Fine-Tuning Does Not Imply a Fine Tuner (Nautilus article)

Article is by @Hans.Halvorson, Princeton philosopher and BioLogos Voices member.

Key quote:

“I don’t think we understand God well enough to make firm predictions one way or the other about what kind of universe God would create. The problem I’ve raised is only an issue for theists who think that they do understand God to a sufficient degree.”

I think we could get an interesting discussion going around this article. Please read the entire article before commenting.

Hi Brad, thanks for sharing! I agree with part of @Hans.Halvorson’s sentiment. For example, he says:

“There’s a deep problem lurking in the background of the fine-tuning argument, which rests on two factual claims. One is that a life-conducive universe exists. And the second is that this kind of universe is improbable. It’s the second fact that is responsible for the resurrection of the design argument, and fine-tuning advocates are so focused on using it as a premise that they’ve failed to see that it needs explanation.”

As human beings we have only experienced one “shot” of the gun (our own universe), so we have no way of knowing what was in the other chambers or whether there even were any other chambers to begin with. That makes it impossible for human beings to know for sure what kind of universe is likely or unlikely to exist. It does not matter whether that assessment of likelihood is based on theological or on scientific considerations.

On the other hand, I don’t agree with how Hans uses this revolver analogy to turn fine-tuning into something negative:

"An analogy here might be apt. Suppose that you’re captured by an alien race whose intentions are unclear, and they make you play Russian roulette. Then suppose that you win, and survive the game. If you are convinced by the fine-tuning argument, then you might be tempted to conclude that your captors wanted you to live.

But imagine that you discover the revolver had five of six chambers loaded, and you just happened to pull then trigger on the one empty chamber. The discovery of this second fact doesn’t confirm the benevolence of your captors. It disconfirms it. The most rational conclusion is that your captors were hostile, but you got lucky."

This description has elements of randomness and lack of control which are not applicable to the creative act of an almighty, omniscient God. In any case, minute fine-tuning won’t make the Creator look any worse. For me, fine-tuning is still interesting because it says something about the intricacy of Creation and the apparent fragility of its beautiful complexity (including us). But I do not dare to make any statement on how likely or unlikely this complexity is because we have only a single “experiment” to observe.

I believe we should avoid all appeals to “probability” when we talk about fine-tuning. That would clear up most of the confusion.


Sadly Prof Halvorson and co. are victims of bad thinking.

It reminds me of someone on this who proved that others did not exist, because their existence is extremely unlikely. Of course my existence is extremely unlikely, however my existence is 100% a fact. My existence does not depend upon probabilities, but on facts.

Fine tuning does not create life. Fine tuning makes life possible. Without fine tuning human life would not be possible, even though it is still be improbable.

Human life came into existence because a large number of events took place in precise order within this fine tuned universe. When we look at what happened with 20-20 hindsight we can see what happened and how it worked out. When we try to look at events from the point of the view of the Big Bang it makes no sense.

The proof is in the pudding. This is the evidence of science and theology, not of philosophy. Life is good and meaningful because it is good and meaningful, not because Darwin said it is or is not.

Human life may be improbable, but life is not based on probabilities. Life is based on order and purpose. Life is created by God and guided by God and exists because God created the universe and every aspect of it and made it with the obvious purpose to create life.

The fact is life would not exist if there was not fine tuning, so how can we say that the universe is stacked against the e4rxistence of life. Life would also not exist is of many events did not happen in particular order, so again how can we say that the universe is stacked against life. We cannot.

All we can say is that the life could not exist in a Darwinian unguided universe, which means we do not live in an unguided Darwinian universe. We live in a guided ecological universe, designe4d by God.

The argument - fine tuning=life - is difficult to sustain because it begins with observations of the Universe as “fine tuned” and then without any scientific grounding, proceeds to argue for a beginning of life.

The point made is in this quote: “I myself don’t think that the extreme improbability of the existence of life disproves the existence of God. But that’s because I don’t think we understand God well enough to make firm predictions one way or the other about what kind of universe God would create. The problem I’ve raised is only an issue for theists who think that they do understand God to a sufficient degree.

The scientific argument stems from the necessity that science must accept, in that without constants (such as the charge of an electron, the speed of light, and many other similar constants or givens), we cannot do science. This point is so fundamental that I am surprised people simply ignore it and instead run of speculating about life. We know what we know of the physical world through science - and this knowledge is dependant in no uncertain way on using constants. We need to then argue, why is it so? How can we accept this brute fact of science without explanation? Theists conclude that science shows us a Universe that can only be understood scientifically as this, and only this Universe. From this, I as a scientist conclude that the Universe point to its creator. Any further deductions must turn to Biblical (theological) insights and not depend on futile speculation from a pseud-scientific/theistic synthesis.

Anti-theists understand the strength of these scientific insights and the resulting arguments made by theists, and they instead try to argue for an infinite number of Universes which must differ from this one, and in this way concoct a negation of scientific constants (in another universe, electrons may differ, the speed of light may vary, and so on). They would rather believe that science as we understand it, is unrealiable, as long as this supports their anti-theist position. This is truly irrational, as they turn to science for their beliefs - yet they would negate science if it shows their position is wrong - go figure. :astonished:

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