As a relatively recent arrival here at TSZ, I am somewhat intrigued to still see the Fine-Tuning Argument in regular rotation. It appears often in comments, but the two most recent OP’s that I have come across dedicated to the topic are Mung’s ‘The Wonder of Water‘ and RobC’s ‘The Big Numbers Game‘.
That I find the Fine-Tuning Argument completely unconvincing will not come as a surprise to anyone who has read any of my comments on TSZ. But I think it is worth taking a moment to explain why that is as my reasoning differs slightly from that of others whose comments I have seen. In a comment on the ‘Wonder of Water’ thread, Joe Felsenstein comes closest while referring to the ability of the Schrodinger Wave Equation to model all of the properties that we see expressed in Chemistry:
“If Michael Denton’s Intelligent Designer wants to fine-tune properties of water she has to do it by tinkering with the SWE. Which would mess up a lot else.”
In a UD post cited on RobC’s OP, vjtorley argues (with his emphasis) that God fine-tuned the universe because He wants us to discover His existence through the fine-tuning of the cosmos.
I will circle back to Joe Felsenstein’s comment momentarily.
For starters, it is important to make certain that everyone is familiar with the idea of Kettle Logic as expressed by Sigmund Freud in “The Interpretation of Dreams”. That is, using multiple arguments which are inconsistent with one another.
The example used by Freud is that of a man who is accused of returning a borrowed kettle to his neighbor in a damaged condition. He responds with the following 3 arguments:
1- The kettle was undamaged when he returned it.
2- The kettle was already damaged when he originally borrowed it.
3- He never borrowed the kettle in the first place.
Individually, any one of these arguments might be true. However, used together they represent an absurdity since they are each mutually exclusive of at least one of the remaining two.
To relate this to the Fine-Tuning Argument, I will put forth 3 statements that reflect the position of proponents of the argument as I understand it. We can hash out semantics in the comments.
1- An infinitely powerful being, God, created the Universe ex nihilo.
2- The same being carefully tuned a number of fundamental physical constants to extremely narrow ranges outside of which life as we know it would not be possible.
3- God’s creative hand is clearly visible in the structure of our Universe and its properties.
As with the Kettle Logic example above, any one of these three arguments might be true by itself. However, also as with the previous example, I don’t see any way that all three can be true simultaneously.
Scenario A: Assume statement 1 is true – If God is infinitely powerful and God created the Universe from nothing, then there can be no limit as to which values God could set physical constants to. If he literally sets the rules, then he would be able to make any combination of values work for his desired outcome (If 1, then not 2). And whatever set of values he chose, it should appear to any observers who might emerge within the Universe to be a brute fact (If 1, then not 3).
Scenario B: Assume statement 2 is true – If there are only very narrow ranges of physical values that will allow life to emerge, then God could not have created the Universe from nothing. In that case there must be a pre-existing substrate upon which reality is built which limits the creative actions of God (If 2, then not 1). And similarly to Scenario A, if the constants were set at the beginning, they would appear to any observers in the Universe to be an unchanging brute fact (If 2, then not 3).
Assuming that statement 3 is true brings me back to Joe Felsenstein’s comment that I quoted above. The chemical properties of water are indeed exceptional. However, as Joe points out, changing anything about the properties of water would necessarily change the nature of all of chemistry since water is made up of components which are common to all elements.
Deducing the creative action of God would require the observation of something that did not follow the established norms of the universe. The divine nature of Jesus is not believed based upon the observation of his normal habits of respiration and digestion for example. It is rather believed based upon the accounts of miraculous events in the Gospels which stand out from everyday commonplace events.
One way to look at it is as the difference between what I have occasionally heard described as tuning (setting of initial conditions) and tinkering (on-the-fly adjustments). Experiencing a miraculous event could lead one to deduce Divine action in the Universe. However, the mere fact that the event is miraculous means that it departs from the expected pattern of natural occurrences (If 3, then not 2).
Since this is my first OP, I apologize in advance for any formatting errors. I also apologize if I have misrepresented the position of proponents of the Fine-Tuning Argument. I would be happy to have my understanding enlightened.
My exposure to the argument has come primarily by way of Christian Apologists such as William Lane Craig and Fr. Robert Spitzer. Therefore, my statements here are primarily informed by that mindset versus more esoteric versions of Christian belief or by ID.