Tuesday, December 31, 2013

You Can't Tuna Universe, Part 1

One of the more popular arguments for the existence of God used by theists is that the universe is finely tuned for life, and only God could have done it.

Over the past couple of decades it has become apparent to astronomers, physicists and cosmologists that if many of the constants of nature (e.g., gravitational constant, expansion rate of the universe, etc.) were just a hair's breath different, then our universe and life would not exist. This much is true. In fact, if the expansion rate of the universe was slower or faster than just 1 part in 10 to the 55th power (10^55), our universe would not exist as we know it. Astronomer Hugh Ross lists over 100 of these variables that need to be similarly fine tuned for us to exist, and he estimates the probability that all of them fall in the narrow window for life is on the order of 1 chance in 10^1050. Needless to say this number is extremely small, in fact it's almost zero.

Theists have jumped on this discovery and argue the only way to overcome that low probability is if God designed our universe and that it could not happen naturally by chance because the odds are too low. This is known as the teleological argument from fine tuning, or commonly called the fine tuning argument (FTA). The formal logic for the FTA is as follows:

Premise 1:  The fine tuning of the physical constants of the universe is due to either physical necessity, random chance, or intelligent design (God).

Premise 2:  The fine tuning is not due to physical necessity or random chance.

Conclusion:  The fine tuning is due to intelligent design.

Over the next few posts I'll be pecking away at this argument. For starters, I tend to hate these types of "negation" arguments, for the lack of a better term. These are arguments where the proponent lists several possibilities, eliminates all but one of the possibilities, and thereby concludes it must be due to the remaining choice. These are weak arguments in general because it's easy to leave out a potential contending choice from the first premise and no positive evidence is provided for the remaining option.

To see how this is the case, consider the following example. Suppose you work in a bank and at the end of the day the manager discovers a shortage of $1000 cash. The manager searches all the employees and their belongings except for you. Since none of the other employees has the money the manager concludes you must have stolen the money and has you arrested. He doesn't provide any direct evidence that you took the money. No video surveillance tapes were checked to see if you stole the money. The manager didn't search you for the cash either. No, he just concluded that because nobody else had taken the money it must be you who took the loot.

The FTA has the same weakness. No direct evidence is provided that God performed the fine tuning of the constants. No documents are provided exactly how God performed this fine tuning. No video tape evidence is provided discussing with God whether he fine tuned our universe for life. Rather it just eliminates the other contenders leaving God as the remaining option, and as indicated above already, it's all too easy to leave out potential contending choices out of the first premise. For example, in the bank situation, instead of concluding that one of the employees stole the money maybe the wrong change was given to a customer, maybe the manager miscounted the money, or perhaps the money was misplaced somewhere else in the bank.

In the next installment of You Can't Tuna Universe I'll pick apart the premises in the FTA more specifically, and will provide an alternative possibility for the fine tuning of the constants omitted by theists. I'll also provide examples of how our weather must be controlled by God if we are to conclude that our universe was designed by God, so stay tuned!!

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