How to defend the fine-tuning argument just like William Lane Craig

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Colliding Universes! Thanks for the link Denyse!

This post is the second in a two part series. In case you missed it, here is Craig’s first argument on the kalam argument.

First of all, if you’re not clear on the fine-tuning argument, click here and read Walter Bradley’s exposition of it. Dr. Walter L. Bradley (C.V. here) is the Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor University. He was also a professor and department head at Texas A&M before going to Baylor. He had his Ph.D at age 24 from the University of Texas and was a tenured professor at 27.

The first argument presented by Bradley in that post is the same argument that Craig used against Hitchens in their debate. (It’s Craig’s second argument in the set of five). Bradley’s version of the argument has been presented live, in-person by Bradley at dozens of universities here and abroad, in front of students and faculty. The lecture I linked to in that post is an MP3.

The fine-tuning argument

The argument goes like this:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe to support life is either due to law, chance or design
  2. It is not due to law or chance
  3. Therefore, the fine-tuning is due to design

What does it meaning to be fine-tuned for life?

Here are the facts on the fine-tuning:

  • Life has certain minimal requirements; long-term stable source of energy, a large number of different chemical elements, an element that can serve as a hub for joining together other elements into compounds, etc.
  • In order to meet these minimal requirements, the physical constants, (such as the gravitational constant), and the ratios between physical constants, need to be withing a narrow range of values in order to support the minimal requirements for life of any kind.
  • Slight changes to any of the physical constants, or to the rations between the constants, will result in a universe inhospitable to life.
  • The range of possible ranges over 70 orders of magnitude.
  • The constants are selected by whoever creates the universe. They are not determined by physical laws. And the extreme probabilities involved required put the fine-tuning beyond the reach of chance.
  • Although each individual selection of constants and ratios is as unlikely as any other selection, the vast majority of these possibilities do not support the minimal requirements of life of any kind. (In the same way as any hand of 5 cards that is dealt is as likely as any other, but you are overwhelmingly likely NOT to get a royal flush. In our case, a royal flush is a life-permitting universe).

Examples of finely-tuned constants

Here are a couple of examples of the fine-tuning. Craig only gave one example in the debate and didn’t explain how changes to the constant would affect the minimal requirements for life. But Bradley does explain it, and he is a professional research scientist, so he is speaking about things he worked in his polymer research lab. (He was the director)

a) The strong force: (the force that binds nucleons (= protons and neutrons) together in nucleus, by means of meson exchange)

  • if the strong force constant were 2% stronger, there would be no stable hydrogen, no long-lived stars, no hydrogen containing compounds. This is because the single proton in hydrogen would want to stick to something else so badly that there would be no hydrogen left!
  • if the strong force constant were 5% weaker, there would be no stable stars, few (if any) elements besides hydrogen. This is because you would be able to build up the nuclei of the heavier elements, which contain more than 1 proton.
  • So, whether you adjust the strong force up or down, you lose stars than can serve as long-term sources of stable energy, or you lose chemical diversity, which is necessary to make beings that can perform the minimal requirements of living beings. (see below)

b) The conversion of beryllium to carbon, and carbon to oxygen

  • Life requires carbon in order to serve as the hub for complex molecules, but it also requires oxygen in order to create water.
  • Carbon is like the hub wheel in a tinker toy set: you can bind other elements together to more complicated molecules (e.g. – “carbon-based life), but the bonds are not so tight that they can’t be broken down again later to make something else.
  • The carbon resonance level is determined by two constants: the strong force and electromagnetic force.
  • If you mess with these forces even slightly, you either lose the carbon or the oxygen.

Either way, you’ve got no life of any conceivable kind.

Is the fine-tuning real?

Yes, it’s real and it is conceded by the top-rank of atheist physicists. Let me give you a citation from the best one of all, Martin Rees. Martin Rees is an atheist and a qualified astronomer. He wrote a book called “Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe”, (Basic Books: 2001). In it, he discusses 6 numbers that need to be fine-tuned in order to have a life-permitting universe.

Rees writes here:

These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator?

There are some atheists who deny the fine-tuning, but these atheists are in firm opposition to the progress of science. The more science has progressed, the more constants, ratios and quantities we have discovered that need to be fine-tuned. Science is going in a theistic direction. Next, let’s see how atheists try to account for the fine-tuning, on atheism.

Atheistic responses to the fine-tuning argument

There are two common responses among atheists to this argument.

The first is to speculate that there are actually an infinite number of other universes that are not fine-tuned, (i.e. – the gambler’s fallacy). All these other universes don’t support life. We just happen to be in the one universe is fine-tuned for life. The problem is that there is no way of directly observing these other universes and no independent evidence that they exist.

Here is an excerpt from an article in Discover magazine, (which is hostile to theism and Christianity).

Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.

The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable non­religious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”—the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life.

The second response by atheists is that the human observers that exist today, 14 billion years after the universe was created out of nothing, actually caused the fine-tuning. This solution would mean that although humans did not exist at the time the of the big bang, they are going to be able to reach back in time at some point in the future and manually fine-tune the universe.

Here is an excerpt from and article in the New Scientist, (which is hostile to theism and Christianity).

…maybe we should approach cosmic fine-tuning not as a problem but as a clue. Perhaps it is evidence that we somehow endow the universe with certain features by the mere act of observation… observers are creating the universe and its entire history right now. If we in some sense create the universe, it is not surprising that the universe is well suited to us.

So, there are two choices for atheists. Either an infinite number of unobservable universes that are not fine-tuned, or humans go back in time at some future point and fine-tune the beginning of the universe, billions of years in the past.

Why the fine-tuning argument matters

We need to make a decision today about how we are going to live. The evidence available today supports the fine-tuning of the universe by a supernatural mind with immense power. The progress of science has strengthened this theory against determined opposition from rival naturalistic theories.

Those are the facts, and we must all choose what to do with them.

Further study

Here is a paper by Walter L. Bradley that contains many more examples of the fine-tuning, and explanations for what happens when you change the constants, quantities and rations even slightly.

How to defend the kalam cosmological argument just like William Lane Craig

UPDATE: Welcome readers from The Way the Ball Bounces! Thanks for the link!

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Colliding Universes! Thanks for the link Denyse!

This post is the first in a two part series. In case you missed it, here is Craig’s second argument about fine-tuning.

I’ve been watching Bill Craig debates for a long time now, ever since I did my first degree in computer science a dozen years ago. Today I thought we could all learn how to argue Craig’s first argument for God, which he used in his debate with Christopher Hitchens.

Let’s go over Craig’s kalam argument in brief.

The kalam cosmological argument

The argument goes like this:

  1. Whatever begins to exist requires a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Therefore, the universe requires a cause (M.P. 1,2)

The most important thing for you to realize is that nothing can be sustained in a debate unless it can be phrased as a valid argument according the rules of inference. All of Craig’s arguments can be broken down into logical propositions that use the standard laws of logical reasoning in order to force their conclusions deductively, so long as the premises are true.

Understanding the logical form of the kalam argument

The form of the kalam argument is valid because it allows for a modus ponens inference. (Here’s a primer on logical reasoning)

  • if p is true, then q is true
  • p is true
  • therefore, q is true

That means that so long as premise 1 and 2 are true, the conclusion follows necessarily. This is the same form of argument (deductive) used by Sherlock Holmes in his cases.

Proving the premises

Can the atheist deny that either or both of these premises are true?

  1. “Whatever begins to exist requires a cause”
    If the atheist denies this premise, then they are denying a fundamental law of natural science, namely, that matter can neither be created or destroyed. That is natural law.
  2. “The universe began to exist”
    The universe came into being. If the atheist denies this they are denying the state of the art in modern cosmology.

First, quantum mechanics is not going to save the atheist here. In QM, virtual particles come into being in a vacuum. The vacuum is sparked by a scientist. The particles exist for a period of time inversely proportional to their mass. But in the case of the big bang, there is no vacuum – there’s nothing. There is no scientist – there’s nothing. And the universe is far too massive to last 14 billion years as a virtual particle.

Secondly, atheists will say that the big bang is speculative physics that could change at any moment. But the trend is in favor of an absolute beginning out of nothing. We have had a string of solid, recent scientific discoveries that point in a definite direction, as follows:

  • Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and the scientific confirmation of its accuracy
  • the cosmic microwave background radiation
  • red-shifting of light from galaxies moving away from us
  • radioactive element abundance predictions
  • helium/hydrogen abundance predictions
  • star formation and stellar lifecycle theories
  • the second law of thermodynamics applied to nuclear fusion inside stars

So, insofar as atheists question these discoveries and the origin of the entire physical universe out of nothing, they are opposing the progress of science.

What came into being at the moment of creation?

You need to understand that the big bang theory states that space, time and matter were all created at the moment of creation.

  1. There was no space causally prior to the universe beginning to exist
  2. There was no time causally prior to the universe beginning to exist
  3. There was no matter causally prior to the universe beginning to exist

All of these things began to exist at the first moment.

What can we infer about the cause?

So, space, time, and matter began to exist. What could have caused them to begin to exist?

  1. Whatever causes the universe to appear is not inside of space, because there was no space causally prior to the creation event. The cause must therefore be non-physical, because physical things exist in space.
  2. Whatever causes the universe to appear is not bound by time (temporal). It never began to exist. There was no passage of time causally prior to the big bang, so the cause of the universe did not come into being. The cause existed eternally.
  3. And the cause is not material. All the matter in the universe came into being at the first moment. Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist cannot have been matter, because there was no matter causally prior to the big bang.

So what could the cause be? Craig notes that we are only familiar with two kinds of non-material realities:

  1. Abstract objects, like numbers, sets and mathematical relations
  2. Minds, like your own mind

Now, abstract objects don’t cause of any effects in nature. But we are very familiar with the causal capabilities of our own minds – just raise your own arm and see! So, by process of elimination, we are left with a mind as the cause of the universe. As Sherlock Holmes says, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

This cause created the entire physical universe. The cause of this event is therefore supernatural, because it brings nature into being and is not inside of nature itself. The cause of the universe violates the law of conservation of matter is therefore performing a miracle.

Responding to alternative naturalistic cosmologies

In this published research paper from the journal Astrophysics and Space Science, William Lane Craig responds to the several naturalistic attempts to evade the implications of the kalam argument. I will list each one by name and explain the main problem with each. I highly recommend you read the paper and become conversant with the arguments and evidences.

  1. The steady-state model: disproved by recent empirical observations of radio galaxy distributions, as well as red-shifting of light from distant galaxies moving away from us at increasing speeds
  2. The oscillating model: disproved in 1998 by more empirical measurements of mass density which showed that the universe would expand forever, and never collapse (was named Discovery of the Year)
  3. The vacuum fluctuation model: the theory allows for universes to spawn at every point in space and coalesce into one extremely old universe, which contradictions observations of our much younger universe
  4. The chaotic inflationary model: does not avoid the need for an absolute beginning in the finite past
  5. The quantum gravity model: makes use of imaginary time which cannot be mapped into a physical reality, it’s purely theoretical

Why the kalam cosmological argument matters

We need to make a decision today about how we are going to live. The evidence available today supports the creation of the entire physical universe from nothing, caused by a supernatural mind with immense power. The progress of science has strengthened this theory against determined opposition from rival naturalistic theories.

Those are the facts, and we must all choose what to do with them.

Further study

A good on this topic is the debate between William Lane Craig and atheist physicist Victor Stenger, (audio here). Also, a lecture titled “Beyond the Big Bang”, was delivered at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in front of Victor Stenger and other physicists (audio here). There is a period of Q&A in which Bill must face challengers. These are both available on DVD. More Bill Craig debates are here.

Free speech activist Ezra Levant interviewed about his new book

Canadian free speech activist Ezra Levant has a new book out. I am in the process of reading it right now, because I was lucky enough to get a copy as a gift, autographed! Ezra had to shell out six figures to defend himself from charges that he offended members of a special interest victim group. His new book tells his story, and the stories of many of the other victims of fascism in Canada.

Here is a video he posted this week of his interview with the libertarian Fraser Institute:

Here is his famous opening speech from his first hearing with the Alberta HRC:

Make no mistake. The left has no respect for individual rights. None. Today they confiscate your money to redistribute it to their favored special interest victim groups, while blaming you for working hard. Tomorrow, they arrest and imprison you for saying things that offend their favored special interest victim groups. Leftism is collectivism. Collectivism is fascism.

For more information about the book, the best thing I have seen is Denyse O’Leary’s twelve part series of posts. Part 12 is linked here and contains all of the other 11 parts and an introduction. Here are some excerpts:

Here is a quotation of “Shakedown” from part 2:

The main reason that today’s human rights commissions feel so un-Canadian is that their operations violate the most basic principles of natural justice. As soon as a human rights complaint is filed, the deck is stacked against the accused. For most of Canada’s HRCs, taxpayers foot the bill so that government-paid bureaucrats can investigate complaints and government-paid lawyers can prosecute them. The targets of those complaints, on the other hand, don’t get any government help. Many are too poor to hire lawyers and private investigators. So they must fend for themselves against an army of public paper-pushers.

(A study of the cases in which the Canadian Human Rights Commission investigated allegations of hate speech, for example, foujnd that 91 per cent of the government’s targets were too poor to afford lawyers and appeared either on their own or with representation by a non-lawyer volunteer.) In other words, it’s a turkey shot for the government, with poor, intimidated targets fighting against the unlimited resources of the state. (p. 19)

Check out this quote from Shakedown from part 4:

It’s hard to believe, but government bureaucrats, paid with tax dollars, who are supposed to be promoting human rights and interracial relations, are spending their time becoming members of neo-Nazi websites and writing bigoted comments on the Internet. Their goal is to goad Canadian citizens into replying with their own hateful comments – which the human rights investigators can then prosecute as human rights abuses.

That would be like a police officer setting out lines of cocaine at party, snorting a few himself, then inviting other people to do the same – and then arresting them when they take him up on his offer.

Here is a bit more from part 5:

The March 25 hearing was a disaster for the CHRC. Its staff had to admit, under oath, that they routinely went online under false identities to provoke reactions from neo-Nazis. The CHRC admitted that it had no controls over who had access to these CHRC neo-Nazi website membership accounts. Despite dozens of objections made by CHRC lawyers – apparently to run out the clock on the one-day hearing – the CHRC’s dirty laundry was aired in the national media.

The dirtiest fact of all: the CHRC had logged on to a neo-Nazi website by illegally hacking into a private citizen’s wireless Internet account at her home. It was a means to cover the CHRC’s tracks, so that the identity of the originating, government computers would be hidden. That staggering revelation came from Alain Monfette, a Bell Canada security officer, who had been subpoenaed by Lemire to find out who had gone on online as “Jadewarr,” one of the CHRC’s neo-Nazi codenames. Monfette disclosed to a stunned courtroom that jadewarr’s posts had been made thorugh the Internet account of Nelly Hechme …

Complainants don’t have to pay anything, while defendants are drained of tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. In fact, the defendants taxes go to pay for their own prosecution.

Here’s an excerpt from part 6:

If you’re mad about something in your life, no matter how trivial – no matter if it’s your own fault – there really is no reason not to file a complaint with your unfriendly neighbourhood human rights commission. It doesn’t cost you a thing to start a complaint. Not even the price of a postage stamp – you can just fax your complaint in. If you win, you can get tax-free cash, and often some sort of government order that will try to assuage your feelings – like an order to make those darned pizza boys change the CD at work and stop hiding your stool. And even if you lose and the HRC vindicates your opponent, there’s the cruel satisfaction of knowing that you’ve punished your adversaries by putting them through years of legal hassles.

And one last word from Denyse herself in part 9:

…when I read Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago years ago, one thing that struck me was his testimony that, in general, the Soviet regime punished political dissidents much more viciously than it punished street criminals.

That makes sense in a certain kind of regime. Street criminals, after all, threaten only the citizen. Political dissidents threaten the bureaucrat – a much more serious crime.

And one more thing. Although Ezra is Jewish, he is a tireless defender of the free speech rights of Christians. I mean, he goes out of his way to defend our rights – more than highly-placed Christians have done. He is a real hero.

Buy. This. Book.

Further study

Ezra Levant defends free speech in these video clips from the Michael Coren TV show. And remember, fascist HRCs are bad for business, too.

An analysis of the Democrats socialist health care policies

I would summarize the ideals of Democrats (socialists) as follows:

  1. There are unequal life outcomes in society
  2. Those who have little wealth are the victims of those who produce wealth
  3. We (democrats) must transfer wealth until everyone’s life outcomes are equal, regardless of their life choices
  4. We (democrats) must use government coercion to achieve this equality
  5. Since we (democrats) are so morally superior, we are not obligated to transfer our own wealth to anyone

Consider health care. Some risky lifestyle choices are more likely to require more health care services. The socialist’s goal is to make sure that no one is deterred from making these risky choices. Those who do not engage in these risks must be forced to pay for the health care of those who do choose to take on these risks. That way, everyone is equal in the end.

The way this is done is to make sure that people who don’t engage in risky behaviors cannot pay less for their health care than those who do engage in risky behaviors. Let me explain.

Suppose a safe person S knows that he only needs coverage for catastrophic care, since his lifestyle choices eliminate the need for elective treatments like abortions, birth control, STD medications, sex changes and drug addiction treatments. He can be covered for a very low premium.

Consider another irresponsible, risky person R who is engaged in all kinds of risky behavior. He can be covered for all of the medical services for a very high premium. His own choices expose him to risks that will require more medical services.

Democrats (socialists), solve this problem by forcing S to pay for mandatory health care with a very high premium that covers services he will never use. That way, he is really paying for his own health care, and R’s health care, too.

Take a look at this article I found on Health Care BS. In the article, they cite Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, who analyzes the health care policies that may be included in the Democrats’ health care reform bill.

This is the one I want to draw your attention to, because this is what single-payer countries like Canada have that causes them so many problems:

An Individual Mandate. Every American will be required to buy an insurance policy that meets certain government requirements.  Even individuals who are currently insured — and happy with their insurance — will have to switch to insurance that meets the government’s definition of acceptable insurance, even if that insurance is more expensive or contains benefits that they do not want or need.

And here is another one that will force employers to lay off American workers because employers have to pay more for the same productivity.

An Employer Mandate. At a time of rising unemployment, the government will raise the cost of hiring workers by requiring all employers to provide health insurance to their workers or pay a fee (tax) to subsidize government coverage.

Yes, that’s right. Socialism attacks businesses. Attacking businesses causes unemployment.

And there’s more:

A Government-Run Plan, competing with private insurance.  Because such a plan is subsidized by taxpayers, it will have an unfair advantage, allowing it to squeeze out private insurance.  In addition, because government insurance plans traditionally under-reimburse providers, such costs are shifted to private insurance plans, driving up their premiums and making them even less competitive. The actuarial firm Lewin Associates estimates that, depending on how premiums, benefits, reimbursement rates, and subsidies were structured, as many as 118.5 million would shift from private to public coverage.   That would mean a nearly 60 percent reduction in the number of Americans with private insurance.  It is unlikely that any significant private insurance market could continue to exist under such circumstances, putting us on the road to a single-payer system.

When government controls your health care, you pay them at gunpoint and when you want care you get in line behind people who paid nothing into the system. That is socialized medicine, the dream of all Democratic socialists.

And there’s also redistribution of wealth:

Massive New Subsidies. This includes not just subsidies to help low-income people buy insurance, but expansions of government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

And remember what I said about the government needing to reducing costs when demand skyrockets for “free” care?

Government Playing Doctor.   Democrats agree that one goal of their reform plan is to push for “less use of aggressive treatments that raise costs but do not result in better outcomes.”  While no mechanism has yet been spelled out, it seems likely that the plan will use government-sponsored comparative effectiveness research to impose cost-effectiveness guidelines on medical care, initially in government programs, but eventually extending such restrictions to private insurance.

This is all caused by the good intentions of people who have no knowledge of economics, whatsoever. And it is important to note that it is this kind of naive, incompetent meddling in the free-market that leads to poverty and the loss of all of our liberties.

Further study

Here are some previous links that are relevant:

What is the doctrine of peace through strength?

Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan

Image stolen from Douglas Groothuis.

“Si vis pacem, para bellum”
– Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus

It means, “Let him who desires peace prepare for war.”

The idea of peace through strength was paraphrased in George Washington’s first state of the union address, as well as by Presidents Lincoln and Reagan. Margaret Thatcher (United Kingdom) and Stephen Harper (Canada) also believe in peace through strength.

Most wars start when a dictator or monarch (e.g. – Hitler) believes he can win a conflict against a weak neighbor quickly and easily. Perhaps to test out his plan, he takes some small aggressive steps to make sure that no one is going to stop his aggression (e.g. – rebuilding the Luftwaffe, occupying the Rhineland, annexing the Sudetenland, annexing Austria, invading Poland). Once he is able to confirm over and over that no democracies are going to stop his conquests by force, he attacks.

The way to stop most wars is to make dictators believe that you have the means and the will to stop their aggression. Clinton allowed about a half dozen attacks in the 90s without any reprisal, (e.g. – World Trade Center, USS Cole, etc.) We did not respond to these terrorist attacks on our national interests. As a result, Bin Laden would joke about how the USA was a “paper tiger” that did not have the stomach for war. He thought that a few American losses would make us pack up and go home.

Contrast Clinton’s view with Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s biography at the White House web site says this:

“In foreign policy, Reagan sought to achieve “peace through strength“. During his two terms he increased defense spending 35 percent, but sought to improve relations with the Soviet Union. In dramatic meetings with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, he negotiated a treaty that would eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Reagan declared war against international terrorism, sending American bombers against Libya after evidence came out that Libya was involved in an attack on American soldiers in a West Berlin nightclub.”

When the USA was attacked by terrorists, Bush, following Reagan’s example, made sure that the aggressors would understand that the first steps of aggression would draw a violent, decisive response. As a result of the Bush doctrine, Libya has discontinued its WMD program and invited inspectors to come in and cart away all of its research equipment. Libya did this only because it believed that the USA was willing to back up diplomacy with force. We can have peace if we cause aggressors to believe that war will cost too much.

Now, violence is not the only way to make war cost too much. We could probably avoid war with Iran or Venezuela or Russia by drilling for our own oil and building our own nuclear plants. No one prefers a war. It’s better to de-fund potential aggressors by supplying our economy with oil that we produce ourselves. This is one good reason to increase domestic energy production. (Another good reason is to lower the price of oil, etc – because of supply and demand: increased supply leads to lower prices)

Reagan won the cold war without firing a shot. But sometimes, especially after 8 years of Clinton’s weak foreign policy, some violence is needed to communicate to our enemies that we mean business. Our  willingness to engage in a military response to the 9/11 attacks was enough to provide us with 7 years free of attacks on American soil. The terrorists knew that next time they attacked us, then maybe Syria would become a democracy. So there were no more attacks on American soil while Bush governed.

Deterrence works. The goal is to AVOID war by making tyrants understand that the cost of their aggression will be too much for them to bear. This is the doctrine of peace through strength.

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile – hoping it will eat him last.”
— Winston Churchill

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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