The Fine-Tuning Argument for the Existence of God argues from the a priori colossal unlikelihood of a universe's physical constants' and natural laws' being such as to permit the development of the sort of complexity required for the evolution of life and, in particular, for the evolution of conscious beings, to a cosmic designer of some sort; and it argues further that that designer must have intentionality--the designer couldn't be some sort of cosmic universe-creating machine, it is argued, because then that machine would itself require a designer to make it produce just the right sort of universe. And then there's the issue of Boltzmann brains to deal with.

There being a multiverse composed of a vast number of universes, each with its own set of fundamental constants and natural laws, is suggested as a way of obviating the need for a designer.

What I want to point out at the outset is that the notion of a multiverse does not *refute* the fine-tuning argument, since we do not know that there is a multiverse any more than we know there is a designer; rather, the multiverse is postulated as a way of avoiding the need for a designer to explain the appearance of our being the recipients of extreme good fortune. The appearance of design remains; that appearance is simply explained in a nontheistic way.

What are the best arguments against the FTA?

Tags: Argument, Fine-Tuning

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I'll have to remember the unsolved problems links to pull out whenever somebody says, "Well, science doesn't know everything." "We know. Here's a whole bunch of stuff that scientists are working on just in physics. I'll have to get back to you with the lists from the other disciplines." And then add, "Of course, if science knew everything it would be over with wouldn't it?"
The Wiki has a good, but brief, entry on the argument. I like the way it ends with the "Counter Argument to Religious Views":

The "argument from imperfection" suggests that if the universe were designed to be fine-tuned for life, it should be the best one possible and that evidence suggests that it is not. In fact, most of the universe is highly hostile to life.

Before getting into the issues multi-verses, aliens, etc., I would like to see more evidence that this universe is as critically on the edge of probability as the argument assumes. Given the immense size of the known universe (see a recent video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17jymDn0W6U), it's clear that we have just barely scratched the surface of knowing what exists. We've just confirmed that lakes exist on Saturn's Titan (but liquid methane, not water.) And that's just down the road from us.

I'm just finishing Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale. The amazing variation of life and environmental adaptations is stunning. Critters living in water at 115 degrees Centigrade (above the normal boiling point of water because deep sea pressure affects boiling temperature.) Critters that live at very cold temperature. But even this range of temperatures, is minuscule compared to the temperatures out in the rest of the universe. The cold, near vacuums. The infernos at the cores of stars.

It may be that life as we understand it can only exist in certain kinds of environments, but so far we know of only one place where that has happened. If the universe is fine-tuned for life, an awful lot of matter and energy has been expended elsewhere with no evidence of life. (We don't know, of course, what the real, as opposed to hypothetical, statistics of similar environments are for the rest of the universe.)

I would think that more variation of the "constants" would be tolerable in considering what could create universes without life. Life may be just a quirk of how this particular set happened.

The fine-tuning arguments seems to be most appealing to those who want (re)assurance of some purpose to what we see around us. Some validation that this is not "just by chance." To those coming from religious, higher order, or intelligent design viewpoints, I would argue that it sure doesn't seem to be a very efficient way to create life. Having to have "billions and billions" of galaxies so some small solar system in an out of the way galaxy ends up with a planet just far enough away from the sun with the right chemical resources to evolve life is not very effective (or intelligent.)

I guess I'm not really arguing against the fine-tuned universe theory. I'm saying that while it may be interesting it's not very important because we are in a known universe. If the argument is correct, then either this is the only one that could exist or the only one we could understand. It might be possible for others to exist (simultaneously or sequentially) but we would either not experience them or exist in them.
I've always wondered if the "fine tuning" is actual itself anthropic, that is, these constants are abstract mathematical derivatives that arise from our measurements, and the "precision" is merely an artifact of our way of modeling physics. For example, if we create mathematics that allow us to calculate the orbits of planets, and it happens that in our symbolic description the number 2 occurs as in distance-squared, why should we be surprised that it is EXACTLY 2.00000..., and not something close to 2? The laws of gravitation, and in fact algebra and calculus, were invented BECAUSE they fit nature so well.
It is one thing to say that the laws of nature are simply our descriptions of the way nature works, so that it shouldn't surprise us that the our formulations of natural law fit the way the world is; it would be another thing to say that nature had to be the way it is and that therefore our formulations of natural law, including the fundamental constants' observed values, also had to be as they are. If a wide range of values were initially possible, and if the symmetry-breakings in the early universe "picked out" one set of values just by chance, that would provide no ammunition for a design argument; the point is that the likelihood of life-permitting values of the fundamental constants' being "picked out" by those symmetry-breakings, just by chance, is supposedly a priori vanishingly small, making it a surprise, it is argued, that they were in fact "picked out," and making their being "picked out" something that demands explanation.
Earlier today I posted one of the QualiaSoup vids over in the No Nonsense Video Arsenal thread. It's the one about numbers -- Flawed Thinking by Numb3rs. Anyway, this is similar to my example of standing on a stone or (from the video) picking up a particular grain of sand from the beach. There's a confusion of a priori and a posteriori conditions.
Before looking at the links, I want to note that the FTA often strikes us nontheists as being of the "isn't it amazing that the human nose is shaped just right to hold glasses" variety--i.e., human beings are fine-tuned to the universe, not the other way around. What the best versions of the argument do is look not at humanity, and not even at carbon-based life, but at the sort of complexity required for life; and at the conditions required for such complexity; and at the balance of the universe between being one that wouldn't form stars at all and being one that would collapse too fast for life to develop. The best forms of the argument argue not only that *this* life-sustaining universe is unlikely but that *any* life-sustaining universe is unlikely. This *largely* gets around the argument that life as we know it, carbon-based life, is being assumed to be the only possible life. If one looks at the symmetry-breakings in the very early universe, it seems a priori highly unlikely that they would occur "just right." And the argument is then that that increases the likelihood of a designer as the best explanation.

That most places in the universe are inhospitable to human life is irrelevant; what one wants is a universe that permits the development of complexity over geologic time that would count as life. Whether a universe permits such development everywhere or only in a tiny corner doesn't matter to the FTA, although it does of course strike us nontheists as odd that a life-loving God would confine life-supporting worlds to a teensy-tiny part of the universe.

Stenger's view that the anthropic coincidences are wildly exaggerated, if correct, would be the best response to the FTA.
Although I haven't traced the footnotes and references in some of the FTA literature, at least the popular versions hinge, as you say, on the "a priori colossal unlikelihood of a universe's physical constants' and natural laws' being such". Most people's understanding of probability is very flawed and big (or small) numbers "do not compute."

Let's take the size of the universe as a given. Within the universe, over billions of years chunks of matter are moving, splitting, congealing, etc. Sometimes, these bits create (eventually) create a person. Sometimes, this bits create planets. Collisions and other forces like gravity (internal and external) cause the shifting and shattering of some of the matter. Like making small rocks. Now, what are the chances out of all the matter and living beings created, that I am standing with my foot on this pebble? Pretty tiny. Yet, I am. So, an incredibly improbable event can happen. If fact, improbable events are almost guaranteed to happen given enough time. Of course, there are also a ginormous amount of other slight variations of the result which did not happen.

Once we start dealing with Really Large Numbers and Really Long Times, even very tiny changes to conditions can result in widely divergent results or probabilities.
This sort of reply makes sense if one supposes there to be a vast number of universes with a vast variety of values of fundamental constants and of physical laws. For a sufficiently large number of such universes, it becomes expected that *some* universe will last long enough for life to arise and will support the sort of complexity required for life to arise. But the invocation of a vast number of such universes is an acknowledgment that the a priori unlikelihood of a single universe's being such as to support life really does pose a problem in need of explanation. It's just a different explanation than a theistic one.
I think that "single universe/support life" is a problem only if we restrict ourselves to "life as we know it" or can imagine it. There may well be many different kinds of life that could be beyond our ken. I think the "problem" to really be explained is what are the conditions of life (as we know it) and is it rare or not in our universe. My sense is that it is not so rare that we are the only hunk of rock to have it but the size of the universe keeps us from being able to confirm it elsewhere.

I don't see how have a large number ("vast" or not) of universes with only a few (one?) supporting/creating life is any different than supposing that there are only a few universes that "survive long enough." Given some number of inter-related constants (conditions), it make sense that that only a few of the resulting universes would be grouped under any particular condition. Because we are only concerned with a particular group, we find it small but amazing. But logically, the numbers may be just as small for all the "mostly blue universes", or "universes that expand beyond size X", or "universes in which gravitation as the value of 75% of ours", etc. In other words, we're suffering from survivor's bias.
I'm sorry--I'm not sure what you have in mind by having "a few universes that 'survive long enough'." (Unless you suppose their physical constants' values and natural laws to be changing over time.) The point is that if the likelihood of getting constants congenial to life is 1/(big number), then you need some significant fraction of (big number) of universes in order to make it not vastly unlikely that a universe congenial to life would arise.
You were the one who mentioned universes that survived long enough. I was trying to point out that "universes that survive (some length of time)" and "universes congenial to life" could have the same magnitude of occurrence (and not necessarily be overlapping). But we only seem to be interested in the ones that are congenial/create life. The others could be interesting, too.

But, ultimately, I find the whole argument a little beside the point. We're here (because of some set of circumstances). We know the circumstances could have been a little -- or a lot -- different. But we don't know much about how those differences would play out over (possibly) billions of years. Unless there is some understanding in this universe that can come from the understanding of other universes, I'm not sure it's of much use. (Except in the way that most art, music, and poetry is.)
I think I misunderstood this sentence: "I don't see how have a large number ('vast' or not) of universes with only a few (one?) supporting/creating life is any different than supposing that there are only a few universes that 'survive long enough.'" I took the last part of it as reading that there were only a few universes, which survived long enough; but it clearly meant that out of the many universes, only a few survived long enough. Sorry.

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