Fine Tuning and Teleology

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #1

Continuing the discussion from [Reviewing Darwin’s Doubt: Conclusion

| The BioLogos Forum](Reviewing Darwin’s Doubt: Conclusion | The BioLogos Forum):

I don’t think that @Wayne quite understands the fine tuning argument, which is based on anthropic principle. The anthropic principle notes that there are a number of cosmological constants that are necessary to exist in a very fine range for life to exist on planet earth and the universe. While he says that they could take countless values, that does not appear to be true.

There are more than enough precise values that it would appear that their existence in relationship each other cannot logically be a matter of chance, but as matter of design. An article in Discovery, a scientific magazine quoted several scientists saying that one had a choice between Fine tuning and God or the Multiverse, which is speculation rather than fact. One important theoretist said it would take 10 to the 500 billionth power universes to produce a universe like ours.

For instance when scientists are looking for planets in our universe which could sustain life, they look for planets very much like ours, rather than those which are different. Conceivably life could exist which could be structured very different from our carbon-based forms, but that is based on speculation, not on fact.

The fact remains that a number of very specific conditions have existed over long periods of time which indicates that life on earth is not based only on chance which is inherently unstable, but primarily on reason which is not unstable.

If the universe the universe does have a rational framework, which science itself maintains, it does point to the reality of divine creation, but not necessarily to God as Christians know God. This is what Polkinghorne says and I agree.

Certainly life has it chance aspects as well as it rational aspects. Just because it has meaning and purpose does not mean that it is determined. Our purpose in life is evident is how we handle unexpected events, rather than how events mold us.

Most of what we experience is not the result of chance and those things which appear to us as random have their origins in non-random events. The snow storm we are expecting in the next few days comes from the laws of nature which do not operate by chance.

The world is experiencing climate change and global warming. If this is a result of random chance, there is nothing humans can do to alter its course. However if climate change is based on ecological laws and the result of carbon emissions, then we can make changes before it is too late to control this potential disaster. Humans do have control over their lives and the world because we live in a ration world that has meaning and purpose. All we have to do is stop fighting and work together, which is God’s purpose for us.

For me it is sad that some people seem to feel forced to deny the rationality, meaning, and purpose of the universe because they are afraid it indicates the existence of God.

What divides Christians from "mainstream science"?
Prayer and the arrogance of believers
White bearded man in the sky
(Only Lal) #2


///The anthropic principle notes that there are a number of cosmological constants that are necessary to exist in a very fine range for life to exist///

That’s exactly where you’re going wrong. You missed my point. You’re seeing life and humans as something that must exist, therefore all the parameters must be precisely set for that purpose. It’s a mistake. There was absolutely no requirement that life, including you or me, come into existence at all. The universe could have taken any of countless other courses and produced some other phenomenon different from life that we don’t see in the current universe. But by sheer chance, the universe ended up with its current parameters - and life simply followed from it. Life is a consequence, a byproduct of how the universe ended up, it was not the goal of the universe.

Let me illustrate this with another analogy.
What’s the probability of your existence, Roger? It’s vanishingly low.
The right man had to meet the right woman (your parents), the right men had to meet the right women (your grandparents), more right men had to meet more right women (your great grandparents)…it goes on and on the more generations you trace back. And you can go back thousands or even millions of generations! In each case, chance played a huge role to bring the right people together.

And it doesn’t end there. In each union between a male and a female, the right sperm had to fuse with the right egg. A man produces millions and millions of sperm cells and each sperm cell has a different genetic make-up. If a different sperm cell had fused with a different egg in any of the unions that eventually led to you, you wouldn’t be here. That’s how improbable your existence is. Yet you’re here! And we know that you came into existence by purely natural means.

How did such a hopelessly improbable and unlikely event happen? Did someone fine-tune every single step along the way with the result in mind? No, it happened by chance, of course! There were trillions of other possible outcomes, but only one materialised - and you are the result of it.

That’s how you should view the cosmological constants. They’re not fine-tuned for a particular purpose. They assumed some random value, life simply followed as a consequence of those values.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #3

Not at all. I am seeing life and humans as things that do exist. The question is: Do they exist because of magic, out of thin air, or because of rational, understandable processes?

You are right. No event is necessary, but science is about why things are the way they are, not if they are necessary. If you think that the earth moves around the sun by chance and that is sufficient answer for you, that is fine, but science does not agree.

If you think that I do not exist, because you are right the probability of my existence are very, very small, you would be wrong. Life is not about probabilities, but about realities. I am real, life is real, and God is real, not based on speculation.

If you think that people have children and raise them by chance, you are mistaken. Most people do not and I hope this is true of you. If you think that cosmological constants can “assume random values,” I would say you are wrong there too. How can they be constant and assume random values?

There is a technical saying, “Garbage in, Garbage out.” You want others to believe that it should be, “Garbage in, Order out.” Good luck! Where is the scientific evidence?

Goals or purpose produce meaning and order. If the universe is rational and orderly, it must have a goal or purpose. If life is not that purpose or goal, what is? If life is an accidental byproduct of the universe, is it important? Is ecology, the study of how life functions in this world (which is not randomly,) important?

(Only Lal) #4


I never said all events unfold by chance and magic. I was specifically talking about the PROBABILITY of events happening, not how those events (your birth, earth’s trip around the sun etc) unfolded.

I’m focussing on probability because the fine-tuning argument that theists put forth is a probability argument. It concludes that since cosmological constants have very precise values which make life possible, this could not have happened without supernatural intervention.

I was trying to tell you that this is a wrong conclusion because it presupposes teleology (i.e producing life and humans was the goal of the universe), and it also ignores the fact that the current set of cosmological values was only one among trillions of alternatives.

You then ask:
“How can they be constant and assume random values?”

They’re constant in the present universe, i.e they assumed their values during the birth of the universe and have stayed constant ever since. That’s why we call them cosmological “constants”. But during the birth of the universe, these parameters could have assumed any of countless other values, which is where the random chance factor comes in. This is much like how a particular lottery ticket can win during one draw and another can win during another draw of the same batch.

The values the universe ended up with determined its properties. Galaxies, stars, planets and life came about as mere byproducts of those properties. In other words, life was constrained by the cosmological constants, not the other way around.

As Lawrence Krauss puts it in his new article:

“…Once again, it likely confuses cause and effect. The constants of the universe indeed allow the existence of life as we know it. However, it is much more likely that life is tuned to the universe rather than the other way around. We survive on Earth in part because Earth’s gravity keeps us from floating off. But the strength of gravity selects a planet like Earth, among the variety of planets, to be habitable for life forms like us. Reversing the sense of cause and effect in this statement, as Metaxas does in cosmology, is like saying that it’s a miracle that everyone’s legs are exactly long enough to reach the ground.”

We fully expect life to flourish in a universe where the constants favor it. It would only be surprising if life was present in a universe with the wrong parameters. You further say:
“ I am real, life is real, and God is real, not based on speculation.”

I will agree that the former two are real, but I will not agree that God is real because the former two have observational and empirical support, while God doesn’t have that. Where’s the evidence?

Demon Possession in 2016


The cosmological constants of the present universe assumed their values during the birth of this particular universe. During the birth of this particular universe its specific parameters were embraced and could not have assumed any of countless other values because they were determined by the particular attributes of the birth of this universe. Therefore random chance cannot be a factor in this universe, or any other, since each successive universe begins with its own particular values and deterministically adopts the cosmological constants for that particular universe. The procession of universes in a cyclical multiverse scenario has its own cosmological constants which gives each successive universe its own particular values in perpetual motion—the multiverse is a perpetual motion machine.

I Have a Friend Who Believes Science Disproves Faith, Part 1 | The BioLogos Forum
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(Only Lal) #6


You just repeated what I said. Constants assume their values at the birth of the universe, of course, but that could be any universe with any set of values. That’s where the randomness is.

The odds of the universe’s birth is very much like the odds of our birth.
A human male delivers around 50 million sperm cells in one ejaculation. Only ONE of those sperm cells fused with an egg cell to produce you and me! But any of the remaining >49 million could have also fused with the egg - and each of them would have produced a different individual!

You and me are just one among countless other possibilities. We owe our existence to sheer luck, we beat the odds. It’s pretty much the same for this universe too.

The problem, as I said before, is that creationists look at it with a teleological mindset. They say, oh look the probability of all these constants being just the right value to produce life is so low, it couldn’t have happened by chance.
The error there is to presuppose that a universe supporting life and humans must come into existence, much like presupposing that you or me must come into existence. If you realize that this is just one among many, many possible outcomes, the fine-tuning argument collapses.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #7


Thank you for the response.

I see several problems in this discussion. The first is dualism.

We tend to see things are natural or unnatural. However when people build unnatural machines called airplanes for flying, but they use natural laws and materials from nature to build them. Thus airplanes are a combination of both natural and unnatural.

Thought and rationality is taken to be the difference between nature and unnatural. This is the distinction that Monod made between the subjective and the objective. However we find that other animals besides humans show evidence of thinking and learning. Thus the distinction which Monod made and has been used in evolutionary thinking is not based on fact. Natural beings which includes humans can think and act with purpose.

I never said all events unfold by chance and magic. I was specifically talking about the PROBABILITY of events happening, not how those events (your birth, earth’s trip around the sun etc) unfolded.

The question is not probability, but the rational explanation of why and how things happen. If we have the choice between chance and a rational cause, we need to go with the rational cause. The problem is that Monod has said that there is no rational cause behind the universe, so nature is innately without meaning and purpose.

Last week I was surprised and delighted to see a large flock of robins, about 20, outside my house on a snowy day. Were they there by chance? Maybe, but after some careful observation I noticed that their movement was centered around a wild cherry tree that still had fruit on it. They had gathered to eat in the middle of winter. [Please note that Dawkins denies that animals have this type of rational ability.]

Again one looks at a given situation and determines from the facts, what are its most probable causes. The question is not whether it was necessary, but did it have a rational probable cause. If natural events have a rational cause, it follows that nature was designed by a rational being.

If course you can deny that logic as others have. You can say that the universe is not rationally structured or that rational structure can be produced by chance. Neither of which is logical or scientific.

[quote=“Wayne, post:4, topic:158”]
However, it is much more likely that life is tuned to the universe rather than the other way around.
[/quote] [a quotation from Krause]

I would agree that life is tuned to the universe, because that is the ecological position, as opposed to Dawkins’ position of gene-centered evolution. However this assumes that life and the universe are two different things. Life is part of the universe. Life which is non-material is part of the universe which is more than the material.

Science wants to separate the natural/physical from the unnatural/rational, which cannot be done. The rational is built into the universe through its laws. The rational developed from the universe in the evolution of thinking, feeling creatures. The spiritual developed from the universe as humans evolved as rational and moral beings.

This is an assertion without basis. It is one thing to say that historical events could have turned out differently, which most people would agree with, and another thing to say that the universe could have taken a different basic form.

In any case what we have now from the best evidence available is a rationally structured purposeful universe that is our home and our responsibility. This science vs faith debate appears to be an effort to avoid this basic reality.

Panentheism vs. Theism


Roger, you stated, “If natural events have a rational cause, it follows that nature was designed by a rational being.”

I would have to say that your logic is wrong here! For example, a volcanic eruption occurs because hot magma and gases create pressure which need to be released. This is a natural event which has a rational cause. However, it does not necessarily follow to suggest that a rational being caused or designed the volcano to erupt. Similarly, a river might swell its banks because of an increase in rain fall and by effect cause homes to flood. Again, this is a natural event which has a rational cause. It does not necessarily follow to suggest that a rational being caused or designed the river to swell it’s banks flooding the homes. In this same sense the initial singularity reaches a critical point of density and pressure causing the big bang which expanded to [originate] our universe. This is a natural event which has a rational cause, however, it does not necessarily follow to suggest that a rational being caused or designed it.

You also stated, “You can say that the universe is not rationally structured or that rational structure can be produced by chance. Neither of which is logical or scientific.”

However, it is logical and scientific to make the statement that rational structures can [originate] through deterministic mechanical forces and we can rationalize about them because we have been “designed,” through evolution, in the image of God.


@Wayne, thank you for your response.

You stated, “However, it is much more likely that life is tuned to the universe rather than the other way around.”

I will have to agree that life is fine tuned to the present universe. However, for argument’s sake, let’s say that in the same way that the present universe is fine tuned for life, all past and future universes have been and will be fine tuned to their specific subsistence. I sense that what you are failing to grasp in my argument is that the precession of universes in a cyclical multiverse scenario [would also] be fine tuned with its specific parameters and cosmological constants. It is similar to how all galaxies, the largest structures in the universe, have all been fine tuned to the cosmological constants of the present universe. In this scenario all universes, past, present, and future have been, and will be, fine tuned to the cosmological constants of the cyclical multiverse.

In a cyclical multiverse scenario every successive universe receives its matter and energy from the previous universe, through its big crunch. The big bangs of successive universes expand and endure till their heat death and entropy. Through successive big bangs, time and space for those specific universes [originate]. Every successive universe lasts for its determined time. Although every successive universe has its own determined time of existence — measured from its big bang to its big crunch — the multiverse as a whole has its own time keeping of successive universes and determined cosmological constants. Thus, time [does] exist outside our universe. Scientists have endlessly stated that time and space originated with the beginning of our universe — they are correct. However, this is the time and space of the present universe. Successive big bangs [originate] their own time and space which is the time and space of those successive universes. Similarly, space expands with every successive big bang, thus, every universe has its own space till its space contracts with its big crunch. Outside the singularity and successive universes lies eternity.

A multiverse scenario where parallel universes exist simultaneously would only push the answer back further with endless regression — if universes existed simultaneously in the multiverse they would have required a big bang from which the multiverse originated. This would suggest each universe did not have a big bang but formed with the expansion of the multiverse. In this scenario each universe would be formed like the galaxies in our universe were formed. However, the scientific evidence suggests otherwise — our universe began with a big bang!

Finally, a multiverse scenario where parallel universes pop up simultaneously — as if they all have their own big bang — is questionable? Where do they pop up from? And from where are they provided with the necessary matter and energy that is required for their formation? Matter and energy may disappear in a black hole and reappear elsewhere, however, it disappears and reappears within the same given universe. Matter and energy does not disappear from a given universe and reappear outside of it in eternity.

This is a short documented video that touches on these issues that we have been discussing.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #10


Thank you for your response.

You are making the mistake the Dawkins make in taking an atomistic reductionist view of reality in his gene-centered view of evolution. I am sure that you know that volcanos are the result of way the earth was formed with a large iron molten core and a thin veneer of rock and soil. Without this core the earth would not exist and volcanos play an important role in the formation of the earth.

When taken in isolation one might wonder why we need volcanos, but taken together we see how they fit into the integrated whole that is our planet and our universe. The wonder is that all of these diverse elements (air, water, solid elements, hydrocarbons, time, space, light, etc.) work together to make a rational, intricate, improbably balanced reality.

On a slightly different tack it is very improbable that I will die on any particular day, but this does not mean that it is very improbable that I will die. In fact I know that the probability that I will die is 100% unsettling as this may be.

People are warned when a volcano is about to erupt and should know that rivers flood also.

The initial singularity and the Big Bang are not a natural event because they created time, space, and nature. It does not have a rational cause because it is beyond the physical and the rational. The only way we can say it is rational is because it developed into a rational universe. The same thing for God. We can affirm God is rational because God created a rational universe, not because we understand God.

Panentheism vs. Theism
(James Stump) #11

@Wayne Supporters of the fine-tuning argument generally accept your claim that life is not inevitable–in fact, that is what drives the argument: it seems like life shouldn’t exist, and the fact that it does needs explaining. I think you’re right about probabilities of you or me existing, but it doesn’t seem like that is the same situation. Think of it like this:

The odds that all of your ancestors made it too child-bearing age and had a child is exceedingly rare. If we give a generous chance of 90% for any given person to live long enough to have a child, by the time you go back a few hundred generations, we’re in the infinitesimal odds that all of your ancestors did that. So should you (or I) be surprised that you are here? No. Because the only way you could be here is as the outcome of such a process.

But take the familiar example of the firing squad: 100 sharpshooters all take aim to execute you and fire. They each have a 99% chance of hitting you, so there is an exceedingly small chance that they will all miss. But after all the shots are taken, you’re still alive. Should you be surprised at this?? Yes! To say no here for the same reason (you shouldn’t be surprised because that is the only way you could be here to ask the question) radically misses the point: something extraordinary has happened, and it begs for an answer.

If there is no multiverse, then our situation is more like the sharpshooter example which demands some explanation. If there is a multiverse, it is more like the ancestor example, where we shouldn’t be that surprised.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #12

The most likely reason that all of the sharpshooters missed is that they chose to miss. Sharpshooters are people who have power over their actions. They might have been bought off, or co-conspirators or just loyal friends.

Probability is not an explanation for what happens. At best it is a superficial description. The best explanation for why the universe exists is that it was created by a rational, all powerful Being we call God.

What is the probability that 2 + 2 = 5? Chance does exist, but probabilities do not govern the universe. Rational laws determined and carried out by a rational Being does. I am not really concerned as to whether my existence is probable or not. All I am concerned about is the quality of my life and how I use it since I and others do exist.

We don’t need a multiverse to explain a rational universe. We need Occam’s razor. At one time people were complaining that God created the whole universe just so humans could exist. Now they are saying that “nature” created billions of universes so we can exist and find that reasonable.

The fact is meaning and purpose in a rational universe is the only way humans can exist as human beings which means to be rational with meaningful and purposeful lives. Life is not life if it is not worth living.

(Only Lal) #13


In the firing squad scenario, there are only 2 possibilities - either you die or you survive. With a 100 shooters aiming at you, the odds of dying are far, far greater than surviving. Therefore surviving this ordeal would be an absolutely special event that demands an explanation.

However, in the ancestor scenario, the possibilities are virtually limitless. You are just one among countless humans who could have come into existence. Therefore, as remarkable a person as you might be, your existence is not a miraculous occurrence.

When it comes to the universe, we know that the constants could have assumed a limitless number of other values spawning any of countless other universes. So this is not like the firing squad case, it’s more like the ancestor case.

“it seems like life shouldn’t exist, and the fact that it does needs explaining.”

Only if you assume that life-as-we-know-it is a miraculous phenomenon. If the constants are slightly different, then life-as-we-know-it may not exist, but some other kind of life or some other more special phenomenon could come into existence, given the limitless possible outcomes. There’s no need to invoke a multiverse.


@Wayne, I believe James is trying to make the case for the existence of a multiverse—which in my opinion is the only logical conclusion that makes any sense. All this discussion and these examples about odds and probabilities have set up conditions to either make or break the case for a multiverse. If we are going to discuss slightly different constants, special phenomena, and limitless possible outcomes, the multiverse must be invoked to account for the variation.

If there is only one beginning (big bang) and only one universe (this one) which came into existence, then where did the energy and matter come from for its creation? There seems to be only two possible alternatives; we would either have to conclude that someone or something created the energy and matter from nothing (ex nihilo), or rather, that energy and matter exists eternally, which suggests that no one, or no thing, is required to create the energy and matter.

The first scenario does not hold up to scrutiny because we would then have to ask—who or what created the someone or something that created the energy and matter for the creation of the universe?—This would obviously develop into an infinite regress. Or, we would have to conclude that someone or something exists eternally. If we claim it is someone (God), who exists eternally, we then have to ask—what did he do all alone for all eternity before creating the universe? But then again… this is not logical! All alone for all eternity, means all alone for all eternity—no beginning and no ending of being all alone. Why are we here then? This also applies for a group of gods—if they exist all alone, for all eternity, that means they exist all alone for all eternity. Similarly, we should not be here! Alternatively, if “nothing” exists eternally, then nothing would have come into existence—But here we are!

On the other hand, the second scenario meets the bill. If energy and matter exist eternally, and, endlessly shape-shift and recycle, then, forms and life can come into and out of existence because the energy and matter to develop and transform them is there.

This argument is intellectually sound because nothing can come from “nothing,” but, something can come from “something.” If the energy and matter of the universe can continually expand and contract into sequential universes, and through their precession exist and incrementally last longer in duration, then sequential universes will have a different fine tuning, and will have different cosmological constants which can produce endless and all circumstances, conditions, combinations, and variations where life can eventually arise. These considerations explain well why the universe is fine tuned for life and why we are here!

The video from the link I posted above claims that, “for reasons having to do with entropy and the second law of thermodynamics, the process of an ever cycling universe, one that continually expands and contracts, cannot be perfectly efficient. This means that each successive expansion will take a little longer than the previous one. If each previous universe is, say, half as long as the one that succeeds it, and the one before half as long, this infinite sum does eventually converge to a universe with zero length and no obvious past, and we are back again to at least one big bang starting for no obvious reason.” However, this conclusion is false! The infinite sum does not eventually converge to a universe with zero length and no obvious past—At the critical point of instability the cycle of cycles would readjust its calibration and begin its cycles from the top all over again.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #15

@Wayne, how do we know this?

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #16

As a follow up on my previous question,

If Reality is truly unlimited, then then it is true that everything is possible, and Reality has no rational form.

As far a I can tell this is not true. Where is your evidence?

(Brad Kramer) #17

I moved 14 posts to a new topic: Panentheism vs. Classical Theism

Panentheism vs. Theism
Panentheism vs. Theism
(Roger A. Sawtelle) #19

Since we have come far afield since this topic began, let me restate it, just incase others want to comment.

It has been established and accepted by most scientists that life is made possible on earth because a number of precise physical constants exist in our universe.

This being true, is this fact evidence that our universe was created for the purpose of the creation of life or not? I should be noted that the concept behind this anthropic view does not say that there can not be life or human life as we know it in other parts of our universe.

Teleology affirms the meaning and purpose of reality and it says yes. People who oppose teleology like Wayne say no.

Panentheism vs. Theism

Well, why not… here’s my comment. The precise physical constants indicate God is a God of order and not disorder. Our earth was created for the purpose of sustaining life - there is no doubt about that. But when we think of the entire universe, we could argue that the absence of a number of stars would not impact life. Maybe that’s wrong, but that’s how it seems to me at present. So in that sense, the universe is created in order to glorify God; it has a bigger purpose than just to sustain life. We as people can see the glory of God in the universe, and we can give God joy in his creation, in our acknowledgement of it.