Thursday, December 6, 2012

RP: Fine Tuning Supports Naturalism

The following seems worth re-posting, as some folks still seem impressed with the fine tuning argument. It seems like a fairly obvious point, yet I haven't seen it mentioned much in the fine tuning discussions I've read. I'd be grateful if anyone can show me the glaring flaw in the argument that I'm missing. At the Prosblogion link, Alexander Pruss kindly responded to my remarks; I'll have some comments on his response soon.

I should say again that I don't think the following is a very good argument for naturalism - it's just a way of showing why the fine tuning argument for God is hollow.


Garren's comments on the previous post got me thinking more about fine tuning. There are lots of reasons to dislike fine tuning arguments for God, but it occurred to me that we can turn the fine tuning argument around and show how it actually supports naturalism, not theism. Let me explain.

The usual fine tuning argument goes like this: Our universe is governed by natural laws that involve certain numerical parameters - the cosmological constant, the strength of the nuclear force, etc. Some of these parameters must lie in a very narrow range in order for life to exist:


PU = Possible Universes
FTU = Fine-Tuned Universes

So, given a naturalistic hypothesis (N) and general background knowledge (K), the probability of a fine-tuned universe is small:

P(FTU|N&K) = Area(FTU)/Area(PU)  << 1

On the other hand, given the theistic hypothesis (T), we would expect the universe to be suitable for life: P(FTU|T&K) is not small, or at least not as small as P(FTU|N&K).

One of the (many) problems with this argument is that we can't assert that the probability is given by the ratio of the areas without making many additional assumptions: that the values of parameters 1 and 2 are randomly chosen from the space of all parameters, for instance. But that's not the objection I want to pursue. Rather, I want to point out that the probability envisioned in the fine tuning argument is a sort of prior probability that ignores some of our background information: namely, the fact that life actually exists. That is, we have to take (K) to mean "general background knowledge not including the knowledge that life exists."

But we actually do know that life exists (L), and it is perfectly legitimate to include this knowledge along with our other background knowledge. If we add this knowledge back in, then trivially P(FTU|N&K&L) = 1: under the naturalistic hypothesis, the only way that life can exist is for the universe to have parameters that allow the existence of life.

But that is not true if God exists! Indeed, under theism, there is no reason to expect that the universe will be fine-tuned.

Remember that God is, by hypothesis, omnipotent. That means that God could  have caused life to arise by miraculous means, even in a universe that was not fine-tuned. Say, for example, that the universe had a value of the cosmological constant that caused it to expand too fast for galaxies to form. God could have prevented a galaxy-sized region from expanding in order to allow our Milky Way to form. Or God could have inserted a pre-made galaxy. Or he could have inserted an additional force that operated only within our galaxy and that countered the effects of the expansion. Or any number of other possibilities, because God can do anything.

So, under theism, the diagram looks like this:


That is, the probability of a fine-tuned universe under the theistic hypothesis is:

P(FTU|T&K&L) = Area(FTU)/Area(PU)  << 1

Conclusion: given that we know that life exists, the probability of discovering we are living in a universe with parameters fine-tuned for life is much higher under the naturalistic hypothesis than under the theistic hypothesis.



52 comments:

  1. While I agree with your point, I wanted to note on what appears to me a subtle shift away from the actual finding of fine tuning.

    The probabilistic argument as you present it, which seems to now be the standard way to represent the fine-tuning argument, is an argument about Possible Universes, as you aptly name them. The presumption that life-supporting universes comprise only a tiny fraction of the possible universes described by uniform laws of physics sounds quite plausible to me.

    However, it has nothing to do with the finding of fine tuning. The finding is a finding about the sensitivity life to perturbations in our own, actual, laws of physics; not about the space of possible universes.

    To put this another way - even if there is some deep physical reason why all the value of the constants are what they are (perhaps they can't really be otherwise, for reasons we currently don't know - just like the comparative forces of the electric and magnetic forces are set by special relativity), our current laws of nature will still require fine-tuning to support life. Fine-tuning is an experimental fact about the structure of the laws of physics we actually have, not about the possibility space of possible universes.

    The most striking thing about the argument from fine-tuning is that it never touches the actual finding! Never have I seen an argument as to why God would create a universe with fine-tuning - a universe whose actual laws of nature were fine-tuned, as opposed to roughly-tuned or having no uniform laws with parameters that can be tuned at all. Instead, the argument always seems to assume that God is limited to playing with the few parameters our actual laws have, and is thus reduced to a petty "argument from design" for a deity so pitifully-weak that it can't even change the laws of physics. Only their constants.

    Yair

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    1. Hi, Yair. I'm not getting your point.

      The space of different parameters for the physical laws - while holding the laws themselves constant - is only a subset of all possible universes. Are you referring to the other possible universes with wildly different laws than those in our universe? Or to the fact that there are laws at all? I'm not sure what you mean by

      "The finding is a finding about the sensitivity life to perturbations in our own, actual, laws of physics; not about the space of possible universes."

      Are you thinking along the lines of "What if the electron's charge suddenly changed by 1% (or oscillated, or something)?

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    2. Somewhere along those lines. Let me put it this way - a big deal of the rhetoric surrounding Fine Tuning is how sensitive the existence of life is to very tiny changes in the constants (like, say, electron mass). Life will be impossible if it's nudged just by 1%; or 0.0001% or whatever.

      Yet, all of the reasoning in the above post, and in any other formulation of the fine-tuning argument, would work perfectly fine if the electron mass would be coarsely grained - if, for example, only a change of 50% in electron mass would make life impossible.

      You say above that the probability of fine-tuning given naturalism is 1. But that's not true! The probability of tuning under naturalism is 1. But FT is a feature of our laws of nature, a feature that could have not been there yet still naturalism would make sense. (This doesn't harm your counter-argument, of course; because the FT-argument doesn't talk about fine-tuning either.)

      I have never seen a reason why God would create a universe with FINE tuning. Nor have I seen an atheistic argument for that; I suspect the complexity of life may make fine-tuning probable, but I don't know enough complexity-theory to make that argument fly.

      Hope that's clearer,

      Yair

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    3. OK, I think I see your point. But what makes tuning "fine"? We could equally well ask why the parameters aren't much more finely tuned: 10^-6, 10^-12, or whatever.

      It's interesting that Pruss sees the FTA as in conflict with the design argument. He linked to this paper:
      http://www.southalabama.edu/philosophy/poston/Documents/usersguide.pdf

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    4. << what makes tuning "fine"? We could equally well ask why the parameters aren't much more finely tuned: 10^-6, 10^-12, or whatever. >>

      I'm fine with vague terms. What makes a person "tall"? Is 1.8m tall? Or only past 2.0m? There is a - vague - property of our laws, which is FINE tuning. You can certainly wonder why they're only fine to the degree that they are, but that doesn't remove the question of why they're finely tuned to begin-with.

      I haven't read Pruss's link, but I do agree in advance that the typical design argument is opposed to the fine-tuning argument - the FTA presumes the laws are suitable to creating, sustaining, and evolving life, whereas the DA presumes natural laws are insufficient for that and hence that these phenomena require a supernatural explanation. Yet, the FTA itself is a design argument, only applied to the laws of physics themselves.

      Yair

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  2. There is a fine tuning argument for life within our universe and a fine tuning argument for life within any possible universe. The first commenter seems to be referring to the argument that life on earth is fine tuned. This appears true in that life as we know it could only exist under parameters very similar to earth’s--we aren’t too close or too far away from a star that isn’t too hot or too cold; we have the right atmosphere; we have Jupiter to catch or redirect asteroids and comets away from us; ect. However, there are so many stars and planets in our universe that the odds of other earth-like situations existing somewhere in the universe is high. The original poster is taking into account the anthropic principle which makes the fine tuning argument for life within our universe a very weak one.

    I disagree that the anthropic principal can be applied to the fine tuning argument for life within any possible universe because we don’t have the required information to make this judgement. We know that there are a shitload of stars and planets, we only know that there is one universe. There could be more, but we can’t assume that. The fine tuning argument for naturalism as stated here just doesn’t work. It’s true an omnipotent being could maintain life where life shouldn’t exist, but this is beside the point

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    1. Maybe my brain isn't working today, but I'm not understanding your point, either, Grundy.

      "...we don’t have the required information to make this judgement."

      I agree, and that's why I don't think either the FTA for God or the FTA for naturalism is a very good one.

      "The fine tuning argument for naturalism as stated here just doesn’t work."

      Well, yeah, but it doesn't work in exactly the same way that the FTA for God doesn't work. That's the main point I wanted to make: that if you accept the FTA is a good argument for God than you also have to accept it is a good argument for naturalism. Thus, both versions sort of cancel each other out.

      Or, you can accept (as you and I do) that neither argument is a good argument.

      So I don't agree that "this is beside the point." This is exactly the point.

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    2. Yeah, I obviously don’t think the fine tuning argument is good enough to make me a theist, but I still think it is the best argument for God ever since the theory of evolution made the argument from design meaningless. The Fine Tuning arguement is based on more than just faulty logic, but it still rests on a couple of assumptions we can’t (and may never) verify.

      You know that a coin should have a 50% chance of coming up heads. However, the only times you have ever flipped a coin it comes up tails...over and over again. This may be possible, but it gets more and more unlikely the more times you flip, never getting heads. Do you think that at any point it becomes rational to consider another force at work here?

      BTW, I’ve read your blog for a while and usually agree with you. Sorry I only comment when I don’t. :-)

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  3. I've never found the Fine Tuning Argument to add anything to the question of God's existence, so I agree with the professor here.

    My own educational (not professional) background includes physical chemistry. I also consider myself a pretty knowledgeable poker player. My own argument for explaining life's "so-called" limited probability follows below (not all steps are needed for a tight argument, but then this is not intended to be a tight argument):

    1. Chess is more complicated than checkers. That certainly does not imply that God's existence is more likely. It does imply that there is an underlying system that allows for one game to be more complicated than another.

    2. The 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 diamond straight flush is an exceedingly rare event in poker. BUT it actually has the EXACT same odds of occurring as the 4S, 6D, 7C, 10C, QH bust hand.

    3. The likelihood of all combinations of bust hands is much greater than the likelihood of all combinations of straight flushes. So what? The rules of the game simply take into account the rarer combinations in determining who wins or loses the pot. The cards don't care.

    4. Under the "rules" of thermodynamics (which are not really rules but conceptualized descriptions of outcomes), certain molecules and combinations of molecules are possible under certain conditions and combinations of conditions (like busted hands and straight flushes).

    5. Some of these molecular structures constitute 'uninteresting' crystals (like table salt), while others form 'more interesting' structures (like genes). It would still be the gambler's fallacy to attribute special ontological significance to genes versus salt merely because of the probabilistic "rarity" or "complexity" of genes versus salt (unless of course you are wagering money on these factors). Someone will always (eventually) win the lottery and the probability distribution of actual events will always (eventually) conform to the mathematically predicted distribution (law of large numbers), at least where a mathematically predicted distribution can be determined. Produce enough galaxies and solar systems over a long enough time, and perhaps we would see all the possible forms of life available in this universe (but I doubt it - because each step in the development of a single universe most likely simultaneously by-passed some potentially available combinations).

    6. Yes, I am aware of the fact that, unlike my card hand example (deck of exactly 52 unique cards) salt crystals will occur naturally more often around the universe (as will hydrogen) than genes, but my point follows anyway. It is the underlying descriptive rules of physics and thermodynamics that determine the range of possible molecules (and their supervenient or emergent properties).

    7. Life arose here on planet Earth because (a) the natural laws allowed for it and (b) the conditions were present (at least temporarily) for our current forms to evolve. If conditions had been slightly different - no asteroid collision in the Gulf of Mexico for example - dinosaurs would probably still be around and perhaps dolphins not humans would be having this discussion.

    8. Rare does not mean special, it means rare.

    9. So the correct question remains: did any existent being formulate or create the physical system which permits these various inanimate and animate forms to exist? The rarity of events itself doesn't seem to support an argument for or against the answer to that question. The rarity of events is highly relevant, however, to anyone trying to design a way for humans to leave this galaxy or strategize a plan for a high stakes poker game.

    Peace.

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    1. To reply to Grundy, I think the question of why God would use fine-tuning is a very interesting question.

      But first, using Grundy's coin flipping scenario, imagine a situation where 'nature' must flip 1500 tails in a row to have the conditions right to bring the first DNA molecule into existence: the odds against are 2(to the power of 1500) to 1 - do I have that right?

      Very low odds. But as with any poker hand, the odds of flipping any specific sequence of heads and tails, totaling 1500 flips, is EXACTLY the same, so there is nothing special about 1500 tails in a row, or 15 billion tails in a row for that matter. Any specific sequence is just ONE of the specific available sequences. If the conditions needed to produce the first DNA-like molecule required a sequence of 6 million tails, then 3 heads, then 3,456,789,012 tails, then all the rest heads, all the way to 15 billion total flips, so be it. That event will eventually occur provided that there are enough SETS of 15 billion flips. Given that problem, we are probably going to need a lot of space or a lot of time or both for all those sets of events. We are also going to need a structure that entails no systemic interference with the randomness of the events ... or conversely, we will need a structure that systemically (or otherwise) alters or reduces the odds obtained under pure randomness. An example of this would be some kind of catalyst or thermodynamic control (energy regulation) or ... yes / no ... some kind of non-empirical yet active external agent.

      Once the correct situation (historically and thermodynamically) finally does occur, presto: DNA. Our solar system is just one of the lucky ones where that happened. There are probably other solar systems where a workable version of a DNA- like system obtained, as Grundy points out. And if not in this universe, then there may be more universes out there somewhere where the conditions for life obtained.

      So why would it work out like that, either with, or without, an existent being creator? A very interesting question indeed.

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    2. My apologizes, it was Yair who first raised the question of "why God would create a universe with fine-tuning - a universe whose actual laws of nature were fine-tuned."

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    3. I love the poker references, I paid for room and board in college entirely on poker winnings my Junior and Senior years, so I know a thing or two on the subject.

      You say "That event will eventually occur provided that there are enough SETS of 15 billion flips." I agree with this concept, but in terms of fine tuning, what makes you assume there are enough sets? If only a few outcomes allow for the potential of life out of billions of possibilities we would need an extremely large set of failed universes for your argument to work. I don't see how we can assume that.

      If you are dealt a spade royal flush in the first hand of poker you ever played, then again in the next two subsequent hands and then leave the game.... everyone at the table should think that either you and/or the dealer is cheating. Would you disagree with this?

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  4. Grundy: Yes, but only because of the payout on those hands, not because of the rare sequence of events. ESPN reported live at this year's WSOP Final Table that A-K was dealt 20 times, and won 19 times, by about hand 300. 4flush.com reported it as 20 of 20. A-K went on to win another 4 of 4 times in the final 99 hands. A gambler's paradise.

    Does this prove anything about the universe? Not really; I just wanted to share that. Actually, rare events happen so often in poker tournaments the dealers take them for granted.

    You aver that my argument (that a workable DNA-like system would eventually obtain elsewhere than Earth) might "need an exceedingly large number of failed universes ... to work. I don't see how we can assume that." Well, researchers at Princeton agree with you. They warn that we just don't have a way yet to reasonably calculate any odds about other life-producing locations.

    I agree. We don't yet even know how the first DNA-like molecules came about, so we can't calculate any odds about that either. Still, my gambler's gut (which certainly does not constitute useable rational evidence) tells me we probably do have enough sets of flips to support other life-obtaining situations. But I'm also relying on the notion of biochemical catalysts (the human body could not function as it does without them) and the manner by which thermodynamics 'regulates' the formation of new and stable molecules. By that I mean that when enough energy is available (usually heat or sunlight) in the presence of new evolving types of molecules, then even newer types of molecules come into existence for the first time. Pharmaceutical companies do exactly this on a regular basis. Of course this does not mean the complex conditions for life necessarily has obtained, or will obtain, at other locations than Earth. But there is nothing scientific that I've read anywhere that would seem to statistically rule it out. It certainly strikes me as a bit like 'flat-earth' thinking to bet against all the other 100 billion or so galaxies each with their 100 billion or so stars. That's a lot of sets of flips without even getting to the question of multiverses ... or an external agent (God).

    Now, FTA focuses in on specifics like Planck's constant or the mass of electrons. I wish someone would explain to me why fine tuning is not just a special case of intelligent design. Afterall, the universe we know and see is not constrained to a cube 100 x 100 x 100 miles; and gravity exists; and particles combine to make H and O and thus water; and ... on and on. DNA is an extraordinary 'system', but so is a single photon of light or a grain of sand. I don't see any logic in separating 'coarse' from 'fine' with respect to the question of the existence or non-existence of a creative God.

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    1. The "payout" of the hand in terms of the FTA is a universe with the conditions the can allow for us to live in it. If the fundamental constants can greatly vary and our universe is either the only universe or of a relatively small set of universes, then this payout is so unique that it is just as rational to suppose a designer as it is to suppose a cheating dealer.

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  5. Robert:. >God could have caused life to arise by miraculous means, even in a universe that was not fine tuned.

    I don't see any real evidence that this universe is fine-tuned. I'm just an aging Harley owner, but I can think of a few ways this planet (and its animate beings) could have been 'tuned' better.

    Besides the cosmological constant, what is the evidence that this universe isn't running on only 1 or 2 cylinders?

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  6. I have been reading this with some interest. I am confused about at least one issue. I, too, like the probablistic poker reference, i.e. given a sufficiently large number of universe sets, life must arise in one of them. Grundy states that we are talking about this universe. Is there any reason this particular universe cannot be the "Royal Straight Flush"?

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  7. Grundy and Tx: I think Tx just said it right. Nothing says we aren't living in the royal flush universe. Rationally it seems to me both a designer and a non-designer situation are possible. If that's right, then the tie-breaker (for now) must lie elsewhere.

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  8. Is this what you are saying?

    Imagine 2 universes:

    A. Laws of physics compatible with life; life.
    B. Laws of physics incompatible with life; life.

    Universe B would be good evidence of a god. Universe A, not so much. But the theist wants it both ways: universe A and B are both evidence for a god.

    Is that it?

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    1. Then it's an incoherent argument.

      >A. Laws of physics compatible with life; life.
      >B. Laws of physics incompatible with life; life.


      If Universe B has life then how can one coherently claim the Laws of Physics in that Universe are "incompatible" with life?

      >Universe B would be good evidence of a god. Universe A, not so much. But the theist wants it both ways: universe A and B are both evidence for a god.

      Well B is logically incoherent.

      Have you never heard of the Law of Non-contradiction?

      This is worst than when BI suggested it might be possible for the Second Law of Thermodynamics to contradict evolution.

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  10. Ben,

    Could God miraculously sustain you alive on the surface of the sun?

    There is nothing logically incoherent about universe B, as long as you are open to the miraculous.

    Hope that helps.

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  11. Ben, not logically incoherent, unless miracles themselves are logically incoherent.

    But I get your point: an ongoing miracle would appear as a natural law. But what sort of natural law? In my example, you would have a law that says energy is conserved everywhere in the universe except for a bubble around the Earth.

    But that's just what we DON'T find: we don't find natural laws that have special exceptions like that. Our laws hold everywhere in the universe and everywhen.

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    1. >But that's just what we DON'T find: we don't find natural laws that have special exceptions like that. Our laws hold everywhere in the universe and everywhen.

      Really? Have you come up with the Grand Unification Theory mating Classic Physics with Einstein & with Heisenberg?

      In what sense? Laws against traveling faster then light seem to not apply in certain circumstances when we deal with quantum physics.

      Within these three realms of physics we find all sorts of "exceptions" in the other realm.

      So it's still not a good argument. But I am glad you see my point.

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  12. >But that's just what we DON'T find: we don't find natural laws that have special exceptions like that.

    But if we lived in such a Universe where Laws had special exceptions why would it not be natural for that Universe?

    Of course this all presupposes Swimburne's, Paley's and Hume's definition of "miracles" & Natural Laws not Aquinas or Classic Theism.

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  13. Well, of course every natural law has some range of validity, outside of which it (potentially) breaks down. But a special exception like we are discussing is something completely different. Our physical laws are the same everywhere in the universe - having laws that are the same everywhere EXCEPT region X, would, as you say, be seen as "natural". But, again, we don't have special exception laws like this. We have laws that work everywhere in the known universe.

    Also, your criticism only applies to on-going miracles, and, as I have said several times already, the argument doesn't rely on on-going miracles.

    But back to the main point: Since you think the FTA is a good (supporting) argument for God, then you MUST (on pain of being logically inconsistent) accept that my argument is a good argument for naturalism. Because it's the same argument. The only differences are:

    1) I do not include the assumption (mentioned by Pruss) that God HAD TO make the world run according to uniform natural laws.

    2) I include the extra assumption L: Life exists.

    Apart from these changes in the assumptions, the logic of the FTAN is the same as that of the FTA. So you must either accept both arguments, reject both arguments, or explain what's wrong with my assumptions (1) and (2). (Of course, I'm hoping you'll tell my why (2) is wrong ;))

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  15. >Apart from these changes in the assumptions, the logic of the FTAN is the same as that of the FTA. So you must either accept both arguments, reject both arguments, or explain what's wrong with my assumptions (1) and (2). (Of course, I'm hoping you'll tell my why (2) is wrong ;))

    No given that ritualism is true I don't see what support Fine Tuning is toward believing in naturalism just as I don't see how in my "REPENT OERTER" example given naturalism that could be used to show that naturalism is true. In both cases given naturalism, both are just very very very amazing coincidences. Nothing more. Given my conclusion the God of Classic Theism exists based on classical philosophical arguments the Fine Tuning is consistant with a Universe created by a God & a support to it in addition to those arguments.

    You argument implicitly assumes ours is the only possible "natural" universe with life vs all the potential "miraculous" universes with life a God could have created & your argument presuposes God's behavior can be predicted that given the choices of many Supernatural universes that he could be created vs one "natural" universe doesn't it seem unlikely God would choose this mere "natural" one where as he could have chosen & likely would have chosen a "supernatural" one?

    I don't see any reason for these assumptions. Indeed I reject them all. I reject your Humean view of the nature of physical laws and understanding of "miracles". I reject the idea God's behavior can be predicted via probibility as incoherent. Also God is Omnipotent so any argument that it would have been more "simple" for him to create life under "miraculous" conditions is prima facia incoherent since everything is "easy" for an omnipotent God or at least nothing is hard.

    In Thomistic fashion I reject the idea of the "Best of all Possible worlds" so I don't see how God is obligated to make one type of world vs another.

    http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/boapw.html

    Given naturalism it is possible(thought it seems very very very lucky for it too happen to us) for a fine tunned unverse to come into existence. Given naturalism it is possible alien life that lives under different conditions could come about even if our type of life could not. Given naturalism a different universe with exotic physical laws could come about. But given naturalism I don't see how you get from Fine Tunning to naturalism. Also it is only a support argument. How is FTAN equivolent? What are your other stronger philosophical arguments for metaphysical naturalism that the Fine Tunning adds too?

    So far you appoch God and Naturalism using a practical positivism(science alone). You need to learn more philosophy.

    Cheers guy.

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  16. oH my grammer sucks & my spellcheck has betrayed me!

    "ritualism" I meant "naturalism".

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  17. Rats, I meant to post my comment on the other thread. Sorry for the jumping back and forth.

    Ben wrote,
    "You argument implicitly assumes ours is the only possible "natural" universe with life vs all the potential "miraculous" universes with life a God could have created"

    No, it doesn't. Where did I say that?

    Ben wrote,
    "your argument presuposes God's behavior can be predicted..."

    No, no, no, you have it exactly backwards, Ben. It is the FTA that needs an assumption about what God would want to do (create a universe using few miracles), as Pruss admits above. My argument makes FEWER assumptions about what God would want to do. I made this point already; see (1) above. Are you even reading my responses?

    Ben wrote,
    "I reject the idea God's behavior can be predicted via probibility as incoherent."

    I agree that predicting God's behavior via probability is problematic (to say the least). But so is predicting the likelihood of life-admitting values of fundamental constants in the FTA. Any weakness you point out in my argument is also a weakness in the FTA, because THEY ARE THE SAME ARGUMENT.

    Ben wrote,
    "So far you appoch God and Naturalism using a practical positivism(science alone). You need to learn more philosophy."

    Since you keep equating naturalism and positivism, it is clear that you are the one who needs to learn some more philosophy. I'm getting tired of repeating myself on this point, so I'm not going to say this again.

    See the first chapter of Ladyman and Ross for a large number of variations of naturalism that are not positivistic.

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  18. >Ben wrote,
    "You argument implicitly assumes ours is the only possible "natural" universe with life vs all the potential "miraculous" universes with life a God could have created"

    >No, it doesn't. Where did I say that?

    Uh Prof I did say "implicitly". I did not say "explicitly". That seems to be my interpretation of your argument or at least it's implication.


    >>Ben wrote,
    "your argument presuposes God's behavior can be predicted..."

    >No, no, no, you have it exactly backwards, Ben. It is the FTA that needs an assumption about what God would want to do (create a universe using few miracles),

    How is making assumptions or guesses about "what God would want to do" not an attempt to predict his behavior?


    >as Pruss admits above. My argument makes FEWER assumptions about what God would want to do. I made this point already; see (1) above. Are you even reading my responses?

    Never the less it seems to want to try to predict God's behavior in some fashon via porbability.


    >I agree that predicting God's behavior via probability is problematic (to say the least). But so is predicting the likelihood of life-admitting values of fundamental constants in the FTA. Any weakness you point out in my argument is also a weakness in the FTA, because THEY ARE THE SAME ARGUMENT.

    Yes it is possible the life-admitting values are woven into the fabric of reality so that no Universe without these values would possibly exist & that would take away any probability argument but the philosophical implications in favor of God would remain.

    It might make it stronger.


    >Since you keep equating naturalism and positivism, it is clear that you are the one who needs to learn some more philosophy. I'm getting tired of repeating myself on this point, so I'm not going to say this again.

    Prof do you or do you not try to answer these questions using Science? Didn't you try to answer the First Way with some warmed over attempt to revive the Newton motion argument?

    I don't equate naturalism and positivism. I equate using science to directly detect God or god-phenomena with Positivism in the realm of things that should be answered by philosophy.

    >See the first chapter of Ladyman and Ross for a large number of variations of naturalism that are not positivistic.

    I'll check it out but it seems to me that is not your problem.

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  19. Ben wrote,
    "How is making assumptions or guesses about "what God would want to do" not an attempt to predict his behavior?"

    Is IS an attempt to predict his behavior. When I write FTA, I am referring to the usual Fine Tuning Argument FOR God. It is the Fine Tuning Argument FOR God that needs the extra assumption about what God would want to do. My argument (which I'm calling FTAN) does NOT make this assumption, or indeed any assumption about what God would or would not want to do. It only notes that it is POSSIBLE for an omnipotent God to create a universe that isn't fine-tuned for life, yet still has life.

    Sorry if I was unclear.

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  20. Not sure if you're aware, but the Third Millennial Templar wrote a post about this post.

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  21. Hi Robert --

    I've been thinking about your argument since you originally posted it. Something about it has been bothering me. I think I finally figured out what that is.

    First, I think you have a typo in the last formula in your post. You write:

    P(FTU|N&K&L) = Area(FTU)/Area(PU) << 1

    I think, however, you meant to write:

    P(FTU|T&K&L) = Area(FTU)/Area(PU) << 1

    Now for my idea. You write:

    Remember that God is, by hypothesis, omnipotent. That means that God could have caused life to arise by miraculous means, even in a universe that was not fine-tuned.

    Let us define ML as the hypothesis that God miraculously allows life to arise in a universe that is not fine-tuned.

    Both ML and its denial (~ML) are logically compatible with theism. So I think the best way to evaluate the evidential significance of ML is to treat ML as an auxiliary hypothesis and apply the theorem of total probability.

    Pr(FTU | T & K & L) = Pr(ML | T) x Pr(FTU | ML & T & K & L) + Pr(~ML | T) x Pr(FTU | ~ML & T & K & L)

    What that formula shows is that, in order for the fine-tuning argument for naturalism to work, Pr(ML | T) must be greater than Pr(~ML | T). But it is far from obvious that that is the case. So what reason is there to suppose that Pr(ML | T) > Pr(~ML | T)?

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  22. Jeffrey, thanks for the comment and the correction. I'm glad that you think the argument is at least worth thinking about!

    As far as your criticism, I am applying the same assumptions as the theist applies in the FTA. Specifically, I am assuming (at least roughly) equal probability spread over the available parameter space.

    Of course, the theist can claim that Pr(~ML | T) > Pr(ML | T), as Alexander does in his response. But that's adding a new assumption, as I discussed here

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  23. I'm not sure that's correct. A proponent of the FTA (who need not be a theist, BTW) could argue as follows:

    If God does not exist, then there is (at least roughly) equal probability spread over the available parameter space. If God does exist, however, then there is not an equal probability spread, since it is antecedently probable on theism that God would create other moral agents.

    So what about Pr(~ML | T) and Pr(ML | T)? I still don't see a reason to think that Pr(ML |T ) > Pr(~ML | T). Also, I think throughout history theists have pretty much uniformly supposed that ML is false. That doesn't mean that they good reason, on T, to assume that ML is false. But from a historical perspective, denying ML is hardly an ad hoc maneuver designed just to avoid your argument.

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  24. "Also, I think throughout history theists have pretty much uniformly supposed that ML is false."

    This just made my jaw drop. Surely, the traditional interpretation of Genesis for centuries was that God created the world through a series of miraculous interventions. Also, we have the Kalam cosmological argument that concludes that the beginning of the universe requires a miraculous intervention by God. And we have the arguments of classical theism that the very continuation of the universe requires the continuous and miraculous sustaining power of God.

    It seems to me that throughout history theists have pretty much uniformly supposed ML to be true, and only since the rise of modern science have tried to argue that God would want the world to run according to uniform rules.

    I'm wondering what you could possibly be thinking of when you wrote that?

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  25. 1-How do we know that omnipotence entails the ability to design life in a coarse-tuned universe? I sure don’t know this and I doubt that anyone can produce a legitimate reason to think it is true. Also, the fine-tuning argument isn’t related to omnipotence most directly but intelligence. So, even if the intelligent designer is not omnipotent, that really is neither here nor there when it comes to inferring design as the best explanation of the fine-tuning. You can’t impugn the fine-tuning argument for not showing that designer is omnipotent since isn’t the attribute under consideration in this argument.
    2-Moreover, we know that an autonomous universe cannot be life-permitting on the known laws of nature unless it is fine-tuned. We know that this is metaphysically impossible and it is no part of omnipotence to be able to do the metaphysically impossible.
    3-One cannot say that an omnipotent God could have created a life-permitting universe that was coarse-tuned ON A DIFFERENT SET OF LAWS since the theorem of total probability doesn’t say that we have to condition all RELEVANT evidence, only all AVAILABLE evidence, and it is completely unavailable to us what other universe operating under different laws of nature would be like.
    4-Even if God could create a universe that permitted life in a coarsely-tuned universe that also operated under a different set of laws of nature than the known laws, I don’t think he would; at least if the atheist is correct and wants to avoid a double standard. Specifically, atheists often say that belief that God exists is logically prior to belief in God which leads us to suspect that God would give us sufficient evidence for his existence. The problem then becomes that if a life-permitting coarse-tuned universe would have plausible, nay more plausible natural explanations going for compared to a finely-tuned universe (such as chance). So, on the one hand atheists demand more evidence, and when the fine-tuning is presented as positive evidence, they then say that God is just as motivated to create a coarse-tuned universe as a fine-tuned universe so the fine-tuning can’t be evidence for God. This is the epitome of a double standard; they want God to give us evidence, and then the evidence given to them won’t be accepted unless God designed a universe that left no evidence of design!
    5-A fair number of philosophers actually think that the know laws of nature are metaphysically necessary and hold in all possible worlds! If that is the case, then even an omnipotent God couldn’t have designed a universe that operated according to a different set of laws of nature, and in conjunction with (2) above, we can see that we can actually show that whatever our intuition about omnipotence is, we can longer be warranted by it.

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    1. Truth Seeker,

      Thanks for the comments. I'm not sure who these comments are directed at: the OP does not mention anything about coarse tuning.

      With regard to your point #5, if the laws of nature are necessary, then the fine tuning argument fails completely. If there is only one way the laws of nature can be, there is no sense in talking about the probability of other laws.

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    2. Hello,

      1-The comments are directed at your argument since (if I understand you) you are saying that since God is omnipotent, he could create life in a universe that doesn't require fine-tuning, which implies that since there is only one way we could be here on naturalism, namely, if the universe was fine-tuned (and we know that life exists), then the fact that we find ourselves in a fine-tuned universe rather than some non-fine-tuned universe (e.g. coarse-tuned) that is able to support life in any number of ways is surprising on theism since God is omnipotent, but not surprising on naturalism since this is the only way we could be here on naturalism. So, since we have no antecedent expectation on theism for life to require a fine-tuned universe, and the only way we could be here on naturalism is if the universe was fine-tuned, the fine-tuning actually provides support for naturalism over theism. By coarse tuning I mean just what you say that God could have created life in a universe that was not fine-tuned.

      2-It is not true that if the laws of nature are metaphyscicall necessary that the fine-tuning argument fails completely. What fine-tuning means is that the CONSTANTS and QUANTITIES that appear in the lasws of nature as well as certain BOUNDARY CONDITIONS (e.g. entropy) that the laws of nature operate on are fine-tuned. But, the surprising thing is that on the known laws of nature, there is a very very very tiny range that these constants and quantities as well as something like the amount of entropy must be 'set to' in order for the building blocks and environments that life requires to be produced. The laws of nature we know of are consistent with a wide range of strenghts and quantities for these constants and boundary conditions such that were they off by even a hairs breadth life would not be possible.

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    3. OK, on that understanding of "coarse tuning":

      There are many ways the universe could be coarse tuned, yet a miraculous intervention would allow life. The cosmological constant I mention below is one. God could be responsible for injecting the first reproducing cell in a universe where that couldn't happen naturally. God could create an Earth complete with animals in a universe where that couldn't happen naturally. Theists have insisted in the past that such things not only are possible, but have actually happened, so it's a bit hypocritical for you to turn around and claim that they're metaphysically impossible.

      2 immediately above presents a false dichotomy. The electromagnetic coupling, weak coupling, and strong coupling are independent constants in the Standard Model. But if the true laws of physics are grand unified theory, then these constants are not independent but related to each other. NECESSARILY related, if you are right. There is a huge number of examples where apparently arbitrary constants of nature have come to be understood as a consequence of deeper laws. Same thing for boundary conditions: if it turns out that the low entropy of the early universe is a consequence of some as-yet-unknown law of nature, then, according to you, it is a necessary condition, and therefore not fine tuned.

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  26. Here is an even better reply by a professional philosopher:
    https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=ZGVmYXVsdGRvbWFpbnxkYXJyZW5icmFkbGV5cGhpbG9zb3BoeXxneDoxZmQ2MGViNmQ2NjU4YWUw

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    1. This is an interesting paper, but doesn't address my objection.

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    2. I don't know how you could say that. This paper gets to central intuition behind the fine-tuning argument using the Law of Likelihood and for anyone who reads it is should be apparent that 'your' objection is not original but already published by Andrea Weisberg. I am not going to summarize the exchange in the combox here.

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    3. Weisberg's question is why the universe is such that only a narrow range of parameter values supports life, rather than a broad range. He doesn't address the issue of omnipotence and miraculous life at all. It's a completely different argument.

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  27. If I may ask a question for clarification:

    What is the difference between your argument and the Weak Anthropic Principle if any?

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  28. Another reasons to think that the probability of -ML/T is greater than the probability of ML/T is found here:
    https://edisk.fandm.edu/michael.murray/Providence.pdf

    Basically, a tweaker God that had to constantly tweak creation with miraculous intervention is less perfect than a God that coudl endow creation with the natural resources to bring about the desired results. Kinda like a car that needs constant maintenance is not as well desgined as a car that never needs maintenance, or rarely needs maintenance.

    Also, the creation and fine-tuning argument are aimed at a creator and designer OF the universe whereas lesser miracles; miracles that are not cosmic in scope are aimed at a designer IN the universe. It is better for God to give us evidence at the cosmic scale rather than from WITHIN the universe if we had to choose one or the other.

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    1. I've made the point elsewhere that the interventions needed are not necessarily ongoing. For instance, in a universe that was expanding "too fast" for galaxies to form, God could corral enough matter miraculously to enable a galaxy to form.

      See
      http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/2012/12/so-i-pointed-out-my-ftan-fine-tuning.html

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    2. You don't know that this is even metaphysically possible, even for an omnipotent being and on the theorem of total probability your whole point about the prior probability of a coarse-tuned universe goes down the tubes. I also gave other reasons why an omnipotent being wouldn't do this if it could, and couldn't do it even if it was omnipotent. The point is, that on the known laws of nature these imagined scenarios of yours do not meaningfully factor into any valid form of inference.

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  29. Yet another great article that shows the simple mistake in your argument:

    http://philosophy.unc.edu/people/faculty/john-t.-roberts/infraredbullseye-philstud-final-wtp.pdf

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    1. That's a very interesting paper. I think it's a much better formulation of the FTA than any other I've seen. It avoids my objection about jiggering with the background knowledge - L is explicitly included in Roberts's B. And it avoids the need to define a probability function over the parameter space. That's a huge improvement.

      But it doesn't avoid my objection here. In fact, it walks right into it. Roberts's crucial assumption is
      Pr(R | D&B) > Pr(R | C&B)
      But it is precisely Pr(R | D&B) that my argument shows to be very small. If, that is, we take D to be an omnipotent being. So we have no particular reason to think Roberts's crucial assumption is true.

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    2. Your fundamental point about the prior probability being low on theism is completely backwards since the only thing that can legitimately be included in our background knowledge is what we know about the actual universe including the laws, constants, and boundary conditions we know about. We have know reason to think that omnipotence entails the ability to create a universe that operated according to different set of laws. So then, there is nothing about our background knowledge that makes a fine-tuned universe improbable on theism. On the contrary, I gave several reasons to think that the prior probability of a fine-tuned universe is not low on theism, but is quite high. Moreover, on our specific evidence, theism is more probable than naturalism not because life exists (we can include that in our background knowledge), but because we discovered that life requires fine-tuning. In light of this we should ask ourselves the question: What is the best explanation of the discovery that life requires fine-tuning? So far, you haven't provided any naturalistic explanation for this fine-tuning you just think that the prior probability is low and that there is nothing to explain!

      We know that life-prohibiting universes are incredibly likely on naturalism, so why does a life-permitting universe exist? It is not surprising on theism that a life-permitting universe exists since 1-a desinger could select a life-permitting universe out of the sea of life-prohibiting universes, and 2-the discovery that life requries fine-tuning pumps a compelling intuition that a designer would pick out such a feature to design a universe with. As the narrowness of this life-permitting range increases the stronger the evidence for design gets. That is the fundamental intuition behind the design argument, and that is what fine-tuning has to do with it.

      I almost feel like this is too obvious to point out, but it seems to have been missed; if design is the best explanation of the dsicovery that life requires fine-tuning, then the fine-tuning of the universe is a miracle so that the assumption P(ML/T)>P(-ML/T)has been confirmed par excellence. And, after that, an efficient desginer wouldn't have to be tweaking things all the time, and as I say, per impossible your imagining some designer 'corralling' a galaxy would only point to design WITHIN the universe (much like ID proponents in biological design try to argue for) since it is not a cosmic 'miracle' rather than a designer OF the universe. So, it is more rational for a designer to give us the evidence we actually (recall the divine hiddenness argument) have than the kind you are imagining.

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  30. TS wrote,

    "Your fundamental point about the prior probability being low on theism is completely backwards since the only thing that can legitimately be included in our background knowledge is what we know about the actual universe including the laws, constants, and boundary conditions we know about. We have know reason to think that omnipotence entails the ability to create a universe that operated according to different set of laws."

    There is teh problem with the FTA in a nutshell. Just turn your objection around to refer to naturalism rather than omnipotence: we have no reason to think that the laws of nature allow different values of the parameters than the ones we measure.

    But to respond to your objection, your position only works if the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary. If the laws of nature are metaphysically necessary, then the hypothesis of a Designer is completely superfluous. There is nothing left to explain; the laws are the way they are because they couldn't be any other way.

    Your position makes any kind of fine tuning argument impossible.

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