No evidence needed

If you ever doubt that atheists can be as blind-faith-driven as they claim Christians are, just ask them to justify their assumptions.

This is part of the ongoing discussion I’m having with this particular atheist over the fine tuning argument. See here for background.

There are only three possible explanations for why the universe is so finely tuned as to permit the existence of complex, intelligent life: necessity, chance, or design. Necessity means that there are physical laws requiring the universe to take on the very precise values for things like the physical constants. Chance means the universe won a very, very lucky roll of the dice and just happened to land upon the precise values for things like the physical constants. Design means someone/something deliberately chose the precise values for things like the physical constants. Note that these aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. However, once you have ruled out one, you can only consider the other two.

The problem for JW is that there is no physical theory that anyone is aware of that requires the universe to take on the very precise values for things like the physical constants that we measure. JW asked for an example, and I gave him the density of dark energy. Dark energy is a mysterious form of energy in the universe, causing it to accelerate in its expansion. The Standard Model, the name given to the theory of particle physics, predicts that dark energy could have a range of about 10115 GeV/cm3. That’s a 1 with 115 zeroes after it. At the risk of understatement, that’s an enormous range. If the density of dark energy was a bit more than what it is, the universe would’ve expanded too rapidly and no stars could form. If it was a bit less, the universe would’ve collapsed on itself before life could emerge. And yet the density of dark energy is precisely the “right” value for life to emerge. This is why the fine tuning argument is such a focal point for debate.

What we’re left with is chance or design, and thus the argument boils down to multiverse or God. JW seems to think most physicists are “mad” for holding to this very logical conclusion, and steadfastly refuses to accept it. Ironically, he clings to his belief in exactly the same manner many atheists accuse Christians of clinging to their belief.

7 thoughts on “No evidence needed

  1. Unless I’m mistaken, the multiverse theory also has no evidence for it. Besides, all that does is push the problem up the stack; now we need some unknown process that, either by accident or design, goes about creating other universes.

  2. Yep, pretty much.

    JW rejected chance, so I didn’t need to get into that with him. But he’s painted himself into a corner where design is the only option, which, of course, he also rejects. So, he has to cling to necessity, even though there is no evidence for it. That’s a real atheist dilemma!

  3. Sarah, I am re-reading the Improbability Principle by David Hand (emeritus professor of mathematics at Imperial College of London).The book outlines how highly improbable events occur all the time such as the same 6 numbers in a lottery being picked a few days apart. The odds are huge for that and shouldn’t happen but it has happened several times (examples were Bulgaria in 2009 and Israel in 2010). When it comes to fine-tuning, Prof. Hand argues that the Law of the Probability Lever comes into play. This law states that a slight change in circumstances can have a huge impact on probabilities.Think of it like a catalyst in a chemical reaction. The FT argument focuses on changing one physical constant at-a-time which then leads to very large odds and hence the conclusion that design is the only viable explanation. Prof. Hand suggests that allowing the constants to be linked such that a small change in one constant causes the right corresponding change in one or more other constants such that the odds for a universe like ours to exist increases dramatically. The probability lever would come into play and allow for many possible universes (multiverse theory). Is there any evidence that some critical physical constants are linked?

  4. Ed, a couple of things. First, Hand’s argument appears to rest on the assumption that the constants can be linked to one another. We can do all sorts of interesting things with math and theory, but the legitimacy of an idea ultimately rests on what the reality is. So, what’s important here is not whether the constants can be linked, but whether they are linked. Offhand, I don’t know the answer to that — it appears to be the subject of ongoing study — but ultimately we must separate can be from is.

    Second, it’s false that the FT argument rests on changing only one constant at a time. This is how it’s often presented in popular level discussions to keep things simple, but the vast majority of scholarly papers that discuss fine-tuning consider an array of constants. Moreover, as astrophysicist, Luke Barnes, points out: Even if fine-tuning calculations varied only one parameter, it wouldn’t follow that fine-tuning is false. Opening up more parameter space in which life can form will also open up more parameter space in which life cannot form. As Richard Dawkins (1986) rightly said: “however many ways there may be of being alive, it is certain that there are vastly more ways of being dead, or rather not alive.” See here for more detail.

  5. After reading the back and forth on Twitter, It looks like Joe is confusing necessity and contingency.

  6. Sarah, thanks for pointing out Luke Barne’s response to FT. I just downloaded his paper and will review his arguments.

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