Arguments people should stop making

this is only a hop and skip from the classic argument that if we don’t agree, one of us is in rebellion against God; one that folks wrongly use from Romans 1 and Psalms (“the fool,”). It’s very mentally lazy to ascribe bad intentions to someone who disagrees with us; and neither of those passages is meant for that use, anyway.

I like Gandalf’s remark, “The treacherous are ever distrustful,” about Grima Wormtongue–it’s a mirror I have to hold to myself when talking about presuppositions. Frequently, when I hold my presuppositions in a privileged position, I’m happy to enact transference of fault, and claim bias from others’ standpoint. But in this case, I’m the treacherous one–I am not giving al the evidence a trustworthy scrutiny. Nor am I giving others the respect they deserve when they ask me to discuss things honestly with them. Hopefully, I can learn how to minimize my presuppositions.


The only alternative to fine tuning is the multiverse theory, some versions of which seem to require an impossibly huge number of “possible” universes in order to get one that, like Baby Bear’s food and layout, is “just right”. (Way, way more than three!) To say nothing of the fact that it’s a gross violation of Occam’s Razor. I say this, though, not as a theist but as simply a philosophical idealist who simply believes that “the mental is fundamental” without thinking there’s necessarily any requirement to go beyond this. Unless you want to think of the universe being created and sustained by some kind of superhuman “person” (aka “God”) which seems to me reductive, I think you need simply to say, well, it’s the Absolute. And we really have no concept of that – nor can we…

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Here are the arguments that annoy me the most.

  1. The use of the word “evolutionist” to refer to the age of the earth – or anything else that has nothing to do with biological evolution. In particular, the use of the word “evolutionist” to refer to anything and everything about science that one doesn’t like. It’s passive-aggressive and hostile.
  2. On a related note, the use of the words “Darwinism” or “neo-Darwinism.” These are weasel words which tend to mislead people as to what the speaker really thinks about the subject.
  3. On the other side of the fence, dismissing any form of creationism or ID as “religion, not science” or “introducing religious presuppositions into science.” Any response to creationism or ID needs to start first and foremost with a demand for honesty, factual accuracy, technical rigour, and quality control. Complaining about religious presuppositions just gives the impression that you are basing your argument off equal and opposite presuppositions of your own.

Fine tuning confusion
Fine tuning means something very specific - just that out of the possible probability space (which nobody knows) the volume of permissible conditions is relatively small (which we can model).

FT= Initial conditions are unnatural
Or to put it another way, are the initial conditions ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural?’ A nice example that I heard once was related to the fact that the planets of the solar system light in an approximately flat plane. If you just assumed a prior probability distribution that they could be oriented randomly this would be a miraculous arrangement! But then as we observe more solar systems forming around the universe we find that it’s quite common for planets to Be oriented in a flat plane. And all of a sudden, something that we once thought was unnatural is really quite common and doesn’t need any extra explaining because we now understand the correct probability distribution.

It’s really the same thing for fine-tuning. It’s basically the question of why this initial condition. If we assume initial conditions can vary randomly between arbitrarily defined values then the values of our universe seem particularly fine-tuned. Since nobody knows the actual probability distribution (Which would require figuring out the string theory landscape) it is particularly frustrating for me, a physicist, to hear the fine-tuning argument repeated endlessly.

The multiverse vs. God is a false dischotomy
It is also frustrating for me to hear particular atheists (or Christians) speak of God/Finetuning vs. Atheism/Multiverse. This is a false dichotomy at least with the science side. This is not a matter of Occam’s razor where God is simpler than the multiverse. That’s a rather dangerous position to have because we actually have some equations to describe the string theory landscape. And the cosmological multi-verse is something that comes out of certain models of inflation which we have some strong evidence for inflation in the first place. So maybe from certain perspectives God seems a lot simpler, but writing down some of the equations behind this would actually demonstrate such equations are much simpler than an infinite omnipotent Being. But at the end of the day for someone to actually use such equations to dismiss God is rather absurd as well. To actually use the cosmological multiverse coupled together with the string theory landscape as evidence against God we would need the following:

  • evidence that eternal inflation is correct which goes beyond the simple inflation models we have evidence for
  • evidence that string theory is true or at least some model that describes where the physical constants come from
  • The probability distribution within this particular theory out of what values the constants could even take. For example in many versions of the present string theory landscape, they don’t even contain universes like ours. That is in the 10 to the 500th possible universes, ours is not even a possibility Because it’s a DeSitter universe with a negative cosmological constant and string theory doesn’t easily produce those!

Just to be sure, you’re not meaning that we would presuppose truth based on morality and success, right? It’s very true that based on our evolution and tendencies, we seem to want group security and happiness over truth (BBC had an interesting series on this last year, I think); but that’s one of the reasons I fought against evolution–because I found my own Christian YEC worldview comfortable and successful.
Also, I’ve been humbled by meeting atheists and folk of other religious persuasions who were kinder and more moral than I am–one of the benefits of expanding my world as I have been growing older.

I don’t think you mean this, though. Thanks.

I meant something different, more along the lines of what Randy and James said below:

More specifically, I had in mind the tired old argument that “secular science” uses methodological naturalism as a way to exclude God. Thus, its godless presuppositions lead to godless conclusions, which only promotes the atheistic worldview. Or so the argument goes …

Yes to both. I’ve also seen evolution and Darwin thrown into arguments about the origin of the universe and the origin of life. Huh?


An example in the Wigner thread …

So, materialist philosophy is the driving force in multiverse theories, because God must be driven out of science, and physicists are leading a conspiracy to promote the “materialist agenda,” which, this time, squeezes God out of quantum mechanics.

Those dang atheistic physicists are ruining everything!

[quote=“Jay313, post:27, topic:40605”]
An example in the Wigner thread …

Hi Jay,

I think I am being mocked, which, strictly speaking, is an ad hominem. As such, it probably does not meet the high standards of civility required on this forum.

You are probably a very fine fellow, and it would be nice to know you better. But presently I don’t. My loss, no doubt.

As a rule, I try to examine and address an argument within the strict confines of context, rather than generically. But that approach seems to be at odds with the title of this thread. Oh well, carry on! And I will move on.

Hi Gordon,

I don’t think that Jay is intentionally mocking you, I just think that you’ve just ended up with a bit of misunderstanding here. Discussions about what does and doesn’t constitute materialism, or about methodological naturalism, can be an absolute minefield because just about everybody has different ideas about what these concepts actually mean and what their implications are. As a result, it can be difficult for us to discuss them as Christians without treading on each other’s toes.

I personally prefer to take a different approach. I explicitly allow for the possibility of miracles in my discussions about science, as long as they are approached honestly and accurately, and any miracles being proposed aren’t deceptive in nature (i.e. the Omphalos hypothesis). I explain it in more detail here:


If I had intended to mock you, I would’ve done it in the other thread. I offered your statement over here as an example of the type of argument that I wish people would stop using. I wish you would stop using it, too. It makes you (and those who employ it) sound like a conspiracy theorist who thinks every scientist is an atheist, and it adds nothing to your actual point about QM. Better off without it, in my opinion.

Nice to meet you, by the way.


Hi Jay, I think people should stop implicitly making the argument that human scientists are OBJECTIVE and everyone else is not. I think I find that assumption in your reason for making such an obviously sarcastic argument against fine tuning. (and I love and use sarcasm a lot but have tried to limit it here, so I admire this particular form you present lol)

The sad truth about us humans is that it is almost impossible for us to be totally objective because we all want our world view, whatever it is to be the correct one–and that includes atheist physicists who want their materialistic world view to be the right one. If they truly believe no God exists then they really are personally morally obligated to live by their beliefs and so to try to find an explanation for the fine tuning other than God–I.e. the grand cosmic lottery of the universe is quite handy. But that is using a bias as if it were a scientific fact. They don’t consider God because he is unconsiderable in the present intellectual climate. But that isn’t evidence.

When I was a physics student I would have been flunked for saying that something unobservable exists. I could say “IF it exists then here are the consequences…” but physics used to be about things we could observe–now it is in large measure about things that have no observational data or are totally unobserved, inflaton fields, inflaton, dark matter, several forms of unobservable multiverses, axions, sterile neutrinos, sparticles…and we shouldn’t forget the required for modern physics theories to be true particle, the magnetic monopole (still among the missing).

This change can be traced back to the discovery of the Big Bang in the 1960s. Prior to that Everett’s multiverse was thought to be the product of a lunatic.

So, I wish people would quit arguing that 'UGH science good and objective; Christianity bad and subjective" lol Nice to meet ya.

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Greetings @gbob; I have enjoyed watching your interaction and reading some of your history you have put up here.

But observation applies to all these unseen things you have listed here; observation doesn’t mean just being able to see things. Right?

Thanks. Blessings.

hi, I am using ‘see’ in the sense of be able to observe/detect the object. That might be with a coil of wire to detect and measure the magnetic field, I would call that seeing as well. Yeah, my language is a bit loose. Particle detectors observe a plethora of particle motions. It is up to some poor schlub reconstructing the experiment to figure out what it was that collided, but yes, that also constitutes being seen/observed. Thanks for forcing me to clean up my use of language a bit.

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Hi, James. Intentional or not, I think his comments had the effect of mocking what I said, albeit without malice. That remains the way I see them. Jay had a point, of a generic nature, he wanted to make, which he thought could be fortified by trotting out a concrete example, and what I said was close enough for his purposes. So he ending up holding what I said up for mocking ridicule. I am not greatly offended by this, but let’s not sugarcoat what happened. But I do thank you for trying “to calm the waters.”

Please spell out what premises you are referring to. Thanks.

I agree I’ve never found the fine tuning argument very persuasive in general. I hardly claim any significant understanding of the specifics; however, I can’t help but think that:

  1. if various universal constants were different, perhaps we would be complex and intelligent high-energy plasma beings existing within streams of electrical energy, having this discussion about how fine-tuned our universe was for the existence of intelligent high-enegery plasma beings.

  2. are we saying that, if the universe were in fact different than it is in regards to it’s fine-tuning, that God could not figure out how to take the material within that universe and create intelligent entities with what is there? This is the only conceivable universe wherein God could have worked within it to create intelligent creatures and a meaningful reality? He could not have figured out how to do it if any of the constants were different?

Angels presumably exist in some sort of “created” reality not bound to our own natural laws, so I’m dubious of the idea that only within our universe’s physical fine-tuned constants can any intelligent beings exist.

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I would push back on the arguments people frequently make about the obvious ease of imagining other forms of life or intelligence, as I only know of the one based on our actual biology. But this also applies to the creationist account of our being-- given what I know of our biological existence, I can’t rigorously instantiate in my mind an alternate scenario where humans were created from scratch to be who we are, replete with the hereditary genetics and the adaptations that we embody.

To play devil’s advocate, this seems like a science of the gaps/ infinite regress type of argument. I’m curious to know what bases there are to consider any particular distribution.
And if it comes out to be “in our favor” (or not), does it make our reality less significant (or more)?

To me, there is an ambiguous sort of p-hacking going on when talking about “miraculous” phenomena, along the lines of pet peeves or “Arguments people should stop making” that need clarification.

Hi Doko, I want to point out that I would like people to stop making arguments that disparage the middle class. How exactly does being middle class mean one’s arguments or apologetics are bad?

As to arguing that one has never heard xyz supported before, therefore it must be false, that is a pure logical fallacy ad populum. It is a form of the everybody knows this to be true, therefore it is true. From Wiki:

In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum Latin for " argument to the people ") is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition must be true because many or most people believe it, often concisely encapsulated as: “If many believe so, it is so.”

What you are saying because many people don’t believe it, therefore it is false. This is why I think logic should be taught in school as it was 120 years ago.

New concepts and ideas that you have never heard of arise all the time and what you hear of or think of, or even what philosophers think of and argue for, has no bearing on the truth or falsity of a new argument. I once pointed out to a boss that every oil productive salt dome in the Gulf of Mexico basin had Sulphur in the cap rock" His response? “That can’t be true, I haven’t ever heard that!” I guess he thought he had heard of and knew everything. Such a view is a way to avoid having to actually THINK about new information or new arguments.

To clarify my view of the viability of fine tuning, Assume that the multiverse doesn’t exist and all we have is the one universe we can actually observe. It has a beginning in the form of a big bang, and therefore is not an eternally existing thing as had been previously believed by most astronomers (go look up Hoyles creation operator). Further this only universe we can observe or detect has physical constants that sure appear to have been rigged. From JUST the cosmological constant, quantum calculations say what the value should be and if it were that value, we would not exist. Galaxies would have been ripped apart by expansion. OBSERVATION shows that the true value of the cosmological constant is 120 orders of magnitude lower than what quantum suggests it should be. At the very least, this would say we won a lottery in the creation of this universe with a 10^-120 chance of success. Lets face it if you cheat at cards in a casino, you will be rigging the game far far less than 120 orders of magnitude, and the casino’s gang of Guido’s and Vito’s will come and escort you out. My point is, it doesn’t take 120 orders of magnitude change in the odds to get you tossed from a casino because THEY TAKE A FAR SMALLER CHANGE AS PROOF YOU ARE CHEATING. But somehow, we are not allowed to use a 120 order of magnitude change as evidence of ‘cheating?’

Now if the multiverse actually exists, yes, fine-tuning won’t work, but show me evidence (not an equation anyone can write an equation to show anything) that the multiverse exists.

I held it up as an example of a form of argument. If I held it up for mocking ridicule, I was a miserable failure since no one mocked or ridiculed. Nevertheless, I apologize for offending you.

Hi, Glenn. Hope you are feeling well today. I didn’t make an argument against fine tuning, sarcastic or otherwise. It’s an interesting factoid that begs for explanation, but I don’t consider it a strong argument for theism, let alone Christianity. I also didn’t say that scientists are the only objective humans on the planet.

Thank you for the lesson in post-modernism. A quick aside: I always find it odd when my fellow evangelicals rail against relativism, “subjective truth,” and post-modernism, yet they jump on the post-modern bandwagon to argue that science is biased. Strangely, it seems the only scientists whose work exhibits the blindness of materialism are those who research origins. The rest we can trust, except for the atheist climatologists out to destroy our God-ordained capitalist economy. (Sarcasm alert!)

Here’s one thing you’re missing: The scientific establishment is not a monolithic, homogeneous cabal out to destroy belief in God. Scientists, including physicists and biologists (gasp!), come from all walks of life and hold as many disparate beliefs/worldviews as the general public. You’ve talked to several Christian physicists here already. The president of BioLogos, Deb Haarsma, has a Ph.D. in astrophysics from MIT. I’m fairly sure that she’s a Christian. :wink: So, when the “atheist physicist” tries to find a handy explanation other than God, do you think all the Christian and Jewish physicists, who by your assessment also want their “worldview to be the right one,” nod their heads in approval?

Here’s something else you’re missing: Self-interest keeps scientists honest. Every single one of them must publish or perish. Just because one “atheist physicist” publishes an idea that is quite handy to the “atheist agenda” (whatever that is) doesn’t mean that the idea is given a free pass by the other atheists. Not how it works. If an atheist physicist could make his or her reputation by disproving the multiverse, I guarantee that the paper would be published post haste.

You see, the discoverer of the Big Bang was George Lemaitre, a Christian. Since he was a Christian and his hypothesis was greeted warmly by Christians, why did the atheist physicists accept the idea?

Christianity good, science good. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!