Fine-Tuning argument for Naturalism

Robert Oerter has offered an argument I recently ran across, according to which the popularly cited Fine-Tuning argument for the existence of God can be construed as an even stronger argument for Naturalism (he offers it in jest, though, only to demonstrate that the Fine-Tuning argument is not a good argument for Theism). Here are some excerpts:

 given a naturalistic hypothesis (N) and general background knowledge (K), the probability of a fine-tuned universe is small:

P(FTU|N&K) < 1

On the other hand, given the theistic hypothesis (T), we would expect the universe to be suitable for life: P(FTU|T&K) is not small, or at least not as small as P(FTU|N&K).

But that is not true if God exists! Indeed, under theism, there is no reason to expect that the universe will be fine-tuned. Remember that God is, by hypothesis, omnipotent. That means that God could  have caused life to arise by miraculous means, even in a universe that was not fine-tuned.

I want to point out that the probability envisioned in the fine tuning argument is a sort of prior probability that ignores some of our background information: namely, the fact that life actually exists. That is, we have to take (K) to mean “general background knowledge not including the knowledge that life exists.” But we actually do know that life exists (L), and it is perfectly legitimate to include this knowledge along with our other background knowledge.

Conclusion: given that we know that life exists, the probability of discovering we are living in a universe with parameters fine-tuned for life is much higher under the naturalistic hypothesis than under the theistic hypothesis.

This is an interesting argument, about which I’d like to offer some thoughts. First, can we really include the knowledge that we exist in our background knowledge without just misunderstanding the Fine-Tuning argument altogether? I think the answer is that we cannot. The background knowledge is supposed to be nothing other than our best working knowledge of physics – that is why this argument takes science as an authoritative source. It says ‘given our knowledge of physics, ought we have expected the Universe to look like it does?‘ The champion of this argument will argue that on Naturalism we have no reason to expect it to look this way, whereas on Theism we do have good reason to expect it to look this way.

Notice that Oerter counters by arguing that on Theism, given the background knowledge that life exists (along with our knowledge of physics), we do not have good reason to expect to find that our universe is fine-tuned to be life permitting. I’m not sure this is true (for instance, we might have good theological reasons for thinking that God would prefer, or strongly prefer, a universe in which life arises naturally, to one in which life ‘doesn’t belong’), but I think we can at least admit that life in a non-life-permitting universe is more likely on Theism than on Naturalism (on Naturalism it is impossible). That makes it trivially true that, given that our background knowledge includes the existence of life, Theism doesn’t make Fine-Tuning as likely as Naturalism does. Naturalism would be, all things being equal, negligibly more likely than Theism given Fine-Tuning.

However, the Fine-Tuning argument is not usually given in the form: P(FTU|T&K) > P(FTU|N&K). Instead, I think the more forceful and popular form of the argument is that, first, given our background knowledge of physics, our universe being Fine-Tuned can only be explained by reference to either chance, physical necessity, or design. However, since it so strains credulity to explain it either by chance or physical necessity it must be explained by design (which, it is suggested, does not strain credulity).

Oerter says:

It seems like a fairly obvious point, yet I haven’t seen it mentioned much in the fine tuning discussions I’ve read. I’d be grateful if anyone can show me the glaring flaw in the argument that I’m missing.

I think the two difficulties I have identified are 1) that the existence of life is just not part of the background knowledge, because the background knowledge refers exclusively to the deliverances of our best physics, and 2) that the fine tuning argument, in any case, is not typically given in the form Oerter’s argument seems to think itself a parody of.

By way of offering a few final thoughts: I think perhaps we can make a parody of Oerter’s argument from Fine-Tuning for Naturalism, such that we can argue from the existence of life to the falseness of Naturalism. Imagine, by contrast to reality, that in another logically possible world some scientific model exists as the preferred model, according to which a broad range of universes are life-permitting (say the vast majority). That wouldn’t make Theism or Naturalism more or less likely, but at least then Naturalism wouldn’t seem so terribly unlikely. Moreover, suppose that on Theism life were extremely likely on any Universe, since God doesn’t need, nor does he have any reasons for preferring, a fine-tuned universe (but does, presumably, have good reason to prefer the existence of life); the theist would expect to find life, but the Naturalist cannot expect there to be life given our background knowledge (here meaning the deliverances of modern physics). Thus the Naturalist is stuck with the fact that given our background knowledge the probability of life existing on Naturalism is infinitesimally low, whereas the probability of life existing on Theism is, comparably, incomparably greater. Thus, we can articulate this insight as an argument from life to the falseness of Naturalism, given our knowledge of physics.

P(EL|T&K) > P(EL|N&K)

Perhaps Oerter, in his own defence, would respond that the background knowledge in the argument cannot be the scientific information alone, since then it might be thought include Fine-Tuning itself, but what the champion of the argument will respond is that the background knowledge includes the scientific information other-than the actual fine-tuning (eg. it includes the range of physically possible values, meaning constants and quantities, that our universe could have had, but does not include the actual values, etc.).

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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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23 Responses to Fine-Tuning argument for Naturalism

  1. Grundy says:

    Did you come to Oerter’s post via my blog? If so, I’m glad I could contribute to the debunking of a fellow atheist. 😉

    Seriously though, I had problems with his reasoning as well.

    • As a matter of fact, I did. Although my purpose wasn’t just to debunk him, but to think through his argument and interact with it. Good mental exercise. I should probably thank him for it – though I’m very curious about what Pruss had to say (Pruss is one of my favorite philosophers, whose blog I link to at the bottom of the page, and though Oerter says that Pruss interacted with the argument on Prosblogion, I can’t seem to find it, so I should ask him where that is at).

  2. Thanks for engaging with my argument, Tyler.

    I don’t think your complaint about my choice of background knowledge has any validity. Normally, in philosophical use, general background knowledge is just that: things that we all know and accept. The existence of rocks, trees, and rabbits is certainly part of our general background knowledge.

    Of course, one can always choose to base an argument on some specific restricted choice of background knowledge. Swinburne, for example, uses this move in his argument for God, as I discussed here:
    http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/2011/01/god-vs-tooth-fairy-swinburne-pt-1.html
    But I think the rule should be, if someone is jiggering with general background knowledge, hold onto your hat and keep a hand on your wallet.

    But suppose I accept your formulation: “given our knowledge of physics, ought we have expected the Universe to look like it does?” According to our current knowledge of physics, the fundamental parameters in question are exactly those parameters for which we have no scientific explanation. So, “given our knowledge of physics”, we can say nothing about what values we ought to expect for those parameters. This is the real problem with the FTA – it’s based on a probability argument in an area where we have no relevant data that would allow us to make a probability estimate.

    Which brings me to your point (2): you say the usual form of the FTA goes, “given our background knowledge of physics, our universe being Fine-Tuned can only be explained by reference to either chance, physical necessity, or design. However, since it so strains credulity to explain it either by chance or physical necessity it must be explained by design.” But the argument about “chance” must be elaborated in terms of some sort of probability discussion – after all, that’s what “chance” refers to. Robin Collins gives a good example here:
    http://www.discovery.org/a/91
    The rough outline (in Collins’s formulation): We know the parameters have some particular values. We know that life is possible only within some small range of these parameters. Without any reason to do otherwise, we should take all values within the “illuminated” range to have equal probability. Therefore the a priori probability that the values are within the life-allowing range is very small.

    This is exactly the statement I formalized as P(FTU|N&K) = Area(FTU)/Area(PU) << 1.

    It is also exactly the same argument I am employing in my Fine Tuning Argument for Naturalism.

    I linked to the discussion with Pruss in my post, you have to scroll down in the rather extensive comments to where I asked my questions. Here it is again:
    http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2012/10/sacrificing-a-t.html

    • Thank you for taking the time to respond to my short engagement of your argument, and welcome to the blog.

      First, concerning whether my point about background knowledge has any validity; though I think it is confused to speak too generally about ‘background knowledge we all accept’ (we always mean ‘relevant background knowledge’ and here the existence of life is not properly-relevant), suppose I granted you this point for the sake of argument – I could just be more circumspect about my articulation of the argument. In other words, I could just explicitly say that what I mean by background knowledge, for the purposes of the argument, is that which our best current physics tells us about the range of values for physical constants, along with what combinations of those values will yield life-permitting universes. I would be comfortable formulating the argument that way, and for one to object ‘yes, but we know that life exists’ is no more a legitimate objection than the objection ‘yes, but we know that the constants in question have X values.’ Also, as I pointed out, if you think we know that life exists as part of the background knowledge including the knowledge afforded us by Physics, then that would make a fantastic argument for Theism – or at least against Naturalism (but perhaps that’s another argument for another time).

      You say:
      “According to our current knowledge of physics, the fundamental parameters in question are exactly those parameters for which we have no scientific explanation. So, “given our knowledge of physics”, we can say nothing about what values we ought to expect for those parameters. This is the real problem with the FTA – it’s based on a probability argument in an area where we have no relevant data that would allow us to make a probability estimate.”
      As I understand the argument, philosophers fill in premises here such as “that there is no physical necessity for these constants to have the values they do”. Perhaps Science will come to say that there are in fact physical reasons why these constants are exactly as they are, but to suggest as much in argument would just be to commit a ‘naturalism-of-the-gaps’ fallacy, and wouldn’t impress anybody. Still I think this is what the Naturalist has to say: they have to say that that the apparent fine-tuning can be explained by “PN v C” where PN is physical necessity, and C is chance. Even if the Naturalist doesn’t know which of the disjunction does in fact explain the fine-tuning, she has to maintain the disjunction in order to avoid design. Perhaps she will even argue that the likelihood that it is either PN or C is inscrutable (i.e., that what science says presently is too tenuous, and so she is licensed to be a skeptic about our currently best scientific models, expecting them to evolve in unexpected ways). The Theist using this argument is just, by contrast, too optimistic about our current scientific models (so the Naturalist will say).

      However, to say that we have no relevant data which allows us to make a probability estimate seems to misunderstand the probability estimate in the argument. We know that there are these physical constants, and we know that they have a range of possible values (as far as our best scientific models go), and we know what the ratio of the set of values yielding life-permitting universes to the set of values which are not life-permitting is. Assuming that no values are more likely than any other values, we can straightforwardly make a probability estimate. Perhaps you say that it goes too far to assume that no values are more likely than any other values, but (apart from that being perhaps overcautious) that would just be to disagree with the probability estimate offered, arguing instead that the probability estimate is currently inscrutable. Our currently best scientific model, however, provides no grounds for thinking that any values would be more likely than any other. To think that they may be, is just to go beyond science (which is fine, but one should recognize that they escape following the argument to its conclusion because they think that current science is too tenuous to justify concluding anything like that there is a God – in which case I wonder why people take science to tell us anything relevant about metaphysics in the first place). Moreover, there is good reason to believe that no future physics will ever increase the plausibility of explaining why the values are as they are (a point well made by Dr. William Lane Craig).

      You say: ” But the argument about “chance” must be elaborated in terms of some sort of probability discussion ”
      You’ll have to forgive me, but this is so obvious that I admit I am at a loss for why you said it. I’m not sure what point you were trying to make. I suppose I’ll just wait for you to elaborate (supposing that after what I have already said, it remains relevant).
      Finally, concerning Pruss: yes, I had read that post of his before, but I hadn’t read the comments all the way down to where you stepped in. He argued very much as I would have expected, and I made similar points in my post (for instance, I had Leibniz’ reasons in mind when I said that we might have good theological reasons to think God prefers universes in which life arises naturally, or at least where it ‘belongs’). Thank you for linking to that.

      Also, I can’t resist saying at least a word about Swinburne: first, his view of God is seriously deficient, and by my reckoning, he isn’t really a Theist in the proper sense. Having said that, I think that there are, contra Swinburne, good deductive arguments for the existence of God. For example, the cosmological argument from contingency seems to me to be entirely compelling, and is one of the reasons why I did not become an Atheist when, once upon a time, I was heading in that direction. I have debated it at length, perhaps ad nauseam, so I am aware of what those who aren’t persuaded by it would retort – I just find their retorts unintelligible. Take for example Bertrand Russell’s retort given his theory of descriptions (let alone the fact that his theory of descriptions was wrong, and has been laid to rest more than once, for instance by Kripke), according to which he still has to appeal to brute fact at one point. To appeal to brute fact, though, is simply to refuse to reason dialectically altogether. Perhaps another, such as a good friend of mine named Michael Long (a fantastically intelligent Atheist by the way), would argue that the Principle of Sufficient Reason is self-evidently false, and take issue with the very vocabulary of contingency and the legitimacy of inferences from that intuition (of course, he is a quasi-idealist, and not a typical naturalist in the naive metaphysical-realist sense of ‘naturalist’).

      Sorry for a slightly rushed response, but I hope it is well received. Thanks again for your thoughts, and feel free to continue responding, and to peruse the blog if you feel so inclined.

  3. Tyler wrote: “We know that there are these physical constants, and we know that they have a range of possible values (as far as our best scientific models go), and we know what the ratio of the set of values yielding life-permitting universes to the set of values which are not life-permitting is. Assuming that no values are more likely than any other values, we can straightforwardly make a probability estimate.”

    To return to my original point, if you think we can straightforwardly make a probability estimate in the way you suggest here, then you must (on pain of inconsistency) accept that we can also make a probability estimate under the slightly altered background knowledge that I offered, and conclude that God’s existence is wildly unlikely.

    But I don’t think it’s so straightforward. In order to make such a probability estimate, you must make several auxiliary assumptions. You have to assume that these other values are indeed possible (ie, not PN). You have to assume that the actual values are selected by some natural process from among this range. And you have to assume this process doesn’t prefer one part of the range over the other.

    I don’t think any of these assumptions are justifiable – and they ALL go “beyond science.” As far as PN, (and contra Craig – do you have a reference for him on this?) physics has a long history of discovering that constants originally thought to be independent are, in fact, related by some deeper theory. String theorists used to tell us that all the physical constants would one day be uniquely determinable from string theory. I don’t think anyone is so sanguine today, but it’s at least logically possible that one day we will have such a theory. As far as a process selecting values from some range, well, there are multiverse models in which this happens – but those same models also suggest an infinity of universes with different values, so they solve the problem at the same time. Personally, I don’t think much of multiverse models. But that just means that we have NO reason to think there is some process that randomly selects the values.

    Tyler wrote:”You’ll have to forgive me, but this is so obvious that I admit I am at a loss for why you said it.”

    Well, I thought it was obvious, too. But then I have to wonder why you wrote:
    “However, the Fine-Tuning argument is not usually given in the form: P(FTU|T&K) > P(FTU|N&K). Instead, I think the more forceful and popular form of the argument is that, first, given our background knowledge of physics, our universe being Fine-Tuned can only be explained by reference to either chance, physical necessity, or design. However, since it so strains credulity to explain it either by chance or physical necessity it must be explained by design (which, it is suggested, does not strain credulity).”

    You seem to be saying that the form of the argument you give is different from my formulation, rather than (as I saw it) an elaboration of the “chance” part of the argument. So I guess I’m missing the point you were making here.

    Finally, I want to return to your post. Tyler wrote:
    “That makes it trivially true that, given that our background knowledge includes the existence of life, Theism doesn’t make Fine-Tuning as likely as Naturalism does. Naturalism would be, all things being equal, negligibly more likely than Theism given Fine-Tuning.”
    Yes, it’s trivially true. But it’s not “negligibly more likely”, it’s VASTLY more likely – again, given the validity of the sort of probabilistic argument I was discussing above. Because, the range of parameters for which life could exist with God’s assistance is vastly greater than the range of parameters for which life could exist without God’s assistance.

  4. c emerson says:

    I’m glad I have “found” all three of you (I’m including Grundy). There are a lot of us out here (somewhere) who actually want to understand the debates and not just be titillated by base emotions. No matter who is right, it’s a big world out there. “While some on principles baptized, To strict party platforms ties, Social clubs in drag disguise, Outsiders they can freely criticize, Tell nothing except who to idolize, And then say God bless him ….. But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only.” – Dylan 1965. The truth may be out there somewhere, but it’s not obvious who’s going to find it. Thanks for intelligent debate, if not intelligent design.

  5. c emerson says:

    And just in case any of your readers might think I selected an anti-religious verse (because they might not view Dylan’s work like I do), Dylan is railing here, not against religion, but (IMO) against any pedantic, ideological con act: “An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged, It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge, And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it … Advertising signs they con, You into thinking you’re the one, That can do what’s never been done, That can win what’s never been won, Meantime life outside goes on, All around you.” [Lyrics from Dylan’s website].

    I see you recently posted a piece reciting some of Augustine precepts. Relevant here, Mortimer J Adler, in Truth in Religion [p.29-32, Collier’s paperback Ed. 1991], said this about Augustine: “His second precept [with respect to interpreting Sacred Scriptures, follows]: Since Sacred Scriptures can be interpreted in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular version only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it should prove to be false, lest Holy Scripture be exposed to ridicule of nonbelievers … [but] the essence of faith is to be beyond proof [from his first precept] … It is only by appealing to Aquinas’s doctrine of the unity of truth … that I [Adler] can solve that puzzle … According to the logic of truth, no interpretation of Sacred Scripture and no article of faith to which it leads can be true if it is incompatible with what is known with certitude in other parts of the whole truth, such as mathematics, science, and philosophy.”

    Adler indicates he is relying on Augustine’s essay, The Profit of Believing, which I have not seen. And, of course, Adler goes on to expound on what he (or Aquinas?) means by “certitude”. My point here is not to commit to Adler’s interpretation of Augustine, nor to commit to some particular view of scriptural interpretation (even Augustine’s), but merely to point out the extreme difficulty for anyone, even seasoned scholars, to arrive at The Truth in an unequivocal manner. If it were, wouldn’t all the scholars agree to What It Is? So, keep expounding on “it” as best as one can (IMO). That doesn’t mean I think there is no truth, just that confusion abounds. Thanks.

  6. Welcome to the blog c emerson. I hope you find some of the articles here helpful and enjoyable, and you’re always welcome to comment.

    I apologize that it is taking me a while to post. I wrote my response a few days ago, but I wanted to take some time and think through the logic of what I was saying before posting. Hopefully Mr. Oerter will forgive me for taking my time; it’s on its way.

  7. The following comments are directed at Professor Robert Oerter, for whose patience, in this mid-term period for us undergraduate University students, I am very grateful.

    Thank you again for your comments, and thank you for your patience in waiting for me to get around to publishing a response. These comments are somewhat long, but hopefully worth the read.

    You said: “if you think we can straightforwardly make a probability estimate in the way you suggest here, then you must (on pain of inconsistency) accept that we can also make a probability estimate under the slightly altered background knowledge that I offered, and conclude that God’s existence is wildly unlikely.”
    Well, yes, it seems to me that I have already admitted all of the above, with the exception of the inference to wild improbability. I argued that it would be negligibly more likely, all things being equal, that Naturalism were true. My reason for thinking this has already been mentioned in the first post, it was also expressed by Pruss, and so I will take the liberty of assuming I need not spell it out again.
    ” You have to assume that these other values are indeed possible (ie, not PN). You have to assume that the actual values are selected by some natural process from among this range. And you have to assume this process doesn’t prefer one part of the range over the other.”
    I tried to suggest that these assumptions come along with the science.. or, in other words, that to assume the opposite is just to go beyond the science, whereas to say that there is, for instance, no ‘comparably more likely’ set of values for these constants is just to recognize that science finds absolutely no grounds for thinking that any values are more likely than others. Let me issue this in the form of a conditional statement: If science finds no grounds for thinking that some values are comparably more likely than others, then to affirm that some values are comparably more likely than others is to go beyond science. Obviously you might want to propose a parody: If science finds no grounds for thinking that there are not values which are comparably more likely than others, then to affirm that there are not values which are comparably more likely than others is to go beyond science. If we take both of these to be true, then we can’t make any probability estimate, because the probability is, as far as science is concerned, inscrutable. However, I think that we should admit the first, and not admit the second (of these conditional statements). Here’s why; Physicists have expended considerable energy trying to find evidence for some values being more likely than others (as was natural for them to do when faced with the apparent fine-tuning). However, not only have they not found any evidence to that effect, but it seems to be the case that if the values were not all equally probable, then we would have found evidence of it by now. People like Dr. William Lane Craig rehearse this point when they say no future physics is likely to do away with the apparent fine-tuning of the universe. Notice that absence of evidence counts as evidence of absence only when we can say that if the thing existed, then we should have found evidence for it. I claim that this is the case with respect to whether some of the values assigned to the constants are more or less likely than others. If this is correct, then it seems to license the probability estimate which ‘fine-tuning advocates’ help themselves to.
    ” As far as PN, (and contra Craig – do you have a reference for him on this?) physics has a long history of discovering that constants originally thought to be independent are, in fact, related by some deeper theory. ”
    To find hope in some ‘future’ science just is to go beyond science. Also, I probably do have a reference for Craig, but it isn’t clear to me what you’re asking for a reference to in particular.
    “it’s at least logically possible that one day we will have such a theory.”
    Yes, though logical possibility comes cheap. I think it’s a perfectly legitimate point, but notice that the fine-tuning argument is not a modal argument, but one which takes science as an authority and argues from there.
    “As far as a process selecting values from some range, well, there are multiverse models in which this happens – but those same models also suggest an infinity of universes with different values, so they solve the problem at the same time. Personally, I don’t think much of multiverse models. But that just means that we have NO reason to think there is some process that randomly selects the values.”
    I don’t think very highly of the multiverse hypothesis either, but notice that the very way in which physicists talk about the multiverse illustrates the previous point about the probability of values: the assumption is that any multiverse producing universes would produce universes with randomly selected values, infinitely, and that no universes within any subset-range of possible values for constants are more plenteous than any other (or more ‘favored’ than any other). You seem (though I have to say you aren’t clear here) to suggest that you think that this is mistaken – that those who speak of the multiverse as though, if there were a multiverse, we should expect a more-or-less even distribution among existing universes. Perhaps that’s a point better taken up with a philosopher of science than myself, but it seems to me that most physicists do speak this way and think this way about the multiverse, and that it is for precisely the reasons already cited (i.e., relevant absence of evidence).
    ” You seem to be saying that the form of the argument you give is different from my formulation, rather than (as I saw it) an elaboration of the “chance” part of the argument. So I guess I’m missing the point you were making here.”
    Fair enough. So, if I am understanding you correctly, your argument is aimed is at increasing the plausibility of the ‘chance’ avenue. However, suppose we admit, for the sake of argument, that Naturalism is more likely than Theism given the Fine-Tuning (and provided our background knowledge includes our best knowledge of physics, along with the fact that we are alive) , couldn’t it still be the case that the odds of the fine-tuned universe, even on Naturalism, are so low, that the epistemically responsible thinker ought to opt for a design inference instead? Thoughts?
    “But it’s not “negligibly more likely”, it’s VASTLY more likely ”
    Well, first, maybe I should just rehearse the point I avoided making above: that on Theism we have good reasons to suspect that God would greatly prefer a fine-tuned universe with life, to a non-fine-tuned universe with life. We have good reason to think that God prefers to act intermediately, rather than immediately. Otherwise God would not, by the miraculous, be able to signal us to his hand and revelation. The best argument against God preferring many miracles, is the argument for miracles being significant because they are exceptional, and thereby they can act as illustrations of God’s work and presence, not to mention act as a signpost of authentic revelation. As the saying goes “if everything is a miracle, then nothing is a miracle.”
    The empirical evidence for the scarcity of miracles, along with the strong empirical evidence of the reality of miracles, combine to make a very strong empirical argument in support of this perspective that God prefers, all things being equal, to act intermediately. There may also be reasons purchased from the hidden-God theodicy (according to which one supposes that God would not make his presence so evident to everyone everywhere and always that they would not be able to convince themselves or others that he did not exist). This is a way for God to allow for people to exercise significant free will in the area of belief in him.
    Moreover, even by miraculous means, it seems absurd to suggest that a universe which begins in a similar way to ours (has its own big-bang) and yet whose constants are assigned values given which that universe would ‘implode’ back in on itself before expansion were possible, could sustain life. Certainly, even if life existed miraculously for a negligible amount of time, given our background knowledge of things like the reality of the past we have to exclude these universes from being any more likely on Theism than on Naturalism. All we have to do is admit more background knowledge, and we get rid of more physically possible universes from our probability estimates. However, you may still want to claim, after we have weeded out such completely inhospitable universes, that given our background knowledge Naturalism is still more likely than Theism. I think that’s fair enough, but, as I argued, irrelevant.
    I suppose, as a side-note, that this is how you answer the Boltzmann brain objection as well – that we just have background knowledge which is incompatible with the Boltzmann brain universe because our background knowledge doesn’t only include the claim that we have memories of past events, but that past events really have occurred. However, that later and stronger claim might be considered imprudent and not prima-facie justified. Then, though, if you were to retreat to the weaker claim that we have memories of past events (whether or not those events have occurred) it seems to me you would be open to the Boltzmann Brain objection. Notice, also, that Boltzmann Brain universes are possible on Naturalism. Notice as well that on Theism I can provide a defeater for the Boltzmann Brain universe suggestion; namely that God is not a deceiver and would not create a world in which all or most of my justified beliefs would also be false beliefs. This would tip the odds significantly in favor of Theism given our background knowledge of having memories of past events, and thus creates a problem for the Naturalist. I’m curious to know how you would respond to that.
    In any case though, my main point in response to this is, and has been, that we have good reasons on Theism to suspect that our universe would be fine-tuned for the naturally arising evolution of intelligent life. In fact, I take it that this point is well made by Leibniz, over against Newton (in the Leibniz-Clarke exchange). I could also say that every reason we have for thinking that Christianity is true is indirectly a reason to think that Leibniz was right (in addition to philosophical reasons) since Christian theology also finds good grounds for thinking that God, normally, prefers to act intermediately.
    hrm… interestingly, I think we can also say the following: If Naturalism were true, then we should expect to have found some scientific warrant for the claim that some values for our constants are more likely than others. We have not found this to be the case, and have the evidence of the relevant absence of evidence weighing in against it. Therefore, Naturalism seems less likely given that science finds no grounds for thinking, and after scientific inquiry finds that it cannot warrant the belief, even tenuously, that some set of values are more likely than any other value(s).

  8. c emerson says:

    Thanks for your kind words.

    I hesitate to tread here, and don’t wish to intrude. Yet perhaps I can offer a bit from left field, so to speak, by expanding on something I brought up in a comment on Robert Oerter’s blog here.

    In 5 card poker hands, given a random distribution using a standard 52 card deck, the

    “probability of drawing a given hand is calculated by dividing the number of ways of drawing the hand by the total number of 5-card hands ( the sample space: {[52 // 5] = 2,598,960 _five-card hands} ).” Wikipedia, Poker Probability (symbols modified to paste into this blog site).

    Four of these 2,598,960 hands are Royal Flushes. We all know that. [ – I referred more generally to straight flushes. Grundy first referred to Royal Flushes, an even less probable situation than (subset of) straight flushes – ].

    For thought experiment purposes, assume that the four Royal Flushes correspond to universes which have cosmological constants (randomly produced) that permit life of the type or kind we know about through pur experiences here in this particular universe, and that the remaining 2,598,956 ‘universes’ don’t.

    Unless you commit some version of the gambler’s fallacy, you should see instantly (1) God is not needed for the very first universe which might be randomly produced in a quantum foam (or whatever) to, in fact, be a universe which supports life, and therefore (2) we don’t actually need to postulate any form of multiverse for this very first universe to, in fact, be the ‘one’ that supports life.

    Perhaps God is needed to produce a quantum foam (or whatever) that has the properties for subsequently producing 5 card universes and to create or sustain a physical system that contains randomness, but the mere fact that humans find themselves in one of those Royal Flush universes tells humans nothing (that I can see) about the existence or non-existence of God.

    What am I missing?

  9. c emerson says:

    While I am at it, let me ask / see if I can get to the essence of where I think your arguments diverge:

    – you both accept (for purpose of argument at least) that the occurrence of this universe’s cosmological constants are ‘improbable’.

    – Oerter then speculates that the God of Theists would not be likely to use / create such a system … ergo, the improbability of such a system weighs in favor of Naturalism, not Theism.

    – Tyler on the other hand offers — “that on Theism we have good reasons to suspect that God would greatly prefer a fine-tuned universe with life, to a non-fine-tuned universe with life” — and (later) — “that we have good reasons on Theism to suspect that our universe would be fine-tuned for the naturally arising evolution of intelligent life” — and other reasons related to revelatory methids and free will decisions …. ergo, the improbability of such a system weighs in favor of Theism, not Naturalism.

    I realize both arguments have much more detail behind them as to how to assess the ‘improbability’ issue, but once completed, the arguments then diverge over the perceived attributes of the God of Theists (recognizing that Oerter doesn’t believe such a god exists, while Tyler believes such a God does exist) — while I offered that God is not needed to explain any such ‘improbability’ — a position which I think Oerter had also made — and I also offered that the mere fact that humans find themselves in any such ‘improbable’ set of circumstances “tells humans nothing (that I can see) about the existence or non-existence of God.”

    Do I have this wrong? Thanks.

  10. Tyler wrote, “Well, yes, it seems to me that I have already admitted all of the above, with the exception of the inference to wild improbability. I argued that it would be negligibly more likely, all things being equal, that Naturalism were true. My reason for thinking this has already been mentioned in the first post, it was also expressed by Pruss, and so I will take the liberty of assuming I need not spell it out again.”

    Sorry, I’ve looked three times but I don’t see where you or Pruss explain “negligibly more likely”. The FTA concludes that FT is vastly more likely given theism, and my argument runs the same and so has the the corresponding conclusion.

    I do notice that you switched from “FT is more likely given theism/naturalism” (which is what I was discussing), to “theism/naturalism is more likely given FT”. (I apologize for missing this when I wrote my earlier comment.) But I don’t see how you get to “negligibly” from that switch, even if you apply Bayes’s Theorem. Maybe you can enlighten me?

    Tyler wrote, “Moreover, even by miraculous means, it seems absurd to suggest that a universe which begins in a similar way to ours (has its own big-bang) and yet whose constants are assigned values given which that universe would ‘implode’ back in on itself before expansion were possible, could sustain life.”

    Agreed. But what about the other possibility: that the constants are such that the universe would expand too rapidly for galaxies to form naturally? God would only have to insert a “pre-made” galaxy, and (if the expansion rate were still low enough not to rip the galaxy apart before life could evolve) the rest could proceed naturalistically. Or, God could insert a galaxy together with an initial cell. Or, God could insert a complete pre-made Earth with animals already diversified, and humans already present. (None of these require any on-going miracles, by the way.)

    Note that the latter possibility is, more or less, what Christians have claimed for most of the last 2000 years. It strikes me as rather odd that after centuries of Christians claiming that God created the Earth and humans miraculously, you, Pruss, and Jeff Lowder are now trying to argue that God DOESN’T like to create using miracles. It seems an abrupt about-face on the part of theists to say, “Oh, yes, of course God prefers to use natural means rather than miraculous means.”

    OK, lots more to respond to but I’ve got to stop for now.

    • It strikes me as rather odd that after centuries of Christians claiming that God created the Earth and humans miraculously, you, Pruss, and Jeff Lowder are now trying to argue that God DOESN’T like to create using miracles. It seems an abrupt about-face on the part of theists to say, “Oh, yes, of course God prefers to use natural means rather than miraculous means.”

      “About-face” doesn’t quite cover it. How about “stone cold contradiction”?

      According to the fine-tuning argument, the universe is structured so as to be ideal for generating and sustaining life.

      According to the intelligent design creationists, the universe is structured such that it is physically impossible to generate and sustain life.

      Not once have I ever, ever heard the biology creationists criticising the fine-tuners. This behavior makes zero sense on the hypothesis that the search for truth is even in the top ten list of priorities for the apologists who make these arguments, but make perfect sense on the theory that the apologist is just looking for something, anything, somewhere, somehow that looks like a gap to hide God in so those pesky “doubts” the nonbelievers keep stirring up can be shooed away and the believer can, however briefly, breathe easy.

      • Well, there are a number of mistakes in that post, but the most pressing issue about what you just posted, which needs to be addressed, is the attitude it illustrates. I have invited you before to be civil, not to mention inviting you to have a discussion with me directly through skype or some other medium. I understand if, for whatever reason, you would rather not, but I must ask you to show a little bit of restraint and common decency when addressing the arguments of others, with whom you disagree. I note that in the above post you haven’t attacked my arguments, but rather those of the Intelligent Design camp, but you haven’t done so charitably. I will therefore play the ‘angel’s advocate’ and defend the I.D. apologist, just to show how they can legitimately help themselves to the Fine Tuning argument without ‘grasping at straws’.

        Notice that the Intelligent Design theorist doesn’t have to hold that it is physically impossible for the universe to generate life by natural means alone, but their claim may be as modest as saying that that explanation is not the best explanation so long as one can still qualify ‘design’ as a hypothesis. So, the Intelligent Design theorist argues that the best explanation is design, and that it is the only ‘reasonable’ explanation. Even if you thought that the chief champions of Intelligent Design (Stephen C. Meyer, William Dembski, Michael Behe, etc.) did believe that the universe was constituted such that it was physically impossible for life to arise by natural mechanisms alone (excluding any possibility of a teleological and natural process), would their claim really be in flat contradiction with the Fine Tuning argument? No, obviously it wouldn’t, would it? Think about it – without the Fine Tuning of the universe you wouldn’t even have chemistry, you wouldn’t even have the means for life to arise in any recognizably ‘organic’ form at all, whether by Intelligent Design or Natural selection. In other words, the Intelligent Design theorist can argue that the Universe was fine tuned for the possibility of intelligent organic life, and their explanation of how that organic life arose involves additional instances of intelligent design. The I.D. theorist can even argue that God preferred to create a world in which he would leave obvious signs of his handiwork in the very genealogical fabric of organic life, so that even if God could have done it more ‘efficiently’ he had good reasons not to. Note that I’m not an I.D. theorist myself, but it seems to me that there is obviously no contradiction here between I.D. applied to biology and I.D. applied to physics. If you see one that I don’t, then maybe you can (calmly and with civility) spell that out for me. I look forward to your next post.

    • Professor Oerter, it’s good to hear back from you again. As you can probably tell I’ve been in Mid-Term mode for a while, and have a while to go, which explains why I haven’t been posting very much on my blog lately. However, I want to take the time and address the points you have raised in this last response, along with pointing to a mistake I think I may have made which may be helpful both for you and for me to look into further.

      So, to begin, I have agreed that Fine Tuning is more likely given Naturalism, than it would be given Theism, if one included ‘life exists’ in one’s background knowledge. I then tried to lessen how much more probable Naturalism would be compared to Theism given Fine Tuning by arguing that the number of universes on which Theism would predict life is not as vast as you seem to think (since without the fine tuning you won’t even have chemistry, let alone a universe in which creatures anything like us exist). Of course God could have created a physical universe with entirely different laws of physics, or indeed he could have created a spirit world, but if God created a physical universe (with the same physical laws) which would be host to organic beings such as ourselves, the universe would still have to have been fine tuned within the range of values which would have at least allowed for bodies to form and for chemistry to exist. For these things, the constants still have to be assigned values whose range is infinitesimally constricted, and which is rather close to ours. Now, is it possible that some universe exist which was slightly less fine-tuned than ours, and allowed for bodies to form and for organic chemistry, but in which God would have to constantly attend miraculously to those bodies? Perhaps. That’s why I’m granting that. However, you’ll find that the outlying range of such universes very barely reaches over the margins of the ‘Fine Tuning’ of our universe. This is the first reason why I suggested that Naturalism would be more probable, but negligibly more probable.
      The second reason was that I think on Theism it is more likely that our universe were Fine-Tuned as it is than it would be Fine-Tuned to allow for organic chemistry but would not allow for life to be naturally sustained. I appealed here to the idea that God prefers to act intermediately through nature in order that miraculous actions would be extra-ordinary (if they happened everywhere and always then God could not, by them, signal something significant in history or in the lives of those who experience them). Just as if everything is an illusion then nothing is an illusion, so if everything is a miracle then nothing is a miracle. This would in effect evacuate the miraculous of any revelatory significance or power, and we might expect that God would not prefer to create that way. Here, Pruss’ point about the Leibniz-Clarke exchange is what I had in mind as an additional reason for saying that, on Theism, Fine-Tuning of the kind which we find actually exists is more likely than a looser Fine-Tuned universe in which God would have to perform at least one more miracle than on our universe in order to create life.

      Moreover, I argued that on Naturalism, even with the background knowledge that ‘life exists’ we ought not to expect fine tuning, since it is incomprehensibly more likely that you reside in a Boltzmann Brain universe where all of your perceptions and memories are due to random physical fluctuations in such a universe. So that, on Naturalism, there are universes which are even further away from the ‘Fine-Tuning’ parameters of our actual universe which are more probable on Naturalism given the background knowledge of our best physics and the background knowledge that life exists.
      You suggest, however, the following: “Agreed. But what about the other possibility: that the constants are such that the universe would expand too rapidly for galaxies to form naturally? God would only have to insert a “pre-made” galaxy, and (if the expansion rate were still low enough not to rip the galaxy apart before life could evolve) the rest could proceed naturalistically. Or, God could insert a galaxy together with an initial cell. Or, God could insert a complete pre-made Earth with animals already diversified, and humans already present. (None of these require any on-going miracles, by the way.)”
      Yes, that’s very interesting, and that would then allow the range of Universes with the same physical laws as ours, and where life exists, to exist with less fine-tuning – but not much less fine-tuning. The universe(s) you describe would still have to be relevantly close, as I understand it, to the fine-tuning measure of our universe. This is why I argued that it would be negligibly more probable (given generous background knowledge) that Naturalism were true given Fine Tuning. Here, however, we need the numbers to argue concretely. Moreover, again, the existence of those universes are less likely on Theism than the Fine-Tuned universes which more closely approximate to the Fine-Tuning we observe to be the case of our Universe (by reason of God’s preference for fewer miracles all things being equal). Moreover, whatever problem this would cause the Theist it is not nearly as significant as that which the Boltzmann Brain puzzle causes for the Naturalist.

      You said: ” Note that the latter possibility is, more or less, what Christians have claimed for most of the last 2000 years. It strikes me as rather odd that after centuries of Christians claiming that God created the Earth and humans miraculously, you, Pruss, and Jeff Lowder are now trying to argue that God DOESN’T like to create using miracles. It seems an abrupt about-face on the part of theists to say, “Oh, yes, of course God prefers to use natural means rather than miraculous means.”
      I will assume by ‘God likes to create using miracles’ you have in mind something like immediate acts of creation which occur after the Big Bang (or any analogous cosmological beginning). In other words, I presume you have in mind something like a literal six day cosmogony. Forgive me for being forward, but if I may I’d like to challenge you directly on this point. As a Theologian, and one who has read and appreciates the Church Fathers and theologians in the history of the Christian church, I feel it is necessary to point out that most Church Fathers generally talked about the six days of Genesis in the context of eschatology, not cosmogony. For instance read the Epistle of Barnabas 2.5, or Irenaeus’ Against Heresies V.28.3, or others. Now, I think it would be fair to say that many Church Fathers operated on the presumption that the world had been made in six days through immediate successive acts of creation, but a few of them saw this as problematic. First of all we must note that the Jewish way of counting days was not quite the same as the Roman way, and thus for the ancient Jew a ‘day’ was reckoned according to the rising and setting of the sun (count, for instance, the days that Jesus was ‘dead’ from Friday to Sunday by Jewish count and it makes sense who they can be called ‘three’). However, as Augustine pointed out, the sun wasn’t created until the fourth day, proving that the word ‘day’ could not have referred to what it generally refers to – the Jewish author must have had something deeper in mind. Moreover, Origen as well rejected that the world was created in six ‘days’ as the word is colloquially understood. Here, however, the only Church Father to have ever written a work just on Cosmogony, (other than Augustine) was Origen, and yet we have unfortunately lost this writing of his (we know about it only because he sometimes alludes to it, such as in his ‘contra-Celsus’). Notice though that Origen and Augustine were the only Church Fathers who had dedicated some part of their work to Biblical cosmogony, and they more clearly than any others also advocated a view which did not support the simplistic reading of ‘days’ in Genesis. Moreover, and more importantly, Christianity has entertained a diversity of exegetical opinions about this, so that even in the later Medieval period Thomas Aquinas admits that he doesn’t know whose side to be on, and Bonaventure who obsessed over the ‘six days’ theme connected it with both mystical experience and eschatology, but not explicitly with cosmogony (though, for all I know, that may well have been his presumption – except that he was so deeply Augustinian that I would find it hard to believe he wouldn’t have followed Augustine here as well). Now, somebody could argue that a Church Father could have rejected the simplistic reading of Genesis’ six day creation and still believed in successive immediate acts of creation rather than an unfolding single act of creation (thus, you may have thought ‘what does a six day interpretation of Genesis have to do with successive immediate miracles in the creation process) – but I can’t imagine how else you would go about warranting the claim that they did believe (much less teach) such a thing.

      We must be careful when we casually lay charges which may have anachronistic presumptions. I submit to you that this is what you just, in effect, did, when you said that centuries of Christian teaching has established a firm pedigree for the claim that God created the world miraculously (meaning through successive immediate acts of creation after the creation of the world itself), and it is only now being called into question. Moreover, if you mean by ‘miraculously’ something which has no connection to immediate creation(s) as we would be inclined to read them out of the Genesis account if we understood ‘day’ colloquially, then it seems to me that I, and other Theists, still hold that the world was created miraculously insofar as I (and they) maintain that there is no natural explanation for how something physical could come into existence out of nothing physical (creatio ex nihilo).

      In addition, I can’t speak for Jeff Lowder (nor for Pruss for that matter), but it seems to me that what I have been arguing is not that God doesn’t prefer to create with miracles, but that God does prefer to lessen wherever possible instances of the miraculous which would not directly illustrate something significant and revelatory. I am open in principle to the possibility of God creating miraculously. The point was just to say that on Theism we still have reasons for operating with what you might call a ‘presumption of naturalism’ all things being equal. We may have good reason given some evidence that a miracle has occurred, but all things being equal we ought to, given Theism and the assumptions about miracles supported by Leibniz and others, expect that we will not find the miraculous around every corner or under every rock. The miraculous should still surprise us, even if Theism is true, at least if Leibniz was right (and I think he was).

      Now, the fun part, coming to a mistake I may have made. I presumed that, given our background knowledge including things like knowing that I exist, that I have experiences of things, that I have memories of the past, etc, that a Boltzmann Brain universe would be more likely than an actually fine-tuned universe. At least it would be the case in the absence of a defeater, which I think Theism has, and which Naturalism cannot offer.

      P(BB|N&K) > P(FT|N&K)

      The mistake is that I am presuming that the Naturalist will not help herself to either the Principle of Sufficient Reason, or a weaker probabilistic principle (eg. ‘that every event probably has some cause’). Moreover that the Naturalist will also not help herself to anything like reformed epistemology and appeal to the properly-basic status of beliefs such as the broad reliability of memories, or even the broad reliability of immediate experiences. If the PSR isn’t true, then it becomes hard to calculate what the probability of a Boltzmann Brain universe existing with the appearance of this universe would look like compared to the probability of the universe, as it appears, existing. At least the probability would be hard if we did not set some probability to events occurring as though they had a physical cause, when in fact they had no such physical cause. The problem becomes more difficult still if we imagine that fluctuations in a Boltzmann Brain universe may cause the impression of a physical event having a cause, in such a way that the fluctuation itself has an entirely unrelated cause. You can see how this problem gets worse and worse as one goes on. However, I should have argued the following: given our background knowledge concerning the physical universe, and given our background knowledge that life exists, the probability of Fine Tuning on Naturalism is incredibly lower than the probability of a Boltzmann Brain universe. In other words, on Naturalism we ought to have predicted a Boltzmann Brain universe rather than the kind of fine tuned universe we (seem to) observe. However, in response to this I imagine that you would just want to enrich our ‘background knowledge’ by adding to it things like our memories, our experiences, and other such things. If you do that then my argument would require some more fleshing out to obviate the problem for the Naturalist. I presumed, however, that the Naturalist would just flatly dismiss the PSR, and thus say that it is no more or less likely that an event had a cause than that it did not. I also presumed that the Naturalist would not appeal to the properly-basic status of broad reliabilism (because Naturalism, I suggest, has no plausible story which ensures that reliabilism). If you do either of these, however, then it seems you can challenge my Boltzmann Brain objection.

      To summarize, I argued that:

      P(BB|N&K) > P(FT|N&K)

      Moreover, I went on to argue, the Boltzmann Brain universe is so much more likely on Naturalism than fine-tuning that it may license the claim that the probability of Theism given Fine-Tuning and background knowledge is greater than the probability of Naturalism on Fine-Tuning and background knowledge.

      P(T|FT&K) > P(N|FT&K)

      And finally, the claim about God’s preference to lessen miracles all things being equal can be formalized as:

      P(~M|T) > P(M|T)

      [where ~M stands for ‘not a miracle’]. This is still somewhat informal only because I haven’t included the Leibnizian presumption on Theism, so perhaps like this:

      P(~M|T&L) > P(M| T&L)

      This is getting interesting, and I look forward to your next series of comments.

  11. Notice that the Intelligent Design theorist doesn’t have to hold that it is physically impossible for the universe to generate life by natural means alone, but their claim may be as modest as saying that that explanation is not the best explanation so long as one can still qualify ‘design’ as a hypothesis.

    It is misleading to describe anyone as an ID “theorist”, as there is not and never has been an actual “theory” of ID. As the poor rubes on the Ohio school board found out to their chagrin when they learned there wasn’t any actual theory for them to teach. More accurate to describe them as ID “apologists” or ID “advocates”.

    And to my knowledge, absolutely every one of them, to a man, believes that life in its current state is nomologically forbidden absent intelligent intervention.

    So, the Intelligent Design theorist argues that the best explanation is design, and that it is the only ‘reasonable’ explanation.

    But I have gone and done a very strange thing. I have actually spent years reading what they actually say, and all of them who say design is the best explanation make precisely the argument I said they make, viz., that getting life from non-life would violate the so-called “Law of Conservation of Information”, or that getting a flagellum from a non-flagellum is impossible because all the parts need to be in place simultaneously, or that consciousness could never evolve because of any number of impossibilities.

    What these arguments all have structurally in common is the reliance on what they claim is a clear and obvious contrast between what nature is capable of on its own, and what we actually observe.

    Is it logically possible that the universe was fine-tuned (just not completely fine-tuned) and that additional interventions happened? Of course. But then, one is left with the question of why all the miraculous designing wasn’t all taken care of on the front end, with the designer having to frequently “get out of the car and push”. One hypothesis is might be that the universe designers are different entities than the bio-designers, and thus had conflicting purposes in mind. Another possibility is a non-omnipotent god or gods who wanted to design a self-sufficient natural universe but simply lacked the means. But since, to a man, ID apologists who positively identify the designer say it is Biblegod, this puts them in a blasphemous pickle. Faced with this obvious dysteleology, they’re left making handwaving “unknown purpose” defenses rather than any positive, testable theories.

    Think about it – without the Fine Tuning of the universe you wouldn’t even have chemistry, you wouldn’t even have the means for life to arise in any recognizably ‘organic’ form at all, whether by Intelligent Design or Natural selection.

    I have thought about it. So did this smart guy:
    “Surely, God could have caused birds to fly with their bones made of solid gold, with their veins full of quicksilver, with their flesh heavier than lead, and with their wings exceedingly small. He did not, and that ought to show something. It is only in order to shield your ignorance that you put the Lord at every turn to the refuge of a miracle.”

    Remember that we’re talking about an omnipotent miracle worker here, as you constantly are at pains to remind me in the other thread. God is the greatest conceivable being, but now you’re telling me he’s powerless to poof any darn form of life into existence he pleases? And who says chemical life is the only kind of life a designer would be interested in making? If he can miraculously circumvent the laws that (allegedly) say abiogenesis or consciousness or whatever are impossible, why can’t he circumvent any other set of laws in any other universe to make any kind of life he darn well pleases?

    This is another way of stating Professer Oerter’s very very important point about the comparative parameter spaces of theism and nontheism. For an omnipotent being, literally every universe is potentially life-permitting, given enough miracles. There is therefore literally no set of observations that such a hypothesis rules in or out.

    Remember when I said the theist needs to fine-tune his hypothesis to match the data? Take whatever number of miraculous interventions you think actually happened between the big bang and now to produce life on earth. (I’m assuming it’s somewhere north of zero.) Call the being who wanted to do it this way TylerGod. Now consider TylerGod(2), who wanted just one more miracle along the way, and TylerGod(3) who wanted oodles and oodles of miracles, and TylerGod(4) who wanted no miracles, and TylerGod(5) who doesn’t even want to create other beings but just wants to eternally contemplate its own greatness, and, and, and…

    Of all these logically possible gods, how very very lucky that we got the one that gives us exactly what we see! If Fine-tuning of the universe is a genuine problem which stands in need of explanation (and I’m not convinced it is, as opposed to an artifact of the fact that we are here at all to ask the question), then a fortiori the fine-tuning of God stands in need of explanation.

    And so once again the apologist runs smack into a giant parsimony violation.

    The I.D. theorist can even argue that God preferred to create a world in which he would leave obvious signs of his handiwork in the very genealogical fabric of organic life, so that even if God could have done it more ‘efficiently’ he had good reasons not to.

    They couldn’t argue this on the basis of independent evidence. I notice you take this tack yourself (“God prefers to act intermediately through nature in order that miraculous actions would be extra-ordinary”) This is simply fine-tuning the hypothesis in a way that amounts to saying “the explanation for why things are this way is that a designer wanted them this way”, i.e. simply restating our initial ignorance about the pattern by positing an additional pattern with at least as high of an improbability. You can’t just assert any old parochial theology into the theory without showing independent reasons why that particular kind of God would do things that particular way, given the literally infinite number of options available.

    This is exaclty the same old unconvincing “unknown purpose” defense used against the argument from evil. You’re fishing for a logically possible reason God might have for doing things in a way we humans find baffling, when what is called for is a likely reason. Is it really likely that some greater good always comes from gratuitous suffering? Is it really likely that god just happens to want miracles to be exactly as “extraordinary” as TylerGod(1) says he wants them to be, and not even slightly more or slightly less extraordinary, as all the other TylerGods want? Why is “being extraordinary” even something such a being cares about at all? Is it a purely aesthetic choice? Are there external constraints that prevent God from being “too extraordinary” or “not extraordinary enough”, forcing him into this goldilocks zone?

    How long is this description string getting, and what increase in predictive capacities are we getting in exchange?

    • c emerson says:

      > Why is “being extraordinary” even something such a being cares about at all? Is it a purely aesthetic choice? Are there external constraints that prevent God from being “too extraordinary” or “not extraordinary enough….

      Starcaseghost’s case does seem to require an answer, both from the naturalist and from the theist. Well put question, IMO.

    • c emerson says:

      Just to throw in a bit of existentialism here, let me quote a bit of Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground, Sec III (about 7 pages from the beginning): “… such a direct person [who rushes repeatedly headlong into a wall] I regard as the real normal man, as … Mother Nature wished to see him…. I envy such a man till I am green in the face. He is stupid … but perhaps [that] is very beautiful … if … for instance … the antithesis of the [real] normal man, that is, the man of acute consciousness, who has come … not out of the lap nature but out of a retort (this is mysticism, gentlemen …), this retort-man is sometimes so non-plussed in the presence of his [own] antithesis that with with all his exaggerated consciousness he genuinely thinks of himself as a mouse and not a man. It may be an acutely conscious mouse, yet it is a mouse and not a man, while the other is a man ….”

      Chew on that for awhile, Gentlemen (as Dostoevsky might say).

      • c emerson says:

        And if that appears too obscure, like a Bob Dylan quote might, then let me quote a bit more from Dostoevsky’s Sec III: ” ‘Upon my word,’ they will shout at you, ‘it is no use protesting: it is a case of twice two makes four! Nature does not ask your permission, she has nothing to do with your wishes, and whether you like her laws or dislike them, you are bound to accept her as she is, and consequently all her conclusions. A wall, you see, is a wall … and so on, and so on.’ Merciful Heavens! but what do I care for the laws of nature and arithmetic, when, for some reason, I dislike those laws and the fact that twice two makes four? If course I cannot break through the wall by battering my head against it if I really have not the strength to knock it down, but I am not going to be reconciled to it simply because it is a stone wall and I have not the strength.”

        Thoughts?

      • c emerson says:

        Of course … not ‘if course’ as the start to the last sentence. Sry.

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