Robin Collins lectures on the fine-tuning argument at Pepperdine University

Apologetics and the progress of science
Apologetics and the progress of science

Details:

Dr. Robin Collins is a Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Messiah College. Collins is the foremost defender of what is known as the teleological argument for the existence of God. He has a background in both physics and philosophy and will be discussing how the specific physical constants and conditions in the universe are finely-tuned for intelligent life and how this “fine-tuning” gives us reason to believe in a Creator.

Here is the video:

Topics:

  • the constants and quantities set at the origin of the universe is fine-tuned for conscious, embodied intelligences like us
  • three kinds of fine-tuning: 1) laws of nature, 2) constants, 3) quantities
  • examples of 1): gravity, electromagnetism, strong force, quantization, Pauli exclusion principle
  • examples of 2): gravitational constant, cosmological constant,
  • examples of 3):  initial distribution of mass-energy
  • in addition to fine-tuning for life, there is also fine-tuning for discoverability
  • Naturalistic response to the evidence: the multiverse hypothesis
  • problems with the multiverse hypothesis
  • additional topics

I put the ones I am ready to speak on in bold. I recommend you learn those as well in order to illustrate the fine-tuning with evidence when you present it. The evidence is important because I’ve never found a single atheist who I discussed this with who could properly state the argument or understand the evidence. They talk about it without really understanding it, which is why we need to be ready to explain it to them.

8 thoughts on “Robin Collins lectures on the fine-tuning argument at Pepperdine University”

  1. You say, “I’ve never found a single atheist who I discussed this with who could properly state the argument.”

    I think I understand the argument, so could you let me know if I’m not stating it properly? (I’ll give the form of the argument that involves the constants)

    1. According to the laws of nature, there is only a narrow range of possible values for the constants that could support life
    2. However, we find ourselves in a universe in which the values of the constants fall inside that narrow range.
    3. On the assumption that naturalism is true, it is very improbable that (2) would be true
    4. On the assumption that theism is true, it is not very improbable that (2) would be true
    5. Therefore, (2) supports theism over naturalism

    Put more formally,
    1. We live in a life permitting universe (LPU)
    2. P(LPU|theism&the laws of nature) >>>P(LPU| naturalism & the laws of nature)
    3. Therefore LPU favors theism over naturalism.

    Is this a proper statement of the fine tuning argument?

      1. So what if I rewrote it like this:

        1. According to the laws of nature, there is only a narrow range of possible values for the constants and quantities that could support complex embodied life
        2. However, we find ourselves in a universe in which the values of the constants and quantities fall inside that narrow range.
        3. On the assumption that naturalism is true, it is very improbable that (2) would be true
        4. On the assumption that theism is true, it is not very improbable that (2) would be true
        5. Therefore, (2) supports theism over naturalism

        1. Let’s just use Collins’s own argument.

          Here is Collins himself:

          Premise 1. The existence of the fine-tuning is not improbable under theism.

          Premise 2. The existence of the fine-tuning is very improbable under the atheistic single-universe hypothesis.

          Conclusion: From premises (1) and (2) and the prime principle of confirmation, it follows that the fine-tuning data provides strong evidence to favor of the design hypothesis over the atheistic single-universe hypothesis.

          Source:
          http://www.discovery.org/a/91

          He has his reasons why the premises are true in that essay.

          1. Yes, that version is identical to the formal version I gave in my first comment. I pulled it directly from his chapter in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.

            So now you can say that you’ve encountered at least one atheist who can properly state the argument 😉

        2. Ron, I like both ways that you have stated this argument, because I think that they add a little more substance to the way in which WLC usually presents it:

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

          He gets into the same sort of details in his discussion that you show more explicitly in your premises, and he also is using the more deductive presentation, whereas you are highlighting the inductive nature of the argument, but I must say I like your way of presenting it equally well, and you are either the exception that proves the rule or, equally likely, an example of a more scholarly atheist, not that I am setting up a false dichotomy here.

          So, thanks for putting the work into presenting the argument in these two fashions, and I would like to cut and paste these (with credit to you) as alternative presentations of this argument, if you are OK with that? Thanks!

  2. This argument is well over the heads of most New Atheists: they cannot usually re-state Premise 1 of Kalam correctly. Thanks for the post.

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