Al Moritz on the Fine-Tuning Argument

by Luke Muehlhauser on September 6, 2010 in Design Argument,Science

Al Moritz is a regular commenter whose scientific training has enabled him to clear up my own misunderstandings about certain scientific issues. Originally skeptical that life could arise from chemistry, he studied the literature and changed his mind. Not only that, he wrote a detailed account of why it’s plausible that life could arise from chemistry without magic. He also really really likes Stockhausen, so he must be cool.

He has also written the essay Cosmological arguments for God: a philosophical perspective on findings of science. He wonders: If complex biology can be self-caused, and if chemical replication can be self-caused, can the universe be self-caused as well? His conclusion is that it cannot. The universe must have a non-physical designer.

Moritz says that “theism and religious belief are not without difficulties – but in my view the difficulties of the atheistic position are much greater” and “the idea of God – principally as eternally existing spirit, i.e. immaterial being, that is infinite and all powerful, the ultimate cause of existence, yet personal at the same time – makes good sense from a philosophical perspective.”

Fine-tuning

The first part of his article presents the fine-tuning argument: The parameters of our universe (the strength of the forces, the mass ratios of certain particles, etc.) must be fine-tuned to something very close to their actual values in order to produce life, or even complex chemistry.

This fact is not much debated among physicists. The most vocal dissenter I know of is Victor Stenger, and his arguments are just bad.

Moritz quickly dismisses two objections. The first is this: “How can you say that the universe appears fine-tuned for life? Most of it is completely inhospitable and hostile to life.” But this is irrelevant. The fine-tuning argument applies to the universe as a whole. Extreme fine-tuning would be required for life to exist more commonly in the universe, of course, but it is also required for life to exist at all - even just on the tiny speck of dust on which it does exist.

The second objection is: “The fine-tuning for life is nonsense. We are adapted to the universe by evolution, not the universe is adapted to us.” This is again, irrelevant. The universe must be extremely fine-tuned for complex chemistry or evolution to exist at all.

I used to raise the first objection myself, but Moritz is right: both objections are irrelevant. In fact, they misunderstand cosmic fine-tuning about as badly as young earth creationists misunderstand evolution.

Explanations of fine-tuning

So fine-tuning is not much in doubt. Where scientists and philosophers disagree, then, is on the explanation for the fine-tuning.

Note that fine-tuning itself does not imply a person who did the fine-tuning. That is the most tempting explanation to human intuition, but these intuitions have turned out to be wrong time and time again. The orbits of the planets are not fine-tuned ellipses because of gods, but because of physics. Humans are not fine-tuned for their qualities because Yahweh crafted man from dust and woman from man’s rib, but because of the extraordinary power of natural selection and other evolutionary pressures. And as Moritz agrees, it appears that primitive biological systems need not have been fine-tuned for replication and evolution by a deity – instead, their properties emerged from chemistry.

But in the case of cosmological fine-tuning, Moritz says, theism is the best explanation available.

What naturalistic explanations for fine-tuning have been proposed? They are:

  1. Brute chance. We were just really lucky.
  2. Necessity. Perhaps for some mathematical or physical reason, the parameters could not have been much different.
  3. Life could exist in other forms. Maybe the universe is fine-tuned for carbon-based life, but not for life in general, because there are other possible forms of life we can’t yet imagine.
  4. The multiverse. Maybe there are a gajillion universes with different parameters. Even if nearly all of them can’t support life, there would necessarily be a few that can. Obviously, we exist in one of those that can.

Moritz explains why he thinks these explanations fail, and concludes that theism is the best explanation of fine-tuning.

He also discusses many other issues, but this summary will do for now.

How I Will Respond

I have about a dozen objections to the basic form of Moritz’s argument. But instead of presenting them as refutations of his argument, I will present them as questions – as requests for clarification. There’s a good chance he has considered these objections, but did not have the space to respond to them in his original article. There’s also a decent chance I have misunderstood Moritz’s long and complex article.

I will only ask one question at a time, because each question by itself opens a large number of complex questions. I hope Moritz – along with others who defend a similar type of fine-tuning argument – will have the time to respond. I think the discussion will benefit us all.

Question #1: What is the structure of the argument?

First, I should get clear on what the argument actually is.

There are several ways in which a cosmological fine-tuning argument for the existence of God can be structured. Different forms of the argument have different strengths and weaknesses. Here are some possible forms the argument could take:

  1. An argument from analogy.1
  2. A Bayesian argument, asserting a prior probability for God’s existence. (Rodney Holder)
  3. A likelihood argument, without asserting the prior probability of God’s existence.2 (Robin Collins)
  4. A deductive argument. (William Lane Craig)

It sounds like Moritz wants to offer a straightforward deductive argument, something like the following:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe to support life is explained by chance, necessity, or theism.
  2. The fine-tuning of the universe to support life is not explained by chance or necessity.
  3. Therefore, the fine-tuning of the universe to support life is explained by theism.

The structure of such an argument is trivially valid, so all the “action” would be in determining whether or not the premises can be adequately supported.

So my first question for Moritz is: What is your argument, exactly? Please state it explicitly. Thanks!

  1. I don’t know of anyone who uses this structure with the fine-tuning argument, as William Paley did with a biological design argument. []
  2. With such an argument, the goal is not to show that God’s existence is made probable by the evidence from fine-tuning. Rather, such an argument has the more modest goal of showing that whatever the probability of God’s existence is for you, that probability should rise for you after considering the evidence from fine-tuning. []

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{ 145 comments… read them below or add one }

Brice September 6, 2010 at 4:20 am

Interested in Hawking’s new book which seems to deal with this very issue. He of course posits that we know enough about the universe and it’s origins to say that there is no need for a creator.

Lawrence Krauss I believe has similar thoughts.

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Hermes September 6, 2010 at 4:54 am

[ gets bucket of popcorn ]

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Rob September 6, 2010 at 5:15 am

OK, but who fine-tuned God?

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Leomar September 6, 2010 at 5:39 am

What kind of theist is he? This seems like deism.

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CGO September 6, 2010 at 5:47 am

Isn’t Al a Roman Catholic?

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Kaelik September 6, 2010 at 6:01 am

The second objection is: “The fine-tuning for life is nonsense. We are adapted to the universe by evolution, not the universe is adapted to us.” This is again, irrelevant. The universe must be extremely fine-tuned for complex chemistry or evolution to exist at all.

I think this trivially misunderstands the objection.

Yes, the universe is fine tuned for this complex chemistry. But how do you know this is the only form of complex chemistry?

In some other universe with other variables, all that appears necessary for “life” is that interactions between basic building blocks be able to form complex self referential patterns that propagate themselves.

We’ve gotten pretty far on computers that use binary, if we had really simple chemistry with only two elements, it’s certainly possible that life and therefore, intelligence could come to be, at which point the binary chemistry life forms would be wondering why the universe was so fine tuned for life, with no awareness of the possibility of complex chemistry life.

There may or may not be ways for self referential patterns that propagate themselves to exist in all sorts of universes with all sorts of different variables. It’s your carbon based life form bias that leads you to think things like planets and complex molecules are necessary for life in the first place.

Any statement that says “Without X, life is not possible” is an arbitrary statement based on ignorance. Rather “Without X, our specific form of life is not possible.” But why should we believe anything other than that our specific form of life is adapted to the universe we inhabit, and any other form of life would be adapted to it’s own universe?

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obijuan September 6, 2010 at 6:21 am

Why is Stenger’s argument bad? The universe isn’t very hospitable. That’s just a fact. On our own planet, there have been past mass extinctions. Life on other planets? Where is it?

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Kaelik September 6, 2010 at 6:57 am

In particular I’ll note:

So which of these cases does the fine-tuning of the universe resemble? Potential universes can be marked “intelligent life can/cannot live here” independently of the properties of the actual universe. This universe is not special because it is ours. It is special because it can support intelligent life. When we consider the fine-tuning of the universe, we are not considering the probability of this universe. We are considering the probability of a universe that supports intelligent life. Choose a different sperm, you get a different person. Choose a different universe, and you almost certainly do not get a different form of intelligent life. You get no intelligent life at all. The fine-tuning of the universe involves a low probability event and an independently specified target, and thus cannot be dismissed as just another low probability event. Stenger’s counterexample misses the target.

1) How do we determine that intelligent life makes this universe special? What differentiates intelligent life such that a universe “fine tuned” for it constitutes evidence of God, but a universe “fine tuned” for Planets, or Black Holes is not evidence for God?

Oh right, we are intelligent life, and we are important goddam it, don’t tell me the universe wasn’t made just for me, clearly I am the most important thing!

2) Really, in other universes you get no intelligent life at all? How do you know that again? Oh right, you know that because argument from ignorance, you don’t see how a giant field of magnetic currents in a gravityless universe could produce intelligent life, so therefore, it can’t.

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lukeprog September 6, 2010 at 7:26 am

Leomar,

If you read the article you will see that Moritz informs his theology with a combination of natural theology and divine revelation.

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Ajay September 6, 2010 at 8:06 am

I honestly don’t mean for this to sound elitist, but Luke you talked about Al’s “scientific training”. Can I ask two questions:

1. What is this training, per se?
2. Is it fair to say that virtually the whole of academic cosmology does not believe that a non-physical creator is required to explain the origins and existence of the universe?

Thanks.

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Ajay September 6, 2010 at 8:07 am

P.S. My intent is not to suggest that Al is wrong simply because his views may be unorthodox. I just wanted to know if I’m right to say that it is in fact a wildly unorthodox view?

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lukeprog September 6, 2010 at 8:48 am

Ajay,

I don’t know Al’s background. It appears he doesn’t have a Ph.D. As far as I know, nearly all professional cosmologists have no need of the god hypothesis, but maybe that’s because they were atheists already and they’re just biased. Sean Carroll offers some thoughts in “Why (Almost) All Cosmologists Are Atheists.”

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Adito September 6, 2010 at 9:01 am

I think the best responses to the fine tuning argument are how bad God is as an explanation for anything and that modern cosmology is suggesting a very simple explanation for things. Unfortunately the latter suffers because it’s all theoretical and (as far as I know) untested.

It might also be possible to construct an argument that basically says complex structure /= designed. If we are given universe X, and we observe the complex permutations it will undoubtedly undergo according to it’s own rules of physics, then I’m not sure we’d be justified in saying that universe is designed. All we know at this point is:

1. A universe with certain properties exists.

2. We are a result of complex chemical reactions based on the properties of the universe.

3. ???

Does this mean we’re special and the universe was designed for us? Does human life have more value then the complex permutations that happen in universe X? I don’t see any justification in say yes to either. It seems to me that saying “this couldn’t have happened by chance” requires an unjustified value judgment.

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Reginald Selkirk September 6, 2010 at 9:23 am

On brute chance:

We have seen that evolution, the physical evolution of the universe and biological evolution, can only take place under exceedingly special and improbable conditions, which are given by the initial conditions of the universe and the laws of nature.

Have we seen that? How many universes have we observed? As for biological evolution, I disagree that the conditions were improbable.

However, when it comes to ridiculously low probabilities (see also Susskind’s comment above), just ‘brute chance’ is a hard thing to ponder seriously.

If you have difficulty being serious, take your ball and go home.

Having by chance so many things aligned (see summary above) just right within relatively narrow limits, while the total bandwidth of possibilities is very wide (e.g. for the cosmological constant, the ‘ripple constant’ Q, the ratio of the masses of neutron, proton and electron, or the ratio of electrical force to gravity)…

Really? What do you know about the “total bandwidth of possibilities”? Again, how many universes have you observed.

Would you believe that it is ‘pure luck’ when one and the same person wins the lotto jackpot not just once, but two (or even more) times? Of course you would not. You would, logically, think that the outcome was rigged. This refutes the ‘brute chance’ argument.

An analogy to a concrete and familiar example, when you have not established that the numbers are comparable, because you have not been able to supply us with the probabilities of the allegedly “fine-tuned” parameters, because you really know nothing at all about the “total bandwidth of possibilities.”

However, given the huge improbability of life arising by chance…

Once again, i disagree with this.

The scenario of life as a chance ‘cosmic fluke’, on the other hand, would make life a highly ‘unnatural’ outcome of nature, something that is absurdly atypical, an anomaly. It is exactly this ‘unnaturalness’ which makes the position unsatisfying and rationally unconvincing, especially compared to the theistic position that life is natural as being designed on purpose.

dude, your prose convoluted is. I cannot rebut what I cannot understand.

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al friedlander September 6, 2010 at 9:26 am

I’m authentically confused. All of this is very interesting stuff, but I’ve never really understood the leap from deism to theism. To me, it seems a little ‘forced’. What evidence would suggest such a leap to begin with, that was, unless we -wanted- it to be true, and worked backwards?

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Adito September 6, 2010 at 10:00 am

Reginald, you said “Have we seen that? How many universes have we observed? As for biological evolution, I disagree that the conditions were improbable.”

Actually the conditions necessary for life are extremely unlikely. The fact that gravity works well enough to form stars is in itself incredibly unlikely. There’s quite a bit of good evidence that a supporter of the design argument can bring up here.

“What do you know about the “total bandwidth of possibilities”?”

According to what we know about particle physics there’s no reason for these constants to be what they are. It appears that they turned out that way either through random chance or design. This is another well supported point for the design supporter.

“It is exactly this ‘unnaturalness’ which makes the position unsatisfying and rationally unconvincing, especially compared to the theistic position that life is natural as being designed on purpose.”

I see no reason to accept ‘God did it’ as rationally convincing so his point here doesn’t do much.

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Garren September 6, 2010 at 10:03 am

Asking “What is the argument?” is very appropriate since Moritz appears to equivocate between TWO basic arguments…one with which I strongly agree, and the other strongly disagree.

I agree with all the places in the article where Moritz points out how naturalistic metaphysics “is a philosophical extrapolation, not a scientific one.” Current science does not strongly and positively demonstrate the sort of fundamental natural laws required to explain the laws we are sure about. When I personally argue that an eternal, natural world is epistemically likely, I freely admit to do so on philosophical grounds based on past scientific discovery, but extending beyond that. Yes, this may properly be called “faith.”

However, I disagree with where Moritz goes once he has established for himself — in a way I affirm — that both naturalistic and supernatural explanations require philosophical faith beyond current (and possibly future!) science. He seems to apply a double standard in which such “faith” explanations are compatible with religious thought but incompatible with naturalistic thought. I can cut him some slack here because many unsophisticated skeptics DO express that principle (just as many unsophisticated Christians say things Moritz would likely avoid).

When I read this essay, I felt like I was hearing, “Natural explanations X, Y, and Z all FAIL because they aren’t demonstrated by science; supernatural explanation A, however, SUCCEEDS because it doesn’t need to be demonstrated by science.” It works as a defensive argument for Theism, but not as an offensive argument against philosophical naturalism.

P.S. – How do italics work on this site? I feel bad using all caps for emphasis.

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ShaneMcKee September 6, 2010 at 10:13 am

As I have said before, the universe is fine tuned for life in the same way that Kilimanjaro is fine tuned for snowflakes.

The universe is a system like the Fibonacci sequence is a system or the Game of Life is a system. Systems are self contained and do not need to be “actualised” for their next states to exist. Max Tegmark got this right, as I keep pointing out on my tedious answersingenes.blogspot.com blog…

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ShaneMcKee September 6, 2010 at 10:17 am

P.s. Yes, theism is a rubbish explanation for apparent fine tuning, but I agree with the theists that it IS something that deserves an explanation. And a fully mathematical universe that only seems “actual” to it’s substructures.

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Hermes September 6, 2010 at 10:37 am

I think Luke’s step-by-step approach is manageable and may lead (after a few steps) to Al Mortiz clarifying or correcting his current work.

That could be a very slow process that could take weeks to months of discussions spread out over a year or more. Stamina may be required unless Al has made a critical error that he is not currently aware of, but someone else can quickly identify.

* * *

FWIW…

While I had my own comments and concerns about Al’s paper the last time I looked at it, I can’t fault him for skimping on details, and he is both patient and open to making changes or clarifying his position.

I consider his paper a work in progress, not a strident and inflexible polemic that many of the more vocal theists here and elsewhere tend to gravitate towards.

In all seriousness, if Al can show that his paper sufficiently supports the idea that a deity is more likely than not, I will acknowledge that and become some kind of theist/deist/… even if that on a practical level doesn’t change any of my other opinions or thoughts about reality or any specific religions.

* * *

Comments …

The last time I looked, Al made a few claims and statements casually that I don’t think reflect reality.

With that caveat out of the way, the primary thrust seems to be that given the cumulative evidence available (mostly counter claims against existing claims) points towards his conclusion as being a valid possibility, if not the most probable one. Much of that support for his argument includes details and is not casually stated like some of the throw away lines.

While I am currently unconvinced, if he has and does address some of my previous concerns and comments as well as those of the more thoughtful people here, he has a better chance of promoting a point than the inflexible hypocrites, moral monsters, and others that spend their efforts in deception or on efforts even they (hopefully) do not believe are true and honest.

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ildi September 6, 2010 at 10:54 am

Would you believe that it is ‘pure luck’ when one and the same person wins the lotto jackpot not just once, but two (or even more) times? Of course you would not. You would, logically, think that the outcome was rigged. This refutes the ‘brute chance’ argument.

Um, argument from incredulity?

July 19, 2010: A woman in Texas has luck on her side. She has won the lottery four times in the past 17 years for a combined $21 million. Her most recent win came last month after she spent $50 on a scratch off and won $10 million.

October 26, 2009: A Calgary-area man who has collected more than $2 million from four lotto wins in five years has been implicated in a convoluted court claim disputing his latest jackpot. Seguro Ndabene told CBC News that he hit the jackpot a fifth time on Jan. 16, winning $17 million in the Super 7 draw. But he has not been able to collect that money because of a lottery probe, followed by an ongoing court proceeding. The Western Canada Lottery Corp. routinely investigates any lotto wins of more than $10,000, which automatically includes winners of multiple major prizes, said Andrea Marantz, a WCLC spokeswoman. Ndabene has won four jackpots:
* $1 million in the Western 6/49 in 2004.
* $100,000 in the Super 7 Extra in Calgary in 2006.
* $1 million and $50,000 in the Western 6/49 in Airdrie, Alta., in 2008.

May 5, 2009: Since September, the 59-year-old South Charleston woman has won five West Virginia Lottery cash prizes, totaling $167,600. All of Bailey’s winnings came from the Lottery’s instant games. Her latest win is her biggest — the $100,000 top prize in the Price is Right game. Bailey claimed that prize Tuesday. Her other winnings from various instant games include $50,000 in April, $1,000 in March, $6,000 in January and $10,000 in September.

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lukeprog September 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Hermes,

Even if Al’s argument falls apart right away, I’ll keep asking questions of fine-tuning advocates to see if there are other holes, as it seems to me. But yeah, this could all take quite some time.

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Lamplighter Jones September 6, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Hi Adito,

Could you explain how to estimate the probability of the strength of gravity relative to electromagnetism being twice its current value?

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Lamplighter Jones September 6, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Here’s another question for people who can estimate probabilities of universes having various properties.

What is the conditional probability that, among those universes in which intelligent life is possible, it is possible for intelligent beings to parameterize all possible universes, and/or correctly estimate the probabilities of these universes having various properties (in particular, the property of possibly containing intelligent life)?

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Hermes September 6, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Agreed. To Al’s credit, unlike too many other people, it looks as if he’s not aiming at making this an endless process backed mainly by unsupported assertions and dodging of valid criticisms and issues. He has an end goal, and is willing to back his statements.

To emphasize what I’ve mentioned to him before (hi Al!), I’d be glad to preliminarily grant him all criticisms of alternate ideas if he provides direct support for his main contention.

The concern I have is that if he does go through all that effort, disproves the competition or at a minimum shows them less likely, that yet another mole will pop up as a potentially valid competitor. Even if one does not, the possibility of yet another is never dispelled. Only direct positive support will stop that.

By analogy, if the claim is that the next un-calculated digit of Pi is 5, only calculating the next digit of Pi will show that it was 5 or not, yet even in that case there’s a 1 in 10 chance not a 1 in 2 chance that it will be 5 by happenstance.

[ The above example assumes the improbable; that individual Pi digits have a pseudo random distribution and that the position in the string does not change the probability of guessing prior to calculation. ]

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Hermes September 6, 2010 at 12:54 pm

…continued…

In the Pi example, if someone were to state that they had a way of calculating digits of Pi — new and improved or existing — they would have to not only provide a logical explanation but specifically a logical explanation in the form of a mathematical proof. If the method is shown to not actually return results — new digits of Pi — then it is invalid. This is the case even if alternate methods are all shown to be invalid.

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Thrasymachus September 6, 2010 at 1:43 pm

I like Collin’s version of the FT argument. Partly because it neatly dispenses with the weaker objections. The main routes of defense against FT are

1) Statistical quibbling

2) Multiverses
3) Modal scope

1) Is simply ‘so what are you getting at when you say ‘by chance’? It seems a bit mysterious to say that the universe could have turned out otherwise (how do we know?) We might say there’s little steer as to whether the actual possibilities we can think of with barren universes really are possibilities or equi-probable possibilities. Yet to me, they seem to be, and it also seems that running indifference over the modal space seems fine, if slightly whiffy. So I don’t like 1.

2) I like 2 more. After all, multiverses can beat low probabilities by exhaustion. Theist will say that you are only taking multiverses to avoid the FT inference. I’m sure there are free-standing reasons, but ultimately, so what? Multiverses don’t offer anything noxious, and, so far as I can see, don’t have any reason against them. FT would still be somewhat convincing (because FT wouldn’t be surprising on Atheism because Multiverses aren’t surprising and you’d expect FT on multiverse, yet it remains ‘exactly what you’d expect’ on Theism.

3) Modal scope: the idea that we can’t apprehend enough of the possibilities to tell. That’s a bit too long for a comment piece so (forgive me hawking my wares) see here

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Baal September 6, 2010 at 2:30 pm

None of the arguments about personal deities even get off the ground for me.
To be a person is to be one among others. Unless you argue that all other personalities have eternally co-existed with this god how could he/she be personal? If they do eternally co-exist they weren’t truly created.
If you say god is personal, just a personality unlike any other personality ever known, why call it personal?
It just becomes this language game that gives an intimation of there being some substance behind it all that quickly disappears when you actually try to grasp it.

All language and mental constructs came about to describe things or relations in the Universe. How can you even apply any attributes like ‘one’, ‘personal’ etc. to an entity that is without number? How can you you even say it is an entity?

I know that in indian philosophy they tried to get around this by claiming that Sanskrit was the actual language of god and that the sound vibration that was the Sanskrit name of every thing was non-different to the thing, that it was the utterance of the sound that brought the thing into being, which is why they have always been so big on mantras. But this approach is untenable for anyone who admits that languages are contingent evolved systems that limited beings use to communicate amongst themselves. The name is NOT the thing.

So theologians use the whole apophatic tack. That the divine is ineffable, neither one nor many, beyond being and non-being, that everything said about the divine has to be taken as metaphor, pointing towards what language can never name or minds ever grasp. Though they can never leave it at that and quickly claim that this ineffable, inconceivable essence has certain ideas and desires they are privy to because it has been revealed.
Sorry if this seems like a rant but the whole ‘fine tuning’ thing just make me think of how every time in human history we have taken some thing like clockwork and used it as a metaphor for the Cosmos, or computer as a metaphor for the brain we always get to a point where we see the metaphor obscures more that it illuminates.
It just seems to me we can’t even formulate ideas about the Universe’s origins without begging the question.
Talk of fine tuning is so loaded to begin with.

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oarobin September 6, 2010 at 4:34 pm

i cannot understand the why the fine-tuning argument is considered good because it seems to be based on the most speculative physics. how does one move from the fact that the current universe supports complex, carbon based intelligent life to the argument that the universe
is fine-tuned for life.
well they use the two best physical theories we currently have general relativity and quantum mechanics,
theories we know break down (don’t agree) at short distances with extreme gravity e.g. near black holes and the origin of the big bang, and just simply assume that QM & relativity work independently and vary observe parameters freely to produce possible worlds that they think are physically possible. then they “simply” count those possible world that complex chemistry can arise and decide that since the count is relatively small compare to all possible worlds that since the current world is one that supports life is fine tuned for life.

now apart from the fact that we are using theories in areas where we know they are wrong, there are problems with the definition of life and with the counting process. do we have a good definition of life or intelligence where we can assert that complex chemistry is required for its support? if intelligence can be implemented on a universal Turing machine (a real possibility with AI) what are the viable substrates that can support life and have they been accounted for in the possible worlds?
which leads nicely into the fact that there are difficulties identifying specific modes of life and testing whether or not they are counted in life supporting universes e.g. conway’s “game of Life” (see jeffrey shallit in the first of luke
barnes post on Victor Stenger).
another problems which arises is because of quantum uncertainty can a finite pocket of finite duration not spontaneously arise
and support intelligent life? how do you rule out that occurrence in a possible universe .

this alongside Hector Avalos argument that even if we assume that the universe is fine-tuned for intelligent life then it is even more
fine-tuned for the byproducts of intelligent life such as planes, cars, computers, etc which seems like a very counter-intuitive result showing that the fine-tuning of a universe looks like a arbitrary property.

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Mazen Abdallah September 6, 2010 at 4:35 pm

I haven’t seen a lot of material for Vic Stenger on this site, which is regrettable but i recall reading ‘God:The Failed Hypothesis’ and finding it very impressive. Moritz disregarded some of Stenger’s finer arguments for fine-tuning

1) Most theists use intentionally misleading math when arguing for Fine-tuning
This could involve being selective about figures, or the much more common error of taking the probability of life arising on its own without also taking into account the probability that God caused it.

2) If God can do whatever he pleases, isn’t it illogical to posit that he would need to fine-tune his own creation?
God could have created us to function under any set of physical circumstances, so fine-tuning makes the insinuation that he has to follow laws that are pre-existing.

3) The absence of life on other planets harshly affects the probability of fine-tuning
Life is not and will never become possible anywhere on the earth. This is much more indicative of a non-deterministic occurrence.

Overall, Moritz makes two fairly basic mistakes as a philosopher
1) Assumes that the truth value of other possible explanations affects the veracity of his own, which is untestable
2) Assumes that because fine-tuning is philosophically sound despite relying on an ontologically unproven state of being, thus begging the question

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Mazen Abdallah September 6, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Some corrections to the above post because Luke has no edit button :)

which is regrettable but*
which is regrettable because

on the earth*
in the universe.

untestable*
also untestable
By this i mean that since most cosmogony ideas are not actual rival hypotheses but rather speculation, if one presents problems it does not affect the others’ veracity

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DarkTango78 September 6, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Luke, what do you mean “I don’t know of anyone who uses this structure with the fine-tuning argument”? This is almost verbatim Craig’s argument.

i) The fine tuning of the universe is due to chance, necesity or design.
ii) The fine tuning of the universe is not due to chance or necesity.
C) The fine tuning of he universe is due to design.

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lukeprog September 6, 2010 at 5:47 pm

DarkTango78,

Footnote #1, as you can see, refers to the possibility of stating the fine-tuning argument as an argument from analogy.

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MichaelPJ September 6, 2010 at 5:54 pm

I think I mainly take issue with the idea that “design” answers anything. Suppose the universe was designed by God. Consider some possible Gods. God 1 is a paperclip maximiser. He loves paperclips. If he’d designed the universe, then it would be full of efficient apparatus for the production of paperclips. Or God 2. He hates heavy nuclei. If he’d designed the universe, then he’d definitely have made sure that no heavy nuclei formed, unlike this joker Yahweh. So for some reason we got the God who likes humans.

So, to echo Rob, who fine-tuned God?

PS. Al does talk about “life as we don’t know it”, but I think people are right in that he doesn’t really address the possibility of simulated life properly.

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Mazen Abdallah September 6, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I think everyone is forgetting the basic fallacies of design arguments
1) constructing a grand order with no real background knowledge
2) Assuming God is just a bigger version of us, tinkering with planets

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Andrew Reid September 6, 2010 at 8:05 pm

This paper has an unspoken assumption I’ve seen a few times in arguments of this type: that it is _necessary_ to pick one of the proposed explanations.

I don’t see why this should be the case. Why can’t the apparent fine-tuning of the universe be classified as an unanswered question (which may be answered in the future)?

Ignoring this option makes the theistic argument look a lot better than it actually is. If you criticize the current naturalist explanations for apparent fine-tuning for being poor and/or lacking evidence (and I agree with Al that at best many of them are wildly speculative) and then propose a theist explanation as superior then it looks like you’ve accomplished something significant. However, one must also judge an explanation against the problem, not just against other competing explanations. If none of the explanations are sufficiently good in absolute terms then we shouldn’t accept any of them.

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Charles September 6, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Disclaimer: I have only skimmed the paper, but it looks like he is saying.

Fine-tuning is true.
Atheists propose various explanation (A, B, C, and D).
But these explanations fail.
Therefore, G.

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Yair September 7, 2010 at 1:36 am

What I never understand about the Fine-Tuning Argument is the theistic alternative. Why is it, again, that a fine-tuned universe such as ours is likely under theism? Why does almighty God choose to create laws of nature which are fine-tuned? Note that the question ISN’T why does God create laws of nature which can support life; I’ll grant the theist that god wants to create life through laws of nature, for the sake of argument. But why do such laws have to exhibit the feature of being FINE-TUNED, i.e. to fail if the constants in them are moved ever-so-slightly? I think there is no good non ad-hoc reason to presume God would want to create fine-tuned laws of nature, and therefore the finding of fine-tuning is in no way explained by the god hypothesis.

They key point is that the theistic argument misses the point. It is an attempt to argue why someone would tune the constants in a given way, instead of why the laws of nature are constructed with this very off feature.

Now, this does not imply that naturalism offers a good explanation for fine-tuning. At least some (e.g. “brute luck”) don’t really explain it at all. But this doesn’t mean that theism does explain it.

I am also far less certain of all three “dismissed” objections to fine-tuning. While it does appear that fine-tuning holds, this is in the sense that changing one physical constant will demonstrably lead to conditions unsuitable for life. It is not (to my knowledge) clear, however, what is the density and distribution of life-bearing universes across the parameter-space. You can’t say that fine-tuning is needed if any random combination of constants will yield you a life-bearing universe. I suspect that this isn’t the case, that fine-tuning will hold across the relevant parameter space, but I’m not familiar with research establishing this.

Along the same line, the “second objection” also still holds a point. While it is certainly true no chemistry will be created sans fine-tuning, it isn’t at all clear that no complexity would be created at any part of a non-fine-tuned universe or how prevalent is evolved complexity across all the parameter space.

And as for the “first objection”, while it is true that the existing universe requires fine-tuning, your explanation of it better explain also why there isn’t “more” life, i.e. why life is not more prevalent in the universe. I think theistic explanations fail utterly at that. The naturalistic ones explain the precise “commonality” of life that we observe.

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Yair September 7, 2010 at 3:03 am

There is a deep confusion here. The question is whether the fact that the constants have the values they have can be explained better by a naturalistic or theistic explanations. It is not whether their values are due to chance or necessity or are brute facts; all these options are commensurate with both naturalism and theism.

The multiverse suggests that they are what they are by necessity; necessarily there are such universes, and we are in one of them. Certain quantum cosmologies suggest that they are what they are by chance; only one universe exists, and we’re it. Both explain why we find that the constants are fine-tuned, but at the cost of accepting the broader rules underlying the quantum cosmology as brute facts. Both don’t provide good explanations why the laws are built so that fine-tuning is required in the first place, although the multiverse at least offers some explanation on why the laws have the structure they do.

Traditional theism assumes an omnipotent deity, which is thus incongruent with god producing laws of nature that include fine-tuning sans ad-hoc motivations for god – in particular, the motivation to create life does not imply creating fine-tuning in the laws of nature for an omnipotent deity. Unorthodox theologies can suppose the structure of the laws of physics is beyond god’s control, allowing him only the power to play with the constants – then god’s existence would explain why the values are what they are, but not why the structure is what it is.

In short, neither naturalism nor theism offers a really good explanation for fine-tuning. The only thing that seems to come close is the multiverse option, which at least offers some explanation why universes will be created in such a way that their laws will require fine-tuning to produce life.

@Adito:
According to what we know about particle physics there’s no reason for these constants to be what they are. It appears that they turned out that way either through random chance or design. This is another well supported point for the design supporter.

According to particle physics either they got their values by random chance or they simply have some values, with no scientific explanation [yet]. Contrary to what appears to be popular wisdom, my own teachers* emphasized that the Standard Model works just fine without assuming the constants got their values by chance (although it’s uglier); hence, there is still no good evidence that any constant really has the value it does due to chance (although the LHC may change that soon, G…. erg… Ananke willing).

Note that this doesn’t advance us one bit. The constants in the laws of nature are still what they are due to chance, necessity, or as a brute fact; and this we knew a priori, without particle physics, and regardless of whether god exists.

*Since we’re brandishing titles about, I’m an M.Sc. and hopefully soon Ph.D. in quantum physics, but not particle physics or quantum cosmology or any of that stuff that’s applicable here. So I’m not making an argument from authority.

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ShaneMcKee September 7, 2010 at 3:36 am

In still enormously impressed by the theistic notion that All This was fine tuned to produce *us*! one important point is that much of FT is geared at the production of necessary conditions in the Big Bang, ultimately making this a DEistic, not a THEistic issue. – theistic god can fine tune on the fly, making exquisite fine tuning inexplicable under a theistic model. Like, why bother? Bang goes creationism/intelligent design. So, ironically, the FTA is one theists ought to avoid, as it proves Deism is the upper limit of god’s interventional requirement.

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Baal September 7, 2010 at 4:54 am

If theists get all excited about how finely tuned everything seems to have needed to be to give rise to life, does the direction of the Universe not matter?
If, as it seems, the Universe really is accelerating in its expansion and given enough time all matter will be so diffuse that when the stars die they can’t even muster enough mass to reignite what kind of motivation will they attribute to this god?
That he finely tuned the Universe so that, for a brief moment in time, matter would self-organise into entities just intelligent enough to work out the whole thing is eventually going to just dissipate into a heat death?
Religionists like to say that science can only answer the how question; that it’s religion that answers the why.

What would the why of it all be?
That god is a divine version of Marvin the paranoid android. So bored at the futility of his existence he decided to create us just so we could know and share the pointlessness of it all before our extinction?

I suppose it could be worse. We could be condemned to spend eternity in Heaven, singing his praises.

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Reginald Selkirk September 7, 2010 at 6:00 am

Adito: Actually the conditions necessary for life are extremely unlikely. The fact that gravity works well enough to form stars is in itself incredibly unlikely.

You must carefully separate here between the probability of life forming on the conditions of the early Earth, and the probability of those conditions arising cosmologically. The first is the classical argument of biological design. The second is the classical cosmological “fine-tuning” argument.

Coupled, these constitute a “heads I win, tails you lose” pair. If life arose despite being unlikely, that is posited as evidence of miraculous intervention. If life arose because conditions made it likely, that is posited as evidence of “fine-tuning.”

Most biologists and chemists are convinced that the probability of life having arisen naturally on the early Earth was high, but we at present do not know the exact conditions which contributed to this.

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lukeprog September 7, 2010 at 7:05 am

Charles,

As for the paper in its current state, you’re correct.

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Charles September 7, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Well, the argument I put forward is obviously invalid. One way to save it is like this.

Fine-tuning is true.
Atheists propose various explanation (A, B, C, and D).
But these explanations fail.
Theists propose explanation G.
G.
Therefore, G.

Ha!

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Shane McKee September 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Actually, can we maybe get away from this “fine tuning” phrase – it is not very good. At best we should say that we inhabit a point in a very narrow range of parameters where life can exist – we are, if you like, on a little island in a hostile sea.

That said, it is certain that the *degree* to which these parameters are critically balanced has been vastly overstated by some. Indeed, for things like the fine structure constant or even the speed of light, the critical range cited by some has been much narrower than the confidence intervals for the measurement or calculation of the parameter itself! Which suggests that the “biogenic window” is substantially larger than some have suggested.

It still needs an explanation, and I think the Mathematical Universe provides that. Theism is a rubbish explanation, because no matter what is said, ya still gotta explain *god*!

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Al Moritz September 7, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Moritz quickly dismisses two objections. The first is this: “How can you say that the universe appears fine-tuned for life? Most of it is completely inhospitable and hostile to life.” But this is irrelevant. The fine-tuning argument applies to the universe as a whole. Extreme fine-tuning would be required for life to exist more commonly in the universe, of course, but it is also required for life to exist at all – even just on the tiny speck of dust on which it does exist.

The second objection is: “The fine-tuning for life is nonsense. We are adapted to the universe by evolution, not the universe is adapted to us.” This is again, irrelevant. The universe must be extremely fine-tuned for complex chemistry or evolution to exist at all.

I used to raise the first objection myself, but Moritz is right: both objections are irrelevant. In fact, they misunderstand cosmic fine-tuning about as badly as young earth creationists misunderstand evolution.

Luke, I am glad you changed your mind on this, and I noticed you also changed your mind on the significance of fine-tuning per se after your interview of Luke Barnes. I am impressed. You don’t just talk the talk (‘I do change my mind about things’), you also walk the walk. Only someone who is able to change his/her mind can be called rational. I have changed my mind a number of times too. You mentioned one example in your intro, and most recently I have changed my mind about choice making sense under determinism, with fatalism making no sense, after reading Drescher’s irrefutable logic in section 5.3. of his book ‘Good and Real’.

The first part of his article presents the fine-tuning argument: The parameters of our universe (the strength of the forces, the mass ratios of certain particles, etc.) must be fine-tuned to something very close to their actual values in order to produce life, or even complex chemistry.

This fact [fine-tuning] is not much debated among physicists. The most vocal dissenter I know of is Victor Stenger, and his arguments are just bad.

I am glad you recognize that Stenger’s arguments are just bad, and Luke Barnes’ rebuttal that you link to is excellent (I should link to it in my article). I am quite appalled at how many atheists base their cosmological views on Stenger. How uncritical and demonstrative of utterly selective (read, no genuine) rationality. Indeed, denying fine-tuning as a fact is just like creationists denying evolution. Of course, I don’t expect everyone to feel as compelled as I am to draw the same conclusion from fine-tuning as I do, but denying fine-tuning is something I have zero patience for. Also Hawking stresses the reality of fine-tuning in his new book, but of course he offers the multiverse as a solution.

I don’t know Al’s background. It appears he doesn’t have a Ph.D.

I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry. Titles are not that important though.

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Al Moritz September 7, 2010 at 5:17 pm

It sounds like Moritz wants to offer a straightforward deductive argument, something like the following:

The fine-tuning of the universe to support life is explained by chance, necessity, or theism.

The fine-tuning of the universe to support life is not explained by chance or necessity.

Therefore, the fine-tuning of the universe to support life is explained by theism.

The structure of such an argument is trivially valid, so all the “action” would be in determining whether or not the premises can be adequately supported.

So my first question for Moritz is: What is your argument, exactly? Please state it explicitly. Thanks!

You don’t include the multiverse (or does that fall under ‘necessity’?), but this basically correct, except that I talk about strong probability, rather than offering a straight deduction.

I formulate it as such in the article’s summary:

“The probability is strong that it is due to actual design – pointing to the existence of God – since this is the only assumption with sufficient explanatory power. The article shows that all alternative proposals to explain the apparent fine-tuning without design are inadequate.

“These are:
a) Brute chance
b) Necessity of the laws of nature
c) Life as we do not know it
d) The multiverse”

In section 1.5. I say:

Thus, I conclude that the most rational explanation for the apparent design of the universe is the simplest one: it is actually designed. The designer would most likely be God, since with His omnipotence and infinite knowledge He could plan and execute the Big Bang with the exactly predicted outcome. Alternatively, God worked with a multiverse as an intermediate, which also would have to be carefully designed in order to allow for the generation of, among others, our particular universe.

Again, this does not say that it is a strict deduction, but rather that the designer explanation is simply the (by far) best one. (Perhaps I should replace ‘the most rational explanation’ with ‘the by far most probable explanation’ or ‘the best explanation’.)

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Al Moritz September 7, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Ildi,

Um, argument from incredulity?

July 19, 2010: A woman in Texas has luck on her side. She has won the lottery four times in the past 17 years for a combined $21 million. Her most recent win came last month after she spent $50 on a scratch off and won $10 million.

Whatever. Point is that leading cosmologists (many of them atheists or agnostics) agree that a life-supporting universe is ridiculously unlikely to arise by chance, and they agree there must another explanation (e.g., multiverse). You can talk around that point whatever you want, but don’t expect me to have much patience for it.

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Charles September 7, 2010 at 5:26 pm

But seriously, I think argument to the best explanation is the way to go. Life-permitting universes appear to be extraordinarily improbable given current understanding of natural law.

This is not in dispute.

Either the universe was constructed, or ours is just one among many, or (for some as yet unknown reason) it just couldn’t have been any other way. These are, I think, the choices.

That said, I think he is right to discount “brute chance” and “life as we know it” as explanations.

The first is just sloppy thinking. If you found yourself in front of a firing squad and everyone proceeded to miss, would you think, ‘Hey, that was lucky’? Of course not. Marksmen don’t generally miss. You would infer that something else was going on. And if after removing the blindfold, you were to spin around and face the wall behind and saw bullet holes arranged in the precise outline of your person, how strong would be your suspicion?

Pretty damn strong, I hope!

The second explanation (“life as we know it”) just misunderstands the problem. The argument from fine-tuning is really about the improbability of forming stars. Without stars, you wind up hydrogen and helium (and some lithium). I just can’t see how to make anything we would call “living” from that.

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Al Moritz September 7, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Garren,

Asking “What is the argument?” is very appropriate since Moritz appears to equivocate between TWO basic arguments…one with which I strongly agree, and the other strongly disagree.

I agree with all the places in the article where Moritz points out how naturalistic metaphysics “is a philosophical extrapolation, not a scientific one.” Current science does not strongly and positively demonstrate the sort of fundamental natural laws required to explain the laws we are sure about. When I personally argue that an eternal, natural world is epistemically likely, I freely admit to do so on philosophical grounds based on past scientific discovery, but extending beyond that. Yes, this may properly be called “faith.”

Good, we agree.

However, I disagree with where Moritz goes once he has established for himself — in a way I affirm — that both naturalistic and supernatural explanations require philosophical faith beyond current (and possibly future!) science. He seems to apply a double standard in which such “faith” explanations are compatible with religious thought but incompatible with naturalistic thought.

I don’t say that (I certainly didn’t mean to say that). However, I do contend (and you appear to agree) that the atheist position is based no less on ‘faith’ than the theist position (I suppose we both know that in this context I don’t mean ‘religious’ faith).

When I read this essay, I felt like I was hearing, “Natural explanations X, Y, and Z all FAIL because they aren’t demonstrated by science; supernatural explanation A, however, SUCCEEDS because it doesn’t need to be demonstrated by science.”

Not quite. For example, necessity of laws of nature and ‘why this multiverse and not any other’ fall into the domain of philosophy. The essential point here is not that they aren’t demonstrated by science, but that these are philosophical questions — just like the God question.

Science cannot explain *why* the laws of nature are the way they are, it can only explain *what* they are and how they work. The *why* is always a metaphysical question.

(Necessity of laws of nature.)
Suppose that, vastly unlikely as that appears, there is indeed just one single solution to the laws of nature in a unified system of general relativity and quantum mechanics (a system of ‘quantum gravity’, perhaps), and the laws of nature, including the initial conditions of the universe (!), thus have to be that way and not any other. This still would not explain the *why* of the laws of nature, since the philosopher may then legitimately ask, why this particular unified system and not any other mathematically self-consistent one?

(Multiverse.)
Even if we could see a putative multiverse (which we can’t, due to the particle horizon) the philosopher may then legitimately ask, why this particular multiverse that can produce our local universe, and not any other multiverse? (Meaning also that the multiverse does not solve the design problem.)

P.S. – How do italics work on this site? I feel bad using all caps for emphasis.

As here:

http://www.ironspider.ca/format_text/fontstyles.htm

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Al Moritz September 7, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Hermes,

FWIW…
While I had my own comments and concerns about Al’s paper the last time I looked at it, I can’t fault him for skimping on details, and he is both patient and open to making changes or clarifying his position.

Thank you.

In all seriousness, if Al can show that his paper sufficiently supports the idea that a deity is more likely than not, I will acknowledge that and become some kind of theist/deist/… even if that on a practical level doesn’t change any of my other opinions or thoughts about reality or any specific religions.

I can see that. The theistic fine-tuning argument of course is not sufficient to point to any religion. As I state in my article:

“Obviously, like any other arguments for the existence of God, the arguments presented here only apply to the God of the philosophers (contained in the attributes of God in the three great monotheistic religions), not to the God of any specific religion. Choices in favor of a particular religion will best be argued on the basis of historical and theological considerations – how divine revelation developed – rather than on philosophical ones.”

To Al’s credit, unlike too many other people, it looks as if he’s not aiming at making this an endless process backed mainly by unsupported assertions and dodging of valid criticisms and issues. He has an end goal, and is willing to back his statements.

Again, thanks for having faith in me.

The concern I have is that if he does go through all that effort, disproves the competition or at a minimum shows them less likely, that yet another mole will pop up as a potentially valid competitor. Even if one does not, the possibility of yet another is never dispelled. Only direct positive support will stop that.

The argument will only go so far for different people. Some may be swayed into considering the probability of a deity, others may wait for another competitor explanation to show up (this may also depend on the likelihood that one assigns to the future showing-up of such a competitor explanation — I find it very improbable).

In any case, I hope you will appreciate why this is one of the arguments that for me, coming from the theistic side, make it rationally impossible for me to switch to atheism.

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mojo.rhythm September 7, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Al Moritz,

Are you a Deist, or do you think the fine-tuning of the universe is evidence for Christianity?

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Kaelik September 7, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Whatever. Point is that leading cosmologists (many of them atheists or agnostics) agree that a life-supporting universe is ridiculously unlikely to arise by chance, and they agree there must another explanation (e.g., multiverse). You can talk around that point whatever you want, but don’t expect me to have much patience for it.

This is the kind of stupidity that deprives me of hope. When established (philosophers? biochemists?) to just throw to the wind their entire argument like trash by falling prey to the most basic faults that they can easily see:

Moritz:

Take the lotto example used by Barnes:

1) It’s not impressive that someone won the lottery. It’s impressive that a specific person won the lottery.

compare:

2) It’s not impressive that their is life, it’s impressive if only one type of life “picked beforehand” turned out.

How do you know that a universe with clouds of charged particles, but no gravity, couldn’t form “energy beings” that consist of self replicating patterns of charged particles?

How do you know that specific universal constants X couldn’t result in life forms Y that are not carbon based life?

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Charles September 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm

“energy beings” that consist of self replicating patterns of charged particles?

I think you are confusing science fiction with science fact.

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Kaelik September 7, 2010 at 8:08 pm

“I think you are confusing science fiction with science fact.”

I think you are confusing this universe with a universe with entirely different fundamental constants.

If gravity is so weak that for all intents and purposes the electromagnetic force is the only force that applies at any significant scale outside a very short range, then it is possible that clouds of charged particles (because this is apparently a very small universe too, or whatever) interacting with each other might produce patterns which propagate themselves.

If patterns that propagate themselves become sufficiently correct, why wouldn’t they count as life? Why couldn’t they become sufficiently complex to count as intelligent?

Of course the answer is, “How the fuck is anyone supposed to know?” and that answer is supposed to make you realize that you aren’t picking the lottery winner beforehand, you are picking the lottery winner after and saying “why that one?” Meanwhile, if some other universe had showed up, for all we know, clouds of charged particle patterns would be shooting photons at each other about how their universe was fine tuned for life.

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lukeprog September 7, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Dr. Al,

There are still many, many ways for me to interpret your argument, and the objections I would raise depend entirely on what you’re actually trying to argue. Besides, clarifying your argument would strengthen your article. Could you please clarify your argument? Pretty please?

Perhaps you can place it in one of the four categories provided? It looks to me like you have a deductive argument in mind. Of course, the conclusion will still be probabilistic in a sense because the truth of the PREMISES will be probabilistic. But whatever it is, I really need to be clear on what you argument is before I know which objections I have to it.

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Charles September 7, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Kaelik,

In this universe, the only way to get complexity is by adding energy. That means something like stars.

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Kaelik September 7, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Charles, a lot of things are true of this universe, but in case you missed it, I’m talking about a different universe. It actually still has energy, it just doesn’t have stars. Which is my point. There are lots of possible values for different constants. That’s great. But anyone who can point to some values and say “Without stars, there could be no life!” is pulling shit out of their ass.

Stars is a way to concentrate energy. It’s not the only one.

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Hermes September 7, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Kaelik & Charles, good comments. While no insult to Charles, I currently think that Kaelik currently has the most convincing and interesting comments.

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oarobin September 7, 2010 at 11:21 pm

i am with Kaelik on this one.

there seems to be a casual acceptance of the physical assumptions in “the universe is fine-tuned for life” argument that i think needs further examination.

these assumption take what we know about the physical and chemical history of life from the big bang to the evolution of life on earth and vary the constants of physics freely thereby showing that life like ours or that closely mimics ours could not exist in a majority of these “possible” universes’. viewed this way the “life” that the universe is fine-tuned for is one that closely mimics ours and rephrased the argument is “the universe is fine-tuned for life that is like ours or closely mimics it”.
notice that this argument says that IF we can vary the constants of nature freely then life like or closely like ours is improbable. the if part of the implication is very important because we do not know that we can vary these constants freely, indeed there are arguments against the idea because we know that QM and Gen. Relativity don’t agree at the big bang and that is a what a final theory of fundamental physics is suppose to resolve, marry them and constrain the free parameters . in fact we do not even know if the “constants” of nature are constants, they may just be slowly varying and that is not taken into account in the argument. also note that other forms of life are not explicitly addressed and so cannot be ruled out in these other universes’.
the fine-tuning argument can be best viewed as speculative physics ala the Drake equation.

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Al Moritz September 8, 2010 at 3:01 am

Al Moritz,
Are you a Deist, or do you think the fine-tuning of the universe is evidence for Christianity?

Neither. Why don’t you read the ‘Background’ section of my article, and my reply to Hermes just above your post?

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Al Moritz September 8, 2010 at 3:04 am

Charles,

I think you are confusing science fiction with science fact.

Exactly. I aanswer this issue about ‘other life’ in section 1.3.3. of my article.

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Kaelik September 8, 2010 at 5:27 am

So Moritz, your defense against argument from incredulity is to say “It’s not an argument from incredulity. It’s an argument from incredulity! Totally different.”

You really can’t do any better than that?

The argument might be brought up, “life could theoretically occur in ways we would never imagine, or in ways we would not even think of as life at all”. Life on neutron stars based on “nuclear molecules”, or life within plasma, among others, have been proposed – yes, weird ideas do exist. How do you get reproduction based on “genetic” information, mutation, an environment for natural selection, and a communicative network of “cells” (whatever that may mean under those circumstances), thus the ability for evolution of intelligent life, out of any of this? With which tools would this life explore the world? The idea of material intelligent life without any chemical complexity leads one into regions of thought that are not seriously debatable anymore, and which have no basis in our knowledge from science.

I agree that it is not actually knowable to any great degree besides baseless speculation what kinds of life might or might not exist in fundamentally different universes. Thank you for proving my point.

What I oppose is the arbitrary and baseless leap from:

1) We can’t know if other forms of life might exist in other universes.

to

2) Therefore life in other forms must be exceedingly rare, so rare that we are fine tuned.

If you don’t know about it, then how can you turn around and use your knowledge of it’s likelihood as a premise in your argument for a god?

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Charles September 8, 2010 at 6:01 am

Kaelik,

We have no frame of reference to talk about universes with different physical laws, or how likely life would be in those universes, or even if it makes sense to talk about it. I have no idea how to get life without exploding stars and neither do you.

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Hermes September 8, 2010 at 6:19 am

Charles, I think that’s Kaelik’s point and it doesn’t necessarily contradict what you are saying one bit.

The fine-tuning argument backs into the answer based on our universe’s physical laws; because we have life here, therefor this universe is capable of allowing for life to exist (created or as an emergent property).

Implicit in that is the assumption that only our specific configuration is possible. If this assumption is not actually being made, then it is necessary to examine possible alternatives in other potential universes with those different physical laws.

I’m with you that we can’t make such a leap that there are indeed other universes with different physical laws and that those are able to support life in some form.

Yet, the basis of the fine tuning argument is that it points to some other unknown; an entity that intended this specific universe to exist that allows for life to exist.

If it is not known what conditions are required for life — our known life or any other — then the fine tuning argument doesn’t make much sense as we are dealing with guesses about what is unknown not humble limits to what we do know.

One big topic is that while there are a variety of variables that could account for different physical laws, there is little provided to support that those laws could be different in different universes or in what way. We don’t know if the Higgs boson, for example, is a real particle or not; we don’t even have a full understanding of the structure of physical reality at that level or what would be plausible alternatives.

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Reginald Selkirk September 8, 2010 at 6:36 am

Charles: The first is just sloppy thinking. If you found yourself in front of a firing squad and everyone proceeded to miss, would you think, ‘Hey, that was lucky’? Of course not. Marksmen don’t generally miss. You would infer that something else was going on. And if after removing the blindfold, you were to spin around and face the wall behind and saw bullet holes arranged in the precise outline of your person, how strong would be your suspicion?

Pretty damn strong, I hope!

This is where Charles would rather argue for an inappropriate analogy than the actual substance.

Numerous criticisms of the firing squad analogy which it would be tedious but appropriate to repeat

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Hermes September 8, 2010 at 6:39 am

Point being: Till we know the details about the physical reality of our universe, I agree that confidence in a conclusion about other potential universes is not merited.

If some unknowns are granted for the sake of argument, other unknowns (such as the potential to support the idea that energy based life forms are plausible) must also be granted. The arguments for either position can go from there.

* It’s an issue of fairness if concessions are made in other parts of the argument.

* I do not think that unsupported concessions should be granted; what is most fair is to require rigorous support for any claim being made.

That said: In the case of other life forms, we do have an understanding of how abiogenesis could have occurred here on Earth. If the laws of other potential universes were fleshed out, we could apply that understanding to the other potential universes in a similar manner to see if it is possible.

Personally, I would be surprised if our own universe doesn’t have many pockets of life even if the organisms are mainly simple like bacteria or even viruses.

Yet, I do not cling tightly to those speculations and I could fairly easily argue the opposite.

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Reginald Selkirk September 8, 2010 at 6:41 am

Charles: We have no frame of reference to talk about universes with different physical laws, or how likely life would be in those universes, or even if it makes sense to talk about it. I have no idea how to get life without exploding stars and neither do you.

Ah so. Maybe you can explain how we have a frame of reference to be talking about what the probability of the universe turning out the way it did, instead of some different way, after observing a sample set of one universe.

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MichaelPJ September 8, 2010 at 7:17 am

@Al

As a couple of people have pointed out, the missing portion of your article is the part that would be entitled “Why deism doesn’t fail as an explanation for fine tuning”. As it stands, you dismiss a variety of alternatives to design, but don’t explain why design isn’t just as dismissable. Now, I’m sure you have an argument for that, but it would be nice to hear it!

The difference is between
A,B,C are possible explanations for U.
A and B are implausible.
C is also implausible.
Therefore we have no idea what the explanation for U is.

and

A,B,C are possible explanations for U.
A and B are implausible.
Therefore C is probably the explanation for U.

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Charles September 8, 2010 at 7:28 am

Reginald Selkirk: This is where Charles would rather argue for an inappropriate analogy than the actual substance.

Perhaps you think I am using the firing squad to say more than I intend. I don’t, for instance, mean to argue for a designer, just that, “Hey, that was lucky!” is a poor response. Ultimately, I think the argument from fine-tuning fails.

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Charles September 8, 2010 at 7:55 am

Reginald Selkirk: Ah so. Maybe you can explain how we have a frame of reference to be talking about what the probability of the universe turning out the way it did, instead of some different way, after observing a sample set of one universe.

If you kick a football, its motion is governed by Newton’s laws plus the initial conditions you gave it. Likewise, our universe appears to be governed by laws and initial conditions. When an atheist like Stephen Hawking says, “The emergence of the complex structures capable of supporting intelligent observers seems to be very fragile,” I take him at his word.

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Kaelik September 8, 2010 at 9:47 am

We have no frame of reference to talk about universes with different physical laws, or how likely life would be in those universes, or even if it makes sense to talk about it. I have no idea how to get life without exploding stars and neither do you.

I absolutely agree. The statement “No other set of fundamental constants would produce a universe with intelligent life” has exactly the same support as the statement “Every single possible combination of fundamental constants would result in a universe that develops intelligent life of some kind or another.”

Which is to say, none at all.

So when someone says for example:

Our universe with its specific laws of nature would be a small oasis within a vast desert of a humongous number of sterile, non-complex universes where no chemistry takes place.

As Moritz does, what I challenge him on is how he can know this about other universes, when even he admits that talking about whether different types of life could exist is not something we can know about?

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Ronnie September 9, 2010 at 4:09 am

Maybe the universe does not have fine tuned constants after all. Take a look at this. http://www.economist.com/node/16930866

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lukeprog September 9, 2010 at 7:39 am

Good link, Ronnie. I wonder if those findings are yet accepted by the physics community?

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Al Moritz September 9, 2010 at 7:55 am

Maybe the universe does not have fine tuned constants after all.

I think this is an overreaction. Let’s take a step back and look at it rationally: the Hubble telescope can look so far back into space (and thus time) that it could detect stars in the universe as it was just 2 billion years old (Hubble Ultra Deep Field). This means stars everywhere we look, and this also means very low variations (if any) in physical constants, since with slightly larger variations star formation becomes impossible.

I will answer other posts later.

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ShaneMcKee September 9, 2010 at 8:01 am

The funny thing is I could swear I have seen the value of the fine structure constant recombined with c and G and the others to produce very spectacular numbers, which cannot be anything but double-dipping in the fine tuning argument, and making the fineness look far more impressive than it actually is.

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Ronnie September 9, 2010 at 10:24 am

Lukeprog,
“Good link, Ronnie. I wonder if those findings are yet accepted by the physics community?”
Thanks, Luke.
I doubt it. They may become accepted later, though. Replication could falsify them.

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MichaelPJ September 9, 2010 at 11:49 am

Regarding the possibility of physical constants varying over space: even if they do vary, we’re still left with the question of why they are distributed in the way that they are. For example, the fine-structure constant might (say) have taken on a range between 15 and 25. Which would have been no good for us! We can still ask “why is the distribution fine-tuned?”.

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ShaneMcKee September 9, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I’ve been looking at Al’s article. Interesting. I have to say that the spectacular (apparently) fine tuniness of fine tuning is neither here nor there. I think many atheists can certainly accept the critical dependence of life on certain fundamental constants of the universe, but I think Al’s dismissal of the multiverse is rather weak. To complain that because other universes in a multiverse are unobservable, this is itself an objection, is rather ironic, since the objection applies even more so to a theistic god – more so because we know that objects of the class “universe” do exist, therefore adding more is no big deal. However, adding a god is adding a completely new category of thingy. So theism is really not to be preferred to a multiverse in this scenario.

However, having dispensed with fine tuning, Al suggests that the “multiverse generator” must therefore be fine tuned. This again is pretty weak; if explaining a multiverse generator is difficult atheistically, it can’t be any easier theistically to explain the generator of the multiverse generator!

However, if, as Max Tegmark and others suggest, the universe is a *system*, and systems are in their very nature mathematical objects, then there is no need for a multiverse generator other than the entirely transcendent “entity” of mathematics itself. No need for actualisation *outside* the system – all that is required would be for the system to be able to host internal subsystems that will themselves “perceive” the rest of the system as “real”.

Otherwise, I agree with Al – if the universe is NOT mathematical (as Tegmark suggests, and Penrose also seems to lean towards), we perhaps need to postulate some sort of deist god. But not a theist one; I really don’t see how Al can seriously suggest that a theistic god has left a “revelation” that we can reliably detect above the ramblings of prophets and the legends of the ancients.

But a nice try ;-)

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Al Moritz September 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Kaelik,

So when someone says for example:

“Our universe with its specific laws of nature would be a small oasis within a vast desert of a humongous number of sterile, non-complex universes where no chemistry takes place.”

As Moritz does, what I challenge him on is how he can know this about other universes, when even he admits that talking about whether different types of life could exist is not something we can know about?

I didn’t say that we cannot know anything about other physical life at all. As I argued, it probably would require complexity, which in turn requires chemistry.

We can know the following (quote from my article):
“Any significant detuning of physical constants, however, and any chemistry would be impossible. Just hydrogen, and possibly deuterium and helium (or equivalents), and no chemistry would exist. And even just atoms can only exist if there is not a detuned cosmological constant, which causes an expansion rate of the universe that rips even atoms apart, or if nuclei are stable which requires a great deal of fine-tuning as well.”

You can calculate all this from known physics. Therefore, it still holds:
“Our universe with its specific laws of nature would be a small oasis within a vast desert of a humongous number of sterile, non-complex universes where no chemistry takes place.”

To me the argument that there might be life that is not based on chemistry, but on other things that we cannot dream of, amounts not just to baseless science fiction, but to special pleading. Special pleading as a desperate attempt to escape the design argument.

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Al Moritz September 9, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Shane:

but I think Al’s dismissal of the multiverse is rather weak. To complain that because other universes in a multiverse are unobservable, this is itself an objection, is rather ironic, since the objection applies even more so to a theistic god

I don’t dismiss the multiverse because we cannot observe it. What I was saying is:

“The multiverse hypothesis thus shows no inherent advantage over the God hypothesis in being more ‘scientific’ or ‘accessible to scientific investigation’.”

It is thus philosophy just like the concept of God.

No, I dismiss the multiverse because it does not solve the design problem. If it would solve the design problem it would be a serious and valid philosophical alternative to the God hypothesis.

However, having dispensed with fine tuning, Al suggests that the “multiverse generator” must therefore be fine tuned. This again is pretty weak; if explaining a multiverse generator is difficult atheistically, it can’t be any easier theistically to explain the generator of the multiverse generator!

This is not the point. The concept of a designer is natural for theism. However, for atheism to be a competing alternative, it needs to show that no design is needed, which it cannot.

However, if, as Max Tegmark and others suggest, the universe is a *system*, and systems are in their very nature mathematical objects, then there is no need for a multiverse generator other than the entirely transcendent “entity” of mathematics itself. No need for actualisation *outside* the system – all that is required would be for the system to be able to host internal subsystems that will themselves “perceive” the rest of the system as “real”.

The universe cannot be entirely mathematical. Physicist Stephen Barr has good observations about this here:

http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9608/barr.html

Quote:
The more serious problem with this idea of the laws of physics as the necessary First Cause is that it is based on an elementary confusion. At most, the laws of physics could be said to be the “formal cause” of the physical universe, whereas by “the First Cause” is meant the efficient cause of the universe, the cause of its very existence. Hawking himself asked precisely the right question when he wrote, “Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the question of why there should be a universe for the model to describe.” That is absolutely decisive — crushing.

So then it would have to hold what you say:

Otherwise, I agree with Al – if the universe is NOT mathematical (as Tegmark suggests, and Penrose also seems to lean towards), we perhaps need to postulate some sort of deist god.

I agree that the fine-tuning argument can only point to God as a designer, but not to a theistic God per se. However, I would hold that the argument from reason that I briefly discuss in my article does point to a theistic God. If rationality is not possible under determinism *) and thus an immaterial component of the human mind is needed, then special creation by an intervening, theistic God is needed as well. I am not inclined to discuss the argument from reason here at length though, this is a discussion about fine-tuning.

*) see the link that I give in my article, or also:

http://www.philosophy.uncc.edu/mleldrid/Intro/csl3.html

(“The cardinal difficulty of naturalism” by C.S. Lewis)

I really don’t see how Al can seriously suggest that a theistic god has left a “revelation” that we can reliably detect above the ramblings of prophets and the legends of the ancients.

We’ll have to disagree on this point then.

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lukeprog September 9, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Hi Al,

Is a formal construction of your fine-tuning forthcoming? If not, I understand, and I’ll just move on in the series, probably going with WLC’s construction.

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Al Moritz September 9, 2010 at 6:16 pm

No, I dismiss the multiverse because it does not solve the design problem.

I should clarify: I don’t dismiss the multiverse as a possibly existing entity. For what it’s worth, God could have created our universe through a multiverse.

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Al Moritz September 9, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Luke:

Is a formal construction of your fine-tuning forthcoming? If not, I understand, and I’ll just move on in the series, probably going with WLC’s construction.

Yes, Luke, I still plan to answer you on this. Perhaps tomorrow, when I am less tired.

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Hermes September 9, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Al, a basic question that I’m a bit surprised I did not request that you clarify earlier. I’ve looked here and in your paper and I don’t see it fleshed out at all.

What is the “design problem” and why does it merit consideration?

If the “design problem” is not crucially important to your paper or is shorthand for some other concept you have already covered that would be good to know as well.

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Charles September 9, 2010 at 8:18 pm

At the end of the day, I don’t think we know enough about cosmology to reach any definite conclusion. If you have good independent reasons to be a theist, then fine-tuning appears to give more support to your theism. But if you have good independent reasons to be an atheist, then it won’t turn you into a theist.

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ShaneMcKee September 9, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Hi Al,
I explained why a multiverse is more probable than a god; a multiverse merely posits more instances of something we already know to exist, I.e. Universes as a category, while a god is a novel type of critter entirely. Deism therefore makes a major leap in the dark.

As for Barr’a objection to a mathematical universe, your quote does not make it clear whether Barr or you misunderstands the argument. What puts “fire in the equations” is the substructures view the system from within.

As for CS Lewis, surely you can’t be serious?

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Kaelik September 10, 2010 at 5:42 am

I didn’t say that we cannot know anything about other physical life at all. As I argued, it probably would require complexity, which in turn requires chemistry.

So either you are narrowly defining chemistry in an absurd way and making a positive assertion that no complexity could ever exist without specifically carbon atoms, which is just you deciding to assert something you couldn’t possibly know as true.

Or you are claiming that different forms of chemistry could not possibly exist, in which case, you are asserting something you could not possibly know as true.

To me the argument that there might be life that is not based on chemistry, but on other things that we cannot dream of, amounts not just to baseless science fiction, but to special pleading. Special pleading as a desperate attempt to escape the design argument.

So just to be clear, when presented with something we cannot possibly know, it’s special pleading to say “we can’t know that.” and it’s not special pleading to say:

1) I am 100% certain that no life could possibly exist in other universes with different constants because it’s impossible! GR! God Exists!

I mean damn, I’ve pretty much completely given up on finding out why anyone thinks that intelligent life is so special that it matters whether or not we exist, just to try to find out why you feel confident that you can assert with certainty the level of complexity that could exist in any universe other than this one.

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ShaneMcKee September 10, 2010 at 1:49 pm

A bit more on the Mathematical Universe: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0709/0709.4024v1.pdf

Personally I feel that the objections that have been raised to it entirely miss the point. But it does squash the Argument from Apparent Fine Tuning and the KCA in one fell swoop.

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Al Moritz September 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Luke,

I would formulate my argument as follows:

The apparent fine-tuning of the universe to support life is explained by design or by naturalistic non-design explanations.

All naturalistic non-design explanations for the apparent fine-tuning of the universe to support life are inadequate.

Thus, there is a strong probability that the apparent fine-tuning of the universe to support life is due to actual design. It is the only assumption with sufficient explanatory power, and points to the existence of God.

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Al Moritz September 10, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Hermes,

Al, a basic question that I’m a bit surprised I did not request that you clarify earlier. I’ve looked here and in your paper and I don’t see it fleshed out at all.

What is the “design problem” and why does it merit consideration?

If the “design problem” is not crucially important to your paper or is shorthand for some other concept you have already covered that would be good to know as well.

Could you please clarify what you mean with this question?

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Al Moritz September 10, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Shane,

I explained why a multiverse is more probable than a god; a multiverse merely posits more instances of something we already know to exist, I.e. Universes as a category, while a god is a novel type of critter entirely. Deism therefore makes a major leap in the dark.

I was fully aware of this argument of yours. However, I chose to specifically answer your charge regarding my apparent easy dismissal of the multiverse due to the fact that it is unobservable.

A bit more on the Mathematical Universe:

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0709/0709.4024v1.pdf

Personally I feel that the objections that have been raised to it entirely miss the point. But it does squash the Argument from Apparent Fine Tuning and the KCA in one fell swoop.

Thanks for posting the link. This clarifies things. If Tegmark’s musings makes any sense is another matter entirely:

Stephen Hawking once asked, “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” In the case of the mathematical cosmos, there is no fire-breathing required, since the point is not that a mathematical structure describes a universe, but that it is a universe.

So everything is just mathematics, including the rubber burning tires of an accelerating sports car, and the enormous force of rocket lifting from the earth, and more dramatically, of a gamma ray burst. Interesting. This is a highly unusual view of mathematics, being things instead of describing things.

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Al Moritz September 10, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Kaelik,

So just to be clear, when presented with something we cannot possibly know, it’s special pleading to say “we can’t know that.” and it’s not special pleading to say:

1) I am 100% certain that no life could possibly exist in other universes with different constants because it’s impossible! GR! God Exists!

I did not say that. I specifically state in my article:
The idea that our universe is the only one that possibly could sustain life would be a misunderstanding of the fine-tuning argument. The argument only says that any universe that could support life would be extremely unlikely to have arisen by chance selection of physical parameters, and indeed the weakless universe – closely modeled after our own, but with judicious adjustments – shows that other life-supporting universes may be possible.

So either you are narrowly defining chemistry in an absurd way and making a positive assertion that no complexity could ever exist without specifically carbon atoms, which is just you deciding to assert something you couldn’t possibly know as true.

Or you are claiming that different forms of chemistry could not possibly exist, in which case, you are asserting something you could not possibly know as true..

If you read section 1.3.3. of my article you will see that I specifically talk about completely alien chemistry, and relatively close to the end of section 1.1 I provide a minimal summary of relevant parameters which includes as point 11:
“Right chemistry (carbon or equivalent in an alien chemistry)”.

No carbon required.

I will repeat the following quote from my article, which says nothing about carbon-based chemistry (this time with emphasis added):

“Any significant detuning of physical constants, however, and any chemistry would be impossible. Just hydrogen, and possibly deuterium and helium (or equivalents), and no chemistry would exist. And even just atoms can only exist if there is not a detuned cosmological constant, which causes an expansion rate of the universe that rips even atoms apart, or if nuclei are stable which requires a great deal of fine-tuning as well.”

(I explain the emphasized items in my article.)

I am afraid that you do not even make the effort to actually understand my arguments. Until you do, we probably will have little to discuss.

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lukeprog September 10, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Al,

Just a thought. On that formulation, my first (among many) objections would be with premise #1. Your choices do not exhaust the possibilities. For example, there could be a naturalistic design explanation, for example if our observable universe is a simulation as some have proposed. Also, it might be explained by a supernaturalistic non-design hypothesis.

But if that’s what you’d like to go with, we’ll run with it. :)

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Kaelik September 10, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Moritz, As I quoted your article specifically, I think telling me to read it is a little silly. You say a lot of things, most of which are slightly different retreads, or flat contradictory to your other comments about life. I am trying to figure out what you actually think is true about other universes and their likelihood of life.

Once again, you are make broad stroke probability judgments that all rest on assumptions similar to the forms:

“No form of intelligent life could exist without atoms, specifically as we know them.”

“No form of complexity can exist without atoms.”

ect.

These are all underlying assumptions you make about other universes, with absolutely no possible way of knowing these things.

If you base your entire argument on premises with an indeterminate truth value, then your entire conclusion has indeterminate truth value, and you are just wasting everyone’s time.

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Hermes September 10, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Al, thank you for the reply.

When you say “design problem” what do you mean?

Is it important or not?

* * *

Nonsense commentary, safely ignored, follows.

Please ignore it.

Really.

Act like I know nothing as I probably do know nothing or nothing useful about how you are using the term “design problem”.

I post it here mostly as filler since my question above is simple but you seem to want me to flesh out my ideas while I don’t think they are important as I don’t know what “design problem” means.

Filler: Design as in “design problem” is discussed in specific sources (mostly concerning multiverses that as I noted previously I personally do not care about), but you seem to be using it more generally and not just in the narrow context of multiverses. It seems to be important, and if it is I’d like to know what it means to you or what context you use it in.

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Shane McKee September 10, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Hi Al,
Actually the idea of the mathematical universe isn’t really *that* novel, although I accept that it causes the brainfrazzles for a lot of folks. But it sorts out the issue of apparent fine tuning; it sorts out the issue of why there is anything at all. All without any reference to entities that we don’t already know about. That gives it enormous explanatory power.

So everything is just mathematics, including the rubber burning tires of an accelerating sports car, and the enormous force of rocket lifting from the earth, and more dramatically, of a gamma ray burst. Interesting. This is a highly unusual view of mathematics, being things instead of describing things.

Well, these are not “things” as such, but subsystems of the wider system that is the universe itself. Like a glider gun in Conway’s Game of Life. To another glider-gun in the same mathematical structure (for that is what an instance of the GoL is), it appears as real and solid as rubber tyres and rockets do to *us* in our mathematical structure. But this does not just suggest a multiverse in the generic – it implies that all possible universes EXIST as mathematical objects, and that is all the existence they need.

I have never seen a cogent objection to the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis other than the Very Large Number Theorem which may indicate that the laws governing *our* universe at the very very basic level may be so ridiculously complicated that our chance of uncovering them is unlikely; so if we DO find the Theory of Everything, that would itself make our universe unlikely. I don’t know that I agree with that objection, but I can see it has some force.

I tried provocatively blogging on the MUH here: http://answersingenes.blogspot.com/2010/06/on-nature-of-reality-itself.html

On revisiting the post I see that I haven’t responded to Yair – I’ll have to rectify that…

Cheers,
-Shane

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MichaelPJ September 11, 2010 at 3:10 pm

@Al

I’d also take issue with your first premise: theistic design doesn’t explain the fine-tuning of the universe, because it relies on God having particular characteristics.

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Yair September 12, 2010 at 12:10 am

@ MichaelPJ:

You’re right, but for my money theistic design doesn’t explain fine-tuning mainly because it just doesn’t. There is no plausible theistic scenario which results in fine-tuning. The scenario that is usually offered results in tuning, i.e. in God creating a universe where life flourishes, but there is no real theistic argument concluding that god would create laws of nature that will exhibit fine-tuning.

But I will retire from this discussion; I don’t see it as leading to anywhere constructive.

@ Shane

Howdy again. As I said, my main objection to the MUH is that it’s utterly unfounded and even vain to presume our logical-mathematical thinking precisely maps the structure of reality. I’m sorry I can’t convince you of that.

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ShaneMcKee September 12, 2010 at 1:02 am

Hi Yair,
I’ve really enjoyed our discussions of this (over at http://answersingenes.blogspot.com ), but I think you have it the wrong way round – I think we have evolved a brain that is at least capable of dealing with and discovering mathematical truths that are universal and objective, and the fact that we find reality corresponding to these (mathematical realities) is a mark in favour of the MUH. The unreasonable effectiveness of Mathematics ;-).

Shana tova!

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Al Moritz September 12, 2010 at 6:20 am

Luke,

Al,
Just a thought. On that formulation, my first (among many) objections would be with premise #1. Your choices do not exhaust the possibilities. For example, there could be a naturalistic design explanation, for example if our observable universe is a simulation as some have proposed.

But then those naturalistic beings who create the simulation would have to have evolved as well, which in turn is only possible in a fine-tuned universe. This throws us back to non-design explanations that would have to acccount for the existence of these beings, and solves precisely — nothing. God on the other hand — in the common philosophical concept — does not evolve. He is the necessary being that begins everything, including evolution.

Also, Paul Davies’ observations are interesting in that context:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/12/opinion/a-brief-history-of-the-multiverse.html?pagewanted=all

“Problems also crop up in the small print. Among the myriad universes similar to ours will be some in which technological civilizations advance to the point of being able to simulate consciousness. Eventually, entire virtual worlds will be created inside computers, their conscious inhabitants unaware that they are the simulated products of somebody else’s technology. For every original world, there will be a stupendous number of available virtual worlds — some of which would even include machines simulating virtual worlds of their own, and so on ad infinitum.

“Taking the multiverse theory at face value, therefore, means accepting that virtual worlds are more numerous than ”real” ones. There is no reason to expect our world — the one in which you are reading this right now — to be real as opposed to a simulation. And the simulated inhabitants of a virtual world stand in the same relationship to the simulating system as human beings stand in relation to the traditional Creator.

“Far from doing away with a transcendent Creator, the multiverse theory actually injects that very concept at almost every level of its logical structure. Gods and worlds, creators and creatures, lie embedded in each other, forming an infinite regress in unbounded space. ”

Also, it might be explained by a supernaturalistic non-design hypothesis.

Huh? What would that be? And how would that contribute anything to the issue?

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Al Moritz September 12, 2010 at 6:22 am

MichaelPJ:

@Al
I’d also take issue with your first premise: theistic design doesn’t explain the fine-tuning of the universe, because it relies on God having particular characteristics.

How is that an objection? Any hypothesis needs to postulate certain characteristics. This holds for any hypothesis in science as well. Take dark matter, for example: we cannot (yet)) detect it, and we do not know what it would be like, but it has to have the particular characteristics that allow it to account for the behaviour of rotation and coherence of galaxies that we observe.

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Al Moritz September 12, 2010 at 6:27 am

Kaelik,

you claim that I have said something to the effect:

“No form of intelligent life could exist without atoms, specifically as we know them.”

Now let’s look at what I really have said in my article:

“If, on the other hand, there would be a completely different kind of life in a completely different kind of universe with laws of nature that do not at all resemble what we have (and which also produce entirely different particles), it is still the most rational assumption that this life would be based as well on some material complexity, which in turn would be based on some sort of alien chemistry.”

How do you reconcile “laws of nature that do not at all resemble what we have” and “entirely different particles” with your claim? You can’t.

You may have read my article, but obviously not very carefully. Apparently, you read my article with a bag of preconceptions and an a priori dismissive attitude that prevented you from actually understanding my arguments. I am done discussing this topic with you.

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lukeprog September 12, 2010 at 7:44 am

Al,

I have lots to say on your latest comment, but I’ll save it for later.

I’m toying with the idea of continuing the series by going with WLC’s formulation of the argument. I think the questions I have about WLC’s argument will end up being just as relevant to the way you present the argument, in most cases. What do you think of that route?

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Charles September 12, 2010 at 8:26 am

Yair: there is no real theistic argument concluding that god would create laws of nature that will exhibit fine-tuning

What about, ‘to provide proof of his existence’. If I were an artist, and I made what I thought was a great painting, I’d want to sign the painting.

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Yair September 12, 2010 at 8:52 am

@Charles: So fine-tuning provides proof for god’s existence because… god wants to provide proof of his existence? Nah, that doesn’t work. It’s just circular reasoning – “fine-tuning provides proof for god’s existence because god wants to produce fine tuning because fine tuning provides proof for god’s existence because…” It’s also Yet Another Ad Hoc Assumption.

It’s reasonable for god to want to “sign” his Creation. There is no plausible non ad-hoc argument showing that the way to do so would be fine-tuning. Or to be more exact, the theistic “explanation” turns out to depend on flimsy hypothesis like “God likes the aesthetics of fine-tuning”, i.e. on rather far-fetched theological ideas on god rather than “basic” theism e.g. god’s Benevolence. That’s not impressive – let me add some ad-hoc assumptions, and I can argue that the universe was created as the sparks from Vulcan’s smith.

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lukeprog September 12, 2010 at 11:51 am

Al,

How about this one from Colyvan et al., which is faithful to the famous presentations by Swinburne and Leslie?

1. The boundary conditions and laws of physics could not have been too different from the way they actually are if the Universe is to contain (carbon-based) life.
2. The Universe does contain (carbon-based) life.
3. Hence, the Universe as we find it is improbable.
4. The best explanation for this improbable fact is that the Universe was created by some intelligence.
5. Therefore, a Universe-creating intelligence exists.

Will that do?

I really just need a valid argument made of numbered premises that you wish to defend, and then I can engage it.

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MichaelPJ September 12, 2010 at 6:22 pm

@Al

Sorry, that was a bit brief. I say more in a couple of comments further up. The problem really is that we postulate particular features of God (that he wants human-type life, for example), when those features correspond to a very small fraction of god-design space. Why not a paperclip-maximising God?

In other words, who fine-tuned God?

Of course, you might have some argument for why a designer of the world would necessarily need to have those features, but if you do, I’d like to hear it!

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Charles September 12, 2010 at 7:16 pm

1. The boundary conditions and laws of physics could not have been too different from the way they actually are if the Universe is to contain (carbon-based) life.

Luke,

I think premise 1 would be rather difficult to defend. We have no insight into universes with other physical laws and no reason to suppose that they exist. We just have the observation of a universe with seemingly arbitrary physical constants that when set to certain values allow for life. So I would rewrite it like this.

1. The fundamental physical constants could not have been too different from the way they actually are if the Universe is to contain (carbon-based) life.

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Al Moritz September 15, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Luke,

I would formulate my argument as follows:

1. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is explained by design or by naturalistic non-design explanations.

2. All naturalistic non-design explanations for the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life are inadequate.

3. Thus, there is a strong probability that the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is due to actual design, naturalistic or by a supernatural agent.

4. Naturalistic design would require that the designer(s), as physical being(s), would have evolved, which in turn could only happen in a fine-tuned universe of its own and would throw us back to inadequate naturalistic non-design explanations for that fine-tuned universe.

5. Hence the apparent fine-tuning of our universe points to the existence of God, a supernatural designer and first principle that did not evolve.

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lukeprog September 15, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Al,

I’m curious: Would you also endorse William Lane Craig’s formulation of the argument found on page 161 of Reasonable Faith (3rd ed.)

1. The fine-tuning of the universe to support life is either due to law, chance or design.
2. It is not due to law or chance.
3. Therefore, the fine-tuning is due to design.

And I suspect you’d like to add:

4. If the fine-tuning of the universe is due to design, it is due to theistic design.
5. Therefore, the fine-tuning of the universe is due to theistic design.

I think this parallels what you’ve argued, but more universal in type. If this works for you, then we could go back and forth in exploring how plausible the premises are, as it is trivially valid.

The reason I suggest this is that your formulation is not logically valid, at least not without additional premises that define “inadequate” in such a way that the first two premises can lend support to the third, and even further premises to justify the leap from 1-4 to 5. In contrast, the extended WLC formulation, I think, gives the argument you want to make, but it also logically valid and easier for everyone to follow along with. Then all the discussion is moved to whether the premises can be supported, which I think is what both of us would like to talk about, anyway.

Thoughts?

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Al Moritz September 15, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Luke,

well, I tried to be nice with ‘inadequate’, but I can simply use the word ‘fail’. I think this should work and be logically valid without further justifications.

Points 2 and 4 then become:

2. All naturalistic non-design explanations for the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life fail.

4. Naturalistic design would require that the designer(s), as physical being(s), would have evolved, which in turn could only happen in a fine-tuned universe of its own and would throw us back to failing naturalistic non-design explanations for that fine-tuned universe.

I don;t like WLC’s ‘law and chance’, because I don’t know how “Life as we don’t know it” and the multiverse fit into that.

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MichaelPJ September 15, 2010 at 7:30 pm

@Al

That seems like a pretty good formulation. I would then phrase my objection as:

1. Theistic design fails as an explanation for the apparent fine tuning of the universe (see above).
2. Contradiction!

So I think at least one of your premises is wrong. I’m not sure whether it’s the first; because the universe doesn’t need an explanation, or the second; because brute chance succeeds as an explanation. Both of these seem reasonably plausible to me, but I lean towards the latter, for reasons that others have mentioned.

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lukeprog September 15, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Al,

No need to be “nice”, you’re defending an argument. :)

The multiverse and “life as we don’t know it” fit under the “chance” category in Craig’s formulation. Does that help?

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Al Moritz September 16, 2010 at 9:52 am

Luke,

The multiverse and “life as we don’t know it” fit under the “chance” category in Craig’s formulation.

Not sure I agree that this is specific enough. As a reaction, I have decided to make my formulation more specific. Here it is:

1. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is explained by design or by naturalistic non-design explanations. These are:
a) Brute chance
b) Necessity of the laws of nature
c) Life as we do not know it
d) The multiverse

2. All naturalistic non-design explanations for the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life fail.

3. Thus, there is a strong probability that the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is due to actual design, naturalistic or by a supernatural agent.

4. Naturalistic design would require that the designer(s), as physical being(s), would have evolved, which in turn could only happen in a fine-tuned universe of its own and would throw us back to failing naturalistic non-design explanations for that fine-tuned universe.

5. Hence the apparent fine-tuning of our universe points to the existence of God, a supernatural designer and first principle that did not evolve.

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lukeprog September 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Al,

Of course I know what you’re saying the way you’ve formulated the argument, but it’s still not logically valid. Here’s another attempt from me:

1. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is explained by supernatural design, supernatural non-design, or by a naturalistic explanation.

2. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is not explained by supernatural non-design or by a naturalistic explanation.

3. Therefore, the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is explained by supernatural design.

This form is logically valid and still allows you to talk about the (a)-(d) possibilities for naturalistic explanations (along with a few others) when it comes to our discussion of the support for the premises. You can also talk about why naturalistic design doesn’t work when discussing the support for your (main-argument) premises. Also, this formulation does not allow the obvious objection that is available to me with regard to your original (1), that it does not logically exhaust the possibilities.

Does that work?

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Al Moritz September 16, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Luke,

why do you think that my formulation not logically valid?

What do you mean with supernmatural non-design? This is an option that never comes up, and which I do not understand without further explanation.

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lukeprog September 16, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Al,

It’s not valid because, for example, it seems like you want to say that premise 3 follows from premises 1 and 2. But it doesn’t. Maybe you have a hidden premise in there that connects them, but then I’ll need it specified.

The reason I include supernatural non-design in the first premise as a possibility is so that all possibilities are exhausted. Supernatural design, supernatural non-design, and naturalistic explanations: that exhausts all possibilities. Or you could say supernatural explanation and naturalistic explanation. That would also exhaust all possibilities. If you don’t exhaust the possibilities in premise 1 (for this structure), then a trivial and defeating objection is that premise 1 doesn’t exhaust the possibilities.

Here’s an example of a supernatural non-design explanation for the universe:

(SND): There is a timeless, spaceless, rational being who caused an infinite number of universes – each with different, randomly assigned parameters – to come into being, by accident. Our universe is one of those universes.

The reason this sounds crazy is because nobody thought it up two thousand years ago and taught it to you as dogma, not because it’s intrinsically crazier than the typical theistic design hypothesis.

The reason I provided the formulation of your argument that I did is because (1) it’s logically valid, and (2) it’s so universal as to encompass every version of the fine tuning argument except perhaps Robin Collins’, and of course including your own version of the argument.

Luke

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Al Moritz September 17, 2010 at 4:47 am

Luke,

re: logical validity:

I see no problem with my formulation, unless you want to convince me that the phrase “explanations fail” and “is not explained by” are not equivalent.

Or perhaps you are suggesting that I should rephrase

1. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is explained by design or by naturalistic non-design explanations.

into:

1. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is explained by design, naturalistic or by a supernatural agent, or by naturalistic non-design explanations.

so that it corresponds to 3. But I think this introduces unnecessary redundancy.

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lukeprog September 17, 2010 at 8:14 am

Al,

I’m not trying to annoy, but when it comes to logical validity, you gotta be nit-picky. I can’t name what “fallacy” your argument commits except that it’s just a non-sequitur:

1. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is explained by design, naturalistic or by a supernatural agent, or by naturalistic non-design explanations.

2. All naturalistic non-design explanations for the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life fail.

3. Thus, there is a strong probability that the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is due to actual design, naturalistic or by a supernatural agent.

4. Naturalistic design would require that the designer(s), as physical being(s), would have evolved, which in turn could only happen in a fine-tuned universe of its own and would throw us back to failing naturalistic non-design explanations for that fine-tuned universe.

5. Hence the apparent fine-tuning of our universe points to the existence of God, a supernatural designer and first principle that did not evolve.

…Moreover, it is confusingly worded, and not as strong as it could be. The formulation I suggested is logically valid, easy to read, and universal enough that you can easily use the arguments you make explicit in your longer formulation as the support for the fewer premises in my formulation.

Finally, your formulation still ignores the possibility of supernatural non-design. Also, it spends a lot of verbiage trying to explain in the premises why naturalistic design fails, and the problem you cite could just as easily be raised about God: How did God get to be so fine-tuned. This is not how arguments are presented by professional philosophers, and for good reason.

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Al Moritz September 17, 2010 at 11:32 am

Luke,

I’m not trying to annoy, but when it comes to logical validity, you gotta be nit-picky. I can’t name what “fallacy” your argument commits except that it’s just a non-sequitur:

So which logical fallacy does it commit? If you cannot give me an answer, you have no point in complaining about an alleged lack of logical validity.

Finally, your formulation still ignores the possibility of supernatural non-design.

I hadn’t even come to that yet, Luke. My previous post was strictly concerned with logical validity. I will reply another time about super-natural non-design and why I don’t think it contributes to the issue.

Also, it spends a lot of verbiage trying to explain in the premises why naturalistic design fails, [. . . ] This is not how arguments are presented by professional philosophers, and for good reason.

Point taken.

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lukeprog September 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Al,

Yes, you can address supernatural non-design in your defense of premise 1, but I think it will be difficult to rule out the possibility a priori. But we still need logical validity at least. Do you think there is a way forward, here? If not, I’ll move on. Anyway, thanks for the dialogue so far.

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Shane September 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Luke, I applaud what you’re trying to do here in helping Al with his argument. However, I actually don’t think this bird even gets off the ground in the first place, despite the vast amount of chat given to it. Here’s why:

1. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is explained by design, naturalistic or by a supernatural agent, or by naturalistic non-design explanations.

Let’s accept for a moment the notion that if we vary any one of the core parameters of the universe by a teensy bit, let’s say one part in a billion, life (of any kind) is impossible. That’s fine. It could be debated as to whether that is fair, but let’s accept it anyway. We find ourselves in a Goldilocks universe, seemingly “fine tuned” IN ORDER TO support life (teleology – dontcha love it?).

Now, let’s say that for each possible combination of the fundamental constants there IS a universe, there are clearly going to be zillions of universes, but the only ones that are going to contain observers wondering about their lucky break are going to be the ones where the fundamental parameters are such that life can evolve. So IF that is the case, then there cannot be any surprise to the fact that OUR universe seems “fine tuned”.

But this explanation can’t be said to be “chance”, because the particular combination of parameters necessarily exists mathematically, just like the square root of two is a real mathematical entity. Nor can it really be said to be “necessity”, since the universe could certainly have been very different, just as there are numbers other than the square root of two. But yet it sort of *is* necessity, in that there can’t NOT exist universes capable of supporting life, assuming all possible universes “exist” in some fashion or another.

But the thing about all this is that it renders Al’s first point in his argument irrelevant. OUR universe is most definitely going to HAVE to appear fine-tuned for our kind of life, because here we are. Anthropic principle and all that.

So I would suggest that Al’s argument needs to restructure point 1 into several further points:
1a. Our universe possesses a number of fundamental parameters that, were they much different, life as we know it would be impossible.
1b. The combination of these parameters requires an explanation.
1c. That explanation may involve explanations internal to the universe itself, or external.
1d. The external explanations may be amenable to rational analysis (“natural”) or not (“supernatural”).
1e. “Supernatural” explanations may be sub-classified as “teleological” (involving foresight and planning) and “non-teleological” (no foresight/planning)

Does that help?

I would also add that supernatural explanations fail; internal explanations fail, and that I think that means that mathematicological explanations win by default :-)

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Al Moritz September 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Luke,

But we still need logical validity at least. Do you think there is a way forward, here?

Apparently not, since you still do not specify your claim about the alleged lack of logical validity of my argument. Either you don’t want to or, as I rather suspect, you cannot.

Anyway, thanks for starting this thread. There were some good discussions and observations, which also led me to improve some aspects of my article.

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lukeprog September 17, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Al,

I don’t know what else to say. If you think your argument is valid, you can write it in symbolic logic and tell me what valid form it takes. But the argument is just a non-sequiter, so there’s nothing I can do with it. I’m not sure that it commits an informal fallacy, so I can’t name what’s wrong with it. It’s just… a non-sequitur.

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MichaelPJ September 17, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Al, Luke is right here. He’s not saying there’s necessarily anything wrong with the argument, just that it isn’t logically valid as written. Fallacies aren’t a complete taxonomy of logical mistakes, they’re just common ones.

For example:

1. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is explained by design or by naturalistic non-design explanations. These are:
a) Brute chance
b) Necessity of the laws of nature
c) Life as we do not know it
d) The multiverse

2. All naturalistic non-design explanations for the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life fail.

3. Thus, there is a strong probability that the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is due to actual design, naturalistic or by a supernatural agent.

To make this logically valid you need something linking the claim that you have n possible explanations, of which n-1 fail, to the claim that that last one has a high probability of being true. For example, you might say

2 a) If we have n possible explanations and n-1 of them fail, then the last one has a high probability of being correct.

(in fact you’d want to make it tighter than this, but it serves my purposes)

Now people can disagree with that, but at least it’s out in the open. The point is that your argument as written does have some jumps where you’ve made reasonable inferences that nonetheless need to have their innards spelled out in order to get logical validity.

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lukeprog September 17, 2010 at 7:16 pm

MichaelPJ,

Yes, exactly. Thanks for chiming in.

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Al Moritz September 18, 2010 at 5:20 am

MichaelPJ,

your comment was very helpful and constructive. In contrast to Luke, who just complained about non-sequiturs, you actually came up with an analysis, which I appreciate and with which I can work.

O.k., let’s go step by step, also comparing with WLC’s argument that Luke finds logically valid.

WLC’s argument:

1. The fine-tuning of the universe to support life is either due to law, chance or design.
2. It is not due to law or chance.
3. Therefore, the fine-tuning is due to design.

My argument structured according to WLC’s argument:

1. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is due to supernatural design, naturalistic design, or naturalistic non-design.
2. It is not due to naturalistic design or naturalistic non-design.
3. Thus, the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is due to supernatural design.

So I think this should be logically valid as well.

Now the argument under probability, with inclusion of your point 2 b) (I haven’t yet thought about making it tighter):

1. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is explained by supernatural design, naturalistic design, or naturalistic non-design.
2. All naturalistic non-design explanations, as well as the explanation by naturalistic design, fail.
2 a) If we have n possible explanations and n-1 of them fail, then the last one has a strong probability of being correct.
3. Thus, there is a strong probability that the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is due to supernatural design.

I think both formulations should work, with my preference for the latter.

I took out the specifications of naturalistic non-design explanations,

a) Brute chance
b) Necessity of the laws of nature
c) Life as we do not know it
d) The multiverse

since Luke has a point: these do not need to be part of the argument itself, they can be listed as support for it.

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Al Moritz September 18, 2010 at 5:25 am

Replace under point 3 in both fomulations of my argument:

the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life

with

the apparent fine-tuning

to make it simpler.

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Al Moritz September 18, 2010 at 5:31 am

I will still comment later on the issue of supernatural non-design.

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Al Moritz September 18, 2010 at 5:59 am

Shane, thanks for your comment. I’ll answer later.

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lukeprog September 18, 2010 at 7:58 am

Al,

I didn’t mean to be unhelpful! I thought the meaning of non-sequitur was clear enough. I didn’t know what else to do other than to launch into a course in deductive logic. Please note that I’m trying to help make your initial argument as strong as possible so that it does not fall apart easily under questioning.

Your second formulation is not quite valid as worded, so I prefer the former. Also, in your second formulation, premise (2a) ??? would be pretty difficult to defend, I think. Think of all the explanations for lightning available to the ancient greeks. None of their naturalistic explanations worked very well – and indeed, they were incorrect. But that did not mean that ‘Zeus did it’ had a high probability.

Finally, I still have an easy objection to premise 1 in that it does not cover the full scope of possibilities as (I think) you intend – it does not mention supernaturalistic non-design. Perhaps you can rule that option out very easily, but in that case you should include it as one of the possibilities, and eliminate it (along with naturalistic explanations) in premise 2.

This would give us:

1. The apparent fine-tuning is explained by supernatural design, supernatural non-design, naturalistic design, or naturalistic non-design.
2. The apparent fine-tuning is not explained by supernatural non-design, naturalistic design, or naturalistic non-design.
3. Therefore, the apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is supernatural design.

You may ask, “Where is the ‘probably’?” It is in your support of premise 2. As with Craig’s formulation, we recognize that even the conclusion of a valid deductive argument can only be probably true, because the conclusion only follows if the premises are true, and non-trivial premises can at most be probably true. If you go with the formulation I just gave, then your aim will be to show that premises 1 and 2 are more likely to be true than their denials. If you can do that, I would say you have demonstrated that fine-tuning provides evidence for the existence of supernatural design, and must be weighed in the balance with other evidence for and against a supernatural designer.

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MichaelPJ September 18, 2010 at 10:06 am

Al,

Glad I could help. The thing is that logical validity is very precisely defined thing. Making an argument logically valid usually involves a lot of bits where you claim “A, therefore B” into “A, and A -> B, therefore B”. That just means that people can be specific and object to the “A -> B” premise.

Luke,

Sorry, 2a was my fault. Should probably be “n explanations (which are the only possible explanations)”.

Of course, that then leads into your next point, which is that you then need to have a list of explanations which plausibly are all the possible explanations. So supernaturalistic non-design does deserve to be in there.

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Al Moritz September 19, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Thanks, Luke and MichaelPJ, for your replies.

Let me first address the issue of supernatural non-design.

Luke:

Here’s an example of a supernatural non-design explanation for the universe:
(SND): There is a timeless, spaceless, rational being who caused an infinite number of universes – each with different, randomly assigned parameters – to come into being, by accident. Our universe is one of those universes.

The reason this sounds crazy is because nobody thought it up two thousand years ago and taught it to you as dogma, not because it’s intrinsically crazier than the typical theistic design hypothesis.

Actually, while it has not been thought up that God might cause an infinite number of universes to come into being by accident, the option of God creating more than one universe is not a recently postulated one but has been debated a long time ago. In the twelfth century there was a dispute in Paris if there was more than one universe, and the archbishop finally said that God could have created as many universes as He wants to.

As I also said in my article:
“The designer [of the universe] would most likely be God, since with His omnipotence and infinite knowledge He could plan and execute the Big Bang with the exactly predicted outcome. Alternatively, God worked with a multiverse as an intermediate, which also would have to be carefully designed in order to allow for the generation of, among others, our particular universe.”

There are several problems with supernatural non-design, however:

1. It violates Occam’s razor.

This does not necessarily hold for the usual concept of a multiverse as postulated by scientists (and which I referred to in my comment about God’s creation above). This multiverse started by eternal inflation (or simply inflation), and all the single universes forming the multiverse are just “bubbles” (or domains) from that gigantic mother universe. This multiverse could be seen as being really just one single entity, thus not violating Occam’s razor. (As I explain in the article, though, a multiverse would have to be designed.) However, a multiverse of, in terms of origin, completely disconnected universes definitely would violate the principle — each one of these universes would be a separate entity. Just on that count, supernatural non-design could be excluded as a valid option.

Even more important though:

2. The ‘non-design’ really is design.

Suppose the scenario is true that there is a timeless, spaceless, rational being who caused an infinite number of universes – each with different, randomly assigned parameters – to come into being, by accident. This would still require laws that allow for that, e.g, those of a field that gives rise to quantum fluctuations that all generate their own universe, and not just that, all with randomly varying parameters. In order to accomplish this, these laws would have to be designed.

So we would have laws, and we would also have intent. Intent is the crucial difference between a naturalistic assumption of “anything possible does in fact exist”, which requires no intent and no design, and saying that a supernatural being wanted “anything possible to exist”. This would still be done in order to create life or, at the minimum, “something interesting”, whatever that may be. Just this intent would amount to a kind of ‘lazy design’, but design nonetheless. Our particular universe would then not be designed as such, but designed ‘by default’, since then it has to exist anyway.

Therefore, both on law and on intent, the concept of ‘supernatural non-design’ is self-contradictory. Supernatural non-design simply cannot exist.

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Al Moritz September 19, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Luke,

I didn’t mean to be unhelpful!

Well, you were unhelpful in your couple of posts prior to the last one. Saying that something amounts to a ‘non-sequitur’ without explaining why is not helpful.

Your last post, however, was very helpful, since it explained things well (and you did not need to resort to a full logic course after all).

Please note that I’m trying to help make your initial argument as strong as possible so that it does not fall apart easily under questioning.

I appreciate that.

As for supernatural non-design, I cannot put something in my argument that does not exist (see my previous post). I’d rather leave it out and then, when challenged, defend why supernatural non-design does not even exist as an option.

My formulation is thus:

1. The apparent fine-tuning of our universe to support life is explained by supernatural design, naturalistic design, or by naturalistic non-design scenarios.
2. It is not explained by naturalistic design or by naturalistic non-design scenarios.
3. Therefore, the apparent fine-tuning is supernatural design.

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Al Moritz September 19, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Shane,

all what you say appears to depend on whether the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH) is true or not.

With regard to the natural world, mathematics is almost universally considered to have a descriptive function. However, the MUH ascribes to mathematics an ontological function with respect to the natural world, which then *is* mathematics. This is a highly unusual position, which I bet not many physicists or mathematicians share. This would not be an issue though if the MUH might be considered true.

Yet the problem with assuming that mathematics has an ontological function with respect to worlds would then also have to include virtual worlds since these are described my mathematics as well. This would hopelessly blur the distinction between physically real worlds and virtual worlds. This then leads to a non-realist concept of reality that I must reject.

The loss of the distinction between physically real worlds and virtual worlds seems also implied in our conversation above:

Al: So everything is just mathematics, including the rubber burning tires of an accelerating sports car, and the enormous force of rocket lifting from the earth, and more dramatically, of a gamma ray burst. Interesting. This is a highly unusual view of mathematics, being things instead of describing things.

Shane: Well, these are not “things” as such, but subsystems of the wider system that is the universe itself. Like a glider gun in Conway’s Game of Life. To another glider-gun in the same mathematical structure (for that is what an instance of the GoL is), it appears as real and solid as rubber tyres and rockets do to *us* in our mathematical structure. But this does not just suggest a multiverse in the generic – it implies that all possible universes EXIST as mathematical objects, and that is all the existence they need.

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lukeprog September 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Al,

That’s fine. I don’t find supernatural non-design plausible, either. I’m just saying you can make your argument stronger by including it in premise #1 and THEN rejecting it in premise #2. If you don’t include it as a possibility in premise #1 then premise #1 has a big hole in it.

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lukeprog September 19, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Al,

Would you be willing to do this? Let’s make this the argument you’re defending:

1. The apparent fine-tuning is explained by supernatural design, supernatural non-design, naturalistic design, or by naturalistic non-design.
2. It is not explained by supernatural non-design, naturalistic design, or by naturalistic non-design.
3. Therefore, the apparent fine-tuning is explained by supernatural design.

If you are willing to defend this argument, I will not spend any time at all discussing supernatural non-design. It’s not worth my time, since we both reject it. But your argument is stronger if you include it as a possibility in your first premise.

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Al Moritz September 20, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Luke,

Just like you were concerned about logical validity of my argument, I think I now have to exclude ‘supernatural non-design’ from your formulation for the same concerns.

In my post from yesterday I explained why ‘supernatural non-design’ is a self-contradictory term, and cannot exist. I am concerned that an argument that incorporates a self-contradictory term in its premises may be logically invalid. Suppose I would posit an argument about squares that incorporates the term ’round square’ in its premises. Wouldn’t that raise an eyebrow and wouldn’t you say that the entire argument is logically invalid? Now, ‘supernatural non-design’ is exactly the equivalent of a ’round square’ here.

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Al Moritz September 21, 2010 at 3:52 am

‘Square’: make that ‘rectangle’. Sometimes the fact that English is not my native language comes back to bite me.

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lukeprog September 23, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Al,

Sorry but I really gotta press this point to make your argument stronger. Supernatural non-design is not self-contradictory. The laws could be just as accidental as the parameters – indeed, I’m not sure what the distinction is. Also, it’s yet another curious limitation on God’s so-called ‘omnipotence’ to say that God could not cause anything without fully planning it.

Really, it’s not a big step to admit supernatural non-design as a possibility in your first premise so that the possibilities of your first premise are mutually exclusive and mutually exhaustive. That makes things very simple. And then both you and I will be happy to dismiss supernatural non-design in the second premise. I’m just not going to write an entire series on an argument that has a big gaping hole in it that is so easily filled in. Please just make your first premise mutually exclusive and exhaustive, in good philosophical form.

Again, I propose:

1. The apparent fine-tuning of the universe for life is explained by naturalistic design, naturalistic non-design, supernatural design, or supernatural non-design.

2. The apparent fine-tuning of the universe for life is not explained by naturalistic design, naturalistic non-design, or supernatural non-design.

3. Therefore, the apparent fine-tuning of the universe for life is explained by supernatural design.

*crosses fingers*

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Al Moritz September 26, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Luke,

Supernatural non-design is not self-contradictory. The laws could be just as accidental as the parameters – indeed, I’m not sure what the distinction is.

Even if what you say regarding the laws were so, which cannot be the case, that would still leave intent, which also makes supernatural non-design logically impossible, as I explained above.

Also, it’s yet another curious limitation on God’s so-called ‘omnipotence’ to say that God could not cause anything without fully planning it.

While God could cause something without fully planning it, He could not cause it without planning it at all — even if it were just to plan, “I want everything possible to exist” (which by default would include our universe).

God’s omnipotence does not allow Him to do things that are logically impossible. It’s like the old question: can God create a stone that is so heavy that not even He can lift it? Or to demonstrate the absurdity more drastically: if God were really omnipotent, could He not make Himself to exist and not exist at the same time? It is clear that this is silly. To assume that God could do the logically impossible is, well, an illogical assumption.

***

I have thought about it and asked myself, since you insist so much, if I should play along with the game and accept your formulation just for peace’s sake, to do you a simple favor without too much harm done. However, someone could complain that inclusion of supernatural non-design is absurd. Or, more likely, if pressed to explain what supernatural non-design is supposed to mean I would have to explain that it is a logical impossibility. Then the obvious answer would be: but then the argument contains a mistake! At that point I would feel no other choice but to put the blame for the logical mistake of including the term squarely on your shoulders. This would make us both look bad and weak. You for having insisted on a logical mistake, and me for letting myself be persuaded to include that, even when I already knew better. And since I then also knew beforehand that I would have to blame you when push comes to shove, I would, on top of it, look like an inconsiderate bastard who knowingly led you into a trap.

I outlined what would inevitably have to happen, were I to accept your version of the argument, as an honest disclosure in the service of fairness. Fairness towards you, and towards myself.

Given all of that, I have decided that it is much easier and much more comfortable to defend, when pressed for it, the non-inclusion of supernatural non-design in my argument than to defend why I put it there in the first place.

My final formulation is thus:

1. The apparent fine-tuning of the universe for life is explained by naturalistic non-design, naturalistic design, or supernatural design.

2. It is not explained by naturalistic non-design or naturalistic design.

3. Therefore, the apparent fine-tuning is explained by supernatural design.

Final offer. Take it or leave it, Luke.

Of course I would like you to take it, but if you don’t want to, that’s fine too.

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Shane September 26, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Hi Al,
That most certainly won’t do! If I design a knife to be a knife, and it also turns out that it makes a serviceable screwdriver, the screwdriveriness of the knife is not designed, but nonetheless I have “supernaturally” (I am the god of knives for the purposes of this example ;-) non-designed it.

Your bringing in of the gods’ omnipotence or omniscience is irrelevant here, because that is a secondary business. We are not necessarily talking about the gods here – just supernatural causes, and Luke is absolutely correct that the “designy” aspects of our universe can be supernaturally caused (for your argument) without a teleological purpose behind them being such. If you wanted to tackle that limb of your argument, you would need to do so as an additional sub-argument.

Cheers,
-Shane

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lukeprog September 26, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Al,

We just disagree on this. I’ll address my series on the fine-tuning argument to a broader audience. Of course, my formulation of the argument will touch on all the same ideas you wish to defend, so you’re welcome to engage my concerns about the fine-tuning argument.

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Al Moritz September 26, 2010 at 2:58 pm

That’s fine, Luke, I am very much o.k. with that.

Let me just point out that I have never seen the concept of supernatural non-design in any other formulation of the fine-tuning argument — ever. Apparently for good reason.

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