Implications of Fine Tuning on Creation, Fall and Redemption

(Bill Adams) #1

I’m not sure whether or not this is the correct website to seek out an answer to this question. I’ve been considering the fine tuning argument for the existence of God, and wondering if it can inform our understanding of God’s purpose in Creation, the meaning of the Fall, and a better understanding of Redemption.

Ample evidence has been brought forth to suggest that the universe we live in is uniquely and very improbably suited to support intelligent life on earth. The allowable tolerances of numerous variables are so mind bogglingly small that it seems fair to say intelligent life would not have evolved on earth if the universe had not been specifically designed to allow for it. In other words, there is no chance that chance got us here.

If we extend that same level of care and attention to the design and creation of humanity, it seems we can infer something about God’s purpose in making us. It’s well accepted that God created humans with the ability to think and to exercise free will. It’s also generally agreed that God created humans to worship him, but that he did not want automatons singing preprogrammed hymns. He wanted thoughtful creatures who would pursue him with their hearts and minds.

Whether or not Adam and Eve were literal humans, or represented our race in its natal condition, the Bible does assign them certain characteristics before the fall. The first is the ability to reason as exemplified by Eve’s considering the benefits of eating the forbidden fruit. The other is sensual experience, as exemplified by her desire for tasty food. I believe it’s safe to say that God created humanity with these qualities and they are not a result of the fall.

God then does something very interesting. He commands Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But increasing knowledge, especially of good and evil, is the one thing that they would have desired most as sentient beings. Why did God forbid it? I believe there is a fair amount of evidence that demonstrates the effect this kind of command has on one’s ability to resist the temptation. Left to their own devices, Adam and Eve would very likely have persuaded themselves to eat the fruit. But God did not leave them to their own devices. He allowed Satan to enter the garden and persuade them to eat the fruit. As I said, I think they would have done so anyway, but it seems God did not want to leave anything to chance.

I don’t believe God wants automatons to worship him. I also don’t believe he wants people to worship him at gunpoint. Either of those conditions would be demeaning to a good and intelligent being. The only way people could ultimately come to worship him properly is to first reject him. It seems to me that for the last few hundred years humans have started to develop into the creatures that God intended us to be. As we reject authoritarian sources of knowledge, and subject our own beliefs and theories to critique, we may finally become the creatures that God desires to have fellowship with. It’s not through blind obedience that we can worship God perfectly. On the contrary, when we tell God that we disagree with him, the effort to explain why will give us a better understanding of him. As we better understand him, we can better worship him.

I’ve become persuaded that the only way to better understand the truth is to conjecture ideas and explanations, and allow others to vigorously (but graciously) attack them. With that in mind, I’d love to read your critiques of this position. If you disagree with the conclusion, I’d like to know how you reconcile the initial assumptions, namely, that mankind’s rejection of God in the fall was not a result of chance, or free will gone awry, but clearly part of our design.

If it turns out this topic is not appropriate for this forum, I hope I haven’t offended anyone. If the moderator could point me in the right direction to pursue this conversation elsewhere I would greatly appreciate it.

(Laura) #2

Hi Bill,
Welcome to the forum! Your thoughts here seem quite in line with the discussion topics of this forum – faith and science, and how they interact. I think you raise some interesting questions here. The fine-tuning argument has been discussed here, with some for it and some against, but I’m not one of those who’s investigated it enough to have much of an opinion. Still, I’m interested in your theological ideas here. Just to clarify, are you suggesting that God’s command to Adam and Eve to not eat of the fruit had something of an ulterior motive behind it? As in, his purpose was something different than to simply teach them to offer him complete obedience even in the face of temptation?

(Christy Hemphill) #3

Hi, welcome to the forum. Lots to discuss in your post.

I just wanted a little clarification on this point. Are you only referring to the humans that live in industrialized, developed nations here? Large parts of the world outside of cities still live like (for a large part) their ancestors before them have lived for thousands of years. If the “first world” humans are the only ones on God’s true path for humanity, that would seem a bit problematic and ethnocentric/culturally biased to me.

(Phil) #4

First, welcome to our little corner of the internet. These questions you pose are both interesting and profound. I’ll skip over the fine tuning discussion at present as this statement caught my eye, and is fertile ground. Indeed, I can see your point, and in my mind is one of the big problems with a literalist historical reading of the story. It would seem that God set them up for failure and they never had a chance. If you are accept Adam as created as an adult, you have to also say God programmed his intellect, his moral structure, his ethics andbehavioral characteristics as well as his physical body. Therefore, it would make God responsible for their sin. That of course is not consistent with a just and holy God. And, that in part is why I reject that view and interpretation.

How then do we have an Adam and Eve who are responsible for their actions, and whose sin is their own? Perhaps it is that they were created through a process of growth and development, until their understanding and knowledge made them responsible for their actions. We do not hold a two year old responsible when they eat the cookies on the table and lie about it, but we may assign more of a burden of responsibility when they are 10, and yet more when they are 18. I tend to see the story in the garden as more metaphor and its meaning more about growing and struggling with our inner desires,and moving from innocence of childhood to being responsible and facing the consequence of our actions and sin as a functional adult. though do not exclude the possibility of two individuals who lived this experience in a concrete way.
I’ll stop there. Does that address at least part of your topic of discussion? What do you think?

(Bill Adams) #5

HI Elle, thanks for the reply. Yes, I think you could fairly say that I’m suggesting there was an ulterior motive in God’s command to not eat the fruit. For one thing, I can’t wrap my mind around the idea that complete (uncritical) obedience is something any intelligent being would want from other intelligent beings it wants to interact with. If complete obedience is what’s desired, then presumably it would be easy to create something that would provide it. But by building intelligence and desire into our framework, I think we can infer that God had something bigger in mind.

(Bill Adams) #6

Hi Christy, thanks for responding. You’re concerns about ethnocentricity are very reasonable as it’s a problem that plagues almost everyone. You’re right to point out that the industrialized west is where we currently see the greatest adoption of the enlightenment values of knowledge creation through conjecture and criticism. However, I see no evidence that this is necessarily unique to western culture and very well may be more widely adopted by other cultures in the future. In fact, I find it quite disconcerting that so many western institutions of higher education seem to be rejecting those principles, so the shift may come sooner rather than later.

Like confirmation bias, it’s difficult to spot ethnocentricity in oneself, so I’m grateful for your effort to try and root it out. I’m trying to say that the pursuit of truth through conjecture and criticism is not culturally bound. However, I do believe that cultures that have not adopted it, but maintain authoritarian systems of knowledge control, are inhibiting the fullness of human experience for their people. I think people everywhere should be free to exercise critical thought without fear of oppression. In my opinion, there is a difference between ethnocentricity and saying one form of government or education is better than another. I don’t think you can deny the latter and maintain a belief in objective truth.

(Bill Adams) #7

This is the problem I am addressing. You seem to say in the next paragraph that if Adam and Eve developed their intellect, moral structure, ethics, and behavioral characteristics “naturally” rather than having them placed their directly by God, then we avoid the dilemma and God is off the hook. But I don’t honestly see the difference (possibly I’m misunderstanding you).

The point I’m making is that this dilemma only persists if God is actually looking for complete and uncritical obedience. And that is the conclusion that I don’t think is supported by the evidence. I’m aware of no experience where a good and intelligent person would want that from anyone, except in the name of expedience, but God has no such interest (I presume). The only way to create an opportunity for critical thinking is to provide something to be criticized, in this case, a rule prohibiting the consumption of certain fruit.

One of the greatest qualities about the form of critical thought I’m advocating is its inherent humility. It’s starting point is the recognition that the knowledge we hold is flawed, but that the best way to make it less flawed is to subject it to criticism. I would actually flip your analogy of moral development on its head. When my children were two years old, they had little ability to challenge my ideas of right or wrong, though they would try to thwart them on occasion. As they grew they could better question my ideas, though still not very well, and generally lost the argument. Now that they are young adults I find that they challenge my ideas in ways that are sometimes frustrating, but at a deeper level very satisfying because I can see they are thinking for themselves. This is what I pray God wants us to develop into. If he’s really just looking for people to give him complete and uncritical obedience, I will be terribly disappointed.

(Phil) #8

I am not satisfied either, just thinking through it. However, it seems that God is pleased with seeing growth and development. He planted the garden, he nurtured the seed of Abraham over the ages, and so forth. Perhaps he is looking in Adam (and us) for spiritual maturity to develop.

(Anthony R. Guthry) #9

I don’t find the fine tuning argument convincing for the following reasons:

  1. If you change constants in the equations that govern the laws of nature, even slightly, it is true that the Universe will change a lot. However, there is no justification for the claim that life couldn’t exist in all Universes that are different to ours. This is because nobody yet knows the full range of conditions under which life can exist.

  2. Your question implies that God is somehow restricted in the sense that if he wanted to create life like ours in a Universe, then the range of constants that he could choose from was limited to a narrow range. Being omnipotent, God could create life in any Universe, no matter what the laws of nature in that Universe are.

  3. We can’t say anything about the likelihood of a Universe such as ours (with our physical constants) coming into existence, because we only have a sample of size one. This is analogous to taking out a red ball from a bag of different colored balls (colors and numbers unknown) and then trying to estimate the likelihood of drawing a red ball.

  4. It is possible that an infinite number of universes may be popping into existence within some larger Multiverse, with each Universe having random physical laws and constants. If this is true, one would eventually get a Universe with our laws and constants by pure chance.

(David Heddle) #10

Hi Bill, and welcome:

As much as many of us want this to be manifestly true, it isn’t. An improbable universe is precisely what multiverse theories “predict.” (More like “are consistent with” but predict is close enough.) And let’s be clear on what the evidence suggests. What fine-tuning suggests is that if you change our constants by a small amount then our universe would quickly become uninhabitable. It does not say that our happy situation is necessarily unique. There could be sets of constants (not close to ours, but rather quite different) that lead to habitable universes. Nobody really knows because modeling how a totally different universe with different constants would evolve is a technology in its infancy, in my opinion.

I know I said this a million times (but I going to say it again, anyway!) but if you really want prima facie evidence for design, it is not fine-tuning plus low probability. It is fine-tuning plus high (unit) probability. If there were a theory that said the constants had no “choice”, and yet our universe is fine-tuned–well then you have habitability immune from the multiverse anthropic/large number explanation and habitability woven into the fabric of space-time. You’d have something that would be quite difficult to ignore.

Edit: typos

(Bill Adams) #11

(I’m not sure if I’m supposed to reply to everyone individually or in a single reply. The helpful little guide popped up earlier and told me I was writing too many individual replies. If there’s a preferred style, let me know)

Phil - Yes, I agree 100%. My position here is that to mature and develop we must be free to criticize. I can’t imagine a good, intelligent (not to mention omnipotent) being that would be offended by that.

Anthony & David,

My main point of concern here is to determine why God made people. I’m using the fine tuning argument as the backdrop because I think it helps us to evaluate humanity’s moral and intellectual condition prior to the fall. I’m willing to concede that the fine tuning argument may be parochial to our universe, but I don’t think that impacts my main concern (If you believe it does, please elaborate). If in the context of a multiverse it turns out intelligent life is not uncommon, we still have to consider the purpose of the designer. Obviously one can argue that there is no designer, but the goal of my argument is to infer his purpose assuming he exists.

So, regardless of the specifics of fine tuning in terms of an argument for design, if we start with the assumption that the universe, or the multiverse, was designed, can we also assume that a great deal of care went into that design? By care, I do not mean determinism as applied to free will (determinism as applied to physics I believe is a given). If we agree on that, then the carefully designed multiverse produced intellectual and moral agents that can make predictions about the world they live in and conjecture ideas about how to best live in it. We know that those ideas will be flawed, so the next question is how do they make those ideas less flawed? The traditional answer from religion is that only through revelation can we understand the truth. I completely disagree with that. Adam and Eve may have known the rule to not eat the fruit, but they would not have understood it (and clearly did not) unless they criticized it. I believe the only way intelligent moral agents can grow in knowledge is through the process of conjecture and criticism.

In this case, revelation is just another form of conjecture. I think ultimately we’d all agree on that anyway. How else do we explain the numerous differences in theological opinion just within Christianity? We may say that revelation is divine, but it’s the interpretation of revelation (conjectured explanation) that really matters for us, and that is a distinctly human activity.

So the explanation for the fall that I am conjecturing is that it was actually part of God’s original design for us. Only when humans took the first step to criticize what they held to be true could they start on the path to grow morally and intellectually. As such, it would even be reasonable to conjecture that God allowed a great deal of time for Adam and Eve to take the step of criticizing his rule on their own but they never did. Perhaps the explanation for why Satan was allowed in the garden (which is a tremendous mystery otherwise) was to give them a little nudge in the right direction.

(Laura) #12

I think I can understand what you’re saying, and I think I partly agree that God must have given us agency and intelligence for a reason. Though there have been plenty of intelligent human beings (dictators, tyrants) who have demanded uncritical obedience from their subjects, and have seen it as a sign of power. Granted, perhaps they really wanted more than that, but that has still been the way of the world. I suppose it’s different when love is involved. If you really want someone to love you, then their uncritical obedience will not fulfill that desire. Still, the theme of obedience carries through the entire Bible. Jesus says “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23). But I would agree that mere obedience (as in simple duty fulfillment) is not enough by itself.