The idea of a fine tuned universe is put forward as a teleological argument for the existence of God. It should be acknowledged straight away that, like the cosmological arguments, it doesn’t necessarily argue for God in the Abrahamic sense, but simply for a creator of some kind. There are some good arguments out there, and I’m not sure all can be countered by theists.
A key characteristic of the fine tuning type arguments is that they attempt to provide odds against the universe forming with all the correct information (I use this loosely meaning physical constants and laws) for intelligent/advanced life to form. The first problem here confronts all types of design arguments, the odds are against randomness, not for design. While we can easily phrase the argument as a designer vs no designer argument and avoid risking an either or fallacy, it still leaves a problem on making a positive argument for a designer. Here’s why, the assumption seems to be (perhaps I’m wrong, but I’ve heard the argument many times) that the probability of there being a creator is the same as the probability against there not being a creator (p[universe|~no creator]=p[universe|creator]). This is possible but unlikely to be an empirically supportable case, since we’d have to build the case both ways and prove the probability of a creator is actually higher than the probability of not having a creator, given what we know. So the argument seems to begin with a crutch.
I’ve heard this idea being used in an interesting way. If there is an omnipotent God, then He could create any universe, which would be an infinite number given His omnipotence, therefore the odds against getting this universe in light of an omnipotent God are infinite. This argument does have a flaw though, an omnipotent, omniscient God would be making a choice on which universe based on complete knowledge, in order to apply some kind of decision theory statistic to it, we’d have to have all the same knowledge to work with (we’d be omniscient), and if we had that, we wouldn’t be arguing about whether there was or wasn’t a deity. So while this argument should get you thinking, I doubt it is an effective counter to fine tuning.
RiandouglasHavok had some interesting sounter arguments in the comment post on my original post on telelogical arguments.
– We don’t know that the constants actually can take different values (we don’t know that there are knobs for our putative fine tuner to tune).
– We don’t know that our form of life is the only form of life possible.
– It appears that changes to one parameter can be compensated for by changes to other parameters.
– Many of the so called finely tuned parameters aren’t as impressive when presented as “natural units” rather than the units we use everyday (ie. speed of light becomes 1 rather than 300,000,000m/s, strength of gravity becomes 1, etc).
The first point is okayish, but since we’d expect the state of singularity at the beginning of the universe (given the Big Bang theory), to not have meaningful physical laws, so there’d be no reason to assume that only one value was possible. This no physical laws issue comes back to bite later.
The second point is very valid, a different setup could form a different life form, then one could use the anthropic principle and say that we’d expect the kind of life we observe to be found where the physical laws make it possible. The problem with this is that I don’t see it as really eliminating a creator/designer, since it would be the case if there were or weren’t a designer.
The third point may be true, but even if it is, it would probably have to be within reason. It could reduce the odds, not eliminate the fine tuning argument completely.
Presenting fine tuning parameters as measurements of themselves is less problematic for fine tuning the more you think about it. Things like speed of light is a measurement of comparison, other things move, they move in relation to each other, and thus speed hardly seems to be something you could say: the speed of a tortoise is one speed of a tortoise, and the speed of light is one speed of light.
So far, I don’t think that much has been said to properly refute the fine tuning argument, perhaps it’s not as strong as it’s presented at an evangelistic meeting, but it isn’t lost completely.
So, what if we assume everything theists are saying is right (I used to really like the fine tuning argument, until hearing this argument). If there were no physical/mathematical laws, and the values behind those physical/mathematical laws could take on any value, then how can we apply the laws of probability to the situation, since probability is a law that wouldn’t have existed at the moment in question, if those making the argument are correct.
I do see possible chinks in this, which I’ll blog about once I’ve ordered my thoughts on it, but until then, I’d like to know what you think, since I’m not seeing huge hope for salvaging the fine tuning argument. So, what are your thoughts?