Theists will answer this in negative, because for them, life is up for specific fine tuning while this post is not. But why? What makes life more significant than this post? What makes life more improbable or more fine tuned than this post? With that in hand, let’s look at a theistic critique of one of my earlier articles against the fine-tuning argument.
As you may recall, my objection was that mere improbability doesn’t suggest any design since any possible set of cosmological constants would be equally improbable. For us to conclude that life is fine tuned, we have to assume that a life-permitting universe is somehow more significant than the other possible universes, but the assumption that life is special seems baseless. The public link of the critique is here. Sadly, this response seemed unworthy of a feature, so I responded to this critique through a Facebook post. Here is my first response;
“The first objection the author raises implies that he’s citing Sean Carroll.”
I just quoted him to give him the credit for calling the fine-tuning argument the best among the theistic arguments, that doesn’t imply that I am gonna use his arguments. In fact, by ‘here’s why’, I meant that I will be giving reasons for why the argument can be called terrible. I gave just one reason, intentionally, to make it more easy to refute for theists.
“The FT argument doesn’t say the universe we have is special simply by virtue of being one of a large range of possibilities. If that were the case, the author’s rebuttal would be sound. But that’s not what the FT argument says. Rather, it says the universe is special by virtue of conforming to an independently specified pattern for sustaining life.”
I am not convinced that this settles the matter. The objection can be further developed, the emergence of each specified pattern is equally improbable. Thus, whatever pattern comes, it will be equally improbable. Therefore, mere improbability of a specified pattern does not and should not beg God as an explanation.
Say, I have a possible set of constants, C. C allows an unique element to exist, let’s say a gas that does not vanish at 0 Kelvin of temperature, a gas called Antikrousium. We have the possible universe U with C containing antikrousium everywhere. Any set of constants other than C are not going to permit Antikrousium. If this universe existed, would this mean that some designer fine-tuned this universe for Antikrousium? Do these conditions, on their own, beg a designer as an explanation? I think not, and I don’t think any serious epistemologist will think that these conditions(Antikrousium is unique in on itself, only C allows it to exist, U exists containing both C and Antikrousium) are enough to build up a proper justification. Then why does U not beg a designer but our universe does?
The question must come, ‘Yeah, Antikrousium exists, so what? Nothing special”, but life is special and that’s why it begs a designer, the speciality of life makes this mere improbability of the existence of a set of constants to appear fine tuned. This assumption is the thing upon which the whole of the argument rests, and somebody is yet to prove it.
“Let’s use the author’s own analogy to demonstrate this: Imagine the same deck of cards, and a random card being pulled from the deck each time. Is each card pull finely-tuned? No. Now let’s add something to this story. Let’s say there’s someone sitting in a room in Mozambique with no access or knowledge of our card game at all. And he correctly predicts every single one of the cards pulled.”
I don’t see any relevance of this analogy, predictions are ruled out of the equation of an analogy because the predictor, the intelligence, is exactly the thing in question! This analogy is not only irrelevant, but even if it was relevant, it would beg the question. The precision and coherence of the constants is not a surprising at all, since we exist, we know by default, that the constants will be consistent with our existence. The only potentially surprising factor would be the improbability and the speciality of life, yet I don’t see any reason to believe that they are actually surprising.
“Suffice to say, he’s wrong. Life is in a category all on its own. Life is mindbogglingly complex and organized in ways non-life cannot hope to be. The author’s denial of the unique features of life is akin to denying that a sentence in English is uniquely meaningful among other randomly generated strings of letters.”
Although I am in no way convinced that complexity and organization alone can make a case for a creator, for I do not see how a rock is ‘less’ complex than a leaf without by some subjective evaluation processes. Regardless, the organization and complexity of life can be beautifully explained by evolution via natural selection over millions of years, which is a completely natural process as is the consensus. So, when we rule out all that explainable complexity, or rather emergent complexities(I hope that you know what ’emergent properties’ are); we come to rather simple life forms like, say, a single cell. There are even natural explanations for how they formed naturally, although they are not experimentally verified. But experimental verification is a problem for science, experimental verification is a process by which a hypothesis qualifies as a theory; it is no problem for metaphysics or philosophy. While natural genesis stories are not qualified as established science, they are qualified as coherent explanations or possible explanations. If that passes, the distinction between non-life from life becomes an emergent or arbitrary distinction with no objective value.
If a random strings of letter could be shown to give rise to meaningful English words, then the emergence of any one of them over the other would not surprise anybody. In fact, it isn’t. The semantic meaning of a string of letters is arbitrarily attributed. If there were no humans, then the symbol ‘God’ would not have been more meaningful than ‘Odg’. We should not form arguments about objective things based of subjectively valid premises.
In conclusion, this defense of the teleological argument appears to be weak. I didn’t find it worthy to be responded in my blog, it can be easily refuted. Although I will try object to Plantinga’s Poker equivocation in more detail later.
She further criticized my response through updating same document (it is included in the original document I linked). We will look if it qualifies as a sound critique of my objections. Let’s see.
Now, I have made it very clear that I do not see ‘life’ as a very special thing. Also, I do not think that mere complexity calls for a designer. It seems that she misunderstands my position when she writes;
He offers the following:
“I do not see how a rock is ‘less’ complex than a leaf without by some subjective evaluation processes.”
Should we believe this? Should we believe that a phenomena that depends, necessarily, on subjective evaluation doesn’t cry out for explanation? That’s clearly absurd. It cripples science and all our scientific endeavors. It’s a ridiculously high price to pay for avoiding the reality of fine-tuning. Clearly nobody, not even Rounaq, can sustain the implications of such a view. As he himself admits the need for explanation of subjectively evaluated features: “the organization and complexity of life can be beautifully explained by evolution via natural selection over millions of years, which is a completely natural process as is the consensus.”
This is a straight-up a strawman. I don’t remember claiming that nothing cries out for an explanation, I said nothing cries out for significance only by complexity. Of course, almost everything contingent cries out for an explanation, but the question is not always fine-tuning, the question is ‘How it came to be’ not ‘Why is it fine tuning?’. In that way, every possible universe would have needed an explanation, but not by uniqueness, not by the ‘fine-tuned’ constants, not by design, but just for being contingent, it would require a scientific or philosophical explanation. Evolution explains how the species came to be, evolution (or any other scientific theory) doesn’t explain why life is fine tuned.
The fine tuning argument only works if life is significant. Otherwise the ‘Antikrosium’ in my first objection would also require fine tuning.
The second objection is very much superficial. I merely question what would ‘fine tuning’ mean. As I said, every independent pattern would have been equally improbable. Does that mean correspondence to each pattern would require fine tuning? If that is the case, every possible universe is ‘fine tuned’, what makes our universe special?
As the third point, she says that I misunderstood her analogy, she writes;
Instead of the man in Mozambique, imagine if there were merely a gust of wind which arranged the sand in such a way that the ridges formed patterns in the sand that looked like writing, and the writing corresponded to a full deck of card pulls.
No agency here. No person. No God for Rounaq to escape. All there is is an independent pattern.
The deck of card pulls and writing constitutes to significance, given that there is no natural wind that likes to play cards, (ii) the deck of cards and languages are known to be designed by humans for a specific purpose.
There is nothing in the appearance of life that constitutes such significance, life doesn’t seem to be special. I don’t know of any difference in significance between a ‘rock’ and ‘leaf’ except some subjectively significant qualities. And that’s where my argument stands and this analogy fails.
I don’t see any sound response to my objections. All the objections the critic has to offer are either based on strawmen, faulty assumptions, flawed analogies and false equivocations.
The success of this particular critique rests on some questions.
Thanks for reading, as always.