/

The fine-tuning argument for the existence of God: does it work?

August 2nd, 2014

Big bang

A reader, Hugo, and I have been discussing the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God in the comments section of another post. His most recent comment contained a number of interesting points, so I thought there was enough for a new post.

So here are Hugo’s comments, shown as blockquotes, with my responses. (I have tried to address all the points and take quotes that fairly represent the views expressed.) Please feel free to join in.

A quick summary

  • The fine tuning argument is based on well established scientific facts about the universe – that had a number of constants in theoretical physics been just a little different, our universe would not exist in any form that would allow intelligent life to evolve. See Science and the design of the universe and The science of universal fine-tuning.
  • These scientific facts are the basis of an argument for the existence of God. The argument begins with the statement that this fine-tuning must either be chance or design or physical necessity, then gives scientific reasons to reject chance and physical necessity, and hence conclude it most probably was designed.

Why think an argument like this can prove anything?

you seem to ‘need’ an answer to the question of fine-tuning, which could be generalized to a bias regarding the ‘need’ to explain existence in terms of something else that’s outside of it

Humans are curious. We like to find out things. We visit distant exotic places to experience what they are like. We use science to try to understand things. We try to work out who to vote for and values to live by. Why wouldn’t we try to understand if there’s a God or not?

The question is under consideration already. People think they have experienced God through healing, or visions or a loving reassurance. Religious ‘gurus’ like Jesus or the Buddha claim to be telling us about ultimate reality. Many people want to check out these ideas, and the science of fine-tuning may give us an insight. I can’t see any reason not to want to see what it may reveal to us.

I don’t think there is any conclusion to be drawn from the apparent fine tuning of the universe, and it’s certainly not ‘why’ people believe in God anyway. It’s a rationalization after the fact that excites rational believers who like to think about how God works and what signs of his presence we can find.

If it’s a rationalisation after the fact (and many neuroscientists and psychologists say that this is often how we think), then denying the argument and disbelieving in God is as much a rationalisation as acceptance of the argument and believing in God. So it may be true, but I don’t see how that gets us anywhere. There is still a logical argument and some scientific facts that we have before us, and still the truth to try to discover – if we want to know.

And it does actually convince people. Famous atheist Antony Flew came to believe in God near the end of his life to a large degree because of this argument. I have a relative for whom the science of fine-tuning was key in his coming to believe in God.

starting with ‘the observation that the fine-tuning must either be chance or design or physical necessity’ is already going too far, for no good reason other than to reach a pre-accepted conclusion beyond what scientific knowledge tells us

Again, I can’t see the problem. Why pre-judge the question? Why not examine the science to see what it may reveal?

Is it ‘wrong’ to use an argument like this?

I don’t think I can think of any other possibilities, but that does not prove there is none, and I also don’t agree with your dismissal of 2 of the 3 so that you can “justify” accepting the remaining one. It’s a very lazy way of explaining why your preferred option is the right one …. If you had really good reason for your conclusions, you would not ask this kind of ‘gotcha’ question about other possible options, you would just reason your way to your conclusion directly. But you can’t.

It is simply a logical argument based on scientific facts. And it is a common form of argument. If a detective is investigating a murder and has a list of suspects, he or she will try to eliminate suspects from the list to zero in on the most likely murderer. It’s a quite logical process.

It is no different here. We have three possible explanations. If two of them are extremely unlikely, that makes the third the best possibility.

Is the argument based on science, or not?

[re physical necessity] you, myself, and everyone else actually, simply don’t know. … you are not convinced yourself that ‘physical necessity’ is impossible, but you find it unlikely enough to reason ‘as if’ it was impossible.

Most cosmologists say they believe there is no physical necessity behind the fine tuning. For example, in ‘Just Six Numbers’ Martin Rees dismisses the idea, and Luke Barnes (referencing several famous cosmologists) says theoretical physics provides no evidence of an underlying physical explanation, and it is “almost certainly not true” for the latest string theories.

So we can choose to accept what the majority of expert cosmologists say, or we can decide to the contrary.

[re statistical probability] You draw conclusions where there is no conclusion to be drawn …. the problem is that you read into the numbers to see something that’s not there

I don’t read anything into the numbers – the cosmologists do that. Every cosmologist I have read (Rees, Susskind, Davies, Smolin, Penrose, Barnes plus quotes from another few in Barnes) says the fine tuning couldn’t have happened by chance (and Penrose was professor of mathematics at Oxford University, so he would presumably know about probability).

Again, we can choose to accept what the majority of expert cosmologists say, or we can decide to the contrary.

it’s actually quite easy to explain why the numbers are meaningless …. why would each universe be restricted to 1 ‘lifetime’ with 1 set of physical laws’ why can’t they possibly be “reborn” periodically with new variations? Why not 10^123 times each so far?

Why not anything? It seems more reasonable to me to start with what the best scientists conclude, and then ask what this tells us about the universe. They say:

  • Fine-tuning is real.
  • It couldn’t have happened by chance.
  • It probably isn’t because of an underlying physical reality (and if it was, that reality is very finely tuned).
  • The only scientific explanation they have is the multiverse, and some think this is likely, many think it is possible and some think it isn’t even science.

But as Davies points out, if the multiverse is the answer, it must itself be ‘finely tuned’ to produce the desired result. So we each make our choice – we accept there is no scientific explanation and quite likely never will be, or we take this as a clue that God may have been at work.

There is really no reason to support ‘design’ as an explanation for the way the universe is other than, ‘well, it’s big, complex, and ….

No reason? The cosmologists agree there is extraordinary fine-tuning and there appears to be no satisfactory scientific explanation. So the only explanation we really have is that God did it.

I find it interesting that sceptics who (quite reasonably) press christians for explanations of all sorts of odd facts about the world, the Bible and christian belief, suddenly argue they don’t need explanations about the universe. I think it is most reasonable to look for explanations for everything, and if there is only one explanation, however much we don’t like it, apply Sherlock Holmes dictum: “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.

A universe from nothing?

I also think that this is yet another example of an argument from ignorance fallacy. We don’t know how a universe like ours could arise from some external, more basic, reality; hence, we conclude that it could not have been the case. …. who says that there is such a thing as ‘nothing’?

This is a separate question, about the origin of the universe rather than its design. But a similar argument applies – granted the science of the big bang, or the scientific speculation about the multiverse, we can say logically that the universe (by which mean everything composed of space, time, matter and energy) either (i) always existed and so doesn’t need a cause, (ii) had a cause external to itself, (iii) caused itself, or (iv) occurred without any cause.

It then becomes an assessment of each of those possibilities. (For more on that, see The cosmological argument.)

From fine tuning to God?

Even if we entertain the idea that the universe was ‘designed’ to look the way it does, I really think there is some escalation from that idea to God

The argument, if we consider it to give an insight into truth, only establishes that the universe was probably designed. But:

  1. What non-physical entity could design a universe except what we might reasonably call “God”?
  2. This is one of a suite of arguments that build to show that God probably exists. For example, the Cosmological argument suggests the world was created, this argument suggests it was designed, the moral argument suggests there is an ethical basis behind the universe, the argument from reason suggests there is a mind behind the universe, human experience suggests this mind is personal and interacts with us, and consideration of the history of Jesus confirms all the above, and more.

Is a non-physical mind possible?

In order to believe that a mind is behind the universe, you first have to accept the idea that a mind can exist without the material existence existing.

I think we only need to have an open mind on the question. And that isn’t much to ask. After all, we understand very little about our human minds – things like consciousness, qualia and free will remain mysteries to neuroscientists.

We surely don’t know enough to say that a non-physical mind cannot exist.

Conclusion

I think therefore that fine tuning forms a strong basis of an argument for the existence of God. We are each free, of course, to make our own minds up about our conclusions, but I feel many of the criticisms I have seen don’t really grapple with the scientific facts or the logic of the argument.

Diagram of the big bang by NASA, via SNAP.

69 Comments

  1. I think no matter how you slice it the issue still comes down to God or luck. I’m not seeing how this theory changes that. I think, like you, it is worth investigating but I doubt any of the Atheists I interact with would even falter because of this theory.

  2. Hi Hayden, the point of the argument is that the odds against it being by luck are so long (say the expert cosmologists) that it makes the only real choices God or the multiverse (this is the clear conclusion of Rees, and I think Susskind, Davies and Barnes are close to this too). And the multiverse may not be true, may never be proven, and doesn’t take away the suspicion that it is too darn lucky not to be designed.

    So I think it really is a strong argument, and there are many non-believers who agree.

    I too have found that most atheists I meet don’t accept the argument, but I don’t really expect that they will any more than they probably expect that I’ll accept some of their arguments. But I think it is useful to discuss the argument because (1) it tends to show that atheists don’t have an adequate answer at this point, and (2) open-minded people who are still on the fence can assess both sides and draw their own conclusions.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. The fine-tuning argument is indeed a supposed design argument for the existence of God. However, every example we have of something that we know is designed or finely-tuned by an agent is a design created by an agent that must work with constraints in order to meet an end in the most simple and efficient way possible. Take the wheel for example. The wheel is a design that is constructed within the constraints of our abilities to manipulate the environment in order to reach a goal in the most simple and efficient way possible. The design of the wheel doesn’t work because we possess the ability to configure our environment however we feel. It works because it is one of the most highly efficient (or finely tuned) designs we have created in order to cope with the lack of our ability to configure our environment to fit our needs or goals at the snap of our fingers. Even beavers work within constraints when they design their dams. Ants do the same when they construct the dwellings in which they live as well. Again, every design we see is a design that has come about within constraints but there are no constraints for a God nor are there any needs to be fulfilled unless one admits that there is some sort of incompleteness about God which brings into question how such a being can be so necessary yet seem incomplete. A God has no limits to what it could create by virtue of being omniscient and omnipotent. God chose what the constraints and limitations to all that exists which includes all of physical reality (or you could limit God’s creative power to physical reality if one would like) which is an ability completely foreign to what anyone has ever actually observed or experienced which leaves a heavy burden of proof for the one trying to demonstrate that this being exists or even demonstrating that such abilities are plausible. One doesn’t pick the limitations and then place those limitations on oneself when one attempts to design the fastest car in the world. One works with what one has and makes the best out of it when trying to design the fastest car in the world. An omniscient and omnipotent being simply selects the limitations to what the fastest car is and could instantly create that fastest car out of nothing but that is not an example of anything anyone has ever demonstrated to be a plausible scenario or even a coherent conception of what it means to design anything. In other words, to infer that a God probably designed something (the universe in this case) is to automatically place restraints on this virtually unrestrained being because to speak of design is to speak of something created within pre-existing limits. I doubt you believe that God is bogged down by pre-existing limitations regarding what it could create. Even if I conceded that something designed the universe I could still rule out the classical theistic God simply because designing and fine tuning are concepts that assume restraints which makes no sense when applied to a being that has no constraints when it comes to creating a universe. Furthermore, the universe being finely tuned or designed can be ruled out simply because we have no example of any universe being created by any agent to even calculate the probability of a universe being created by any agent of any sort. The improbability of the universe being configured the way it is by chance or necessity does not make the probability that God (or something else) designed or finely tuned the universe more plausible. The notion that the universe is designed by some agent outside of it must be able to stand on its own merits. You used an example of a detective trying to figure out a murder by eliminating suspects but even then the detective can only analyze the data available to him to figure out who the suspect is. If the actual culprit is immaterial or outside of the universe or both would the detective be able to actually solve this case? Would his conclusion that some being outside of the universe finely-tuned the victim’s murder fly in the court of law? How would this detective come to such a verdict in the first place? Would you think that an immaterial being outside of the universe would be a probable suspect? I think not and I think that your example doesn’t help you argue what you are arguing. Two explanations being unlikely doesn’t make the third option more likely if the third is just as unlikely or even more unlikely. In fact, how do you calculate such a probability of this supposed third option? How do calculate God into a probability? You argue heavily for the improbability of the first two options but you do not seem to apply your scrutiny to the third option whatsoever.

    When one speaks of fine-tuning and design in regards to the physical universe they will only make sense in light of the assumption that there are limitations and God has none to speak of in regards to the creation of the physical universe. To say that God designed or fine-tuned anything is a paradoxical and incoherent statement. A more accurate statement is that God arbitrarily chose the parameters that we have discovered about the universe we are in which is just a chance happening unless you could show that God made the universe the way it is out of necessity. If God created the universe the way it is out of necessity then you are placing limitations on God which brings into question what about the coherence of such a being. You’re left with three options. Either you agree that God is limited, drop the design inference, or ignore that any talk of design (fine-tuning or otherwise) assumes limitations.

    Also, the parameters of the universe being slightly different would probably not allow life as we know it but there is no telling if some sort of intelligent life or some sort of general life forms were possible if the physical parameters were different.

  4. Hi Terrell, I’m having trouble understanding what you are arguing here, but I will do my best.

    1. You say God has no constraints or limits, but I can see no reason to think this. Firstly, I think God has logical limits – he cannot create a 4 sided triangle or make both A and not-A true, or make a rock so big he couldn’t lift it. But secondly, and more importantly, God has self imposed constraints, otherwise he would have no purpose, for a purpose creates a constraint. Some examples ….

    If God wants to create a predictable universe with laws, he constrains himself to work with those laws. If he wants to create life, he constrains himself to create a universe that allows life. If he wants that life to have autonomy or free will, he constrains himself to allow us to do things that aren’t right. If he wants us to be people who learn, then he constrains himself to allow us to make mistakes.

    I think he probably had many, many purposes, and therefore many, many constraints. I think this answers much of what you say because I think you have assumed I would think differently than I do.

    2. You ask why do I think an immaterial being might be the cause of the design? It is because of logic. If the universe is defined as everything physical, and if the only possibilities are that it was designed or happened by chance or happened because the laws of Physics require it, and I have decided the second and third options are unlikely, then logic says something outside the universe designed and created it. That by definition means it is non-Physical. And since design entails intent, that non-Physical cause must have been volitional, or a being.

    It’s not as if that is a surprising or obscure option. People throughout history have believed in such a being, many have claimed to have been in contact with that being, and his/her/its existence is much discussed today. So I see no barrier to postulating God as the designer.

    3. You say: “To say that God designed or fine-tuned anything is a paradoxical and incoherent statement.” but I cannot see any reason you have offered to think that. I find it quite consistent and comprehensible.

    4. You say: “there is no telling if some sort of intelligent life or some sort of general life forms were possible if the physical parameters were different.” When the cosmologists talk about life forming, they aren’t just talking about carbon based life that breathes oxygen, etc, but any conceivable life, which would require some sort of complex chemistry, an energy source and habitat.

    But the point of the fine tuning argument is that if the universe appeared by chance, the overwhelming probability is that it would either have collapsed back into nothingness long before life could have appeared, or it would have been a very thin “soup” of simple particles. No life of any conceivable form would have appeared in those cases for there would be none of the three basic requirements. For example, Lee Smolin estimated the probability that stars would form as 1 chance in 10^229, enormous odds!

    I think the science is better understood than you may realise, and the argument more carefully compiled than you have addressed.

  5. 1. God having logical limits is no objection to what I am arguing. My argument assumes logic so there is no reason to think that I’m arguing that God is beyond logic though I understand the objection. I would just like to clarify that I’m not saying that God can create round circles or make A to be not-A. The constraints I am talking about are constraints within the rules of logic. I’m specifically referring to the constraints within the physical universe. You state that God can limit himself in order to reach a certain goal but that is not design. God choosing the parameters of the universe is not any kind of supposed design we are familiar with. Placing self-imposed limitations on oneself is not design. That is arbitrarily selecting the parameters of the universe, selecting how the beings will be like in this universe, creating it all out of nothing (or manipulating pre-existing matter in virtually any configuration it likes), and etc. Find me one example of a design in the real world that is like that. Until such a design is demonstrated then every single design we know of is a design configured within the constraints of the physical universe so to say that an omnipotent and omniscient being designed anything is a misconceived notion. What you are really saying is that such a being arbitrarily chose the universe to be the way that it is (given the limits of logic of course) because a God does not have limited knowledge and can create whatever is logically possible. Any mention of design is an admission that the designer is a significantly finite being simply because all designs we know of are created by finite processes or beings.
    2. Design does not entail intent. There is such a thing as teleonomic design. Also, design entails that the designer is a finite being, process, or mechanism in the sense that the process, being, or mechanism is limited by the limitations within the universe. For example, the wheel is a design created by finite beings in a universe that constrains the capabilities of these beings. Maybe a syllogism will help.

    P1. There is no known example of design by any agent where this agent does not have to work within the limits in the universe.
    P2. God is an agent and does not have to work within the limits of the universe.
    C. Therefore, God is not a known example of an agent designing anything from 1 and 2.

    Design as a concept makes no sense whatsoever if the term is used in reference to a being that is not limited by the universe. As I have stated before, the first option is not plausible if it is just as incoherent as or more incoherent than the second and third option. An option not being obscure or surprising does not make it a good option.
    3. Okay.
    4. I have addressed it. You just haven’t understood where I’m coming from. Design is not choosing the parameters and limitations. Design is working within parameters and limitations. There is much I feel you have ignored in my post. Perhaps these videos could help you grasp what I mean.
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8O7dgBPRPBQNwtaTZz7j7ZCOdjvngT_j

    I particularly feel that the video below summarizes much of what the playlist above illustrates. The video below is also included in the playlist.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-e9rdzYghZg&index=18&list=PL8O7dgBPRPBQNwtaTZz7j7ZCOdjvngT_

  6. Hi Terrell,

    It seems your objections come down to this statement: “design entails that the designer is a finite being, process, or mechanism in the sense that the process, being, or mechanism is limited by the limitations within the universe”.

    I would simply say: no it doesn’t.

    Why should it? Just because you say so doesn’t make it so. There is nothing in the word ‘design’ that entails that the designer is a finite being, you have just added that. If you want to make that your basis you need to argue it.

    Even your syllogism doesn’t make this argument, for it simply starts with “There is no known example of design by any agent where this agent does not have to work within the limits in the universe.” and ends with this statement “God is not a known example of an agent designing anything”. But premise 1 is only true if we exclude God (the thing we are trying to establish), so you have written your conclusion into your premise, which destroys the argument.

    “Design is working within parameters and limitations.” I agree with this, and have pointed out that any objective becomes a parameter and limitation – and God clearly has several of these and possibly many.

    I think you, and the video you recommend (which I only watched a little of), both miss the clarity of the teleological argument and cover over the omission with words. The argument has 5 premises and a conclusion. To argue against it requires you have a clear reason to reject one or more of the premises. It seems you don’t have that, just an argument I find very obscure about what is entailed by design.

    Can I suggest, if you want to further this discussion, that you clearly state (1) which premise(s) you oppose and why and (2) put your argument about what is entailed by design into the form of premises?

    Thanks.

  7. It seems that you still do not understand where I am coming from. I feel that I have been arguing for what we can justifiably say about what is entailed by design this whole time and I feel you have ignored much of what I have said. I will focus on my syllogism to narrow down what I mean. If my premises and conclusion are true then the fine-tuning argument is making an unwarranted claim about design. I’m essentially arguing that your conception of design is unjustified before you even articulate the fine-tuning argument. Let us begin…again.

    P1. There is no known example of design by any agent where the agent does not have to work within the limits in the universe.
    P2. God is an agent and does not have to work within the limits of the universe.
    C. Therefore, God is not a known example of an agent designer from 1 and 2.

    You seem to have a contention with P1 but I feel that your contention entirely misses the point of what P1 is actually stating. P1 is very straightforward, to the point, and actually a modest epistemic claim. It states that we don’t know if anything is designed by an omnipotent and omniscient agent. I am not claiming that there isn’t anything supposedly designed by an omnipotent and omniscience agent in P1 nor does P1 state that there is no omnipotent and omniscient being, namely God. There could be a God but we simply have not observed anything omnipotent and omniscient choosing or supposedly designing the parameters of the environment out of nothing. It is fine to think that is the case but that claim is what you are trying to justify which means that you cannot use what you are trying to epistemically justify as an objection to another epistemic claim. In other words, you can’t use what you are trying to establish as an objection to something else before you even establish what you are trying to establish. That’s just assuming your conclusion. This is important in regards to the fine-tuning argument because the fine-tuning argument and other design arguments for the existence of God are not arguments that assume that we know that God designed the universe or anything in the universe (which in turn assumes God exists) simply because the existence of God is what is trying to be established. However, if ones notion of design (particularly a supposed design by an omniscient and omnipotent being) is not epistemically justified before the fine-tuning argument and other design arguments are even made then those arguments are flawed before the first premise is stated. In other words, stating that P1 excludes God is to put the cart before the horse. One must establish what it means to say that an omnipotent and omniscient being designed something. However, what is definitely well within our epistemic experience in regards to design are designs that are created by beings that are limited by and existing within the environment prior to any inclination of designing anything for any specific goal or objective (see link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design). This seems true enough such that there are definitions of design state this:

    “noun) a specification of an object, manifested by an agent, intended to accomplish goals, in a particular environment, using a set of primitive components, satisfying a set of requirements, subject to constraints;
    (verb, transitive) to create a design, in an environment (where the designer operates)”

    “Another definition for design is a roadmap or a strategic approach for someone to achieve a unique expectation. It defines the specifications, plans, parameters, costs, activities, processes and how and what to do within legal, political, social, environmental, safety and economic constraints in achieving that objective.”

    Furthermore, what is well within our epistemic situation in regards to designs created by agents is that the designer bases their design on an accumulation of adjustments, knowledge, innovations, and etc. which are based on prior and more primitive designs. For instance, a modern Ford Mustang is the product of an accumulation of adjustments, knowledge, innovations, and etc. that date as far back as the time of the invention of the steam engine and even farther back to the invention of the wheel. Sometimes design even entails re-design. Also, designs that are well within our epistemic situation are designs in which the designer was physically limited (more limited than a being that is only limited by logic) prior to the goal for which the design was being created for. For example, a person not being able to walk through walls is a constraint that existed prior to that person coming up with the objective to create a home for him or herself to live in. The person doesn’t place the limitation of not being able to walk through walls on their self prior to deciding to design their home. However, the same cannot be said for God if God were in the same scenario. We have not observed something designed out of literally nothing where the parameters are seemingly instantaneously chosen. Not to mention that we have never experienced a designer that had no physical limitations prior to its objective to design something nor have we observed a design created by a being that knows what every single consequence is going to be after the design is completed for its objective. There is nothing designed by a designer in this universe that is analogous to (1) a design created out of nothing, (2) a design where the designer is not bound by any physical limitations prior to designing something for a specific objective(s) or a design where the designer is omnipotent/omniscient, (3) a design that is not based on something that already physically exists, (4) a design in which the designer is outside of the universe prior to the design being made, and (5) a design where the designer is not even a material being . These are 5 points of design that the traditional theists seems to argue for yet the theists is at pains to point to one example in the real world that is even close to just one of these points. Basically, the sort of design that a traditional theist tends to argue for is something completely foreign and unknown to us. This is why I feel that no one is justified in arguing that the universe or anything in it is designed by God. The sort of design that we are certain about – designs created by physically limited beings – is nowhere near any sort of design by an immaterial, omniscient, and omniscient person.

    P2 is obvious.

    If P1 and P2 are true, we are justified to conclude the C is true. C does not state that God doesn’t exist. C states that God is outside our epistemic justification in regards to design, namely that (1) we have only observed designers that exists in the environment, (2) we have only observed designers that are physically limited by the environment prior to the conceived objective of the designer, (3) we have only observed designers that do not create the environment out of nothing including the parameters of the environment, and (4) the designs we observe are designs that are based on accumulated knowledge, adjustments, innovations, etc.

    One could argue for the existence of god via the fine-tuning argument or some other design arguments but if the one who is making the argument does not establish what they mean by design or if one rejects to the conception of design being applied to that argument then one need not accept the conclusion.

    In regards to your argument I have a contention with premise 2 (not so much premise 2) and premise 3. Premise 2 states that “If these laws and constants had been different, life would probably not have arisen.” I don’t really have a problem with this premise 2 besides that I do not think it is as clear as I would like it to be. I feel that this premise should state that (P4) life as we know it would not have risen if the physical laws and constants were different or state that (P5) life would be impossible if the physical constants and laws were different. If you are arguing for P4 then I would agree with premise 2 of your argument because P4 is a modest epistemic claim. Given what we know about life it would be absurd to expect that life would exists as we know it if the universe were different. If you are arguing for P5 then I feel that is a much stronger claim that would have to be justified simply because it seems that there is no logical contradiction to posit that immensely bizarre and different life forms could arise if the universe were different. We have found life forms existing in places that we thought were virtually impossible for life to physically live such as extremophiles living in extremely high and low temperature environments so there is no reason to expect life to be like anything we know if the very environment (the universe) were different. Essentially I am just looking for clarification in regards to this premise.

    Premise 3 of your argument states that “The laws and constants which led to this suitability for life must have been determined by physical necessity, chance or design.” Obviously my contention is with what you feel design entails. I have given arguments in regards to what we can justifiably state about what is entailed by design. Also, I do think you have barely argued what you mean by design. The most you have said that is close to what you feel about design is that God could choose and self-impose limitations on its self but that hardly provides an example of what you mean by design. You’re just telling me that God did what we wanted to do. You’re simply stating that God can do what is within his power but his power entails being able to create something out of nothing, the ability to make light travel faster than the limit we have discovered just by thinking it, and walking on water which is completely outside of anything we have observed or experienced especially when it comes to designers that we know exists (humans for example) so why even think you are epistemically justified to even infer that the universe was supposedly designed by an omnipotent and omniscient being?

  8. Hi Terrell,

    Thanks for your reply. I’m sorry you feel I am not understanding you. I feel the same in return! Thanks for remaining courteous despite that frustration. Perhaps we simply disagree!? Let’s see if we can resolve anything.

    I want to start with a hypothetical analogy (not totally true to history, but it gets the point across). Imagine Columbus has just returned from his voyage and he announces he has discovered America. Someone could reply (using the same form as your argument): 1. There is no known continent between Europe and Asia. 2.America is a continent between Europe and Asia. 3. Therefore there is no known America.

    Is it a valid conclusion? Surely not but why? I think several reasons.

    1. Columbus knows P1 is wrong.
    2. P1 assumes what the argument is trying to prove.
    3. The word “know” isn’t clearly defined.

    Let’s apply each of these to your argument.

    1. There are, I believe, plenty of reasons to believe in God, and therefore to believe in a designer who doesn’t have to work within the limits of the universe. So for me, P1 is wrong. For you it may be right, because you have looked at the evidence and decided that way. You say I am assuming my conclusion, but that isn’t the case. I am bringing to bear other evidence.

    Consider the classic syllogism 1. All swans are white. 2. This bird is a swan. 3. Therefore this bird is white. If asked to demonstrate the “truth” of P1, I would bring the evidence of repeated observations. That isn’t assuming the conclusion, that is offering evidence for the premise.

    So I think we do know such a designer, and so P1 is false. Not provably false but arguably false and (in my view) probably false.

    2. In fact it is you who assume the conclusion in the premise. “There is no known example of design by any agent where the agent does not have to work within the limits in the universe.” is an atheist statement and so is the conclusion. It is interesting that you vary this slightly apparently without realising it when you later say: “we don’t know if anything is designed by an omnipotent and omniscient agent.” Inserting the word “if” makes this an agnostic premise.

    But either way, you have to justify that premise. I still think we do know such a designer.

    3. What is the meaning of “know”? Suppose we take the strongest meaning of “know = absolutely proven so no-one could doubt”. Then your conclusion would be: P3. Therefore, God is not an absolutely proven so no-one could doubt example of an agent designer. That would hardly be big news to anyone! 🙂

    So what form of know can give you a conclusion you want? Let’s try “know = I think most reasonable to believe” (a fairly weak definition). Then P1 becomes: There is no example of where I think it is reasonable to believe in design by any agent where the agent does not have to work within the limits in the universe. That is clearly your view, but offers no reasons for anyone else to believe it.

    You would argue the five reasons why the analogy between human designers and God doesn’t work, and I would say – so what? Put that in the syllogism and see how you go! You’d have to include a premise something like “God must be a designer analogous to human designers” and I would ask you to demonstrate why that is so. I don’t think you could offer any justification for it.

    But the design argument doesn’t rely on these analogies, so your arguments against them are irrelevant. In fact it doesn’t rely on any analogies. It simply says the current ‘fine tuning’ is not by chance or necessity so must be by purpose (or design).

    In fact, the argument doesn’t even mention a designer, so your whole argument about a designer is unfortunately not relevant. It ends with the simple statement that design is the best explanation for fine tuning, and doesn’t even suggest what this entails.

    Finally, your argument about what constitutes life. In most possible universes, either the universe doesn’t last long enough for stability and life, or else it is composed of just one or maybe two types of atoms (H & He), mostly spread thinly across space. Cosmologists don’t see any even bizarre life coming from such simple chemistry and physics, certainly not anything that we would recognise as life (even the simplest form of which has complex organic chemistry), and certainly not intelligent life. And if you argue for such bizarre life as would fit here, why not argue for angels and disembodied spirits?

    It seems strange to me that you would invest so much in an argument that God is unlike an earthly designer, and then argue that life may be possible that is totally unlike anything we know.

    So, to conclude:

    The argument doesn’t mention a designer and it doesn’t use analogy. Your syllogism doesn’t work unless we assume there’s no God to start with, and rather than defeat the design argument, the design argument defeats it.

    So I don’t think I don’t understand your argument, I believe it is wrong. You obviously believe otherwise, but I don’t think you have shown why. I think all this only shows how strong the design argument actually is. Thanks again.

  9. Hi unkleE,
    Unfortunately, I still did not find the time to properly reply to this post, and also the other one that came up since then. However, I did get to read everything and couldn’t help but take 1 minute to comment on this:

    Your syllogism doesn’t work unless we assume there’s no God to start with

    This is truly amazing since it shows such a strong cognitive dissonance when it comes to justifying a belief in God’s existence. You literally forget that yes, of course, we start with ‘there’s no God’ when trying to prove that God exists! The problem is that, for you, starting with ‘No God has been proven yet’ is the same as accepting, or assuming, that ‘God does not exist’ is true, as a starting point. Your belief in God is so strong, so basic, so intrinsic to your way of thinking that you forget what the goal is: justify why one should believe that God exists. You forget that the goal is to start with a non-belief in God and try to explain why we should believe that God exists. Claiming that Terrell’s syllogism, which addresses your argument ‘for’ God’s existence, does not work because it starts without a God shows how incapable you are of considering God’s non-existence.

    By the way, just in case… this probably sound harsh but it’s not meant to be an insult or some sort of conclusion on how irrational you are in general, but on that 1 topic, you really proved that you cannot start with anything else but God… to justify belief in God’s existence.

    Cheers

  10. “This is truly amazing since it shows such a strong cognitive dissonance when it comes to justifying a belief in God’s existence. You literally forget that yes, of course, we start with ‘there’s no God’ when trying to prove that God exists! The problem is that, for you, starting with ‘No God has been proven yet’ is the same as accepting, or assuming, that ‘God does not exist’ is true, as a starting point. Your belief in God is so strong, so basic, so intrinsic to your way of thinking that you forget what the goal is: justify why one should believe that God exists.”

    Hi Hugo,

    Thanks for your continuing interest. But do you understand that “Don’t assume God doesn’t exist” does NOT equal “Assume God does exist.”?

    I said the first, not the second, as you seem to be accusing me. I said all premises need to be justified, and that is what I have done.

    So your confident references to “cognitive dissonance”, all these things I forget, and so much you understand about my motives, is all (apparently) based on a misunderstanding.

    I would be very pleased to see you return and discuss what I actually did say. Thanks.

  11. Hi unkleE,

    But do you understand that “Don’t assume God doesn’t exist” does NOT equal “Assume God does exist.”?

    Well of course, that’s exactly what I wrote already 🙂
    The problem is that, for you, starting with ‘No God has been proven yet’ is the same as accepting, or assuming, that ‘God does not exist’ is true, as a starting point.

    Isn’t clear that I understand what you wrote to be “Don’t assume God doesn’t exist”, but discussed how what you write implies more than just that? In other words, it’s quite common to discuss what has been written by someone and how it implies more than just what was written, which is exactly what you did here.

    Let me go back to what you actually wrote…
    Your syllogism doesn’t work unless we assume there’s no God to start with

    This means: Your syllogism does work if we assume there’s no God to start with.
    And this is precisely what I mentioned in my last comment:
    of course, we start with ‘there’s no God’ when trying to prove that God exists!

    I want to try 1 more way to make it make it even more obvious, by putting things in chronological order, some sort of simplified “story” of what just happened.
    1. unkleE believes God exists; Terrell and Hugo do not. They ask him for reasons to believe in that God.
    2. unkleE presents an argument, from the apparent fine-tuning of the universe, found on this page.
    3. The argument’s starting points are accepted by all parties; the universe presents certain features that can be measured with great precision, and if any of these features were just slightly different, the universe would not allow for atoms, molecules, stars, planets and ultimately life to exist. i.e., we wouldn’t be here.
    4. The conclusion however is rejected by Terrell and Hugo. They don’t agree that these observations imply ‘design’; and a very special kind of ‘design’, one performed by a non-human agent external to the universe.
    5. Terrell presented counter-arguments which start with observations such as: every example we have of something that we know is designed or finely-tuned by an agent is a design created by an agent that must work with constraints in order to meet an end in the most simple and efficient way possible and “ P1. There is no known example of design by any agent where the agent does not have to work within the limits in the universe.“. Therefore, like he said, he is essentially arguing that your conception of design is unjustified before you even articulate the fine-tuning argument.
    6. unkleE came back, rejecting Terrell’s observations. However, some key points show where the problem lies: “ premise 1 is only true if we exclude God (the thing we are trying to establish), so you have written your conclusion into your premise.” , “There are, I believe, plenty of reasons to believe in God, and therefore to believe in a designer who doesn’t have to work within the limits of the universe. So for me, P1 is wrong. ” and “I think we do know such a designer, and so P1 is false. Not provably false but arguably false and (in my view) probably false.
    7. Hugo tried to explain why unkleE is mistaken at step 6, pointing out the fact that from 1 to 5, we all agree that God’s existence has not been established yet; that’s the goal of the fine-tuning argument. There are thus only 1 kind of design that we agree exists so far: human design. In order for unkleE to support his views at step 6, he needs to invoke another king of design: God’s design. The problem is that God’s design only exists if God exists, and this is precisely the thing unkleE is trying to prove exists.

    unkleE defeats his own argument when he says that Terrell’s premise 1 is true only if we exclude God; because yes, we do exclude God when trying to prove God. Hence, premise 1 is correct and Terrell’s explanation works. It has not been established that the fine-tuning of the universe necessarily reveal the work of a creating God who purposely “designed” the universe that way. Even worse, the word “design” is wrongly used in this situation and this is why unkleE has to reject ‘chance’ and ‘physical necessity’ so support his view of ‘design’. There is no support for that kind of ‘God’s design’ directly; it is a proof by definition, where ‘God’s design’ is defined into existence instead of being justified from existence itself.

    And…. that was really long once again so I have to stop here; merely addressing 1 out of so many things writteng here… See you next time!

  12. Hi Hugo, thanks for your continued interest. But you say (again):

    we start with ‘there’s no God’ when trying to prove that God exists!

    That may be where you start, but it’s not where a logical argument starts.

    To form a logical argument, we don’t start with any assumptions. We start with premises and we present attempted justifications of each premise.

    That is what I have done. You are free to disagree with my justifications and thus with my premises, but while you insist that I am starting with an assumption when I’m not, and criticise me for it, while asserting that you start with your own assumption and that’s OK, discussion cannot really begin.

    I’m sorry.

  13. Hello,

    Please, no need to say ‘I’m sorry’, afaik, everything you write confirms that my assessment of the situation is correct, and your dismissal of my last post is the most polite version of “shut up, I am right you are right” I have ever seen; you did not even quote anything from it (you quoted the part that came from the previous comment) and made absurd claims regarding assumptions and logical starting points. Perhaps I am the one who needs to say sorry again… as I feel like everything I write is an insult on your intelligence, which would never be my intention.

    Therefore, just in case you did not really mean ‘shut up, I am right you are wrong’, and want to “start” a conversation (to use your own words), please consider the following questions, with some pre-emptive answers to explain why I am asking them:

    1) Is “The fine-tuning argument for the existence of God” really about proving that God exists? Or, at the very least, is it an argument supporting the belief that “God probably exists” is true?

    If no, then we (or at least I) wasted our time discussing this argument and I don’t understand what its purpose is. Maybe you could explain by I am pretty sure we agree here; though your last comment made me doubt, see below…

    If yes:
    2) Does the argument work only if we pre-suppose the existence of God?

    If yes, same as the ‘no’ above.

    If no:
    3) What’s the difference between ‘pre-supposing the existence of God’, ‘assuming God exists’ and ‘assuming “there’s no God” is not a valid starting point’?

    This last question comes from this comment:
    we start with ‘there’s no God’ when trying to prove that God exists!
    That may be where you start, but it’s not where a logical argument starts.

    Since for me, in that precise context, starting with ‘there is no God’ is not a strong statement at all. It means nothing more than ‘God’s existence has not been established yet. I would never claim that ‘there’s no God’ can be justified anyway… so that’s what I find really weird here. You say that I have a different ‘starting point’ but I don’t see how the argument can make any sense without this ‘starting point’.

    Cheers

  14. Hi Hugo, no I am not trying to say “shut up, I am right you are wrong’”. You have continued to be courteous and I am happy to discuss. But I am feeling a little frustrated. because we are not connecting and you seem to be saying quite illogical things. Let’s do a deal. I will answer your specific questions and I will ask you to do the same for my specific questions.

    1) Is “The fine-tuning argument for the existence of God” …. an argument supporting the belief that “God probably exists” is true?

    Yes.

    Does the argument work only if we pre-suppose the existence of God?

    No. If we presuppose anything we no longer have a logical argument. We presuppose nothing and establish everything by evidence and argument.

    3) What’s the difference between ‘pre-supposing the existence of God’, ‘assuming God exists’ and ‘assuming “there’s no God” is not a valid starting point’?

    Broadly speaking, there are three assumptions we could make about the existence of God: 1. he exists, 2 he doesn’t exist and 3 we don’t know. If we start an argument with 1 or 2, we have assumed what we are trying to prove or disprove and our “logical argument” is worthless. Consider this “logical argument”:

    1. God doesn’t exist.
    2. Therefore God doesn’t exist (from 1).

    This is actually a valid argument (i.e. if the premise is true, the conclusion is true), but it is clearly a useless argument, because it assumes what it is attempting to demonstrate. That is why I keep saying you are wrong to begin with the assumption that God doesn’t exist.

    The only possible assumption to begin with is 3 – that we don’t know, and that is why we are constructing an argument.

    Finally, you say: “starting with ‘there is no God’ is not a strong statement at all. It means nothing more than ‘God’s existence has not been established yet.” These two propositions are clearly not the same, and hopefully you can now see that the first is not an acceptable beginning while the second is where we rightly start.

    Now for my three questions to you:

    (1) Do you agree that ‘there is no God’ is a very different proposition to ‘God’s existence has not been established yet”?

    (2) Do you agree that starting with the assumption “God exists” or “God doesn’t exist” begs the question and thus shouldn’t be done?

    (3) Is there any premise in the design argument which I have presented that makes the assumption “God exists”?

    Thanks.

  15. Hi,

    Finally, you say: “starting with ‘there is no God’ is not a strong statement at all. It means nothing more than ‘God’s existence has not been established yet.” These two propositions are clearly not the same, and hopefully you can now see that the first is not an acceptable beginning while the second is where we rightly start.

    They are in fact the same IF I clarify what I mean when using the first one, as a shortcut, but I agree that it could cause confusion… so it’s always good to clarify what we mean.

    (1) Do you agree that ‘there is no God’ is a very different proposition to ‘God’s existence has not been established yet”?

    Yes, in general.
    However, it’s not ‘very’ different when ‘there is no God’ means nothing more than ‘there is no God yet‘. It’s only ‘very’ different if I were to claim that I strongly believe the statement ‘there is no God’ to be true, which I explicitly rejected above.

    (2) Do you agree that starting with the assumption “God exists” or “God doesn’t exist” begs the question and thus shouldn’t be done?

    Yes, same as (1).

    (3) Is there any premise in the design argument which I have presented that makes the assumption “God exists”?

    Yes:
    3. The laws and constants which led to this suitability for life must have been determined by either physical necessity, chance or design.
    To use your crime scene analogy, you are saying that it was either suspect 1, 2 or 3, but you have not established whether or not suspect 3 even exists, which is the goal of the argument. Therefore, premise 3 works only if ‘God’s design’ is something that exists already. It’s an argument from ignorance, where you claim that you don’t know/can’t think of other options, and define God into existence to use God as an alternative.

  16. Hi Hugo, I must admit I am struggling a bit here. You say:

    “They are in fact the same IF I clarify what I mean when using the first one, as a shortcut, but I agree that it could cause confusion… so it’s always good to clarify what we mean.”

    You seem to be saying that statement #1. There is no God is not the same as #2 God’s existence has not been established yet, except if you clarify that to you they mean the same.

    I must be honest. This seems pointless to me. As the words are written, they DON’T mean the same.

    So why would you say they mean the same to you? And if they mean the same, which of the two different meanings do you want me to understand by it?

    If I said #1. The grass is green, and #2 the grass is red, and then said these two statements mean the same if I clarify what I mean, anyone would think I was crazy, and they still wouldn’t know whether I meant the grass was red or green!

    So can you please “clarify” which meaning you mean: That you start with the assumption that no God exists, or you start with the assumption that God’s existence is an open question?

    Once you have answered this, I will respond to the rest of your comment, but we need to clear this up first. Thanks.

  17. Hi,

    which of the two different meanings do you want me to understand by it?

    As I wrote above:
    – in that precise context, starting with ‘there is no God’ […] means nothing more than ‘God’s existence has not been established yet. I would never claim that ‘there’s no God’ can be justified.
    – ‘there is no God’ means nothing more than ‘there is no God yet‘. It’s only ‘very’ different if I were to claim that I strongly believe the statement ‘there is no God’ to be true, which I explicitly rejected above.

    So, using your words this time, yes, I agree:
    – God’s existence is an open question.

    But! That’s because ‘God’ has a super vague definition by the way… For example, I know for sure that ‘God’, when defined as ‘a deity that created the Earth 6,000 years ago’ does not exist, and obviously you agree with me.

    Cheers

  18. Hi Hugo, thanks, we have now agreed that neither of us wants to begin with any assumption about God’s existence. The argument stands or falls on its merits.

    “To use your crime scene analogy, you are saying that it was either suspect 1, 2 or 3, but you have not established whether or not suspect 3 even exists, which is the goal of the argument. Therefore, premise 3 works only if ‘God’s design’ is something that exists already. It’s an argument from ignorance, where you claim that you don’t know/can’t think of other options, and define God into existence to use God as an alternative.”

    Let’s look at the logic of these statements.

    Premise 3 says that there are only three possibilities in principle. It doesn’t say any of these are true, just that they exhaust the possibilities. It does that so we can examine each possibility. That is a logical way to approach things. What have you against it?

    You say “premise 3 works only if ‘God’s design’ is something that exists already”. But that isn’t true, and it is easy to see why. Suppose I am asked what country is Mt Everest in, and I say “It is either in Nepal or Tibet.” That statement isn’t made invalid because one of the possibilities is wrong! It is a logically true statement that limits the answer to one of two possibilities.

    It is the same here. There is only one true answer, but whichever one turns out to be true doesn’t make the statement “Either chance, necessity or design” false. So your objection here (I believe) misunderstands logic and the purpose of the statement.

    Just saying “argument from ignorance” doesn’t change anything. The statement “Either chance, necessity or design” is true logically unless you can propose another possibility to add to the list. Then comes the argument as to which one is true. You haven’t really addressed that yet.

    Definitions of God are as difficult as definitions of people. Suppose one person says “Barack Obama is a wonderful American christian President who has made this a better country.” and someone else says “Barack Obama is a dishonest Muslim not even born in the US and he is ruining our country.” Are they talking about the same person? You could argue either way. And it is the same with God.

    But fortunately, we don’t have that problem with the design argument, because it doesn’t mention God, it just argues that the universe is designed.

    So, having resolved a few preliminaries, do you want to discuss the actual argument?

  19. Hello!

    Premise 3 says that there are only three possibilities in principle. It doesn’t say any of these are true, just that they exhaust the possibilities. It does that so we can examine each possibility. That is a logical way to approach things. What have you against it?

    Saying that ‘there are only three possibilities’ is a claim; can you justify that claim?
    I remember you saying something like ‘I cannot think of any other, you?’ to which I replied that I cannot think of any either, but, it does not mean that there is none. Your analogy actually confirms why it’s not logical:

    Suppose I am asked what country is Mt Everest in, and I say “It is either in Nepal or Tibet.” That statement isn’t made invalid because one of the possibilities is wrong! It is a logically true statement that limits the answer to one of two possibilities.

    But is the claim “It is either in Nepal or Tibet” logically true on its own? No! You need to already have some knowledge of where Mt Everest is to limit the options to Nepal or Tibet. The only real logical choice is “Nepal or Tibet or neither”.

    In logic, even the dichotomy true/false is not a real logical choice; true and non-true is the correct version, the only real dichotomy. This means that if you prove something to be ‘non-true’, you have not necessarily proven it to be ‘false’ yet, as there is, logically, a possibility for the statement to be absurd, have no answer, or impossible to prove. The example “This statement is false” is used to explain this principle; the statement being neither true nor false. It is both ‘non-true’ and ‘non-false’ as neither possibility can be justified.

    It is the same here. There is only one true answer, but whichever one turns out to be true doesn’t make the statement “Either chance, necessity or design” false.

    Yes, it is the same here. It’s either chance, necessity, design… or something else.
    – You have not justified why it has to be design if it’s not chance nor necessity.
    – You have not explained what ‘design’ really means in this context; see Terrell’s comments.
    – Regardless of your request, it is not up to me to give you a 4th option to justify why ‘something else’ is still possible, logically.

    But fortunately, we don’t have that problem with the design argument, because it doesn’t mention God, it just argues that the universe is designed.

    I find this to be dishonest, since you would never claim that it can be ‘any’ kind of design. It’s necessarily designed by God, which is a powerful disembodied mind living outside the universe and able to create such universe.

    So, having resolved a few preliminaries, do you want to discuss the actual argument?

    Not really because, even if Premise 3 was ‘ok’, just for the sake of discussion, the argument would still be far from being convincing, as you have not properly justified how chance and necessity are ‘impossible’. By the way, I am more than ever convinced of that point after reading the super long discussion over ‘truth is elusive’; I had a 6h layover on Monday 😉

    In other words, you seem to forget that we are talking about the creation of the entire known universe! Reducing its origin to 3 relatively simple options and then concluding that it must be what we usually refer to as ‘design’ is a giant leap of faith. You rely on ‘chance’ being very unlikely, but never prove it to be impossible, which is required for the logical 3rd option to be left alone; same with necessity, being unlikely, but yet concede that we may 1 day find an answer.

    To support the point further, let me use another of your analogies: the detective and his suspects. Let me go copy/paste from the post:

    If a detective is investigating a murder and has a list of suspects, he or she will try to eliminate suspects from the list to zero in on the most likely murderer. It’s a quite logical process.

    It is no different here. We have three possible explanations. If two of them are extremely unlikely, that makes the third the best possibility.

    The problem with using this analogy is that the ‘list of suspects’ has to be extremely reliable for elimination to be used. It would need to be something like some security video footage where we see 3 people entering a room, then 2 coming out, and something happening while the 3rd is still inside. That way, it would be logical to say that the 3rd suspect is the guilty one. But think of all the possibilities! The room being filmed has to be well known, completely sealed except for that 1 door being filmed. The crime being investigated has to have happened after the 2 other suspects came out. The identity of the 3 has to be 100% certain. And so on…

    In many situations, excluding 2 of the suspects would not yield a guilty verdict for the 3rd; he/she would be found… non-guilty! Does it mean that the 3rd one is innocent? No. Same thing with the ‘design’ in the fine-tuning argument. I cannot possibly find design ‘guilty’ of being the cause for the universe’s apparent fine-tuning.

    But it does not even end there… There is another problem, which I expressed above, with the fine-tuning argument: its list of suspect. When you say that it’s either chance, necessity or design, there is something implied behind the word ‘design’, it is ‘non-human design’. Now, you don’t say that it’s “your” God’s design right away, so that’s a good thing, but I would not believe you if you were to claim that it could possibly be ‘human design’. It’s quite clear that you mean something supernatural; not some crazy scenario where humans were so advanced that they started to create their own universes which in turn created ours.

    Therefore, going back to the list of suspect analogy, what we could have here is ‘Natural human suspect A, Natural human suspect B and Supernatural ghost suspect C’. This makes it quite obvious now: until we prove that suspect C exists, I don’t see why we should believe the claim that ‘C’ should be on the list of suspec in the first place. Premise 3 is false in exactly that same sense. Sorry… non-true 😉

    Ok, this was (again!) so long for so little. This is really all about Premise 3’s logical inconsistency, and a little bit about how even if I were to accept it, it would not make the argument much better. However, I still have a bit of time today so I will finally go back to the post and see what else I did not address yet…

    You said: “Humans are curious. We like to find out things. We visit distant exotic places to experience what they are like. We use science to try to understand things. We try to work out who to vote for and values to live by. Why wouldn’t we try to understand if there’s a God or not?

    This response shows a misunderstanding of what I was trying to say regarding ‘needing’ an answer. I would never want to stop trying to figure new things out. My point is actually the exact opposite! By saying that there is a God behind the fine-tuning of the universe, you are the one who is actually stopping the search, at least partially. Saying ‘I don’t know, this is not conclusive yet’ is more open to new experiment.

    If it’s a rationalisation after the fact (and many neuroscientists and psychologists say that this is often how we think), then denying the argument and disbelieving in God is as much a rationalisation as acceptance of the argument and believing in God.

    Nope, it does not work both ways, because I don’t conclude that there is no God and try to find arguments supporting my position. This is a common mistake among Theists who try to argue for the rationality of their position. I don’t have any ‘There is no God’ belief that I need to justify and rationalize.

    Famous atheist Antony Flew came to believe in God near the end of his life to a large degree because of this argument.

    I remember reading a bit about him several years ago. It’s pretty funny how he is labelled as a “famous atheist” only by Theists (exclusively Christians I think) who use him as an example of an Atheist converting. Moreover, I read an article about how he was not super lucid toward the end of his life and essentially tricked into giving the “right” answers when asked about his god-belief. I wish I could find this article back… unfortunately it’s really hard because he is used so much by Theists that this is all that come up when you search his name now.

    Every cosmologist […] says the fine tuning couldn’t have happened by chance

    There is a lot to discuss here regarding that but as I said above, I read the thread on the other blog you linked to and I think this horse has been beaten to death. However, there is 1 more thing that I never saw mentioned and it’s the notion that nowhere does it say that ‘unlikely = impossible’. There are a bunch of numbers being thrown around, 10^60 to 10^10^200 or perhaps more; but why should we conclude that this makes it ‘impossible’? I am not convinced that all these cosmologists who give probabilities literally means that it’s impossible to rule out chance and necessity because the numbers are big.

    The cosmologists agree there is extraordinary fine-tuning and there appears to be no satisfactory scientific explanation. So the only explanation we really have is that God did it.

    I have raised the point a few times but this one is just too obvious not to mention: argument from ignorance fallacy. You don’t know how what the scientific explanation could be, hence God. And I like this honesty here at least; it’s not ‘just’ design, it’s straight to God himself 🙂

    suddenly argue they don’t need explanations about the universe. I think it is most reasonable to look for explanations for everything, and if there is only one explanation, however much we don’t like it, apply Sherlock Holmes dictum: “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.

    You confuse ‘not needing an explanation’ with ‘believing some unsupported explanation because others don’t work’. The Sherlock Holmes quote is interesting because it uses the word ‘impossible’, which is not what you ruled out.

    Got to go! And I didn’t get to re-read most of this long post so pardon any typos/weird sentences…

    Cheers,
    Hugo

  20. Hello unkleE,

    Thank you again for another interesting and friendly dialogue despite the frustration on both ends. I think we just are going to have to disagree about what we can justifiably claim about what we know about design. I feel I have said almost enough and I will cover what I feel is most relevant in this response.

    My main contention is with your conception of design in premise 3 of your argument. I provided real world examples and definitions of design. However, I feel you have not done as much in regards to what you feel is entailed by design. It seems that you are positing something that is vastly foreign to the designs we experience and have experienced. It seems that you are positing a design created from nothing (not even pre-existing designs), a design where the designer is not physically constrained, a design where the designer is not even material, and etc. You have not even dived into how this conception of design is even epistemically warranted let alone explain how in the world such a definition of design that entails the five points in my past reply is even a working definition of design. I find it ironic that your argument is heavily reliant on the use of science even though the conclusion you are drawing is entirely unscientific and unfalsifiable. At least the multiverse is actually predicted by our cosmological theories. The same cannot be said of God. No matter what universe we find ourselves in the apologists could claim that it is designed by some God based on your conception of design. No matter how complicated the design seems (simplicity is the mark of an intelligent being), no matter how superfluous the consequences of the design seem to the goal of the designer, no matter how unintelligent the design seems, and no matter how unempirical the conception of design is the apologists could claim that the universe (or anything else) is designed by god. Would you accept such conception of design or anything else from an atheist that rules out that denies the existence of God regardless of the evidence? I feel you would see it is only fair that you provide evidence for the conception of design you are positing that doesn’t result in special pleading.

    I find it curious that you bring up the classic swan argument. You state that a proper defense for P1 would be to “bring the evidence of repeated observations”. I have done this by providing definitions from other sources and providing examples of design. I could provide more evidence of the conception of design I have been arguing for such as dams, bridges, buildings, the Large Hardon Collider, and etc. I talked about the modern Ford Mustang, the wheel, and I talked about the fact that a human being cannot walk through a wall prior to deciding to design its home while pointing out that these examples are virtually the opposite of the sort of design that is referred to when speaking of God. In your case, the only design that entails the five points I mentioned is the sort of design that you are trying to justify in the first place. The sort of design you claim you know about is the sort of design that would be the single sort of design you feel is exempt from all the evidence we have in regards to things that are designed which is a literal case of special pleading. You can’t state that the universe is designed while also stating that this design is a special sort of design unlike anything else we actually know about design.

    You seem to not like the term “analogous” when I talk about the five points I made. Very well, I will simply change my statement to this:

    “You have not offered a coherent description of a conception of design in which nor an example of (1) a design created out of nothing, (2) a design where the designer is not bound by any physical limitations prior to designing something for a specific objective(s) or a design where the designer is omnipotent/omniscient, (3) a design that is not based on something that already physically exists, (4) a design in which the designer is outside of the universe prior to the design being made, and (5) a design where the designer is not even a material being without special pleading”

    You have yet to provide an explanation of how you can justifiably say anything to be designed in a way that entails the five points I made if the examples of design we have available to us are designs that are absent of the five points above. This is why my argument is strongly focused on our epistemic situation. There may be a design that entails the five points above but you have not provided any sort of framework or demonstration of design that entails the five points that doesn’t beg the question or result in special pleading. As far as I can see, a sort of design that does entail the five points is unintelligible unless you can provide an intelligible conception of the sort of design that does entail those five points above. I feel you have not provided anything close to what you are arguing for without positing your conclusion. So far you have only asserted that God did it or you have asserted that God places self-imposed limitations on his self but these points are what you are trying to demonstrate. You can’t use what you are trying to demonstrate as evidence for what you are trying to demonstrate. This is why I have been focusing on your conception of design as applied to premise 3 and you have yet to give a good example for that conception without resulting to positing the very being your fine-tuning argument is trying to conclude with. Until you have justified your conception of design in premise 3 without referring to your conclusion I feel that your fine-tuning argument is highly dubious, poorly defended, and fallacious.

    You state that your fine-tuning argument does not posit a designer but I feel that is overtly false because you state that “cosmologists agree there is extraordinary fine-tuning and there appears to be no satisfactory scientific explanation. So the only explanation we really have is that God did it.” I feel that your argument does entail a designer of some sort otherwise why even use the word design at all? The most obvious evidence that your argument does imply a designer is the fact that you call your own argument an argument for the existence of god.

    Furthermore, eliminating chance and necessity because they are improbable is no reason to think that design is the most probable option especially when the one arguing for design has not given any info on their conception of design. Also, if the improbability of the first two options somehow makes the third option more probable then you should have no problem providing a probability calculation that plugs God into the equation. It is only fair. If you insist that God could not be measured then I insist that your whole argument can be rejected on the grounds that you are again committing the fallacy of special pleading. I would also point out that I could actually give you real world examples of necessity and chance even if these options are supposedly improbable. I could provide you a figure of the chances of a specific individual winning the lottery or demonstrate that water is necessary for the human body to survive as far as we know. However, you have not provided any example of what you are talking about in regards to design that doesn’t posit the conclusion of the fine-tuning argument. This seems to show the third option (your conception of design) is even more improbable than mine. At least chance and necessity have referents in the real world.

    My syllogism does not assume that there is no God to start with. I stated this much when I said this:

    “If P1 and P2 are true, we are justified to conclude the C is true. C does not state that God doesn’t exist. C states that God is outside our epistemic justification in regards to design, namely that (1) we have only observed designers that exists in the environment, (2) we have only observed designers that are physically limited by the environment prior to the conceived objective of the designer, (3) we have only observed designers that do not create the environment out of nothing including the parameters of the environment, and (4) the designs we observe are designs that are based on accumulated knowledge, adjustments, innovations, etc.”

    My argument also doesn’t assume that there is no design by some God when I stated this:

    “I am not claiming that there isn’t anything supposedly designed by an omnipotent and omniscience agent in P1 nor does P1 state that there is no omnipotent and omniscient being, namely God. There could be a God but we simply have not observed anything omnipotent and omniscient choosing or supposedly designing the parameters of the environment out of nothing.”

    Clearly, my argument does not assume that there is no God or that there is no design created by God. It states that the sort of design that entails the five points I have made is a design that is unfamiliar and unintelligible. You cannot know something that is unfamiliar and unintelligible regardless of how you define “know”. You can choose whatever definition of know you feel fits best in regards to my argument.

    Other arguments for the existence of God do not make a conception of design that entails the five points I talked about more plausible if your design argument can’t even stand up on its own.

    I have provided examples of designs, sources, and definitions in regards to design. I feel I have met my burden of evidence in regards to design. However, I do not feel you have met yours without special pleading or without assuming the conclusion of premise 3.

  21. Correcting the last sentence.

    I’d rather say, “However, I do not feel you have met yours without special pleading or without assuming the conclusion of your fine-tuning argument in premise 3 of your fine-tuning argument (begging the question).”

  22. “Saying that ‘there are only three possibilities’ is a claim; can you justify that claim?”

    Hi Hugo. Yes it’s easy, and it’s in the argument I present on the website. Either our universe could have been different or it couldn’t (physical necessity). If it could have been different, it took this form either because it was designed or not designed (chance). That covers all the possible cases. If you think otherwise, you should show where this statement is wrong. Until then, I maintain it is logically true.

    “I find this to be dishonest, since you would never claim that it can be ‘any’ kind of design. It’s necessarily designed by God, which is a powerful disembodied mind living outside the universe and able to create such universe.”

    You need to decide what you are arguing against. You have been arguing against premise 3, so you are clearly arguing against the logical argument. If you are arguing against the logical argument, then you have to address what that argument actually says, and not what it doesn’t say. If you want to talk about something outside the argument then by all means do so, but then you shouldn’t bring up one of the premises. I think it is important to be clear.

    ” even if Premise 3 was ‘ok’, just for the sake of discussion, the argument would still be far from being convincing, as you have not properly justified how chance and necessity are ‘impossible’”

    I’m sorry, but one of the frustrating things about this discussion is how you keep arguing against what I don’t say, and ignore what I do say. So here. I have never attempted to show that chance and necessity are “impossible”. Rather I have quoted the consensus of cosmologists that they are extremely unlikely. That makes design the most likely (by subtraction of probabilities from 1). If you disagree, instead of saying so, please offer an argument against based on cosmology or logic.

    I really think that is all I need to comment on (please advise if I’ve missed something). Everything else you say seems to be based on the same misunderstanding of premise 3 that I have outlined above. May I ask you to please address that logic.

  23. Hi Terrell, it seems to me that you are raising all sorts of problems that aren’t really relevant to the logical argument I used. The logical argument I used simply said that the only logical possibilities are chance, necessity or design. The word design has a clear meaning, but beyond that meaning, I didn’t specify any particular type of design.

    So saying “It seems that you are positing something that is vastly foreign to the designs we experience and have experienced.” is irrelevant and untrue (as far as the argument goes) for I am not positing anything beyond design in the logical argument. The logical argument doesn’t depend on any of those factors you mention, so therefore they can’t be used as an argument against the fine-tuning argument. It’s as simple as that.

    If this is your main objection (as it seems to be) then it is irrelevant to the argument, and you should accept the argument that concludes that the universe is a result of design.

    Now if you want to argue that going from there to God is unreasonable (which is not what the argument says, but what I think is a reasonable further step) then we can argue if it is reasonable to believe in a non-physical designer, etc, and I will ask you what other form of design do you have in mind?

    “My syllogism does not assume that there is no God to start with.”

    No, I never thought you did and I hope I never suggested you did. It was Hugo who seemed to suggest that, but he has now agreed he didn’t mean what he seemed to mean. I’m sorry if there was any misunderstanding.

  24. The problems I am raising are relevant because you have not defined design as I have inquired. Until then I do not have to accept your conclusion whatsoever. You haven’t even provided one example of design that doesn’t result in positing the actual conclusion you want to make (God). Until you do so there is no reason to accept your conclusion. I have an issue with premise 3 that you have not addressed once in this conversation. All you have to do is define design and provide an example for that definition that doesn’t beg the question or result in special pleading. It is simple as that. You have not even met that simple burden of evidence yet you think I should accept the conclusion? That’s entirely unfair and I feel you would never accept a conclusion in an atheistic argument without evidence and definitions provided. I am asking for the same courtesy you would want provided to you if you inquired about an argument that any atheist were to put forth. I feel you have not provided that courtesy. It is fine if you want to make this argument but to state that it is an argument for the existence of God is dubious if you don’t even want to clarify what you mean by design. At best it is an argument for design and the term design has not defined and the definition has not been supported by evidence. You state that your argument doesn’t go beyond design but I have no idea what you mean by design. That’s a huge problem in my eyes. Would you accept a conclusion of an argument despite being in ignorance of the definition and evidence provided for the terms being used?

    You ask me what form of design I have in mind (supposing I even accept your conclusion) and I have provided you evidence in my five replies to you in this one blog that talks about the sort of design I am talking about.

    You also state that you never thought my syllogism doesn’t assume there is no God yet you stated this:

    “Your syllogism doesn’t work unless we assume there’s no God to start with, and rather than defeat the design argument, the design argument defeats it.”

    As I have stated before, my argument has met its burden of evidence but I cannot say the same for your argument. If you state that there is only chance, necessity, and design then it is only fair that you clearly state what you mean when you posit those three terms especially the option you are concluding with.

  25. Hi,

    Let me start with the following quote:
    one of the frustrating things about this discussion is how you keep arguing against what I don’t say, and ignore what I do say.
    This is exactly what you are doing unkleE. To prove my point, I will reply to your comment with quotes from my own, and hopefully as little addition as possible. This shows how you completely ignore what I said, refuse to correct your illogical statements and then claim that I am ignoring yours…

    Either our universe could have been different or it couldn’t (physical necessity). If it could have been different, it took this form either because it was designed or not designed (chance). That covers all the possible cases. If you think otherwise, you should show where this statement is wrong. Until then, I maintain it is logically true.

    I remember you saying something like ‘I cannot think of any other, you?’ to which I replied that I cannot think of any either, but, it does not mean that there is none. Your analogy actually confirms why it’s not logical:
    “ Suppose I am asked what country is Mt Everest in, and I say “It is either in Nepal or Tibet.” That statement isn’t made invalid because one of the possibilities is wrong! It is a logically true statement that limits the answer to one of two possibilities. ”

    But is the claim “It is either in Nepal or Tibet” logically true on its own? No! You need to already have some knowledge of where Mt Everest is to limit the options to Nepal or Tibet. The only real logical choice is “Nepal or Tibet or neither”.
    In logic, even the dichotomy true/false is not a real logical choice; true and non-true is the correct version, the only real dichotomy. This means that if you prove something to be ‘non-true’, you have not necessarily proven it to be ‘false’ yet, as there is, logically, a possibility for the statement to be absurd, have no answer, or impossible to prove. The example “This statement is false” is used to explain this principle; the statement being neither true nor false. It is both ‘non-true’ and ‘non-false’ as neither possibility can be justified.
    “It is the same here. There is only one true answer, but whichever one turns out to be true doesn’t make the statement “Either chance, necessity or design” false.”

    Yes, it is the same here. It’s either chance, necessity, design… or something else.
    – You have not justified why it has to be design if it’s not chance nor necessity.
    – You have not explained what ‘design’ really means in this context; see Terrell’s comments.
    – Regardless of your request, it is not up to me to give you a 4th option to justify why ‘something else’ is still possible, logically.

    So you can maintain all day long that your statement is ‘logically true’, but I think I showed in great details why it is not the case.

    Next, going back a little actually, regarding justifying the claim that there are only 3 possibilities:
    … Yes it’s easy…

    you seem to forget that we are talking about the creation of the entire known universe! Reducing its origin to 3 relatively simple options and then concluding that it must be what we usually refer to as ‘design’ is a giant leap of faith.
    […]
    To support the point further, let me use another of your analogies: the detective and his suspects. Let me go copy/paste from the post:
    If a detective is investigating a murder and has a list of suspects, he or she will try to eliminate suspects from the list to zero in on the most likely murderer. It’s a quite logical process.
    It is no different here. We have three possible explanations. If two of them are extremely unlikely, that makes the third the best possibility.

    The problem with using this analogy is that the ‘list of suspects’ has to be extremely reliable for elimination to be used. It would need to be something like some security video footage where we see 3 people entering a room, then 2 coming out, and something happening while the 3rd is still inside. That way, it would be logical to say that the 3rd suspect is the guilty one. But think of all the possibilities! The room being filmed has to be well known, completely sealed except for that 1 door being filmed. The crime being investigated has to have happened after the 2 other suspects came out. The identity of the 3 has to be 100% certain. And so on…
    In many situations, excluding 2 of the suspects would not yield a guilty verdict for the 3rd; he/she would be found… non-guilty! Does it mean that the 3rd one is innocent? No. Same thing with the ‘design’ in the fine-tuning argument. I cannot possibly find design ‘guilty’ of being the cause for the universe’s apparent fine-tuning.
    But it does not even end there… There is another problem, which I expressed above, with the fine-tuning argument: its list of suspect. When you say that it’s either chance, necessity or design, there is something implied behind the word ‘design’, it is ‘non-human design’. Now, you don’t say that it’s “your” God’s design right away, so that’s a good thing, but I would not believe you if you were to claim that it could possibly be ‘human design’. It’s quite clear that you mean something supernatural; not some crazy scenario where humans were so advanced that they started to create their own universes which in turn created ours.
    Therefore, going back to the list of suspect analogy, what we could have here is ‘Natural human suspect A, Natural human suspect B and Supernatural ghost suspect C’. This makes it quite obvious now: until we prove that suspect C exists, I don’t see why we should believe the claim that ‘C’ should be on the list of suspec in the first place. Premise 3 is false in exactly that same sense. Sorry… non-true 😉

    Another point:
    You need to decide what you are arguing against. You have been arguing against premise 3, so you are clearly arguing against the logical argument. If you are arguing against the logical argument, then you have to address what that argument actually says, and not what it doesn’t say. If you want to talk about something outside the argument then by all means do so, but then you shouldn’t bring up one of the premises.
    This was in answer to the charge of ‘dishonesty’ that I raised. I could quote myself again here but I already included it above. What you missed is that it was indeed discussing Premise 3 again, but for some reason you see this as something ‘outside’ the argument. I would argue that this is the ‘main’ problem of the argument! This single point is what Tyrell has been writing about… I called you ‘dishonest’ because you claim that it’s “only” about ‘design’, not ‘God’s design’, but we cannot possibly accept that sloppy definition of design when you are trying to justify God’s existence and imply that design is a term that includes a bunch of different types of design, including ‘God’s design’, whatever that would be. So, on the 1 hand you argue that it’s a very simple naïve definition of ‘design’, but on the other you simultaneously claim that the entire universe was either chance, necessity or design, where design clearly means something fantastic here, not at all the ‘design’ we use in any other context.

    Next, let’s address the illogical comment regarding ‘impossibility’:
    So here. I have never attempted to show that chance and necessity are “impossible”.
    I can quote myself again for this one:

    There is a lot to discuss here regarding that but as I said above, I read the thread on the other blog you linked to and I think this horse has been beaten to death. However, there is 1 more thing that I never saw mentioned and it’s the notion that nowhere does it say that ‘unlikely = impossible’. There are a bunch of numbers being thrown around, 10^60 to 10^10^200 or perhaps more; but why should we conclude that this makes it ‘impossible’? I am not convinced that all these cosmologists who give probabilities literally means that it’s impossible to rule out chance and necessity because the numbers are big.

    Here’s what you are missing here: you do have to prove that the options are ‘impossible’ for your 3rd one to be valid. I have to repeat the following, using the crime scene analogy:

    In many situations, excluding 2 of the suspects would not yield a guilty verdict for the 3rd; he/she would be found… non-guilty! Does it mean that the 3rd one is innocent? No. Same thing with the ‘design’ in the fine-tuning argument. I cannot possibly find design ‘guilty’ of being the cause for the universe’s apparent fine-tuning.

    This is really important because, again, we are talking about the creation of the universe, something extremely complex, still misunderstood by the most knowledgable cosmologist. Yet, you pretend that by simply ruling out chance and necessity as ‘unlikely enough’, this necessarly proves your own favorite third option: design. An option that, as we have been trying to make you understand, is ill-defined and begging the question of God’s existence.

    In summary, the mistakes you commit are:
    – Using false dichotomy where you equate ‘non-chance + non-necessity with design’
    – Equating ‘extremely unlikely’ with ‘proven impossible’ for the purpose of a ‘logical’ argument (I understand that you don’t equate it for everyday usage; it’s perfectly fine to say that something really unlikely is impossible in everyday life, but we are talking about the entire universe here…)
    – Improperly defining what ‘design’ means in the context of the argument, thus begging the question as to whether a god capable of ‘designing’ things exist or not.

    Again, my apologies for typos/sentences structure; had to run through this quickly…

    Cheers

  26. “The problems I am raising are relevant because you have not defined design as I have inquired.”

    Terrell, I did indeed offer a definition. I said “The word design has a clear meaning” – i.e. I am using it in the usual sense. Dictionary.com offers these definitions (leaving aside a couple that don’t apply here):

    to plan and fashion artistically or skillfully.
    to intend for a definite purpose:
    to form or conceive in the mind; contrive; plan:
    to assign in thought or intention; purpose:

    I am happy with those meanings.

    “You have not even met that simple burden of evidence yet you think I should accept the conclusion? “

    I think you are overstating. I have used the normal definition of the word. It is you who wants to add to that definition. I make no comment on what you should do beyond be logical and fair and honest. I simply say the conclusion seems to me to follow from the premises and I see nothing you’ve offered that changes that.

    You also state that you never thought my syllogism doesn’t assume there is no God yet you stated this:

    “Your syllogism doesn’t work unless we assume there’s no God to start with, and rather than defeat the design argument, the design argument defeats it.”

    That is logical. I didn’t think your syllogism assumed “no God”, and therefore I said it didn’t work unless it did include that assumption. “Unless” shows I didn’t assume that.

    “my argument has met its burden of evidence but I cannot say the same for your argument”

    I’m sorry Terrell, but what argument are you talking about here?

  27. Hugo, I am thankful you are being polite, but I think you have missed the point about the logic of premise 3. I am not saying that I think there are 3 possibilities like I might think there are 3 ways to drive to Melbourne – i.e. an empirical fact. I am saying logically there are no other possibilities.

    Let me unpack that. If I say that either London is in the UK or it is not, I am saying either A or ~A. By the laws of logic, there are no other possibilities. Likewise here, though it is slightly more complex.

    My first A or ~A statement is this. 1. Either the universe 1a. could have been different or 1b. it couldn’t have been different. There are no other possibilities.

    Then my second A or ~A statement is this: 2. If it could have been different (1a), the it took this form either 2a. because it was designed or 2b because it wasn’t designed. Again there are no other logical possibilities.

    I then call 1b Necessity, 2a Design and 2b Chance. There are no other possibilities than these by the laws of logic.

    That is premise 3. It is true by the laws of logic. And there is no point you proceeding any further unless you either understand this or show me why the laws of logic are wrong at this point.

    Your discussion of the Everest analogy completely misses the point, I’m sorry. An analogy may be true for one aspect but doesn’t have to work for every aspect. For example, the passage of electricity in wires can be used as an analogy for the flow of water in pipes (hydraulics), and can therefore be used to model water flow – but we can’t assume that electricity and hydraulics are analogous in other ways – e.g. water flow can’t directly power a light bulb. Likewise here. I used the analogy to make a single point, but the fact you can show the analogy doesn’t apply in some other way is completely irrelevant.

    So please address the logic question. I will leave things there and see how you respond.

  28. Hello,

    Logically,  we can say ‘necessity,  or not’, you pick ‘not’ as more likely. We can also pick ‘chance, or not’, you pick ‘not’ as more likely. That’s it, you are done. If you then jump to ‘design’, you take a leap of faith, unsupported logically.

    You didn’t justify ‘not chance’ = ‘design’, which are not logically equivalent. Otherwise,  your definition of ‘design’ above could be ‘not chance’, which makes no sense in general and especially for the universe,  as ‘designing’ a universe is a non-trivial feat, to say the least,  no?

    Moreover, the definition of design you gave doesn’t address any of Terrell’s point. My own summary would be that each line implies that thr designer, the mind behind the design, is human, as affirming more than that would, again, beg the question of some non-human mind’s existence.

    Cheers

    –setn uisng my phnoe, pradon any spllenig msitake.

  29. Futhermore, what needs to be reconciled are these definitions:

    ” to plan and fashion artistically or skillfully.
    to intend for a definite purpose:
    to form or conceive in the mind; contrive; plan:
    to assign in thought or intention; purpose”

    …with…

    ” (1) we have only observed designers that exists in the environment, (2) we have only observed designers that are physically limited by the environment prior to the conceived objective of the designer, (3) we have only observed designers that do not create the environment out of nothing including the parameters of the environment, and (4) the designs we observe are designs that are based on accumulated knowledge, adjustments, innovations, etc.”

    …and then conclude that a universe is an exemple of ‘design’, without special pleading nor begging the question.

    –setn uisng my phnoe, pradon any spllenig msitake.

  30. For the sake of argument I will accept your definition of design and accept your fine-tuning argument. Your argument still doesn’t get you to the conclusion you actually want (God).

    I will concede that you are using a definition of design in the “usual sense” or accept that you are using the normal definition of design. There is nothing usual or normal about the sort of design that you actually want to conclude with (a design by God). There is no usual or normal design that entails (1) a design created out of nothing, (2) a design where the designer is not bound by any physical limitations prior to designing something for a specific objective(s) or a design where the designer is omnipotent/omniscient, (3) a design that is not based on something that already physically exists, (4) a design in which the designer is outside of the universe prior to the design being made, and (5) a design where the designer is not even a material being. In fact, the sort of design that entails the five points above is the sort of design that would be the single exception to the designs that we actually have available to us.

    In conclusion, you can use this argument all you want but it does not make the existence of God more plausible and it does not make belief in God more rational once one realizes the sort of design that is actually entailed by a God. At most, one can conclude that the universe is designed by a finite being or beings given the definition you are using. Hell, one can still conclude that the universe came about by chance since you still have not given any sort of probability in regards to the possibility of the universe being designed by an agent. It’s only fair that one provide a figure for the probability of a conscious designer of the universe if they feel the need to throw figures out in regards to chance. At least one can give you a figure if they suppose that chance is the more plausible option.

  31. Hi Hugo, thanks for your response.

    So we can clarify and know where we have got, do you now understand and accept that what I have called necessity, chance and design are by logic the only options?

    If we are agreed there, then I can respond to your comments on why you think design is not the correct choice. Thanks.

  32. Hi,

    do you now understand and accept that what I have called necessity, chance and design are by logic the only options?

    Lol, absolutely not… Did you even read my comment? Most of what I have been writing directly contradict this!

    They are, by logic, not the only options. This is not an opinion; this is a fact. The only logically valid statement are:
    A or not-A,
    As part of not-A we can have B and not-B
    As part of not-B we can have C or not-C, etc…

    So it’s Necessity, or not
    Chance, or not

    You pick ‘not’ for both, fine. Now, prove why it’s Design…

  33. Hi Terrell, I have corrected your last post as you requested.

    “For the sake of argument I will accept your definition of design and accept your fine-tuning argument.”

    I have thought all along that the objections you were raising weren’t directed at the argument itself, which concludes that design is the best explanation, but at the idea (not expressed in the argument) that God is the most likely, perhaps only, possible designer. So I think this is the best way to proceed.

    “Your argument still doesn’t get you to the conclusion you actually want (God)”

    Well we each have to make our choice. But to me, all your five points don’t establish what you want them to. I agree they show that God must be a very different sort of designer than any human designer is – no christian would question that. But they don’t establish that God couldn’t be the designer.

    I think in fact they reinforce that thought. In every one of your 5 points you use the word design, showing that each time you show how God is different to an earthly or human designer, he is still a designer.

    “At most, one can conclude that the universe is designed by a finite being or beings given the definition you are using”

    I can’t see it. Just because all the designers we know on earth are finite beings, how does that make the possibility of a non-physical designer less likely? It’s like saying just because all the life we know is carbon based means that there couldn’t be life that was silicon based somewhere. It’s logically not valid.

    “one can still conclude that the universe came about by chance since you still have not given any sort of probability in regards to the possibility of the universe being designed by an agent”

    I haven’t put numbers on it, but the logic is clear. The cosmologists say that the odds of chance can be shown to be infinitesimally small, and they don’t believe in necessity because theoretical physics shows options for it to have been different. They don’t say as a consensus that it couldn’t have been designed – some would say that, some say explicitly that it could have been designed, some say it looks like it was designed, and some believe it was designed. On any measure of probability, the design hypothesis is assessed as being far less unlikely than the others.

    The only proviso in all this is that many accept the multiverse as the explanation for our universe’s fine tuning, but then the question reverts to the fine-tuning of the multiverse, which we know nothing about because the multiverse itself is an uncertain concept at this stage. Just as we can only guess that the multiverse might exist, so we can only guess that it might be fine tuned too.

    I’m going to take a risk here and get a little personal, I hope you don’t mind. I wonder how strongly you are personally invested in there being no God? Here we have an argument that shows that a designer is the most likely explanation. The only way to avoid that conclusion is to believe the cosmologists are all wrong, or believe that the uncertain multiverse is actually true and somehow it isn’t fine-tuned to produce the results it produces.

    Here is some evidence for a God – not proof, but evidence that when tested proves to be quite resilient. The arguments against it are far more speculative than the argument itself. You have the opportunity to learn something new from this evidence. I wonder are you willing to consider the possibility that this evidence should lead you to change your mind? Why wouldn’t you want to know this?

    Best wishes.

  34. Hi Hugo, I read your comment. You seemed to be accepting the logic that they are the only three possibilities, for the reasons I gave, and then arguing against the design option. If you don’t accept the logic I put forward before, then I see no point in going on to the next point.

    Can you please explain why my explanation of the three possibilities is wrong in your opinion?

  35. Hello,

    “You seemed to be accepting the logic that they are the only three possibilities, for the reasons I gave,”

    No, not at all, never did. If I weren’t on my phone,  I’d copy/paste my previous posts again 😉

    “If you don’t accept the logic I put forward before, then I see no point in going on to the next point.”

    Agreed, that’s why discussing that point is so important.

    “Can you please explain why my explanation of the three possibilities is wrong in your opinion?”

    It’s wrong for 2 reasons,  1 being purely objective and logical (not just ‘in my opinion’): the only logical dichotomy is A or not-A. Hence, you wrongly equate not-Chance with Design instead of correctly listing Necessity, or Chance,  or Design,  or Something Else; the only logically sound way to list the options.

    The 2nd problem is that I don’t think Design makes any sense in that context,  as design is afaik a purely human affair. Positing it as an option for universe-design begs the question as to whether non-human design is something that can exist in the first place, prior to the universe existing.

    –setn uisng my phnoe, pradon any spllenig msitake.

  36. Hugo, I’m sorry, but you still are not understanding and not addressing the logic of the argument.

    The logic is this (to repeat): Either our universe could have been different or it couldn’t. If it could have been different, it took this form either because it was designed or not designed.

    Those are A v ~A statements. They are therefore true. Do you accept that?

    The names chance and necessity are just names – call them glinkelspiel and frunk if you like – it is the logic that is important.

    The fact that you think design makes no sense in that context is a subsequent question. The question first is, do you disagree with these statements (I will repeat them again):

    Either our universe could have been different or it couldn’t. If it could have been different, it took this form either because it was designed or not designed.

    Thanks.

  37. Hi,

    It’s funny how you changed it this time; did you think I would not notice? Yet you write that I am the one who does not understand 🙂

    Either our universe could have been different or it couldn’t.

    No problem here. Either A or Not-A, the ‘Necessity’ part.

    If it could have been different, it took this form either because it was designed or not designed.

    Ah so it’s not Chance or Not-Chance anymore? Now it’s straight to Designed or Not-Designed! Well, at least now I agree that you have finally fixed the logical error.

    I can see where this is going, but I like this thing of using short comments so I will, for once, stop here. Your next step is to explain why ‘Designed’ is what you believe to be the right answer.

    Cheers

  38. Hi Hugo,

    I must confess I am getting a little tired of your continuing inaccuracy and misquoting, and of your accusations built on these inaccuracies. You say: “It’s funny how you changed it this time; did you think I would not notice?”

    If you check the original page which outlines this argument you’ll find in the justification of premise 3 the following statements:

    “Either our universe could have been any different or it couldn’t (physical necessity). If it could have been different, it took this form either because it was designed or not designed (chance).”

    Then when I discussed the justification of premise 3 in this discussion, I wrote:

    “Either our universe could have been different or it couldn’t (physical necessity). If it could have been different, it took this form either because it was designed or not designed (chance). That covers all the possible cases.”

    You even quoted it the same! So when I made my last comment I again quoted it, the same again, but I took out the names that I had given each of the logical possibilities, and said don’t worry about the names, worry about the logic.

    So the logic I have used is exactly the same each time – either it could have been different or not; if not then either design or not.

    Now, we had to have several posts each to establish that your claim that “There is no God” is the same as “God’s existence has not been established yet” was not in fact correct. Now we have to have accusation and avoiding the question to try to get to the point where you will either show that the logic of those repeated statements is incorrect or admit that it is correct.

    So can we please have an apology for your false accusation and an answer to the question? Is the logic correct or not? Thank you.

  39. Hi Hugo, just a further comment. Perhaps your objection is to the word “chance”, so let me explain that part of the argument.

    We have already established the definition of design, and it includes concepts like “plan”, “purpose” and “intention”.

    The dictionary definitions of chance include: “not planned”, “accidental” and “the way that events happen when they are not planned or controlled by people”.

    So by definition, the two are pretty close to opposite. Therefore they are reasonable words to use to describe the two cases I have outlined.

    Hopefully that will help you get to the point of either agreeing that those three possibilities cover all options, or presenting an argument that they don’t.

  40. Hello,

    You are mostly right here unkleE!

    So can we please have an apology for your false accusation

    Sure, yes, I am sorry I did not notice that you said ” ‘Design’ or ‘Not Design’ ” a few times already. That was an honest mistake and I now understand better how you move forward with the argument:
    – Necessity, or not. Pick ‘not’. (Because we don’t know how it could be the case)
    – Design, or not (= Chance). Pick ‘not’ (Because Chance is really really unlikely)

    The confusion might come from some of these examples:

    1) “The laws and constants which led to this suitability for life must have been determined by either physical necessity, chance or design.

    2) “such a multiverse would have to be fine-tuned to produce such an outcome, which simply brings us back to the same difficulty – is it this way by necessity, chance or design?

    3) “This form of the argument simply requires any scientific hypothesis to be tested against the three possibilities of necessity, chance or design.

    4) “The argument begins with the statement that this fine-tuning must either be chance or design or physical necessity,

    5) “ the only possibilities are that it was designed or happened by chance or happened because the laws of Physics require it

    6) “the current ‘fine tuning’ is not by chance or necessity so must be by purpose (or design).

    7) “There is only one true answer, but whichever one turns out to be true doesn’t make the statement “Either chance, necessity or design” false.

    8) “The logical argument I used simply said that the only logical possibilities are chance, necessity or design.

    It’s as if you mentioned 8 times that there are directly 3 options: necessity, chance or design. My apologies again for not seeing that you do understand logic and really meant “necessity, chance or neither”. Or, sometimes formulated as “necessity, design, or neither”.

    So, now back to what I mentioned before:
    – You have not justified why it has to be design if it’s not chance nor necessity.
    -…the mistakes you commit [is] where you equate ‘non-chance + non-necessity with design’
    – You didn’t justify ‘not chance’ = ‘design’, which are not logically equivalent.
    – you wrongly equate not-Chance with Design instead of correctly listing Necessity, or Chance, or Design, or Something Else; the only logically sound way to list the options.

    And why not include Terrell’s contribution too:
    – “The improbability of the universe being configured the way it is by chance or necessity does not make the probability that God (or something else) designed or finely tuned the universe more plausible. The notion that the universe is designed by some agent outside of it must be able to stand on its own merits.
    – “eliminating chance and necessity because they are improbable is no reason to think that design is the most probable option especially when the one arguing for design has not given any info on their conception of design.

    Therefore, it looks like we raised concerns with the equivocation fallacy you are committing 6 times. I guess we were just too early, as it’s only now that you clarified explicitly why you believe that ‘design’ = ‘not chance’. You said: “So by definition, the two are pretty close to opposite.
    I am sorry but ‘pretty close’ is not a satisfying answer, especially not when it comes to trying to assess how the entire universe got to be the way it is. And I would argue that they are not even ‘pretty close’ since it’s 2 different concepts completely but I do agree in part that they are ‘close’ in the sense you presented.

  41. Hi Hugo, thanks for your response. I do not enjoy being a little irascible, but I want to avoid wasting both our time. So now to get on with your questions here.

    As I have said before, I don’t claim that the formal argument “proves” the universe came by design – rather I think it shows it to be quite reasonable and more probable. So let us look at the point you raise, which I think is the strongest objection that can be raised against premise 3.

    “- You have not justified why it has to be design if it’s not chance nor necessity.
    -…the mistakes you commit [is] where you equate ‘non-chance + non-necessity with design’
    – You didn’t justify ‘not chance’ = ‘design’, which are not logically equivalent.
    – you wrongly equate not-Chance with Design instead of correctly listing Necessity, or Chance, or Design, or Something Else; the only logically sound way to list the options.”

    If we are agreed that the possibilities are logically exhausted by (1) must be the way it is (= necessity), (2) design or (3) not design (=chance), then your argument is that not design may not = chance.

    Now I have given the definitions of chance and design, and shown that design includes purpose, plan, while chance includes lack of purpose and lack of plan. So the words are close to opposite in meaning and therefore saying lack of design = chance is quite a strongly supported statement.

    You say there might be something else. But what? The fact that the words may not be exact opposites is not surprising, for words are rarely totally precise. The point is that the concepts in this case are directly opposite unless you can demonstrate something I haven’t considered. If you can’t, just saying “there might be something” is pretty unconvincing. You would be like a defence lawyer saying there might be some other explanation of the police evidence, but you don’t know what that might be.

    So the only thing standing in the way of premise 3 being airtight is the possibility that the words may not be absolutely opposite in meaning and an unsubstantiated suggestion that there may be some other choice which neither of us can think of.

    I think that argument isn’t a goer. I think the only way out of the dilemma is to agree with premise 3, but argue that chance may be possible if the multiverse is true. It is a long shot, because the multiverse is unsubstantiated and it would probably need to be as fine tuned as the universe anyway.

    That is why I think the fine tuning argument is very strong. There are ways to deny its force, but they strain credibility. Thanks.

  42. Hello,

    An undirected process such as natural selection is an example of something that yields non-chance non-designed objects. Take birds and bats for example. They could have been different, they were not designed, they evolved, but the fact that they have wings is not by chance, it’s a case of convergent evolution. What were the odds that a mammal would 1 day start to fly? They are extremely low if it were only by chance; you need so many small genetic modifications from early mammals to fully flying bats.

    There are also examples of things that happen by chance and were clearly designed. Humans create machine that yield random outputs all the time, yet we still clearly identify these object as being both the product of chance and design. It could be the object itself showing some random feature, random colors but a familiar shape for example, or some lottery machines where the machine itself is designed but the outcome, its behavior, is random.

    But all of these examples are within the universe. So it’s even worse when you get to discuss how the universe itself came to be the way it is.

    Look around you and spot the things that are designed. What do they have in common? They have a recognizable visual appearance, they don’t occur naturally without human intervention, they serve a purpose even if it’s a purely decorative one, they are made of natural components placed together manually by humans or by a machine made by humans. When do we ever say that it’s because they did not come about by chance? Then look at the non-designed stuff around you. What do they have in common? It’s almost all the same as ‘designed’ things, except that humans did not intervene. But again, when do we ever say that it’s because they did come about by chance? We don’t! Because that’s not how we recognize design, and it’s not because something is not-designed that it came about by chance.

    Therefore, I think that the following is demonstrably false:
    Now I have given the definitions of chance and design, and shown that design includes purpose, plan, while chance includes lack of purpose and lack of plan. So the words are close to opposite in meaning and therefore saying lack of design = chance is quite a strongly supported statement.

    Going back to the specific question of the universe being designed:
    You say there might be something else. But what?

    I don’t know; I don’t understand very well our universes are formed and why they are the way they are to make judgment call on what’s likely to have cause ours to be the way it is.

    You would be like a defence lawyer saying there might be some other explanation of the police evidence, but you don’t know what that might be.

    A better analogy would be: you are the state’s attorney, you think that my client is guilty of committing a certain crime, yet, the only thing you can do is claim that all the other people in the room did not do it, hence my client must be guilty. What I am telling you is that I don’t think we know enough about every single person in the room to come to that conclusion. And I think there could be people outside the room, lots of people, who could have committed it. I am also telling you that I am not convinced that ‘someone’ did it in the first place. It could have been some natural event that we don’t yet understand. I am not even trying to claim that my client is innocent; this is not my job as a defense attorney. My job is only to explain why my client must be found non-guilty based on the case you presented.

    ********

    I would like to add 1 more thing here since I have some time today. It’s an attempt to show how it feels like from my point of view when I am involved in that kind of discussion. I think also it’s going to be one of the last things I write online, as it’s been over 10 years now that I have been discussing these things online and I don’t think I have much more to learn; I keep saying I will stop but always come back. This time it’s true, I hope, as I have been able to reduce a lot already. It was also sad to learn that 1 of the first people I interacted with just passed away (or soon; he wrote a good-by post announcing he has stage 4 cancer) so this seem to be a good sign that it’s time to move on.

    Hugo: Hi unkleE, I saw on your blog that you think the argument from fine-tuning is a great example of why people should believe God exists. You even mentioned examples of people who were convinced, at least as 1 of their main reasons, by the argument.

    unkleE: Yes! It does actually convince people. Famous atheist Antony Flew came to believe in God near the end of his life to a large degree because of this argument. I have a relative for whom the science of fine-tuning was key in his coming to believe in God.

    Hugo: Ok great, I have heard it before and I honestly don’t think it works as an explanation for the universe, and even if you gave examples most people don’t believe because of such reason. I am willing nonetheless to consider it, and it’s important that I know you believe it yourself, otherwise there is no point in discussing it. By the way, here’s 1 interesting link regarding Anthony Flew by the way: http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/11/antony-flew-bogus-book.html)

    unkleE: Ok, but before I begin, please note that I don’t claim that the formal argument “proves” the universe came by design – rather I think it shows it to be quite reasonable and more probable.

    Hugo: Sure, I think most people agree that we cannot really “prove” much when it comes to such big philosophical questions. So it’s ‘ok’ to try to figure out if something is probable or not. But before you begin, I would say something too: I don’t think Design makes any sense in that context, as design is afaik a purely human affair. Positing it as an option for universe-design begs the question as to whether non-human design is something that can exist in the first place, prior to the universe existing.

    unkleE: Wait! You are not addressing the logic of the argument. Let me start and you’ll see. The logic is this: Either our universe could have been different or it couldn’t. If it could have been different, it took this form either because it was designed or not designed. Those are A v ~A statements. They are therefore true. Do you accept that?

    Hugo: Sure. I don’t see why the universe has to be the way it is; I guess it could have been different. I am not sure what that would entail as we have no other reality to explore. It could also have been designed or not, and could actually have been different if it were designed, especially by a god, since I don’t see why we humans should think that God, should he be the creator of the universe, had to do it a certain way. So really, it comes down to: the universe took this form either because it was designed or not designed. A or ~A. Now you will argue for ‘A’ obviously…

    unkleE: No. I will not argue for ‘A’. Instead, I will show you why ~A, Chance, is really really unlikely.

    Hugo: Wait. But why wouldn’t you prove ‘A’ directly? You don’t think there are good reasons to support the view that ‘Design’ is the most likely explanation? I told you that this is what I don’t buy; I don’t see where ‘Design’ fits in the picture when talking about the universe’s nature.

    unkleE: The fact that you think design makes no sense in that context is a subsequent question. The question first is, do you disagree with these statements (I will repeat them again): Either our universe could have been different or it couldn’t. If it could have been different, it took this form either because it was designed or not designed.

    Hugo: Sure. It could be Designed (A), or not-Designed (~A). Now will you support ‘A’?

    unkleE: No. I will not argue for ‘A’. Instead, I will prove to you why ~A, Chance, is really really unlikely.

    Hugo: Ok.. so you really think that not-Designed equates Chance?

    unkleE: Yes. The definition of design includes concepts like “plan”, “purpose” and “intention”. The dictionary definitions of chance include: “not planned”, “accidental” and “the way that events happen when they are not planned or controlled by people”.

    Hugo: But Design and Chance refer to different concepts, they are mostly opposite but not directly. We rarely use them as direct opposite of each other.

    unklE: By definition, the two are pretty close to opposite. Therefore they are reasonable words to use to describe the two cases I have outlined. Luke Barnes and other cosmologists agree that the odds of the universe being the way it is is ridiculously small, 10^10^(really really big number), so clearly, it could not have happened by chance. If you some constants in the equations we use to describe the universe, nothing works, you don’t even get stars! And you need to change that by only a tiny bit in some cases. So clearly, God created the universe.

    Hugo: Well that escalated quickly…

    unkleE: The logic is clear. The cosmologists say that the odds of chance can be shown to be infinitesimally small, and they don’t believe in necessity because theoretical physics shows options for it to have been different. They don’t say as a consensus that it couldn’t have been designed – some would say that, some say explicitly that it could have been designed, some say it looks like it was designed, and some believe it was designed.

    Hugo: Ok, so it’s possible that the universe would have been different, we don’t really know why/how. It’s possible it was purely random, but it “seems” really unlikely since we know that changing constants just a little makes everything fail… according to the man-made equations that describe that same universe. Design and Chance are pretty much direct opposite, but not exactly obviously, since they are different words, but just close enough for the sake of this argument. We have absolutely no argument directly in favor of Design; no reason to believe there is a way for a god to Design universes, no idea how it would work, how often it can be done, if it can be done differently or not, no mechanism to explain how this universe is designed and created how of nothing… just that, well, it does not look like it was by chance. So… to me, this looks like we really don’t know much about how the universe came to be this way. We know a lot about how it works now; more and more every day, but go further than the Big Bang and we are stuck with “I don’t know”. I am afraid I cannot believe anything else so far. Thanks for trying to convince me; it was interesting.

  43. Hi Hugo, I think you may have missed your calling in life! Instead of arguing with christians, perhaps you should be writing dialogue for TV shows! (Not sure whether it would be comedy, tragedy or reality TV, but you would probably be versatile enough for all three. 🙂 )

    I think I understand how you feel about withdrawing from much internet discussion. I used to be a member of several forums and spent a lot of effort on discussing with people, but I gradually came to the view that it wasn’t useful, and I have more or less dropped out.

    I write this website for people who are interested, and I don’t really write to convince resolute non-believers as you suggest. Discussing with people like you comes with the territory, and I’m generally happy to do it, but my aims are modest. I usually try to focus on politely replying to comments, and misunderstandings of history, science, the arguments or my own views. If I have clarified those things, I feel satisfied.

    Your comments on evolution and natural selection are interesting, and I think your words point to the answers to your own questions. Evolution is a mixed process of both random events and design through natural selection. The difficulty for cosmological fine-tuning is that there is nothing like biological natural selection operating, so the apparent design cannot be explained that way.

    I’m afraid you still misunderstand the logic of premise 3 when you say “I don’t understand very well our universes are formed and why they are the way they are to make judgment call on what’s likely to have cause ours to be the way it is.” Premise 3 is making a claim about logic, and it applies to any situation you care to imagine. Any event could either have been different or it couldn’t. If it could have been different, it could either have been designed or not designed (=by chance). Not being able to understand cosmology has nothing to do with it. It is understanding logic and the absolute certainty that A and ~A exhaust the possibilities of anything.

    The same misunderstanding is behind your courtroom example. In that case, it isn’t necessarily the case that one of the people we believe was in the room must have murdered – there could have someone else there that we don’t know about, someone could have done it without being in the room, it could have been suicide, etc, etc. But in the fine tuning case, premise 3 establishes that there are only the three possibilities outlined.

    I won’t venture into your dialogue, for fear I might never escape. Instead I will applaud. Best wishes.

  44. “I have thought all along that the objections you were raising weren’t directed at the argument itself, which concludes that design is the best explanation, but at the idea (not expressed in the argument) that God is the most likely, perhaps only, possible designer. So I think this is the best way to proceed.”

    You asked me to tell what premise in your argument I took issue with. I said premise 3 and I have been telling you why I take issue with premise 3. I take issue with your definition of design. You have yet to demonstrate that the definition you really want does not result in special pleading or does not beg the question. Remember that I only accepted your definition of design for the sake of argument and you have ignored that your definition of design still has not established the sort of design you want. You accused me of “adding” to the concept of design but it is you who wants to “add” to the concept of design simply because we do not know of any design that entails the five points. I backed up the conception of design I’m referring to with evidence and you have not. In other words, it is up to you to justify the sort of design you are positing. It’s not up to me to disprove it.

    “Well we each have to make our choice. But to me, all your five points don’t establish what you want them to. I agree they show that God must be a very different sort of designer than any human designer is – no christian would question that. But they don’t establish that God couldn’t be the designer.”

    If you admit that God is unlike any designer then you are admitting to special pleading.

    “I think in fact they reinforce that thought. In every one of your 5 points you use the word design, showing that each time you show how God is different to an earthly or human designer, he is still a designer.”

    Demonstrate a design that entails the five points without special pleading and maybe this argument would work. I use the word design because it saves me time from saying “the universe was supposedly created from nothing by an immaterial, omniscient, and omnipotent being” or saying that “God just picked what universe it wanted because it could make life exists no matter what universe exists” every time I talk about your notion of design. I guess I’ll just use the longer phrases to make the distinction between the design we know about and the design you want to conclude with more glaring.

    “I can’t see it. Just because all the designers we know on earth are finite beings, how does that make the possibility of a non-physical designer less likely? It’s like saying just because all the life we know is carbon based means that there couldn’t be life that was silicon based somewhere. It’s logically not valid.”

    All the designers we know of are finite and physical, period (Earth or elsewhere in the physical universe as far as we know). Therefore, you are lacking the very data you need to calculate the probability of a non-physical designer. It is not my fault you do not have that data. I’m not saying that the probability of a non-physical designer (designer = God just picked what universe it wanted because it could make life exists no matter what universe exists in this instant) is less likely. I’m saying you don’t even have a clue how probable that possibility is because you have no evidence for it. It may be 100% true that God just picked what universe it wanted because it could make life exists no matter what universe exists but you have not shown how one could know that. The fact that we do not know other designers besides finite designers is the reason why I reject the sort of design you really want to conclude with. I honestly don’t understand how you can present all this data against chance and necessity yet when it comes to your supposed type of design (God just picking what universe it wanted because it could make life exists no matter what universe exists) you present not one ounce of data to support it. That’s not how it works. If you are going to use scientific data then at least have the courtesy to utilize science properly. Scientific hypotheses do not become theories based upon another theory being unlikely. You have to present evidence for your hypothesis not evidence against another hypothesis alone. It is only fair that you present evidence for the very conclusion you are arguing for if you are using science to bolster your position. There is nothing that is not logically valid with my argument unless you would like to throw epistemology out of the window altogether. If so then you are rejecting the very scientific data that you are arguing with. It’s ironic that you accuse me of putting forth something logically not valid when it is you who are the one who is outright committing the fallacy of special pleading by admitting that God is the only designer unlike any designer we know of while the existence of God is what you are trying to justify in the first place. Since you are using science then is it only fair that you put forth some evidence for a design that entails the five points I have been arguing about without begging the question or special pleading. Also, I never once said that God couldn’t just pick what universe it wanted because it could make life exists no matter what universe exists. I am arguing that your argument is fundamentally flawed because your designer commits you to special pleading. It’s not my fault the conclusion you really want is a fallacious one.

    “I haven’t put numbers on it, but the logic is clear. The cosmologists say that the odds of chance can be shown to be infinitesimally small, and they don’t believe in necessity because theoretical physics shows options for it to have been different. They don’t say as a consensus that it couldn’t have been designed – some would say that, some say explicitly that it could have been designed, some say it looks like it was designed, and some believe it was designed. On any measure of probability, the design hypothesis is assessed as being far less unlikely than the others.”

    It is irrelevant if they think the universe is designed. What is relevant is what sort of design they are talking about. Can you or can these scientists demonstrate a design that entails the five points I keep mentioning? Until then it is safe to say that you and the scientists have not really thought deeply about what sort of design (God just picking what universe it wanted because it could make life exists no matter what universe exists) they are referring to.

    “The only proviso in all this is that many accept the multiverse as the explanation for our universe’s fine tuning, but then the question reverts to the fine-tuning of the multiverse, which we know nothing about because the multiverse itself is an uncertain concept at this stage. Just as we can only guess that the multiverse might exist, so we can only guess that it might be fine-tuned too.
    I’m going to take a risk here and get a little personal, I hope you don’t mind. I wonder how strongly you are personally invested in there being no God? Here we have an argument that shows that a designer is the most likely explanation. The only way to avoid that conclusion is to believe the cosmologists are all wrong, or believe that the uncertain multiverse is actually true and somehow it isn’t fine-tuned to produce the results it produces.
    Here is some evidence for a God – not proof, but evidence that when tested proves to be quite resilient. The arguments against it are far more speculative than the argument itself. You have the opportunity to learn something new from this evidence. I wonder are you willing to consider the possibility that this evidence should lead you to change your mind? Why wouldn’t you want to know this?
    Best wishes.”

    You don’t seem to realize that the multiverse is actually predicted. God is not. This is why many scientists believe in the multiverse. It isn’t some sort of metaphysical prejudice that is making scientists believe in the multiverse. What is puzzling is that you have not shown one ounce of data that predicts God yet you go on presenting scientific data as if makes you position look more plausible. That’s not how it works as I have already explained. We do not know why the universe is fine-tuned and that is still the case regardless of your argument. We also know that the sort of design you actually want to conclude with is something we have no clue about as well. Presenting something that you have no clue about (the sort of design you actually want to conclude with) has never been an explanation. Furthermore, the concept of fine-tuning only makes sense if there is no God anyways. Once God is put into the picture you are really stating that the universe isn’t really fine tuned. You are stating that God just decided for the universe to be the way it is because he could make life exist no matter what universe exists.

    What you call evidence for God is poor evidence when regarding the fine-tuning argument. How is not being able to give a figure on what you want to conclude with yet being able to give a figure for something you do not want to conclude with ever been compelling evidence? How is presenting a conclusion that results in special pleading good evidence? Also, has your God been tested as rigorously as the scientific data you put forth? Is the argument you put forth as resilient as the scientific data you use in your argument? Where are the peer-reviewed science papers establishing your conclusion that the universe is designed?

    I’m baffled that you think your conclusion is less speculative than the arguments against your fine-tuning argument yet you have not demonstrated a single design that entails the five points without special pleading and you have not presented one ounce of data that demonstrates the probability of God creating the universe. Talk about speculative!

    I’ll just leave you pondering how much you think I have invested in not believing in God being that it is entirely irrelevant to the fine-tuning argument. In regards to your question about the possibility of me changing my mind, I already told you over and over again that there could be a God. Good evidence could change my mind but poor evidence or no evidence will not. I came here to discuss the finer points of your fine-tuning argument (pun intended) in hopes that someone who reads your blog could see the perspective from both sides and perhaps I could have my mind changed but the evidence is lacking for that sort of change to occur so far. I did not come here to get personal because getting personal does not change bad arguments into good ones so I will refrain from entertaining you with my personal life.

    “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein

    Lastly, I would like to say that you missed a fourth option that is available in premise 3 of your fine-tuning argument. A simple “I don’t know” is a perfectly legitimate 4th option or conclusion (of course it is a tentative conclusion until we actually find out what is the cause of the apparent fine-tuning if we ever find that conclusion).

  45. HI Terrell, do you get the feeling we are starting to go in circles? To see if I can better understand your position, I will limit my response to two questions please:

    1. Do you accept the logic that if A is any grammatically sensible A, the statement “Either A or not-A” exhausts the possibilities? And therefore that the twin statements “Either A or not-A” and “If not-A then either B or not-B” exhaust the possibilities? If not, can you please explain why not (without any reference to God or the fine-tuning argument, as this is a general logic question)?

    2. I have used the normal dictionary definition of design as plan, purpose, intention, etc. We agree that God is very different to human beings, and your 5 points express some of that. Do you think it is the case that if God is the subject of a statement about design, that changes the meaning of the concept of design in such a way as to make it not mean what it usually does? If so, can you please explain why this is the case?

    Thanks.

  46. 1. Yes. I would say that your A (your notion of design) is unintelligible.

    2. I’ve explained to you over and over again why God being a designer is unintelligible. One could claim anything is designed with the notion of design you want to conclude with. I reject that notion which leaves us unable to determine what is and isn’t designed.

    I’ve said what I can ad nauseum and you have not addressed anything I’ve said without special pleading or begging the question. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  47. Hi Terrell, I’m sorry you feel frustrated. I do too. There are only two sensible ways forward I believe – either we stop, or we try to analyse our disagreement in a more disciplined way.

    You are a visitor to my blog, and you are obviously free to terminate the discussion. But while you continue, courtesy suggests I should respond. So I will try to be more rigorous in analysing your comments.

    My #1. I specifically said #1 was NOT in reference to God or fine tuning, and you said you agree with the statement. But then you say my concept of design is unintelligible. Do you mean that design as a general concept is unintelligible? Can you please explain?

    My #2. You keep saying that you have explained “over and over again” and “ad nauseum” why God as a designer is unintelligible, but I keep saying you have not. So let’s examine this further, by setting up a short logical argument.

    1. Design conveys the ideas of plan, purpose and intentionality.

    2. God as a designer is a different concept to any earthly designer – (a) created out of nothing, (b) not bound by any physical limitations but omnipotent/omniscient, (c) not based on something that already physically exists, (d) outside of the universe, and (e) not a material being.

    3. Therefore the idea of God being a designer is unintelligible.

    That is the argument you are putting forward (P2 is your own words, just abbreviated to keep short) – please correct me if I’m wrong. So how does it stand up?

    We are apparently agreed on P1. This is the simple dictionary definition.

    We are pretty much agreed on P2. Those things are all true (though (a) and (c) seem to repeat). This is what you have been expressing “over and over again”, but I have said several times that I accept the truth of it.

    The problem is the jump from P2 to P3. Can you point to anywhere that you have given reasons why P2 leads logically to P3. I cannot recall any.

    And further thought convinces me that the jump is illogical. I see no reason why, because God differs from us in many ways, that the word “design” loses it’s meaning. Words don’t lose their meaning that easily. Consider these situations….

    (i) Dogs exist and unicorns don’t. But saying “I saw a unicorn” is just as intelligible as “I saw a dog”, it just has a different truth value. Likewise saying “I believe in democracy” is as intelligible as “I believe in you”, even though democracy is an intangible thing whereas the person is a real physical object. So the words haven’t changed meaning even when we refer to non-physical or non-real objects.

    (ii) If I say “I saw an angel”, the word “saw” hasn’t changed meaning just because an angel is a supernatural object, though again you may question the truth of the statement. (Truth is different to intelligibility!)

    (iii) It is the same with the word “God”. “God exists” is as intelligible as “I exist”, it is just less certain if it is true. If it isn’t intelligible than why are you even discussing the question? So why should “God designs” not be as intelligible as “The architect designs”?

    (iv) If words change their meaning, or lose meaning, when included in a sentence with God, than your statement “God being a designer is unintelligible” is also unintelligible, which is a self defeating and therefore contradictory statement.

    So I think we can see that there is a plausible case against P3, and you need to offer a very strong argument if you want to support it. That is what I haven’t seen you do.

    So please feel free to conclude this discussion, but if you continue, can you please address your comments to P3, not to P2 which I accept. Thanks.

  48. This is my last response. There is nothing fruitful coming out of this conversation. I would hope that you really ponder what I am saying to you after this last comment.

    I wouldn’t make the argument you put forth. I already gave you an argument I would use. I wouldn’t even say design conveys intent because there is teleonomic design. I would say that teleological design or teleology conveys intent. Also, there are other reasons along with P2 (i.e. after or before P2) prior to concluding with P3 so you are setting up an argument with unstated premises. In other words, you’re attacking a straw man.

    Teleology does convey planning and intent but you have yet to demonstrate an intentional being that entails all of what you stated in premise 2. This is why I have been arguing that design also conveys vast limitations as far as we know. You have yet to give an example of a design created via the five points that doesn’t result in special pleading. You ignore this point over and over again. Design also conveys that something isn’t designed or that something is undesigned if you will. If you state that the universe is designed for life then is life not designed? If both are designed then what could one reasonably say isn’t designed if there is nothing undesigned to compare designs to? What we actually know about design allows us to distinguish between what is and isn’t designed. If you state a design doesn’t entail drastic limitations for the designer (such as the designer being unable to change the parameters of the universe) while also stating that the designer isn’t something non-designed from which the designer can distinguish that which is and isn’t designed then you are destroying all the knowledge of design we have gathered to this point besides fantasy. If the entire universe is a result of teleology then what appears to be not teleological is actually a teleological result such that it only looks like a non-teleological result which is exactly why calling God a designer is unintelligible.

    There is a tremendous distinction between a designer designing something and a so called “designer” (god) arbitrarily picking what universe it wants because it could make virtually anything physical obtain (including life) no matter what universe exists. However, I told you in my last response that I am stating that God is a designer rather than stating the much longer phrase to save me time from typing the longer phrase so your semantics regarding dogs and angels has nothing to do with what I am saying. You are addressing a straw man.

    Furthermore, what design can you present that has not underwent a sort of evolution via finite processes or beings such as the gradual design changes of the modern car from the first cars or biological evolution for that matter? All our evidence is evidence with designs that evolve from already existing material. None of our evidence suggests that designs are not results of already existing designs or designs out of absolutely nothing.

    What this blog post suggests is that the atheist (and whoever else) should just agree that this one sort of design that entails that the infamous five points is actual despite all the evidence to the contrary. I’m sorry but there is no sort of “design” that you have presented that entails the five points that hasn’t resulted in special pleading or result in one ignoring all the evidence we do have of things that are designed. I will leave some questions for you to ponder though I probably already asked you these questions. No need to answer them because I will not respond. In fact, I rather you seriously sit down and think about these questions for a good long while rather than type up a hasty response.

    1. If the universe is designed then is life designed?

    2. What would you consider not designed if life and the universe are both designed?

    3. Does question 2 even make sense if the universe and the life the universe was designed for are both intentionally designed?

    4. If the universe is designed then what do non designed universes look like?

    These questions are obviously all related but I feel they should be pondered along with what I have been saying in the comments section. Don’t you or anyone else reading this blog be afraid to watch the videos I have posted either.

  49. I would also add that the mark of an intentional and intelligent design is simplicity. There is nothing simple about the universe especially with quantum mechanics.

  50. It was great to read your input Terrell; particularly these five points regarding design. You never said ‘I agree with that’ or ‘that is wrong’ regarding anything I wrote. If you still feel like it, I would be particularly interest in the ‘that is wrong’ part since we cannot possibly agree on everything, even on this narrow topic…

    unkleE, I did write that this was ‘one of the last’ things I will write online. Don’t think you will get rid of me that easily 😉 I am still thinking about a few things I would like to ask/tell you. I am just not sure what and what approach to take…

    Cheers

  51. Hello Hugo,

    I certainly don’t agree with you on some points but I think they are irrelevant in regards to the fine-tuning argument. I simply can’t remember exactly what I do disagree with you on but I do remember disagreeing despite not making it known. There was so much of back and forth between you and unkleE that I felt I would have took up plenty of time that I could use to focus on the points I was making so I would quickly read through your responses without really absorbing what you were saying. However, I will read through the comments again and I will definitely get back to you. Thank you for enjoying my input and getting something out of it. It is the main reason why I comment.

    I would like to thank you as well unkleE. You’ve been polite despite the frustration. When I stated that our conversation wasn’t fruitful I meant that is wasn’t fruitful for the both us simply because we ended up talking passed each other after a while. However, I would really wish that people making the fine-tuning argument would really grapple with what the concept of design implies otherwise what we know about design becomes unintelligible. I say this because I am studying to be an engineer and engineers deal with designs in the real world. So far we have not encountered a design in the real world that entails the five points. Whether if it’s an artist designing an installation for an art gallery or an engineer helping in the design process of a dam. All designs we have encountered are created via finite beings.

  52. “I wouldn’t make the argument you put forth. I already gave you an argument I would use.”

    I’m sorry, I don’t recall seeing it set out in the form of propositions. I invited you to correct my summary of your argument and I’m sorry that you didn’t. I would actually have enjoyed discussing your questions, but would prefer to see your argument and the evidence for it.

    “This is my last response.”

    OK. Thanks for visiting. I’m sorry it has been frustrating for you. It has been frustrating for me too. I had hoped that trying to set down formal propositions (which make arguments very explicit) would help, but if you aren’t happy to do that or keep going, I wish you well.

  53. Hello Hugo,

    The only thing I disagree with you on is a minor thing about what we can reasonably say about intentional designs. You seem to state that the only intentional designs we know about are humans designs but I feel that is false. We know that beavers, birds, primates, spiders and etc. intentionally design their environment to fit their needs despite such designs being crude (perhaps spiders are an exception but that is just a subjective bias towards the sheer ingenuity of spider webs from an engineering stand point). If I am incorrect in this critique I apologize but this is the only thing I can find of what you said that I agree with. Either way I feel this is such a minor disagreement that has no bearing on what we have been arguing throughout our dialogues with unkleE.

    Regarding unkleE’s arguments, I would say that he tends to ignore points that are made while responding to pieces of our arguments out of context. Perhaps he could answer one question to clear a lot of things up. Does he believe that the universe and life are both designed? Until he makes a distinction between design and non-design there is no reason to take his argument seriously (among other reasons to not take his argument seriously). Also, he seems to ignore the possibility of chance and necessity in combination which is very similar to the process of natural selection which is another option left out of premise 3 of his argument. This is another reason why his premise 3 is problematic. He doesn’t seem to realize that I put forth a syllogism early on in our conversation which is the argument I would use, instead of the straw man he formalized, if he was wondering.

  54. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2014/11/03/william-lane-craigs-silly-response-to-the-hostility-of-life/

    The link above seems relevant to your fine-tuning argument. I am particularly interested with this quote below from Lowder even though I think the whole post from Lowder is relevant.

    “But the expression, ‘the conclusion necessarily follows,’ gives the illusion of certainty…”

    It seems that you have stated the very expression in the quote above in some fashion. Also, Lowder comments elsewhere about how deductive arguments such as your fine-tuning argument can mask uncertainty such as the uncertainty that my lengthy objections bring forth to your argument. Not to mention that Lowder’s objection also seems to bring even more uncertainty concerning the supposed “design” of the universe. Those comments from Lowder are in the link below.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2013/01/28/how-the-distinction-between-deductive-vs-inductive-arguments-can-mask-uncertainty/

    Though you have claimed that the conclusion necessarily follows if the premises (which I believe are dubious) are true does not mean that the conclusion does in fact follow especially when there is plenty of relevant evidence that your argument completely ignores which Lowder and I have talked about.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2013/01/22/hostility-of-the-universe-to-life-understated-evidence-about-cosmic-fine-tuning/

    Hope as is well……except for your fine-tuning argument (I’m just poking fun by the way).

  55. Hi Terrell, I see you have been reading JJ Lowder. In the internet discussions about God, he is one of the people I respect even though I disagree with him a lot of the time.

    I don’t think this or any other argument gives certain results.

    I think Lowder’s argument connecting the small amount of hospitable locations in the universe with fine tuning is not very convincing. WL Craig’s argument (and mine, which follows his) start with the anthropic science. If someone wants to argue against that argument, they need to address the premises, not add their own premises.

    If it was reasonable to add extra premises and ideas, I could add other premises and ideas such as the explanation for why the universe exists at all, or why rational life has evolved. But these are in fact other arguments about the existence of God (the cosmological and the argument from reason), and it only complicates things to lump them all in together.

    So we should consider the argument from inhospitability (as we might call it) on its merits, and not lumped into another argument. I haven’t thought about it all that much, and I think I may write a post on it soon. But my initial reaction to it is to think it is not very impressive. The fine-tuning argument rests on established science, but this argument rests on the belief that we can understand why God might create, which is hardly something I think Lowder, you or I can know.

    Thanks for pointing out Lowder’s comments, but it doesn’t seem to me that they directly address this argument, and the argument they do address doesn’t seem capable of being made cogently (just try putting it in a formal argument).

  56. Lowder’s argument does not rely on the belief that we can understand why God might create. Such an accusation is false as I will demonstrate. Lowder relies on the relevant and understated data hence why Lowder argues that the fine-tuning argument commits what Lowder calls the fallacy of understated evidence. In fact, Lowder states this:

    Even if we assume that so-called cosmic “fine-tuning” is evidence favoring theism over naturalism, that argument commits the fallacy of understated evidence. In other words, even if the general fact of fine-tuning is more probable on the assumption that theism is true than on the assumption that naturalism is true, it ignores other, more specific facts about fine-tuning, facts that, given fine-tuning, are more likely on naturalism than on theism.

    Lowder clearly implies that the same parameters that allow for life are the same parameters that favor naturalism when one takes other facts about the parameters of the universe into account.

    Lowder says this as well:

    So the hostility data is more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true, and hence at least some evidence against theism.

    And in his post titled, “How the Distinction between Deductive vs. Inductive Arguments Can Mask Uncertainty”, Lowder simply talks about how arguments (namely Craig’s fine-tuning arguments and your form of it) can mask uncertainty. Where in the world did you get anything that indicates that Lowder’s argument rests on the belief that we can know why God might create?

    Furthermore, Lowder is not adding premises or ideas which should be obvious by now being that I have pointed out quotes where Lowder clearly states that he is talking about relevant and understated evidence. The same life permitting ranges are the same ranges that make the universe extremely hostile to life. There is nothing being added but there is relevant facts about the same life permitting ranges that the fine-tuning argument conveniently neglects. Talking about understated evidence is not the same as adding premises or ideas. If you want to talk about the merits of Lowder’s argument that I suggest that you address the actual argument rather than make false accusations about his argument.

    Digging a little deeper into Lowder’s argument, he states this:

    Assume that we are 70% confident that the life-permitting conditions of our universe are due to design. By itself, the fact that we are 70% confident that the life-permitting conditions of our universe are due to design does not justify us in being 70% confident that our universe is due to design. That would be the case only if we did not know of any other factors about our universe, besides life-permitting conditions, which were relevant to the probability that our universe was designed. But that’s false. We know much more about our universe’s habitability than the fact that it is life-permitting, however. We also know that the vast majority of our universe is hostile to life. Given that our universe is life-permitting,[1] the fact that so much of our universe is hostile to life (hereafter, “the hostility data”) is more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true.

    Lowder clearly states that the fine-tuning argument only succeeds if we know nothing else about our universe. However, we know far more about the hostility and habitability of the universe than we do about the fact that the universe is life-permitting (we also know far more about physically limited beings designing than we do about omnipotent, timeless, immaterial beings designing as I have thoroughly argued). In other words, the fine-tuning arguments is based upon plenty of uncertainty which makes the conclusion uncertain. This masking of certainty is talked by Lowder if you just read what he says in the links provided. One cannot talk about specific data that seemingly favors the position one argues for while ignoring other data or facts about the same specific data that does undermine the position that one is arguing for. In other words, the fine-tuning argument ignores what we know about design and other facts about our universe as if the fact that the parameters of the universe are life permitting is all that one must consider when assessing whether the universe is intentionally designed. There is relevant information about the parameters of the universe besides the fact that it is life permitting that undermines the fine-tuning argument.

    Lastly, I would add the one is making plenty of questionable assumptions when it comes to probability as is talked about in this video below.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsw8VXAcHz4&index=21

  57. Hi Terrell, I’m not sure that you understood what I said last time. Let me reiterate.

    (i) There are two separate arguments, fine-tuning and the inhospitality of space. I said I thought they were better kept separate, not combined as Lowder tries to do.

    (If this was a useful and legitimate way to argue, I could conflate the fine-tuning and cosmological arguments, which are as relevant to each other as the two arguments Lowder conflates, and so show that the science even more strongly suggests that God exists. But this only complicates things.)

    (ii) When talking about the fine-tuning evidence, Lowder agrees that it is strong (not necessarily convincing, but certainly not easily dismissed.)

    (iii) My comment was directed at the inhospitality argument. I suggested you try to present the argument in a formal form, for this is the best way to test it out. It’s not my argument (I think it is a quite poor argument), but such a formal statement might go something like this:

    1. The universe contains vast tracts that are inhospitable and few locations which can support life.
    2. Scientific understanding shows that a large universe composed much as we see it is necessary to support life.
    3. The universe we see is therefore consistent with known physical processes.
    4. If God created a universe, he would have created more hospitable locations.
    5. Therefore it is more likely that the universe arose from physical processes than that God created it.

    Now clearly 1-3 are based on scientific knowledge, and the key premise is #4. So my question is – how does Lowder know this? If God is all powerful, and he wants to create a million locations that support life, or just one, he can do that by creating zillions of galaxies, and it’s no sweat to him!

    So that’s why I said Lowder’s argument depends on something he can’t know, whereas the fine-tuning argument depends on something we apparently do know.

    PS I read the links. I think Lowder is conflating two arguments that are better left separate. The whole swag of arguments for and against God (not just these two) can be evaluated at the end.

  58. I thought maybe discussing this argument helps as a stepping stone. It is not parallel, but there are some related and similar assumptions behind them.

    1. The space between atoms is void.
    2. Inside atoms most of the space between electrons and nucleons is void.
    3. The majority share of volume of living matter is void.
    4. If there was a God living matter would have more volume.
    5. God doesn’t exist.

  59. i. Lowder does not conflate anything. As I have explained before, the same parameters that permit life are the same parameters that make the universe inhospitable hence why Lowder states that there are more specific and relevant facts about fine-tuning that the fine-tuning argument ignores. In other words, the fine-tuning argument ignores facts about the same science. There is no way to separate the two (life permitting parameters/hostility of the parameters of the universe to life) without the separation being superficial. Perhaps I could illustrate my point with a thought experiment. Imagine that person X lies to the authorities (call this incident P). Is this enough information to conclude that person X is untrustworthy? Well, maybe. One would probably need to know the specifics about P and person X in order to make a more informed decision regarding person X. Luckily there are more specific facts about P and person X. For instance, imagine that person X has always been known to be a model citizen, honest, moral, and a bunch of other nice things one could say about person X (facts about person X). Furthermore, person X told Nazis (the authorities in this particular case) – who are looking to kill Jews – that he wasn’t hiding Jews in his home when in fact he was hiding Jews in his home (the lie). Imagine that this lie that person X told was told to save the lives of the Jews he was hiding. Now, your judgment of whether person X is trustworthy or not is up to you but I suspect that the more specific facts about incident P and facts about person X are very relevant to your conclusion of whether person X is trustworthy or not. I also suspect that the fact that person X lied to the authorities cannot be separated from the fact that person X lied to Nazis in order to protect Jewish lives simply because these facts are both about incident P. Surely one can recognize the problem that arises if the specific fact (person X lied to Nazis in order to protect Jewish lives) and the general fact (person X lied to authorities) were each considered in isolation despite these facts being about the same exact incident P. I suspect that one is making a hasty conclusion if one decides that person X is untrustworthy because of the general fact when the specifics about incident P undermines this hasty conclusion. Just as one can make a hasty conclusion about incident P, I believe one can make a hasty conclusion that the universe is designed because of a general fact about fine-tuning. I actually believe that one is making a hasty conclusion if they conclude that the universe is designed because of the fine-tuning of the universe. One could look at fine-tuning and conclude that the universe is designed but that conclusion would be a conclusion based on the exclusion of the relevant specifics about the general fact of the universe being fine-tuned for life and relevant facts about design.

    I do agree that you would be conflating two different arguments if you were combining cosmological and teleological arguments because the two arguments are talking about topics that do not entail one another. Cosmological arguments argue for a first cause while teleological arguments argue for intentional design. A first cause in no way requires or entails that the universe is intentionally designed for life. In fact, positing a first cause does not require or entail that such a cause is an intentional being. To conflate the cosmological and teleological arguments is a genuine conflation whereas the facts about fine-tuning, such as the fact that the fine-tuned parameters permit life within a narrow range while also being the same parameters that are very hostile to life, are talking about the same exact science (i.e. parameters of the universe, anthropic science, etc.). With this said, I do not see how your accusation of conflation makes any sense.

    ii. Lowder seems to think that the fine-tuning evidence is strong only if we did not know other relevant facts about our universe. Otherwise, he probably wouldn’t state this:

    “Even if the life-permitting data is more probable on theism than on naturalism, the hostility data is more probable on naturalism than on theism. Once the evidence about our universe’s habitability is fully stated, it’s far from obvious that it favors theism.”

    Either way, I don’t think his opinion of whether the fine-tuning is strong or not is relevant to whether you criticisms are accurate.

    iii. Premise 4 is entirely unnecessary and I already told you that Lowder makes no argument that requires knowing what God would do if God created and you have failed to show that Lowder argues for that assumption. The closest thing I can find (and it’s hardly close) from Lowder that is remotely similar to premise 4 is this:

    “With theism, however, things look quite different. Theism does not entail that the hostility data is false; God could have designed a universe that is overwhelmingly hostile to life. It’s also possible, and no less likely, that God could have designed a universe that is mostly habitable. But when combined with the fine-tuning data, theism not only does not predict the hostility data is true, it provides at least some reason to predict the hostility data is false.”

    It seems that Lowder simply talks about what is possible if theism is true that are not possible if naturalism is true such as a universe that is mostly habitable. In fact, we don’t know of any natural means that could make the universe less hostile or more habitable than it is. The very scientists you quote seem to argue for a very narrow life permitting range which makes it implausible that the universe could be any more hospitable than it appears to be if the universe only operates via natural processes (i.e. if naturalism is true). However, if one posits a God that created the universe then there is reason to think that the universe could have been more habitable than the one we find ourselves in as Lowder points out. Now, positing that God could do something is not the same as saying that a God would do something. I think you make the mistake of confusing could with would which is unfortunate given that such a mistake renders your criticism that Lowder’s argument relies a belief that one knows what God would do as false. Now, given that a more hospitable universe is more probable on theism and virtually impossible on naturalism given the scientific evidence, it follows that a vastly inhospitable universe is more likely on naturalism then on theism. Given this we can reformulate the argument that more accurately fits what Lowder argues. Actually, we don’t have to reformulate anything because Lowder puts forth his argument in his post. It goes something like this:

    B: The Relevant Background Information

    1. Our universe exists.
    2. The universe is intelligible.
    3. Our universe is life-permitting.

    E: The Evidence to be Explained

    1. So much of the universe is highly hostile to life.
    2. Our universe is not teeming with life, including life much more impressive than human life.
    3. The only intelligent life we know of is human.
    4. Intelligent life is the result of evolution.

    Logical Structure

    (1) E is known to be true, i.e., Pr(E) is close to 1.
    (2) Theism is not intrinsically much more probable than naturalism, i.e., Pr(|T|) is not much greater than Pr(|N|).
    (3) E is more probable on the assumption that naturalism is true than the assumption that theism is true, i.e., Pr(E| N & B) > Pr(E | T & B).
    (4) Other evidence held equal, theism is probably false, i.e., Pr(T | B & E) < 0.5.

    As one can see, Lowder does not state that if God created a universe, God would have created more hospitable locations. Not one premise of Lowder’s says anything close to the 4th premise that you set up in your “inhospitability” argument. As I have said before, if you want to talk about the merits of Lowder’s argument then I suggest that you address the actual argument Lowder makes rather than building an argument that he does not make. I am also wondering how you could read Lowder’s post yet formulate an argument that Lowder doesn’t make especially when Lowder presents his argument in the logical form that you ask for. Instead of forming an argument that Lowder doesn’t make, you could have easily quoted the exact argument that Lowder actually makes and attack those premises. Instead, you formulated a much weaker argument that Lowder doesn’t even make. Seriously, where in the world did premise 4 come from?

    “I read the links.”

    Doesn’t appear that way.

  60. “I wonder how anyone would support #4?”

    I’m wondering why anyone would argue for premise 4 in the first place. Can any of you explain where this premise comes from? Let me guess. One of you just made it up, right?

  61. “Doesn’t appear that way.”

    Hi Terrell, that’s a pretty nasty comment don’t you think? I said I’d read the links and I would hope you would believe me. I think you confuse my disagreement with the links with not having read them!

    Anyway, moving along from that, I’ll be on an international flight, jet-lagged or busy for the next few days, so please be patient for me to get back to this.

  62. “Hi Terrell, that’s a pretty nasty comment don’t you think?”

    Nope. It doesn’t appear that you have read the links and it appears that you set up a straw man of Lowder’s argument. If anything, your apparent straw man seems nastier than anything I said.

  63. Hi Terrell, I was saddened to read this response. I was going to reply to your latest questions, but I have made it clear that when things get unfriendly, it’s time to give up on the conversation. So I’ll leave it there thanks.

  64. I’m not looking to lengthen the conversation. I simply want to apologize for my rudeness. I’ve been going through a lot the past couple months and it is negatively affecting my interactions with others. It is completely unacceptable and I apologize.

  65. Hi Terrell, thanks for this gracious response. I really appreciate it. I hope you are heading into an easier time where any pressures on you are alleviated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *