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a similar form:
1. If theism is true, then divine causation obtains.
1. If theism is true, then divine causation obtains.
Revision as of 14:59, 4 May 2010
In cosmology, fine tuning refers to the precise balance of cosmological constants that allow the observable universe to exist as it does. These constants include the speed of light, the rate of expansion of the universe, the force of gravity, the nuclear strong force, the electromagnetic force, and many other parameters of the observable universe. These constants exist in such a state of precise equilibrium that any variation to their values would have resulted in a drastically different universe. The fine tuning argument states that these values occurring in such a precise state by mere chance is highly improbable, and that there must have been a creator to fine tune these values in order for our universe to exist as it does and for life to exist on Earth. This argument is the same as the anthropic theistic principle.
The argument of fine tuning is a rather new one. It has only become popular since the mid-1990s with recent observations about the observable universe and cosmological constants. Cosmologists have theorized that even minute variations in the values of these constants would have resulted in a radically different universe or one altogether unsuitable for supporting life as we know it.
- Example 1: The rate of expansion of matter after the Big Bang had to occur at precisely the right rate to allow our universe to form as it has. If it had expanded any faster, matter would have dissipated too quickly for stars and solar systems to form. If it had occurred any slower, the universe would have collapsed upon itself shortly after the Big Bang, resulting in what is known as a Big Crunch.
- Example 2: The strong nuclear force is the force which binds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus of an atom. Scientists have calculated that variations in the strong force of as little as ±1% would have drastically affected the breakdown of naturally occurring elements in the universe, prohibiting the formation of stars, black holes, and other natural occurring phenomena.
There are studies of numerous other constants with similar results.
Deists cite this remarkable balance of cosmological constants as evidence of a creator, being a far too unlikely set of circumstances to have occurred naturally. This is quickly becoming the argument of choice of creationism proponents like Lee Strobel. Strobel presents this concept as incontrovertible empirical evidence of God in his book The Case for a Creator.
Formal Statement of the Argument
Here is Drange’s formulation:
1. The combination of physical constants that we observe in our universe is the only one capable of sustaining life as we know it.
2. Other combinations of physical constants are conceivable.
3. Therefore, some explanation is needed why our actual combination of physical constants exists rather than a different one.
4. The very best explanation of the given fact is that our universe, with the particular combination of physical constants that it has, was created out of nothing by a single being who is omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving, eternal, and interested in sentient organic systems, and that he “fine-tuned” those constants in a way which would lead to the evolution of such systems.
5. But such a being as described in (4) is what people mean by “God.”
6. Hence [from (4) & (5)], there is good evidence that God exists.
- Essentially this argument is just a variation on the argument from design. The key difference here is that it misrepresents actual scientific evidence in such a way to support an unscientific conclusion. A more scientific conclusion would be to state that there is some unknown natural phenomenon to explain this apparent "fine tuning". It is also worth mentioning that a counter-argument to design, natural-law argument, and the anthropic principle is also a counter-argument to fine-tuning. See below.
- A problem arises from the premise that the cosmological constants are in fact 'fine tuned' at all. This premise assumes that there is a certain range of values that each constant could assume. The greater these ranges, the more unlikely that a given set of constants would have assumed the values we observe. However, to simply imagine a certain range of possible numerical values that each constant could assume and calculating the probability that this value would be arrived at by mere chance is fallacious for two reasons. Currently, we have no access to data that would tell us a) what range the constants could possibly assume in reality and b) how many trials there were in which the constants assumed certain values. If in a lottery one number were drawn from a pot of five numbers, then winning the lottery would become comparatively likely. Likewise, even if a trial with an extremely unlikely outcome - say winning an actual national lottery - were repeated a sufficient number of times, the outcome would become likely to occur overall. (See next point)
- Scientists theorize that given the infinite nature of time and space, an infinite number of other unobservable universes could exist parallel to our own, each with infinite variations of constants. This is known as the multiverse theory. Given infinite possibilities, the formation of a universe such as our own is not so inconceivable.
- Another flaw with this argument is that it assumes our universe is finely tuned for the sole purpose of supporting life. This is not the case at all. Given the laws of our universe, scientists theorize that our universe is composed of less than 2% baryonic matter, that is matter consisting of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Dark matter is by far the most common form of matter in our universe. Our universe, if anything, is far more suited for the creation of black holes than it is for supporting life. Life on our planet constitutes only an insignificant portion of our universe.
- The Earth's total mass is 5.9736×10^24 kg while the estimated total biomass on Earth is around 7×10^13 kg. This means that the percentage of life on Earth is 1.17182269 × 10^-9. That is .00000000117%. The Earth, let alone the universe, is hardly fine tuned for life. Man has created and tested much more finely tuned mediums for simple life in the form of specialized agar solutions that support life/medium ratios far greater than .00000000117%.
- In order for the probability argument to be valid, the fundamental constants under consideration have to be independent. That is, one cannot claim that the gravitational constant and the speed of expansion of the universe were individually tuned, since they are clearly related. The electromagnetic force is mediated by massless photons which travel at the speed of light, so therefore the strength of this force is likely related to the speed of light. Similar relationships may yet emerge between other constants.
- If there were a creator who "fine tuned" the universe for our existence, who "fine tuned" the universe in order for said creator to exist? The argument of a creator is infinitely paradoxical.
- The initial premise of the argument is that in order for life to exist, the universe must have such properties that warrant a designer. However in this line of reasoning, the designer of those properties would exist in a state where none of these properties were true. Therefore any properties deemed to require a designer can't be necessary for existence in the first place, as the designer can exist without them. The argument is self-refuting.
- If one starts with the assumption that humanity is an accident, the fine tuning argument makes no sense since if we are an accident, no fine tuning was necessary. For the fine tuning argument to make any sense, one has to start with the assumption that humanity is not an accident, which begs the question of a creator. But since the purpose of the argument is to prove that there is a god who created us, any such assumption renders the argument circular.
Firstly, it has to be pointed out that for an omnipotent God the fundamental constants would be irrelevant. An omnipotent God could have created us in a universe with any set of constants had he chose to. But this is not the line of thinking the theist takes. The constants had to be what they are because, as they claim, if they were different we would have no life. If the constants necessarily had to be what they are than that implies that there is some set of governing rules that even God must follow, that supercede his power. If God HAD to fine-tune the universe to these particular set of constants because not doing so would not have allowed him to bring life into existence (and as they claim in their argument, a different set and theres no life) then God is indeed NOT omnipotent.
Not withstanding the obvious fact that the universe really isn't very congenial towards life, as 99.999% of the observed universe is uninhabitable, Vic Stenger in his book God: The failed hypothesis, quotes a private communication with Martin Wagner in which he points out that:
"In fact, the whole argument from fine-tuning ultimately makes no sense. As my friend Martin Wagner notes, all physical parameters are irrelevant to an omnipotent God. 'he could have created us to live in a hard vacuum if he wanted.'"
"Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others? If you say that he did it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others -- the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it -- if there was a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary."
We can view the universe as one of those massive safes that banks keep in their vaults, with a number of dials that must be set to specific values in order to open it. However, in our example, these dials can be literally set to any number, so that an infinite number of combinations are possible. The one combination that will open the safe is analogous to the values of the physical constants of the universe that allow the existence of intelligent life.
The "fine tuning" argument claims that it is, for all intents, impossible to randomly set the the values of the dials and, simply by chance, arrive at the correct combination that will open the safe. Only someone who actually knows the combination can open it. In the argument, this requires the existence of a god who knows the precise setting that will allow life to arise.
However, if this god is the creator of the universe and everything in it, then he is not limited to simply turning the dials on the safe. He must also have been responsible for building the safe itself, and setting the coimbination that allows it to be opened. This means he also has the ability to adjust the locking mechanism of the safe so that any combination he wants will open it. Therefore, it can no longer be said that only one combination is capable of opening the safe. Now, there is a literally infinite number of combinations that can open it.
Restated in the form of the argument itself: The (apparent) fact that only a specific combination of values of physical constants allows life to arise is, itself, an expression of a fundamental law of the universe. If God can change the values of those physical constants, there is no reason to believe he cannot also change the more fundamental laws that limit the conditions under which life will arise.
This has two fatal consequences for the "fine tuning" argument:
1) If God can, in fact, adjust the "combination" of the safe to any values he wants, this completely refutes the claim that life can only arise under a very specific set of circumstances. Rather, if such a God exists, life should be able to arise under any set of circumstances whatsoever, with infinite possibilities. The "fine tuning" argument, therefore, can no longer be used as evidence for the existence of such a God.
2) If, on the other hand, God cannot adjust the "combination", then this raises a situation that most theists would find unacceptable. It raises the question of who or what actually is reponsible for creating the safe, and deciding on its combination. God, in this scenario, is reduced to being a low-level employee of the bank, who is able to open the safe, but is not responsible for the operation of the safe itself, nor entrusted with the ability to set the combination of the safe. Those responsibilities must be taken over by some entity more powerful and important than God. This is incompatible with most theistic beliefs, particularly the Abrahamic monotheistic ones.
To restate the argument, in the form of the Transcendental argument for the non-existence of God :
Posit X and Y as features of human understanding. In the case of fine-tuning, X is "the combination of physical constants which is necessarily capable of sustaining life" and Y is "the combination of physical constants which is conceived to be necessarily incapable of sustaining life".
1.X is necessary or has a necessary part (the necessity of sustaining life).
Y is necessary or has a necessary part (the physical necessity of being hostile to life).
2.If theism is true, then divine creation obtains.
3.If divine creation is true, then all in the universe is contingent to God’s act of creation, and nothing in the universe is necessary.
4.If theism is true, then no X or Y can be necessary or have a necessary part. (from 2 and 3)
5.Theism is false. (from 1 and 4)
The theist can of course deny premise 1, but doing so is a denial of fine-tuning.
In a similar form:
1. If theism is true, then divine causation obtains.
2. If divine causation obtains, then all facts of the universe are contingent on God's act of creation.
3. If theism is true, then life can arise under all possible physical conditions. (from 1 and 2)
4. If theism is true, then fine-tuning is invalid. (from 3)
So as a shorthand one can say that “contingency implies the impossibility of principles and absolutes”.
One can of course deny that divine creation obtains, and deny that God created the laws of science. However, this means that God is not the Creator and that he is subject to these laws himself.
Stephen Hawking on the Anthropic Principle:
"The intelligent beings in these regions should therefore not be surprised if they observe that their locality in the universe satisfies the conditions that are necessary for their existence. It is a bit like a rich person living in a wealthy neighborhood not seeing any poverty."
"What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn't prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary". [Stephen W. Hawking, Der Spiegel, 1989]
"One does not have to appeal to God to set the initial conditions for the creation of the universe, but if one does He would have to act through the laws of physics". [Stephen Hawking, Black Holes & Baby Universes]
Retrieved from "http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=A_Brief_History_of_Time"
The features of humanity have evolved as a result of our environment, rather than our environment being tailored to suit us.
Douglas Adams c.1998:
"Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for."
Furthermore, the "fine-tuning argument" is a logical fallacy of the "ex-post-facto statistics" type. It applies in situations like this whenever we apply probability laws to past events.
For example, we all know the probability of being dealt a bridge hand of, say, all thirteen spades is quite small. But if we look at any bridge hand after we're dealt it, the probabilities of being dealt that exact hand are just as miniscule.
Given, hypothetically, an array of 52 different universes, the probability of actualizing our universe is 1 in 52. But if we look at any universe after it has been actualized, the probability of that occurring is just as miniscule.
Also, to quickly spot the inadequacy of the fine-tuning argument, see the following videos on youtube:
Is the Universe Fine Tuned for Life? 
William Lane Craig 2 - Craig Harder (Refuting WLC's Proofs For God, Part II) 
And to read an article which handily refutes the theistic anthropic principle, see 
Affirming the consequent
The Fine Tuning argument presupposes that the phenomenon of life and it being presumably only possible in a universe with physical constants exactly like the ones in ours is what qualifies this as special or sublime, however, this is based entirely on nothing other than the entities that determine what qualifies this universe as special or sublime are living (humans). This is an affirming the consequent fallacy. It could also be seen as a confirmation bias fallacy. In a hypothetical universe with different physical constants, there may be an emergent natural phenomenon that is vastly more complex than the emergence of life, the evolution of life, and the ecology of life. This phenomenon, we will label "phenomenon x", would be impossible in our universe because our physical constants may not permit phenomenon x to occur. There is no objective reason why the possibility of life demands a fine tuner more than phenomenon x. There is also no objective reason why any natural phenomenon, no matter the complexity, should demand a fine tuner any more than another. Hypothetically, if it were shown that life of some kind is possible in most possible universes, but the phenomenon of lightning is only possible in this one, then an apologist might assert that because we occupy the only possible universe with lightning, this universe must have been finely tuned.
Attribution: StrongAtheism.net 
Science provides us with a sense of wonder about this vast universe. Perhaps the universe is being held together by a small number of physical laws, or maybe even one. For now, we know around twenty physical constants that are vital to our understanding of the universe (some scientists have proposed less). The speed of light and the mass of protons are two of these. At first glance, there is certainly a feeling that we are lucky to be alive and involved in this universe. Our lives are intertwined with these facts of physics.
The wonders of the universe, however, can be co-opted and perverted in the name of belief. The advantage for theologians is that they gain the credibility of science without being bound to its naturalist and empiricist methodology. In Christian apologetics, fine-tuning is seen as a more sophisticated, “scientific” kind of design argument. “Science finds God” is a common creed of these ideological thieves.
I. This befuddlement in the face of facts seems to be the extent of how Christians view science. They view science not as a tool of discovery, but as a source of insolvable puzzles (that is to say, insolvable by science). To the theologian, science does not exist to give answers, but only to provide questions that only he can answer – by invoking his favourite god.
Swinburne, in this example, uses natural law instead of physical constants, but the principle is the same, as physical constants are part of the natural laws that we discover. Given that, explaining why the speed of light is the way it is, is no different than explaining E=mc2.
My answer in both cases is the same. To ask why constants are this way or why laws are that way is to presume that there is an ultimate reason to be found, an ultimate cause underlying them, something beyond the material. But if the existence of the universe is necessary, then no reason or cause is to be found.
The question of an ultimate cause or explanation for the way things are, is no more meaningful than to ask a theist why his god is the way it is. Given the necessary nature of existence, it cannot be the case that “some explanation is needed” for fundamental constants which are inherent to existence.
We can also see the question as a scientific one, that is to say, look at the formation of the universe and how the constants arose from it. This is a scientific question, that Big Bang theory answers with symmetry breaks in the early universe. But in neither case is a non-natural explanation necessary, possible, or even relevant.
II. To come back to the general argument, there is one gigantic objection, the kind of thing that does not seem obvious but seems that way after you understand it. That objection is simply that fine-tuning is not an argument for design, but rather an argument against design! The idea of an extreme fine-tuning beyond which the target cannot exist is indicative of a precarious natural system, not of intelligent planning.
To understand this, an analogy may be useful. Suppose that our breathing was dependent on a specific level of oxygen in the atmosphere, and that any other level would cause suffocation. That would certainly count as “fine-tuning” in the sense given by the argument. The atmospheric composition in question would be the only one capable of supporting life, and this would therefore demand “explanation”.
But even if that was true, how would this fine-tuning justify design explanations? A designer would not make it so that humans would constantly face the danger of suffocation! An intelligent designer would try, whether possible, to ensure that a given system could keep functioning under different conditions. Such is the case with humans, who can breathe in atmospheres thin or rich in oxygen. The precarity of a system’s functioning is not evidence of design, but rather of natural law.
III. Another objection to the fine-tuning argument is that we should not be surprised or befuddled that the universe is adapted to our needs, since we evolved within the universe and its parameters. Evolution tends towards adaptation of life to its environment. Therefore, we should no more be surprised of how well the universe fits us, than we should be surprised of how well a baked cookie fits its mold. This argument is also called the WAP.
A possible retort to WAP is that without the fundamental constants as they are, life simply could not evolve at all. But this is based on a misunderstanding: because we know only one possible way for life to evolve, does not mean that no other way is possible. Even the facts of carbon-based life are not a necessity. In many cases, life would have evolved differently, and we would be silicon life forms asking why the universe is so perfectly adapted to our existence. To think this way, without any scientific guidance at all, is nothing more than wish-fulfillment. We must start from the assumption that there is nothing special about the way we evolved, unless contrary evidence is presented.
William Craig, in ‘Barrow and Tipler on the Anthropic Principle vs. Divine Design’, argues against this use of WAP by stating that:
“We should not be surprised that we do not observe features of the universe which are incompatible with our own existence.”
Does not justify:
“We should not be surprised that we do observe features of the universe which are compatible with out existence.” He gives the example of a man who is shot by a firing squad, but all the shots miss. Such a man should not be surprised at not being dead, since he can still reason and thus must be alive. But, Craig continues, he should be surprised at being alive, given that he should be dead.
I see Craig’s example as illustrating the fallacy of his argument. He misunderstands that which we should be surprised about. In the case of the firing squad, the survivor should not at all be surprised at being alive, but rather at the firing squad missing all their shots. The fact that he is still alive, in itself, should not at all be surprising. It is the underlying causal link that is surprising, not the fact itself. In the case of the universe, these causal links are not surprising at all, and therefore his argument fails.
IV. We have good reason to object to a number of assumptions that are explicitly or implicitly held by theologians who use fine-tuning. The first assumption is contained in the following formulation:
“2. Other combinations of physical constants are conceivable.”
Now granted, some theologians do not explain this step at all, but they usually have no justification for their assumption that physical constants could be otherwise. So Drange’s formulation here is in fact a concession.
At any rate, it is unclear why the fact that “other combinations of physical constants are conceivable” lead to the conclusion in (3) that:
“some explanation is needed why our actual combination of physical constants exists rather than a different one”
In fact, (3) implies that these “other combinations” could exist. But there is no way to deduce this from (2). The fact that something is conceivable does not make it possible! It only means that our imagination can encompass it. I can imagine plenty of things that are plainly impossible, such as alternate pasts.
The fact that something is conceivable does not make it magically possible. Possibility must be demonstrated with objective evidence.
V. Two other implicit assumptions can be addressed simultaneously. These assumptions are:
Change in physical constants can be isolated. Change in physical constants necessarily brings about states where life is impossible. The first assumption is committed by a lot of theologians, but our argument-type does not commit it. I will therefore only justify the second. I already noted that the assumption that our specific carbon-based evolution cannot be special in any way. We must assume that, given a sufficient lifespan for stars, some form of evolution is at least possible.
With this in mind, physicist Victor Stenger developed a program called “MonkeyGod”. This program generates universes using four of the physical constants we have discussed. While this is not as convincing as analyzing the twenty physical constants that we know, MonkeyGod still demonstrates that long-lived stars “occur in a wide range of parameters”. Given this preliminary result, there is no reason to assume a priori that any change would result in the impossibility of life.
VI. We have seen that the proponents of fine-tuning call divine creation a “hypothesis” or an “explanation”. And indeed, if it was not a hypothesis or an explanation, it would not answer the “problem” of fine-tuning at all.
There are three problems associated with calling divine creation a “hypothesis” or “explanation”:
i. cannot be a hypothesis because its specificity is not supported by any observation. The facts of fine-tuning, even if true, only justify the existence of a supernatural process or entity, not of a divine Creator.
ii. is not a complete hypothesis or explanation, and is not a proper working hypothesis or explanation.
iii. as a hypothesis or explanation, is contradicted by many facts of the universe.
The first objection is more specific, since it only pertains to god-as-hypothesis, and I will not get into it. For more on this topic, the article ‘Process-Based Noncognitivism’, which discusses the impossibility of positing a god’s existence as a hypothesis, may be helpful.
The second objection is critical. If divine creation, as expressed by theologians, is nothing but hollow words without any substance, then it cannot serve as a hypothesis or explanation. Does it mean anything to say “a god created the universe” and can we explain this process?
The answer is no. According to theologians, the only relevant elements of any divine action on the universe are that a god wills natural change, and that will becomes reality. But both these elements are meaningless.
First, the idea that a god wills natural change contradicts its infinity. It therefore cannot be the case that a god desires to intervene in the natural world. This point is discussed as a strong-atheistic argument in ‘No-reason argument'.
Secondly, if “a god’s will becomes reality” is to mean anything at all, then one must answer to the modus operandi problem, that is, how a supernatural being could possibly act in the natural world. Without an answer to this general problem, no instance of such a passage can be justified. And if no instance can be justified, then there is no meaning to discuss.
The third objection is perhaps the heaviest. If divine creation is impossible, either due to the nature of divine creation itself or the nature of this universe, then it cannot be used as an explanation for fine-tuning.
Many strong-atheistic arguments demonstrate the impossibility of divine creation. Here are some of them:
Materialist Apologetics – based on the necessary nature of various features of human understanding, which contradict the idea that divine creation makes everything contingent.
Problem of Evil – based on the existence of evil.
Atheistic Cosmological Argument – based on the inseparability of time and space.
Argument from Scale – based on the scientific facts about evolution and the size of the universe.
Big Bang Cosmological Argument For God’s Nonexistence – based on the nature of the Big Bang.
And of course the Apathetic God Paradox, which I have already mentioned.
VII. Finally, fine-tuning arguments lack specificity. If we look at our argument-type again:
Therefore, some explanation is needed why our actual combination of physical constants exists rather than a different one.
The very best explanation of the given fact is that our universe, with the particular combination of physical constants that it has, was created out of nothing by a single being who is omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving, eternal, and interested in sentient organic systems, and that he “fine-tuned” those constants in a way which would lead to the evolution of such systems.
But even if, for the sake of argument, we concede that C3 is true, there is no possible way to deduce that the explanation is “a single being who is omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving, eternal, and interested in sentient organic systems”. It is possible to imagine that a supernatural process or law causes the universe to come into existence, instead of a personal being. This would be perfectly in line with what we observe in our own universe.
As I said before, imagination does not indicate possibility: but since we have no idea of what a supernatural process or entity would be like anyway, any discussion on its basis must necessarily be arbitrary. The assumption that a supernatural process can exist is not any more arbitrary than the assumption that a supernatural god can exist. In the end, any discussion of the supernatural is meaningless, but we assume that it is meaningful for the sake of discussing the argument.
VIII. Carrier has proposed the objection that the claim:
The fact that life can exist demands explanation.
Displays a mistaken prejudice that life, or human life, is somehow special and requires explanation. If we see life as a by-product of the universe being in certain states, then there is nothing left that requires explanation. The existence of any universe will have temporal consequences, and life is one of those possible consequences. It requires no more explanation than the pattern of raindrops falling on the sidewalk.
In this view, the fine-tuning argument assumes teleology in regard to life as a premise in order to prove teleology. It is, to a certain extent, a circular argument.
To say that the fine-tuning argument is fallacious is a vast understatement. As generally expressed, it is false at its very core assumption – that fine-tuning, if it existed, would demonstrate design. Almost all of its other premises and assumptions are false in some way.
It also demonstrates how pitiful the theological attempt to co-opt science for its own ends can be. From Biblical reinterpretation to design arguments, all that such arguments achieve is a complete misreading of both science and religion. The idea that the universe is fine-tuned should be especially offensive to believers who uphold intelligent design, as it is an egregious example of unintelligent design, at best.
The more we learn about the universe, the more we observe the power of natural law in developing existence into complex and wondrous forms. We do not, however, observe any divine agency. “God’s fingerprints” are nowhere to be seen. The fingerprints of the eternal laws of nature, however, fill the heavens. Believers would do well to open their eyes and take a look.
I. Fine-Tuning Argument (as stipulated by Richard Swinburne)
1. The universe is finely tuned for intelligent life.
2. If God existed, he would want to create Intelligent life.
3. The existence of Intelligent life is extremely improbable without God's existence.
4. Intelligent life exists.
5. Intelligent life is good and needs explanation.
Therefore, it is extremely probable (using Bayesian Probability) that God exists.
Swinburne uses Bayesian Probability (Hypothesis h being theism, evidence for theism e being intelligent life, and background knowledge k being facts of our natural universe) to compare to against the hypotheses of a universe suited to intelligent life with no god, as well as against the multiverse hypothesis.
One problem with this is that he presumes intelligent life needs explanation at all, thereby putting it into evidence for theism. A non-teleological explanation would simply say that it isn’t a logical necessity that anything needs explanation, thus denying there is any background information about our world that belongs in any sets of evidence for anything additional to its own existence.
Replying to the Fine-Tuning Argument:
1. The universe is finely tuned for intelligent life.
(1) The universe is highly hostile to all forms of life: The hostile vacuum: Why don’t humans easily send a manned mission to mars and beyond? The cosmic radiation outside our atmosphere is incredibly fatal life as we know it after a relatively short duration of exposure.
The hostile past: The number of species that have ever existed but now have gone extinct is 99% of all life.
The barren whole: Proportion of the cosmos that is non-baryonic: 98%. That is, rather than being amazingly supportive and flourishing with “good” life, the universe is almost completely a barren void.
Our barren planet: the percentage of the earth that is actually biomass is only 0.00000000117%.
(2) In total reverse to Swinburne's above point, it is intelligent life that is finely adapted to the universe:
We fit the universe because we were formed by and within the universe. This is like Douglas Adam's sentient puddle who was amazed at how well he fit his hole. As far as the puddle is concerned, such a shapely fit must only be a miracle. If the laws of nature define our bounds and evolution formed our nature, we shouldn't be amazed at how necessary, desirable, or virtuous we find any of these things to be. The cosmos bounded our only choice of feasible conditions for life, hence we formed within those guidelines. Our biological environment literally shaped us to fit it, killing all non-adapted alternatives. It is no surprise that we find it to be so perfectly suited to us. Lastly, our minds formed within the universe as it is, thereby ensuring that if we were to find anything intelligible then we (as intelligent observers) must find our universe intelligible. The alternative is creatures without working minds who find the universe unintelligible and die.
2. If God existed, he would want to create Intelligent life.
If humans really are the evidentiary product, e, of a personal God, h, then this might be fair. This is, however, an egocentric supposition rather than a necessary fact. As some say, it is no accident that people’s gods look like themselves. It is also no accident here that Swinburne defines himself as the evidence for a omni-Swinburnian god who would want to create things just like Swinburne. After all, bats exist so why isn’t god a bat? You might argue that bats are more probable than humans. However, Apple iPods also require a cosmos that can support matter and life, human evolution to produce their inventors, and then a complex design tree of technological production plus the correct combination of sociobiological, cultural, economic, and marketing factors to produce them. They are at least as improbable and probably much more improbable than humans, therefore why isn’t god a Cosmic iPod? Swinburne cannot presuppose that his hypothesis should assume the evidence for his own hypothesis without being circular.
3. The existence of Intelligent life is extremely improbable without God's existence.
(1) The combination of cosmological constants that we observe is the only one capable of sustaining life as we know it.
This isn’t the case: Victor Stenger’s “MonkeyGod” programme focuses on only four cosmological constants and shows that other life-sustaining universes are possible with other permutations of the constants. Additionally, how many worlds even exist? Just our single cosmos? That would certainly provide the best sense of amazement at our fortuitous set of constants. If so, and if no other worlds can exist, then we have no other alternatives to our life-sustaining cosmos and the fact that we exist isn’t amazing at all. What is simply is what is. However, it may be that other current cosmological theories are true, such as the oscillating universe, a higher-order multiverse, or “embedded” cosmoses. If so, then it is possible that the chance of a life-sustaining cosmos existing is very high. After all, if I have 99 boxes with dogs and one with a cat, then the chance of choosing a cat is only 1%. But if the number of boxes is infinite, then the number of boxes containing cats also tends towards infinity. No matter how small the chances of getting a life-sustaining universe are, in a multiverse the chance of one existing is guaranteed. Swinburne does not know how many possible worlds, if any, exist and therefore he cannot claim to know the relative probability of having a life sustaining universe without god.
(2) Similar to above, this argument assumes that other combinations of cosmological constants are possible.
We have no evidence for this. Cosmological constants may be non-contingent facts. The physical “laws” describing our universe simply mathematically describe what is and what happens, it doesn’t determine that which it describes. Equally, the constants are descriptions of what we observe and some of our values and constants are post-hoc fudged values that make our calculations work. Simply because we can ascribe a number to a description that we have of our universe, that doesn't mean that it is feasible that this descriptive number value can change. It only means we can imagine it changing. However, just because something is imaginarily conceivable it doesn't mean that it is possible. Who said the constants can change? Who said they could have been different to what they are now? How were they set in the first place? To presume that they were ‘finely tuned’ as if by a purposive agent is a circular argument (from a theistic perspective) and an unwarranted presupposition that may actually be entirely imaginary and incoherent.
4. Intelligent life exists.
I wouldn’t argue with this. I would only qualify it with the fact that this need not necessarily be the case (except if we presuppose intelligent observers).
5. Intelligent life is good and needs explanation.
This teleologically presupposes that the big bang and evolution, if played through again, should re-produce humans. Otherwise, it is true that we are a unique fact of historical happenstance (Bayesian background knowledge k), but not evidence for anything (Bayesian evidence e for intelligence-creating theism, h). If you don’t presuppose that we should exist, then you open yourself up to the fact that “history could have gone differently” and we simply wouldn’t have existed in an alternative situation. This robs the fact of our existence of anything that begs explanation, as we would simply be the one outcome of many possibilities that happened to occur.
- Cosmology 101 at NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisortopy Probe website — This is an outstanding resource for understanding cosmological theory.
- Fine-Tuned Deception: Say hello to the new stealth creationism by Sahotra Sarkar
Swinburne, a theistic philosopher, displaying his naivete with the fine-tuning argument.
Videos refuting William Lane Craig's five proofs for God.
The Many Problems of the Fine-Tuning Argument