains why our universe would fall within a specific set of parameters which all must be aligned in order to meet the end of life. In the set of possible worlds, purposeless chance would give us an extraordinarily higher probability of having a lifeless universe, while necessity fails to provide any explanation at all. Only design provides a reason to believe that a life permitting universe would be the one to be brought into existence.

One may object by saying “well of course, but our universe is life permitting, so it appears that we hit the jackpot.” It should be seen now that that just begs the question. The person who makes this argument is in fact assuming that chance is the explanation without providing any evidence to think this is the case. Again, when one considers how vastly improbable our universe is, the most reasonable conclusion is that it is not, in fact, a random occurrence. As John Bloom put it, it would be like throwing a dart from outer space and hitting a bullseye on the surface of the earth that is smaller than a single atom. In other words, it is statistically impossible.

One may also object by noting that all universes are equally improbable, so our universe had to have some values. But again this misses the point. The argument is not that our universe is improbable, but rather that our universe, as life-permitting, is part of a limited set of possibilities against the much larger realm of possible worlds. In other words, the fact that our universe is life-permitting rather than life-prohibiting is what is surprising–not the brute fact of its existence. Although the fact of the universe’s existence is itself something in need of explanation.

Yet what about necessity? Is it possible that our universe simply has the constants that it has due to some kind of necessity? Here, mere physical necessity will not do as an explanation. For something which is physically necessary is not metaphysically necessary. That is, something can happen due to laws of nature and the like, while not being something required by logical necessity. Thus, it seems the burden of proof in this case is upon the one claiming that the universe is metaphysically necessary to show their case to be more reasonable than the chance and design hypotheses. Frankly, I think that the prospect is quite bleak.

Conclusion

We have noted a number of scientific evidences for the fine-tuning of the universe. These form our data set that any theory needs to explain. Chance has been found epistemologically wanting. It is simply not reasonable to say that chance is the explanation. Necessity seems to fare no better. There is no way to account for the necessity of the universe, and in fact our universe seems to be apparently contingent. Therefore, the most reasonable explanation for the apparent design in our universe is to infer that there is, in fact, a designer. Our universe is not so much spooky as it is spectacular.

Links

Evidence for God: A Fine-Tuned Universe- Matt Rodgers gives a great summary of a talk by John Bloom I attended as well. This post gives a really concise summary of a number of the evidences for fine-tuning.

The Teleological Argument- I present Robin Collins’ version of the fine-tuning argument and briefly defend it against a few objections. The Past, Probability, and Teleology- I answer a few objections to the teleological argument.

What about the multiverse? I have answered a number of issues related to the multiverse in my previous posts on the topic.

Max Andrews offers a discussion of the multiverse and the fine-tuning argument, wherein he notes that the existence of a multiverse does not undermine the argument.

Sources and Further Reading

John Bloom, “A Fine-Tuned Universe.” Lecture given at the EPS Apologetics Conference, 2012.

Robin Collins, “Evidence for Fine Tuning” in God and Design (London: Routledge, 2003),178-199.

William Lane Craig 1, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).

William Lane Craig 2, “Design and the Anthropic Fine-Tuning of the Universe” in  God and Design (London: Routledge, 2003), 155-177.

Fazale Rana, “Science News Flash: ‘Water Fine-Tuned for Life’” (October 27, 2011). Reasons to Believe.

Matt Rodgers, “Evidence for God: A Fine-Tuned Universe.”

Robert Spitzer, New Proofs for the Existence of God (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2010).

SDG.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

40 thoughts on “Our Spooky Universe: Fine-Tuning and God

  1. I don’t think you have addressed the necessity argument very well. Under any kind of deterministic framework (including deterministic brands of QM), physical necessity and logical necessity are the same thing; contingency and necessity are functionally synonymous; and all counterfactuals are references to “false, imaginary, and impossible worlds.”

    *When under this paradigm,* it’s gravely problematic to treat anything, particularly universal constants, as “variables.” They’re not variables; they’re constants. And it’s plausible that their definitions are tightly woven together such that “doubling gravity” is complete nonsense.

    This paradigm being true represents far fewer entities than that which requires a transcendent, intelligent designer with motivations.

    I do believe in that designer. But I don’t believe the necessity argument has been defeated.

    Posted by Stan | January 28, 2013, 11:46 AM
    • I do not think your comment really does anything to show that in a deterministic framework physical and logical necessity are the same. In fact, the very distinction continues to hold. It is contingently possible that there is a deterministic world; but a deterministic universe does not entail its own metaphysical necessity.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 28, 2013, 11:56 AM
      • Under determinism, all talk of “contingent possibilities” are merely poorly-worded statements about the fact that we don’t know something, the reality being that these “contingent possibilities” we imagine and propose are all false and metaphysically impossible.

        Here’s the wrinkle: You and I agree that we don’t know if determinism is true. A certain indeterministic perspective might say of that, “determinism is merely contingently possible.” But the only way to leverage statements about “contingent possibility” is to assume determinism is false; determinism says “that statement is nonsense, and is evidence of philosophical language being corrupted by metaphysical libertarian descriptions of what is merely epistemological.”

        To put it another way: You have to assume that determinism is false in order for the statement “It is contingently possible that determinism is true, and contingently possible that it is false” to have any meaning. You are stuck picking your allegiance from the get-go if you wish to employ “contingent possibilities.”

        Posted by Stan | January 28, 2013, 12:09 PM
      • I think you are confusing modal properties with individual world properties. A deterministic universe is a possible world, but not modally necessary. I have yet to see you make an argument for that claim.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 28, 2013, 4:54 PM
  2. Using the word “possible” to describe non-actual worlds is meaningful if and only if determinism is false. If determinism is true, non-actual worlds are not modally possible (because the actual world is necessary). Something is modally possible if and only if its negation is not necessary.

    If determinism is true, then determinism is necessary.

    Now, I’m not saying that we know whether determinism is true. We don’t. But that’s the most we can say; the minute we say “There are multiple modally possible worlds,” we have also said, “Let us assume that determinism is false.”

    Posted by Stan | January 28, 2013, 5:25 PM
    • One deterministic world does not negate all other possible worlds. The simple existence of one world out of logical necessity does not distort the entire world-set. Again, I still haven’t seen an argument for this claim.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 28, 2013, 5:27 PM
      • If the existence of one particular world is modally necessary, then all other worlds are modally IMpossible. That’s basic modal logic!

        Folks who wish to invoke “possible worlds” MUST say that none of them are necessary.

        Posted by Stan | January 28, 2013, 5:41 PM
      • That is not basic modal logic. I’m not sure you’re using the term “possible world” in the same sense as it is used in modal logic. You are stating the notion that, W being the actual world, and A’ is the set of all other possible worlds: If □W, then ~□A’. But of course it doesn’t follow that □W yields ~□A’. All □W shows is that ◊□W and ~(~◊□W). Your argument is not basic modal logic in any way. It is in fact a confusion of basic modal logic. The instantiation of one world out of the set of possible worlds does not mean that all others are necessarily impossible. All it means is that one possible world exists. Adding necessity onto that world (W) means only that W could not fail to exist. It has no bearing on the entire world-set.

        And again, the very existence of a logically necessary world is what is up for debate, and I have yet to see an argument towards that conclusion.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 28, 2013, 6:32 PM
      • Just to be safe I looked this up in Hughes’ and Cresswell’s A New Introduction to Modal Logic because, to be fair, I haven’t brushed up on modality in a while. And yes, it seems that your notion is confused about possible worlds. All that is entailed by □W is that ◊□W (and vice versa) and ~(~◊□W). It doesn’t destroy the entire set of other possibilities, it merely means that [at least] one world is necessary.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 28, 2013, 6:38 PM
  3. Great article, Wartick. I’m apologist from Brazil. Please, like http://www.fb.com/logosapologetica

    Posted by Estevão Dollinger | January 28, 2013, 6:50 PM
  4. Would you be willing to restate or summarize how you dispatch with the physical necessity of our universe’s tuning? I don’t understand what metaphysical necessity has to do with it.

    Posted by Walt | January 30, 2013, 6:52 PM
    • Certainly! Physical necessity is a contingent property of our universe. For example, it is physically necessary that if I drop something, it is going to fall (gravity). Of course, this is debate on the quantum level, but that actually just illustrates my point even better: things which are physically necessary are aspects of a possible world, as opposed to metaphysical necessity, which are things true in every possible world. It is possible (metaphysically) that the physically impossible would be different (i.e. things could ‘fall up’ in a world wherein there was some kind of repelling force).

      So there is a distinction between what is physically necessary and what is metaphysically necessary. If the fine-tuning in our universe is physically necessary, that doesn’t say anything at all about the overall probability of that fine-tuning. All it tells us is that in a universe like ours, fine-tuning will exist.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 31, 2013, 6:02 PM
  5. J.W., you are absolutely correct that what I cited as “against basic modal logic!” was not, in fact, that. Rather, it’s only against some systems of modal logic (e.g., S5). If we don’t share that starting point, then I have to invoke a kind of “if supernecessity is true,” “super” being such that “the square must lead.” And the current unresolved state of modal logic allows you and I to comically and frantically push our preferred symbol up front, forever.

    Posted by Stan | February 4, 2013, 4:45 PM
  6. Rewind just a second: What axioms or systems have “□W -> ◊□W” and “□W -> ~◊□W”? I’m not seeing where those are coming from, nor do they seem to follow for me, especially the second one.

    Posted by Stan | February 4, 2013, 5:40 PM
    • Where are you reading on this topic? Not to be rude, but I’m honestly getting the feeling that you’re using terminology you’re not entirely familiar with. That axiom is the primary axiom of S5 modality… If possibly necessarily P, then Necessarily p. Going off Hughes and Cresswell again, they name it “E” (p. 58). Perhaps it would be better to drop your critique entirely. Again, I’m not trying to make myself seem smarter, I haven’t had a logic class in some time; but even with that knowledge, I know that you’re just mistaken on a number of things you’re saying. It seems to me like I’m arguing against random searches from Google more than with a critique of my position, and I don’t think that is fair to either one of us.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 4, 2013, 5:55 PM
      • What I’m saying going forward is that unless you present me with some actual reason for thinking I’m mistaken (i.e. a logical proof of some sort), then I really do fail to see what your critique is supposed to mean. The argument you’re making is exactly backwards of what is the case regarding modality.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 4, 2013, 5:56 PM
  7. You said,

    “That axiom is the primary axiom of S5 modality… if possibly necessarily P, then Necessarily p.”

    i.e., ◊□P -> □P.

    While that is a theorem of S5, it’s not the primary axiom of S5 modality.

    “E” is ◊P -> □◊P.

    And that is CERTAINLY not □P -> ~◊□P. I’m not sure where you’re getting that from. “If it is necessary that God exists, then it is not possible that God necessarily exists.” Huh?

    Posted by Stan | February 4, 2013, 7:09 PM
    • Yep, you caught a typo on that one. It entails ~(~◊□P). I have amended my comments.

      Now going back to the original argument… we still have no way that your point follows. What you need for □P to entail is ~◊□W, but it doesn’t. Necessary worlds do not negate the whole set of all other possible worlds. They only negate their contradiction. So your argument still doesn’t work. Thanks for picking up the typo, though.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 4, 2013, 7:23 PM
      • Also, going by the textbook on modal logic in my hand (which may be mistaken… that is possible!), it is an axiom, not a theorem. Let’s stop quibbling over this, though. Give me your actual argument. How in any way does the necessary existence of a world entail the necessary impossibility of every other world?

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 4, 2013, 7:29 PM
      • No, I just need □W to entail ~◊~W. Which it does, as a fundamental operator definition.

        Let W be Kronos and ~W be any world that isn’t Kronos. Take your pick, there are infinite to choose from.

        □Kronos is literally the same thing as ~◊(the world chosen).

        If Kronos is necessary, then each other world is impossible. Don’t treat the other worlds as a set, you’ll run into abstraction-layer mismatch. Iterate through them.

        Posted by Stan | February 4, 2013, 7:36 PM
      • Okay, well part of the confusion is that we’re both using modal operators for worlds, which neither of us should do. Worlds are maximal, self consistent, complete sets. Thus, we can’t really use modal operators for them and we’ve both been playing fast and loose with them. We shouldn’t. Your argument is based upon taking a “world” as a proposition and then making that world necessary. But a world is indeed a set, and so modal operators don’t really apply.

        So yes, I’ve been pretty much mistaken across the board in using modal operators in relation to possible worlds. A little bit more research into it has cleared that up for me.

        So taking several steps back: your argument at the beginning was this:

        Under any kind of deterministic framework (including deterministic brands of QM), physical necessity and logical necessity are the same thing; contingency and necessity are functionally synonymous; and all counterfactuals are references to “false, imaginary, and impossible worlds.”

        Setting aside possible worlds and set theory, I’m still waiting to see an argument for how physical necessity could possibly entail logical necessity (or be the “same thing,” whatever that means).

        Physical necessity is a quality of a physical universe. Physical determinism merely entails the existence of contingent laws of our physical universe which are never violated. It does not have an entailment of logical necessity. Period.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 4, 2013, 8:34 PM
  8. I need to weaken my original claim a bit, it was very sloppily worded. I should say that under determinism, physically necessary things are also logically necessary.* I should not have said “physical necessity and logical necessity are the same thing.”

    Here’s the argument:

    (1)

    Determinism says “all effects proceed from sufficient causes.” So the following would be a logical contradiction (and thus false):

    “Determinism is true and an effect occurred that did not proceed from sufficient causes.”

    I’m not sure you agree with 1. If you do, I can proceed.

    (2)

    Now, if everything is physically necessary, determinism implies many more statements than simply, “all effects proceed from sufficient causes.” In fact, determinism makes innumerable implicit statements, one for everything that has ever occurred or will occur.

    For any thing that occurs, determinism makes an implied claim about its having sufficient causes. Furthermore, it makes an implied claim about its ACTUAL causes, since there is no room for Lewis-style “miracles” in the actualized world.

    We now have a near-infinite or infinite number of implicit claims. The claim “determinism is true” makes all of these claims.

    (3)

    Iterate through each implicit claim under the umbrella of “determinism is true” and evaluate its truth value.

    If the current claim being evaluated is false, then determinism is false.

    Thus, IFF it is GRANTED that determinism is true, things that are physically necessary are also logically necessary.

    (Then, back to my original post…)

    This is why I said,

    “When under this paradigm, it’s gravely problematic to treat anything, particularly universal constants, as ‘variables.’ They’re not variables; they’re constants. And it’s plausible that their definitions are tightly woven together such that ‘doubling gravity’ is complete nonsense.

    You said,

    “Physical determinism merely entails the existence of contingent laws of our physical universe which are never violated.”

    Many philosophers imagine that physical laws are metaphysically contingent. But “many” and “imagine” doesn’t a cake bake.

    * To be precise, I am invoking determinism with the fewest “non-questioned” entities (i.e., under physicalism). Determinism “only for everything after Ptah” certainly doesn’t imply metaphysical necessity, for instance.

    Posted by Stan | February 5, 2013, 4:41 PM
    • Okay, time to respond finally. Sorry for the delay.

      I do not agree with 1 because you have expanded its scope past its own world. By definition, possible worlds do not interact with each other. They are outside of each other’s causal powers. I cannot reach into another possible world and make things in it change. It is a defined set of propositions. One world’s existence does not preclude another world’s existence.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 16, 2013, 2:07 AM
  9. (Also, I don’t agree that we can’t use modal operators “because worlds are sets.” People are sets, too, of chemicals and fluids and cells, which in turn are sets of particles, etc. Almost everything we talk about is an aggregate of subcomponents; we invoke those aggregates as units anyway.)

    Posted by Stan | February 5, 2013, 4:58 PM
    • To expand on that, what I meant by “don’t treat other worlds as a set” is “don’t compare this cell to your other cells in aggregate; compare this cell to your other cells in iteration.” Obviously each world is a set unto itself, as is a cell, etc.

      Posted by Stan | February 5, 2013, 5:00 PM
  10. J.W. you said:

    “For something which is physically necessary is not metaphysically necessary. That is, something can happen due to laws of nature and the like, while not being something required by logical necessity. Thus, it seems the burden of proof in this case is upon the one claiming that the universe is metaphysically necessary to show their case to be more reasonable than the chance and design hypotheses. Frankly, I think that the prospect is quite bleak.”

    You have established that nomological necessity is not the same as metaphysical necessity, but you have not established why a naturalist needs to argue for metaphysical necessity. You have also used the term “logical necessity” several times, seemingly as a stand-in for metaphysical necessity, which is confusing, seeing as the terms are not synonymous.

    I’m actually not even sure in what context you are using the term “metaphysical necessity”. In the context of the universe possibly developing into other, potentially lifeless physical states, a naturalist only needs to establish nomological necessity. Now perhaps you are arguing that the naturalist must also explain why this is the case, or maybe even why there is a universe at all, but that is not at all clear from your words.

    Many naturalists would argue that they only need to maintain the nomological necessity of the values of physical constants because there is no precedent for supposing that the values of physical constants in the current universe could have other possible states. So it is therefore assumed by default that that it is not possible that the universe’s physical constants could not be their current value, at least until evidence surfaces to indicate that physical constants have inherent degrees of freedom allowing them to have potentially taken on values other than what they currently are.

    Posted by James Angleton (@JamesAngleton1) | February 18, 2013, 2:43 AM
  11. Thought I should add Niel Tyson’s take – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mij4DYYnkF8

    Posted by C | March 26, 2013, 6:08 PM
  12. This is one of the best arguments for theism? Really?

    As the Templeton-prize-winning physicist Paul Davies points out at the end of his book The Goldilocks Enigma, even setting aside all the other difficulties:

    “The other main problem with intelligent design [incl fine-tuning args for God] is that identity of the designer need bear no relation at all to the God of traditional monotheism. The “designing agency” can be a committee of gods, for example. The designer can be a natural being or beings, such as an evolved super-mind or super-civilization existing in a previous universe, or in another section of our universe, which made our universe using super-technology. The designer can also be some sort of superdupercomputer simulating this universe. So invoking a super-intellect…is fraught with problems.” P300. The Goldilocks Enigma. Penguin books, London, 2007.

    Davies is correct, of course. The even if the supposedly fine-tuned features of the universe did point towards a designer, they no more point towards the existence of the Christian God than they point towards the universe being a computer-generated simulation, or the creation of an earlier super-civilization, or, of course, some other sort of god. Before dismissing the hypothesis that the universe is a simulation, consider this: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/11/physicists-may-have-evide_n_1957777.html

    There is, in addition, a significant, well-known empirical challenge to the all-powerful, all-good god hypothesis which is ignored here. The evidential problem of evil. Even if there were good reason to suppose an intelligence designed our universe, why suppose it’s all-powerful and all-good, particularly given e.g. hundreds of millions of years of appalling suffering, including 200,000 years of 1/3 to 1/2 of every generation of human children dying, usually horribly, before they reach the age of 5? Should I put that down to God’s mysterious ways?

    Posted by Stephen Law (@stephenlaw60) | April 23, 2013, 2:43 PM
    • Stephen, you seem to fault the design argument for what it does not prove rather than faulting it for anything it claims to prove. It claims to prove that the universe was designed, which you apparently don’t dispute. It doesn’t claim to prove that the God of one religion or another is the designer. Your whole response strikes me as being irrelevant.

      Posted by Sam | April 23, 2013, 5:25 PM
    • Stephen: Sure, but that’s not the only arrow in our quiver. I don’t believe in the 360 archons who sub-contracted out construction of the human body in the Gnostic system among other reasons, because Occam would throw his razor at me. As I argued in debate with Richard Carrier in February, God also transcends cultures, and therefore is more credible than gods that are the creation of particular cultures. Also, I find Jesus credible, for a whole variety of reasons, but not, say, Joseph Smith.

      Personally, I think all those little kids go straight to heaven, and are having the last laugh. But sure, I ask God “why” as often as the next guy, and have not been told all the details.

      Posted by David Marshall | April 23, 2013, 5:32 PM
    • There is a very strong cumulative case for theism. Not so for naturalism.

      The Problem of Evil

      Man’s moral failure causes sin through our poor use of free will. If God grants genuine freedom, then He allows the consequences of man’s choices. It would be a contradiction to have freedom of choice, but not have the bad decisions and the ugly consequences that follow. So God and evil can co-exist.
      It is not improbable that God would allow the pain and suffering in the world even when the suffering seems gratuitous and appears to have no redeemable value. We can’t judge an infinite God. We are not in position to see how God uses the evil in the world to bring about His purposes. I can see one domino fall, but I can’t see how many more fell as a result. It is certainly not possible to rule out that God uses the pain and suffering to encourage compassion and humility. History definitely shows that suffering drives many to God which is His ultimate purpose for us. So it cannot be shown that it is improbable that God would allow the pain and suffering in the world.
      The chief purpose of life is not happiness, but rather growing in our knowledge of God. Given Christian theology, it is more probable that God and evil co-exist in the world. Many painful events would be pointless if you believed God’s job was to provide earthly happiness, but God can use suffering to teach humility and greater dependence on Him. There is a definite correlation between suffering in the world and coming to Christ as we tend not to seek God when we are comfortable and prosperous.
      God doesn’t have to be “good” to those who rebel against Him. Christianity also declares that man is in a state of rebellion against God. We do not want to submit to God, but rather wish to pursue our own selfish desires. As the Bible says, “God gave them up” to their sinful nature. Since God stands for all the good and love in the world, man’s moving away from Him produces tragic consequences.
      Christians also believe that this life is not all there is. They choose to bear the earthly suffering while looking forward to eternal joy beyond our comprehension. Christians live this life with an eye on eternity, believing that those in heaven would gladly go through terrible hardship many times over in order to achieve the eternal enjoyment of heaven.
      Knowledge of God is an incomprehensible good. The suffering of this life cannot compare to the knowledge of the all-loving and all-good Creator. All the suffering in the world would be small in comparison to being in the presence of an infinite and righteous God. So given Christian theology, it is even more likely that evil would exist in the world.
      God does not stand idly by while we suffer. The Bible has a lot to say on this subject. God has come down to our level and shares our suffering. Christ suffered terribly even though He was blameless. He has modeled the way to live our lives and He suffered greatly. If Christ is the model, why would we expect not to suffer? 1 Peter 2:21(b) states this saying “. . . since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example to follow in His steps.”
      The true problem of evil is our own moral crimes and sin. The question is not how God can justify Himself to us, but how do we justify our sinfulness to God? Certainly if God loves us so much that He has sent His son to suffer and die for us, then we can bear this life’s pain, remembering that this life is just a moment compared to eternity.
      God is the final answer to evil. If God does not exist, then we are locked into a world of hatred and violence that will never be justified. But if He does exist, He loves us and redeems us from evil through the cross. Christians can confront evil and have an ultimate solution. The absence of God is thus truly painful while the presence of God is the fulfillment of human existence.

      Posted by Davis | April 23, 2013, 5:39 PM
    • Hi Stephen. I was surprised by that quote of Davies, since what he said seems to me obviously incorrect! Incorrect, at least, as an attempt to show that postulating God as the explanation for fine-tuning is “fraught with problems”. I’ve checked out the original passage, as I was worried by the “[incl fine-tuning args for God]” part. I see that’s your own interpretation, but you think that Davies had it in mind here (and I suspect you are right). Davies’ responses make a bit more sense as a response to intelligent design only (of biological organisms), but not a great deal more.

      So here’s the problem with applying what Davies says as a response to fine-tuning arguments in favour of God’s existence. We have (let us grant) particular fine-tuned facts about the universe. Insofar as things need an explanation, these facts need an explanation. That is, the existence of a fine-tuned universe needs an explanation. Now suppose we read Davies as offering alternative explanations of fine-tuning:
      1. A committee of gods
      2. Natural being or beings, such as an evolved super-mind or super civilization existing in a previous universe, or in another region of our universe, which made our universe using super-technology
      3. A superdupercomputer simulating this universe

      Now (1) is cold comfort to an atheist and monotheist alike, so I think you and I can both rule that out immediately. If you *actually* feel tempted towards it as an explanation, we could have a separate discussion on its purported merits. But bear in mind that these gods are not natural beings, since natural beings are an explanation offered in (2).

      Regarding (2) we have a serious problem. The challenge was to explain the existence of a fine-tuned universe. That is, we thought that fine-tuning needs an explanation, and God is one such explanation. (2) gets us nowhere. It is akin to saying, “we can explain the existence of a fine-tuned universe by postulating the existence of a separate fine-tuned universe, and voila! Explained!”. Theists, as you know, will simply claim that God is the best explanation for the newly postulated fine-tuned universe. And so we enter into an eternal chain to avoid God, of fine-tuned universes creating fine-tuned universes, and so (2) becomes a different claim — that there is an infinite chain of fine-tuned universes, each explaining the next. And then we will (in Leibnizian fashion) require that there be an explanation for why this infinite chain of fine-tuned universes exists. That is, assuming you think such an infinite chain is possible in the first place. Is an infinite chain of fine-tuned universes easier to explain for the atheist than just one?

      As for (3), I included it separately since Davies lists it separately, but it seems to me that the objections I outlined to (2) will apply just the same. Any such superdupercomputer will not exist in a void. Computers needs parts, and so you need a universe that is either assembled in such a way from the start, or capable of being assembled in such a way by beings that exist within it and are capable of assembling such a computer. Oh, and any such computer would need a universe of greater magnitude (in appropriate ways) than the universe it produces. So we require that the universe of the superdupercomputer not only be fine-tuned, but also in some sense bigger. And how exactly does a computer produce a universe? Do we really believe that arranging rocks in a particular way somehow *actually* produces a universe filled with thinking things? (http://xkcd.com/505/).

      And as a side note, the article you provided as evidence for this universe being a simulation states, “the problem with all simulations is that the laws of physics, which appear continuous, have to be superimposed onto a discrete three dimensional lattice which advances in steps of time.” Interestingly, I’ve suspected (for philosophical reasons) that this would be the case anyway, even though I don’t think the universe is a simulation in a computer! So far as I am aware, it’s always been an open question whether space and time is discrete or continuous, even independent of suspicions about a simulation.

      Essentially, it seems to me that none of these are plausible explanations of fine-tuning. As it happens, I think atheists have better responses than these. These ones strike me as being particularly weak. If it were a fight between theism and these, I’d put my money on God (though I may be biased!).

      Regarding the problem of evil, I fail to see why that is relevant. We can discuss whether or not fine-tuning gives us reason to think God exists independent of the problem of evil. So this is not an objection to fine-tuning per se, as it is to an overall case for God’s existence. And it just seems to me that the theist and atheist alike need to be able to explain the existence of suffering, and the atheist will have an easier time of it. But as for fine-tuning, it seems to me that the theist has the upper hand.

      Posted by Mark Saward | April 23, 2013, 8:43 PM
  13. To take a slightly different tack, I’ve always found the theist’s conclusion to these ‘fine tuned’ values to be seemingly backwards.

    It is only necessary that that these values are fine tuned in a ‘naturalistic’ (for want of a better word) universe.

    In a universe created by a being that can throw miracles about with the blink of an eye, and maintain them with less effort than it takes to resist a snowflake, then none of these values need be as they are. For example stars could be giant balls of flamimg cheese, the deadly radiation of which simply diverts around our planet. Or consider any of the mythological understandings of history. It could even be turtles all the way sown.

    The fine tuning of our universe lends more credence to a naturalistic origin in this way.

    Posted by @joesw0rld | June 27, 2013, 9:52 AM

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