Philosophical arm wrestle: cosmic fine-tuning vs the problem of evil

Arm wrestle

I’ve been blogging for about 8 years and discussing the existence of God for even longer. From that experience, it is clear the christians are generally pretty sure that God exists, and atheists even surer that she doesn’t. Genuine agnostics are much thinner on the ground.

The strange thing is, each side believes they have killer arguments, but the other side just can’t see them. I’ve met very few people who believe there are good arguments for both sides.

I happen to be one who does think there are good arguments both for and against the existence of God. Paul Draper, Professor of Philosophy at Purdue University, thinks the same. Yet I am a christian and he is an agnostic.

Do either of us know something that most christians and atheists don’t? And if so, which one of us has come to the most reasonable conclusion? I wonder if you can guess what I think? 🙂

Paul Draper’s assessment of the arguments

The cosmic fine-tuning argument is one of the strongest arguments for the existence of God, while the problem of evil is surely the strongest argument for naturalism, and thus against belief in God.

In a 2004 paper in the American Philosophical Quarterly (Cosmic fine-tuning and terrestrial suffering: parallel problems for naturalism and theism), Draper assesses the two arguments and found interesting parallels between them. The logic is simple.

Fine tuning

Cosmologists know that, of all the possible universes allowed by theoretical physics, the number that could support complex life is very, very small. Draper expresses this argument in terms of a universe which supports moral agents – beings capable of ethical thinking and behaviour – because he thinks this makes the strongest argument.

The argument is that such a universe is very unlikely if naturalism is true, but we could believe a personal moral loving God might want to give life to others, so this universe is much more likely if theism is true.

The multiple worlds objection

The main objection to this argument is the possibility of multiple worlds (sometimes called the multiverse). For if multiple worlds exist, then it becomes much more likely that one of them might contain moral agents. However Draper argues that science hasn’t shown, and possibly never can show, that multiple worlds exist, nor that they have physical variables that vary randomly in such a way as is required to explain the apparent fine-tuning of this universe.

Draper concludes that the fine-tuning argument is powerful, and “Therefore some people have very strong evidence supporting theism over naturalism.”

Suffering

But, Draper observes, the moral agents on earth don’t always live very morally, and many people and animals in the world live lives that include significant suffering. Based on these facts, the well-known argument concludes that the suffering is much more likely if naturalism is true than if a good God exists.

The multiple worlds objection

But, in a new twist for me, Draper suggests there is a many worlds objection here too. Perhaps God has created many worlds, but not randomly as postulated by the multiverse hypothesis, but all good universes to various degrees, but different to ours. Thus, he suggests, it may be argued that as long as this world is more good than bad, God may be justified in creating it provided he has created all the possibly better worlds also.

In the end, Draper concludes, quite reasonably, that this multiple worlds objection is no more successful than the previous one. It is hard to see how God can allow so much suffering and not (at least) remove humans to heaven rather than allow them to continue to suffer.

Draper’s conclusion

Draper concludes that the two arguments are approximately equal. This is in line with his overall assessment of all the evidence and arguments about God’s existence (in this 2009 interview):

“The evidence is ambiguous. Some evidence favors theism and some favors naturalism. For example, on theism one would expect the existence of things like consciousness, free will, and objective morality. Their existence is very surprising, however, on naturalism, which is why many naturalists deny that these things are real. Naturalism, however, does a better job than theism of accounting for the suffering in the world, as well as for things like religious diversity and the high degree of dependence of consciousness on the brain. Naturalism also starts out with a higher probability than theism, though this head start is not as large as some naturalists think. The bottom line is that both views have their strengths and weaknesses. That is why I am an agnostic.”

I agree …. and disagree

I agree with Draper that these two arguments tend to balance each other out. And I agree that there are many effective arguments on either side of the question.

But, not surprisingly, I don’t agree with his final agnostic conclusion:

  1. Overall, I find the balance of the philosophical arguments favours theism. Apart from the problem of evil, which I think is very powerful, I find the other arguments for naturalism less persuasive, and the other arguments for theism, based on the universe and humanity, quite persuasive.
  2. I don’t think the philosophical arguments are all, or even the main, evidence. I think the evidence of the life of Jesus and the apparent occurrence of healing miracles and visions are very strong, and tip the balance significantly in the direction of christian theism.

These are personal matters

As I said at the start, we all see these things differently.

How do you see things?

Photo Credit: sewing punzie via Compfight cc.

37 Comments

  1. Regarding Christianity, your worldview/argument falls to pieces the minute you are called upon to demonstrate the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth being a creator god.
    This is where the only thing you have is faith which has no more merit than a Hindu’s or Muslim’s or any other religious adherent, who can all relate miracle stories pertinent to their own particular faith.

    Until these god claims can be defined and this deity you all genuflect to can be positively identified then you are all simply point scoring.
    And nothing has changed in this regard since the invention of religion.

  2. Regarding Christianity, your worldview/argument falls to pieces the minute you are called upon to demonstrate the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth being a creator god.

    The reasonableness of such a call depends on what one means with “to demonstrate” in this context. After all, such an analysis only needs to philosophically conclude that Christianity is the most likely option. It doesn’t have to be raised to consensus truth.

  3. The reasonableness of such a call depends on what one means with “to demonstrate” in this context. After all, such an analysis only needs to philosophically conclude that Christianity is the most likely option. It doesn’t have to be raised to consensus truth.

    Really? I was always under the impression that consensus was the thing, especially on this blog?

    Most likely to whom? Certainly not to a Muslim and I would stake anything that you would not be able to come up with an argument to convince one either. Though I would be fascinated to see you try, truly I would.

    To accept that the character Jesus of Nazareth was divine is one thing…and I’m even prepared to give you this just for the sake of argument, but to get from a divine human to universe creator and then somehow philosophize your way around the Yahweh/Jesus Old Testament conundrum would be something truly spectacular, especially in light of the fact that godhood was bestowed upon Jesus by the church. Honestly, how credulous do you think I am?
    Or anyone else for that matter?

  4. Hi guys, thanks for your comments and interest.

    “I was always under the impression that consensus was the thing, especially on this blog?”
    Things are a little more subtle than you might think. If you want to understand more, you might read the post two back again.

  5. I have read many posts on your blog, and some are quite interesting. This doesn’t in any way detract from the reality that it would be impossible for you to demonstrate any veracity of the claim that the character Jesus of Nazareth is a the creator god of the universe.
    Not only did the biblical character flatly deny this, but the title, as I have already stated, was bestowed upon him by the church.
    No, things are not more subtle than I think, unkleE; not at all, I’m afraid.
    Subtlety, in this regard, is only required as a tool of convenience when some sort of doctrinal ‘fact’ is trying to be wrung from a religious argument.

    But I extend the same offer to you as I did to IgnorantiaNescia, if you feel confident enough to demonstrate that the character, Jesus of Nazareth is the creator god of the universe then I would be extremely interested to read your argument.

  6. No no, you have misunderstood again. Your initial comment showed you didn’t at all understand what I believe, or where I look for consensus, so neither that comment or this address what I think. You are free to comment without that understanding, but if you want to make your comments relevant to what I actually think, I suggest you read the post two ago again.

  7. I understand perfectly where you come from and how you try to distinguish between fact and faith.
    Yet, and I have mentioned this often enough, you begin from a false premise and then use biblical scholars to bolster your case which almost always ends with a conclusion that is somewhat skewed to your own point of view.
    You revealed your true colours in the post concerning the compilation/writing etc of the gospels, and this I mentioned as well.

    So, no. I have never misunderstood your standpoint at all.

    There is absolutely no evidence to support the faith you have in a creator god in the form of Jesus of Nazareth – no matter how you present your posts.

  8. Of course. This is the beauty of philosophy. I merely made mention that you are always driving the point of consensus.
    Any philosophical argument can be made for any point of view.
    Yet it will not make it any more factual.
    So, if you feel like demonstrating the veracity of your claim that the narrative character, Jesus of Nazareth, is the creator god of the universe, please, be my guest.

  9. I really don’t know how many times we must go through this.
    1.The gospel’s authors are not known.
    2.They are not eyewitnesses.
    3.There are no contemporary witnesses, and no contemporary accounts to verify the character Jesus of Nazareth.
    4.The only gospel that is relevant is Mark, as the other two synoptic writers copied from this gospel.
    5.We know that even this gospel was subject to interpolation.
    6.There is no evidence of an Aramaic source
    7.All they can be considered as is hearsay.

    Furthermore…
    There are no original documents. All we have are copies of copies of copies etc, and many of these are fragmentary.

    The Church was around before the bible, which was first commissioned by Constantine.
    It is a fact, that godhood was bestowed upon Jesus by the church.

    Truly, I fail to see the point you are driving at?

    Yet, I will ask, once again. Please, in your own words, demonstrate how the narrative character, Jesus of Nazareth, is the creator god of the universe.

  10. Yes, I read it. And, once again, your post is biased toward the outcome you wish to see. The comment at the end regarding what scholars believe about Jesus’ divinity and your following sentence/s explains enough.

    ”This is the christian conclusion”.
    A claim based on no verifiable evidence whatsoever and thus can be disregarded in the same way you would disregard a similar claim from a Muslim Hindu or any other person of faith.

    Scholars? By this you mean who?

    Remember, any scholar with any sort of Christian leaning is disqualified, because there will be an agenda.
    We have already discussed Casey and his Aramaic source.

    So, line up scholars, with no Christian interest or bias whatsoever

    In all honesty, based on previous dialogue with myself as well as others, you are unlikely to be truly open regarding this process as you always begin with a premise, but if you are prepared to be completely honest and stick solely to evidence that can be verified then please, continue, and I will welcome the interaction.

    I would rather look at the fact the church bestowed godhood on the character Jesus of Nazareth. Then afterwards, if you are willing, you can demonstrate how Jesus of Nazareth is the creator god of the universe.
    How he went from human to deity to creator.

  11. I have shown you why I think Jesus is divine,

    I understand. It is what you think.
    There is nothing wrong with this, but you should have the integrity to acknowledge that this is based solely on faith and try not to subtly imply there is anything else but faith. Hearsay evidence is irrelevant, and you have no regard for such claims by adherents of other religions, thus any such claims by Christians can be treated likewise.

  12. It is not based “solely on faith” but on the historical evidence. The problem seems to be that you still don’t accept the historical evidence.

  13. The historical evidence suggest there may have been someone called variously Jesus,Yeshua, Yeshu, Joshua.
    It was a common name, and there are quite a few historical references by people such as Josephus.

    There is no evidence whatsoever to support the assertion that the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth, is a god who created the universe.
    If you consider there is evidence then you have misunderstood it or have deigned to believe that it is fact. This is most likely due to the religious indoctrination all believers succumb to in varying degrees.

    This viewpoint is considered as being based solely on faith. Maybe you prefer other terminology?
    The end product is the same, as evidenced by the Muslims and those of other faiths.

  14. There are so many arguments undermining the fine tuning idea that I hardly know where to start. I’ll just list five.

    1) Science does not yet know whether the physical constants could take other values. And certainly the odds quoted against the current values are based on complete speculation of ranges of proposed values.

    2) If the universe were fine tuned for life why is such a tiny proportion of it biomass even assuming life has developed several times in each galaxy. A disinterested observer could reasonable declare there is no life in the universe because it is such an undetectably small proportion.

    3) The universe is as we would expect if life is a chemical accident. That is it has the immense size and age necessary for the uncountable number of chemical experiments to take place which produced the first complex self catalysing organic compound capable of mutation.

    4) The idea completely ignores the infinite regression problem and, in fact, makes it worse. If the the physical constants needed to be fine tuned for the development of complex life, who finely tuned the environment for the development of an even more complex god before that?

    5) No-one can guess what other sets of physical constant values could lead to some form of intelligent life. There may be virtually infinite possible values each leading to something of comparable intelligence to humans. And in any case if god is omnipotent he could command life to evolve from any random values he happened to choose, thus invalidating the whole idea. Once you postulate a being with infinite magic powers he doesn’t need to do anything as pedestrian as carefully setting the values of physical constants.

    I could go on and on. I suggest you read the Wiki page:

    http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Fine-tuning_argument

    Contrast this state of affairs with the poor attempts theists have made to overcome the problem of evil.

  15. 1) Science does not yet know whether the physical constants could take other values. And certainly the odds quoted against the current values are based on complete speculation of ranges of proposed values.

    You should understand that in mathematics the burden of proof lies on the person claiming some variable values are impossible. Otherwise the only rational default position is that the values are possible. Arbitrary decrees won’t do. And as some aspects of fine-tuning are initial values for which no a priori boundaries can be derived.

    2) If the universe were fine tuned for life why is such a tiny proportion of it biomass even assuming life has developed several times in each galaxy. A disinterested observer could reasonable declare there is no life in the universe because it is such an undetectably small proportion.

    This misconstrues what fine-tuning for life means. It means fine-tuning for the (possible) existence of life, not fine-tuning for the abundance of life.

    3) The universe is as we would expect if life is a chemical accident. That is it has the immense size and age necessary for the uncountable number of chemical experiments to take place which produced the first complex self catalysing organic compound capable of mutation.

    This is just rhetoric. It just mistakes methodological naturalism for metaphysical naturalism. Fine-tuning doesn’t entail the claim life was directly created by God.

    It would be a good argument against biological teleological arguments, if the interlocutor would think God cares about any life other than humans. But that isn’t the claim here.

    4) The idea completely ignores the infinite regression problem and, in fact, makes it worse. If the the physical constants needed to be fine tuned for the development of complex life, who finely tuned the environment for the development of an even more complex god before that?

    If you think this is a good argument, you need to read more about theistic conceptions of God. I know of no living theists who think God is in any way a physical being. The claim is instead that God is more like an unphysical mind. There are good entropic reasons for bypassing physical regressions.

    5) No-one can guess what other sets of physical constant values could lead to some form of intelligent life. There may be virtually infinite possible values each leading to something of comparable intelligence to humans. And in any case if god is omnipotent he could command life to evolve from any random values he happened to choose, thus invalidating the whole idea. Once you postulate a being with infinite magic powers he doesn’t need to do anything as pedestrian as carefully setting the values of physical constants.

    That assumes God would prefer to create a universe as irregular as possible, which is quite inconsistent with God’s constancy and benevolence. And the only relevant point is the proportion of possible universe that lead to some form of complex chemistry and to some type of life. Many values would lead to universes in which no complex chemistry is possible.

  16. This is just rhetoric. It just mistakes methodological naturalism for metaphysical naturalism. Fine-tuning doesn’t entail the claim life was directly created by God.

    And here, as always, is where everything for the theist comes unglued.
    You have to define what this god is before you can make any claims regarding what this god is capable of.

  17. Hi Gordon thanks for commenting. In the paper I referenced, Paul Draper makes two claims about fine-tuning: (1) the scientific facts show our universe is highly “fine-tuned” for moral agents, and (2) this is more probable if God exists than if he doesn’t. You have made 5 statements, several of which question #1 (the science) but none which directly question Draper’s conclusion (#2).

    I think you are mistaken about the science. Most cosmologists I have read agree that we can sensibly discuss the ranges of physical constants, contra your point 1, and that we can reasonably define what different universes couldn’t support moral agents (contra your point 5).

    For example, postgrad astrophysicist Luke Barnes has argued the case many times, has had his conclusions on fine-tuning published in a professional journal and has named a raft of the world’s most eminent cosmologists who agree with him.

    Furthermore, Roger Penrose, formerly Professor of Mathematics at Oxford who worked with Stephen Hawking on the physics of black holes, has done the probability calculation for one important aspect of fine tuning (low entropy) to show it can indeed be done (see p 445 in that reference).

    So my words “of all the possible universes allowed by theoretical physics, the number that could support complex life is very, very small” reflect the way Barnes has written about fine-tuning. And I think that means your statements #1 & #5 are not in agreement with the best cosmologists.

    Your statement 3 is about the beginning of biological life, which isn’t a matter directly addressed by fine-tuning. Rather fine-tuning talks about much “larger scale” physics and chemistry matters, such as whether the universe would last very long after the big bang, whether it would remain just “soup” or whether planets and suns would form, whether chemistry would ever progress beyond just Hydrogen, or just Hydrogen plus Helium, etc. So I don’t see any relevance to Draper’s argument from your #3.

    Your #2 is often said, but on what basis? I can only walk on one surface out of six in every room in my house, and humans can only live in a very small percentage of the total volume of earth, but that doesn’t mean neither is a suitable place to live. I can’t think of any premise you could use to argue your point here. Luke Barnes points out in this post why the universe must be as large as it is, given the physics, and why this argument (#2) isn’t reasonable, and neither does it seem to refer to Draper’s arguments.

    So all the cosmology I have read (I include Rees, Davies & Susskind as well as Barnes and Penrose) indicates that fine-tuning is real and your suggestions here are not in accordance with modern cosmology.

    You don’t offer any arguments directly against Drapers second (philosophical) point, but your No 4 does address a different philosophical point. Each of us will draw our own conclusions from the scientific conclusions, and I still think it is hard to argue against Draper’s assessment, and easy to find reasons why your suggested parallel doesn’t work, but that is just a matter of opinion.

  18. And here, as always, is where everything for the theist comes unglued.
    You have to define what this god is before you can make any claims regarding what this god is capable of.

    Hello Skeptic,

    I would settle for a working definition like this:

    God is a transcendent (non-physical, distinct from the universe or multiverse), perfectly benevolent (nature is the set of good morality), omnipotent (can do everything that is not contradictory and not evil) and omniscient (intuitively knows all of spacetime, all possible scenarios and possesses perfect self-knowledge).

    I am not going to claim that that is all there is to be said about God, but I hope it can further our discussion.

  19. God is a transcendent (non-physical, distinct from the universe or multiverse), perfectly benevolent (nature is the set of good morality), omnipotent (can do everything that is not contradictory and not evil) and omniscient (intuitively knows all of spacetime, all possible scenarios and possesses perfect self-knowledge).

    Lol….you really do have a vivid imagination.

    Then your god is obviously not Yahweh/Yeshua.
    So you are a deist?

  20. No, I’m not a deist. Are you referring to the “nasty passages” and Jesus’ physicality?

  21. @IgnorantiaNescia

    You should understand that in mathematics the burden of proof lies on the person claiming some variable values are impossible. Otherwise the only rational default position is that the values are possible. Arbitrary decrees won’t do. And as some aspects of fine-tuning are initial values for which no a priori boundaries can be derived.

    And you should understand that when you use mathematics to model the real world speculation on possible real world values for a range of physical constants does not count for much when the evidence points to there being only one value for said constants. (The clue is in the word “constants”). Beyond that evidence my speculations are just as valid as yours.

    This misconstrues what fine-tuning for life means. It means fine-tuning for the (possible) existence of life, not fine-tuning for the abundance of life.

    Maybe but it shows an incredibly wasteful God. One would be struggling to find another example where it was necessary to do so much to achieve so little. And incidentally and suspiciously create a universe where everything that actually did happen could happen without further divine intervention.

    This is just rhetoric. It just mistakes methodological naturalism for metaphysical naturalism. Fine-tuning doesn’t entail the claim life was directly created by God.

    Nor would fine tuning necessitate the values which would produce exactly the universe we observe which makes it appear that God is superfluous.

    If you think this is a good argument, you need to read more about theistic conceptions of God. I know of no living theists who think God is in any way a physical being. The claim is instead that God is more like an unphysical mind. There are good entropic reasons for bypassing physical regressions.

    The fact that theologians have done their best to find a gap science cannot fill is unimpressive and doesn’t answer the infinite regression problem nor address how a disembodied intelligence can possibly exist. If it was necessary for someone to twiddle with the knobs to get the universe to exist, who twiddled with the knobs to get God to exist?

    That assumes God would prefer to create a universe as irregular as possible, which is quite inconsistent with God’s constancy and benevolence. And the only relevant point is the proportion of possible universe that lead to some form of complex chemistry and to some type of life. Many values would lead to universes in which no complex chemistry is possible.

    Having set up the physical constants the way you claim he did it was not necessary to display constancy or indeed do anything else at all. As for benevolence, that would be the benevolence that set up the conditions for evolution by natural selection, a process which involves so much suffering among innumerable creatures for unimaginable spans of time.

  22. @unkleE
    Currently, we have no access to data that would tell us what range the constants could possibly assume in reality. You are mistaken if you believe scientific evidence points to the contrary.

    In addition we have no evidence concerning the number of times the construction of a universe actually occurred. Even if the probability of our universe is very small it becomes a certainty if the number of iterations is extremely large.

  23. Hi Gordon

    “You are mistaken if you believe scientific evidence points to the contrary.”

    I have presented the evidence offered by astrophysicist Luke Barnes that fine-tuning is a scientific fact as yet unexplained. Just to repeat, this is from the synopsis of his paper The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life:

    The claim is that in the space of possible physical laws, parameters and initial conditions, the set that permits the evolution of intelligent life is very small. I present here a review of the scientific literature, outlining cases of fine-tuning in the classic works of Carter, Carr and Rees, and Barrow and Tipler, as well as more recent work.

    I have referenced the work of Roger Penrose who calculated the size of the sample space of possible universes (he called it “the total phase space volume”).

    I have mentioned the impressive list of cosmologists (Wilczek, Hawking, Rees, Linde, Susskind, Guth, Smolin) who recognise fine-tuning as a fact.

    These guys aren’t just making this stuff up – it is all based on evidence. So how can you say this. Can you please explain?

    “Even if the probability of our universe is very small it becomes a certainty if the number of iterations is extremely large.”

    This is effectively the multiverse hypothesis – which everyone recognises has nowhere near been proven true, and many say it can never be. Some dismiss it as science at all. Luke Barnes discusses it in the same papers, and says:

    The information is not here. The history of science has repeatedly taught us that experimental testing is not an optional extra. The hypothesis that a multiverse actually exists will always be untestable.

    For one who decries faith, it is surprising that you would put a lot of credence in the multiverse as a way of explaining fine-tuning. It requires about as much faith as believing that God created (and still doesn’t remove the argument – for why is the multiverse so fine-tuned?).

  24. These guys aren’t just making this stuff up – it is all based on evidence. So how can you say this. Can you please explain?

    I don’t know what you think of as evidence. The physical constants are so called because our only actual evidence is that they don’t vary. And when one speculates that they might be variable one can have no idea what the limits on that variability might be.
    Scientists speculating on the viability or otherwise of alternative universes is not evidence.

    Your comments about a multiverse reveal how you suffer from bias. What you say about a multiverse is true but no more true than speculations about the variability of physical constants. In any case I wasn’t thinking about a multiverse as such but rather about serial iterations of a single universe with possible different physical constants each time. Of course this is pure speculation, but no more so than assumed ranges through which physical constants might vary.

  25. Well Gordon, all those experts say they can draw those conclusions. Rees and others specifically consider the possibility that there is an underlying physical “law” that requires the constants we have, but reject this.

    I will believe the experts rather than you, I’m sorry.

    I find it rather strange that you urge me to be evidence-based, but then you won’t accept what the experts say about the evidence in this case, but I don’t think arguing about it will help.

  26. @ unklee
    I would like to clear something up, if I may?
    Are you actually implying that a scientist such as Stephen Hawking is suggesting that by fine-tuning he believes a god created the universe?

  27. @unkleE
    Very well. we’ll look at one of your experts.

    Here’s what one complainer said after ploughing through Luke Barnes stuff:

    Can you provide a reference that explains why we think these fundamental parameters of nature are indeed things that can have values other than those we observe them to have? This is one aspect (among many) of FT that I really don’t understand at all.
    Is the main reason simply that it’s too difficult to explain them at present, so we give up and decide that they could have had any old value? I’d like to think that I’ve badly misunderstood something, but can’t find much discussion of this point.

    And here’s what Luke Barnes said in reply:

    More generally, it isn’t that it’s too difficult to explain them. The fundamental parameters of any physical theory are by definition those parameters whose values are not predicted by the theory. The value of G in Newtonian gravity is not a difficult, unsolved problem. It is simply not defined by the theory – it must be measured. We would need a new, “bigger” theory for G to be predicted. I discuss this at a few points in the paper e.g. the top of page 71.

    If you can’t read between the lines here it means he has no empirical evidence.

    Contrast this with the plethora of evidence for observed suffering in the world, independent of human causes, which makes the argument from evil so powerful.

    The idea that the two arguments are in some way balancing is wishful thinking in the extreme.

  28. So you don’t like Barnes. What about Rees, Smolin, Wilczek, Hawking, Linde, Davies, Susskind, Guth & Penrose? Are you going to urge me to believe you rather than all of them? Or are you going to admit to yourself that you are trying very hard to avoid the clear conclusions of the majority of cosmologists?

  29. @unkleE
    I don’t necessarily dismiss their conclusions. I think you have a false idea on what their conclusions are based, which, when push comes to shove, are just informed speculation not supported by empirical evidence.

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