The big numbers game: Fine Tuning
Creationist fine tuning claims are incomprehensible. I know certain physicists argue for cosmological fine tuning (I’m not sold, for reasons I may discuss later). I believe the claims we’ve seen lately are far removed from any serious claim of fine tuning, and reflect a lack of comprehension of physics or basic math by those that use them.
Here’s a typical claim: “The force of gravity is determined by the gravitational constant. If this constant varied by just one in 10^60 parts, none of us would exist.” (1). You will find this claim repeated in the UD comments section, and even their own glossary of definitions (2-5). Creationists love it, because the big numbers, to them, mean impossible, therefore God. Right?
But wait. Humans have only measured the gravitational constant “big G” to parts per million accuracy (with variations between measurement methods at hundreds of parts per million (6)). So, using Chem 101 terminology, the statement above says that we know a constant to about 6 significant figures, but if the value was different at the digit 54 decimal past the frontier of human understanding, we’d be hosed. Where did this precise value come from? What math-a-magics creates precision from fine air?
Some smarter creationists tip their hat (though still obfuscate, and never show their math). VJ Torley for example, say this: the “ratio of the electromagnetic force to gravity must be finely balanced to a degree of one part in 10^40.” So that is interesting, but what does it mean?
Well, not much, because gravitational and electromagnetic attraction are dependent on things like charge and distance and mass and stuff. So the general statement of a ratio of the two forces is absolutely meaningless. Probably what Torley means is the ratio between, say two electrons, or an electron and a proton. The calculations for this aren’t hard (8).
But, watch what happened. We’re now not talking about one contestant. Torley et al. are talking about the ratio of two values which may not be independent of each other. They also (sneakily) have taken the ratio of something large (electric force) and small (gravity between very light objects) and produced a huge number (the electric force is 4.1 x 10^42 times bigger than gravity for 2 electrons). So what does “one part in 10^40” of 4.1 x 10^42 mean now? A percent or so? Not impossible odds.
But worse, think about the operation here. Shaquille O’ Neil might have had a very different career if he was 1 part in 10^27 smaller (where I took the ratio between the diameter of the observed galaxy and Shaq’s height) Therefore, Shaq was fine tuned. Right? And he had a probability of playing professional basketball of 1 in 10^27? Wow. Divine intervention.
Surely, we can’t take the one part in big big numbers that are ratios of things as an ordinary probability like 1/6 for dice 1/2 for coins. But Creationists do.
There may be some very fine fine-tuning arguments out there. But they’re buried behind a mountain of misunderstanding and obfuscated arguments.