"Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

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"Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby the_farewell_party » Wed Sep 21, 2011 3:22 am

I was in conversation with a Theist and he brought up the Fine-Tuned Universe theory, which pretty much says that the possible constants that allow our universe to allow life are slim and unlikely. He contended that it is more likely that these constants exist because of an intelligence whose will was to create life than it being chance.

For me, this argument doesn't fly for two reasons:

1. We don't know that these constants are even variable. They could easily be the only constants that could possibly arise. How do we know that the universe could have developed so that the speed of light would had been different or the gravitational pull of an atom weaker or stronger?

2. If we accept that these constants are variable, we must accept that there could be an infinite range of possibilities, most of them not producing a life-allowing universe. However, any other given possible cosmological constant would produce something not found in a universe with other constants. This thing could be just as rare as life. Lets say that another cosmological constant did not create a life-producing universe, nut instead produced something not possible in any other universe I will call a Wagamorph. One could point at the Wagamorph (well, one couldn't, because there would be no life in this universe, but this is a hypothetical) and say "wow, what are the odds of that? there must be a god who created the universe so that this could exist on purpose".
The apologist replied with "well, if wagamorphs did exist instead of life, that would only be proof that god wanted them to exist instead of life". What kind of argument is that? That's like saying that everything is automatically proof of your claim no matter what it is because you consider it proof. There's no way to argue that because it's so wrong.

As long as one assumes that whatever exists is the purpose of the universe, then one can believe that a divine intelligence put it there.

However, one argument that I never use is the multiverse theory. There is no evidence that a multiverse exists. It is purely hypothetical. Evoking one to get around the Fine-Tuned Universe defies Occam's Razor, and because it is not a theory held by the majority of the scientific community, choosing to believe it just because it is convenient is something a Theist would do. I think the counter-apologetics I thought of are much better than using the multiverse theory. I just need to find a way to formulate my arguments more succinctly and cleanly.


While combating this same apologist's argument from design, I brought up how not everything that is complex is designed, such as a snowflake that arrives naturally. I used Douglas Adam's Puddle Analogy to illustrate how an environment is not necessarily tailored for its contents just because it suits them well.

For those of you who haven't heard the puddle analogy, it pretty much goes like this: a sentient puddle finds itself in a depression in the ground. The depression fits the puddle perfectly, so the puddle believes this pothole was made just for it.

Now, this is what irks me. The apologist replied that a pothole is indeed made with a puddle in mind, because god so made the universe so that it would produce earth which would have events such as erosion and rain that would create potholes and fill them with water because that is necessary for life on Earth.
Similarly, a snowflake is designed because god set the universe in motion to eventually create snowflakes they way they are, even if he didn't hand-make them.

I thought that was a bogus argument. If you make a claim about a higher intelligence purposefully making the world the way it is, you could point to anything and call it proof of the higher intelligence. But I could also say that rocks are sentient but very lazy and never move, and point to a rock and say "it's not moving, see? That's proof I'm right."

But, again, I am not very eloquent, so I can't really formulate that argument in concise formal logic terms.
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should the cosmos be less hostile?

Postby dobbie » Wed Sep 21, 2011 3:52 am

It’s a little off topic, but the fine structure argument doesn’t do much of anything for making human life on Mars a possibility. In fact none of the other planets in our solar system will support human life, either.

In fact outer space in general won’t support human life either.

Earth's north and south poles are hostile environments for humans, too.

Other people argue that the fine tuning of the universe favors the existence of black holes all over the cosmos. Black holes don’t carry much religious significance, if any.

And also a little off topic: often the people who push the fine tuning argument for religious reasons are the ones who dislike or distrust science. I find that to be an irony.
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Postby the_farewell_party » Thu Sep 22, 2011 12:48 am

If I understand the Fine-Tuned Universe theory, the fact that most of the universe is not suited for life doesn't matter so long as at least some of it is, because having a cosmological constant that allows even the tiniest fraction of the universe to sustain life is a lot less likely than all the cosmological constants that don't allow life, according to them.

But when asked why a perfect designer whose goal is to create life made a universe that isn't optimal for life and only allows some life, the apologists usually respond with the old intelligent design trope "just because we can't see how the work of the creator is perfectly designed doesn't mean it isn't. He's smarter than us, anyway".

It's funny how apologists are free to assume what kind of characteristics a perfect universe created by god would have, but anyone arguing against them isn't.
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby bijane » Thu Sep 22, 2011 5:20 pm

the_farewell_party wrote:However, one argument that I never use is the multiverse theory. There is no evidence that a multiverse exists. It is purely hypothetical. Evoking one to get around the Fine-Tuned Universe defies Occam's Razor...


Can I just say, as a quick note, I think the multiverse is suggested more as an alternative explanation than a cut-and-dried theory: it can't just be God.
In any case though, it's easily possible to make a convincing case for a multiverse: the fact we exist. We're in one universe, and it's been explained how ours can exist (nothingness is unstable), but given the fact that we're most likely in an utterly infinite void (beyond the edges of our universe), chances are that the same occurrence has taken place outside, time and time again. An infinite canvas, given eternity in which to operate... There'd be infinite universes.
I think the theory more or less has the same motivations (if not evidence) as the rest of science: not saying God isn't there, merely that he isn't needed.
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Revelations 22:18 ...If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book
Revelations 23:1 And God said 'hi'.
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby DjVortex » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:10 pm

the_farewell_party wrote:However, one argument that I never use is the multiverse theory. There is no evidence that a multiverse exists. It is purely hypothetical. Evoking one to get around the Fine-Tuned Universe defies Occam's Razor, and because it is not a theory held by the majority of the scientific community, choosing to believe it just because it is convenient is something a Theist would do.


The point of presenting an alternative like the multiverse hypothesis is not for the atheist to desperately grasp for any flimsy explanation that comes to mind in order to not to have to admit that this universe has been created so that we can live in it, even though theists often think like that.

The point of the argument is not that. Theist apologists will claim that the only possibility is that this universe was created exactly in such a way as to allow us to live in it. The point with presenting a plausible alternative is to show that no, it's not the only possibility. It is possible for other solutions to the dilemma to exist. The multiverse hypothesis might not be the real explanation for our existence, but at least it makes it clear that there are plausible explanations other than "God created this universe".

Of course apologists will not accept that, but that's a different issue.

Personally I like the proposition that our universe resides in some kind of "meta-universe" (or "metaverse") where the laws of physics might be completely different than what they are inside here (for example the very concept of time might be completely irrelevant there), and where universes like ours (or even wildly different ones) pop up into existence all the time, like bubbles in a boiling water kettle (possibly in pairs, so that each universe has a balancing "anti-universe" which makes the total amount of energy zero), each one with randomly varying amounts of energy and physical laws. From the countless universes popping up like this, ours happened to have the laws set up in such way that life became possible (hence the anthropic principle).

This is of course just the product of a wild imagination, and probably not the true explanation. However, I don't see why it would be completely impossible.
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby sepia » Wed Jun 06, 2012 7:58 pm

A few days ago I had an idea of a new argument against the fine tuning argument. It doesn't work with monism, but the most (or all?) theists are dualists:

Since souls are alife, god is alife and there is a life after death, life can exist apart from matter. And therefor we don't know, what a universe looks like, in which life is impossible. Therefor the fine tuning argument for god is self refuting.

But I have noticed, that there is one problem with it: Maybe theists have no problems claiming, that consciousness/mind is intependend from life and that god and souls aren't alife. But I doubt, that they want to call life just a physical process.

What do you think about this?
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby Fyrebrand » Sat Jun 09, 2012 3:47 am

sepia wrote:Since souls are alife, god is alife and there is a life after death, life can exist apart from matter. And therefor we don't know, what a universe looks like, in which life is impossible. Therefor the fine tuning argument for god is self refuting.

But I have noticed, that there is one problem with it: Maybe theists have no problems claiming, that consciousness/mind is intependend from life and that god and souls aren't alife. But I doubt, that they want to call life just a physical process.


I think most theists, or just people who believe in a soul, would not say that God or a soul are "alive" in the sense that we are alive now. An "afterlife" would be another plane of existence, or another way of being, but it's not a continuation of the same kind of life we experience on Earth -- I don't know anyone who would say it is. I have heard people postulate that the soul and body interact in some way during life, so "life" would be more than just a physical body -- but when they say the universe is fine-tuned for life, I think they mean biologically, specifically. The physical universe isn't where souls are said to reside, anyway.
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby SkyDaddy » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:18 am

1) we dont know the variables are in fact variable.
2) it doesnt matter because things are the way they are, and thats why we are here. Fairness and chance and fate have no ties to reality.

Its the same bullshit as "look at the trees, the clouds", its solipsistic mental masturbation.

I think the most rational route for the average atheist (the ones who are not qualified to speak on behalf of the deep end of the pool of science where all the steven hawkings hang out), is to just say it doesn't matter.
ie: Do we in fact have free true free will? I dont think that we do, but I also think it doesn't matter. Its all relative, go too large or small scale and you lose perspective and importance. Live in the here and now, and god is not here now, he isnt here, he is-not, and no amount of promises or threats on his behalf can prove that he is.
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby sepia » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:26 pm

The main problem I see in the fine tuning argument is that it is just an argument from design. And it seems to me even self defeating: If the universe can hardly come by chance, then a random creator can hardly create our universe (he could create any other universe too) and a creator, who is predestinated to create our universe, could hardly come by chance. So he has to be created again and so on. An infinite creator doesn't solve this problem, because the motivation and knowledge to create our universe aren't still necessary qualities.

the_farewell_party wrote:However, one argument that I never use is the multiverse theory. There is no evidence that a multiverse exists.


Two points:

1) Inflation may lead to many universes. Hence multiverse theory is not just hypothetical.

2) an universe-creator is beyond the fine tuning argument hypothetical, since there just is no good evidence for it. So if we can use one hypothetical entity as an explanation, then we could use another hypothetical entity as an alternative explanation.
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby TomSmith » Wed Jan 09, 2013 2:10 pm

Bertrand Russel made the point that the physical conditions necessary for life to arise would be irrelevant to an omnipotent god.
If, as the theists propose, an omnipotent, omniscient etc etc god is the creator of the universe and all things in it then it follows that this god could have created life to survive in any kinds of conditions he/she so chose.

That refutes the claim that life can arise only under a very specific set of conditions (physical constants) because if an omnipotent god does exist then life could have been made to arise in any conditions, with an infinite number of them being possible.
Thus the fine-tuning argument can no longer be used as "evidence" of an omnipotent gods existence.

I doubt a theist will counter by saying that the set of conditions has to be what it is in order for life to have arisen because this means that the god they posit as the creator of the universe is in fact subject (don't think that's the right word) to the physical constants in the universe and cannot change them.

Further, it would seem that the theist can't use the argument that the requirements for life are what they are because this is how god chose to make them as that begs the question.

A second point I had considered is that the fine-tuning argument makes an appeal to improbability.
The problem I foresee with that is that we know of only one universe and so have only one data set. I don't follow how the theist is able to make a probability assessment using only one data set.

Any thoughts on the above?
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby dobbie » Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:40 pm

TomSmith wrote:
Any thoughts on the above?


If you ask me, good points of view! All of it was very well considered.
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby TomSmith » Tue Jan 15, 2013 8:51 pm

Thanks Dobbie.

That said, I'd welcome any criticisms you may have about the points I raised.
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby sepia » Tue Jan 15, 2013 9:44 pm

I found a good video serie on this topic: The assumptions of Design Proponents

It analyses the arguments very well and shows that they fail in different ways depending on the way an apologist formulates the argument. The most common seems to be the disjunctive argument, which is very similar to Dembski's Explanatory Filter. Like this filter it is just a Sherlock Holmes Fallacy.

The other way is the inductive argument from design and this fails because no observable quality is predicted by theism. In other words: Nothing can look like being designed by a god or unknown desinger. Claims like "The eye looks designed" are absurd. They are at best circular reasoning in which the designer is defined to have created the eye. In this case an eye must look, because it is an eye.
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby TomSmith » Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:58 pm

Thanks for the link to the video series, I really enjoyed watching it.

"The eye looks designed" is basically Paley's watchmaker argument.
I think that Matt Dillahunty nailed it on the one episode of TAA where he pointed out that if one were to follow the watchmaker argument to its logical conclusion, it would be that a person picks up a watch, on a beach made of watches bordering a sea made of watches and concludes that the particular watch that was picked up, was intelligently designed.

For me the biggest apparent failure for the "it looks designed" argument, is, as pointed out by Matt Dillahunty, that we recognize things that are designed by contrasting them with things that occur naturally.
Given that the theist never picks something like say, a blade of grass, to show evidence of design, it reduces the argument to something like, "look how complicated this is, it must be designed", which is an argument from incredulity.
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Re: "Fine-Tuned Universe" and Intelligent Design

Postby NearlySane » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:39 am

Fyrebrand wrote:
sepia wrote:Since souls are alife, god is alife and there is a life after death, life can exist apart from matter. And therefor we don't know, what a universe looks like, in which life is impossible. Therefor the fine tuning argument for god is self refuting.

But I have noticed, that there is one problem with it: Maybe theists have no problems claiming, that consciousness/mind is intependend from life and that god and souls aren't alife. But I doubt, that they want to call life just a physical process.


I think most theists, or just people who believe in a soul, would not say that God or a soul are "alive" in the sense that we are alive now. An "afterlife" would be another plane of existence, or another way of being, but it's not a continuation of the same kind of life we experience on Earth -- I don't know anyone who would say it is. I have heard people postulate that the soul and body interact in some way during life, so "life" would be more than just a physical body -- but when they say the universe is fine-tuned for life, I think they mean biologically, specifically. The physical universe isn't where souls are said to reside, anyway.


The argument is generally that the universe is fine-tuned for (intelligent) life and could not exist without it, so if life can exist outside the universe, then the argument is refuted. This seems to be where a lot of proponents of the fine-tuned argument are having their cake and eating it. They show cognitive dissonance. If they believe God exists outside of the universe and also believe that we, as intelligent living things, can be with God in a life after death, then they simultaneously believe that life requires this universe and believe in life that exists without this universe.

A further refutation is God's capabilities. Is God dependent on the fine-tuned constants for life to exist or are the fine-tuned constants dependent on God?
If the former, then God and the lives that are with him in "heaven" must also conform to these fine-tuned constants, so it would therefore appear the same as this universe. Since God has always existed, then the "place" where God and his people live has always existed too, which is a case of special pleading if you're going to use our fine-tuned universe as an argument for the existence of God.
If the latter, then God could set up a universe any way he wanted in order for life to exist, which quickly renders the fine-tuned argument redundant.
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