Tag Archives: Fine Tuning

How the progress of science strengthened the fine-tuning argument

This is the second of a two-part series. Part one is here.

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 mean 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.

Comment warning

Everybody seems to like to comment on these things without making any claims or citing any authority or evidence. So if you are leaving a comment critical of this post, then cite the part you disagree with, quote someone who agrees with you who is an authority, and link to a piece of peer-reviewed evidence. I’d like to see some observations, please. Some data. If you cannot disagree with a specific point, and cite something specific to support you, then please – don’t leave a comment. Try to keep it short. I’ll delete any comments that go over 300 words, say.

If you would like me to cite some evidence for an assertion, you can leave a comment asking a question.

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.

William Lane Craig talks about the book “Contending With Christianity’s Critics”

A series of three interviews from the “Reasonable Faith” podcast about the essay collection “Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors”.

Here is the first MP3 file.

Topics:

  • About the editor Paul Copan, (the nicest Christian apologist)
  • 1: Responding to Dawkins’ argument “Who designed the designer?”
  • 2: Responding to the multiverse counter to the fine-tuning argument
  • 3: The argument that rationality and consciouness require theism
  • 4: The evidence for humans being hard-wired for belief in God
  • 5: Responding to naturalism’s claim to rationally ground morality
  • 6: Responding to Dawkins’ idea that the universe looks undesigned

Here is the second MP3 file.

Topics:

  • 7: The criteria that historians use to establish historical reliability
  • 8: Did Jesus think that he was the Son of Man in Daniel
  • 9: A time line for the resurrection of Jesus from the early sources
  • 10: Responding to scholarly distortions of the historical Jesus
  • 11: Responding to Bart Ehrman’s claim that the NT text is corrupted
  • 12: The evidence for Jesus divine self-understanding

Here is the third MP3 file.

Topics:

  • 13: The logical coherence of the concept of God
  • 14: The logical coherence of the doctrine of the Trinity
  • 15: The logical coherence of the doctrine of the Incarnation
  • 16: The logical coherence of the doctrine of the Atonement
  • 17: The logical coherence of the doctrine of the Hell
  • 18: Responding to objections to God’s knowledge of the future

I have this book, and I highly recommend this book and “Passionate Conviction: Contemporary Discourses on Christian Apologetics”, along with Lee Strobel’s “Case for…” books, as the basic building blocks of an amateur apologists’s arsenal.

You may also be interested in a new book offering a detailed response to the New Atheists, called “God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable & Responsible”.

Video of the Stanford debate between Jay Richards and Christopher Hitchens

Remember this debate?

Atheism vs. Theism and The Scientific Evidence of Intelligent Design
Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 4pm PST, Stanford University

Christopher Hitchens — Contributing editor to Vanity Fair; visiting professor, New School in New York; author of God is Not Great.
VS.
Jay W. Richards — Research Fellow and Director of Acton Media at the Acton Institute; co-author, with astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery.

I just found the 10 videos in a youtube playlist. Each video is about 10 minutes.

Part 1 is just introductory, so I skipped it.

Here’s part 2, which is the start Hitchens’ opening speech:

Part 3 is the rest of Hitchens and the start of Richards’ opening speech:

And part 4, which is the rest of Richards’ opening speech:

You can click through to the playlist for the rest. Or you can listen to the full MP3 audio provided by Brian Auten of Apologetics 315.

This is the one where Richards gives his famous line “A sneer is not an argument and insults do not constitute evidence”. Richards has his Ph.D in philosophy from Princeton University, and he is extremely careful with logic and arguments.

Related posts

Biology and physics professors debate whether Christianity is true

The new Unbelievable debate is up, and this time Justin found a fine Christian. A professor of nanotechnology who has enormous intellectual firepower and an incredible scientific background. The atheist is Lewis Wolpert, a very high-profile atheistic cell biologist in the UK, who debated William Lane Craig a while back.

The speakers:

Atheist scientist Lewis Wolpert debates believing scientist Russell Cowburn. Professor Lewis Wolpert is Emeritus Professor of Biology at University College London. Professor Russell Cowburn is Chair of Nanotechnology at Imperial College.

Cowburn is formerly of Cambridge University. Although he does concede evolution in the debate, yuck! That part where he concedes evolution is a little annoying. Still, he is a fine speaker, he radiates competence and confidence, and does a great job of explaining Christianity. I wish I could send him a Signature in the Cell. We have so much more evidence for intelligent design today, that there is no reason to make those concessions!

The MP3 file is here.

One funny thing occurs when Lewis Wolpert says that he gave up belief in God (as a Jew) when God wouldn’t help him to find his cricket bat. He also says that he has never heard of any evidence for God’s existence, which is odd since he debated Bill Craig.

If you listen to the whole thing, Justin also says that Wolpert will be back to debate William Dembski in January 2010 as part of a series on intelligent design. (Expelled is going to be released in the UK in 2010)

Wolpert’s case:

  • Religious belief exists because it provides an evolutionary advantage
  • There are so many different religions so Christianity cannot be correct
  • There haven’t been enough recent miracles

Cowburn’s case:

  • The kalam cosmological argument
  • The fine-tuning argument
  • The historicity of the resurrection

The full debate is available here at the web site of the church which hosted the debate. I note that it’s a independent evangelical Baptist church and I’m an independent evangelical Baptist, so yay! Just take a look at this church’s web page – it’s filled with debates! Now this is the church I would attend if I lived in London.

MUST-LISTEN: J.P. Moreland lecture on Christianity and science

I found the lectures here at Apologetics 315. These are GOOD. He covers a lot and you’ll get a lot of interesting stuff to think about. This is actually a great lecture – the old J.P. Moreland back in fine form. He’s going over a ton of arguments for theism from science. I’ve counted SIX so far, so this is a really good lecture, and perfect for beginners.

    • The full MP3 audio is here.

      He doesn’t talk about habitability at the galactic, stellar, or planetary level, though.

      I am a little busy mailing out everyone’s gifts today! I apologize for the light blogging. Please go and read just a few chapters of that Dalrymple book that I posted yesterday if you need something to read, or check out these round-ups:

      More from Neil Simpson: Another reason it is hard to stay in the Methodist church

      Neil Simpson is a methodist??? How is that even possible?

      Mailing these gifts will only take a few hours, and then I’m on vacation until January 4th!!! I promise I will write a ton then. I’m also working on an application for the Droid platform, but it’s a secret.

      I’m giving away this stuff to people this year:

      • Unlocking the Mystery of Life DVD
      • Icons of Evolution DVD
      • The Privileged Planet DVD
      • Darwin’s Dilemma DVD
      • Signature in the Cell book
      • The William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate DVD
      • Money, Greed and God book
      • Greer-Heard Forums from 2005 and 2009
      • and other specific things they asked for

      If you guys are giving away apologetics gifts, please write your ideas in the comments. I did gift exchanges with atheists, so now I have atheist books to read! Bleh! I only want to read atheists in debates, because listening to them blab without rebuttal is very annoying.