Open Thread for Episode 20.08: Russell & Jen


In this week’s email roundup, an anti-vaxer uses confirmation bias to evaluate his position and concludes he’s not wrong!

Plus, live calls…have at it.

Comments

  1. anewleaf says

    Have the ideas in the recent book, “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt ever been brought up or discussed on the show? He makes a very sound case for religion as a necessary contribution to humans’ evolutionary success, especially since the agricultural revolution.
    p 257 ” The very ritual practices that the New Atheists dismiss as costly, inefficient, and irrational turn out to be a solution to one of the hardest problems humans face: cooperation without kinship.”

  2. Chikoppi says

    I’d like to add a note of appreciation for everyone who worked to solve the technology problems. Well done!

  3. says

    Caller Drew misunderstands how parsimony works in cosmology. Once you have a mechanism to create a universe, it does not add complexity to create more of them. Just like a fractal algorithm can generate fractals all day long without getting any more complex. Or an automobile factory, once designed and built, can churn out millions of cars.

  4. says

    Fine tuning arguments make no sense. Saying the universe is fine tuned for life because it can support life seems as ridiculous as saying a microwave is fine tuned for storage because you can store stuff in it. We know that’s foolish because we know the purpose of a microwave. There is no evidence the universe has a purpose and there is no sound argument that not only the universe has a purpose but that purpose is life. Just a microwaves ability to store stuff is a side effect of its existence life may very well be a side effect of the universes existence. You don’t say things are fine tuned for their side effects.

  5. says

    He claims that it’s the most reasonable explanation, but doesn’t really explain why. It’s his opinion, one that I find absurd, and could only be compelling once a plethora of assumptions are made.

    I’m generally fine with that a “fine tuner” could be *an* inference… but an inference in itself isn’t that notable, and has much more utility as a guide for investigation. That in itself isn’t compelling to me. Humans have a long history of inferring things that turned out wrong. Once someone can manage to do some hypothesis testing on that inference, then there’ll be something eyebrow-raising.

  6. Monocle Smile says

    @anewleaf
    I haven’t heard of this guy nor do I see a reason to pay attention, but that quote right there is an utterly laughable caricature of both the position of the “New Atheists” and the ritual practices of religions.

  7. Wiggle Puppy says

    @1: Many rulers across the world – from ancient civilizations right through Hirohito during WWII and Kim Jong-Un today – have either claimed to be a god themselves or to be ruling by the direct mandate of a divine agent. Yes, it’s very possible that this practice served an evolutionary advantage at one time, convincing, for example, people in society A to unify under the command of a supposedly divine ruler, therefore making themselves able to defend themselves against rival societies B, C, and D. This says absolutely nothing about whether the underlying beliefs are true or not. The concept of “agenticity” – the act of attributing non-deliberate occurrences to the act of of a purposeful agent, which may have predisposed humans to be overly wary of possible predators (like thinking that a rustling in the bushes was some feral cat about to strike) – is another possibly advantageous evolutionary phenomenon which nonetheless has no necessary connection to the actual state of affairs.

    Put another way: okay, so maybe religious rituals have the effect of binding disparate people together under a common identity. So what?

  8. Jack Collins says

    I want to comment on the call about the fine tuning argument. The caller was emphatic that the multiverse hypothesis is simply an ad-hoc idea introduced to do away with the fine tuning problem. This is not true, even though it is often presented this way in popular media.

    Multiverses are typically produced in theories for inflationary cosmology, which seem necessary to understand certain properties of our visible universe. While it is not my field, I’m given to understand that multiverses are also expected in string theory. The point is, there are multiple independent lines of thought with varying degrees of empirical and theoretical motivation that lead to multiverses as a kind of side-product.

  9. Chikoppi says

    Ritual does have value in forming cultural identity, but religious or even supernatural belief is not a prerequisite for “ritual.” There are also cultural and secular rituals and ceremonies.

  10. Wiggle Puppy says

    @8: Yes, and the bigger problem was that Russell brought up the multiverse as ONE other possible alternative to a god, and then the caller surreptitiously turned it into a dichotomy (can’t believe they didn’t call him out on this) where he presented it as if the multiverse and god were the only two possible explanations, and the god explanation has been around longer, so I guess that’s just more plausible, right? No, of course not. As many have pointed out, we know of exactly one universe at this point, so trying to “infer” design – as the caller kept saying – is impossible, since we have no way to tell what a designed universe would look like in relation to a un-designed universe.
    It’s possible that the answer to the fine-tuning problem is something so bizarre or outside the realm of human experience that we haven’t even thought of it yet. It’s also possible that the answer to the fine-tuning problem is roughly same as the answer to the question, “why is three, three?” That is, in other words, that the constants of nature simply are what they are and couldn’t be any other way. Again, we don’t know, and “inferring” some that some sentient designer did it purposely is completely unreasonable.

  11. Procrastinatron says

    Fine-tuned caller here…

    Jack Collins disputed whether the multiverse was conceived ad hoc to explain fine-tuning. In many instances, it was. Paul Steinhardt said in his interview in Scientific American: “The whole point of inflation was to get rid of fine-tuning – to explain features of the original big bang model that must be fine-tuned to match observations. The fact that we had to introduce one fine-tuning to remove another was worrisome. This problem has never been resolved.”

    Now to address “Wiggle Puppy.” Aside from a multiverse, random chance, or a deeper law constraining the fine-tuning (all of which I did in fact mention during my call), what other option is there to account for fine-tuning? If I’d been permitted to continue the discussion, I would have addressed each of these more fully.

    You went to on to say inferring design “is impossible, since we have no way to tell what a designed universe would look like in relation to a un-designed universe.” Nonsense. The only assumption I make is that the designer would desire for life–specifically embodied moral agent as Robin Collins designates–to be created. And a life-permitting universe is extraordinarily unlikely by chance. I’ve already given some arguments against a multiverse explanation (although I didn’t have time to go through all of them… in particular the Boltzmann Brain paradox).

    You tentatively propose the third option, physical necessity: “that the constants of nature simply are what they are and couldn’t be any other way.” But there are many problems with this idea:

    First, there is no evidence of deeper laws constraining the constants and physical laws to be what they are; don’t take my word for it, listen to physicists like Paul Davies. (Now I suppose the counter would be “no evidence for God either, so we’re on equal footing,” but I’m not done here.)

    Second, it’s hard to imagine how such a deeper law would also constrain the initial conditions of the universe, which is a separate instance of fine-tuning from the laws and constants built into the laws.

    Third, even supposing that somehow it was demonstrable that all tuned variables were in fact fixed by a deeper physical law or logical necessity, it is still incredibly remarkable that the state that the variables are fixed into is within that small range that permits life. How fortunate that the only possibility is one so advantageous to life.

    In their classic paper on fine-tuning published in 1979, Bernard Carr and Martin Rees commented that “even if all apparently anthropic coincidences could be explained [by deeper physical laws], it would still be remarkable that the relationships dictated by physical theory happened also to be those propitious for life.” (The anthropic cosmological principle and the structure of the physical world. Nature 278, 612.)

    So I reiterate: the design inference seems best.

  12. steevo51 says

    Actually, if anything, according to Hawking, the universe is fine tuned for the production of black holes. Some fine tuning!!

  13. philhoenig says

    The fine-tuning caller also didn’t put too much thought into parsimony. Perhaps a single creator seems simple to him as opposed to a multiverse, but is it really?

    I can see a creator being considered a simple concept if you already have a candidate for that role, and that candidate happens to be a character you’ve been told about all your life since you were young and that almost everybody in your society believes is a big part of their lives, whereas a multiverse is an unusual phenomena on the bounds of speculative science. (And what is it exactly? If a universe is everything, does that make a multiverse another, different “everything” or a collection of many, perhaps infinite, distinct “everything”s? This is not something very many people will ever have to think about or will be effected by in their lives, except perhaps in science fiction.)

    However, with further thought a Creator is a more difficult proposition than it first appears. If it is indeed the Abrahamic deity that most would say it is, that particular being is often described as omni-this, omni-that and omni-the-other, (and often explicitly said to be beyond the understanding of mere humans), something which would indeed be more complex than a multiverse. If there is no further specification of the Creator beyond being the Intelligent Designer of the universe, that still implies a mind, and so far the only minds we know of are the results of processes being carried out in a world of matter, energy, space and time. If those things already existed, what did the Creator create? If they didn’t, how did the Creator’s mind work?

    A multiverse, on the other hand, is simple extrapolation of what we already have. As @3 points out, if one can be created, there could quite easily be others.

    That being said, parsimony isn’t a law like gravity or a law like not speeding; it’s a guideline for selecting the most probable of a number of possibilities if there isn’t yet enough information to make an educated guess. It might help point the way to where the solution may lie, but there is still no reason to believe its proposed solution to be true until actual evidence is provided, and indeed the gathering of more evidence may lead to the shifting of which solution is considered the most parsimonious.

  14. Gnostic says

    Apologies if I missed it, but there doesn’t seem to be an open thread for the lost episode #35 that was just recently posted?

    That was the first episode I’ve seen from so far back. An A for effort to the hosts back in the day, but the current hosts have definitely got better ways of crushing theist arguments. I presume that’s largely the result of years of practice?

    Great show as always!

  15. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    Of course, even if we knew for sure that there was no such thing as a multiverse, the problem with citing fine tuning as an argument for a creator is that any universe that can support life will appear to be finely tuned, simply because there are many ways the universe could be set up, only a few that would support life, and even fewer that support us in particular. Our existence requires the appearance of fine tuning, so any form of life that could think about itself would probably make these same arguments, regardless of the state of the universe; but there’s no evidence to support the idea that we were an intended result of the universe’s existence, if the universe even has an intended result, and, without that evidence, the whole thing kind of falls in on itself. If we’re not some predetermined special outcome, then who cares how unlikely our existence is?

  16. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I believe the fine tuning argument is fundamentally dishonest. William Lane Craig’s way of debating is the best example of this. What I mean is: Even if all of the premises of the fine tuning argument are granted, the best that it gets you is that the universe was created by some intelligence. It’s not even necessarily a god (depending on definitions). And the argument certainly does not get you to the Christian god. That’s the dishonest aspect of it. As Christopher Hitchens said, even if they could show that there is a first cause god, all of their work is ahead of them. Showing that there is a first cause god basically gets you no closer to showing that the Christian god exists. Or Muslim god. Or whatever other particular god hypothesis that is being advocated by the religious believer.

  17. Monocle Smile says

    Yeah, the fine tuning stuff is crap. There’s absolutely nothing preventing someone from arguing “fine-tuning” regardless of the state of any universe. It’s practically a tautology, in my opinion. “If things were different, then things would be different.” No shit, Sherlock.

  18. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    @Monocle Smile, 15

    It’s practically a tautology, in my opinion. “If things were different, then things would be different.” No shit, Sherlock.

    Kind of like the ontological argument, really. “If God exists, then God exists.”

    So anyway, now that I’ve actually listened to the episode (yeah, I have a habit of commenting in the morning before my bus arrives while my podcast listening device updates with precious audio… probably not the best for responding to arguments raised in the show, but whatever…):
    For what it’s worth, I do agree with Mr Fine Tuning that it’s kind of a weak counter to point out that most of the universe is inhospitable – fine tuning only really needs to provide zones of habitability in order to count, as far as I can tell, and such zones do exist. Obviously I still think the fine tuning argument itself is utter drivel, which holds no more water than my claiming that my rolling five natural 20s in a row last weekend proves that I’m an avatar of Vishnu (which is definitely more probable than the idea that I just got five lucky rolls in a row, because the idea of Vishnu is older than that those rolls were just lucky, and was not made up ad hoc to explain how I made those rolls!) but that counter never really rang true to me.

    “Mission Control.” Heh. That’s clever. I don’t know how, but I totally missed that first time around.

  19. Bature says

    I just ant to make a comment regarding the woman who called that had her kids taken away from her. According to what she said, the therapy she received caused her to “take a bat to her TVs”. Well she made one very striking and disturbing remark that neither hosts even touched up on. She said with regards to her behavior and her disciplining her kids according to the bible that “since we evolved from monkeys, how are we meant to know better?”. Given, it was a passing remark, but neither hosts picked up on that. The one quote really stuck in my mind. Or maybe i just imagined the whole incident…

  20. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    @Bature, 17
    It’s possible she was just speaking from the mindset that she used to hold to, but, honestly, even if that’s what she still believes about it, I’m not sure that discussion was the best springboard to get into a conversation about evolution or ethics derived from a secular, evolutionary worldview. I think sticking to suggesting secular counselling was the best option there, because, as much good as getting away from religion obviously did for her, and as much as she might now be in a more stable position without the influence of that religious counsellor and religious literalism, that’s not likely to have addressed whatever underlying issues were at play.

  21. says

    The problem with the fine tuning argument is that it’s essentially circular: calling it “fine tuning” is not only baseless, but it injects the need for a designer into the premise when that is, itself, the conclusion. The whole thing just poisons the well with suggestive language but does nothing to actually demonstrate any of it.

    How, exactly, did the caller determine that what he sees in the universe is actually fine tuned, rather than, say, just highly specific? The mere fact that a reality requires a particular, specific set of circumstances to support life doesn’t tell you that the presence of those circumstances indicates design, because it’s also true that if those circumstances were entirely randomized, the life permitting constants have exactly the same odds of showing up as any other set of random, non-life permitting constants at the same level of specificity. They aren’t some special, singular highly unlikely state, while all the others are more common: each possible configuration has the same probability were it completely random, and the only reason this particular case is being pointed out for special significance is due to the post hoc meaning that certain beings within that universe tend to give it. But their unwarranted conviction in how special they are does nothing to alter the probabilities. How did they determine fine tuning, especially when they can’t even be completely sure as to the probabilities involved in general?

    It’s kind of like they have dice, and are claiming that they rolled a four, which is so unlikely that it had to have been guided by Flunchie the Dice God. Only they don’t know how many sides the dice has, or what surface the dice was rolled on, or how many dice there are, or whether the dice are weighted, etc etc. They have no adequate way of determining the probability of getting a four, yet they’re convinced, because of reasons, that it would be particularly improbable without Flunchie. There’s no argument even there.

  22. Wiggle Puppy says

    @11:
    “Aside from a multiverse, random chance, or a deeper law constraining the fine-tuning (all of which I did in fact mention during my call), what other option is there to account for fine-tuning?”
    I don’t know, that’s the point. Like I said, the answer could be so outside our current imagination that we can’t even think of it at this point. Why didn’t the Romans understand that the sun is a giant sphere of hydrogen and helium and not Apollo riding his golden chariot across the sky? You keep trying to artificially limit the number of possibilities, but you haven’t come close to demonstrating that you’ve identified every possible answer. I didn’t “tentatively propose” anything. I stated that we have no way of eliminating any of the proposed possible answers, and we aren’t even sure that we’ve identified all possible answers, so deciding which “inference” is best is a giant leap that you can’t justify.
    “The only assumption I make is that the designer would desire for life–specifically embodied moral agent as Robin Collins designates–to be created.”
    Way to assume the conclusion you’re trying to prove. Okay, so let’s imagine that we’ve got two universes that contain life. Universe A happens to have life because it contains billions of galaxies, each of them with billions of planets, and it’s been around for billions of years, and life happened to emerge on one (or a handful) due to the laws of biology, chemistry, and physics. Universe B has life because a designer made it that way. Please explain how to tell the two universes apart.

  23. corwyn says

    @11:

    Jack Collins disputed whether the multiverse was conceived ad hoc to explain fine-tuning. In many instances, it was … “The whole point of *inflation* was to get rid of fine-tuning

    [my emphasis]

    Inflation and the Multiverse are two completely separate hypotheses.

    So I reiterate: the design inference seems best.

    Let’s see your numbers for the probabilities of intelligent designers and multiverses.

    Thank you kindly.

  24. Papapau says

    Why didn’t you guys use the Snowflake analogy on Drew? It’s like he managed to put you on defense position with his further arguments on top of a simple misunderstanding, by him, about the basics nature with no intelligence can make a complex and almost intelligently designed like things.

  25. says

    @ Procrastinatron, comment 11:

    You went to on to say inferring design “is impossible, since we have no way to tell what a designed universe would look like in relation to a un-designed universe.” Nonsense.

    So, you completely fail to address the contention made here when you go on to talk about the one assumption you’ve made, which is a pity because I think the point you avoided there is a good one. As human beings we recognize design largely via contrast with what is natural- if all you see is red, how can you conceive of blue, that kind of thing- and in the case of the universe we have a sample size of one that we can investigate, meaning that, were the universe designed, you would have no second, natural universe to contrast it with, and thus no ability to formulate a list of which characteristics correspond with a designed universe over one that is not. Without this ability to enumerate what a non-designed universe would look like, you have no way at all of telling us that this one is designed, because you don’t know what differs in a way that would be impossible in a natural universe.

    And a life-permitting universe is extraordinarily unlikely by chance.

    No more so than any other single, random set of non-life permitting constants. You’re only imbuing special significance onto the life-permitting setup because you’re a life form, but in reality every individual possible universe has the same probability of coming to be as this one, assuming total random chance. Yes, it’s unlikely, but that’s also true of any other outcome we might have gotten, and we had to get some outcome. The inference you’re making doesn’t fit with the sole, limited data point you’re using.

    Third, even supposing that somehow it was demonstrable that all tuned variables were in fact fixed by a deeper physical law or logical necessity, it is still incredibly remarkable that the state that the variables are fixed into is within that small range that permits life. How fortunate that the only possibility is one so advantageous to life.

    And finally, a correction: “that small range that permits life”? I think you mean “that small range that permits the kind of life that I am,” because I don’t think you’ve actually got any way of determining all the possible conditions that could cause life to arise, because I also don’t think you’ve got any way of determining all the possible permutations of life. It’s yet another way that your fine tuning argument fails, this unwarranted assumption that you’re within the only range that life could exist in, based on, again, a single data point, imbued with unjustified importance because you see this outcome as significant at a cosmic level because… why is that, again?

    Other than your own chauvinistic anthropomorphism, do you have a reason to think so highly of this particular universal state? Any reason at all that it’s more significant than random chance?

  26. says

    @ Procrastinatron
    Wiggle Puppy makes a good point with “Please explain how to tell the two universes apart.”

    In Richard Carrier’s blog he recently showed the illogic of the fine-tuning argument, essentially stating that if fine-tuning is necessary for life, then a finely-tuned universe is the only kind of universe we could find ourselves inhabiting, whether or not that universe includes a god. The only real evidence of a god would be if our universe was not tuned for our kind of life, but we were there anyway. So fine-tuning is not evidence for, nor against, existence of a god.

  27. SinusWutz says

    I see three major problems with the “fine tuning” argument, among many smaller ones.

    The first problem I see is the basic assumption of the argument which almost never gets questioned: Can the universe even be “tuned” in the first place? We always talk about a constant changing just a tiny little bit and what catastrophic results this would have for us, without ever asking if such a change is even possible.
    A major weakness of our standard model is that it does not predict any of its own constants. Scientist had to measure them in the real world and plug the numbers in. The model now describes reality very well, after being “fine tuned” to match reality better and better with increasingly more precise measurements.
    This does in no way mean that those constants could have any other values. It might just as well be that this universe is the only kind of universe that can exist. I am not saying this is the case, I am just saying that before we discuss what or who decided the values of these constants, lets make sure they can actually be random before jumping to conclusions. Otherwise we might end up chasing a black cat, in a dark cellar, that isn’t there.

    The second problem is the arrogant idea of the universe being “fine tuned” for us. Let’s not kid ourselves, this is the argument if you remove all the obfuscating window dressing. A universe full of life, none of it human, wouldn’t make the cut. It comes straight from theology where humans are the special creation that is most important and intended to happen by a cosmic father who can do magic.
    We’re not that special. There is no reason the think we are, except our own huge egos. Get over it.

    The third problem is the probability nonsense. If we accept that the universe is actually “tune-able” then every single version of the universe is equally likely. The universe where all matter collapsed into a single super massive black hole is just as likely as a universe homogeneously filled with hydrogen is just as likely as ours. It is only us and our arrogance who value the last universe more than all the others, just like a poker player values a royal flush more than all the other card combinations, even though they’re all equally likely to be dealt.
    If the universe would just contain a single black hole and nothing else, this universe too would be extremely “fine tuned” to be that way, there just wouldn’t be arrogant primates around to calculate the probability of this outcome in hindsight and assume it was done just for them by a sky fairy that cares a lot about what they do with their genitals.

    Summary: In my opinion “fine tuning” is only an argument if you put the cart before the horse. You need to already believe in some almighty super brain for this argument to have any persuasive power at all. Oh, and good luck moving from “almighty super brain” to specific God+Jesus+Ghost, Allah, Jehovah or Brahma.

    The “design inference” is not best, it is lazy. Why are things like they are? “Because god said so, now go to bed.” [Insert expletive here]

  28. Chikoppi says

    I think a frequent distinction between skeptics and non-skeptics is the ability to simply say “I don’t know.” Inherent in Philhoenig’s position is the assertion that a choice of belief must be made among the conceivable alternatives. Not true. Belief should be adopted only when sufficient evidence exists to warrant that belief (and then granted only provisional to the relative quality of the evidence). I entertain speculation about the origins of the universe, but I hold no belief because no hypothesis is supported by sufficient evidence.

    As to the fine tuning theory, we don’t know how many universes there are or have been. If the initial laws of physics are randomly generated for each universe, and there is a one in one-trillion chance the laws could support our existence, we would necessarily find ourselves in that one-trillionth iteration of potential universes.

    Also, as has been noted previously, we have zero observations of “mind” or intentional volition separate from a physical brain. Before you can posit a cosmic designer, you must first justify belief in a disembodied mind.

  29. favog says

    (Note, I’m writing this not having seen the episode yet, since no link is showing right now. So if this is redundant, sorry.) Ya know what my problem with the fine tuning argument is? When you say “universe fine tuned for life”, I imagine a place with life just proliferating all through it, since that universe exists to support life. On just about every planet, even residing in the voids between the planets. And since the universe is so fine tuned for it, it’s a comfy happy situation for all that life, ’cause the universe is so fine tuned to coddle. But that’s not the universe I see. We only know for sure of life on one tiny rock, a rock that on the cosmic scale doesn’t even count as a dust mote. If there is any other life, all evidence points to it being rare and very far away indeed. And the life that we know of isn’t comfortable. Most of it spends the majority of it’s time seeking food water and shelter and trying to avoid becoming food for some other life form. What’s the point of saying the fine tuning is evidence when I can’t even see any evidence of this fine tuning?

  30. tony_r says

    The premise of the ‘fine tuning’ caller that multiverse hypotheses were developed to explain fine tuning is incorrect. There are various multiverse hypotheses arising from mathematically grounded conceptual frameworks proposed as candidates for explanations of cosmological theories such as the origin of the Big Bang and inflation. String theory was developed from a wholly mathematical platform and delivers some 10^500 vacua states without any consideration of or interest in fine tuning . Penrose has recently proposed his Conformal Cyclic Cosmology hypothesis which is another process by which multiple universes arise albeit in sequence rather than in parallel. The QM many-worlds hypothesis is based solely on a literal interpretation of the Schrödinger equation without any regard for fine tuning.

    At any rate, the underlying nature and appearance of consciousness in the universe are (at present) unknown and can be considered as random, inevitable, mysterious or anything else. While conscious life may be in some way an intrinsic and integral characteristic of reality, that does not confer any rational justification for resorting to explaining it through ancient anthropocentric anthropomorphized mythology invented by ignorant superstitious peasants.

  31. StonedRanger says

    Procrastinatron:
    It seems to me that your entire argument is an argument from ignorance. Hence your use of terms like ‘making assumptions’, extraordinarily unlikely, hard to imagine, incredibly remarkable. And if there is so much fine tuning how come there are so few places on this planet where we can survive without artificial help? And as far as we can tell this is the only place where we have found life. How is that fine tuned? You think that because life exists on this one planet that somehow that indicates that the entire universe is designed just for us? What kind of fine tuning is it that makes an entire universe with just one planet (that we know of) that has life? And even on this planet there are things like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, lightning that can kill us. How is that fine tuned? And how about all the diseases here that kill us, how is that fine tuning and what is it fine tuned for if it kills us? You have one example of what you seek to prove, perhaps you could tell us what a universe that is not fine tuned for life looks like. Im not convinced.

  32. Kudlak says

    The geocentric model in the Bible would be a far better example of a universe made specifically to support life. Basically, just a large terrarium, with the stars, sun and rest of space just stuck in the firmament/glass. A nice, small, efficient, uncomplicated package; and obviously the product of some intelligent human mind that thought of it. Shouldn’t we, then, expect such a simple, compact design from an intelligent designer, especially one that could create the laws of physics and every other condition as well? Arguing that an incredibly large universe needed to be created just to facilitate a tiny grain hosting life is an argument against the intelligence of whatever created it.

  33. Kudlak says

    @favog #30
    Something like a Dyson Sphere? I agree. If normal, intelligent human beings can come up with designs that maximize habitable space to near 100% (not some fantastically small fraction of a percentage), why can’t some supposedly vastly more intelligent agent, one without any constraints regarding the laws of physics, come up with a better design? At least Costco uses oversized packaging in order to prevent shoplifting. If God created the universe like it is, who is he afraid might steal it?

  34. Philllip Moore says

    Michelle’s tv show seems to be “It’s a Miracle” which aired on PAX-tv. Of course these miracles have been proven, there’re on TV. One of my Great Aunts thought Mr. Ed could talk. That’s just a bit of family lore.

    Why would fine tuning lead to a conclusion that there is a creator? If then, why not two, or twelve, or as many as created my computer? I also don’t buy any number that describes the odds of fine tuning. My own “belief” is that we are here because this planet has an abundance of liquid water. We only have one example, not a statistical sample.

    If you don’t mind me being facetious, the universe may be a phD thesis by a Grand Grad-student in the sky, and any moment now His professor is going to point out a little bit of contamination growing on one of His bits.

  35. says

    @33 StonedRanger

    I don’t know if you caught it, but his answer is basically, “The universe/world was fine-tuned *just enough* so that life could exist”. So as long as life exists somewhere, in some context, that’s sufficient in his eyes.

    He thinks it settles that objection, but I don’t know by how much. Apparently this designer is either lazy or largely unable. It doesn’t paint a flattering portrait of this entity in either case.

    Curiously, he doesn’t seem to see that the universe being mostly *not* finely-tuned, doesn’t work against his proposition. I found that response interesting mostly because I hadn’t heard it before. That novelty will wear off quickly.

    What are the odds that some guy that exists outside of space and time, who can create universes, just happened to exist? Seems pretty low, if you ask me. At least 1:300 odds.

  36. says

    Also, did this entity come across a pre-existing universe, and just start tampering with it, or did it try to create the universe, mostly fuck it up, and then tried duct tape?

  37. says

    Can we talk about that “It’s Supernatural” show that one caller mentioned. I looked it up and it seems totes legit. Definitely not a money grubbing con job.

  38. says

    @ Jasper, comment 36:

    I don’t know if you caught it, but his answer is basically, “The universe/world was fine-tuned *just enough* so that life could exist”. So as long as life exists somewhere, in some context, that’s sufficient in his eyes.

    He thinks it settles that objection, but I don’t know by how much.

    The larger problem is that this turns the fine tuning argument into an exercise in question begging, because now the signifier for a fine tuned universe is that life exists at all, rather than that it exists in a way that would indicate fine tuning. Life in the universe could only exist because of fine tuned constants, but life in the universe is the evidence of that fine tuning. So many theistic arguments turn out like this when you render them plainly, where all of the things they attempt to explain with god are also the things they’re taking in support of that conclusion.

  39. corwyn says

    Carrier’s argument (simplified, he does love to talk/write):

    Assign a probability to the following three propositions:
    Probability of god existing (before the evidence of fine tuning) => P(G)
    Probability of us observing fine tuning in our universe given that there is a god = P(F|G)
    Probability of us observing fine tuning in our universe given that there is no god => P(F|~G)

    [Go ahead, I’ll wait.]

    Given that we would not be here if the universe was not fine tuned for life (without miracles):
    P(F|~G) must equal 1 (definitionally).

    Applying Baye’s Theorem we get that the probability of god existing given that we see fine tuning is:
    P(G|F) = (P(F|G) * P(G)) / (P(F|G) * P(G) + P(F|~G) * P(~G))
    Substituting 1 for P(F|~G) and 1 – P(G) for P(~G) gives us:
    P(G|F) = (P(F|G) * P(G)) / (P(F|G) * P(G) + 1 – P(G))
    If you assigned a probability of 1 to P(F|G) (in other words if god can’t work miracles that would allow us to live in a universe NOT fine tuned for life) then this reduces to:
    P(G|F) = P(G) / (P(G) – P(G) + 1) = P(G)
    So, the probability of god given that we see a fine tuned universe, is the probability we assigned to god _a priori_. So fine tuning is NOT evidence for god in this case.

    On the other hand, if you assigned a probability less than 1 to P(F|G) (in other words if god can work miracles to allow us to live in a non fine tuned universe)
    P(G|F) = (P(F|G) * P(G)) / (P(F|G) * P(G) – P(G) + 1) < P(G) for all P(F|G) < 1.
    So, the probability of god given fine tuning is less than the _a priori_ probability of god. In other words, it is evidence AGAINST god in this case. QED.

    I await the inevitable arguments that Baye's theorem doesn't apply…

    Thank you kindly.

  40. says

    for those wondering where aforementioned one-time anti-vax messiah andrew wakefield’s sailed off to …

    “Sail (Far) Away: At Sea with America’s Largest Floating Gathering of Conspiracy Theorists”

    [Sean David] Morton is a radio host, among other things. Here he was one of the lead organizers of Conspira Sea, the first annual sea cruise for conspiracy theorists. While the ship looped from San Pedro to Cabo San Lucas and back, some 100 of its passengers and I would be focused on uncharted waters, where nothing is as it seems. Before we docked again, two of them would end up following me around the ship, convinced I was a CIA plant.

    Elsewhere aboard, people’s vacations were already exuberantly underway, the cigarette-browned casino bustling. Those of us in the conspiracy group were crammed into a dim, red-carpeted conference room in the bowels of Deck 6 to hear Morton, a Humpty Dumpty-shaped man with a chinstrap beard and an enormous, winking green ring, explain our mission.

    … Most notably, there was Andrew Wakefield, the British gastroenterologist who authored the now-infamous 1998 study that suggested there might be a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Jenny McCarthy was breathed into being because of Andrew Wakefield.

    The wider world hasn’t been kind to Wakefield, who lost his medical license in 2010 and is widely described as a one-man public health disaster. Here, though, he was treated as a battle-scarred hero. The room hung on his every word.

    “One in two children will have autism by 2032,” he told us, to horrified gasps. “We are facing dark times. The government and the pharmaceutical industry own your bodies and the bodies of your children.”

  41. says

    @11 Procrastinatron

    You’ve gotten a lot of feedback so far, but I would encourage you to read Carrier’s article linked @39. Basically, it boils down to fine-tuning being equivalent evidence for a God universe or a natural universe, hence using the fine-tuning argument doesn’t really do what you want it to do. In fact, if fine-tuning is required for life/sentience in a natural universe (which I would tentatively accept based on the currently available information), then its actually the opposite, a not fine-tuned universe, which would rule out the natural origin of life/sentience. Meaning, if the fundamental constants of the universe were shown to be totally incapable of producing life/sentience naturally, and yet there were life/sentience in that universe, then that would be evidence for a God (or higher power) as being the creator of the life/sentience in that universe. But, it seems you accept that universe is finely tuned, so here we are arguing over whether a mathematical model of something we probably can’t test is better, or not, than an God concept that we probably can’t test.

  42. Kudlak says

    @Phillip #36
    It’s really a choice between a naturally-occurring universe and one created through some supernatural means. No intelligence is actually necessary for the later. Something no more intelligent than a human toddler could have created a universe magically if it had that power. Creating universes could be just as simple to it as playing with blocks. Also, there are plenty of other creation stories where no great intelligence is implied in the making of the universe. Considering how hostile our universe actually is to life an unintelligent magical cause makes a whole lot more sense than some all-powerful god capable of making a universe where life flourishes throughout, eh?

  43. Kudlak says

    The fine-tuning argument also depends on there only being one possible setting, the one we happen to have, where some kind of universe to result. Messing with just one of the “knobs” just a tiny bit, they say, would through the whole thing out of balance, but what if several, or all of them were tuned differently? How do they know that some sort of universe, one that may even support some other kind of life, wouldn’t be possible then? They are coming from the assumption that our universe was an intended result, and that seems to be blinding them to countless other potential possibilities.

  44. roguetrooper815 says

    I love your show, and want to offer some constructive criticism.

    You guys need to be better at quickly discerning whether your caller is an intellectual theist calling to debate some cosmological argument, or a down-beaten, longsuffering welp coming through the fog of religion and trying to make sense of the real world.

    That first caller was obviously trying to shake off the brainwashing and you could have taken her through a “So what have you learned?” socratic process. It would encourage her to be more discerning moving forward. I know you’re not qualified counselers, but you could have offered some encouragement at her new understanding and made it clear that not all therapists are manipulative and that good help IS out there, as long as she avoids the religious-minded ones.

    Your show is all the insight some people will ever get about how they themselves may be being duped and I want it to be as positive an impact as possible.

    Keep it up!

  45. hansmeiser says

    This fine tuning argument is at best just another “God of the Gaps” argument and therefore meaningless.

    The claim “My Cat which has supernatural powers” has created this fine tuned universe is as valid as explanation as “The Christian God” or a “Supernatural Toaster”.

  46. says

    i have always found less than convincing theists’ concessions that the “fine-tuning” argument could be about anything other than human life, as if they’d be satisfied to learn that the universe was indeed purposefully created by an intelligent agent in order to produce black holes or dark matter or whatnot and that humans are no more than a negligible byproduct. the thought being an accident is what’s made evolutionary science a bridge too far for many theists.

    to say that the human experience is central to all faiths is to state the obvious and no cosmological explanation that removes it from center stage, even if it includes a “god”, would be deemed acceptable by believers. nor would any explanation that revealed the act of creation to be reflexive or involuntary. (remember the episode when jen proposed that maybe god just had gas?) nor would any explanation that revealed the creator to be a technologically advanced alien. because a “god” that is less than omni-everything isn’t a god and theists want to find a god to worship — or at least feed them awe — and not merely a maker.

    so generally, explanations that might satisfy theists’ technical requirements without satisfying their emotional requirements are simply nonstarters and at best just an intellectual exercise for them. i’ve seen too many theists introduce equivocations that allow them to smuggle back in their traditional god-model — one that purposefully created and cares for them — that i’m always suspicious of those who claim to grant these types of solutions.

  47. hansmeiser says

    I would say that Germany is very secular – at least I’ve never experienced anything else. But I was really shocked I’ve heard about this Blasphemy-Law for the first time a few days ago, because a Teacher got sentenced to pay 500 Euro. He had a sticker on his car with a – as I know – Luther-Quotation: Let’s go to Rome, let’s kill the Pope (something like that).

    I would also say that most people are Christians only on paper, they never pray, went to church or even think about it. It may be different in some regions like Bavaria, but Bavarians are crazy anyway.

    Regarding to the refugees: I’ve heard (don’t really know if it’s true) that some of them convert to Christianity because this doesn’t allow the government to send them back home because they would get killed because they converted.

  48. Philllip Moore says

    I appreciate this variety of discussion. I come “here” as a biologist, so my set position (postulates I guess) is empirical evidence. I’ve only been looking at philosophy for a couple months, so I appreciate other view points explained, such as corwyn, aarrgghh, Kudlak, and et al.

  49. Ron Slaton says

    This is a summary of the “Fine-tuned” caller’s statements made at the top of this forum along with my response.

    1) What other option is there to account for fine-tuning?

    First you have to demonstrate the constants CAN be fine-tuned. Then you need to show HOW fine-tuning would be accomplished. Then you need to show that this process is / isn’t a natural process.

    2) The only assumption I make is that the designer would desire for life–specifically embodied moral agent

    You want it to be god but then you have to demonstrate that it couldn’t be multiple gods or even a naturally advanced being.

    3) And a life-permitting universe is extraordinarily unlikely by chance.

    Since this is the only one we know of I’d say it’s 100% likely, wouldn’t you?

    4) I’ve already given some arguments against a multiverse explanation (although I didn’t have time to go through all of them… in particular the Boltzmann Brain paradox).

    The multiverse hypothesis is young and there are a lot of things that favorably point this direction.

    5) there are many problems with this idea: “that the constants of nature simply are what they are and couldn’t be any other way.”

    What evidence do you have that the constants of nature simply “couldn’t be any other way.”
    This can be taken as arrogant incredulity that arises from insufficient investigation. This is just one of the many interesting puzzles for cosmology to solve.

    * First, there is no evidence of deeper laws constraining the constants and physical laws to be what they are; don’t take my word for it, listen to physicists like Paul Davies.

    However, there is evidence that 100% of the universes observed have the actual physical laws and constraints that do permit carbon based life. There may even be other forms of life that can flourish given the conditions of our universe.
    * Second, it’s hard to imagine how such a deeper law would also constrain the initial conditions of the universe, which is a separate instance of fine-tuning from the laws and constants built into the laws.

    Lack of imagination on your part?

    * Third, even supposing that somehow it was demonstrable that all tuned variables were in fact fixed by a deeper physical law or logical necessity, it is still incredibly remarkable that the state that the variables are fixed into is within that small range that permits life.

    Again, we don’t know all the types of life that can arise given the initial or present conditions. We just know that the universe is hostile to the carbon based life we know.

    How fortunate that the only possibility is one so advantageous to life.

    What? You just said: “it is still incredibly remarkable that the state that the variables are fixed into is within that small range that permits life.”

    So I reiterate: the design inference seems best.

    You need to see if you can address the questions and counter arguments above in order to rest your case on your “divine” design inference.

  50. corwyn says

    @54:

    “it is still incredibly remarkable that the state that the variables are fixed into is within that small range that permits life.”

    Completely irrelevant. As long as we observers require the universe to be in such a state in order to exist, if there is no god we will ALWAYS find ourselves in such a universe. Only if there is a god could we ever find ourselves in a universe that isn’t fine tuned. Therefore, fine tuning is at best not supportive of a god hypothesis, or in fact, makes it less likely. (See my post above for the formal proof).

    Put another way, if we found ourselves on a dyson sphere, where magical things happened, and all efforts to explain how we got there failed, would you be arguing for design? Of course you would (correctly). So living in a fine tuned universe and it opposite, can’t BOTH be evidence for the same hypothesis.

    Fine tuning isn’t evidence for a god, it is evidence against one. How unlikely it is has nothing to do with it, because there won’t be observers in less well tuned universes, so ALL universes will be fined tuned (if there is no god).

  51. corwyn says

    @55:

    so ALL universes will be fined tuned (if there is no god).

    so ALL universes WITH OBSERVERS will be fined tuned (if there is no god).

  52. says

    I’m trying to read up on this “Boltzmann brain paradox“, but it’s difficult to figure out what the argument is.

    It seems to me that the premises that it’s operating on don’t necessarily match the multiverse models we may propose. For instance, do we know that “ the probability of stand-alone self-aware entities existing in a featureless thermodynamic “soup”” is even a possibility?

    It seems similar to every “rebuttal” of abiogenesis, where the argument they produce relies of a total misrepresentation of any abiogenesis models.

  53. favog says

    @kudlak, 35
    I love it, but I have to ask, if someone stole the universe from God … where would they put it?

    As for the Dyson sphere question, that’s a construct of the life that’s in the universe to shield itself from the consequences of that universe being so unsupportive of it the long run. Which makes it a good lower bound for a designed universe. At minimum a universe that’s “fine tuned” for life should have the biomass to space ratio of a Dyson sphere. And obviously, the universe we live in doesn’t even come close to that.

  54. StonedRanger says

    So, after waiting for a couple of days for a reply from Drew, I guess its not coming. Frankly I feel sorry for the people who Drew is a prosecutor of. He clearly doesn’t know how to examine the facts of a case to reach a correct conclusion. No one is going to get a fair trial because he examines the facts and then makes up his own conclusions instead of going by what the evidence shows.

  55. says

    So, after waiting for a couple of days for a reply from Drew, I guess its not coming. Frankly I feel sorry for the people who Drew is a prosecutor of. He clearly doesn’t know how to examine the facts of a case to reach a correct conclusion. No one is going to get a fair trial because he examines the facts and then makes up his own conclusions instead of going by what the evidence shows.

    I’m not sure that’s entirely fair, and it’s your job as a prosecutor to make the case for the state in an ethical manor and let the judge/jury determine guilt/sentence and spectral evidence is not allowable in court. And religious people are generally pretty good at separating the real world from their god delusions: they buy Lysol to clean up mold, they don’t sacrifice birds. Of course, I’d like all prosecutors to be atheists, but we’re all human and being an atheist also doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to be an ethical prosecutor.

    And, while we disagree with what Procrastinatron has presented, his call was argued in good faith (hopefully he’ll come back here). In fact, he was a much better caller than the average teenager who just listened to WLC and called the show thinking they were going to follow the same script and can’t really engage in any discussion beyond it. Procrastinatron seems to have thought this through and is ready to discuss. There’s no need to question is professional ability (which is based on no direct evidence) and doing so just makes you (and us) look petty and I think it makes us less likely to convince him that we’re right. Tell Procrastinatron his argument is completely wrong and give him the evidence/arguments that we’re right and maybe he’ll become one of the atheist prosecutors that we’d rather have.

  56. says

    @53

    I would say that Germany is very secular – at least I’ve never experienced anything else. But I was really shocked I’ve heard about this Blasphemy-Law for the first time a few days ago, because a Teacher got sentenced to pay 500 Euro. He had a sticker on his car with a – as I know – Luther-Quotation: Let’s go to Rome, let’s kill the Pope (something like that).

    In all seriousness, a bumper-sticker calling for the death of a specific person is on the edge of free speech (at least in ‘Merica), given that speech that appears to incite violence can be against the law. But, there is a lot of grey area. If the bumper sticker said “Catholics are stupid, and the pope is an idiot”, do you think the teacher would have gotten fined?

    I would also say that most people are Christians only on paper, they never pray, went to church or even think about it. It may be different in some regions like Bavaria, but Bavarians are crazy anyway.

    Then I’m glad my ancestors from lower Saxony are in the sane region of Germany, despite a lot of evidence of their insanity. 🙂

    Regarding to the refugees: I’ve heard (don’t really know if it’s true) that some of them convert to Christianity because this doesn’t allow the government to send them back home because they would get killed because they converted.

    They’re human, so of course some of them are going to play this game to be granted asylum, which is why Trump’s “Ban all Muslim immigrants!” bleating won’t work in the real world. And can you really blame them? And what can we do to find out if they’re not being truthful? If we had a mind reading machine, and it showed they aren’t a terrorist (or other threat), but lied about being Christian in hopes of escaping being sent back, would it be just to send them back for lying about their religion? Ethics regarding a mind reading machine aside, I don’t think it would be just to send them back.

  57. ironchops says

    Michelle from Mi. – I am so sorry that you lost your children however: 1. you stated you are on depression medication. Bi-polar? 2. You stated you spanked your kids. I don’t really see that as wrong as long as it is not excessive or abusive. 3. You stated you “took a bat to the TV”. 4. You stated you hear voices. 5. You said your counselor encouraged your behavior. As an outsider it could seems, that with the depression/bi-polar/schizophrenic and sometime violent behavior, you a risk to your children. You do need to continue seeking help! I would encourage you to pursue finding another psychiatrist/therapist and support group.

  58. ironchops says

    Drew – The fine-tuned universe argument is just BS. It begs more questions than answers. 1. Define “GOD” or the designer. What is a god? Or who was the designer 2. Life as we know it, as far as we can tell, only exist here and this is an itty bitty tinsy winsy little place compared to all of the rest of the universe. 3. Is it fine tuned for us (life) now or some other life form still to come? 4. Why isn’t life popping up all over the place? The fine-tuned argument is pure crap.

  59. ironchops says

    Michelle from NY – I have a friend that was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. He went to his Pentecostal church where they prayed for him with the laying of hands. When he went back to the doctor to schedule treatment the doctor said that he saw no evidence of the cancer and that it was most likely that the test was bad and released him. My friend seriously thought god performed a miracle on him and healed him. 2 years later I find he has been undergoing chemo and radiation for lymphatic cancer for the past year. I don’t buy the miracle thing.

  60. ironchops says

    Shawn – Religion will most likely never die but god beliefs most likely will die as time goes on. Religion does not really need a god or any other actual living being/creature to exist. Religion can easily evolve into philosophy. Science will most likely destroy all god beliefs in the future. My opinion.

  61. ironchops says

    Oliver – I agree with your opinion on anti-vaxxers. I also find it terrible that people use other people’s guilt to make them money. You should look up Mike Murdock’s “58 dollar seed” BS going around here now. Such total BS. Why would anybody buy into that crap?!

  62. ironchops says

    Stephanie – Church & Reality = oil & vinegar. They just don’t mix. The church has a lot of money and political power and I think that is wrong. Churches and religious traditions should only be practiced for personal reasons and not on a governmental scale. I believe in the separation of church and state.

  63. Philllip Moore says

    Religion is fine for two consenting adults in private, but don’t teach it to children.

  64. kudlak says

    @favog #60
    That would be the point of all that “packaging”, so that some other god couldn’t just slip us under her skirt, right?

    Like I posted earlier, at least the ancient biblical model, the one that’s basically the round, flat earth with a firmament lid on it, is like a Dyson Sphere, and therefore the product of a somewhat intelligent mind. Every claim as to Gods’s supposedly superior intelligence does not solve the question as to why the universe he made special to support us also happens to be so big, and inhospitable to us.

  65. hansmeiser says

    @63

    If the bumper sticker said “Catholics are stupid, and the pope is an idiot”, do you think the teacher would have gotten fined?

    I don’t know, but he could have been. The law is vague and could imho be interpreted in such a way – but I’m not a lawyer.

    In all seriousness, a bumper-sticker calling for the death of a specific person is on the edge of free speech (at least in ‘Merica), given that speech that appears to incite violence can be against the law.

    Firstly, I almost agree. We got laws against Hate-Speech. but this teacher got fined by this Blasphemy-Law which is imho a statement itself.

    Secondly, it was a quotation and I assume it was marked as such. This changes things.
    I remember a few years ago we had a similar case with a quotation from Tucholsky which says “Soldiers are murderers!” and the court finally decided it’s not against the law to use this quotation because it is a quotation. I assume this would have been the same for the Luther-Quotation and therefore “they” had to use the Blasphemy-Law.

    Nevertheless, this law is a shame and every now and then some politicians try to extend and tightened it (while others try to get rid of it).

    And can you really blame them?

    I don’t blame them. But they could become Atheists with the same effect. This is what I would prefer, but I assume they think about Atheists in the same way as many Christians in the US. That’s my problem with them, but for humanitarian reasons I fully agree with Angela Merkel – we can’t send them back.

  66. Last Name, First Name says

    I have three problems with the fine tuning argument as presented by the caller that no one, as far as I can tell, is really bringing up:

    [1] The caller said the multiverse explanation is ad hoc, while the god explanation is not, since it has independent lines of evidence leading to the same conclusion. Sadly, he didn’t bring up what these independent lines of evidence were. It’d be great if he did, because the strength of his case over all in this instance is dependent on his case for them. If his independent evidence is weak, then any advantage a god explanation has on this point is negligible at best.

    [2] God explanations have not reached a point where they make definite, novel predictions while holding true to experiment and being far encompassing. This is the hallmark of a successful scientific theory, and I hold God explanations to that standard.

    [3] Chasing a God explanation is scientifically less fruitful than a multiverse one. The only thing necessary to a God hypothesis is that someone created the universe. Taking that idea, looking at the universe, and generating a hypothesis that could possibly satisfy the conditions I gave in [2] would be difficult. As for the multiverse hypotheses, experts clearly find them very fruitful to explore, as they are more amenable to mathematical formulation. Thus, not only has a God hypothesis failed to reach the level of theory, it is at the moment difficult to see how it could ever get near that point.

  67. Dreaming of an Atheistic Newtopia says

    What the fine tuning guy is saying is that if the properties of the universe were different, the properties of the universe would be different. Holy shit, duh.

  68. Argus Von Blargus says

    I suspect (based on some of his non-fine-tuning comments) that Fine-Tuning Caller Drew came to faith in God (probably Christianity) based on cultural/familial indoctrination and then came to support post-hoc the Fine Tuning Argument.

    I also suspect he came to his theism via some emotional response rather than one of the “Classic Arguments.”

  69. Curt Cameron says

    I think many people here have misrepresented the argument based on the fine tuning of the physical constants. It’s not the same as Douglas Adams’ puddle, and it’s not just saying that if things were different, they wouldn’t be the same.

    There are creationists who argue that, such as those who say that our Moon is just the right distance to cause tides and stir up the oceans. That’s a different thing.

    The argument is pointing out how, if any of the physical constants were even slightly different, then you wouldn’t be able to have even a universe where particles grouped together into atoms and molecules, or there could be no stars, or the inflating universe would have immediately collapsed into nothingness. If atoms never formed, then any life would be impossible. Now VIctor Stenger has pointed out that if you tweak just one of the constants, that may be true, but there are many other configurations where multiple constants are tweaked and you do get a complex universe.

    I think this is the best the creationists have, but it’s still extremely weak. We just don’t know why the constants have the values they have. Maybe there’s something that we don’t yet know that forces them to be that way. Maybe multiple universes have different values and only the ones that make for complexity have creatures wondering why. Maybe it’s something else we just haven’t thought of yet.

    And I was wanting to yell at my phone when Drew said (more than once) that the multiple universes idea was dreamed up just to counter the fine-tuning argument, and I was frustrated that Russell and Jen didn’t know to call bullshit to that. Cosmologists don’t worry what creationists say – they’re not on their radar. The way that the physics math works out, people noticed that there’s no reason the universe can’t be infinite or multiple, so they went down that avenue of thought.

    One other thought – I was noticing during the call that there were implicit assumptions behind the phrase “fine-tuned.” The physical constants happen to lie on a knife’s edge that allows for complexity, but saying that they’re fine-tuned can be thought to imply that there’s a person doing the fine tuning. When Drew was asking for agreement that they are fine-tuned, Jen and Russell seemed to be balking at the idea based on the teleology of someone doing the tuning, which is understandable but I thought it needed to be clarified.

  70. Paul Wright says

    The universe we find ourselves in permits life to exist by it’s parameters so we shouldn’t be surprised that we are here talking about it. If the universe had different parameters that were not conducive to life then we wouldn’t be here having this discussion. I feel that the term ‘fine tuned’ has baggage that suggests something is tuning it. That isn’t how I see it at all though. We are here because the conditions for life to exist prevail and that’s the sum of it. It’s cause and effect. There may be other universes that exist that are not conducive for life and in those universes things are happening all the time that are absent of life. Life to me seems to be a product or consequence of the physical laws that structure the universe.

  71. kudlak says

    I’m not an expert in the Big Bang, but has anybody ruled out the possibility that the singularity may have had any number of “false starts” in expanding, ones that had these different values for the constants that just didn’t go anywhere, until the one with the right set rolled around and was a success?

  72. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To kudlak
    Something very much like that, yes. The multiverse hypothesis.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse

    I’m sure you can find more if you google.

    Note: This is very different than the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics. Don’t confuse the two.

  73. Bertrand Le Roy says

    Drew would have needed to be called out on the lie that the multiverse is an ad-hoc explanation that physicists came up with in order to explain fine-tuning. The multiverse actually is an inescapable consequence of a number of models that are introduced for reasons that have nothing to do with fine tuning. For instance, we are increasingly seeing inflationary cosmology being confirmed by observation. Inflation happens to predict a multiverse. It’s a consequence, not the starting point.

  74. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    I’m assuming that EL is referring to cyclic multiverse models, because non-cyclic multiverse hypotheses don’t really match up (and are also quite different and not be confused with each other).

  75. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    non-cyclic multiverse hypotheses don’t really match up

    This is news to me.

  76. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    …with what Kudlak said. Unless I massively misunderstood what Kudlak said.

  77. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I was interpreting kudlak’s query in a broad, general sense. I agree the conventional inflationary multiverse hypothesis is not the classic cyclical universe model. However, the conventional inflationary multiverse hypothesis seems to be the answer to kudlak’s intended question. I think.

  78. Robert,+not+Bob says

    @Curt Cameron, # 77
    That a creationist should assume the multiverse concept to be an ad hoc rationalization invented to refute the fine-tuning argument is natural, since that’s how religious arguments work. Projection, obviously, but I think more fundamentally they just can’t imagine thinking any other way.

  79. 2noiptertermer says

    An atheist is someone who doesn’t BELIEVE there is a god not someone who isn’t convinced there is no god if convinced means you are certain of something. You don’t have to be certain of the existence of a god to be a theist. You just have to believe. I’m pretty sure most theists aren’t certain of the existence of any gods.

  80. 2noiptertermer says

    I meant I’m pretty sure most or all theists aren’t certain of the existence of any gods

  81. says

    I’m curious what Procrastinatron and other theists would conclude if instead of the supposed fine tuning, the fundamental physical constants were in fact robust to changes, and could repeatedly be expected to result in similar life creating universes even if largely altered. Would such a universe actually be considered inconsistent with their god’s creative energies and predisposition, because the associated physical constants were deemed more, rather than less, robust to the allowance for life? On what basis is god a better inference from a “fine tuned” rather than a “robust for life” set of physical constants, if either outcome could readily allow for baby Jesus?

    As god by definition can do anything, then anything we find can and will be used to infer god by those who wish to do so. Which is why god’s a useless hypothesis, fine tuning is a red herring, and all this seems to be is post hoc rationalization.

  82. Philllip Moore says

    Adam Felton,
    I thought that was a pretty delicious bite! Reverse the argument. Of course then that would be their ‘”proof”.

  83. kudlak says

    If it helps, I wasn’t really talking about a multiverse model where many different versions of the universe all kinda exist at the same time. Fine-tuning proponents all seem to be likening the Big Bang to some kind of super-safe, one with many combination wheels, and only one very precise working combination, but they also seem to be implying that there was only one attempt to open it. My question then is, is there any reason to assume that the Big Bang was the first “try” for the singularity to expand? Isn’t it possible for the same singularity to have cycled through various other “conditions”, perhaps recollapsing after every failure, until it happened to hit upon the correct combination for it to become a stable universe, one that wouldn’t recollapse to try again?

  84. kudlak says

    Just to be clear, I’m not talking about multiple parallel universes, but the same singularity naturally cycling through possibly a very high number of other expansions, or attempts at expansion, and recollapse until it happened upon the one that resulted in our stable universe.

    Because creationist types all seem to think of God conjuring up the universe in a single attempt, they seem locked into the idea that the Big Bang theory claims that the singularity just sat there until it decided to expand into a working universe, with the odds of this happening in one attempt being so astronomical as to make it a numerical impossibility.

  85. says

    @86 Yeah, I’m sure they would argue that Gawd created the robustness of the fundamental physical constants that we see in nature.

    On a similar vein, the whole “fine tuning” concept seems to rest on the premise that we have a fairly complete set of theories of the physical universe, and that there probably isn’t some other underlying theory* that would explain why there are some relatively fine tuned constants (i.e. we’re stuck with at least most of them). I know we have a lot of evidence that our theories are correct, but I don’t accept that there aren’t even better explanations for them that we can discover. Maybe humanity will never find them, or even be incapable of finding them, but that doesn’t mean that we should hold that “fine tuning” is the be-all-end-all top “mystery of the universe”. I may be totally off base, but we may be better served by not holding “fine tuning” to such an exalted status (which then theists latch onto because they know that’s where science is stuck).

    * The multiverse hypothesis being one of them, but I’m pretty satisfied just saying “we don’t know yet, and neither do you” in response to theists.

  86. ironchops says

    @El – Another great link to help me in my quest to enlightenment! It seems however that the god and the multiverse hypotheses have at least 1 thing in common. Both are not testable or falsifiable. Until such time neither are to be believed. I will keep my eyes and ears open to new evidence for both. I won’t hold my breath.

  87. ironchops says

    @71 – I agree. We should not mess our children with the Santa thing either don’t you think. It is funny how both god and Santa only do their work through us and not themselves. That’s why I say if god needs someone dead then let him come down and do it!

  88. Philllip Moore says

    ironchops — I’ve told people for many years, much to their consternation, that Santa is a way of teaching children that even their own parents will lie to them. I leave any judgment unsaid, and don’t really know if that is good or bad. Life lesson?

  89. xxxxxx says

    @70 Kudlack asked, “has anybody ruled out the possibility that the singularity may have had any number of “false starts” in expanding, ones that had these different values for the constants that just didn’t go anywhere, until the one with the right set rolled around and was a success?”

    Like you, I am no expert here, but I know Stephen Hawking hypothesized an idea along those lines. Like your idea of several previous big-bang attempts created in a “serial” fashion, Hawking’s idea hypothesized the same feat but done all at once “in parallel.” He speculated that perhaps these so-called fine-tuned values could have all possible values expressed at the same time through super-position, with only a few of the values still remaining today affecting our universe, giving it this appearance of being “fine tuned.” Like your own idea, Hawking’s paper explained fine-tuning while also avoiding the need for a multiverse. Great minds think alike!

  90. redgunner says

    Hi Russell/Jen – you mentioned you found Hamish on youtube? would you happen to be able to share the name of this video or link?

  91. Monocle Smile says

    @2noiptertermer
    Lots of theists claim that they aren’t just certain, but absolutely certain that their god exists. They claim knowledge. But even if you were correct, beliefs should still be held for good reasons.

  92. gshelley says

    The idea that some constant can’t vary at all and if it was different by as much as one in 10^-50, the universe couldn’t support life is a fairly common argument and I think dealt with poorly.
    The best response would be to ask the person making the claim what the size of the constant is. If something is 1.5×10^-60, then a change of 1×10^-50 is over a hundred billion times the size of the constant itself. If the size is 1z1-^10, then 1×10^-40 is far below our ability to accurately measure it.
    In the unlikely event they could even answer this, they can then be asked how is it that this one can be constrained so tightly when the exact value many other constants is not known (or even point out that the value of the cosmological constant, if that is what they are claiming) is not actually known

  93. Russell Glasser says

    Nitpick: I believe that when someone says “different by one in 10^-50” they mean that to be a multiplier on the original number… whatever it is. i.e., if the constant is 10^50 meters, the difference intended is one meter. It has to be something along those lines, otherwise “10^-50” does mean anything at all because there are no units stated.

    Lots of things to criticize about the fine tuning argument, but I don’t believe that to be one of them.

  94. corwyn says

    @100:

    If anyone is going to claim actual numbers, I want to see how they derived them.

  95. says

    Hell, if someone’s claiming actual numbers, and the numbers are as small as they’re saying they are, then I want to know how they square the prospect of the universe being designed for life with the fact that life actually has such a tenuous grasp on the universe that even small changes can eradicate it completely. Procrastinatron already said that he assumes that the designer desires that life exists, and that the slim demarcations between extant life and no life at all is proof positive of this, and I really want to know just how the hell he thinks he’s getting away with that double standard.

    All fine tuning proponents just want it both ways: they want to use the small set of life permitting constants as evidence that those constants had to have been nudged by a being who wants there to be life, yet they want to ignore the reverse argument, that the exceedingly small number of arrangements that could even allow life to exist would indicate the opposite.

    … Which is what kind of happens, when you’re collecting evidence to lead to a pre-drawn conclusion, rather than collecting evidence to formulate your conclusions at all.

  96. corwyn says

    @103:

    It’s worse than that. They will claim that life only comes from life, which proves that their god is alive. Since their god is outside of time and space (whatever that means), wherever their god is, is more hospitable for life. Either it wasn’t intelligently designed, or life spontaneously generated in it. Both of which imply it being more hospitable to life. Ask them if heaven is better for life than our universe.

    But that means that when their god created the universe, it was ‘intelligently designed’ to be LESS tuned to life. It was created specifically to be huge and mostly devoid of life. With countless planets that we can never get to.

    As Jack Nicholson says “He did to us ON PURPOSE.”

  97. gshelley says

    Nitpick: I believe that when someone says “different by one in 10^-50” they mean that to be a multiplier on the original number… whatever it is. i.e., if the constant is 10^50 meters, the difference intended is one meter. It has to be something along those lines, otherwise “10^-50” does mean anything at all because there are no units stated.That was my initial understanding, but it just makes no sense if it is so. There are no constants that we know to anything like 50 significant figures
    Values I have seen include 2.036×10^-35, so the last figure quoted is the 10^-3 They would have to be arguing that we don’t have any idea of the exact value, but we know it can’t be any different. Mathematically, this just does not make sense

  98. JD and Co. says

    Re Michelle in Rochester Hills, MI: I can totally understand the fury at authority figures who abuse their authority to lead people astray. But at some point a person has to take responsibility for their own gullibility. I find it hard to believe that in 7 years, no one ever mentioned to this woman that you don’t have to take the Bible literally. It reminds me of a woman I knew who was furious at La Leche League for teaching her that a child should breast feed for as long as the child wants. This woman would lay down for 2 hours every day with her daughter and nurse her through her entire nap…effectively letting herself be used as a human pacifier. Hello? When was common sense going to step in?
    @19 Bature

    “since we evolved from monkeys, how are we meant to know better?”

    I wondered about that too. I figured they were stunned, thinking, “Damn! This is getting weirder and weirder.” I give them credit for keeping their composure when she described attacking the TV with a baseball bat.

  99. phil says

    @ 105 gshelley:
    “There are no constants that we know to anything like 50 significant figures”

    Not quite true. 100! is pretty constant, and I have an HP50g which will calculate it explicitly. At least, so it seems, I don’t have any independent way to check the answer (nor the enthusiasm to actually do so).