Earlier, I presented a generalized version of the fine-tuning argument for a supernatural designer, and said I would examine the argument by way of a series of questions for its defenders.
My first question goes something like this: “Was our universe fine-tuned for iPads?”
Let me explain.
Poker and fine-tuning
Imagine you and I are playing 5-card poker. We are dealt our cards. It is my turn to play first, but I merely stare at my cards in disbelief. You ask what is the matter, and I exclaim, “I… I can’t believe it! I’m sorry, but this is so extraordinary I have to interrupt the game and show you my cards.” I lay them down, saying, “Look at them! Look at them!”
You see that I have been dealt the 3 of clubs, the jack of hearts, the 9 of clubs, the 5 of diamonds, and the 5 of clubs.
“Amazing!” I say. “The chances I would draw that hand are only 1 in 2,598,960! That hand is literally better than ‘one in a million’!”
If this happened, you would be right to look at me quizzically. What’s so special about the hand that I drew? I had to draw some hand of 5 cards, and every possible 5-card draw from a 52-card deck has a 1 in 2,598,960 chance of being drawn. So what’s the big deal?
Likewise, we might ask: What’s all the fuss over cosmic fine-tuning? All these parameters had to take some values. Of course, given random chance, the chances they would take the values they do is extremely small. But then, the same would be true if the parameters had taken some other set of values, too! So why should we feel the need to explain why the parameters took this particular set of values rather than some other?
Of course, it would be interesting if I had predicted ahead of time that I would be dealt precisely the 3 of clubs, the jack of hearts, the 9 of clubs, the 5 of diamonds, and the 5 of clubs on the next round. Then you would eye me suspiciously, and quite rightly conclude that somebody had probably monkeyed with the deck. But I didn’t predict my exact hand ahead of time, so my particular hand isn’t that amazing.
Likewise, nobody predicted the values of the parameters of our universe ahead of time. We are like the poker player who has decided only after drawing his cards that his particular hand of cards is special and in need of explanation.
Why, then, do defenders of the fine-tuning argument think that the fine-tuning of our universe for life requires some other explanation than mere chance?
Why should life matter?
But why not be surprised that the universe is fine-tuned for stars? If the parameters of our universe were much different, stars could not have evolved. Why do defenders of the fine-tuning argument not argue from the unlikelihood of stars?
However fine-tuned the universe is for life, it must be even more fine-tuned for complex life. As explained in Rare Earth, even if we take for granted the existence of life on Earth, a great many factors had to be fine-tuned in order for complex life to have evolved.
We can continue. Even if we take complex life for granted, it’s still true that a great many factors had to be fine-tuned in order for humans to have evolved. If anything had kept all trees to a short height, or if there had been no land on Earth’s surface, or if Earth had only survived for 2 billion years before the Sun exploded, then nothing like humans could have evolved.
Or consider the iPad. Even if we take human life for granted, it’s still true that a great many factors had to be fine-tuned in order for the iPad to exist. What if humans had never developed agriculture, writing, or the microchip? What if we had evolved to interact more with smell and hearing than with sight and touch? If these results and many more had not been fine-tuned for, the iPad would not exist. Is the universe fine-tuned for iPads?
Just one more step for now. I think it’s quite likely we will eventually develop computers that can think and imagine and wonder much as we do. But there are many things that could prevent this from happening. However fine-tuned the universe is for humans, it must be even more fine-tuned for something like thinking robots to exist.
A few centuries from now, perhaps thinking robots will look around and think the universe was fine-tuned for them. They will look at us humans and say, “You think the universe was fine-tuned for you? Well sure, but nothing like how much it was fine-tuned for us! The universe must be far more finely-tuned to allow for thinking robots than it must be to allow for humans.”
So here is my first question for defenders of the fine-tuning argument:
Why is it that life (or intelligent life, or conscious life) – but not stars or iPads or a gravity-to-weak-force ratio of 1 to 4.2398283238 – that requires some explanation other than chance?
I await your reply.