For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking about the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God. Normally that means I got a letter in my ongoing religious discussion with a relative or that it was brought up in some forum I visit, but not this time. I really don’t know why I’ve been thinking about it.
As you probably know, the argument is that certain properties of our universe are exactly the values needed for life and the probability of this is so low that there must be a creator god. In my review of Strobel’s book, I pointed out a big problem: we don’t know the probability of a god creating the universe. This is pointed out in some form here and here. More specifically, if you want to say that the universe is too improbable to have happened naturally, you are implicitly comparing that to the probability of a supernatural cause. However, the mere existence of God seems beyond calculation, not to mention calculating the probability of Him creating this exact universe. God’s pretty complex, isn’t he? Doesn’t that make Him improbable? Here we get into strange territory.
As far as I can tell, Christian theologians for the most part see God as infinitely simple, though he appears infinitely complex to us. I can attest to the second part. If He is that complex, the fine-tuning argument falls apart; it seems obvious that the probability of an infinitely complex (or something close to infinite complexity) being is much less probable than our complex, but finitely so, universe. The idea of divine simplicity doesn’t lend itself to such quantification, though. The laws of probability would seem to go out the window (then again, the same thing may happen in the infinitely complex situation). I haven’t asked, but I don’t think a Christian would believe calculating the probability of God is possible or even coherent. So the fine-tuning argument seems to compare two incomparable things. At best, it compares one reasonably calculated (though, I should point out, often exaggerated) probability with a completely unknown one and decides the unknown one is more probable.
I find this objection very obvious. I’m actually surprised more skeptics don’t use it. The most popular objection is the multiverse. That seems to be a valid objection, but we really don’t know if we’re in a multiverse or not. There are a few decent reasons to think so, but we’re on shaky ground. The objection I outlined above is much better. Maybe the multiverse idea seems more conclusive. It’s hard to say that the probability of God is lower than the probability of the universe, which is more conclusive than saying we don’t know the probability of God so we can’t make the comparison. Plus, the multiverse is an attempt to answer the central problem brought up by the fine-tuning argument: how can our universe be this fine-tuned? If we have these probabilities that border on the absurd, there has to be some explanation, right? The objection I outlined rids us of God as an explantion, but doesn’t give us an actual explanation. It’s a bit unsatisfying.
Objections to my argument are welcome. I can think of one possible one, but it may require its own post.
Curiously, after the minor redesign of the Chronicle’s site, there doesn’t seem to be a link to the Opinions/Letters section. Now it even appears that the old URL is broken. I find this rather annoying.
“Netroots” is a stupid word.
That is all.
As some will recognize, I’ve jumped on the K2 bandwagon. I think I’ve got it styled pretty much the way I want. Maybe a few things left that I could change the color of. I’m not entirely sure about the border on the current page tab. The way it overlaps the header border is kinda weird.
I’m also wondering why AJAX commenting doesn’t seem to be working.
UPDATE: Looks a bit fucked up in IE.
UPDATE 2: Fixed it, more or less.
Since I don’t really have anything else to write about, and I’m busy playing with K2, a website I’m building (for money, no less), and a paper that’s due Thursday, I thought I’d write up my (brief) thoughts on John Morrison. He gave a little talk and answered some questions last night for mostly college students over at Columbo’s.
First the shallow stuff. He seems likable enough, spoke well, etc. You’d sort of expect that. His short speech wasn’t bad. It certainly didn’t come off as Republican-lite, like some suggest. Then again, he was speaking to a group of college kids at an event sponsored by MSU College Dems. Anyway, he was asked why we should support him over Jon Tester and his answer was basically that he can raise more money and get support from important people/groups that might not ordinarily support a Senate challenger. He did say he probably agrees with Tester on most things, but it is sort of disappointing that he didn’t point out any real differences between himself and Tester on the ideas side of things.
I’m still a bit disappointed that he didn’t answer Intelligent Discontent‘s questions, like Tester and Richards, but I’m not really holding that against him. There also seems to be a lot more information on the Internet about Tester. That’s also a bit disappointing, but hopefully he’ll rectify it soon.
I look forward to seeing Tester do the same sort of the thing for us. It’s way too early and I’m currently way too uninformed for this to mean much right now, but I am leaning towards Morrison at the moment.
I’m all for atheists being vocal, but I can imagine how it hinders the acceptance of evolution when the two are associated. Some of the objections to saying it hurts seem to be along the lines of it’s unfair to try to make atheists be quiet. That’s not a very useful objection, though it is true.
I have to say, though, I agree with this:
And scurrying to suggest that PZ — or whichever atheist evolutionist is third in the line of succession — tone down his or her remarks is granting victory to the other side. It’s letting the opposition define the terms of engagement.
For the most part, people like Dawkins are not saying that you can’t be a Christian and believe in evolution at the same time. They’re simply outspoken proponents of evolution and atheism, allowing the other side to conflate them. Giving in to that is giving in to dishonesty, which is simply not a useful strategy.
My general position is this: when directly promoting evolution, try to keep the religious talk to a minimum. That applies to Christians and atheists (and whatever else you might be). Have people with a wide range of religious views promote evolution. If someone wants to object about the religious views of some proponent of evolution, point out the people who have a different belief.
Now, that’s basically what’s happening now, I think. I don’t see outspoken atheists as the problem for us. I think our problem is that scientists are not out there enough showing people exactly where creationism is wrong and doing in a fashion that people understand and isn’t off-putting. Solutions to that? I don’t know.
Rapture – [The Silent Stage #02] The Past Nightmares
Anathema – [Alternative 4 #08] Regret
Opeth – [My Arms, Your Hearse #04] Madrigal
In Flames – [Come Clarity #10] Versus Terminus
Blackfield – [Blackfield #09] The Hole in Me
Soilwork – [Stabbing the Drama #09] Fate in Motion
Tool – [Aenima #08] Intermission
Vehemence – [Helping the World to See #01] By Your Bedside
Pain of Salvation – [12:5 #05] Brickwork, Pt. 1: V (Leaving Entropia)
Nevermore – [Dreaming Neon Black #08] The Lotus Eaters