Is the universe fine-tuned for life and is this evidence for God?

Sometimes people ask about fine-tuning and I created this overview to just provide links to all of my fine-tuning blogs on CrossExamined.org. I’ll update this as I add to this. I defend this fine-tuning claim which is actually widely accepted in the physics community:

“In the set of possible physical laws, parameters and initial conditions, the subset that permits rational conscious life is very small.”

Of course whether that implies design is more controversial but I defend the case that it does:

Intro/Philosophical Background

If You Don’t Want God, You Better Have a Multiverse!

How Does Fine-Tuning Provide Evidence for God?


Evidence

Fine-Tuning of Initial Conditions to Support Life

Many Changes to the Laws of Physics Would be Life-Prohibiting

Fine-Tuning of the Force Strengths to Permit Life

Fine-Tuning of Particles to Support Life


Objections

Mistaken Objections that Seek to Trivialize Fine-Tuning

Important Objections in the Fine-Tuning Debate

But We Can’t Even Define Life

Coarse-Tuning vs. Fine-Tuning

For a more in-depth defense of the scientific case (and some excellent philosophical points), I highly recommend Cosmologist Luke Barnes:

  • Dr. Barnes has an excellent podcast for popular audiences.
  • Here is the most comprehensive peer-reviewed review article on Fine-Tuning and an excellent rebuttal to Fine-Tuning skeptic Vic Stenger.
  • Barnes has some excellent videos on this topic as well – here is one.
  • Finally here are some excellent blogs by Barnes on this topic.

 

Published by

hainline

I own a small software company and am a graduate student studying science and religion at Biola university. I have a wonderful wife and 4 kids.

2 thoughts on “Is the universe fine-tuned for life and is this evidence for God?”

  1. In the set of possible physical laws, parameters and initial conditions, the subset that permits rational conscious life is very small.

    In the set of possible physical laws, parameters and initial conditions, the subset that permits Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is very small.

    In the set of possible physical laws, parameters and initial conditions, the subset that permits lakes of methane is very small.

    In the set of possible physical laws, parameters and initial conditions, the subset that permits quintuple star systems is very small.

    There exists an incredibly large number of things which could not exist if the physics of the universe was significantly different. Quite a number of these seem to be even rarer than life, on our current understanding. Why, then, should we presume that the universe is finely-tuned for life– or any other individual phenomenon, for that matter?

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    1. Sometimes we can find evidence from improbable events and sometimes it’s inappropriate. For example, in the set of possible continental shapes, the set that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle we very small. We take this as evidence for continental drift and that there once existed a unified continent. DNA similarities are often deemed evidence for common ancestry over the alternative hypothesis that unrelated species just happened to have experience the same mutations that were preserved by natural selection.
      How do we know which case we’re in? Bayes Theorem is an excellent guide – data is taken as evidence supporting a theory if it’s more likely on that theory than alternatives. Many people think it’s not too unlikely that God, if he exists, would want a universe with life. There is no comparable expectation on atheism that could favor certain parameter values because they permit life. When skeptics argue against God on the basis of evil in the world it’s a tacit admission that God should favor life.
      The physics that permits Jupiter’s Red Spot is undoubtedly rare but what non-ad hoc hypothesis could one offer that would make this more likely? One can always dream up a hypothesis such as there is a Fine-Tuner who loves Red Spots. But the prior probability is penalized by such ad hoc-ness – there is no a priori reason to expect such a being to love Red over Green, or to love spots over other shapes etc.
      I think we have in the fine-tuning data, what Oxford Philosopher Peter Millican, an atheist, conceded in his debate with William Lane Craig: “I would concede .. that if there is an inexplicable coincidence in the fundamental constants of nature whose values have to be precisely-tuned within a wide range of otherwise available possibilities that would make a complex universe possible then this constitutes a phenomenon that very naturally invites explanation in terms of a cosmic scale designer.”

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