WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

Craig's arguments for God, Pt 4

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WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#1  Postby Shrunk » Apr 07, 2011 3:58 pm

William Lane Craig seems to be one of the most frequently discussed apolgists for theism on this board. His reputation largely rests on a series of five arguments for the existence of God, which feature regularly in his writings, public speeches and debates. Since these arguments so often arise in discussion on this board, I thought it would be a good idea to have separate threads devoted to each of these to allow discussion of these by those who support Craig, and those who would refute his arguments.

A full discussion of these arguments can be found in Craig's article here. What follows is the introductory paragraph from that article.

4. The Teleological Argument from Fine-tuning

We now come to the teleological argument, or the argument for design. Although advocates of the so-called Intelligent Design movement have continued the tradition of focusing on examples of design in biological systems, the cutting edge of the contemporary discussion concerns the remarkable fine-tuning of the cosmos for life.

Before we discuss this argument, it’s important to understand that by “fine-tuning” one does not mean “designed” (otherwise the argument would be obviously circular). Rather during the last forty years or so, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. This is known as the fine-tuning of the universe.

This fine-tuning is of two sorts. First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, you find appearing in them certain constants, like the constant that represents the force of gravity. These constants are not determined by the laws of nature. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for these constants. Second, in addition to these constants, there are certain arbitrary quantities that are put in just as initial conditions on which the laws of nature operate, for example, the amount of entropy or the balance between matter and anti-matter in the universe. Now all of these constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life-permitting values. Were these constants or quantities to be altered by less than a hair’s breadth, the life-permitting balance would be destroyed, and no living organisms of any kind could exist.

For example, a change in the strength of the atomic weak force by only one part in 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe. The cosmological constant which drives the inflation of the universe and is responsible for the recently discovered acceleration of the universe’s expansion is inexplicably fine-tuned to around one part in 10120. Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of the Big Bang’s low entropy condition existing by chance are on the order of one out of 1010(123). Penrose comments, “I cannot even recall seeing anything else in physics whose accuracy is known to approach, even remotely, a figure like one part in 1010(123).”

So when scientists say that the universe is fine-tuned for life, they don’t mean “designed”; rather they mean that small deviations from the actual values of the fundamental constants and quantities of nature would render the universe life-prohibiting or, alternatively, that the range of life-permitting values is incomprehensibly narrow in comparison with the range of assumable values. Dawkins himself, citing the work of the Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, acknowledges that the universe does exhibit this extraordinary fine-tuning. And it’s not just each constant or quantity that must be exquisitely finely-tuned; their ratios to one another must be also finely-tuned. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers.

Here, then, is a simple formulation of a teleological argument based on fine-tuning:

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3. Therefore, it is due to design.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#2  Postby John P. M. » Apr 07, 2011 6:02 pm

The underlying idea here is that Craig's God did the fine tuning, to create a universe just right for life - especially tuned for life. And not just life, but humans would be the creature he would have put all this fine-tuning into effect for, especially.

But the universe is 99.9999999999% (give or take...) lethal to life as we know it, and especially humans. Even here on earth there are only certain areas we may live, and some of the areas we do live in would be near impossible to live in were it not for our own ingenuity. And through geological time, there have been several mass extinctions. Fine-tuning for the remote possibility of intelligent life? Is that the best an omnipotent, omniscient God can do when starting from scratch?

It is also an argument of 'if things were different, then things would be different'. We don't have the ability to simulate universes that are totally different from ours on all counts (or the ability to imagine what those would even constitute of), to see if they could hold their own forms of life. A sample size of 1, IOW.

But there has been some work done in simulating various configurations of this universe and its constants (Stenger, I believe), which has shown that changing them slightly doesn't necessarily preclude a universe where life may exist.

Also, if the universe was not able to hold intelligent life such as us, there would be no one here to marvel at its intricacies.

And, all evidence points to life, including humans, evolving to survive and adapt to the - often hostile - environment, and not the environment being previously adapted (fine-tuned) to the organisms.

Why fine-tune the basics, and not follow through all the way, as it were?

These are perhaps not the best counter arguments, but off the top of my head.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#3  Postby The_Metatron » Apr 07, 2011 6:37 pm

Or, life is simply a side effect of the way our universe happens to exist. What am I missing here?
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#4  Postby Mononoke » Apr 07, 2011 6:56 pm

The fine tuning argument is essentially an argument about the restriction of degrees of freedom. for example if the fine structure constant is off by 2% stars will be very different. And this has to be because there is a designer. Or so they say.

Now let's look at something that isn't designed by designer for example a large sand dune. now if you count the number of restraints put on the grains of sand in that sand dune to achieve it's precise structure. you will find that fine tuning there is immense, much more so than many of these 'fine tuned' or 'designed' physical constants. Now if the laws of nature can bring about the creation of such fine tuning, there is very little reason to believe that the fine tuning of the universe necessitates a conscious process

Also his little splurg about the low entrophic conditions is out dated. chaotic inflationary theory explains that bit very well.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#5  Postby Nebogipfel » Apr 07, 2011 7:55 pm

The_Metatron wrote:Or, life is simply a side effect of the way our universe happens to exist. What am I missing here?


:this:

Like Douglas Adams' parable of the puddle.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#6  Postby Nebogipfel » Apr 07, 2011 7:59 pm

Alternatively, if we were intelligent gasbags floating in the atmosphere of Jupiter, we might be marvelling at the fact that Jupiter is at just the right distance from the Sun to permit the evolution of intelligent floating gasbags.

Or if the laws of physics were such that the only significant chunks of matter which could form were red dwarf stars, then either (a) there would be no intelligent life or (b) any intelligent life which did exist would be the kind of life that could only exist in or on a red dwarf star. Such life might be marvelling at the fact that its universe was finely tuned just to allow the evolution of red dwarf dwelling intelligences.

Again, either I'm completely missing something, or the fine tuning argument doesn't hold much water. :think:
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#7  Postby murshid » Apr 07, 2011 8:17 pm

.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#8  Postby Matt_B » Apr 07, 2011 8:29 pm

Douglas Adams's puddle is worth a mention here:

"This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in - an interesting hole I find myself in - fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise."

More generally, our place in the universe is a decidedly precarious one considering how lethal most of the rest of it is, and it's hubris in the extreme to assume that the whole was designed with us in mind.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#9  Postby Paul G » Apr 07, 2011 8:47 pm

Some of the other arguments may be worth addressing (I suppose) but the fine tuning argument is definitely for the scientists, not philosophers. He simply lacks the qualifications and scientific knowledge to comment here.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#10  Postby Oldskeptic » Apr 08, 2011 1:33 am


1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3. Therefore, it is due to design.


When Craig says that the universe cannot be "fine tuned" due to physical necessity he instantly replaces it with a necessary being to do the "fine tuning". The universe is not necessary, but Craig's god is because the universe wouldn't exist without his god. That is some fucked up logic.

When Craig says that the "fine tuning" of the universe cannot be due to chance he has no idea what the chances are.

The most that can be said regarding it being possible for constants to be different is, "We don't know." And as far as I know there is no evidence that they can be different or can't be different.

When Craig says that the universe must be "fine tuned" by design because it can't be by necessity or chance he leaves out other possibilities, such as it only appears to be fine tuned to us from our small vantage point in space and time.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#11  Postby Panderos » Apr 15, 2011 11:05 pm

It is my unsubstantiated guess that all life needs to develop is a universe in which sufficient complexity can develop. And as we see from this universe, great complexity can develop from relatively simply rules.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#12  Postby andrewk » Jun 03, 2011 10:25 am

Oldskeptic wrote:
When Craig says that the "fine tuning" of the universe cannot be due to chance he has no idea what the chances are.

This to me is the most undeniably fatal flaw in Craig's argument. Craig frequently talks about how "unlikely" it is that, say the gravitational constant G, falls within the range that would permit complex organisms to exist. The gravitational constant is
G = 6.67300 × 10-11 m3 kg-1 s-2
.
I can't be bothered looking up what the range of grav constant compatible with our existence is, so let's be conservative and assume the lower limit is (1-1/(10^(10^(10^(10^(10^(10^(10^10)))))))) x G
and the upper limit is
(1+1/(10^(10^(10^(10^(10^(10^(10^10)))))))) x G

This is incalculably more "fine-tuning" than even Craig would claim.

Now Craig loves to invoke florid, hyperbolic visual examples to illustrate the narrowness of his range. One I heard involved a red dot, representing the range of life-compatible values, surrounded by squillions of blue dots, representing all the other possible values. But regardless of how many blue dots Craig tries to conjure up, his statement of "unlikeliness" is devoid of any meaning unless he can produce and justify a probability density function fG for the real random variable G. (A probability density function for G is a real-valued, integrable function defined on the domain (-infinity,+infinity), whose integral over the entire domain is 1). Having done that, the probability of G falling within the range compatible with our existence is simply the integral of fG(x) from x=lower_limit to x=upper_limit.

Craig has never produced such a function. This may be because he cannot, as there is no scientific theory that could be used to derive or even approximate, however roughly, such a function. Or, to be less charitable, it may be because he doesn't even know what a probability density function is. There's nothing wrong with that. Most people don't know. But most people don't go around making dogmatic statements about probabilities in conjunction with cosmology (another subject in which Craig is mostly ignorant).

Arif Ahmed pointed out this fallacy in Craig's argument when he debated him but Craig, as he usually does when confronted with an argument that demolishes his case, just ignored it and pretended his argument was still intact.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#13  Postby Laurens » Jun 03, 2011 8:55 pm

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6FQdyHUXwc[/youtube]
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#14  Postby Sweenith » Jun 04, 2011 11:05 pm

John P. M. wrote:The underlying idea here is that Craig's God did the fine tuning, to create a universe just right for life - especially tuned for life. And not just life, but humans would be the creature he would have put all this fine-tuning into effect for, especially.

But the universe is 99.9999999999% (give or take...) lethal to life as we know it, and especially humans. Even here on earth there are only certain areas we may live, and some of the areas we do live in would be near impossible to live in were it not for our own ingenuity. And through geological time, there have been several mass extinctions. Fine-tuning for the remote possibility of intelligent life? Is that the best an omnipotent, omniscient God can do when starting from scratch?

Looks like this assumes something along these lines: if a designer wanted to create a universe fine-tuned for intelligent life, he would have to prefer one that's packed full of intelligent life, or at least one the greater proportion of which is inhabited by intelligent life ; That's not at all obvious to me, though - for one thing, because I'm inclined to suspend judgment regarding whether such an overpopulated universe is physically possible (maybe, maybe not); and second, because a designer might, for all I know, prefer that there be a small number of persons relative to however many he could have created. I don't see why the designer would have to prefer a crowded madhouse of a universe as opposed to a more intimate less-populated one. Since it's not clear just how populated of a universe the designer would prefer, nor is it certain whether natural laws could permit the existence of a universe able to accommodate much higher proportions of intelligent life than ours.

To your other point: If we're talking about an omniscient designer though, the "remote possibility of intelligent life" poses no problem, because such a being would have to know whether or not that possibility would be actualized - so there's no surprises there.

It is also an argument of 'if things were different, then things would be different'. We don't have the ability to simulate universes that are totally different from ours on all counts (or the ability to imagine what those would even constitute of), to see if they could hold their own forms of life. A sample size of 1, IOW.

Yeah we've got just this one universe, but still - we know what the necessary conditions for life are; from there, it's just a matter of determining what proportion of all the logically possible configurations of the universe's initial conditions and values satisfy those prerequisites

But there has been some work done in simulating various configurations of this universe and its constants (Stenger, I believe), which has shown that changing them slightly doesn't necessarily preclude a universe where life may exist.


Not all of the universe's constants and initial quantities must be finely-tuned. Some can be altered without disastrous effects, but many can't. (yeah it was Stenger btw)

Also, if the universe was not able to hold intelligent life such as us, there would be no one here to marvel at its intricacies.

Correct - we shouldn't be surprised that we find ourselves in a universe that is life-permitting, because those are the only possibly universes we could observe, obviously. But it doesn't follow that we shouldn't be surprised that the universe in which we find ourselves is life-permitting.

Take Leslie's example: suppose you're in front of a firing squad of a hundred armed marksmen who are about to execute you; the guy counts down 3 2 1, they fire; you open your eyes to find you're still alive. Now, would you say that there's nothing surprising about the fact that all the marksmen missed, since if they had not, then you wouldn't be here to be surprised about it? (i.e. "Given that I'm alive, I ought to have expected them all to miss!") — clearly not.

And, all evidence points to life, including humans, evolving to survive and adapt to the - often hostile - environment, and not the environment being previously adapted (fine-tuned) to the organisms.

Yes but that's already given a life-permitting universe, so I dont think that would be an objection to the fine-tuning argument.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#15  Postby andrewk » Jun 05, 2011 3:53 am

Sweenith wrote:
It is also an argument of 'if things were different, then things would be different'. We don't have the ability to simulate universes that are totally different from ours on all counts (or the ability to imagine what those would even constitute of), to see if they could hold their own forms of life. A sample size of 1, IOW.

Yeah we've got just this one universe, but still - we know what the necessary conditions for life are; from there, it's just a matter of determining what proportion of all the logically possible configurations of the universe's initial conditions and values satisfy those prerequisites
[emphasis added by me]
But that proportion will be zero, no matter how finely or coarsely 'tuned' the universe is. That's because, as long as the range of life-permitting values for a constant (say G) is finite, that range will be zero as a proportion of the range of all possible values, which is infinite (crudely speaking, a / infinity = 0 for any real number a). So the proportion gives you no information about the 'degree of fine tuning'.

Even if you could calculate a proportion that wasn't always zero, what could you usefully do with it?
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#16  Postby SkyMutt » Jun 05, 2011 7:18 am

Thanks for sharing that video, Laurens. It has never been about us; in fact it's almost entirely about black holes. :thumbup:
Serious, but not entirely serious.

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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#17  Postby John P. M. » Jun 05, 2011 10:04 am

Sweenith wrote:
John P. M. wrote:The underlying idea here is that Craig's God did the fine tuning, to create a universe just right for life - especially tuned for life. And not just life, but humans would be the creature he would have put all this fine-tuning into effect for, especially.

But the universe is 99.9999999999% (give or take...) lethal to life as we know it, and especially humans. Even here on earth there are only certain areas we may live, and some of the areas we do live in would be near impossible to live in were it not for our own ingenuity. And through geological time, there have been several mass extinctions. Fine-tuning for the remote possibility of intelligent life? Is that the best an omnipotent, omniscient God can do when starting from scratch?

Looks like this assumes something along these lines: if a designer wanted to create a universe fine-tuned for intelligent life, he would have to prefer one that's packed full of intelligent life, or at least one the greater proportion of which is inhabited by intelligent life


No, it assumes that an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent Designer would also create intelligently, efficiently, parsimoniously and benevolently. Admittedly, it also has to do with what God's plan for the universe allegedly is. There's a reason theologians once thought the earth had to be at the center of the universe; because we are allegedly at the center of God's attention.

According to the monotheistic religions, this universe is not a permanent dwelling place for any of us, but basically a 'pit stop' on our way to another, better realm. In the mean time, people are awaiting the return of a Messiah, who is also going to whisk us away into a better realm. And scientifically, we know the universe won't be suitable for life at all in a few billion years anyway. All of which shows that this universe was - according to this then - not designed to be 'teeming with life' as life expands its borders throughout space, but that it was created for a relatively short life span, with specific entities in mind.

It is with this backdrop it seems strange that the universe should have been created in such a way that life is forever but a speck of dust compared to other matter and space, and that life has to strive and clutch at straws so as to not fall off the cliff, figuratively speaking, in the tiny areas it does exist. It's not about having a gigantic universe (like we have now) overflowing with life, but rather an 'efficient', parsimonious universe, sufficiently large for the relatively few entities it was created to sustain, and that the area they would inhabit was also created to be as benign to them as possible. Carrier makes a similar point in the video above.

Sweenith wrote:
Correct - we shouldn't be surprised that we find ourselves in a universe that is life-permitting, [...] But it doesn't follow that we shouldn't be surprised that the universe in which we find ourselves is life-permitting.


Come again? ;)

Sweenith wrote:
Take Leslie's example: suppose you're in front of a firing squad of a hundred armed marksmen who are about to execute you; the guy counts down 3 2 1, they fire; you open your eyes to find you're still alive. Now, would you say that there's nothing surprising about the fact that all the marksmen missed, since if they had not, then you wouldn't be here to be surprised about it? (i.e. "Given that I'm alive, I ought to have expected them all to miss!") — clearly not.


Well, it's a famous analogy, but I don't find it too convincing. In the case of the person in front of the firing squad, he is already alive and expecting something to happen for certain; something inevitable from an already existing, very high probability. When this does not happen, he is right to be surprised. He knows that in the course of all other such types of firing squad executions, the person being shot at has died.

We don't have the same information for universes; we don't know that life cannot develop in different kinds of universes, so we don't have the expectation that it cannot. We know how the constants for this universe have to be to sustain this universe, we know we are alive, and what is needed to sustain our form of life. That's about it.

Another thing is that the original weak anthropic argument is not so much that we shouldn't be surprised that what we observe is conducive to our existence, but simply that there is no alternative, since we are living observers.
In the analogy then, the person could well be surprised, and intrigued, but the state of affairs would be the same; he is alive, so there are no alternatives: the firing squad was unsuccessful. On purpose, due to faulty equipment, having had practice ammunition loaded, a fluke coincidence, or something else. There wouldn't be one single explanation he could pin it down to though, unless he was told by the people in the firing squad what the reason was.

Likewise, it is intriguing and interesting that we are alive, and much of science after all works toward explaining how. But the fine tuning argument says that there is only one explanation for it, that we know the "guns" were "functioning and loaded with good ammo", and that the "marksmen could not miss", so the fact that "the person is still alive" must be due to design; purpose. I don't think we have that knowledge.

Sweenith wrote:
And, all evidence points to life, including humans, evolving to survive and adapt to the - often hostile - environment, and not the environment being previously adapted (fine-tuned) to the organisms.

Yes but that's already given a life-permitting universe, so I dont think that would be an objection to the fine-tuning argument.

No you're right, that would go towards a similar argument that is sometimes made, that life is finely tuned, or specifically designed, for life on earth, and that earth's orbit etc. is also 'finely tuned' for life. Which would be a more fundamentalist creationist view, I believe.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#18  Postby Rumraket » Jun 08, 2011 4:49 pm

As an atheist one is not obliged to refute the fine-tuning argument. All we need to do is show that it doesn't work as evidence for the existence of god(s). And the most beautifully simple way of doing that is to highlight the fact that we don't know if the constants can change, whether other universes with other constants exist, and so it is logically fallacious to make a probability argument with a sample size of 1.

It seems to me the theist is under the obligation to show that fine tuning has taken place(not merely assert it), by showing that the values are indeed tweakable/variable. Just because Craig can alter a value or ratio on a piece of paper, doesn't mean it can be done in reality.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#19  Postby Sweenith » Jun 08, 2011 5:35 pm

John P. M. wrote:
Sweenith wrote:
John P. M. wrote:The underlying idea here is that Craig's God did the fine tuning, to create a universe just right for life - especially tuned for life. And not just life, but humans would be the creature he would have put all this fine-tuning into effect for, especially.

But the universe is 99.9999999999% (give or take...) lethal to life as we know it, and especially humans. Even here on earth there are only certain areas we may live, and some of the areas we do live in would be near impossible to live in were it not for our own ingenuity. And through geological time, there have been several mass extinctions. Fine-tuning for the remote possibility of intelligent life? Is that the best an omnipotent, omniscient God can do when starting from scratch?

Looks like this assumes something along these lines: if a designer wanted to create a universe fine-tuned for intelligent life, he would have to prefer one that's packed full of intelligent life, or at least one the greater proportion of which is inhabited by intelligent life


No, it assumes that an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent Designer would also create intelligently, efficiently, parsimoniously and benevolently. Admittedly, it also has to do with what God's plan for the universe allegedly is.


If that's what you're assuming, then the objection isn't relevant, strictly speaking. Craig's fine-tuning argument doesn't say anything about the designer being omniscient or omnipotent or omnibenevolent.

And if you aren't presupposing that a designer would want a more populated universe than this one, then the various facts you cite regarding its inhospitality do not constitute evidence against the universe's being designed.

There's a reason theologians once thought the earth had to be at the center of the universe; because we are allegedly at the center of God's attention.

being "at the center" of a person's attention is just a way of talking about whatever that person happens to be most concerned with. It has nothing to do with spatial location. So the connection between the two uses of "center" in the statement—in order for something to be at the center of God's attention, it has to be at the center of the universe—is an equivocal one

According to the monotheistic religions, this universe is not a permanent dwelling place for any of us, but basically a 'pit stop' on our way to another, better realm. In the mean time, people are awaiting the return of a Messiah, who is also going to whisk us away into a better realm. And scientifically, we know the universe won't be suitable for life at all in a few billion years anyway. All of which shows that this universe was - according to this then - not designed to be 'teeming with life' as life expands its borders throughout space, but that it was created for a relatively short life span, with specific entities in mind.

Not sure I follow you, but the fine-tuning argument doesn't specify how much life exists in a life-permitting universe, nor how long that life might exist - it's talking about being able to sustain life at all, in any amount and for any length of time. So I don't see how that is an objection to the argument.

It is with this backdrop it seems strange that the universe should have been created in such a way that life is forever but a speck of dust compared to other matter and space, and that life has to strive and clutch at straws so as to not fall off the cliff, figuratively speaking, in the tiny areas it does exist. It's not about having a gigantic universe (like we have now) overflowing with life, but rather an 'efficient', parsimonious universe, sufficiently large for the relatively few entities it was created to sustain, and that the area they would inhabit was also created to be as benign to them as possible. Carrier makes a similar point in the video above.

First, as I suggested before, the sort of universe you have in mind may not be physically possible (it may or may not be);

And second, in assuming that this universe is not 'efficient', you are presupposing that you know all of the designer's goals (the universe may be inefficient with respect to bringing about the existence of intelligent life alone, but it may be extremely efficient with respect to bringing about all of its designer's ends).

And third, efficiency is only a concern when one has limited resources. If the universe's designer were omnipotent (as you assume that it would be), then he wouldn't be limited in resources.
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Re: WL Craig: The Fine Tuning Argument

#20  Postby Sweenith » Jun 08, 2011 6:03 pm

John P. M. wrote:
Sweenith wrote:
Correct - we shouldn't be surprised that we find ourselves in a universe that is life-permitting, [...] But it doesn't follow that we shouldn't be surprised that the universe in which we find ourselves is life-permitting.

Come again? ;)

Those are distinct statements. The first is the probability that we would observe a life-permitting universe; the second is the probability that this universe would be one which we could be observe.

Sweenith wrote:
Take Leslie's example: suppose you're in front of a firing squad of a hundred armed marksmen who are about to execute you; the guy counts down 3 2 1, they fire; you open your eyes to find you're still alive. Now, would you say that there's nothing surprising about the fact that all the marksmen missed, since if they had not, then you wouldn't be here to be surprised about it? (i.e. "Given that I'm alive, I ought to have expected them all to miss!") — clearly not.


Well, it's a famous analogy, but I don't find it too convincing. In the case of the person in front of the firing squad, he is already alive and expecting something to happen for certain; something inevitable from an already existing, very high probability. When this does not happen, he is right to be surprised. He knows that in the course of all other such types of firing squad executions, the person being shot at has died.


No, you're talking about the analogy as if it were being given as an argument for the design inference as such. That's not the purpose of the analogy at all. The only point is to show that the anthropic principle doesn't explain away the need for an explanation.

We don't have the same information for universes; we don't know that life cannot develop in different kinds of universes, so we don't have the expectation that it cannot. We know how the constants for this universe have to be to sustain this universe, we know we are alive, and what is needed to sustain our form of life. That's about it.

Yes, we do know which universe can develop life and which can't, because we know what the necessary conditions for life are. That's not just "our form of life", but any life.

Another thing is that the original weak anthropic argument is not so much that we shouldn't be surprised that what we observe is conducive to our existence, but simply that there is no alternative, since we are living observers.
In the analogy then, the person could well be surprised, and intrigued, but the state of affairs would be the same; he is alive, so there are no alternatives: the firing squad was unsuccessful. On purpose, due to faulty equipment, having had practice ammunition loaded, a fluke coincidence, or something else. There wouldn't be one single explanation he could pin it down to though, unless he was told by the people in the firing squad what the reason was.

Correct, you're speaking here about the first probability I mentioned, regarding the chances that we would observe a life-permitting universe.

Of course he's alive, that's not the question. The issue is why he is alive; and the irrelevant response often given is that there's no mystery since he wouldn't be here to pose the question if he were dead.

Likewise, it is intriguing and interesting that we are alive, and much of science after all works toward explaining how. But the fine tuning argument says that there is only one explanation for it, that we know the "guns" were "functioning and loaded with good ammo", and that the "marksmen could not miss", so the fact that "the person is still alive" must be due to design; purpose. I don't think we have that knowledge.

so what are you saying, that the fine-tuning is do neither to chance, necessity, nor design ? due to neither of those 'things' alone?
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