Apologetics 7: The « Fine Tuning » of the Universe & Biological Life
The old « Watch-Maker Argument » has been revived through recent discoveries of « Fine-Tuning » in the universe!
This course was taught live at Wellspring School of Discipleship, at the Quebec House of Prayer (QHOP), October 28, 2016.
Click here to download the syllabus.
Click below to listen to today’s lecture.
You may also watch the live-stream below. (A better quality video is coming soon!)
Next week we confront the elephant in the room: « But how can you believe in the Big Bang if the Bible says the earth was created 6,000 years ago!? »
Towards the end of my talk I made reference to Michael Behe: here is a short video on his concept of « Irreducible Complexity. »
Next week, we will be hearing a lot from Hugh Ross. Here he is on the mathematical improbabilities of evolution.
Ironically, I didn’t get a chance to « fine-tune » my notes this week. But you can download a pdf of my (rough-around-the-edges) notes here, or scroll down to read them.
Be sure to subscribe to my podcasts!
SECTION ONE: The Fine Tuning Argument (William Lane Craig)
“What about the Bible….?!”
– Again, we are sidestepping the issue of creation evolution. We are asking, “if the naturalistic version of history is correct, does it Prove or disprove God?”
– We will deal with some objections at the end: but I want to address one right at the beginning.
The God of the Gaps
– Sorry, this may not have been in the text!
– This is where the teleological argument often goes, and I am surprised he didn’t bring it up
– The idea of the “God of the Gaps” argument is that:
Once upon a time, when the earth was flat and people were dumb,
People did not have science
When they observed things around them (such as lightning) they could not understand, they asked, “What caused that?”
When they could not find an answer, they said, “God did it!”
This both answered the scientific question and also seemed to provide evidence for God
HOWEVER, as science has progressed, we have found a purely natural cause for this phenomenon. Therefore, we no longer need God.
More than that, a “God of the gaps” argument can turn against Christianity!
- We do not know what caused this phenomenon (e.g. lightning)
- Therefore, God must have done it
…(yet with more scientific progress…)
- Now we know what caused this phenomenon
- Therefore, God must not have caused it
…but of course, knowing the means by which God did something does not negate the possibility that God was in some way involved
- Some truth:
– There is some truth here. We aught not to be too quick to say, “this part of nature is amazing/inexplicable/mysterious therefore it proves God”
– Of course, science is learning new things every day: we aught not be too quick to pick a zone of current ignorance, and declare that it provides proof for God
- This story is part of the larger Enlightenment narrative about the “Dark Ages”
– Which has been largely rejected
– I am not at all clear that the “God hypothesis” has been such an impediment to learning (or a crutch) as this myth asserts
– As we have seen, the idea of an omnipotent/omniscient Creator is at the foundation of the scientific endeavor! The whole point is to “Think God’s thoughts after Him.”
- Most importantly,
– The “God of the Gaps” story obscures the fact that one of the most important and controversial questions of human history is, “Is the cause of all things mind or matter?” Or, “Does God exist, or does only matter exist?”
– Atheists will often try to claim a position of neutrality, claiming that atheism is the “default position,”
Theists must provide proof for God, but atheists need offer no proof for atheism
Any attempt to invoke God is invalide, because it could be construed as a “God of the Gaps” argument
– …however, this attempts to hijack the entire discussion!
…the big question that we need to be asking, when we approach each topic in philosophy, science, history, etc., is, “Is God or not-God a better explanation for this?”
As we will see, the universe is incredibly fine-tuned for life. This has long been considered evidence on behalf of the existence of God. Dubbed the “Teleological Argument,” this argument states that:
- There is incredible complexity, order, beauty and precision in the universe
- The cause could have been God or nature
- Nature is an insufficient cause to explain it
- Therefore, God must be the cause of the universe
…another way of saying this is that this is not “ad hoc” because we are not trying to use God to rescue a theory: rather, we are relying on “inference to the best possible hypothesis.”
…at times, atheists can be seen committing the same error in reverse. Confronted with incredible, inexplicable order, and the Big Bang, they will sometimes say, “Someday we will find a naturalistic explanation…” This is just an appeal to a hope. When an inference to an existing explanation (God) would be a valid move.
– Today, there is a “rebirth” of the discussion of design in the universe
- This connects with ancient streams from Aristotle, etc.
- This connects with more recent theories, such as Paley’s “Watch-Maker” theory
o This theory was proposed in 1802 by William Paley
o It was thought to be disproven by evolution
o Some forms of this theory could be seen as question-begging, “Isn’t it obvious that the Creation needs a Creator?!”
– The “Fine Tuning” is not question begging
- It is a religiously neutral term
- It refers to the incredibly precise parameters necessary to support life
– Two kinds of fine tuning:
- The constants of nature:
o 1. Gravity
o 2. The Sub-Atomic “Weak Force”
o 3. The Electromagnetic Force
o 4. Etc..
- Arbitrary Quantities
o 1. Amount of entropy in the Big Bang
Quote: read all of page 109
“…Fine tuning in this neutral sense is uncontroversial and well established…Like it or not, fine-tuning is just a fact of life that is scientficially well established.” William Lane Craig, On Guard, 109
- If they had been different, perhaps different forms of life could have existed
- Life = 1) ability to take in food, 2) extract energy from it, 3) grow, 4) adapt, 5) reproduce
- “In the absence of fine-tuning, not even matter, not even chemistry would exist, much less planets where life might evolve!” – WLC, 110
- What about a universe with totally different laws?
- We have no idea about such a universe (because we have no access to it)
- We do know what would happen if our universe (with our laws) had different constants and/or quantities: the results would be disastrous!
Personal Anecdote: I knew someone in High School who became a Christian literally because of the power of contemporary physics!
…however, clearly, not everyone looks at the evidence and concludes there must be a God! There are at least two other popular options to explain the existence of fine-tuning in the universe: physical necessity or chance. We can express this as follows:
- The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design
- It is not due to physical necessity or chance
- Therefore, it is due to design
Premise One: The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design
– This argument is self-evident
– If anyone wishes to add to the list, they are welcome to do so!
Premise Two: The fine-tuning is not due to physical necessity or chance
- Physical necessity
– This seems “fantastically implausible” because it is saying, in effect, that “a life-prohibiting universe is a physical impossibility”
- If we could imagine a life-prohibiting universe, this theory would be destroyed!
- There is no proof of this: it is just put forward as a theory with no proof
Objection: what about “super-string theory” (M-Theory): the theory of everything
– This is a theory for explaining the Four basic forces of nature (gravity, the weak force, the strong force, and electromagnetism) into one force
– If found, this answer still would not explain why a life-permitting universe exists
…as of yet, there is no proof that the universe must be life-permitting
…here we return to the old friend of atheism, chaos. On atheism, infinite time plus infinite chance produces order.
…however, we are talking about one chance to get it right, with odds so high we literally don’t know how to count that high! There is no sea of chaos from which our orderly universe could emerge from!
– The question is meaningless: we have only one universe to speak of. And so all probabilities will result in a result of “probability of one”
– Not true! We can imagine universes with constants and quantities which are different. The Multi-Verse is just such a construction! In so doing, we can create hypothetical universes with which to compare our own. And in so doing, all of the vast improbabilities come back to roost!
Objection 2: The “Lucky Us” Argument
– “Well somebody needs to win the lottery. We just won the universe lottery!”
– No, the point is precisely that nobody had to win the lottery!
– Not about “the likeliness of getting this specific universe, but the likeliness of getting a universe that allows life
Objection 3: The Anthropoic Principle
– According to this argument, “We should not be surprised to observe a life-permitting universe, because if we did not live in a life-permitting universe, we would not be here to observe it!”
- Actually, we can view (hypothetically!) other universes
- This distracts from question of the actual likeliness of such a universe coming into being
…firing squad illustration
…in this case, due to the great improbability, we would be justified in believing that the whole situation was in some way “rigged” for our survival!
…finally, none of these arguments really work without conjoining the Many Worlds hypothesis…
The Many Worlds Hypothesis…
- The Multiverse itself may have been fine-tuned
– Explanations are too vague to rule this out
- The Multiverse itself likely needs to have a beginning (see previous class)
- Far more likely we would see far less order
Final Objection: (Dawkins)
- The God Hypothesis is invalid because:
- It necessitates a cause for God
- It is not simple
– Actually, God does not need a cause because He is eternal
– Actually, God is quite simple
SECTION TWO: Various other Teleological Arguments
– Disclaimers and warnings:
- This will be a very quick, arial survey of many disciplines!
- I wish I had been able to do more fresh research on all of these:
o Because they are so “cutting edge,” it’s hard to keep up!
o Because there’s so many fields, it’s just hard to keep up!
- I will freely admit my ignorance when I meet my limitations
- I will point you towards resources when appropriate
There are at least eight major hurdles which