The Problem With The Fine Tuning Argument

For what reason is it necessary for us to finely tune an engine? The answer is simply that we have only a small range of ways in which matter can be arranged to produce a highly functioning engine. Fine tuning in necessitated by prior constraint. If I could do anything then there would be nothing to stop me from building an engine out of an amorphous lump of minerals. Physical constraint is the reason why I can’t do that.

What the fine tuning argument states is that there was a pre-existing constriction on God’s creation. That there was only a certain way he could arrange the universe in order to permit life. If we grant the fine tuning argument, then we must grant the following things: God could not have created the universe in any way he chose, in other words God is not omnipotent, and that a prior constraint in the laws of nature exists outside of God.

This creates problems because then one must ask where this law of nature came from that necessitated God’s fine tuning. What the fine tuning argument states is that some laws of physics existed prior to God. If there were no such laws, then there would be no parameters around which God would need to fine tune things, in which case the fine tuning argument would break down because without constraint, God could create a universe any which way he wanted, just as I could create an engine out of a lump of minerals. With constraint, one would have to ask from whence it came.

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15 responses to “The Problem With The Fine Tuning Argument

  1. There’s an obvious flaw in this line of reasoning, it seems. In this argument, the fine-tuning supplies the laws of nature, not the other way around. We would not know what a life-prohibiting universe would be like unless the universe were a priori fine-tuned to permit life naturalistically. God created nature; God did not work within the confines of natural law to create nature.

    Your entire argument is predicated on the notion that the laws of nature came first, and then God worked. This pre-supposition fails on two points: 1) that God and His work are subject to time (suggested by the notion that something happened BEFORE God fine-tuned the universe), and 2) that laws of nature pre-date the creation of the universe, an assumption that cannot be made based on point #1 I just created.

    This is why your engine discussion isn’t really analogous, because the laws of nature are already in effect. Sure, the laws of nature restrict the possibilities of life-permitting universes, but only based on the laws of nature we know. A different universe could have different natural laws, so God could fine-tune such a universe in a different way so as life is permitted in that universe as well, because it would not be subject to the laws we are accustomed to. God could have set up any natural laws He chose, but He selected the ones we know, which necessitate a very specific degree of fine-tuning and demonstrates evidence of God’s existence.

    That is the theist’s contention, not the one you are presenting.

    • Doctor Bad Sign

      You seem to misunderstand my point. If there were no pre-existing parameters, then God wouldn’t need to have fine tuned the universe for life – any universe could have allowed life because there would be no parameters on what he could do. Ergo if it was fine tuned then this implies parameters that dictated how God had to create the universe in order to permit life, if these parameters did not exist then it makes no sense to argue that the universe is fine tuned for life because God could make a universe any which way he chose without worrying about fine tuning it.

      Its also worth noting as an aside, that ‘fine tuning’ is not used among physicists in the same way that William Lane Craig claims that it is used. Fine tuning in physics simply means a number that is very specific, but we don’t know what caused it to be so specific. I refer you to the following video for reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wwn9JRlP7TY

      • Isn’t it entirely possible that God could have created the parameters in such a way that we would discover the created parameters to be so narrow that they must have been set up a certain way to ensure life (i.e. Privileged Planet)? How does that not jibe with current beliefs about God?

        It makes no sense to say “God could make a universe any which way he chose without worrying about fine tuning it”; if God creates a universe, it IS fine-tuned. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that if God created the universe, He created it in such a way that the life-permitting parameters would be so narrow that one has to conclude it is the handiwork of God, therefore giving us evidence of His existence. That’s certainly not an unreasonable claim by any stretch of the imagination.

    • “It makes no sense to say “God could make a universe any which way he chose without worrying about fine tuning it”;”

      It does if a theist is claiming God is omnipotent.

      If a God could do ANYTHING, he wouldn’t NEED to be fine tuning things, because he did need to be ‘fine tuning’ things, he would be subject to (or a slave to) laws of nature that he had to follow himself.

      The non-theist can say ‘if the universe and laws of physics weren’t how they are, we couldn’t exist’.

      But if the theist says that, they are automatically saying God is not omnipotent.

      If life can only exist because of fine tuning the laws of physics, that means god couldn’t make life exist unless he played with the laws of physics.

      If it were not necessary for physics to be fine tuned for life to exist, then why did God need to ‘fine tune’ anything?

  2. Laurens

    It’s also worth pointing out that the fine tuning argument states that because the universe can permit life – this proves that God created it. However a universe that permits life is a universe that doesn’t need God to create it. In other words the laws of our universe permit for life to exist without any supernatural intervention. And this is supposed to prove that God exists? A universe that doesn’t need God in order for life to exist needs a God? This doesn’t really make sense to me. If it was impossible for life to exist in our universe without supernatural intervention then you might have a point…

    • This only works if the universe created itself. Given that there’s no evidence of that, this point seems pretty moot.

      • Laurens

        There are plenty of physicists who’ve constructed the theoretical framework for how the universe could have created itself. You might not accept them, but you can’t discount the fact that they’re there.

      • Is that what you believe? I think there’s a pretty easy objection to that argument.

      • Laurens

        I don’t believe any one particular hypothesis, however I do (although somewhat in ignorance of the complex mathematics etc) accept that the hypotheses put forward by the brilliant minds in theoretical physics are plausible (or else they would not gain any favour, if there was any obvious flaws in them – other scientists would spot them).

        We know for example that particles can appear without cause – this is what happens in the strange world of the quantum. We also know that the universe was once smaller than these particles. Thus may have sprung into existence in a similar fashion, governed by similar laws.

        We also know that the universe began as a singularity in which our standard definitions of time break down, so too do the laws of cause and effect – some argue that thinking of ‘before’ the big bang makes no sense. Cause and effect are temporal phenomena, so they make no sense in an arena where there is no time. Thus, if time was created at the big bang, speaking of a cause, and what came before makes no sense.

        Whether you agree or not, physics allows for the fact that our universe created itself – and it’s important to note that no one is saying ‘out of ABSOLUTELY nothing’ – rather out of some prior quantum state in which time, and cause and effect do not apply. We have no evidence that absolute nothingness could ever, or has ever existed.

      • The reality is that the particles in the quantum vacuum have prior existence as dark matter, and continue to exist — just either inside or outside of the vacuum. There is no evidence that these particles created themselves, nor is there any evidence in our natural world that anything has ever created itself. It would be special pleading to say that quantum particles, even if they did create themselves, gives us justification to believe that something as large in scale as the universe created itself.

        As far as no one saying the universe was created out of nothing, it sure seems like this is what Lawrence Krauss is saying when he says the total energy of the universe is zero — precisely what we would expect to see from a universe from nothing. If the nothing he was talking about in this specific context wasn’t absolutely nothing, then there would be some small shift in the total energy of the universe. From what I understand, there isn’t — it’s zero. If this is the case, it provides strong support the universe was created from ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, not a small piece of something that was already there.

        Regardless, I would love to see someone try to prove that the theoretical physics that allows for such a possibility can prove it at any greater level than is challenged to the God hypothesis. It’s pure speculation at this point, based on thin evidence and a definition of “nothing” that’s suspect at best. As naturalists like to say so often to theists, I think I’m quite justified in my disbelief in such a theory.

  3. Laurens

    “The reality is that the particles in the quantum vacuum have prior existence as dark matter, and continue to exist — just either inside or outside of the vacuum. There is no evidence that these particles created themselves, nor is there any evidence in our natural world that anything has ever created itself. It would be special pleading to say that quantum particles, even if they did create themselves, gives us justification to believe that something as large in scale as the universe created itself.”

    Can you provide any justification for your assertions here? I would rather take the word of someone like Stephen Hawking over those of yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-jQUHUF1MU

    “As far as no one saying the universe was created out of nothing, it sure seems like this is what Lawrence Krauss is saying when he says the total energy of the universe is zero — precisely what we would expect to see from a universe from nothing. If the nothing he was talking about in this specific context wasn’t absolutely nothing, then there would be some small shift in the total energy of the universe. From what I understand, there isn’t — it’s zero. If this is the case, it provides strong support the universe was created from ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, not a small piece of something that was already there.”

    Even so, there is still nothing to suggest that the universe was created by a being. In fact, if time was created at the big bang, as many propose that it was then there literally was no time in which God could have created the universe. So unless you can explain how a being can operate outside of time – a proposition that I would say makes no sense – there is no reason to accept the notion of a creator.

    “Regardless, I would love to see someone try to prove that the theoretical physics that allows for such a possibility can prove it at any greater level than is challenged to the God hypothesis. It’s pure speculation at this point, based on thin evidence and a definition of “nothing” that’s suspect at best. As naturalists like to say so often to theists, I think I’m quite justified in my disbelief in such a theory.”

    The laws that allow for a universe to exist without supernatural intervention are already established with far more certainty than the God hypothesis. As far as we know disembodied immaterial minds, that operate outside of time and space do not exist. The proposition doesn’t even make sense. A mind is very much a temporal phenomena – if a mind exists beyond time, how can it function? How can it decide before acting if there is no before and after?

    Also we do not solve any real problems by positing the existence of God, the question is merely moved along a step. “Why is there something rather than nothing?” morphs into “why is there God rather than nothing?” You might answer that God just exists, but that hardly seems satisfactory coming from someone who would not accept “the universe just exists” as an answer to that question. If as the argument goes; everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, then God must have an explanation too. Any answer that you give, that you wouldn’t accept coming from an atheist in regards to the universe is special pleading. If ‘God always existed’ or ‘God just exists’ are satisfactory to you, then you must also accept ‘the universe always existed’ or ‘the universe just exists’ from me.

  4. Laurens

    I’d also be curious to know what you’d say to the following:

    Are you a physicist/cosmologist?

    How do you account for the fact that almost 80% of those who understand the subject best do not believe in the existence of God? (http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html#394313A0r001)

    If the existence of God is so apparent, how is it that the majority of those who understand the nature of the cosmos best, do not see it as obvious or necessary?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not using this to try and prove that I’m right, I just want you to see that though God might be the most obvious and apparent answer to the origins of the cosmos in your eyes, those who are best qualified to understand this area disagree with your conclusions. Surely this must hold some significance to you?

    • I don’t have time for a lengthy reply, but understand that your initial comments are made by pre-supposing that God and the universe have the same properties, or that they are both naturalistic in nature. God by definition is supernatural. How can God operate outside of time? Time is a natural property; God is supernatural. That’s not a large leap to make. Any other cause outside of the universe would also not be bound by the laws of time necessarily, unless they are subject to the same time that we are, which means that they are also caused, and infinite regress continues until you find a creative entity that is outside of time. That is the theistic definition of time.

      Also, to your “80% don’t believe” argument, this is a logical fallacy called the appeal to authority. There is no truth claim behind such an argument. I could say that the majority of molecular biologists believe in some form of creative entity, but it doesn’t mean anything. Besides, as Bill Craig made the point, do the majority of scientists disbelieve the evidence for the Creator? Or is it that those that disbelieve a priori more often become scientists? That’s why such a figure makes no difference and has no significance.

  5. Laurens

    “I don’t have time for a lengthy reply, but understand that your initial comments are made by pre-supposing that God and the universe have the same properties, or that they are both naturalistic in nature.”

    No they’re based upon the fact that theistic arguments deny attributes with regards to the universe as being logically impossible – such as an infinite universe, or a universe that just exists, yet they are willing to accept these properties when applied to God. So the question one can legitimately raise is; why if these properties are impossible for the universe, can they be considered possible when applied to God?

    “God by definition is supernatural. How can God operate outside of time? Time is a natural property; God is supernatural. That’s not a large leap to make.”

    What you are essentially saying here is that God is magical, that he doesn’t have to make sense because he breaks all the rules. Well I say that is not a cohesive argument. Its just a way for you to be able to give God attributes without having to explain them, or have them make sense. An explanation put forth that is capable of explaining anything, explains nothing.

    “Any other cause outside of the universe would also not be bound by the laws of time necessarily, unless they are subject to the same time that we are, which means that they are also caused, and infinite regress continues until you find a creative entity that is outside of time. That is the theistic definition of time.”

    But if time began at the big bang then that is the point at which cause and effect breaks down. Cause and effect are temporal phenomena. If there was no time prior to the big bang, then it makes no sense to speak of cause and effect operating in the same way. Even if there is a “before” the big bang, there is nothing logically inconsistent in this statement: every event was preceded by another.

    “Also, to your “80% don’t believe” argument, this is a logical fallacy called the appeal to authority.”

    It would have been fallacious if I had said “80% of car mechanics deny the existence of God” however, I was appealing to relevant authority to make the point that, though you seem to think the universe necessitates the existence of God, those who are in the best position to understand our universe overwhelmingly disagree. My point wasn’t that this proves there is no God, my point was to get you to think about why this might be. If it is apparently so evident that the universe requires a creator, how come the majority of physical scientists do not agree with that conclusion?

    “Besides, as Bill Craig made the point, do the majority of scientists disbelieve the evidence for the Creator? Or is it that those that disbelieve a priori more often become scientists? That’s why such a figure makes no difference and has no significance.”

    I don’t think anyone is disbelieving any evidence. I think the issue is that physics has demonstrated that the universe works without that assumption. It is superfluous. Do you understand how revolutionary it would be to discover evidence for a creator? The best way one could possibly make a name for oneself in science is to over turn the current paradigm. Thus I think it is safe to say that were there such evidence, and it proved conclusive, someone would have come out with it, and revolutionized science. The simple fact is that such evidence is not apparent. There are logical arguments, but these are not strong enough to conclusively prove anything.

    It doesn’t matter what preconceptions people have before becoming scientists. Science is about evidence, and if evidence for a creator was apparent and obvious, then Nobel prizes would have been dished out by now. There is nothing in science that suggests that there is a creator.

  6. Laurens

    And to bring this back to the fine tuning argument. The main fallacy of this argument is that it plucks probabilities out of thin air. Suppose I roll 2 die and I get a 2 and a 5. I could marvel at the sheer improbability of this if I factor in probabilities out of nowhere, I could say well the die could also have landed on one of it’s 8 corners, or one of them could have not stopped rolling or one could have disappeared into thin air, or one could have turned into a chaffinch and flown off into the sky. This sounds ridiculous, and it is. It is also exactly what Craig does with his fine tuning argument.

    We have no clue what range each of the constants can possibly fall on, this could range from 1 to infinity, we have no clue to what extent each constant is dependant upon the others, in other words whether they are all inextricably linked to one another by some underlying principle thus making there only 1 variable, or are they all independent of one another? Also we have no idea how many different universes there are, this could also range from 1 to infinity. With this in mind there is no way we could ever honestly come up with an accurate probability for the constants being at the precise values that they happen to have. Thus Craig is being categorically dishonest when he tries to assign a value to this.

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