An Objection to the Fine-Tuning argument

The popular Fine-Tuning argument for the existence of God is a pretty airtight argument if one accepts science as any kind of authority. It seems to me that all responses to this form of the Teleological argument have been exposed as spectacular failures (for example, the appeal to the anthropic principle, the appeal to the multiverse, the appeal to chance and the appeal to physical necessity have all failed). What objection, then, is there left to this argument?

There is one objection I can think of which hasn’t been appealed to; namely, a denial of the Copernican principle applied to the cosmic level. The Copernican principle stipulates that we occupy no a-typical point in space, and it is only on this assumption that we can project predictions about gravitational force and the speed of light elsewhere in the universe (i.e., from points at which we do not have the means to make any observations).

The Fine-Tuning argument works by assuming that the same physical laws are constitutive of any universe about which we can speak, and that given these laws the range of constants and quantities provided by the initial conditions of the universe, which are such as to be arbitrary as far as Physics is concerned, which are permissive of the existence of life, are so narrow as to make it incredulous to appeal to chance as the best explanation for why our universes’ initial conditions fall within that range. Chance isn’t even on the table as a viable explanation, since the province of life permitting universes is so infinitesimally small that an appeal to chance would be to appeal to something which is beyond the range of what the scientific community (with few exceptions) consider so improbable as to be practically impossible or ‘impossibly improbable’ (i.e., less than 1 in 1050 according to Émil Borel). Of course, we needn’t take the scientific community as an authority in matters of probability theory, but at least it means that the appeal to chance will have no traction in the scientific community – it will be consigned to pseudo-science. It is thus ‘scientifically illegitimate’ to appeal to chance.

However, the argument only works if we assume that all universes are constituted by the same physics – that is, that the laws of physics are the same across all universes (either which are possible or which exist in the multiverse, etc.). Thus, we have applied the Copernican principle to our universe in the field of the multiverse (or in the field of possible universes). Perhaps, then, the objector to this argument could simply deny this application of the Copernican principle – they would deny that other physically possible universes would need to operate with the same physical laws at all. Perhaps some universes have entirely different laws, and perhaps some of those ensembles of physical laws would allow for less narrow life-permissive ranges. One would have to say that given that our physical laws are themselves also arbitrary, and the range of possible alternative laws is simply inscrutable, the probability overall that our universe would have both the physical laws, and the physical constants and quantities set in the initial conditions, which it does in fact have, is actually inscrutable, such that even if we cannot legitimately appeal to chance as the best explanation for the fine-tuning, neither can we appeal to design – the probability of either of those possible explanations is inscrutable.

There are two problems with this objection. The first is that even if this were the case, it doesn’t guarantee a way to dodge the power of this argument. Even if the probability of our universe having both the physical laws and the physical constants and quantities set in the initial conditions of our universe were inscrutable, that probability could not possibly be any better than the probability that we have only the physical constants and quantities set in the initial conditions of our universe. In other words, even if one could, by rejecting the Copernican principle, greatly increase (albeit inscrutably) the number of life permissive universes, it would not help increase the range of life permitting universes which share our physical laws. Thus, given that we were dealt the physical laws we were dealt with, it is ‘definitely’ (as opposed to indefinitely) incomprehensibly unlikely that our universe should permit life. The multiplication of life-permissive universes by the rejection of the Copernican principle applied to the cosmic level simply introduces a new problem, which is analogous to the Boltzmann brain objection to the multiverse as a response to the Fine-Tuning argument. In other words, it is, even if the probability is itself inscrutable, bound to be impossibly improbable that if our universe were life-permissive it would have the physical laws that it does. In essence, then, the objector is faced with the problem of our universe having the physical laws we think it to have – they would be reduced to skepticism with respect to modern physics. Thus, a rejection of the Copernican Principle leads directly to an argument against the accuracy of the physics we have. But, the objector could have rejected physics to begin with: the argument from Fine-Tuning only has any force for those who take modern science as some kind of authority.

The second problem is perhaps even worse. While it may not be logically impossible for some kosmoi to employ different physical laws altogether, we may not be able to speak intelligibly about them in the context of either science or metaphysics. In metaphysics, we could certainly stipulate that such worlds are possible, but we may not even be able to tell any stories about them (i.e., we may not be able to construct even hypothetical models of them – though perhaps we could manage this with a great deal of effort). Into science, however, we cannot allow their intrusion. Science, after all, is the human project of constructing the best models we can to explain empirical datum, along with accurately predicting empirical observations in the future. Science-talk, therefore, is simply constrained by those models which are candidates for being accepted as the best models given the purposes of the scientific project. One can, for instance, legitimately say that it is scientifically impossible for life to exist in the absence of carbon. Construed as a metaphysical claim, that would obviously be quite silly, but construed as a scientific claim it is a verified bonafide empirical claim.

In other words, it is a semantic mistake to claim that such universes (which do not share our physical laws) are ‘physically’ possible. They are not. They are logically possible, but they are not physically possible given what we mean by ‘physically’ which is directly informed by our Physics. Thus, the person who rejects the Copernican principle and thus thinks that they thereby have licensed themselves to speak about other ‘physically possible’ universes with entirely different physics, are simply linguistically confused. We have to respond that there are no such physically possible universes – to say their are is to speak unintelligibly.

Thus, this one objection to the Fine-Tuning argument which rejects the Copernican Principle applied to the Cosmic level admits of at least two ready-made defeaters: the first is that it invites if not impels scientific skepticism, and the second is that it is literally linguistically confused.

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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11 Responses to An Objection to the Fine-Tuning argument

  1. Grundy says:

    Interesting that you dismiss common problems scientists and philosophers continue to have with the FTA without explanation then choose a weaker problem that you admit not many people hold to debunk. Isn’t this the definition of a straw man argument?

    Especially since one of the arguments you dismiss is an appeal to a multiverse then use the multiverse as a prerequisite for part of the argument you made to debunk.

    • Hey Grundy, I realize that my argument was assuming that readers were familiar with the arguments from people like William Lane Craig and Robin Collins, and you’re right, it surely would look like a straw man if one is either not familiar with these arguments, or else thinks the arguments I have in mind from them are fatally flawed. In that case you can take my post to be an exercise in thinking what objection would be left if all the responses appealing to the multiverse et al failed. I note, however, that it isn’t really a straw man argument since I never suggest that anyone seriously maintains this position. There may be some who do, but I doubt very much that any sophisticated and well recognized academics would.

      Also, I did not allow the argument of the imagined objector to presuppose the multiverse, but only to imagine that there are many possible universes (the description of which fit the description of universes which one who maintains the multiverse hypothesis would use to describe the universes they believe actually exist), and that this range of possible universes (which need not be actual) provides the basis for a probability judgment concerning our universe (by which I mean the description of our universe which modern cosmology provides – the standard scientific view). That’s all.

      Briefly, perhaps I can share with you what I was too lazy to spell out in the post, concerning standard objections to the fine tuning argument. One could try to appeal to the anthropic principle, but I think a defeater to that objection can be succinctly stated as follows: “although we ought not be surprised to find that our universe has those characteristics which make our existence possible, however improbable those characteristics are, we ought to be very surprised that the universe which does exist has those characteristics which it is unlikely to have.” This point is made well by a Canadian philosopher who asks us to imagine that you are standing (bound, caught, and against a wall) before a dozen gunmen, all of whom have a clear shot at you and intend to shoot you. They hear the order ‘Ready, Aim, Fire’ and then you find that you are still here. You realize that every single shot missed you. Now, while it’s true that you ought not be surprised that all the shots missed you given that you are still alive, still you have every right to be surprised that every shot did in fact miss you. I have now forgotten the name of the Canadian Philosopher whose example this is, but W.L. Craig has used it very often. The Anthropic principle doesn’t take seriously enough just how surprising it is that our universe exists, even though it rightly observes that we ought not be surprised by the fact that the universe seems designed to support life like ours.

      Now, what about the Multiverse? This is still popularly given by some scientists, but it is less and less popular among philosophers who realize that this response opens the door wide to a very powerful criticism. W.L. Craig has pointed out that of all those universes which populate the multiverse, there are only so many which can account for our empirical observations. However, of these universes, the most likely universe (the most populating within this range), are actually universes which scientists and philosophers call Boltzmann brain universes (named after the physicist Ludwig Boltzmann). These universes consist basically of just one brain each, accounting for one observer, and sufficient to account for experiences (i.e., empirical observations). However, this leads to a strong form of solipsism. Technically, of course, somebody could prefer this solipsism to Theism, but certainly it seems clear that given this dilemma Theism looks more plausible than its alternative.

      Either one has to attribute the apparent design in the universe to chance, to physical/logical necessity, or to design. The chances are demonstrably so low that some have sought to bolster the odds of our universe existing by appealing to the multiverse, but that makes it incomprehensibly more likely that the universe in which you exist is in fact a Boltzmann Brain universe. It seems that there is no way to argue for the physical necessity of our universe, and the anthropic principle, which aimed to demonstrate that there is some logical necessity that the universe have the qualities it does, but this has also failed. The only other way out I can see is to deny the appearance of design.

      I suppose one could argue for design and argue that the agency behind the design was some teleological force (one would have to reintroduce teleology into physics, but that may not be so crazy after all). That would get you away from having to concede that anything like the God of the philosophers exists. However, beware of Kant’s arguments in the critique of the power of judgment which demonstrate (I think) that it is literally not logically possible for such a teleological force to be an impersonal cause. Perhaps one could also deny the Boltzmann Brain conclusion by appealing to some proper basicality involved in building our models of the world. So perhaps there are some other eclectic avenues open to the Atheist which I had forgotten.

      • Grundy says:

        Well stated comment, some of which I even agree with. I’m an atheist who considers the Fine Tuning Argument by far the best argument for a god, but still not convincing enough to make a believer out of me. Maybe you can change that, or maybe I can change you…either way, I doubt it. 😉

        For background: I’m aware of many of William Lane Craig’s arguments, maybe not this one in particular, but by and large I’m very unimpressed. I’m less familiar with Robin Collins.

        I agree with your Canadian that our universe could be unlikely enough to make it rational to think it designed. However, this rests on a couple assumptions. First, that our fundamental physical constants could be different then they are and, second, that our universe is the only universe. We can’t make either assumption, but to be fair, we can’t make the assumption that the constants can’t be different and that there is a multiverse with a sufficient set of possibilities to make the anthropic principle valid. Until we know more, this argument is inconclusive at best.

        You said: “Now, what about the Multiverse? This is still popularly given by some scientists, but it is less and less popular among philosophers who realize that this response opens the door wide to a very powerful criticism.” The question of the multiverse is ultimately a question of reality, not the mind. Science, not philosophy. Until we know, I suppose philosophers may speculate, but regardless of their musings there either are or are not other universes. The multiverse is more than “still popularly given by some scientists” it is a growing idea due to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. The criticism you mention involving Boltzmann brain universes is a WLC straw man. There are multiple ways a true multiverse could be possible, the Boltzmann brain universe, to my understanding, doesn’t even take into account real universes, just imaginary ones. How would actual alternate universes lend to solipsism?

  2. It is interesting to me that you say that the strongest argument for the existence of God is, to your mind, the Fine-Tuning argument. To my mind, the Leibnizian cosmological argument(s) from contingency is/are the strongest argument(s) for the existence of God, as I consider some forms of that argument to be probative (such as the form given by Father Coplestone in his famous debate with Bertrand Russell, or even the form given recently by Alexander Pruss). The Fine-Tuning argument is, to my mind, weak at best because it is too dependent on science and not enough independent of scientific theory. What attracts me most to the Leibnizian form of cosmological argument is that it is based on Logic alone, in combination with one very very weak a posteriori claim (namely that there is at least one contingent being – and if Descartes was right about the Cogito then perhaps even this can be known a priori). I know that gears us off track a little from the present discussion, but I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on those arguments (or the forms I mention) as well.

    Now, turning to some of the particulars you bring up, let me take a handful of your points in turn. First, you make a point about whether the fundamental physical constants and quantities could be different than they are. I would like to respond that to claim that they could not is just to make the claim that they are the way they are by either physical or logical (or metaphysical I suppose, though I have tried in vain to distinguish logically possible from metaphysically possible, so I don’t think there is any meaningful distinction between them) necessity. However, if one does not make the claim (which neither modal logic nor science seem to license) then one is left with no choice but to admit that it is physically possible that our universe have had different constants and quantities. Notice that by physically possible I mean according to the best models of our physical world on offer in modern physics. On a charitable reading of your comment, though, perhaps you mean that while one must deny that it is not physically impossible that we have different constants and quantities, one should nevertheless not admit it to be physically possible (since one should maintain that it is inscrutable). Here, however, I would feel comfortable pressing you on this point, because it seems to me that whatever we cannot rule out as impossible has to be regarded as possible (otherwise dialectical reasoning itself breaks down). I recognize that the argument here is only as good as is modern physics, and that, to my mind, is the whole weakness of the Fine Tuning argument, since scientific models are overturned given only a few decades.

    You also contrast science and philosophy as though science were the practice of determining what is real, whereas philosophy is merely speculative. I think I take just the opposite to be true: that science is about constructing the best empirical models of the world given the conjunction and patterns of our experience(s), and philosophy is, at least in part, about deciding what to make of such models. The question of whether we ought to regard scientific models as accurately reflecting a mind-independent (and model-independent) reality out there seems to me to be the task of philosophy (in particular, metaphysics). Indeed, although most scientists are knee-jerk realists about the external world, about the world having properties, and about the accuracy of scientific models, still they are realists naively since realism is a debate which belongs to philosophy and the tools of the hard sciences are impotent with respect to any metaphysical question. I am, of course, biased (being a philosopher), but I have thought pretty carefully about this issue of the relationship of science and philosophy as disciplines.
    You say that the question of the multiverse is a question of reality. Fair enough; but if so then it cannot strictly be determined by science, though science could perhaps give realists supporting evidence for believing in a real multiverse (though, given that it seems impossible in principle to ever have empirical evidence of a multiverse it seems science may have less to say about this than is popularly supposed, but then again the range of what qualifies as ’empirical’ evidence today is stretching quite wide).

    Finally, and perhaps most significantly, I can’t help but respond to your point about Boltzmann brain universes. I think you misunderstood, whether through my own fault or not, the point I was trying to make by appealing to the possibility of Boltzmann brain universes. The point here is sheerly epistemological and has to do only with what one ought to believe given probability. In other words, those who are both realists about the multiverse, and who accept that there are fewer universes such as those described by physics today than there are in which all the descriptions of today’s physics would exist but in which there were, actually, only one Boltzmann brain, have to recognize that their belief that they are not in a Boltzmann Brain universe is not epistemically justifiable (again, unless you appeal to something like proper-basicality, such as the kind proposed by Alvin Plantinga).

    Now, perhaps if the multiverse were true you could say that even if the actual universe in which you reside includes only your brain (a la Boltzmann-brain model), there are bound to be other universes in which other people exist (since there would be other Boltzmann Brain universes). Maybe you could even argue that there would be so many universes that, even if you were a Boltzmann Brain, you ought (for practical reason [i.e., moral reasons]) to act as though you resided in the universe in which all of your experiences corresponded to a reality independent of your mind. That would be an interesting stance to take. But at least you couldn’t be a straight-forward realist about the universe described by modern physics (or else at least you couldn’t be justified in your confidence that you reside in that universe). The Boltzmann brain problem is epistemological: it has only to do with the uncomfortable consequence of accepting the multiverse which is precisely that if the multiverse is true then one would sooner be justified in believing themselves to be a Boltzmann brain than they would in believing themselves citizens of the universe described by modern physics. The argument is intended to show that one cannot rationally maintain both the multiverse, and straight-forward realism about the universe described by physics. Perhaps the argument’s flaw is that it could be that we ought to agree with an epistemology like Plantinga’s, or perhaps even reject classical realism, but the only other option I see would be to argue from Leibniz’ principle of sufficient reason – this, though, has the logical consequence of entailing the existence of God (via Leibnizian cosmological arguments).

    I apologize that these comments came with some delay, but I’ll have to ask your indulgence; I work full time, have a second job, will be starting a third job at the same time in a few weeks, and being a full time student during the regular semester I am also currently in the December exam period (three to go). If I don’t respond to you promptly it isn’t because I’m not interested in engaging you, but because I may not be able to indulge this conversation for another few weeks. Until then you are most welcome to continue responding here and/or elsewhere if you decide to peruse the blog (I’d be interested to hear what you think about my modal cosmological argument for the existence of God). Merry Christmas, happy holidays or whatever – Cheers.

    • Grundy says:

      The cosmological argument is constantly subject to new forms in an effort to adjust for legitimate critizism, but ultimately they all rest on the same assumptions–that the universe needs a cause and that the cause must be God. If you define God as simply the thing that causes the universe, then I freely admit that God could exist, but most define God as an agent possessing will/intellect/personality/and the like, which is an assumption unwarranted by the Leibnizian cosmological argument or any other form. I find the fine tuning argument superior because it implies the cause (God) had an active role in deciding the nature of the effect (the universe.) This choice is enough to show agency, at least for me.

      You assert that neither “modal logic nor science seem to license” that our fundamental constants could be, well, constant. Why, specifically, do you assume that our universe’s constants could have been different?

      You said “The question of whether we ought to regard scientific models as accurately reflecting a mind-independent (and model-independent) reality out there seems to me to be the task of philosophy” Why is that exactly? The scientic method was created to remove subjectivity and to be “mind-independent.” How can a philosopher’s thoughts be more reflective of reality than a double-blind experiment? The best your disciple can do is thought experiments–such as the one where you are a brain in a vat, jusifing a lack of trust in science at the cost of not being able to trusting your senses, reality or really anything, not unlike your problems with Boltzmann brain universe, if I understand you correctly, which I still don’t understand why you are applying to my reference of a physical multiverse.

      Don’t worry about late responses. I’ll just assume I made such a good argument that you need extra time to contemplate and/or research how I could be wrong. You could just make it easy on yourself and admit that I’m right. 🙂 Good luck on your exams.

  3. Grundy says:

    Oh, by late responses, you meant no responses.

    • Ah, I’m sorry Grundy, your frustration is entirely justified. Ok, here goes a response, and I’m sorry it comes so late (hope you had a good Christmas, New years, holidays, etc).

      First, concerning what the Cosmological argument concludes to, you’re quite right to think that the cosmological argument on its own wouldn’t get you all and only those qualities which make up the philosophically sophisticated conception of God which is shared by Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Deistic, Open Theistic, Aristotelian (et al.) perspectives (to mention but a few). However, what does a cosmological argument get us? It seems to me to get us a necessary being (i.e., some being whose essence involves existence), and thus a being which exists such that it cannot not exist (meaning that it isn’t logically possible to conceive of such a being not existing). Why must it be necessary in this sense? Well, because the cosmological argument contrasts the cause of the aggregate of real or imagined beings which do not contain in themselves the reason of their existence (i.e., the universe) with its cause in precisely this sense: that one is contingent and the other cannot be. To be incontingent, though is to exist ‘a se’.

      I think once we’ve gone that far we can easily spot the camel’s nose of a logically valid and persuasive modal ontological argument, such that if we simply combine the Cosmological argument with a modal ontological argument we have all the necessary ingredients for a robust conclusion which includes all those great-making properties which God is thought to have. But of course, that’s illegitimate of me to do here, since, as I say, you are quite right that the cosmological argument doesn’t on it’s own get you quite that far. However I am convinced that the cosmological argument would get you to an immaterial, timeless, spaceless, infinite and even personal being. Immaterial, timeless and spaceless because it is the cause of matter, time and space, and thus cannot be a being who depends on those elements for it’s essential constitution. Personal as well, I think, because there are only two candidates in all of philosophy for things which are immaterial, timeless, and spaceless: Platonic forms, like prepositions, and individual substances of a rational nature. Platonic forms are abstract, and part of the definition of something’s being ‘abstract’ means that it does not have causal relations (almost all thinking people acknowledge that platonic forms, even if they did exist, would be causally effete). Therefore, if the universe had a timeless, spaceless, immaterial cause, then that cause was some individual substance of a rational nature (i.e., a mind). This argument I just laid out is lifted straight from Dr. William Lane Craig, which I only mention now at its conclusion because I hope that the argument can speak for itself without the credentials of it’s author impugning it (I myself am, all things being equal, very impressed by Dr. Craig as a professional philosopher, but I note that, for reasons unknown to me, and probably of no interest to me, you find him unimpressive – which is all well enough, but his arguments deserve to be taken seriously on their own). If Craig is right in saying that if the universe had a cause, then it was timeless, spaceless and immaterial, and if the cause has those qualities then it is either a platonic form or a personal mind, and (finally) that it cannot possibly be a platonic form, then he is right to conclude that the cosmological argument concludes unproblematically to a personal creator.

      You say, amusingly, “The scientic method was created to remove subjectivity and to be “mind-independent.” How can a philosopher’s thoughts be more reflective of reality than a double-blind experiment? The best your disciple [discipline?] can do is thought experiments–such as the one where you are a brain in a vat, jusifing a lack of trust in science at the cost of not being able to trusting your senses, reality or really anything.”
      It is true that Philosophers always have to think about uncomfortable thought experiments like being a brain in a vat, in part because the discipline of philosophy is really just the discipline of thinking critically about everything and anything (that’s why Logic is considered part of philosophy, and indeed science itself is simply one great big part of philosophy which we used to call ‘natural philosophy’). You’re right that the scientific method was developed in order to weed out subjectivity, but science also is principally concerned with phenomena (what we seem to experience) rather than the reality behind phenomena (which is the domain of metaphysics). The debate over scientific realism cannot be adjudicated by scientific experiment, but belongs to the arena of philosophy.

      Consider, for instance, that Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow have both proposed recently that if one compares six-day creationism and standard big-bang cosmology, it isn’t as though one is true and the other false, or even that one is closer to being true. No, Hawking and Mlodinow both affirm that the reason we prefer big-bang cosmology is just that it is a more useful model of the world. You have to understand, then, that what they are arguing for is a form of idealism, which just as easily goes under the name ’empiricism’ in the tradition of idealists like Berkeley and Hume. What they call it is a ‘model-dependent realism’ which is the opposite of a mind-independent realism. The point this illustrates is just this: that science as a discipline will not, and is not intended to, answer questions about itself, such as whether we can take the entities postulated by science (especially unobservables) to be real, or merely useful for our empirical models. Philosophy of science has to determine those things.

      Finally, the Boltzmann Brain point again. It may seem vain [hopefully you’ll forgive me], but I would like to just repeat what I said earlier:
      “The Boltzmann brain problem is epistemological: it has only to do with the uncomfortable consequence of accepting the multiverse which is precisely that if the multiverse is true then one would sooner be justified in believing themselves to be a Boltzmann brain than they would in believing themselves citizens of the universe described by modern physics.”
      What this means is that if you accept that a multiverse exists, then you are not justified in believing that you inhabit the universe which modern physics describes, because it is incredibly more likely, given all the different kinds of universes in the multiverse which you could inhabit, that you exist in a Boltzmann brain universe.

      You ask: ” Why, specifically, do you assume that our universe’s constants could have been different?”
      The reason I assume that they could have been different is the same reason that all physicists, to the best of my knowledge, assume they could be different: because there is absolutely no physical (or logical) reason why they aren’t different. In other words, their being different would not conflict with our best physical description of the way the universe could be. One could always try to argue that they could not have been different, even though we have absolutely no reason to think that, but that would be to take a position directly opposed to where the scientific evidence leads us.

      I want to apologize again and thank you for reminding me to respond, along with thanking you for your patience. Hopefully at least some of what I said, or else perhaps ensuing discussion, will have been worth the wait. Cheers.

  4. Grundy says:

    You have highlighted part of why I think the Fine Tuning argument is superior. To get to the conclusion of the FTA, you need the Cosmo argument paired with something more. If that didn’t make it weaker on it’s own, I have to say that it’s complete bunk, along with much of what Dr. William Lane Craig says. I’ve debated this many times with others and find it entirely unconvincing. It you’d like to debate it, I’ll refer you to my blog where you can search and find the topic covered multiple times. I’d be happy to carry on futher with you in the comments of any of those posts.

    Looking it up again, trying my best to understand you, I read “A Boltzmann brain is a hypothesized self-aware entity which arises due to random fluctuations out of a state of chaos.” Is this accurate? If so, I just don’t see how it relates to the multiverse. It’s a completely different thing.

    You said “Philosophy of science has to determine those things.” I’d argue science determines things, even though some things may be beyond it’s current scope. Philosophy speculates, which has merit in informing what we should seek to determine.

    • Hey Grundy. Well, it looks as though you and I are at something of a dialectical impasse for the time being. I can’t for the life of me think of a clearer way to outline either the sheerly epistemological point about Boltzmann Brains given the postulate of the Multiverse-hypothesis, or the difference between science and metaphysics. I can’t even imagine how else to explain the difference between science and metaphysics in any terms other than those I have already employed (namely, by saying that science is about empirical evidence, and philosophy, or part of philosophy, is about what really exists). This can be a subtle point for somebody who is naturally scientistic to grasp, but even if it weren’t grasped it seems obvious to me that science cannot determine the truth of it’s own operative assumptions in any non-circular way. Science makes assumptions, and science cannot justify those assumptions, but they must be justified, and therefore something other than science justifies those assumptions. Nothing other than philosophy could justify those assumptions of science, and therefore it follows that philosophy is the arena in which the assumptions of science are possibly justified.

      I think this might be easier to see if you imagine that the scientific enterprise is really about model-building. Scientists just build models of the world which are intended to account for the data at hand, and the success of any particular model is weighed by factors such as predictive power, explanatory scope, etc. Science, then, doesn’t tell you strictly what is real, but merely what appears to be – i.e. what model of the world is maximally empirically adequate (or at least is the most empirically adequate on offer to date). Now, I think we should all be scientific realists, rather than instrumentalists, pragmatists, coherentists, etc. – but arguments for scientific realism ARE philosophical arguments (in particular they belong to the philosophy of science). Metaphysics is the area of philosophy which discusses what really exists. Science does not discuss what really exists, but merely speaks about conjunctive-regular-experiences and what models are most empirically adequate with respect to some range of conjunctive-regular-experiences. Scientists, who are sometimes clumsy, do act as though science discusses what really exists, but science is properly construed as a method for getting at what really exists – a method of empirically verifying that some entity ‘x’ exists (or at least, that’s a realists construal of science). However, science is, although not strictly rationalistic (as are mathematics and logic) nor rationally speculative (as are some areas of Logic, and clearly Metaphysics), still empirically verifiable.

      Thank you for the invite to your blog. I’ve already checked it out, superficially, but I’ll try to take a more serious look at some of your posts concerning the fine-tuning argument if you feel that they are worth reading over. You can feel free to leave a link for me and for any readers of my blog who may be interested as well. If I might be so bold, I would like you to maybe take the time to read over what I have said above in a few weeks time, after having gotten this thread/discussion out of your head, and then read what I have written anew. Perhaps then something will have changed?

      • Grundy says:

        I understand philosophy and stated that it has merit. I’m not sure where most of your last comment came from. I even see value in metaphysics, depending on what one includes as metaphysical. That said, we are at an impasse on the Boltzmann Brains issue. 🙂

        We are also a bit off topic, so I’ll end here and read some of your other posts. Thanks for the conversation.

  5. Mike says:

    The Boltzmann Brain concept is interesting and I’m only a little familiar with it. One argument I heard against it goes like this. Imagine estimating the probability that if you were born as a form of life on earth, what would be the chances that you’d be born human. Since the number of insects on earth dwarfs the number of human beings overwhelmingly, there is a much higher probability that we should have been born as insects. There are an estimated 10^18 insects on earth compared to a relatively small 7 billion human beings (up from just 1.5 billion 100 years ago). That means that there are about 150 million insects for every one human being on earth. But you obviously weren’t born as an insect despite the overwhelming odds against it. So just because there is a much greater probability of something, it doesn’t mean that it will happen. Rare events happen all the time. In fact, every single event that ever happens in our universe is a rare event because the chances of that event not happening and some other event happening instead are always probabilistically more likely.

    So we know we aren’t Boltzmann Brains given that they exist for a tiny amount of time, look around (with no eyes!) and then disappear back into quantum foam. I suppose chance again can explain this dilemma again, in the same way that we our universe’s physical constants could fall in the life permitting range. In the multiverse scenario, eternal inflation involves there being an unlimited number of rolls of the dice, and given an eternal future, a universe like ours is inevitable. Does that mean that hyperspace is littered with Boltzmann Brains amongst the universes? I don’t know, but it seems the chance hypothesis still has a chance.

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