Thursday, January 2, 2014

You Can't Tuna Universe, Part 2

This is the second post in a series debunking the Fine Tuning Argument (FTA) used by theists to "prove" the existence of God.

At the end of the first post I pointed out the flaw in the first premise of the FTA ... namely that it is all too easy to omit a possible contender from the list of options. In the FTA the first premise argues that the explanation of the fine-tuning of the physical constants must be due to either physical necessity, chance or intelligent design (God). In the second premise theists rule out random chance due to the insanely low probability of all the constants appearing in a narrow window for life to occur. Theists also rule out physical necessity because there is no requirement that a universe MUST be life permitting. So that just leaves God. How convenient!

Unfortunately for the apologist, they are leaving out one important contender from the first premise ... that there's a physical explanation for the values of the constants but science isn't advanced enough to provide a thorough explanation just yet! Now this may initially sound like a cop out or a "physics of the gap argument", but there is actually a large body of historical precedence in favor of such an explanation.

At one time several thousand years ago nobody knew what caused thunderstorms, rainbows and solar eclipses. So those phenomena were thought to be caused by a God, and several gods were invented for each one (e.g., Zeus, Iris, Helius, etc.). Of course, today we are smarter and have natural explanations for each of these phenomena, and the Gods who were once worshiped are now in the trash heap of the almighty known as mythology. Even by the 1600s the eminent Sir Isaac Newton thought that the regular motions of the planets "could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent being." Well, today we know how solar systems form and what the planetary motions would be like in those naturally forming systems. Again we figured out no god is required.

So how do we know there isn't a physical explanation why the physical constants appear to fall in a narrow window required for life? Isn't it very possible that our body of knowledge in cosmology just hasn't advanced enough yet? What would happen if this debate was happening 2000 years ago and theists were using the observation of a rainbow as evidence for the existence of God?

Well, the argument might go something like this:
Premise 1: Rainbows are caused either by chance, physical necessity or God.
Premise 2: Rainbows are not the result of chance or physics.
Premise 3: Rainbows therefore are caused by God.

The apologist would eliminate physical necessity from premise 2 because at that time they didn't know any physics or optics, and they would eliminate chance as well because the odds of all those colors forming in that pattern are astronomically low. How low? Well let's do some back-of-the-envelope calculations, pretending of course we don't know the physics of rainbows.

Suppose there are 10 color choices (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, clear, white and black). In actuality rainbows have over 100,000 distinct colors our eyes can detect, but only 10 are needed to make the point. Next, assume it's a typical rainbow that has an arc length of one mile (5280 feet) and a width of 100 feet. This results in a rainbow of 528,000 square feet in size. Last, for convenience assume a "pixel" size of one square foot and that there can only be one color in each pixel. Remember, we're assuming this argument is taking place 2000+ years ago when we didn't know there could be hundreds of water drops in each "pixel" that can produce their own color.

Given the ultra-conservative numbers presented above (10 colors & 528,000 pixels), the probability of a rainbow appearing in the sky by random chance would be just one in 10^528,000 (that's 10 raised to the 528,000th power)!! Of course this number is even lower than Hugh Ross's probability of a life-permitting universe (1 in 10^1050). No wonder why people in ancient civilizations attributed the formation of a rainbow to a creation from God, LOL.

Today, however we know the optics of rainbows and know that the "pixels" are not independent of each other. However 2000 years ago if they eliminated chance as an explanation based on the extremely low probability (just like they are doing today with fine tuning of the constants) they would have been gravely mistaken. So in reality, the theist can not eliminate the strong possibility that there is a physical explanation for the fine-tuning of the physical constants (that we just don't know yet). As such, premise 1 is flawed which makes the entire FTA unsound.

In the next installment I'll shoot down premise #2.

No comments:

Post a Comment