Fine-Tuning and Intrinsic Value

by Luke Muehlhauser on November 15, 2010 in Design Argument

Proponents of the fine-tuning argument (FTA) note that if the fundamental properties of our universe were slightly different, then life could not have evolved, and this is evidence for a Fine-Tuner of the universe.

I’m asking defenders of the FTA a series of questions. My first question was: Was Our Universe Fine-Tuned for iPads?

Here’s the point. The universe had to be highly fine-tuned merely to produce stars. Would any universe containing stars (but no life) be evidence that that universe was fine-tuned by a Designer who really liked stars?

Moreover, our universe is far more finely-tuned for iPads than it is for life, or for conscious life. There are more ways to produce a universe with intelligent life than there are to produce one with iPads. So should we conclude the universe was fine-tuned for iPads?

Or, perhaps our universe is fine-tuned for the resting mass of an electron, which is 9.11 x 10-31 kg. If this were different by .00000000000000000000000000000001 kg, then the resting mass of an electon would no longer be 9.11 x 10-31!

Yet somehow all this fine-tuning does not seem to concern theists. It is only the apparent fine-tuning of the universe for life (or conscious life, or intelligent life, or something – theists can’t make up their minds) that matters and requires a special explanation.

This curious focus on life has been called life chauvinism. Why is it life that requires fine-tuning? That was the point of my first question to defenders of the fine-tuning argument.

Today I will explore just one of the answers.

“Life has intrinsic value.”

The reason that fine-tuning for life requires explanation, but fine-tuning for stars or iPads or the resting mass of an electron does not require such an explanation, some theists say, is because life has intrinsic value.

Life is special, they say. Stars and iPads and the resting mass of an electron are interesting, but life is intrinsically special, and thus requires a special explanation.

Indeed, philosopher Neil Manson suspects this idea may even be why many physicists think fine-tuning for life needs a special explanation:

[Cosmologists] are committed to an absolutely startling position. They are saying that, before we came on the scene, back before there were stars, back before there were even galaxies, right back to the Planck time, an ethical proposition (‘Life is good’) was true. Whatever else the many-universe research programme entails, it requires that at least one value judgment be true prior to the existence of any human beings.

Evidence

The problem with this solution to my question is that I see no evidence for it. What evidence is there that life is intrinsically valuable? What evidence is there that even if nobody cared about life, it would still have value, because it has value within itself?

The only evidence I have ever seen presented for this astonishing claim is that it just feels or seems like it does.

But hold on a minute. I thought the whole point of the fine-tuning argument is that it was a way for believers to demonstrate the existence of God on the basis of public evidence, not inner feelings. If we’re going to accept God on the basis of how Christians feel about things, well, we don’t need the fine-tuning argument for that.

So unless evidence for the intrinsic value of life can be presented, I don’t see how this answer to my question gets us anywhere.

Thankfully, there were more compelling answers to my question than this, and I’ll be examining them next.

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{ 117 comments… read them below or add one }

mojo.rhythm November 15, 2010 at 4:20 am

Robin Collins seems to have a way out; he argues that the likelihood of fine tuning given theism is more likely then fine tuning on the hypothesis of a single atheistic universe.

Of course this opens up a whole new vista of devastating critiques, but it appears to circumvent this specific problem.

Craig’s response to the life chauvinism objection was inadequate IMO.

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Thomas November 15, 2010 at 6:28 am

mojo.rhythm,
What in your opinion are the most devastating critiques of Collins?

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mojo.rhythm November 15, 2010 at 6:42 am

In a few words what I think is that that Collins is ascribing beliefs and intentions to the purported designer which really is a no go, and possibly even a contradictory view for Collins if he holds to skeptical theism as a response to theodicy.

I’ll probably talk about this a bit more tomorrow.

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RedKing November 15, 2010 at 7:02 am

“Robin Collins seems to have a way out; he argues that the likelihood of fine tuning given theism is more likely then fine tuning on the hypothesis of a single atheistic universe.”

This seems true, but only trivially so. Imagine I flip a coin 20 times and it turns up heads each time. Then I posit an elf who has the ability to affect coin tosses and the desire for me to get heads 20 times. The likelihood of my coin flips is more likely under the elf hypothesis than chance, but so what?

If your hypothesis is a being who can do anything and you assume it wants to accomplish the phenomenon in question, then of course the phenomenon is going to be more likely under that hypothesis.

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Haecceitas November 15, 2010 at 7:11 am

This is a bit off-topic but I’ll mention it here since I haven’t seen a mention of it yet (sorry if I just missed it) and I’m sure many readers of this blog will be interested. There was a debate/panel discussion in Mexico with 3 atheists and 3 theists. The topic was “does the universe have a purpose” and this may be the closes thing to a debate between WLC and Dawkins that we’ll ever see since both were involved. The debate can be viewed on Youtube but unfortunately the Spanish voice-over makes it really hard to listen unless you happen to be fluent in Spanish.

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PDH November 15, 2010 at 7:20 am

Theists need to answer the Euthyphro Dilemma in a certain way, as well. Is life valuable because God loves it or does God love it because it is valuable?

Some theists will be willing to claim that life has value independently of God but others will want to say that life is meaningless without God. Suppose God created a universe full of nothing but iPads and saw that it was good. Depending on how they answer the dilemma, then it would be good. God could have created any kind of universe He wanted and it would have been as valuable as He wanted it to be, so we have no reason to expect this kind of universe over another one.

There may be other valid responses to the Euthyphro Dilemma but this one is plainly incompatible. Theists who wish to defend both fine tuning and many versions of the argument from morality will therefore have to tread carefully.

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PDH November 15, 2010 at 7:22 am

This is a bit off-topic but I’ll mention it here since I haven’t seen a mention of it yet (sorry if I just missed it) and I’m sure many readers of this blog will be interested. There was a debate/panel discussion in Mexico with 3 atheists and 3 theists. The topic was “does the universe have a purpose” and this may be the closes thing to a debate between WLC and Dawkins that we’ll ever see since both were involved. The debate can be viewed on Youtube but unfortunately the Spanish voice-over makes it really hard to listen unless you happen to be fluent in Spanish.  

Yeah, I tried listening to that yesterday but I couldn’t make out what anybody was saying.

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Bryan November 15, 2010 at 7:42 am

There is even a more fatal error in the “fine tuning” assumption – several, in fact.

Firstly, some of the forces are not so critical for life. There was a physics paper last year (or maybe early this one), where the effects of differently strengthened weak nuclear forces was tested. Long story made short – no real effect on earth-lie life, even if the weak force was removed in its entirety.

Secondly, a differently “physicked” universe could still give rise to life; just life very different from what we have on earth. All that physicists have really shown, to date, is that changes in these forces create universes unlike ours. That is not the same as saying that all other possible universes are inhospitable to life.

Thirdly, there is no guarantee that these values can even be changed. It is suspected that the four fundamental forces are simply “faces” of a single, unified force. If this is the case, there may only have been one possible “setting” for the four forces.

But, in my mind, the most significant argument against this idea is also the simplest – this universe is not finely tuned for life. To the contrary, our universe is immensely hostile to life. Earth-like life covers an amazingly diverse range of conditions – temps from -40C to 121C; salinities from near-zero to near-saturation. pH’s from 2 to 14. Some life lives in regions of high ionizing radiation, or in the presence of strong oxidising or reducing agents, etc. And yet, despite that huge range of conditions in which earthly life can survive, there is only a small portion of one planet in our solar system which can support it (that being the 12km or so of crust under our feet, upto~10km in altitude above our heads; about 1% of the total volume of the earth). Regions outside of our corner of the universe are even more inhospitable to life – get too close to the galactic centre and the ionizing radiation will fry any organic molecule. Too high above the galactic plane creates the same issue. If your star is too small, you get tidally locked planets within the habitable zone. Too large a star, and the star dies before life has a chance to evolve. Too “metal” poor (metals, in the astronomical scene, means anything other than hydrogen and helium) – no life. To claim this universe is “finely tuned” for life is insanity – a more accurate statement would be that we live in a universe where life-supporting conditions are an extreme rarity; the physical dials are set such that most of the universe is off-limits to life.

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dan November 15, 2010 at 7:43 am

Luke,

Are the people you interview, all atheists? I am wondering mostly about the last 2 ladies. THey are so pretty. Thanks

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Patrick November 15, 2010 at 7:52 am

Robin Collins is probably wrong.

I find this really hard to explain without graphics, so bear with me. There may be some redundancy in these arguments.

1. What matters isn’t some abstract concept of “fine tuning.” What matters is the likelihood that this universe would exist as it is given theism versus atheism. To illustrate this, imagine a man arguing that a object is more likely to be a dog given that it has 4 legs, than it is likely to be a non-dog. When asked to show that the object does in fact have 4 legs, he shows you four legs that are clearly from a table. He insists that you treat these legs as simply “4 legs,” and applies Bayes, which, given the restrictions on the data entered, concludes that the presence of “4 legs” makes the object more likely to be a dog. Bayes was used properly… except for the “garbage in, garbage out” rule.

2. The sample size of possible universes given atheism is all possible universes that could occur naturally, no matter how low the odds. The sample size of possible universes under theism is all possible universes that could occur given an omnipotent superbeing who can edit the very rules and traits of reality at a whim at any moment. The second sample size is much larger than the first, since the first is included within the second. A universe that seems finely tuned under atheism (ie, seems very unlikely given atheism) might be even MORE unlikely under theism, which has a larger sample size. Bayes requires you to take this into account, but theists never do. To illustrate, imagine a universe exactly like this one but where all children are surrounded by a protective bubble that protects them from all lethal or permanently injurious harm until they reach the age of 18. The probability of this universe under atheism is zero. The probability of this universe under theism is non zero. The probability we assign to this universe under the assumption of theism must be subtracted from the probability of this universe under theism, and yet theists always set the probability of this universe under theism as 1. This is relevant to Bayes.

3. Fine tuning arguments conclude that the universe is finely tuned by explaining the problems certain physical laws would create if other physical laws were changed. For example, given the force of gravity, what would happen if the amount of matter in the universe were reduced by 50%. Apparently it would be disastrous for life. But the fact that gravity functions that way is an aspect of the universe, so when considering the probability of fine tuning given theism, you have to explain not only the alleged fine tuning of matter, but also the fact that gravity works in such a problematic way. To illustrate using a more discredited version of fine tuning, some theists used to argue that the presence of Jupiter was fine tuning because it attracts asteroids from the asteroid belt that would otherwise hit Earth. But theism needs to explain not only Jupiter, but also the fact that we have an asteroid belt. And under theism God could have just not included an asteroid belt. The fine tuning argument offered for Jupiter was trying to argue the probability of “Jupiter Given Asteroids” given fine tuning, when really they needed to explain “Jupiter And Asteroids” given fine tuning, and the probability of the latter seems really low. To make this relevant to universal fine tuning, imagine a universe with all the same physical laws, but where the only matter is the Earth, Sun, and Moon. The fine tuning advocate might point out that such a universe could never achieve a Big Bang in the first place, and that if it somehow did, it wouldn’t have enough matter to ever cohere into planets, etc, etc, etc. But under theism, God could just will for the physical laws that create those problems to be nullified in this one instance. Just like God could have left out the asteroid belt, thereby negating the need for Jupiter, God could edit the effects of existing natural laws thereby negating the need for billions of billions of stars that apparently exist to give us enough mass to ensure the existence of this one solar system.

I guess the short form of this post is that I feel like theologians have spent too much time grappling with the implications of physics, and no time at all thinking about their theology.

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Patrick November 15, 2010 at 7:55 am

I wrote something wrong. Under point 2, at the end of the paragraph I wrote,

“The probability we assign to this universe under the assumption of theism must be subtracted from the probability of this universe under theism, and yet theists always set the probability of this universe under theism as 1.”

That should read,

“The probability we assign to this universe under the assumption of theism must be subtracted from the probability of OUR ACTUAL universe under theism, and yet theists always set the probability of this universe under theism as 1.”

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Márcio November 15, 2010 at 8:17 am

Come on, even you atheists can’t be so cynical. Life has no value? Life is not important? Can you sincerely believe that?

The destruction of an iPad is the same thing as the death of a human being? That is ridiculous.

COME ON!!!

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Luke Muehlhauser November 15, 2010 at 8:24 am

No, the people I interview are not all atheists. I never bothered to find out whether Valerie or Liane were atheists.

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Luke Muehlhauser November 15, 2010 at 8:24 am

Marcio,

Do you have an argument, or does it just feel obvious to you?

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Patrick November 15, 2010 at 8:27 am

Wait… isn’t there a difference between “life has value” in the sense that its important not to hurt people, and “life has value” in the sense that life is the thing about the universe that needs to be explained while other things can be attributed to chance?

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Charles November 15, 2010 at 8:28 am

Asking why the universe is “fine-tuned for life” is reasonable because we are in the category of “things that are alive”. Why do I exist? It is another way to phrase the question. I’m human so I can generalize to humans. I’m not an iPad. But if I were, I think it would be perfectly reasonable for me to ask why the universe is fine-tuned for iPads.

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RedKing November 15, 2010 at 8:33 am

Márcio: “Life has no value?”

Intrinsic value ≠ all value. Please read the post again.

“Life is not important?”

To us, the living, life is important. The question, crucial to the fine-tuning argument, is whether life is important the universe at large. Like the original post explained, fine-tuning arguments assume that life had value before there was life. What reasons do we have to accept this?

“The destruction of an iPad is the same thing as the death of a human being?”

To us, no, but to the mindless universe, yes.

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Patrick November 15, 2010 at 8:40 am

Charles- You’re using “reasonable” in the sense of, “It is reasonable for a human being to care about concerns related to humans.” That’s not what’s being discussed.

Suppose I argued that my needs were more important than the needs of any other human, and that you should think so too. When asked to justify this, I respond, “Well, I am me. Its reasonable for me to be concerned about me. If I were someone else, I’d be concerned about them, but I’m not.”

My answer isn’t crazy (it does seem reasonable, in the sense of normal and understandable, to be concerned about yourself more so than about others), but it doesn’t answer the question, nor does it support my initial argument. The fact that any person could offer the same answer I did actually undermines my initial argument.

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ayer November 15, 2010 at 9:30 am

Yes, Robin Collins nailed it:
“I believe we can say that the fine-tuning of the universe provides significant evidence in support of divine creation over this hypothesis. The reason for this can be articulated in terms of what is often called the “likelihood principle,” but which I call the “surprise principle.” Roughly, this principle states that whenever a body of evidence is much more surprising under one hypothesis than another, it counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis under which it is least surprising. Imagine a murder trial in which the defendant’s fingerprints match those on the murder weapon. Under typical circumstances, the jury would take this as strong evidence of guilt. Why? The match would be judged unsurprising under the guilt hypothesis, but very surprising under the innocence hypothesis. Therefore, the surprise principle says it counts as strong evidence in favor of the guilt hypothesis. Of course, it does not absolutely prove guilt; the match could have happened by chance, even if the chance of that happening is judged to be very small.”
http://www.closertotruth.com/blog-entry/Why-a-Fine-Tuned-Universe-by-Robin-Collins/11

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Alexandros Marinos November 15, 2010 at 9:40 am

Ask a fine-tuning advocae if they believe the universe is fine-tuned for life in general, or for intelligent life in particular. I predict they will go for the second option, as the first does not seem to support theism. In fact, to support Abrahamic theism (a god that made us precisely as he wanted us to be, in his image), you’d have to go all the way to Fine Tuning for Homo Sapiens Sapiens. This gives us more to add to the initial question of “why is life intrinsically valuable?”. Why would intelligent life be more intrinsically valuable than non-intelligent life? And why would Homo Sapiens be more intrinsically valuable than Homo Neandenthalensis?

Well, it depends who’s asking. It really is a mater of perspective (as are all things ‘value’). Are all these things valued in exactly this way for me personally? Of course they are. But are they thus valued from the universe’s perspective? From the natural laws’ timeless perspective? For one thing, to assume that the universe and/or laws of nature have values, would be to assume they are agents, which would be really close to begging the question. For another, it would mean that before there ever was life, at least since the onset of the big bang, “DNA-based Homo Sapiens Sapiens is intrinsically valuable” was a true proposition. This would be the very least curious.

So again, which agent is it that values things in this exact way? But of course that’s humans. How did human values ever get confused with the universe’s, even granting it has any? Why, that’s a confusion right in the mind of the thinker to begin with. It’s a failure to differentiate our subjective perspective from the general one.

This here is exactly the fatal flaw in the Fine Tuning argument. For most people, life is intrinsically valuable. They don’t perceive this as a property that their mind applies to living beings, they perceive it as a property -of- living beings. This is what E.T. Jaynes called the Mind Projection Fallacy [1].

This fallacy provides the much sought-after explanation for fine-tuning. Given the fact that humans are vulnerable to it, they would fail to distinguish their subjective opinions on value from reality-out-there, therefore ascribing intrinsic value where there is none, and concequently being convinced that their existence requires explanation. What would that explanation be? Why, an agent that values things more-or-less as humans do. Where would that agent be? Outside the universe (that our thinker pictures in their mind). And who would that be? That would be our very thinker. This makes no sense, you say. The thinker did not exist when the laws of nature were fine-tuned. But neither did the proposition that life is intrinsically valuable.

[1] http://lesswrong.com/lw/oi/mind_projection_fallacy/

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Patrick November 15, 2010 at 9:48 am

ayer- Why is the universe that actually exists unsurprising under theism?

It seems like the hidden premise is that under theism, nothing is surprising. Which is… problematic for the surprise principle.

I mean, the “surprise principle” is just plain stupid on its own, seeing as its a dumber version of Bayes, and we already have Bayes. But lets actually USE it instead of just waving it around in the air like a flag, and see what happens.

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Justfinethanks November 15, 2010 at 10:16 am

Roughly, this principle states that whenever a body of evidence is much more surprising under one hypothesis than another, it counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis under which it is least surprising.

Collins seems to be oversimplifying.

For example, Texan Joan Ginther has won the lottery four times. Under which hypothesis is this situation more likely: chance or Joan possessing psychic powers? Well, under chance this situation is extremely surprising, the odds are 200 million to 1!!!! Under the psychic hypothesis, her winning the lottery multiple times is not surprising at all. It is to be shrugged off and expected.

Therefore, (unless one are one of those silly people who just has a pre-disposed, naturalistic bias against the paranormal ) we are obliged to harness the power of Joan Ginther to determine when and where the next natural disaster will occur.

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Thrasymachus November 15, 2010 at 11:03 am

I think the article (and the comments) are unnecessarily confusing themselves. At least, they are confusing me.

Let’s take Collins’ version of the fine tuning argument, because it strikes me as one of best and most up to date formulations of which I am aware:

Collins says that P(LPU|T) > P(LPU|NSU), where LPU is a life permitting universe, and NSU is single universe naturalism. (Yes, multiverse, but he says other things). Why would you think P(LPU|T) is pretty high? Well, a reason that springs to mind is that certain goods (like, I dunno, art, love, etc) require there to be living organisms of the requisite ability: one isn’t obliged to say life is intrinsically valuable, but merely that life is instrumentally valuable as necessary for these fairly uncontroversial goods. So, given a morally perfect creator, it makes sense he’d make a world that permitted life to happen.

Now, there are other issues one could raise (why not have disembodied moral agents without a universe to put them in etc. etc.) But it seems to me not at all hard to see why Theism predicts a life permitting universe. And it is because Theism predicts this that it is suggested that our universe’s life permittingness is adduced in its favour – it doesn’t predict stars or iPads per se, and thus these are don’t confirm Theism (of course, they do serve as evidence for a star-loving or SteveJobian creator – both however have such ridiculously low priors we don’t need to worry about them). I don’t see why so much is being exercised over this not very potent objection. Better weapons lie elsewhere.

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MichaelPJ November 15, 2010 at 11:28 am

Regarding Collins, the other commenters have hit the nail on the head. In the article I read, Collins refers to the “prime confirmatory principle” (and which ayer’s quote calls the “surprise principle”), which as far as I can tell is just false, as it is an incomplete version of Bayes’ Theorem that misses out the use of priors.

RedKing and Justfinethanks provide nice counterexamples

Thrasymachus,

Noone is arguing with that particular inequality. The question is whether P(T|LPU) > P(NSU|LPU), which is the other way round. The two can indeed be related by Bayes’ Theorem, which says that

P(A|B) = (P(B|A)P(A))/P(B),

but it’s vital that you multiply by the prior probabilities, otherwise you get absurdities like those already suggested.

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Paul King November 15, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Personally I would wonder why, given theism, should we expect a material universe at all ?

To consider in a little more idea, the Fine Tuning argument assumes that:
1) Life requires certain conditions
2) These conditions are highly unlikely – and implicitly they must be LESS likely than the existence of the fine tuning entity (another questionable assumption).
3) The fine tuner would choose to create a universe like this, with the intent that it would support life.

Any proposed fine tuner, therefore cannot be “alive”. For if it requires the conditions needed for life, it’s existence cannot be more likely than the existence of those conditions. (And if it does not require those conditions and is held to be alive then the first premise is false). But since this entity is supposedly intelligent and capable of acting to control it’s environment we have to ask why it would specifically choose to create material, biological life rather than entities more like itself. And that question has no easy answer.

Thus even if the first premise is granted (and that is not certain as others have pointed out), there are still two more highly questionable assumptions which need to be argue for instead of being taken for granted – as they usually are.

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Hermes November 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Come on, even you atheists can’t be so cynical. Life has no value? Life is not important? Can you sincerely believe that?

No *intrinsic* value. There are living things that I care about and have meaning to me. There is nothing intrinsic to the specific living things that wells up and shows value outside of the values of others with similar values. A lion, for example, does not have to have the same value judgment about my dog just as I would not have the same judgment as the lion about it’s cubs even if I found the lion cubs to be generically valued.

I find it difficult that you didn’t notice this — the emphasis on intrinsic value — and I wonder if you’re just sniping at an argument that you aren’t interested or able to actually engage thoughtfully.

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Charles November 15, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Patrick- I’m using “reasonable” in the sense of, “It is reasonable for a human being to consider his or her origins.” I agree with Luke. Humans have no intrinsic value. But I don’t see how/why the argument from fine-tuning requires it.

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Hermes November 15, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Charles, if life is stripped out of the fine-tuning argument, how is the argument coherent?

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Luke Muehlhauser November 15, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Neil Manson seems to think the fine-tuning depends on the notion that life has intrinsic value or is ‘special’ in some way, but I’m not so sure. For example, I don’t see how Robin Collins’ version of the argument depends on that.

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mojo.rhythm November 15, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Of course Collin’s strain of the fine tuning argument circumvents it but still has problems of its own, especially if Collins holds to skeptical theism. He uses Baye’s theorem as well, which is based on certain features of explanationism such as plausibility (aka the prior probability) and explanatory power (the posterior probability). So it is also subject to the raft of problems layed out by Dawes and others in their work.

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Rob November 15, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Whenever I see the phrase “intrinsic value”, I am befuddled. What could this possibly mean? Something can only be valuable if a conscious being cares about it. At least that is what “value” means to me. I guess the advocates of “intrinsic value” have another meaning in mind, but I’m at a loss as to what that meaning could be.

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JS Allen November 15, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Marcio,

Douglas Adams put it this way:

Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.’

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Steven November 15, 2010 at 4:48 pm

I think the biggest problem with the Fine-Tuning Argument (and the extension that life has intrinsic value) is the idea that there must be a purpose for something. More clearly stated, the idea that the universe had some goal in mind is, as far as I can see, a fallacious claim.

I think Thrasymachus’s posts can be analyzed to expose this fallacy. It assumes that nature started off with the purpose to create beings that appreciate art, yet, what reason do we have to support this claim? Simply because humans do things to fulfill a specific goal DOES NOT mean that the same applies to nature. Simply stated, you cannot apply human reasoning to what is not human. Similarly, simply because humans value conscious, intelligent life it does NOT mean that nature had the purpose of creating us.

Moreover, things like art and love are perfectly explained by natural explanations. What does art do? It expresses an individual’s thoughts, dissatisfaction and passions to other human beings and helps create bonds. Love cements human relationships and helps increase our survivability in the process. True, they can both be explained by adding a God, but so can they if we add “Love Unicorns from Dimension Art” where we would expect that the Unicorn’s activities in other aspects of the universe have resulted in creating loving, art-appreciating organisms elsewhere.

And as I’ve pointed out before, the F-T Argument doesn’t explain all the things that aren’t fine-tuned towards life. If we are to excuse these imperfections, then the F-T Argument is undermined, as it’s purpose is to say that the universe is unique in that it favors human life overwhelmingly; the only way this argument is (even vaguely) convincing is if and only if all factors of the universe favor human life (and even then, the theist would have to show that there is some greater appreciation of human life by some conscious being outside the universe….).

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Steven November 15, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I may add, why would the Fine-Tuner consider art or love to be the best possible qualities to exist? It seems to me that if we have an ever omnipotent and benevolent creator with no limit to what he can create or imagine, he’d be able to create something much more superior than human art and human love.

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Luke Muehlhauser November 15, 2010 at 5:32 pm

mojo.rhythm,

Wait… How is Bayesian probability theory dependent on explanationism?

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Lenoxuss November 15, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Few humans who think of “intrinsic value” as a coherent idea fail to apply it to our species. There’s no one who says “Yes, sandwiches have intrinsic value, but not humans”. (Certain truly-misanthropic flavors of environmentalism — Gaia is All and Humans Are Scum— may be exceptions, as would be any religion that prizes its relics over human lives.)

Now, I’m perfectly happy to accept and apply the idea of “inherent worth”, if only as synonymous with sentience (or something like it). This is partly because of what I wrote above — almost no one is going to argue that I’m mis-using the term, though some may argue that the term shouldn’t be used at all. (Even my definition is controversial, though — some hold that “human” should trump “sentient” in matters of relative importance.)

However, the way people (including myself) use the phrase, it is truly irrelevant to scientific inquiry. If asking “Why does our universe happen to be one capable of supporting life?” were a good scientific question, than so would be “Why does gravitation apply to life as well as non-life?” or “Why is life made out of the same chemicals as other things?”

Life may be special philosophically, but it’s clearly not “special” in that sense — at least, not in the universe we occupy. Life, so far as we can tell, is scientifically Another Thing, completely in continuum with the rest of stuff. So the “fine-tuning question” is thusly rendered irrelevant, except where it translates to the perhaps-more-interesting question of how there got to be a universe at all. (Theologians have little answer to that beyond “It was made”, and think it satisfactory.)

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irritatedphilomajor November 15, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Any competent epistemologist could shoot holes through this entire post. Unimpressed. When you can provide “public evidence” for all the claims you’ve made above, you’ll get immediate tenure anywhere. Fact is, you can’t (absent defining “public evidence” in some idiotic fashion.) But if you want to keep pretending you’re just appealing to public evidence, when in fact you’re not, feel free to do so.

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Justfinethanks November 15, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Any competent epistemologist could shoot holes through this entire post.

Hm. Then I wonder what we should infer about the state of your epistemology chops from the fact that you have opted not to do so.

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Hermes November 15, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Irritatedphilomajor, by all means, please pick a single example and pull the trigger. I’m always open to learning something new, but I feel cheated when someone says they know something and they don’t demonstrate what they know. Why keep a secret?

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Jugglable November 15, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Shelly Kagan, in his debate with William Lane Craig, was asked why it would be bad to kill a human being on his view, compared to killing a fly or some other organism.

He responded with something to the effect of, “Well, that organism can do calculus. That organism can write poetry and fall in love.” Then he added, “…if that answer doesn’t satisfy you, I don’t know what else to say. I don’t know what kind of answer you would find satisfactory.”

I’d say the same thing to Luke here when he’s asking why life has intrinsic value. I just find it very stubborn and obtuse. We can fit the concept of the entire universe in our little brains. Is that more valuable than a universe that would be just helium? Um, yeah.

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Steven November 15, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Juggable:

My calculator can do calculus better than I can. I’m sure a computer can also analyze the English language and its rhythms and concoct a legitimate poem. Does that make a computer more valuable than I am in some regards, as I am a poor poet and I struggle with Calculus? Indeed, if the ability to write poems or do calculus is special, then life isn’t required at all. And for feeling love, so can a number of other organisms. It isn’t restricted and unique to human beings at all.

You also seem to fail to understand what intrinsic value means. I agree that a human life is valuable, just that it doesn’t have any inherent value. What that means is, regardless of what anyone thinks or feels, life is valuable. Period. What does Calculus or love have to do to prove that? There’s nothing obstinate in denying fanciful concoctions based on emotion rather than facts, reason or any evidence.

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toweltowel November 15, 2010 at 7:44 pm

1. A simple Bayesian argument has negligible weight: inasmuch as it works for God and fine-tuning, it also works for elves and coin-flipping. And the same goes for Collins and what is or is not “surprising”. This is RedKing’s point, and I’ve seen no response to it.

2. So we need an additional premise about the intrinsic value of physical life. Rob is puzzled by “intrinsic value”. Roughly, x is intrinsically valuable if (i) it is worthy of being valued, and (ii) this value is due to the intrinsic properties of x (as opposed to its relational properties, e.g. being ten feet away from a cat). To get at intrinsic value, it’s important to distinguish between what is valued, and what is worthy of being valued.

3. It is not very plausible that physical life is intrinsically valuable. At most it is plausible that intelligence and agency are intrinsically valuable. Now, if God exists, it is possible for intelligence and agency to exist apart from the physical world. But then there is no reason for thinking God would be likely to create a universe hospitable to physical life. At most there is reason to think God would create some sort of intelligent agents, and these may well be nonphysical (e.g., angels). This is Paul King’s point, and I think it is a very important one.

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Luke Muehlhauser November 15, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Steven gave my reply, here.

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Luke Muehlhauser November 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Also, I think some of the reason we think things have intrinsic value when instead they merely have value to us (and perhaps others) is what E.T. Jaynes called the mind projection fallacy.

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Joel November 15, 2010 at 9:33 pm

I agree that Collin’s version avoids the issue of intrinsic value, since life may simply be of instrumental value to God.

Still, as many posters have pointed out before, we have to factor in the prior probability of theism.

So P(T|FTU)= [P(FTU|T) x P(T)]/[P(FTU), or A = BC/D

B, or the chances of a fine-tuned universe under theism, may be high, but the prior probability of theism, C, still has to be accounted for. And if it is low, as Patrick argued (regarding sample size), P(T|FTU) is still not necessarily more than P(A|FTU).

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Alexandros Marinos November 16, 2010 at 1:47 am

Doesn’t Collins’ version get completely invalidated due to the “A theory that can explain anything explains nothing” formulation of bayes?

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Thrasymachus November 16, 2010 at 5:18 am

Going ‘well the prior odds for Theism suck’ as a response sucks. Because it still means the fine tuning argument is an argument for Gods existence that is cogent (ie. your posterior odds are slsanted more towards Theism than your priors) and it only ‘doesn’ t work’ because Theism is apparently so improbable it doesn’t matter. That a) seems question begging, and b) means people who aren’t confident Theism is really implausible can be convinced by the argument. Anyone can retrench priors to overcome countervailing evidence (it’s the probabilistic version of Moorean reversal). Jugglable is surely right about this being a bit of a sideshow from the meat of the issues.

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Alexandros Marinos November 16, 2010 at 5:45 am

Wait, isn’t theism more probable under super-theism (there exists a super-god that wants to create a god that wants to create the universe) than under naturalistic theism (god just exists)?

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Patrick November 16, 2010 at 5:47 am

No, its not, Thrasymachus. You don’t understand the role that prior probabilities hold in Bayes.

Let me demonstrate. I’ll leave out the actual math for clarity, but rest assured this is just bog standard Bayes.

Hypothesis: Malevolent alien gremlins have recently arrived on earth, live in my apartment, are invisible, and like breaking my stuff.
Evidence: Recently, my computer broke even though it was very new.

Assume there are no malevolent gremlins. If this is the case, it is unlikely that my new computer would break.
Assume there ARE malevolent gremlins. If this is the case, it is very likely that my new computer would break.

Therefore the failure of my computer is evidence for invisible malevolent alien gremlins.

You can do this with any hypothesis customized to precisely fit the observed data. Note that what I did ISN’T fallacious, and ISN’T a misuse of Bayes. Its a completely correct use of Bayes, but without an explanation that the STRENGTH of the evidence provided is dependent on, amongst other things, the prior probability that gremlins I completely invented are in fact real.

Now fine tuning has more problems than just this, such as the fact that its advocates, as is typical amongst theologians, just assume that under theism their desired conclusions would be true, and never bother to actually justify this assumption. Why would this particularly universe be likely under theism? Is it coherent to use fine tuning to advance a hypothesis that, if true, would negate the conclusion that the universe is finely tuned? But before you even get to that you have to address the fact that:

Bayes only does what it says it does. You can’t gin it up to make it more than what it claims to be. Bayesian evidence can be trivially, laughably small. So its not enough to just say that you have Bayesian evidence. You have to say why anyone should care.

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NoSuchThing November 16, 2010 at 6:21 am

If the universe is fine-tuned for Homo Sapiens Sapiens, then one could argue that it is even more finely tuned for a species of mosquito that feeds on only this species blood; or a virus that affects only us, since the “value” of these things is higher than our own “value”, such things being allowed to reign over us/dominate our existence/or be dependent on us (on a more funny note, one could say that some other life-form, like the ones mentioned above, which would be capable to kill all humanity, would not choose to do so and instead “farm” us to insure their own existence, which seems more valuable in its rarity and external dependencies).

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MichaelPJ November 16, 2010 at 6:35 am

Thrasymachus,

Saying “the prior odds for Theism suck” is, by itself, a weak argument. However, saying “you haven’t provided any argument either way regarding the prior odds for Theism”, or, more strongly (and this is what I would say) “the prior odds for Theism are just inscrutable” is not.

The point is that theistic attempts to use Bayes only get half way. You can’t conclude anything from the argument until you plug in priors. Some people may think that the theistic priors are low, or, like me, they may think that we just can’t say anything about them. It is inappropriate to use Bayes in this situation precisely because of the inscrutability of the priors.

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Patrick November 16, 2010 at 6:53 am

MichaelPJ- The reason why i care, at least, is because I want to avoid equivocation fallacies.

The colloquial definition of “evidence” is something like, “a reason to believe something,” or perhaps, “a compelling reason to believe something.” But the Bayesian definition is something more like, “anything, no matter how slight, that causes us to update the probability we assign to a hypothesis, no matter how unlikely.”

Under Bayesian definitions, if we view a hypothesis as .000000001% likely, and we find an argument that causes us to update that to .000000002%, then we’ve provided “evidence” for that hypothesis.

Under common definitions, that would probably not be considered evidence.

As it happens, its trivially easy to create Bayesian “evidence” for ludicrous hypotheses, particularly if you’re allowing yourself to backdate your Bayesian priors like this:

1. I know the universe exists as it does, including, for example, that Jupiter clears asteroids from the asteroid belt so that they don’t hit the Earth quite as often.
2. I hypothesize that the universe was created by a designer who wanted to make it like it is.
3. I declare my prior to be the likelihood of that designer before I knew the universe is as it is, even though I invented the hypothesis afterward (specifically, the part of the hypothesis where the designer adjusted Jupiter’s orbit).
4. I note that under Bayes [1] would then cause me to update and increase the probability of [2].
5. Therefore I have Bayesian evidence.

This isn’t precisely cheating. Nor is it abusing Bayes. But it shows the ways that Bayesian results (which give NO GUARANTEE OF WEIGHT ABSENT ACTUAL PRIORS AND PROBABILITY ESTIMATES) can be rhetorically massaged to sound really meaningful.

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Thrasymachus November 16, 2010 at 10:48 am

Patrick:

I know how Bayes works. The fact that we can get specious confirmation for silly hypotheses doesn’t matter because we know their priors are ridiculously low. Channeling Carnap, they are disconfirmed on the data, rather than disconfirmed by it. Inventing hypotheses post-hoc to explain observed data fall prey to this.

Point is that most people don’t think P(Theism) is so low as to be irrelevant. Further, it isn’t the case that Theism was dreamt up to explain fine tuning data, so the point about back-dated priors doesn’t hold here. What would matter is whether Theism would predict a life permitting universe (NB. Not a fine tuned one). Yet it seems pretty clear to people who aren’t being that obstinate that life is at least instrumental for goods morally perfect beings want to actualize, and thus God would make worlds with life in them. Obviously naturalism doesn’t have this value tropism. In fact, you don’t even need to be THAT sure theism does predict a life permitting universe, because those pushing the FT argue that P(LPU|SNU) is utterly minute, of dozens of orders of magnitude. So long as we can set the lower bound of P(LPU|T) as greater than 1 in a million, we have stonking good confirmation for Theism over naturalism. So FT is likely to be a significant chunk of Bayesian evidence, and thus potentially persuasive to those who have degrees of belief in Theism hovering around the middle.

MichaelPJ:

You are right in that inscrutability would nail the argument. However, the inscrutability which I think nails it is in the likelihood ratio. It isn’t in the prior probability of Theism. Although I’m not sure what exactly my assignment for P(T) is, I don’t have no idea whatsoever – I can set at least some bounds (e.g 0.01 < x <0.5). Besides, taking priors from your intuitions seems alright to me, and thus people will naturally have a range of confidences in Theism prior to knowing about hte fine tuning data. If indeed the FT data can be adduced in Theism's favour, that shifts the distribution towards it.

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Adito November 16, 2010 at 11:33 am

Further, it isn’t the case that Theism was dreamt up to explain fine tuning data, so the point about back-dated priors doesn’t hold here.

Theism has always tried to explain why anything exists rather than nothing so the fact that it wasn’t meant to cover specific data doesn’t matter much. And it certainly is the case that God must have certain intentions to want to create a life permitting universe that are unnecessary so I think the charge of inventing post-hoc hypothesis holds.

Yet it seems pretty clear to people who aren’t being that obstinate that life is at least instrumental for goods morally perfect beings want to actualize, and thus God would make worlds with life in them.

Because intrinsic value exists? Were’s your argument for that? I’m not even sure what morally perfect means here.

So long as we can set the lower bound of P(LPU|T) as greater than 1 in a million, we have stonking good confirmation for Theism over naturalism. So FT is likely to be a significant chunk of Bayesian evidence, and thus potentially persuasive to those who have degrees of belief in Theism hovering around the middle.

This would follow but it would pretty much be admitting that the subject in question is predominantly a mystery. It really doesn’t do your explanation any good to say that there’s a one in a million chance of it being right.

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Michael November 16, 2010 at 1:00 pm

No, no, no, why create a reality that supports “life”?

I don’t know what life is any more than you all do… it is a constructed category loosely cobbled-together from a bunch of properties. It loosely means internally-generated and directed mobility, taking in matter and energy and converting them, reproduction, and some sort of self-maintenance. Pretty vague and amorphous stuff. But whatever it is, why would Samantabhadra create a Reality that enables “life”?

The space of possible theistic worlds certainly includes “Heaven” in which Angels exist, despite not being “alive” in any reasonable sense of the word. The Netherworld and the Two Fields, similarly, are realities in which there is no living being, in fact, the only beings there are the “not living”. Satan is not alive and neither is Michael nor Yahweh himself. So why create a reality in which “life” is possible given that souls and spirits need not be biologically instantiated at all?

Especially since “life” is not possible in almost all of it. So why would Sekhmet create a physics which includes 10E500 possible Universes, nearly all of which are inhospitable to “life”? Why not design a physics in which only the few realities which actually support “life” are possible. What, she wasn’t sure so wanted to give herself lots of options?

Collins’ argument is just an exploit. (Almost) any actual reality, no matter what it might be, is extremely unlikely, since the sample space from which it occurs is so immense. That means every actual reality will be more likely assuming a creative agent which prefers it than assuming no such agent exists. And worse than that, (almost) every feature of the actual world will function in Collins’s argument: the Giant Red Eye of Jupiter proves that the FSM exists because the existence of the Giant Red Eye is much more likely given the FSM’s burning desire for Giant Red Eyes than not.

Worse still, the existence of The Entity, which desires that every fact turns out exactly as it does, is established. The actual world, exactly the way it is, is much more likely under the assumption that the Entity exists, than under the assumption that it is not. Worse still, the existence of The Entity Prime, who killed off Yahweh and desires that every fact turns out exactly as it does, is established. The actual world is much more likely under the assumption that The Entity Prime exists than it is under either the assumption that Yahweh exists or that The Entity Prime does not exist.

Collins makes a passing attempt to answer the above objections by requiring prior prediction. Just silly. It doesn’t answer The Entity or The Entity Prime, for example. If this is your first encounter with them, remember them, for verily, tomorrow’s data will prove them out. Also, the Biblical description of reality is factually incorrect, what with firmaments stuck with stars, Earth as fixed on foundations and around which the Sun revolves, the chaotic waters which surround the sky and the ground, and on and on. So Collins’s own criteria undo his argument.

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woodchuck64 November 16, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Life is just a way of evolving an information processor that can be conscious of its own consciousness and remember that fact. What really seems special about this universe is existence of the “first-person view” in the first place, which doesn’t seem to require life or information processing necessarily.

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Lenoxuss November 16, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Are there any theists who argue that our universe is maximally supportive of life (that no universe could contain more life than ours)? I mean, if they’re already going to posit that our universe is maximally just*, then they may as well.

* Some theists may object, but when you break down most theodicies, they have to assert something along the lines of “If the universe were more just with respect to X, it would be less so with respect to Y.” None will argue that the omnibenevolent God could have created an “altogether” better universe, because a “better” one will always be “worse”, somehow.

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Patrick November 16, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I still haven’t seen an answer for why fine tuning would be likely under theism.

Fine tuning argues that some physical laws require that other physical laws be just so in order for the universe to be as it is and contain life as it does.

But under theism I don’t see any reason why this would be so.

I don’t understand how under the hypothesis “there exists an omnipotent magical superbeing who can suspend the laws of physics at will” it is more likely that the laws of physics would require precise balance in order to work.

Easy example:

Under naturalism, for the rate of cosmic expansion to function so as to permit the formation of stars the size of our sun, you need a certain amount of matter and a certain force of gravity.

Under theism, you don’t. The omnipotent magical superbeing could just poof everything into existence exactly as he wants it. Or he could decree that the force of gravity is X at all times, except during the formation of the universe when it was Y. Or any number of other varieties. Or the omnipotent magical superbeing could just poof the entire world into existence riding on the back of four elephants standing on a turtle, and even though that totally violates all the known laws of biology for an elephant and/or turtle to be that big, it works just because the omnipotent magical superbeing said so.

I don’t understand why an omnipotent magical superbeing would be likely to precisely balance a bunch of physical constants in order to create a ridiculously enormous, mind bogglingly large universe that mostly contains empty space or inhospitable, life prohibitive chemical laden wastes, or life incinerating nuclear furnaces, all so small rocks spinning around giant fireballs could support sentient life assuming they don’t get pasted by a meteor. An omnipotent magical superbeing has lots of other options, like creating a universe that consists entirely of one huge Dyson Sphere populated by unicorns.

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Steven November 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Patrick:I know how Bayes works. The fact that we can get specious confirmation for silly hypotheses doesn’t matter because we know their priors are ridiculously low. Channeling Carnap, they are disconfirmed on the data, rather than disconfirmed by it. Inventing hypotheses post-hoc to explain observed data fall prey to this.
Point is that most people don’t think P(Theism) is so low as to be irrelevant. Further, it isn’t the case that Theism was dreamt up to explain fine tuning data, so the point about back-dated priors doesn’t hold here. What would matter is whether Theism would predict a life permitting universe (NB. Not a fine tuned one). Yet it seems pretty clear to people who aren’t being that obstinate that life is at least instrumental for goods morally perfect beings want to actualize, and thus God would make worlds with life in them. Obviously naturalism doesn’t have this value tropism. In fact, you don’t even need to be THAT sure theism does predict a life permitting universe, because those pushing the FT argue that P(LPU|SNU) is utterly minute, of dozens of orders of magnitude. So long as we can set the lower bound of P(LPU|T) as greater than 1 in a million, we have stonking good confirmation for Theism over naturalism. So FT is likely to be a significant chunk of Bayesian evidence, and thus potentially persuasive to those who have degrees of belief in Theism hovering around the middle.

How is the Fine-Tuning Argument not a post-hoc hypothesis? You’re attempting to prove that the world was created by God after the universe was created, just like Patrick was attempting to prove that the computer was broken by gremlins after the computer was broken. I also wonder how morally imperfect beings (humans) would know what goods morally perfect beings with unlimited power and imagination would want to maximize. The “your being obstinate” accusation is growing old for unproven claims. Yeah, I get it. Humans like art. That doesn’t mean God likes human art. And indeed, supposing that this morally good entity wants to maximize these goods–why did he/she/it Fine-Tune the Universe so that it has many adverse factors to life (long droughts, orbiting rocks that can obliterate Earth, etc.)? Like I said before, the only way your argument is even vaguely convincing is if everything favors life. And hell, I can come up with a scenario that has even GREATER tropism than theism. Suppose Unicorns that exist in another dimension but can interact with ours exist and they like BOTH parasites that eat human brains and goods like art! Why, this universe is very fine-tuned for that. This is stonking god confirmation for the Unicorns over Theism. So Unicornism is backed by a significant chunk of Bayesian evidence and thus potentially persuasive to those who have degrees of belief in Unicornism hovering around the middle.

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tmp November 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm

I’m not getting something here, but how do you assign probabilities when you are talking about “everything”. Say, you have a set “all possible naturalistic universes”. If you don’t have any external references, and since we are talking about entire universe you don’t, shouldn’t they all be exatly as likely, no matter their internal structure? So the one we have, while horribly unlikely, is not any less likely than any other option.

In (mono)theistic explanation your set would be “all possible creator gods”, which is, if anything, larger than “all possible naturalistic universes”. And must be in subset “which would create exatly this universe”. Which again is larger than just “this universe”.

I simply cannot see, how adding extra entities to an explanation would make it MORE likely.

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PDH November 16, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Thrasymachus wrote,

Yet it seems pretty clear to people who aren’t being that obstinate that life is at least instrumental for goods morally perfect beings want to actualize, and thus God would make worlds with life in them.

I don’t think I’m being obstinate but that is not at all clear to me. It’s not even clear that life should have value on theism, instrumental or otherwise. What I take you to be saying is that on theism we would expect a life-permitting universe to be the sort of thing that a God would want to create. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether a life-permitting universe is intrinsically valuable, it only has to be valuable to God.

However, consider my earlier point about the Euthyphro dilemma. Do life permitting universes have value because God loves them, or does God love them because they have value? If it is the former, then you face similar problems to the theist who answers that something does not have value prior to God. If it is the latter, then the argument depends on the concept of intrinsic value and you will have to meet Luke’s objections. Notice how this is very similar to the difference between instrumental (or extrinsic) value and intrinsic value.

Thus, if something (life, art, love etc.) has value only because God loves it then any universe that He loved would have value. A universe with no life in it whatsoever would be valuable if that was what God was into. So would a universe full of iPads. The question, then, is why would we expect Him to create a life-permitting universe? Because life has value? Not unless God says so!

Maybe theists would want to argue that God has a specific nature and that good is whatever best reflects that nature. But why should we assume that what best reflects God’s nature is a universe with these particular laws and constants? We need to know what God’s nature is before we can answer that and it seems that God’s nature commonly depends on the concept of ‘good.’ Is something good because it reflects God’s nature or does it reflect God’s nature because it is good? If it’s the former we’re back to my objection and if it is the latter we’re back to Luke’s. This makes it exceedingly difficult to assess God’s nature to determine if it is such that we would expect Him to create life-permitting universes.

We expect God to love those things that reflect His nature but His nature is a tautology. He loves what He loves. What does He love? Whatever is good. What is good? Whatever He loves. That doesn’t specify any particular preference for the strength of the weak interaction or the cosmological constant. It doesn’t give us any useful information about God’s nature whatsoever. Certainly nothing that could help us anticipate the kind of universe that He would create. We no longer have any reason to expect God to create a life-permitting universe.

You cite God’s moral perfection as evidence that He would want to create this sort of universe but the use of the word ‘moral’ in this context renders that argument equally susceptible to the Euthyphro Dilemma. Additionally, there is the problem of why a perfect being would need or want to create anything in the first place. A perfect being has everything it needs already. Moreover, something has instrumental value when it is a means to some end but an Omnipotent being could surely achieve its ends without any middleman. Few things have instrumental value to an omnipotent being!

We expect humans to desire those things that it has aided their evolution to desire. Such things have instrumental value to humans to the extent that they fulfil the desires that they have inherited from creatures whose survival was aided by possessing them. It would be quite a coincidence if a being who did not evolve just happened to desire the same things as one who did. Indeed it would be perplexing if such a being desired anything at all since survival of the fittest cannot be an issue to an immortal entity and thus, in the absence of evolutionary pressures, by what mechanism and for what purpose did it acquire desires? And why those desires instead of the others?

Meanwhile, scripture tells us that God looked over the things that He had created and saw that they were good. It does not specify whether the goodness resulted from intrinsic or instrumental value and so we cannot tell whether this was a likely occurrence given the existence of God or an action He undertook on an utterly improbable whim that was the polar opposite of what His nature would usually provoke.

If the theist cannot explain how the actual result was the expected result on theism by appeals to scripture or God’s traditional attributes then she has one remaining option. She can just assert that God’s nature is one way rather than some other way. In that event, it seems fortuitous that we got a God with exactly the right nature as the odds of this were vanishingly slim. For every possible universe He might have created, there is a possible nature that could have driven Him to create that universe.

Perhaps, He was fine tuned.

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Chris November 16, 2010 at 6:54 pm

This is off topic, Luke, but I don’t think you have ever addressed the argument from consciousness that JP Moreland commonly gives. I’m just curious as to whether you have any plans to do so. It seems like this argument doesn’t generate much conversation among atheists, and I’ve always wondered why.

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Rob November 16, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Patrick,

Your last argument is essentially what Ikeda and Jefferys do here:

http://quasar.as.utexas.edu/anthropic.html

It seems to me that if we found ourselves in a universe where life should be impossible, yet here we are regardless, then THAT would be evidence for supernaturalism. But, unfortunately for the supernaturalists, it just ain’t so.

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bossmanham November 16, 2010 at 10:49 pm

I’m asking defenders of the FTA a series of questions. My first question was: Was Our Universe Fine-Tuned for iPads?

Here’s the point. The universe had to be highly fine-tuned merely to produce stars. Would any universe containing stars (but no life) be evidence that that universe was fine-tuned by a Designer who really liked stars?

Well it’s kind of hard to deal with hypotheticals like that. I would say our universe itself was fine tuned for distant stars, because an old universe that has gone through the history ours has is necessary for life to come about.

Hugh Ross points out that a young universe couldn’t support life, because a young universe wouldn’t have sufficient time to produce spiral galaxies, which are the only ones that are able to produce the heavy elements necessary for life.

But, for a straight answer to your question, since the odds are so ridiculously astronomical that the conditions for star formation would obtain, yes, I would say their existence would be evidence of a designer. A universe devoid of stars would be far more likely.

The pot of universes that contain stars overlaps with our own universe designed for life, and they are a very small portion of the total possibilities. It gets to look frantic when someone says it’s all a result of just dumb luck. I mean the guy who keeps winning at the roulette wheel can say it’s just luck, but it’s far more likely evidence of cheating.

On the lack of evidence for intrinsic value, I would ask why our intuition isn’t good enough evidence. It seems widespread enough to be taken seriously, don’t you think? I mean consider if suddenly all of humanity was struck with amnesia and all our history erased, but we all had this intuition that we had lost something. Well, is that intuition enough to garner attention, or would you say there’s no evidence so we should assume there was no past?

I think the sense we all have that taking innocent lives is wrong is testimony enough that life is somehow special. Not to mention that life is far more exquisite than the rest of the natural materials, which have existed far longer.

I’m gonna say those reasons are good enough for me.

But, as it’s been pointed out, I think the comparison is usually the P(Life|theism) compared to P(Life|atheism), and that the former is far more probable. Since we see life we should conclude that the former is true.

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Paul King November 16, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Of course Ross’ constraint on the age makes much more sense given a naturalistic universe without divine intervention. The theistic God, as usually conceived, is capable of creating a universe radically different from our own (even one matching the geocentric description of Genesis 1) so the age constraint does not follow. Ross’ argument implicitly assumes that the creator is limited to choosing the constants and maybe initiating the Big Bang.

And is p(Life|Theism) really that high ? As I pointed out in my previous comment it is really questionable assuming that “Life” is more or less life as we know it (as must be assumed for fine tuning to apply). There is some post-hoc thinking here – it is assumed that God is responsible for the existence of life and therefore the probability that God would create life is assumed to be high. But this is circular reasoning. We need an a priori reason why a God would choose to create physical life – but nobody seems to have one.

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Kaelik November 17, 2010 at 2:16 am

I would say also there is significant post hoc thinking when it comes to claims that life is more probably under theism than atheism. It’s getting silly. But of course, what can you expect from people with arguments like this:

@bossmanham

On the lack of evidence for intrinsic value, I would ask why our intuition isn’t good enough evidence. It seems widespread enough to be taken seriously, don’t you think? I mean consider if suddenly all of humanity was struck with amnesia and all our history erased, but we all had this intuition that we had lost something. Well, is that intuition enough to garner attention, or would you say there’s no evidence so we should assume there was no past?

Really? Do you not see how silly this is? It’s hard to even believe that you are serious with such a pathetic argument.

Our intuitions are the product of our brains, which are the productive of evolution on genes. There is no reason to believe that they are true without outside evidence. Most humans have the intuition that they are smarter than most other humans they meet, and are right more often than they are wrong. This is logically impossible. We have those intuitions because they are something generically true of most people. That is not evidence that they are true.

Your example is pathetic. You start with something that we know exists, and then claim that everyone will have an intuition that it is missing, even though most people have no intuition of missing anything when they forget things, or contract amnesia.

Collective intuition is evidence of a similarity of many human beings in brain structure. There is no reason to assume that a similarity of brain structure counts as evidence for whatever collective intuition people have.

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MichaelPJ November 17, 2010 at 4:24 am

Patrick,

Fair enough; if you’re already more than 50% convinced in the truth of Theism, then fine-tuning may well increase your degree of belief. But likewise, if you’re more than 50% convinced that the computer-breaking gremlins exist, then the fact that your computer breaks may well increase your conviction in them.

Nonetheless, I don’t believe in the gremlins, nor do I believe in God. And the evidence convinces me in neither case. So it looks like the interesting work has already been done.

bossmanham,

As has been said repeatedly, P(life|theism)>P(life|atheism) does not imply P(theism|life) > P(atheism|life). cf the whole discussion of Bayes in this thread!

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bossmanham November 17, 2010 at 9:38 am

Kaelik,

Our intuitions are the product of our brains, which are the productive of evolution on genes. There is no reason to believe that they are true without outside evidence.

Well there are a few things wrong with this assessment. First off, it’s begging the question for naturalism. Second, it’s self defeating, since any apprehension of evidence we would have is also “the product of our brains, which are the productive of evolution on genes. There is no reason to believe that they are true without outside evidence.” Ergo, we’d have no more reason to trust evidence than intuition.

Most humans have the intuition that they are smarter than most other humans they meet, and are right more often than they are wrong

I’m not sure that’s true. I certainly never have that intuition. I’m also wondering how either of those are logically impossible. It’s not logically impossible that someone be smarter than most people they meet, and it’s also not logically impossible that someone is right more often than wrong. So…

Your example is pathetic. You start with something that we know exists, and then claim that everyone will have an intuition that it is missing, even though most people have no intuition of missing anything when they forget things, or contract amnesia.

It’s simply an example that is meant to illustrate the point that there’s no reason to discard such widely held intuitions. You’re trying to make it say too much.

Collective intuition is evidence of a similarity of many human beings in brain structure. There is no reason to assume that a similarity of brain structure counts as evidence for whatever collective intuition people have.

It could just as well be evidence of a similar metaphysical makeup. It could be the moral code written on the heart of man by the Creator. Why should I think that such a basic and foundational sense that I perceive is wrong? You don’t do that with the basic and foundational sense of the mind-independent world, do you? Are you a solipsist?

Michael,

As has been said repeatedly, P(life|theism)>P(life|atheism) does not imply P(theism|life) > P(atheism|life). cf the whole discussion of Bayes in this thread!

Since life on atheism is extremely improbable, but life given theism isn’t, we should simply conclude that since there is life, theism is true. The other two probabilities are red herrings. The reason fine tuning on theism isn’t improbable is because if you have a designing intelligence that sets the values, then there’s no reason to be surprised that they are there given the existence of that designing intelligence. On atheism, it is very improbably that the universe should have the values it does that support life. Rather, what should be the case if chance were to blame is a life prohibiting universe.

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Hermes November 17, 2010 at 10:03 am

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Patrick November 17, 2010 at 10:27 am

bossmanham wrote: “The reason fine tuning on theism isn’t improbable is because if you have a designing intelligence that sets the values, then there’s no reason to be surprised that they are there given the existence of that designing intelligence.”

This is a perfect illustration of my biggest objections to fine tuning.

1. When it comes time to predict the likelihood of fine tuning under theism, you import aspects of your argument that were only true when you assumed atheism and argued that fine tuning was unlikely under it. Your only argument for why fine tuning would be likely under theism is that you think fine tuning isn’t likely under atheism and theism bypasses those alleged problems. You have no independent argument for why fine tuning is likely under theism. To illustrate, imagine the following argument.

Under assumption X, N is unlikely because of the following problems.
Under assumption Y, those problems are neatly bypassed.
Therefore under assumption Y, N is likely.

See the fallacy? The removal of the problems that exist under X does not mean that there are no problems under Y. There might be a great many problems under Y that make N even less likely than under X!

2. You build the conclusion right into the hypothesis. If the definition of “intelligent designer” is “entity that fine tunes,” then obviously fine tuning is more likely under an intelligent designer. Similarly my car breaking down is more likely under gremlinism than under naturalism, where gremlinism is defined as “gremlins broke my car.” And fine tuning is more likely under “brute fact-ism” than under classical theism, where brute fact-ism is defined as “fine tuning is a brute fact.” This is the classical problem with Bayes when you’re dealing with a hypothesis that’s custom fit to the observable data. But why is an intelligent designer defined as an entity that finely tunes? Why not an entity that just smacks stuff together, and it works because OMNIPOTENCE, FOOL! This definition of “intelligent designer” is custom designed to avoid the fact that there’s nothing in the classical definition of God that predicts fine tuning instead of some other magical form of creation that doesn’t need or require fine tuning. Its typical ad hoc apologetics where the hypothesis is massaged into whatever it needs to be to get where you want to go.

The only way to get around this problem, as far as I can tell, is to argue that a finely tuned universe is not only contingently necessary given that certain physical laws exist (ironically, the same laws that theism hopes to explain, rendering their argument viciously incestual), but in fact logically necessary. I haven’t seen any effort on this front, and I certainly don’t see any route that could be taken on this front.

3. Fine tuning advocates restrict the scope of inquiry to only the points that are in their favor. So they like to talk about “a universe with life,” because that’s a binary point and they can sort of argue that “a universe with life” is unlikely under naturalism. But we don’t just have a binary. We have a wide scope of information about the universe. And even if you could argue that “a universe with life” is likely under theism, what we actually have is a specific universe with a specific set of physical rules that allow life to exist on some microscopically small sections of an enormous, lifeless cosmos. And how likely is THAT under theism? Fine tuning advocates don’t have an answer for that, and they don’t even want to discuss the question, because its hard for them to explain without selling out their own theologies. And the size and scope of the universe relative to the amount of life it contains is just one such problem.

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J. Simonov November 17, 2010 at 1:04 pm

bossmanham;

On atheism, it is very improbable that the universe should have the values it does that support life.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the probability of things that have already occurred 100%? Regardless of what sort of metaphysics proves to be true, wouldn’t it be the case that the “chances” of the universe of being as it is are 100%, given that it already exists as it does?

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Kaelik November 17, 2010 at 1:34 pm

@bosshamman

Well there are a few things wrong with this assessment. First off, it’s begging the question for naturalism.

No, it’s not begging the question, because naturalism isn’t the question. We already know that our intuitions are the products of our brain. That’s a known fact. The argument isn’t about whether or not that is true, since we already know it is. The argument is about whether life has intrinsic value, which it could or could not in naturalism, or in any other conceptual worldview. (In the sense that intrinsic value is an incoherent undefined term, and so makes as much sense in one worldview as any other until it is actually defined and made coherent.)

Second, it’s self defeating, since any apprehension of evidence we would have is also “the product of our brains, which are the productive of evolution on genes.

Except you know, that evidence is actually empirically capable of informing us about the world, and has a track record of success, unlike intuition, which has a track record of failure, and no one can point to any coherent reason why we would expect intuition to reveal anything accurate about the world.

But sure, if you throw out actual reality, then there is no reason to believe that analysis of reality will provide us with information about reality.

I’m not sure that’s true. I certainly never have that intuition. I’m also wondering how either of those are logically impossible. It’s not logically impossible that someone be smarter than most people they meet, and it’s also not logically impossible that someone is right more often than wrong.

Um… Can you read? If most people have the intuition that they are smarter than most people they meet. That means that in a given 100 people, at least 51 of them have the intuition that they are in the the top 49 in intelligence.

Since 51 people cannot be in the top 49, this is impossible. If you want to argue that it isn’t true that most people intuit themselves to be smarter than most other people, that’s fine, but there is no reason to feign ignorance of what I said in a bid to misinterpret the contradiction away.

It’s simply an example that is meant to illustrate the point that there’s no reason to discard such widely held intuitions. You’re trying to make it say too much.

Um… What the flying monkey fuck does discard mean exactly? You mean “Just because intuitions are usually wrong is no reason to not take my intuition as proof.” Yes it actually is. You are attempting to use your intuition, and literally nothing but your intuition, to prove an argument.

You have to provide some reason for other people to believe your intuition has value.

If I tried to argue that Unicorns exist based on the fact that I said “heads, unicorns exist. Tails, they don’t” and then flipped a coin heads, that would be insane. And presenting a hypothetical example where I say “Heads, 2+2=4. Tails, 2+2=5″ and then flip heads as a reason why we should trust the almighty coin flip wouldn’t make it any less stupid.

It could just as well be evidence of a similar metaphysical makeup. It could be the moral code written on the heart of man by the Creator. Why should I think that such a basic and foundational sense that I perceive is wrong? You don’t do that with the basic and foundational sense of the mind-independent world, do you?

No it can’t. Because those things are simply incompatible with the evidence we have all around us. Why should you think that such a basic and foundational sense that they perceive is wrong? Because it can be empirically disproved. I think that all perceptions I have that are empirically disproved are wrong. No matter their source. Since your intuitions are based entirely on your own subjective judgments, and have no where else to point to, you have no reason to believe that they are correct, and the entire world around you is an illusion. Instead, you should probably accept that your subjective judgments are subjective.

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Patrick November 17, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Simonov: You can look at probabilities two ways. What is the chance of X being true, and what was the chance that X should have turned out to be true?

So if I flip a fair coin and its heads, the chance that the coin is heads is 100% But the chance that the coin should have turned out to be heads is still 50%.

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Michael November 17, 2010 at 2:41 pm

@bossmanham

P(electrons existing|ElectroGod)>>P(electrons existing|atheism)

[ElectroGod the AllStatic could care less about life or humanity, but she adores negative electrical charges. The fine-tunedness of the Universe for the existence of electrons is MIND-BLOWING! We have just proven that ElectroGod the AllStatic exists.]

P(Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye|Sauronicus)>>>P(Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye|atheism)

Sauronicus designed The All for the purpose of creating Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye and doesn’t care about anything else. The existence of Jupiter, of the Milky Way, or even of stars is extremely unlikely given atheism… there are like 10E500 possible universes described in string theory and only the tiniest sliver contain planets, much less The Planet Jupiter. We have just proven the existence of Sauronicus.

P(the set of facts|The Entity]>>>>>>P(the set of facts|atheism)

[The Entity wishes reality to be JUST SO and NO DIFFERENT. The Universe is maximally fine-tuned for each fact to be JUST SO... even the tiniest possible difference in any constant or law or happenstance would destroy JUST SONESS. There is almost no chance that things could be JUST SO under any naturalistic view. We have just proven the existence of The Entity and you will, no doubt, observe that The Entity is not Your God]

Now we can examine some interesting cases…

P(Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye|Sauronicus)>>>P(Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye|Yahweh)
P(Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye|Sauronicus)>>>P(Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye|Allah)

[We have just proven that Sauronicus is much much more likely to exist than are either Yahweh or Allah. Neither of the latter care anything about the extremely unlikely existence of Jupiter's Giant Red Eye, but there it is. The fine-tunedness of Reality for Jupiter's Giant Red Eye puts the lie to Yahweh and Allah's indifference and is explained only by the desires of Sauronicus.]

P(the set of facts|The Entity)>>>>>>P(the set of facts|Yahweh)

[Look, there is nothing about Yahweh that indicates Father cares about the vast majority of facts. He didn't even tell any of his Chosen (Abraham, Moses, Solomon, Pope Benedict, etc) about the existence of DNA or cells or neutrinos or that the Earth revolves around the Sun or galaxies. The chance that the HUMONGOUS set of contingent facts would be the way they are unless chosen is miniscule: there are so many other ways things could have turned out. Yahweh's indifference to that massive pile of the ways things actually are dooms him to nonexistence in comparison to The Entity who just wants things to be JUST SO.]

P(the set of facts|The Entity Prime)>>>>>>P(the set of facts|Allah)

[The Entity Prime is The Entity's daughter by Sekhmet. The Entity Prime inherited her mother's jealousy towards other potential Deities. The pithy "Thou shalt have no other God before me!" was originally Sekhmet's idea, but those weasels Yahweh and Allah stole it from her. The Entity Prime created Reality to be JUST SO after she turned Yahweh and Allah into antimatter puddings which she had for dinner with fava beans and a nice chianti. The maximal fine-tuned of the Universe to result in exactly the way things are means the evidence for The Entity Prime is overwhelming in comparison to the continued existence of Allah.]

The basic fine-tuning argument is just silly. The attempts to repair it by Collins and others using ad-hoc patches and kluges just fails.

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Thrasymachus November 17, 2010 at 2:52 pm

An assortment.

To recap, Collins gives the argument like the following.

P(T|LPU)/P(NSU|LPU) = [P(LPU|T)/P(LPU|NSU)]*[P(T)/P(NSU)]

The above is a valid Bayesian formula. Posterior odds (left) equal prior odds (right) multiplied by the likelihood ratio (middle). Collin’s claims that the middle fraction is really really top heavy, because LPU|NSU is really really small, and LPU|T isn’t remotely as small. So he asserts that knowledge of the fine tuning data gives us a strong shove towards Theism: that our posterior ratio needs to be much higher than our prior ratio.

IS IT POST HOC? (Adito, Patrick, Kaelik)

I don’t see how. Post hoc doesn’t mean “hypothesis made after the event” – this means all origin theories – or indeed anything involving the past – post hoc. What makes something post hoc (inter alia) is a hypothesis generated after the OBSERVATION. The Bayesian force of Collins’ argument only works if P(LPU|NSU) is really low. Yet there was no reason to believe this (so they argue) until the cosmological data turned out to show ‘fine tuning’. Yet this obviously post-dates Theism. It is – if you will – not so much a case of Theism suddenly remembering it is supposed to predict life, but it emerging as a better fit for the facts as we discover more about our origins.

WHY WOULD THEISM PREDICT LIFE ANYWAY? (Adito, Stephen, PDH)

Most people take certain things to be valuable. Stuff like being in love, fulfilling personal relationships, pleasure, fantastic works of art, whatever. Let us assume these sorts of things have value. Let us also assume that, if God exists, these things have value ‘free standing’ of God’s ontology). So there are certain things that have moral worth, and God ‘merely’ has perfect access to them. Now God is morally perfect (=df. a being whose conduct cannot be morally surpassed). Given all this valuable stuff, God of necessity must actualize a world with this stuff. Yet all these goods rely on there being sentient beings around to love, do art, or whatever. Thus God would produce a life permitting universe.

You might say ‘well, there is in fact no fact of the matter about the value about love or other so called creaturely goods’. This isn’t an undercutting defeater for Theism – it just rebuts because ¬(Moral realism) –> ¬(Theism). Likewise one might say ‘well the only option in town for Theism is DCT, yet DCT is rubbish, so Theism can’t do moral value’. Again, this just acts to make Theism less probable, and doesn’t knock out fine tuning.

What a defender of the argument of the argument can say is ‘fine, those things can count against Theism, but they only count against theism to the degree of your confidence in these things. But my likelihood ratio is of the order of zillions of zillions (10^120 or more?) So unless you aren’t willing to admit a chance of say one in a few million you are wrong in your beliefs in DCT, or wrong in your convictions against moral realism, my argument beats yours.’

WHY DIDN’T GOD DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT, LIKE HAVE UNIVERSES WITH MUCH MORE LIFE, ETC. (Patrick, Steven, Lenoxuss)

Perhaps God needs to life maximize. However Collins is careful to conditionalize on life permittingness (perhaps better: sentient-life-permittingness). Maybe it is the case that it does seem odd that God made a life friendly + sparse universe as opposed to life friendly + abundant universe. However, Theist can accept this: so long as P(LPU|T) >>>> P(LPU|NSU), then P(LPU+Sparse|T) will still be much much more likely than P(LPU|NSU) – the sparseness addition won’t drop the estimate by the dozens of orders of magnitude required. Again, a defender of the argument can just use the gargantuan likelihood ratio to avoid worrying about these objections.

CAN’T I REDUCTIO THE ARGUMENT BY POINTING TO EVEN BETTER BUT OBVIOUSLY ABSURD EXPLANATIONS LIKE IPAD LOVING DEITIES, OR A DEITY THAT ‘PREDICTS’ EVERY FACT THAT WILL OBTAIN? (lukeprog, Patrick, + many others)

Not really, no. The problem with all these ‘even better explainers’ is that they are patently absurd – their prior probabilities are known to be extraordinarily low. (Again) this follows Carnap – a hypothesis can be confirmed ‘by’ the data (favorable likelihood ratio) yet disconfirmed on it (rubbish priors). See similar discussions about the problem of evil. So – like most other people on the planet – my prior probability for p(theism) is a few dozen orders of magnitude about p(ipod god) or p(ultimate entity) or whatever. If you REALLY think that ipod god is remotely sensible, then yeah, ipods do give good evidence for him. Likewise, if you really think Theism is about as (im)plausible as the ipod god, then you don’t need to be phased by the suggested stonking good confirmation for Theism fine-tuning gives. The argument simply isn’t aimed at the lunatic fringe (;)), but for those who have P(Theism) somewhere above 1 in a million, and ipod gods and similar at less.

I note that objections like these don’t find their way into the mainstream literature discussing fine tuning arguments. Perhaps commenters here have found something philosophers have missed. I think not.

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Michael November 17, 2010 at 3:17 pm

@ Thrasymachus

What are “rubbish priors”? Collins makes no serious attempt to define them, instead doing the same dishonest hand-waving and pretending.

I think The Entity and The Entity Prime are much better supported by the fine-tuning argument than are Yahweh or Allah or Samantabhadra or Huitzilopochatli. Yet The Entity and The Entity Prime are “rubbish priors” while Huitzilopochotli is legitimate because… 500,000 human hearts were carved out of sacrifices for him?

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Steven November 17, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Thrasymachus:

You’re not getting it, are you?

You claim that Fine-Tuning is shown by the cosmological date, which is laughable, as there are plenty of things that AREN’T fine-tuned for life. The evidence is against a fine-tuned universe, and as has already been pointed out, the argument only works in favor of Theism if God is restricted to natural phenomena. Sorry, but although you typed a lot, you said an awful lot of nothing.

Next off, what makes something “valuable” automatically the “moral” thing to do? Wouldn’t that mean that humans are being morally wrong every time that they fail to produce something of value? And wouldn’t God want to create life that ONLY produces these valuable goods and nothing else? If not, then God has no obligation to produce anything. And indeed, if there is moral worth to creating a world with pleasure, love, etc. why also allow things like physical pain and harmful objects that serve no purpose in furthering God’s moral goal? I also do not see the relation between “what people find valuable” and “what God finds valuable”. Like Luke’s link said, sounds like the projection of the mind fallacy. Or as a Greek philosopher once said, “If horses had gods, they would be like horses”. And it seems to me that you’re B.S.ing your statistics.

As others pointed out, the fact that we have a sparse universe significantly undercuts the Fine-Tuning argument and Collins does nothing to save it from this significant flaw. In fact, what you have to prove is that there is that it is naturally impossible for this world to come about, for, if we are discussing a creator with unlimited power, what reason would he have to choose this flawed world above all other hypothetical worlds?

Lastly, you’re telling me that bodiless minds aren’t also patently absurd? Or invisible agents trying to maximize human art projects also deciding that it’s a good idea to create black holes, asteroids that can destroy planets and Jupiter’s Red Hole? That’s your idea of something that ISN’T absurd? It seems that “rubbish priors” just seems like a nice way of saying “things that don’t fit I arbitrarily dismiss because I have no real established guideline for considering the merit of my own explanations”.

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Steven November 17, 2010 at 4:35 pm

*It seems that “rubbish priors” is just a nice way of saying “Things that I arbitrarily dismiss because I have no real established guideline for considering the merit of my own explanations”.

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Patrick November 17, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Thrasymachus- You are committing an elision. Fine tuning is not the hypothesis that the universe will be life permitting. Fine tuning is the hypothesis that the universe will be life permitting in a particular fashion. Theism does not predict this. The fact that this is claimed to be what a magical superbeing would create is ad hoc. Theism has been customized to fit the data, and the fact that it now fits the data is being used to justify theism. This is classic Bayes Trickery 101.

Feel free to offer a reason that fine tuning is likely under theism. But please, please stop pretending that fine tuning is just the hypothesis that life exists. It’s not and you know it.

Oh, and if you want extra credit for intellectual honesty, change the hypothesis under evaluation from “an intelligent designer exists and wants a non zero amount of life” to the actual God of your theology, whatever it may be. Good luck with that.

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Reidish November 17, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Under assumption X, N is unlikely because of the following problems.
Under assumption Y, those problems are neatly bypassed.
Therefore under assumption Y, N is likely.

See the fallacy? The removal of the problems that exist under X does not mean that there are no problems under Y. There might be a great many problems under Y that make N even less likely than under X!

It seems to me the inference is secure (ie, there is no fallacy), because in Collins’ formulation you are dealing with contraries, X and ~X. If ~X is unlikely given a set of data, this is the same as saying that X is not unlikely given the same set.

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Patrick November 17, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Reidish- I think you’re missing my point. It may be that I didn’t explain myself well, but I can’t tell from your post.

I’m just making the simple argument that there’s nothing about the likelihood of fine tuning under atheism that speaks to the likelihood of fine tuning under theism. That requires an independent argument. It doesn’t matter what the likelihood of fine tuning under atheism is- it could be 1, it could be 0, it could be anything in between. That doesn’t have any effect on the likelihood of fine tuning under theism.

Suppose I argue that I can drive to Chicago in under 3 hours in a car. You point out that this is very unlikely, and correctly note that I would have to be driving at race track speeds to achieve this feat, and that other traffic would almost certainly prohibit me from accomplishing this. You then conclude from this that I would be more likely to succeed in boating to Chicago in under 3 hours, because boats do not have to deal with traffic. That would be an invalid inference, because there are other, independent reasons why boating to Chicago in under 3 hours would be unlikely- in fact, less likely that driving there in that time.

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Reidish November 17, 2010 at 8:50 pm

I’m just making the simple argument that there’s nothing about the likelihood of fine tuning under atheism that speaks to the likelihood of fine tuning under theism. That requires an independent argument. It doesn’t matter what the likelihood of fine tuning under atheism is- it could be 1, it could be 0, it could be anything in between. That doesn’t have any effect on the likelihood of fine tuning under theism.

Alright, well then I’m still having trouble how this does harm to:

P(T|LPU)/P(NSU|LPU) = [P(LPU|T)/P(LPU|NSU)]*[P(T)/P(NSU)]

Your objection is that P(LPU|T) is simply asserted to be high, right? The theist does a bit of hand-waving along the lines of “If an omnimax God exists, then presumably He would create beings who would want to know and worship Him”, and you consider this unpersuasive.

But so far as I can tell your reasoning against this amounts to observing that if an omnimax God exists, then he wouldn’t need to perform fine-tuning to accomplish such ends. Now this seems like really no objection at all, because all of the work of the fine-tuning argument occurs in justifying an incredibly small denominator in the ratio:

[P(LPU|T)/P(LPU|NSU)]

So, as long as the theist can justify a number for P(LPU|T) that is a little bigger than “incredibly small”, the argument pushes us towards theism. (This assumes, of course, a value not much less than unity for P(T)/P(NSU) ). We could easily grant that P(LPU|T) is low, and still find the fine-tuning argument persuasive. Besides, pointing out that one method of creating an LPU (fine-tuning) is unnecessary does little harm to the thesis that an LPU would be created (by some method) given T.

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Michael November 17, 2010 at 9:43 pm

@Reidish

When you write ” all of the work of the fine-tuning argument occurs in justifying an incredibly small denominator in the ratio: [P(LPU|T)/P(LPU|NSU)] ” you almost get it. The right way to understand your observation is that the Fine-Tuning Argument is an EXPLOIT of the fact that P(LPU|NSU).

That probability IS extremely small if one only looks at the actual Universe. That’s because actual reality is 1 member of a HUGE set of possible realities. One property of actual reality is LPU and since there are MANY MANY more possible realities that are not LPU, P(LPU|NSU) is MINISCULE.

It should become obvious to you that the Fine-Tuning argument is an EXPLOIT when you consider that there is nothing SPECIAL about LPU in comparison to other features of actual reality. That is, in part, Luke’s point. One could choose (almost) every feature of the actual Universe to replace LPU and generate MINISCULE likelihoods.
P(electrons|NSU), P(Milky Way|NSU), P(Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye|NSU), P(iPods|NSU), are all at least as tiny probabilities as P(LPU|NSU). Each of these probabilities is TINY simply in virtue of being part of an actual reality which is 1 member of a HUGE set of possible realities. None of them is chosen for the fine-tuning argument because none of the deities worshipped can plausibly be argued to want the existence of electrons, the Milky Way, Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye, opr iPods.

MUCH much smaller than any of those probabilities is this one: P(the set of facts|NSU). That’s because the entire set of facts which constitute actual reality is necessarily much less likely than than any proper subset of those facts: each individual fact in that set could have been otherwise. This probability SHOULD be the one that someone wanting to make the ULTIMATE fine-tuning argument would choose. They don’t pick this one because none of the deities they worship wishes reality to be JUST SO.

You don’t seem to have gotten to the insight that the numerator in the ratio, P(LPU|T) is arbitrarily fungible. Those are some of my arguments above. I point out above that there is nothing special about LPU as a feature of the actual Universe. There isn’t anything special about T either, other than it functions to obscure the argument. One can choose a God or Gods which desire outcomes to match any given property to make the probability in the numerator arbitrarily close to 1. So P(Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye|Sauronicus), P(Mars|Mars), and P(electrons|ElectroGod). Each of these probabilities is 1 or nearly 1. None of these are chosen only because those running the Fine-Tuning Exploit don’t worship Sauronicus, Mars, or ElectroGod.

One can take the numerator to its extreme as well. P(the set of facts|The Entity) is 1 because The Entity desires that reality be JUST SO. But those running the Fine-Tuning Argument don’t believe in The Entity so they eschew making the BEST fine-tuning argument.

See? The Fine-Tuning Argument is just an exploit of the fact that the actual world is 1 member of a huge set of possible worlds. It no more provides a good argument for theism than it does for Sauronicus, Mars, or ElectroGod. If anything, the form of the argument establishes the existence of The Entity and its progeny like The Entity Prime. That’s really really bad news for the devout followers of Yahweh and Allah and Samantabhadra: The Entity Prime ate those Gods for brunch.

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Patrick November 17, 2010 at 10:18 pm

“Your objection is that P(LPU|T) is simply asserted to be high, right?”

No. My objection (one of them) is that P(Fine Tuned Universe|Theism) is simply asserted to be high, or higher than P(FTU|Atheism).

The fine tuning argument doesn’t just argue that we have a life permitting universe. It argues, indeed loudly proclaims, that we have a fine tuned universe. What is the probability of that under theism? Why should we think that its more likely than under naturalism? Why should we even think the probability of a fine tuned universe under theism is non zero? It at least requires an argument!

And if the answer is that the theist simply chooses not to use that precise of a philosophical perspective, preferring instead broad generalities to Bayesian analysis using the actual content of our observations about the universe, then the degree to which the argument is compelling suffers. After all, under that standard it is trivially easy to construct Bayesian evidence for hypotheses known to be false.

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Paul King November 17, 2010 at 11:27 pm

It seems to me the inference is secure (ie, there is no fallacy), because in Collins’ formulation you are dealing with contraries, X and ~X.If ~X is unlikely given a set of data, this is the same as saying that X is not unlikely given the same set.  

So, if a universe fine-tuned for physical life is unlikely given theism it must be likely if theism is false ? I don’t think so. It could be unlikely given either possibility, the question is merely whether one makes it significantly more unlikely.

In my view, given theism, a physical universe would only exist if God decided to create it. But, as I have argued, God has no need to create a physical universe to house life because theism presupposes that life-like entities – frequently claimed to be alive – can exist without any physical universe at all. All the attempts to put an intrinsic value to life would seem to apply to this hypothetical non-physical life (or “life”) so it seems that “life” is no reason for fine-tuning or even for the creation of a physical universe.

This point is reinforced by pointing out (as I have also done) that this universe does not look like the direct creation of an omnipotent entity concerned with building a home for physical life – or even with any feature specific to, say, the last 4 billion years of our universe’s existence. A “fine-tuner” is more plausibly just that – an entity that is able to “fine-tune” the creation of a new universe, not an omnipotent creator.

Thus I conclude that it is highly unlikely that the theistic God would create a universe like ours as a home for life (and I don’t see a good reason why the theistic God would particularly want a physical universe at all). To return to my initial point, can I therefore claim that a universe like ours is likely without divine creation ?

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MichaelPJ November 18, 2010 at 3:42 am

Thrasymachus,

I don’t think you’ve immunized yourself against reworkings of the argument. In particular, Michael’s “the Entity” is such that P(the world as it is|the Entity) is vastly higher than P(the world as it is|¬the Entity). Indeed, it’s hugely, unimaginably higher than the difference between P(LPU|Christian theism) and P(LPU|atheism). So much so that even if you acknowledge any miniscule credence greater than zero for the Entity, it seems that you should certainly assign higher probability to it than to the Christian God.

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Reidish November 18, 2010 at 9:38 am

MichaelPJ,

We don’t seem to be far apart in our understanding of how the argument works. Nevertheless, I don’t think your observation is a very powerful defeater for the argument. You write:

You don’t seem to have gotten to the insight that the numerator in the ratio, P(LPU|T) is arbitrarily fungible. Those are some of my arguments above. I point out above that there is nothing special about LPU as a feature of the actual Universe. There isn’t anything special about T either, other than it functions to obscure the argument. One can choose a God or Gods which desire outcomes to match any given property to make the probability in the numerator arbitrarily close to 1. So P(Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye|Sauronicus), P(Mars|Mars), and P(electrons|ElectroGod).

Suppose these other entities you postulate could garner support for their existence in the same way the Christian God garners such support. I frankly don’t see what this is supposed to demonstrate. Because the only way these other postulated entities could garner an equal level of support would be to assume that they also are endowed with the power and intelligence to actually bring about such a universe. But then it is only a matter of semantics between the defender and the respondent over what to call the same being.

Insofar as we consider only those properties relevant to the argument, then that being which has the power and intelligence to bring about such a universe I can call “God”, and someone else may call it “Sauronicus”. The germane point of the argument is to push for the existence of a being that would have such power and intelligence. But by no means does that require the defender to commit themselves to belief in beings that would have other properties.

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Reidish November 18, 2010 at 10:16 am

Patrick,

I don’t understand this:

No. My objection (one of them) is that P(Fine Tuned Universe|Theism) is simply asserted to be high, or higher than P(FTU|Atheism).

But the theist doesn’t even need to claim that P(Fine Tuned Universe|Theism) is high, and I’m not aware of many that do. The issue is the existence of a life permitting universe. The fact that the universe apparently requires fine-tuning for life as we know it to exist, and the fact that there appears to be no inherent necessity to certain of these values, renders P(LPU|NSU) as very low. In contrast, it is not difficult to conceive of some kind of life permitting universe existing given the existence of a maximally intelligent, powerful, good, and personal being. Even if we think this particular probability is low, the argument can still be persuasive depending on the other values in the equation.

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Patrick November 18, 2010 at 11:21 am

“The issue is the existence of a life permitting universe.”

Right, right. But that’s because you’re hiding the ball.

Suppose I constructed a Bayesian argument that claimed that prayers could be demonstrated to work, the likelihood that Jesus was real would be increased.

And suppose that I then demonstrated that some prayers worked. Specifically, any prayer that explicitly praised Allah and Muhammad, and then explicitly denied Jesus, worked. All others did not.

Would you feel that I had accomplished my goal? Strictly worded, I did. But I did so only by discarding data, and steamrolling the issue of what prayers worked and how into a binary of whether prayer did or did not work in general.

Fine tuning arguments do the same thing. We don’t just know we live in a life permitting universe; if you accept fine tuning as a concept we live in a fine tuned universe. What’s the chance of that under theism? As far as I can tell, its vanishingly unlikely using the same logic that’s put forth to claim that the universe is finely tuned.

This is particularly problematic for theists who have actual content to their beliefs, instead of just a vague insistence that some magical superbeing invented the universe. Because we can analyze those specific theologies, and ask whether the nature and goals of the asserted superbeing match up with the outcomes we observe around us.

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Eric November 18, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Another problem (specifically dealing with post-hoc hypotheses):
X is a particular true phenomenon. X is greatly improbable under Y. I come up with something Z, that can be anything. I just attach the property to Z that it makes X certain or at least likely. Then, using bayes theorem, I can say that Z is more likely than Y. So therefore the argument is evidence for Z over Y.
With fine tuning:
X: Existence of life due to fine tuning.
Y: Naturalism (Where the constants are pretty much chosen at random)
Z: The Christian God
If it works, so does this:
X: Existence of life due to fine tuning.
Y: Naturalism (Where the constants are pretty much chosen at random)
Z: Naturalism (Where the constants are contingent upon a collection of phenomena that are brute facts which have the property that they will eventually result in the existence of life)
or:
X: Existence of life due to fine tuning.
Y: Naturalism (Where the constants are pretty much chosen at random)
Z: Naturalism (where the universe is a science experiment of some other kind of life that does not require fine tuning in their universe)

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Eric November 18, 2010 at 12:55 pm

I get very annoyed with the analogies where someone has something improbable happen to them many times. For example, someone winning a game of roulete many times. The reason someone may suspect something like cheating isn’t JUST because it is improbable. After they win the first time, there is something “intrinsically valueable” (significant when it comes to the game) about them in terms of the roulette game that day: They are the last person to win the game, and winning is the objective of the game. And for the third time they win, they are the person who just won twice in a row. Etc… The analogy doesn’t work unless you show what is “significant when it comes to the universe” about life, other than something arbitrary. If you cannot, then the analogy is misleading. A proper analogy would be a person winning the game the first time it’s played.
Then we can focus on the problem:
Prior probability of the person winning the game given they played fairly: ~.027
Prior probability of the person winning the game given they cheated well: ~1
So this is evidence that the person cheated over them having played fairly.
I don’t think too many people would find this argument anything more than trivial… So, before you give an analogy like one where someone wins over and over again, ask if this analogy is a good analogy that accurately tackles the specific issue.

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Eric November 18, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Just to make something clearer:
“Z: Naturalism (Where the constants are contingent upon a collection of phenomena that are brute facts which have the property that they will eventually result in the existence of life)”
should be:
“Z: Naturalism (Where the constants are contingent upon a collection of phenomena that are brute facts which have the property that they will necessarily result in the existence of life)”

Remember that theists probably consider God a brute fact of the universe since they probably believe God just exists and has no explanation. However, I’m still worried my post will attract a whole slew of red herrings…

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bossmanham November 18, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Patrick,

Your only argument for why fine tuning would be likely under theism is that you think fine tuning isn’t likely under atheism and theism bypasses those alleged problems. You have no independent argument for why fine tuning is likely under theism. To illustrate, imagine the following argument.

Basically your contention is because I don’t know the personality of the designer, why He should want to design or what His motivations would be to design, therefore inferring a designer is unjustified? I don’t need to know what the designer is like to infer a designer. If the way things are points most likely to a designing intelligence, then I’m going to infer one whether I know how likely He would be to design or not. If we have something that is designed, then obviously a designer did it. Full stop.

Under assumption X, N is unlikely because of the following problems.
Under assumption Y, those problems are neatly bypassed.
Therefore under assumption Y, N is likely.

Not just because the problems are bypassed, but because I know intelligence to be able to purposefully arrange things so that a certain outcome is achieved. It’s not just based on the lack of one explanation to cover the bases, but the explanatory adequacy of the other as well.

No fallacy at all.

2. You build the conclusion right into the hypothesis. If the definition of “intelligent designer” is “entity that fine tunes,” then obviously fine tuning is more likely under an intelligent designer.

How does one do that? You don’t build the conclusion of design into the hypothesis that an arrowhead may have been designed by an ancient Native American. Rather you spot specified complexity inherent in the design of the rock that points to a designing intelligence. We infer design all the time based on the improbability of certain specific complexities arising
by chance.

And fine tuning is more likely under “brute fact-ism” than under classical theism, where brute fact-ism is defined as “fine tuning is a brute fact.”

What are you talking about? The fine tuning is observed by observing the values of the cosmological constants (at least in the version at hand) and then seeing that if they were adjusted in even extremely small amounts that life would not have the ability to form.

But why is an intelligent designer defined as an entity that finely tunes? Why not an entity that just smacks stuff together, and it works because OMNIPOTENCE, FOOL!

It may be that the kind of entities that the designer wanted required certain finely tuned physical constants. Sure the designer could have created the universe with the appearance of age, but it’s still because the creatures He was aiming at needed the specific conditions that an old looking universe contains.

But I’m not sure how this contention is any more than a red herring. Just because an omnipotent being COULD have done that doesn’t mean we discount the design we DO see. That would be like saying because Native Americans COULD (in a broadly logical sort of way) have designed metal arrowheads, that we shouldn’t conclude that the rock ones are designed. That’s just silly.

The only way to get around this problem, as far as I can tell, is to argue that a finely tuned universe is not only contingently necessary given that certain physical laws exist (ironically, the same laws that theism hopes to explain, rendering their argument viciously incestual), but in fact logically necessary.

Or we could simply say it was physically necessary for beings such as us. It would still be contingent, but a universe with the fine tuning like ours is the only one where physical beings like us could survive. But again, this still doesn’t explain away the apparent design we do see.

On point 3, I’m not sure how that is supposed to be a point against theism. If there is life in another part of the cosmos, that’s just more evidence of a designer, since life anywhere even in this universe is so immensely improbable, to have it somewhere else just compounds the argument for design.

J. Simonov,

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the probability of things that have already occurred 100%? Regardless of what sort of metaphysics proves to be true, wouldn’t it be the case that the “chances” of the universe of being as it is are 100%, given that it already exists as it does?

Yes, the probability that things DID happen is near 100% (since the appearance of the past could be illusory). That’s not what I’m referring to. I’m saying the probability that this universe should have come about entirely by blind chance is extremely small. It obviously has come about, now we’re trying to figure out what best explains it.

Kaelik,

No, it’s not begging the question, because naturalism isn’t the question. We already know that our intuitions are the products of our brain. That’s a known fact. The argument isn’t about whether or not that is true, since we already know it is. The argument is about whether life has intrinsic value, which it could or could not in naturalism, or in any other conceptual worldview. (In the sense that intrinsic value is an incoherent undefined term, and so makes as much sense in one worldview as any other until it is actually defined and made coherent.)

We do know that the intuitions we have are products of our brains? Do you have an argument for that? I say the intuitions we have are due to the way our souls are constructed, and then our soul interacts with our brain to produce thought and action in our bodies, and I have a couple of arguments for that, like Plantinga’s modal argument for dualism.

And you are begging the question because you say that intuitions are the products of evolution acting on our genes, which is a naturalistic explanation of human thought. Though I suppose in retrospect a theist could say that God set it up to happen that way.

Except you know, that evidence is actually empirically capable of informing us about the world, and has a track record of success, unlike intuition, which has a track record of failure, and no one can point to any coherent reason why we would expect intuition to reveal anything accurate about the world.

Of course, this itself is an intuition that, on your view, is “the product of our brains, which are the productive of evolution on genes.” And remember your criteria; “There is no reason to believe that they [intuitions] are true without outside evidence.”

On your 51 – 49 thing, I’m not really clear on what you’re saying. It seemed to me you were arguing that it’s logically impossible for someone to be correct that they are smarter than most people. I would say that Stephen Hawking may have that intuition, and he’s pretty much right.

You mean “Just because intuitions are usually wrong is no reason to not take my intuition as proof.” Yes it actually is. You are attempting to use your intuition, and literally nothing but your intuition, to prove an argument.

Um, you can look discard up in the dictionary. It’s pretty quick with google.

You’ve not shown that intuitions are mostly wrong. I would say that we should trust our common intuitions until we have a sufficient defeater for them.

You have to provide some reason for other people to believe your intuition has value.

I’m not just arguing about MY intuition. I’m arguing that most people on earth think that human life is intrinsically valuable. But even if they didn’t, unless you could show me that life isn’t intrinsically valuable, I would have no reason to doubt my intuition.

If I tried to argue that Unicorns exist based on the fact that I said “heads, unicorns exist. Tails, they don’t” and then flipped a coin heads, that would be insane.

Yes, it would. How does this relate to anything in our discussion?

No it can’t. Because those things are simply incompatible with the evidence we have all around us. Why should you think that such a basic and foundational sense that they perceive is wrong? Because it can be empirically disproved. I think that all perceptions I have that are empirically disproved are wrong. No matter their source.

First off, please present this evidence. Second off, you can’t empirically test to see if evidence is a good way to come to knowledge. That’s a philosophical assumption. Third, you have to perceive evidence to then interpret it, so if you don’t trust your perceptions then you can’t trust evidence. Fourth, it is your intuition that the mind independent evidence actually exists.

Michael,

Could you tell me how those stories are anything more than ad hoc examples to try to discredit the design argument? So what if you can ridicule it? That does nothing to erase the appearance of design in the universe and the beyond astronomical odds that it would happen by chance.

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Patrick November 18, 2010 at 2:06 pm

bossmanham- I don’t think you understand the Bayesian argument being offered by fine tuning advocates. It commits them to arguing that the universe, as it actually exists, is more likely under their specific God hypothesis than it is under naturalism. This is not a burden that can be satisfied by just attacking naturalism. At some point you need to explain the likelihood of the universe as it exists under your theism. And when you do you need to make sure you don’t change the method of analysis such that your ways of determining the answer would, when applied to naturalism, change the results of your inquiry (lots of uses of brute facts as explanations of theism do this).

So, yeah. I think some of this may be going over your head.

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Eric November 18, 2010 at 2:09 pm

btw,

bossman -
How does one do that? You don’t build the conclusion of design into the hypothesis that an arrowhead may have been designed by an ancient Native American. Rather you spot specified complexity inherent in the design of the rock that points to a designing intelligence.


How do you infer that an arrowhead is designed? Because you know that people exist capable of design and there is a need for such a tool. Its not JUST specified complexity. You infer design because of your analysis of the designer shows they would design such a thing. BAD ANALOGY!

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Michael November 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm

bossmanham:
“Could you tell me how those stories are anything more than ad hoc examples to try to discredit the design argument? So what if you can ridicule it? That does nothing to erase the appearance of design in the universe and the beyond astronomical odds that it would happen by chance.”

Each of the examples use exactly the same logic as the Fine-Tuning Argument. They perform exactly the same probabilistic calculations on pretty much the same set of facts. I am not mocking: I am performing a sort of reductio ad absurdum.

Why is this difficult for you? You should find the Fine-Tuning Argument not the slightest bit more convincing than you find my version of it: they are essentially the same argument. And you don’t even attempt an answer, not even something like “So what?! I still believe it, I do, I do!”

Reidish: “Suppose these other entities you postulate could garner support for their existence in the same way the Christian God garners such support. I frankly don’t see what this is supposed to demonstrate.”

Why would they need to “garner support”? The Fine-Tuning Argument functions as a reason to believe in their existence at least as much as it does for Your God. Whether or not lots of people believe in the existence of ElectroGod has exactly NO bearing on whether the Fine-Tuning Argument is anything but an Exploit.

I proceed on the assumption that the Fine-Tuning Argument functions as … an… ARGUMENT. If you treat it otherwise, as a piece of apologetics or as a way to advance a religious swindle, then your answer might make sense: you don’t want to proselytize for The Entity Prime so my demonstration has no effect on you and you don’t see how it helps you to collect Tithes For Tethys, so you are unimpressed. But as an argument, the Fine-Tuning Argument actually defeats belief in the existence of Yahweh rahter than bolsters it.

Reidish: “But then it is only a matter of semantics between the defender and the respondent over what to call the same being.
Insofar as we consider only those properties relevant to the argument, then that being which has the power and intelligence to bring about such a universe I can call “God”, and someone else may call it “Sauronicus”. ”

First, I am showing how the Fine-Tuning Argument is just an EXPLOIT: it no more offers good reasons for theism than it does for The Entity or Sauronicus or ElectroGod or Yahweh or Allah or Samantabhadra. It functions just as well or better as a reason to believe in the existence of obviously made-up silliness as it does for Your God.

You make no serious attempt to show how the Fine-Tuning Argument is NOT at least as effective for showing the existence of BillyGoatGruff which created the Universe for the SOLE purpose of having the hot cup of coffee on my desk exist at this very moment as it is for giving good reasons to believe in theism. And that should tell you that the Fine Tuning Argument is GARBAGE.

Second, your claim that its still Yahweh no matter what name we use is just thoughtless. Sauronicus is defined by me as a being with a fetish for Jupiter’s Giant Red Eye to exist and indifferent to all else. It created all only for that purpose. That is not Yahweh or Allah or Sekhmet or Huitzilopochotli. Right? In fact, I pre-empt this silliness by defining The Entity Prime as having eaten Yahweh and Allah before she created Reality. In what Mystery Science 3000 movie could The Entity Prime thus be the same thing as Yahweh?

The point you are trying for is that all of my examples are still “theism” and we can sort everything out about which God is the Real Deal later, but that the Fine-Tuning Argument shows us that theism is at least right. Collins tries exactly the same dirty move. My point is that the Fine-Tuning Argument is an EXPLOIT not that it offers a good reason to believe in the existence of iPodicus. BUT if you somehow missed that point (and you did) then the Fine-Tuning Argument destroys Yahweh’s chances because it is a MUCH MUCH MUCH better argument on behalf of The Entity and its progeny like The Entity Prime than it is for Yahweh or Allah or Samantabhadra. So no need to sort out the Real Deal later with other arguments… The Fine-Tuning Argument CLEARLY points to what the intelligent designer is, and it most certainly is NOT Your God.

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Eric November 18, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Michael –
The point you are trying for is that all of my examples are still “theism” and we can sort everything out about which God is the Real Deal later, but that the Fine-Tuning Argument shows us that theism is at least right.

I know this is beside the point addressed in your post, but my example is not theism. Unless God is just another word for “brute fact:”

X is a particular true phenomenon. X is greatly improbable under Y. I come up with something Z, that can be anything. I just attach the property to Z that it makes X certain or at least likely. Then, using bayes theorem, I can say that Z is more likely than Y. So therefore the argument is evidence for Z over Y.
With fine tuning:

X: Existence of life due to fine tuning.
Y: Naturalism (Where the constants are pretty much chosen at random)
Z: Naturalism (Where the constants are contingent upon a collection of phenomena that are brute facts which have the property that they will necessarily result in the existence of life)

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Reidish November 18, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Patrick,

Fine tuning arguments do the same thing. We don’t just know we live in a life permitting universe; if you accept fine tuning as a concept we live in a fine tuned universe. What’s the chance of that under theism? As far as I can tell, its vanishingly unlikely using the same logic that’s put forth to claim that the universe is finely tuned.

So if I understand you right, now we are considering sort of a second order probability: not the probability of life-permittance, but the probability of the probability of life-permittance (ie, the probability of fine-tuning). Yes? This is an interesting idea. Suppose we grant that the defender needs to take up this issue. Well, as you know, it’s not enough to show that “fine-tuning under theism” is vanishingly small to defeat the argument. The defender only needs it to be a bit larger than “fine-tuning under atheism” (or the stronger “fine-tuning under naturalism”). Since theism and atheism are contraries, arguing against one is the same as arguing for the other (assuming no change in the set of evidence).

Now if P(LPU|NSU) is extremely small (ie, the universe is fine tuned), what would P(Fine Tuning | NSU) be? To me it seems that it would be either (a) an even smaller value than P(LPU|NSU), or (b) thoroughly inscrutable. Either way I don’t see how this helps your objection, for we can conceive of an incredibly powerful, intelligent being creating a fine-tuned universe sufficient to permit life as we know it. In other words, at least P(Fine Tuning | Theism) can get off the ground.

Your thoughts?

Michael,

I see I confused you earlier with MichaelPJ. My apologies to both of you.

The point you are trying for is that all of my examples are still “theism” and we can sort everything out about which God is the Real Deal later, but that the Fine-Tuning Argument shows us that theism is at least right. Collins tries exactly the same dirty move. My point is that the Fine-Tuning Argument is an EXPLOIT not that it offers a good reason to believe in the existence of iPodicus.

Right, an exploit – is this supposed to carry a negative connotation? I already explained that the rival hypotheses are contraries: concluding against one is the same as concluding for another. I appreciate the time and effort you put into your response, but it still seems to me like the point stands, and no amount of creative god-naming is doing harm to it: any entity that lays claim to the fine-tuning argument must be the type of being who has the power and intelligence to create such a life-permitting universe. After that, yes, it is semantics and other reasons for believing/disbelieving in postulated “gods”.

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Eric November 18, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Reidish
any entity that lays claim to the fine-tuning argument must be the type of being who has the power and intelligence to create such a life-permitting universe.

Assuming this being is a mind… I have already pointed to a counterexample to this… And these are not the only properties of God. There is also the property that God must be supernatural. My other example about the science experiment is a counterexample to this. So any entity that lays claim to fine tuning must not necessarily be God.

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MichaelPJ November 19, 2010 at 3:42 am

Reidish,

Yes, there are two of us; bit confusing, I agree! Especially since we seem to be broadly in agreement!

Either way I don’t see how this helps your objection, for we can conceive of an incredibly powerful, intelligent being creating a fine-tuned universe sufficient to permit life as we know it. In other words, at least P(Fine Tuning | Theism) can get off the ground.

The thing is, it needs to do more than get off the ground. Even if you’ve concluded that P(FT|NSU) is extremely small, you need to show that P(FT|theism) is higher, and just “getting off the ground” is not enough for that. After all, we can conceive of a fine-tuned universe arising by chance, too!

I’m still unclear as to how you can accept the FT argument and not conclude that the creator of the universe is the Entity. Unless you’ve got some serious prior skew towards standard theism, the Entity is going to win out big time in any conditional probability estimates. This may not bother you; you might be happy with the mere presence of a designer, but it seems like it should be worrying from an apologetic point of view.

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Reidish November 19, 2010 at 3:44 am

Eric,

Your counterexamples don’t show that whatever lays claim to the fine-tuning argument must not necessarily be God, but rather whatever does so is not necessarily God. In other words, the fine-tuning argument is not sufficient to demonstrate that the God of the Bible exists. On this point we can readily agree.

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Eric November 19, 2010 at 9:05 am

Reidish –
Your counterexamples don’t show that whatever lays claim to the fine-tuning argument must not necessarily be God, but rather whatever does so is not necessarily God. In other words, the fine-tuning argument is not sufficient to demonstrate that the God of the Bible exists. On this point we can readily agree.

Of course, but I wasn’t trying to show that whatever lays claim to the fine-tuning argument must not necessarily be God. I was responding to this:

” any entity that lays claim to the fine-tuning argument must be the type of being who has the power and intelligence to create such a life-permitting universe.”

and earlier…

“Insofar as we consider only those properties relevant to the argument, then that being which has the power and intelligence to bring about such a universe I can call “God”,

In other words, it follows that you are saying that whatever created the universe must be something with power and intelligence. And you call that something God. I merely pointed to a counterexample. So I am merely trying to show that whatever created the universe is not necessarily something with this power and intelligence, in which you call God. It CAN be something that does not have the power and intelligence to create the universe. The other counterexamples were meant to show that “power and intelligence” are not sufficient to consider something God in any non-arbitrary way. If we don’t restrict God to the supernatural, then calling something God may be meaningless. In that case, we may have defeated the purpose of the theism/atheism discussion all together. Of course this is another topic all together…

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Michael November 19, 2010 at 9:08 am

@Eric

I worded my last answer poorly in a couple of ways.

I don’t think that The Entity is a theistic explanation: it is pretty close to The Brute Facts. It is certainly not a personal God, and against objections that it could be a personal God, I pre-empt with The Entity Prime which has additional properties appended to it. If the religious get to append “personal God” to The Entity then I get to append “turned Yahweh into an antimatter pudding and ate him for brunch with fava beans and chianti while munching on a side of Allah”. The Entity need not be “supernatural” or currently existent or care about human beings any more than it cares that rock78934251802394547342341 on the surface of Gliese581g has a volume of 2.3 cubic cm. The Entity is not eternally existent, really small, omniscient, or even still around. I take “theistic” to require at least 1 of the things that The Entity is not.

About the only “spooky” property of The Entity is teleology: “wants things to be JUST SO.” But “wants” is more a metaphor of human seeking than it is literal purpose or desire or intent. Sort of how a cruise missile “wants” to get to its target or DNA “wants” to make copies of itself. I certainly do not think The Entity needs a brain or consciousness or decision-making capabilities or the such. But I do welcome theists who want to argue that The Entity IS a theistic concept…

The Fine-Tuning Argument doesn’t prove Your God, it is an argument against the existence of Your God much more than for it.

Also, just so I am not misunderstood another way. I think that possible realities exist besides actual observed reality: in fact, I think large subsets of the entire space of all possible worlds exist. That allows P(LPU|NSU) and P(LPU|atheism) and P(the set of facts|NSU) to each = 1, making the Fine-Tuned Argument a non-starter. However, even if this is the only existent reality, the fine-tunedness of the Universe is model-dependent … the fine-structure constant doesn’t even exist to be fine-tuned on some models of the Universe, for example. I think there is a much better chance that we will come up with models of the Universe in which there is no fine-tunedness than that fine-tunedness is an actual feature of physics. Too, even it this is the only existent reality and fine-tunedness persists across all good explanatory models, anthropy is a fine explanation of life-permittedness. If the multiverse and model-dependedness and anthropy all fail, then I would begin to consider The Entity. Ok, back to that then…

@Reidish

Mine do. P(the set of facts|The Entity) >>>>>> P(the set of facts|Yahweh or Allah or Sekhmet or Lakshmi or TheChristianGod or Yahsusllah or Aslan) on the Fine-Tuning Argument. For reasons given in earlier comments. That means if you take the Fine-Tuning Argument seriously, Your God does not exist. I mean you presented that exact argument as a good reason to believe theism rather than atheism…

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Eric November 19, 2010 at 9:27 am

@michael
So it sounds as if we are talking about the same thing. Either way, I meant my response as a follow-on to yours.
I just like the term “brute facts” as it can’t be misunderstood as God in any meaningful way. The nice thing about brute facts is that there is no “prior probability” they could be anything that they are. And if the values of the fine tuned constants are necessarily based on these theorized brute facts (BC), then there is no low prior probability that the constants could be anything other than what they are, so P(FTC|BC) is = 1. So if theists can posit a God (a brute fact) that would necessarily create THIS universe with its FTC, I can do so with my possible brute facts. One big difference is that, since the Bayes Thm version of the fine tuning argument is only successful trivially (as shown countless times over by posts on this thread), I don’t see a need to believe in these specific theorized brute facts. I can still remain agnostic about the question of “why these FTC are the way they are?” and let scientists do their work.

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Reidish November 19, 2010 at 10:18 am

MichaelPJ,

The thing is, it needs to do more than get off the ground. Even if you’ve concluded that P(FT|NSU) is extremely small, you need to show that P(FT|theism) is higher, and just “getting off the ground” is not enough for that. After all, we can conceive of a fine-tuned universe arising by chance, too!

Sure, I get that. This was the first I had seen of this objection, so I was thinking of preliminary responses. I guess I don’t see how P(FT|NSU) / P(FT/T) would be any lower than P(LPU|NSU) / P(LPU/T), without some kind of argument demonstrating the necessity of fine-tuning within the larger metaphysical context of a multiverse or something similar.

Thanks to you and Patrick for some stimulating conversation.

Eric,

I’m having a tough time following you. When I agreed that the fine-tuning argument is insufficient to demonstrate the existence of the God of the Bible, you responded with this:

Of course, but I wasn’t trying to show that whatever lays claim to the fine-tuning argument must not necessarily be God.

So why did you say that? See, here, up-thread:

So any entity that lays claim to fine tuning must not necessarily be God.

Then in your most recent post you offer this:

So I am merely trying to show that whatever created the universe is not necessarily something with this power and intelligence, in which you call God. It CAN be something that does not have the power and intelligence to create the universe.

So it is your contention that whatever created the universe could be something that does not have the power and intelligence to create the universe? I can’t make any sense of that.

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Eric November 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Reidish –
I see the confusion. I was never talking about the God of the bible, specifically. I was talking about what YOU call God, something with the power and intelligence to create the universe. I thought I was clear about that but I guess not.

Reidish -
So it is your contention that whatever created the universe could be something that does not have the power and intelligence to create the universe?

I’m actually specifically talking about FTC. But if, by “create the universe” you mean the universe as we understand it (as opposed to the universe as the set of all things that are something), then this is part of it.


I can’t make any sense of that.

I just gave a clear example. Let me reiterate:

X is a particular true phenomenon. X is greatly improbable under Y. I come up with something Z, that can be anything. I just attach the property to Z that it makes X certain or at least likely. Then, using bayes theorem, I can say that Z is more likely than Y. So therefore the argument is evidence for Z over Y.
With fine tuning:

X: Existence of life due to fine tuning.
Y: Naturalism (Where the constants are pretty much chosen at random)
Z: Naturalism (Where the constants are contingent upon a collection of phenomena that are brute facts which have the property that they will necessarily result in the existence of life)

These theoretical brute facts which I speak of don’t necessarily have intelligence because they are not minds. With regards to whether they have power, you may have to specifically define what you mean by power.

So since these brute facts are just as probable with the bayes argument as a God as you define it, then you can’t say what is responsible for FTC is NECESSARILY what you call God.

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Henry November 21, 2010 at 8:27 pm

I was quite surprised when I heard Christopher Hitchens at the end of a religion debate cite fine tuning as the one theist argument that gave him pause. It always seemed like circular nonsense to me. Saying the universe was fine tuned for the purpose of creating mankind is like saying the Internet was fine tuned for the purpose of me posting a comment on this blog. I’m delighted to find myself in a position to post this, just as I’m delighted to exist, but if I had not found the link here from Think Atheist, or if the universe had not unfolded as it has, then I would not know what I was missing.

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Luke Muehlhauser November 21, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Henry,

Do stick around. There are lots more posts coming on the fine-tuning argument.

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Peter Kinnon November 30, 2010 at 1:17 am

A fundamental aspect of scientific enquiry is the search for patterns arising in our universe and development of consistent interpretations that use minimal assumptions.

The evolutionary patterns we observe right from stellar nucleosynthesis right through to the emergence of present technologies are so persistent and pervasive as not to be dismissed lightly.

Just to look at the biological phase of evolution:

The evolution of species is not a random process. It is driven by random events which produce mutations. Most importantly these mutations are then filtered by the prevailing environment. This is the process of natural selection which gives the development of biological life its direction, which, in a very limited sense, can be equated to “purpose”

Problems with this arise because we easily can fall into the trap of anthropocentrism, whereby any phenomenon that exhibits what can be called “design” or “purpose” must involve a reflection of our own particular mental processes.

As discussed further in my book “Unusual Perspectives” (Ch 10) this is a logical error of the “package deal” variety. To use the time-honoured example used by Paley, both the watch and the eye (or neither) can be considered to have design or purpose within this model. We consider ourselves to design such things as watches (or ipads) . This arrogance can only be justified in a very limited sense. In actuality, watches have evolved! Albeit by a non-genetic mechanism.

They are products of nature and we merely the vehicles for their evolutionary progress.

There is absolutely no need to invoke any kind of “creator” or “supernatural entity” to explain the undeniable pattern that we observe. Nature being best viewed as simply an ongoing machine. No “initial conditions or “final goal” are required for this model

This and related interpretations are presented in my first book, “Unusual Perspectives”, which can be freely downloaded from the dedicated website
http://www.unusual-perspectives.net.

However, some do find this a hard read and, if skimmed, it can be easily misinterpreted.

My newly published work “The Goldilocks Effect”, is more concise and deals more specifically with this wider evolutionary model.

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wissam November 30, 2010 at 12:31 pm

I have sooooo many objections to the fine-tuning argument.

1) consider two possible explanations for the observation that John Doe wins a 1-in-7,000,000 lottery (see Himma 2002). According to the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis, God wanted John Doe to win and deliberately brought it about that his numbers were drawn. According to the Chance Lottery Hypothesis, John Doe’s numbers were drawn by chance. It is clear that John’s winning the lottery is vastly more probable under the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis than under the Chance Lottery Hypothesis. By the Prime Principle of Confirmation, then, John’s winning the lottery provides a reason to prefer the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis over the Chance Lottery Hypothesis.

As is readily evident, the above reasoning, by itself, provides very weak support for the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis. If all we know about the world is that John Doe won a lottery and the only possible explanations for this observation are the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis and the Chance Lottery Hypothesis, then this observation provides some reason to prefer the former. But it does not take much counterevidence to rebut the Theistic Lottery Hypothesis: a single observation of a lottery that relies on a random selection process will suffice. A single application of the Prime Principle of Confirmation, by itself, is simply not designed to provide the sort of reason that would warrant much confidence in preferring one hypothesis to another.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/design/#SSH2c.ii

The problem with Collins’ version is that it disregards prior probabilities and so it is in conflict with Bayes theorem. It uses wrong logic to come from ‘A natural universe is unlikely to be fine-tuned’ to ‘A fine-tuned universe is unlikely to be natural’.

2) The fine-tuning argument conflates two types of possibilities: logical possibility and nomological possibility.

Nomological impossibility is an impossibility of P given the laws of nature.

Logical possibility is the possibility of P given the basic rules of logic. (P&~P) is logically impossible while the proposition “Unicorns exist” is logically possible.

Science (methodological naturalism) assumes nomological modality, but the definition of God precludes it.

Let me explain. God’s omnipotence is usually defined as “the absence of nonlogical limits on God’s ability to perform actions”. Basically, theists usually believe that there are no natural obstacles to god’s power. However, the fine-tuning argument proceeds from scientific nomological necessities (namely, that carbon-based intelligent life CANNOT arise given most initial configurations of the universe). Thus the fine-tuning argument cannot establish the existence of the theists’ god (a god who performs miracles, for example), since it actually assumes that such a god does not exist.

3) Consider:

F=constants are fine-tuned (note that fine-tuned does not equal design; all that F means is that existence of life depends on a narrow range of constants).
L=life exists
N=naturalism is true

P(A|B&C) P(B|C) = P(A&B|C)

It follows that: P(A|B&C) P(B|C) = P(A&B|C) = P(B|A&C) P(A|C)

Therefore it is true that P(A|B&C) = P(B|A&C) P(A|C) / P(B|C).

See wiki on Bayes theorem (see part titled “Extensions”): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes'_theorem

The chance that, given a fine-tuned universe with life, that universe is natural is P(N|F&L). But this is equal to P(F|N&L) P(N|L) / P(F|L). Now P(F|N&L) is 1, since necessarily, if naturalism is true and life exists, then the constants are fine-tuned.

Thus P(N|F&L) = P(N|L) / P(F|L). P(F|L) is a probability, and therefore must be a number between 0 and 1. So, P(N|L) is smaller or equal to P(N|L) / P(F|L). It follows, then, that P(N|F&L) >= P(N|L).

This shows that F can only increase N!

4) “If we are puzzled by why the world is one way rather than some other way that it might have been, our puzzlement cannot be removed by supposing that the world is the way it is because God chose to make it that way. If we are worried by unexplained contingency, we shall want to know why God chose to make the world that way: postulating God does not remove the unexplained contingency, but it does land us with a whole new raft of explanatory burdens and commitments. This is not progress”.

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/graham_oppy/whynot.html

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wissam December 4, 2010 at 3:25 am

I call this the atheistic argument from contingency. NB: Inspired by Bertrand Russell and Graham Oppy^^ but formally presented by yours truly…lol.

1. [N(x-->y)&Nx]–> Ny.
If [(x necessarily entails y)& x is necessary], then y is necessary.

2. [N(g-->u)&Ng]–>Nu.
We use the valid formula (premise 1) and apply it to god and the universe:
If [(god necessarily entails the universe) & god is necessary] then the universe is necessary.

3. ~Nu.
The universe is not necessary i.e., the universe is contingent (as all theists argue).

4. ~[N(g-->u)&Ng].
From 2 and 3, we conclude by modus tollens, it is not the case that [(god necessarily entails the universe) & god is necessary].

5. ~N(g–>u) v ~Ng.
By De Morgan’s theorem: from 4, either it is false that [(god necessarily entails the universe) or it is false that (god is necessary).

6. g=df a necessary being i.e. Ng.
God is defined as a necessary being i.e. God is necessary.

7. ~~Ng.
From 6 by double negation: it is not the case that it is false that God is necessary.

8. ~N(g–>u).
From 5 and 7 by disjunctive syllogism: it is false that (god necessarily entails the universe).

Proposition 8 translates as: god contingently (or impossibly, but we’ll disregard this here) entails the universe.
So this means that even if theists prove that the universe is contingent and god is necessary, they still have an unexplained contingency, namely that: god contingently entails the universe.
As Oppy puts it: “If we are worried by unexplained contingency, we shall want to know why God chose to make the world that way: postulating God does not remove the unexplained contingency”.
As Bertrand Russell puts it: “Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others? If you say that he did it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others — the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it — if there was a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary.”

Boo ya!

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Zeb December 4, 2010 at 4:59 pm

That’s pretty good wissam. If “God wills X” is contingent, then what is it contingent upon? If it is not contingent, then neither is X. I can see why God is not contingent, and why the universe is, and I thought free will was a way to bridge them without undoing that. I’ll have to think on this more.

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Eric December 7, 2010 at 12:38 am

@Zeb
If there is ever a time in which Free Will didn’t exist, then free will wouldn’t “bridge them” because the universe would still fail to be necessary by theist reasoning. (note that I’m not fan of the loose use of the term “necessary” when talking about God as necessary means different things in different contexts)

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wissam December 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm

@Zeb,

The argument is logically valid.

#1 is rule in modal logic.
#2 follows from 1 bu U.I. (universal instantiation).
#3 is usually endorsed by theists. If it wasn’t true, then nothing in the universe would require explanation.
#4 follows from 2 and 3, by M.T.
#5 follows from 4, by DeM.
#6 is part of god’s definition. If it was rejected, then god would be contingent. So if any feature in the universe would require explanation because of its contingency, then god would equally require an explanation. God should then be shaved off by Ockham’s razor.
#7 follows from 6, by D.N.
#8 follows from 5 and 7, by D.S.

Since the argument is logically valid and all the premises must be accepted by the theist, then the conclusion necessarily follows. So, what does free will have to do with anything? It has not been mentioned in any of the premises. It is irrelevant.

Anyway, you raised an interesting subject. Divine freedom is generally rejected (even by William Lane Craig). The reason is this:

The free will defense particularly says: For all x, if x has significant free will, then possibly, x performs evil acts.

1. If God has free will, then possibly, God performs evil acts.
2. If God performs evil acts, then God is not necessarily good.
3. So, if God has free will, then God is not necessarily good.
4. God is necessarily good.
5. So, God does not have free will.

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wissam December 7, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Oops! Premise 2 of the Divine Freedom argument should be corrected:

2. If possibly, God performs evil acts, then God is not necessarily good.

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Zeb December 7, 2010 at 9:52 pm

wissam,

Free will provides that as a theist I have no problem with the conclusion: 8. God does not necessarily entail the universe. God could will this or any other possible universe, or no universe. So free will does not undermine your argument, but it might make it irrelevant.

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wissam December 8, 2010 at 12:52 pm

@Zeb,

wissam,Free will provides that as a theist I have no problem with the conclusion: 8. God does not necessarily entail the universe. God could will this or any other possible universe, or no universe. So free will does not undermine your argument, but it might make it irrelevant.  (Quote)

Free will is irrelevant to the argument. We could deduce from (8) that:

9. P~(g–>u) v ~P(g–>u).
Either “possibly, god does not entail the universe” and/or “it is not possible that god entails the universe”.

You can justify (9) by free will but it remains a fact that:

The contingency of the universe and the necessity of God entail an unexplained contingency.

This was the whole point of the argument. This conclusion undermines all theistic contingency arguments [thomistic cosmological argument] and all theistic arguments which rely on contingency. Examples of theistic arguments which rely on contingency:
- Why is there something rather than nothing?
-Why is the universe the way it is? Why are the features of our universe compatible with the existence of life rather than hostile to life?

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