The argument for a fine-tuned universe

Hi all, this will only be a short interjection as I am still working on my ‘Looking Glass’ series first post (about halfway there!) and juggling the final weeks of classes before final exams, so I am a bit busy, but I had a thought I’d like to share, even if it is only a short one.

I always, constantly, hear people use the argument that since the universe is ‘fine tuned’ to allow life to exist, that this means there must be a God. Now, I don’t see (personally) why this means there MUST be someone engineering the universe for us, because it is what it is, but I’ll ignore that for the sake of this argument.

Let’s say that this is in fact evidence for a God – why should this, in any way, point to YOUR God being the valid one? Why is the fact that the universe has the right conditions to foster life evidence for any specific God, rather than just a point that might suggest that someone was behind all of existence (even though it really is only speculation). I have always maintained, that if there is some sort of omniscient, omnipotent being who created the universe – that being is absolutely nothing like the human-engineered religions of this world view Him, Her, or whatever else. I still see no valid reason to believe that such a thing exists, however, and so I don’t. I only acknowledge the possibility of a God in that it isn’t something humanity would be familiar with or have some claim to knowledge on.

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About thatcatkatie
I came to this site to discuss my beliefs, and yours too, and hopefully learn some things from my fellow human beings.

15 Responses to The argument for a fine-tuned universe

  1. Better than all that. If we grant that there is a creator, there is not one thing that shows that creator to be benevolent and loving nor any thing to show that creator is not a demon as we see them. Let’s also grant that we mortal life forms have a soul. I challenge any believer to show beyond reasonable doubt that the god they worship is not simply harvesting those souls for their own nourishment and feeding.

    None of their bleating proves that we are not simply being made into spirit-trail-mix or a nice seasoning for their ‘god’s’ ales. For all these believers know, we’re simply weeds in their god’s spirit garden.

  2. keithnoback says:

    Cthulhu, probably. Seriously, fine-tuning is an interesting idea, the more so because it looks like a case of confirmation bias on our part.

  3. We don’t have any clue about other possible universes, we don’t know how likely each possible universe is, we don’t know how many universes there are, we don’t even know how likely life in this universe really is, not to mention life in slightly different universes. So how can anyone tell me, that this random version of a universe which by chance supports life form like us, is so unlikely that it requires a creator? That’s like drawing a number from a bag, let’s say “12345”, and crying “Hey, this means there is a god, this number is soooo unlikely.” But without know how many numbers there are or how many numbers are drawn all the “time” (as time does not really have a place outside the universe), we simply cannot decide if it’s a very rare event or completely normal. And even if it was very, very, very unlikely – this still doesn’t equate an evidence for a creator. A book worm in a library could also assume that the library was created just for him.

  4. Matt says:

    I actually just wrote a post on fine tuning. 🙂

    And I do agree with you that the fine tuning argument merely provides evidence for a generic “God” (or, really, any kind of intelligent entity as the cause for the universe). It doesn’t specifically favor Theism over Deism, or Deism over Theism.

    Fine tuning is nonetheless a powerful starting-point argument for Jews, Christians, Muslims, etc. because all of these religions claim that there was a God who was active in creating the universe. The writers of the Bible, for example, would have had no way of knowing about matter-antimatter asymmetry…but physics has since come along to vindicate claims of cosmic design.

    So a Christian who uses the fine-tuning argument is kind of like a man who wants to demonstrate that the object he’s holding is a square…and who starts by proving that it has four sides. There are plenty of OTHER interpretations of the four-sided argument (it could be a trapezoid, or a 5×3 rectangle)…but it’s still important to establish “four sides” in order to advance the square claim.

    I wouldn’t expect anyone to immediately become a Christian because of the fine tuning argument, but the fine tuning argument goes a long way toward ruling out atheism/agnosticism/naturalism/materialism. It points to there being SOME cosmic deity, and invites further religious investigation.

  5. goldheathen says:

    Well said, the cosmological argument can only get you as far as deism, it cannot get you to theism. Besides, it can only get you to deism if you accept that the “fine tuning” necessary to create life is unlikely enough to necessitate a designer, which I personally do not. Theists will use the argument that something can’t come from nothing all by it’self. This argument falls down when you consider that there is no such thing as “nothing” it’s a human creation. There has always been something, and it has always been in flux. Why is it so hard to believe that after an unknowable period of trial and retrial and so on and so forth the mixture finally managed to take a form that was supportive of life? Good post, thanks.

    • thatcatkatie says:

      That also begs the question – where did God come from? But most theists ignore that. I’ve always felt God has been a generic term for – phenomenon not yet understood by humans.

      • goldheathen says:

        they’ll ignore the “where did god come from question” or answer it with the insanely frustrating ” well any being capable of creating the universe would have to be outside of time and space and therefore wouldn’t be subject to the rules from “lesser” complex lifeforms” argument…

  6. AtheistExile says:

    Hi Katie (can I call you Katie?),

    A fine-tuned universe doesn’t really prove anything but it does leave the door ajar for speculation — as theists/deists/pantheists are wont to do.

    The God of deists and pantheists is an amorphous, absentee, creator who appears disinterested in his creations — so even if he does exist, he bears no significance on nature or our lives. He’s a non-issue: of not practical concern to us.

    The God of theists is another matter entirely. If he does exist, we’re all in deep doodoo because he’s absolutely anal-retentive about everything we do . . . especially our sex lives.

    A universe created by the God of Abraham is one in which our lives are special to our creator. Thanks to his divinely inspired scripture, we know that Adam and all other life on Earth was unique (Eve was an afterthought, created after everything else, from one of Adam’s ribs).

    But a fine-tuned universe does NOT imply life (as we know it) is unique to Earth. It implies it can occur anywhere the conditions are favorable to life. Which we now know must occur throughout the universe.

    So even if anthropic thinking leaves the door ajar for a God of some sort, the least likely version of that God is the monotheistic, personal, God of Abraham.

    • thatcatkatie says:

      Haha yes you can call me Katie. I absolutely agree, the abrahamic or really any of humanity’s versions of god is the least likely of possibilities of gods which may exist, if there is one at all.

  7. AtheistExile says:

    I can imagine science slowiy eroding religious faith until, centuries from now, belief is relegated to the lunatic fringe. But what if we finally survey the entire universe and find that, alas, Earth is the only place to have ever spawned life. Anthropic thinking could enjoy a comeback and the lunatic fringe might get some begrudging respect.

    • thatcatkatie says:

      I think it’s clear that this process has already begun, 200 hundred years ago if atheists were as prominent as they are now, the church might have had them all slain. The difference is that now, science is on our side, and religion is having a very hard time keeping up with what we actually know about the universe.
      If we did find that there was no other life in the universe, you’re right, it could make a comeback – but since we don’t know, we can really only speculate at this point on that aspect.

      • AtheistExile says:

        Yes, you’re right but it was more than 200 years ago when the Catholic church lost its iron grip on religion in the West. I’d identify the Protestant Reformation as the beginning of the end of religion’s reign of tyrrany. Freethought enjoyed its heyday 200 years ago. The Enlightenment had liberated many minds. Deism and pantheism was probably more prevalent than atheism but there’s precious little difference between them, if you ask me.

        Due to the backlash from churches in the U.S., freethought kind of went underground after Darwin’s dangerous idea took root. Personally, I believe the current renaissance of freethought was precipitated by the Internet and the information it provides with a click of the mouse.

        Come to think of it, the Protestant Reformation (and modern science and the Enlightenment) was also precipitated by an information revolution: the Gutenberg printing press — which Martin Luther used to publish his infamous 95 Theses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ninety-Five_Theses).

        So the printing press, then the Internet, revolutionized access to information and, thus, education. It appears that the truth truly has set us free . . . and it has a devastating effect on religion. 🙂

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