April 30, 2009

A Short Response to the “Fine-Tuning Argument” (thanks, Siamang)

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Creationism, The Universe tagged , , , , , at 12:14 pm by Andrew

I think I was less than clear in my previous post on Francis Collins using creationist rhetoric to argue for the fine-tuning of the universe. That post was not really about the merits of Collins’ argument (which I think are dubious), but about Collins employing tactics that are indistinguishable from those trotted out by the garden-variety creationists against whom Collins still seeks to distinguish himself, including misappropriation of scientific credentials and intentionally misleading language.

With respect to the so-called “fine tuning” argument itself, I’ve noted that the universe is, to 37 significant figures, completely, 100% uninhabitable by humans. It strikes me as a very strange view of the facts when Christians characterize “100% uninhabitable” as “fine tuned for our unique benefit!”

Commenter Siamang makes another terrific point: the fine-tuning argument is vacuous because if the facts were exactly the opposite of what they are, creationists would be able to make the exact same argument! If the constraints of the universe were such that life was incredibly likely, that stars and planets would always form, then the very same Francis Collins-style creationists who declare that the universe is finely-tuned “on a razor’s edge” could make the exact same claims about divine providence in establishing a universe that would always be able to support us. But here, I’ll let Siamang say it, because he’s much pithier than I am:

What I want to know is, if the universe is fine-tuned, Who decided what settings the Tuner had to set the knobs to? I mean, if God was really God, couldn’t He create life in any kind of universe, not just the tuned ones? If God was merely following a recipe, then who wrote the laws that God was following?

I see these as fundamentally flawed competing claims:

[1.] The universe is fine-tuned for life. Therefore YAY GOD!
[2.] The universe is NOT fine-tuned for life, but life exists anyway. Therefore REALLY YAY GOD!

In any universe where life existed, beings using this argument are only extrapolating a God from the fact of their own existence. You don’t need to run this supposition through physics to come to this conclusion. That’s running around the barn to get a tool you’re already holding.

I don’t see a way, in principle, to rescue the “fine-tuning” argument from this criticism.

More Advice on Atheist-Theist Debates

Posted in Advice for Debating..., Atheism tagged , , , , , at 11:45 am by Andrew

The principle reason I’ve written the “Advice for Debating William Lane Craig” series of posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5, or you can click on the “Advice for Debating…” tag) is to help spread the word about common debate techniques with which Christians seem (to me, at least) to be more familiar and better equipped to use. My goal is that when we atheists trot out our “big guns,” that everyone who watches the debate walks away with at least a healthy respect for the atheist performance.
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