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What Do You Think of the Fine-Tuning Argument for God?

FineTuning

NOTE: We recently kicked off a new series of posts on popular arguments for God. Each post lays out the argument and is followed by open-ended discussion. The goal is not to offer a thorough defense or refutation of the argument in the original post, but to unpack it together, as a community, in the comment boxes. So far we've covered Alvin Plantinga's modal ontological argument for God, the Kalam cosmological argument, and the moral argument for God. Today, we'll look at the argument from fine-tuning.


 

Most scientists agree that the universe seems fine-tuned for life. Fundamental constants such as the speed of light, the gravitational constant, and Planck's constant seem so precisely adjusted, that even a minuscule variance in one of the them would throw off the whole universe and make life impossible—not just human life, life of any kind.

As Stephen Hawking, the atheist cosmologist, admits, "The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life."

Paul Davies, an agnostic physicist, agrees, saying, "There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all...it seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the universe. The impression of design is overwhelming."

So what best explains this "fine-tuning" of the universe? Are these fundamental values necessary (i.e., they can't be anything other than what they are)? Are they arbitrary and set by chance? Or were they precisely ordered by some force or designer outside of the universe?

That question is central to the fine-tuning argument for God. Here's a brief video from William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith ministry that sums it up:

The video presents the argument like this:

Premise 1: The fine-tuning of the universe is due either to necessity, chance, or design.
Premise 2: The fine-tuning of the universe is not due to necessity.
Premise 3: The fine-tuning of the universe is not due to chance.
Conclusion: Therefore, the fine-tuning of the universe is due to a designer.

From this we can infer that this designer must be a transcendent, supremely intelligent creator of the cosmos. That obviously doesn't prove the fullness of God, as understood by Catholics and other Christians, but it does reveal a huge slice of him—a slice far too big for any content atheist or agnostic.

So what do you think? Is the fine-tuning argument a sound proof for God? If not, how does it fail?

 
 
(Image credit: Reasonable Faith)

Brandon Vogt

Written by

Brandon Vogt is a bestselling author, blogger, and speaker. He's also the founder of StrangeNotions.com. Brandon has been featured by several media outlets including NPR, CBS, FoxNews, SiriusXM, and EWTN. He converted to Catholicism in 2008, and since then has released several books, including The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011), Saints and Social Justice (Our Sunday Visitor, 2014), and RETURN (Numinous Books, 2015). He works as the Content Director for Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Brandon lives with his wife, Kathleen, and their five children in Central Florida. Follow him at BrandonVogt.com or connect through Twitter at @BrandonVogt.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Lazarus

    The fine tuning argument (like I suppose natural theology in general) seems to have lost some of its popularity, but personally I would agree that it remains a powerful argument as a point of departure for theism. Of course, like with all other arguments for God, it leaves enough wriggle room for a dignified retreat from a specifically theistic conclusion.

  • David

    I think like every other argument for god you have presented that it stinks.

    • Thanks for the cogent and thoughtful reply, David.

      • David

        You get the comments you deserve.

        • Aquinasbot

          I think we can all agree that you add nothing to the conversation and only prove that you're incapable or otherwise unwilling to engage with the argument for your own reasons. Perhaps it is because you find the argument compelling, so it is easier to say that "it sticks" or you cannot actually, for some intellectual reason, engage in the argument. If it is for the former, then I say don't hide behind what you feel. If it is for the latter, I would say that you should be humble enough to ask for help. )

          • Sample1

            I don't know David's history, but all he is doing is expressing his opinion that something stinks (to him). It comes off as eminently honest, doesn't it?

            And his second comment parallels Yahweh in Galatians 6:7 ...a man reaps what he sows.

            So while it's a short sentence from him, it's full of depth if one chooses to explore it that way. That's talented and valuable in my book. ;-)

            Mike

          • The expression of a subjective opinion with zero rational argument to back it up constitutes an attempt to influence people's opinions in irrational (or at best: arational) ways. Do you think the world would be better if more people were to act in this way? Your defense of @disqus_5awttg0X5r:disqus would seem to press in this direction.

          • Sample1

            The expression of a subjective opinion with zero rational argument to back it up.

            Is that what David is doing? How do you know this?

            Mike

          • I deem it a highly likely intention given his two comments, the general cultures on SN, and the reigning philosophical paradigms in modernity.

            You're welcome to provide a more likely counterexplanation. If you fail to do this, I am disinclined to give you a more articulate version of why I surmised what I did.

          • Sample1

            Another factor you should consider (if you already haven't though you don't show that you have) is that I could very well be wrong. Further, without David's continued input, what we have are two people speculating.

            If I recall, you have a history of focusing on single data points. Without further input from David, I am not inclined to speculate further.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • It is curious that you say I have a history of focusing on single data points (with zero evidence to back it up) when in this very case, I explicitly mentioned two, and am in fact basing my thoughts on even more data points (more of David's commenting history + general observations about atheists who post on blogs like this one).

            To conclude, I find it fascinating that so far, neither you nor @disqus_5awttg0X5r:disqus has been clear about his intentions. It is as if this is intentional. To be clear would be to cogently argue, which is the antithesis to irrational and arational commenting. You can have implicit impacts on people while disavowing that you necessarily intended them. I personally have grown tired of this plausible deniability, and thus call it out in one form or another.

          • Sample1

            Nice try. I have zero interest in your experiences. I didn't ask about them, you engaged me about someone else. And I find it odd now, honestly, that you commit the very thing you say you've grown tired of: plausible deniability. I mentioned you have a history of single data point focus (a fact on the other site from which you were banned) and you say, "but I explicitly mentioned two."

            This is sloppy, even for you.

            If you want to make this about you, your interests, I'm afraid you'll have to find another interlocutor for that discussion.

            Been there, done that. I'll let you have the last word.

            Mike
            Awesome sauce added.

        • D Blyth

          Brandon was being kind even if you did not deserve it.

        • diggit03

          I think you're rude.

  • Tri-omni god could sustain life in any possible universe, it doesn't need to "fine-tune;" while on naturalism, a life-permitting universe is the only option for us to be here to ask the question. Furthermore, I've never seen what the range of possible values for these constants could be, what other combinations are epistemically possible, and what, if any, dependencies they may have upon each other. (I'll gladly take correction from a qualified cosmologist on any of those last points, they represent my best understanding of the current state of the science.)

    • Darren

      SattaMassagana wrote,

      Tri-omni god could sustain life in any possible universe, it doesn't need to "fine-tune;"

      Well said!

      • diggit03

        It could, but it probably wouldn't be human life.

    • VicqRuiz

      Absolutely correct.....A universe in which life mysteriously prevailed despite physical constants which worked against it would be a far more compelling argument for the intervention of a benign deity.

      • Darren

        Lego Movie world.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        A world characterized only by surprise and incomprehensibility would not be consistent with a loving God who wanted to be known. On the other hand, a world characterized only by clockwork order would not be consistent with a living and active God. A world that consisted of both order and surprise (within the context of order) would be consistent with an intelligible and living God.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          I don't think I could tell you the type of world a perfect being would create. I don't think it is this world, but a world that is universally hostile to life would seem rather absurd to me as well.

          In the end, there are certain things in our universe that are so amazing that they seem to have a Divine origin. it might be art, music, acts of kindness, nature, mathematics, truth or something else, and in ordinary words we would describe these things as beautiful, good, inspiring, or nearly perfect. Sometimes these experiences are so intense that they are almost Divine. There are perhaps accompanying feelings of being loved or accepted.

          When I was a theist, if asked why I believed in God, I would have said subjective experiences. (If you asked me why I was Catholic you would get a bleaker answer.) Any attempts to prove God seemed doomed for failure.

          Now, as an atheist, I still see a divine quality in nature, music, friendship, etc, but it is metaphorical rather than literal.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Now, as an atheist, I still see a divine quality in nature, music, friendship, etc, but it is metaphorical rather than literal.

            This is an intriguing statement. So, you would perhaps say that the language of divinity is useful for describing our experiences, but ... but what? Perhaps the language is imperfect because it has certain connotations that we reject? Or is it more fundamentally that any human language is inadequate to fully capture what we are referring to? Surely, in any case, the experience itself is real, right? I ask because, any good theist should admit that all our language about God is inadequate, so I have trouble distinguishing the way that you are using the phrase "divine quality" from the way that I would use the phrase.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't think we are using the phrase any differently. I think the difference is in interpretation. We both see, feel, acknowledge, and experience a certain transcendent quality in certain human experiences. I hope I'm not putting words in your mouth, but you would see these experiences as part of a greater tapestry that reveals a real Divinity behind it. I on the other hand, see it as language to describe experiences that seem unexpected in a naturalistic framework. Perhaps it would be more correct if I say that these experiences are somehow grander than the universe.

            Our culture has been religious since it first started, so perhaps I am handcuffed to religious language in an attempt to capture or explain the experiences.

            There are various reasons why these experiences don't make me believe in God, but most prominent is the experience of the opposite. Of things that are truly horrific.

            I think the problem with using analogous language to describe God is that it forces us into an agnosticism on the subject. When in general, religions make strong claims about God, which is something that I used to complain about when I was religious.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            unexpected in a naturalistic framework ... grander than the universe

            Hmmm. :-)

            I am handcuffed to religious language in an attempt to capture or explain the experiences.

            I think that is very much the case, though I don't think you need to think exclusively, or even primarily, in terms of a handcuff metaphor. I've always liked the phrase, "you can't stop the waves but you can learn to surf". We can't entirely escape our linguistic and cultural boundaries, but we can become adept at working within them, to the point where they even give us a greater freedom than we would have "in isolation" (if such a thing as "thinking in isolation" were even possible).

            When in general, religions make strong claims about God, which is something that I used to complain about when I was religious.

            I'm with you on that one :-)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Hmmm. :-)

            At the same time, I would say that the amount of evil in the world is unexpected given theism.

            Once in a debate in high school, one side defended the traditional idea of Catholicism, while the other side defended their own ideas of God. I was with the heretics, and we decided to go with a dualistic conception, in which the good deity lost and the evil deity filled the world with all sorts of evil in order to drown the good out. The evil deity couldn't destroy the good, but he tried to cover it all up, so the good would be a mere drop in the ocean. We thought the whole thing was rather humorous.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            At the same time, I would say that the amount of evil in the world is unexpected given theism.

            True. This being St. Patrick's Day, I will only respond with a bit of hopeful verse from Ireland's finest:

            ===
            Human beings suffer,
            They torture one another,
            They get hurt and get hard.
            No poem or play or song
            Can fully right a wrong
            Inflicted and endured.

            The innocent in gaols
            Beat on their bars together.
            A hunger-striker's father
            Stands in the graveyard dumb.
            The police widow in veils
            Faints at the funeral home.

            History says, don't hope
            On this side of the grave.
            But then, once in a lifetime
            The longed-for tidal wave
            Of justice can rise up,
            And hope and history rhyme.

            So hope for a great sea-change
            On the far side of revenge.
            Believe that further shore
            Is reachable from here.
            Believe in miracle
            And cures and healing wells.

            Call miracle self-healing:
            The utter, self-revealing
            Double-take of feeling.
            If there's fire on the mountain
            Or lightning and storm
            And a god speaks from the sky

            That means someone is hearing
            The outcry and the birth-cry
            Of new life at its term.
            ===

            Chorus from The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney

          • Phil

            Ignatius Riley--I know it has been a while, hope all is well!

            I too found your insights into the transcendent qualities of certain things quite fascinating. That is one of the big ways I've seen people begin to walk towards God--through the transcendentals.

            I find that this becomes even more the case as they get older (say 50-65) because as much as we try to run away from God, we still have the desire for the transcendentals, this desire for the infinite. We desire infinite beauty, goodness, and truth. None of these things could be perfectly present in material reality, as material reality limits the presence of the true, good, and beautiful just by its very nature. In other words, we will never stand here in this life and be able to proclaim that we've found perfect beauty, goodness, and truth. Sometimes we may mistakenly proclaim we have, but then soon enough our restless heart will back.

            What I've found is we desire these things and we find flashes of them in things that aren't God. (The beauty, truth, and goodness in this world is a true reflection of God.) But there comes a time when we get frustrated and realize that none of these things will satisfy our ultimate desires.

            So we either conclude that the ultimate desires of the human heart are absurd and can't be fulfilled--we are left necessarily frustrated. Or we conclude that there is something beyond the material reality that can fulfill these infinite desires for beauty, truth, and goodness.

          • ClayJames

            I fail to see how this is relevant considering that this is a deductive argument. I don´t mean to take away from personal subjective experience, but the design conclusion follows if the premises are true.

            What premise do you think is false?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I just saw a comment from Jim that perked my interest. I enjoy conversing with Jim. I'll admit to being slightly off topic, but all good conversations go off topic. I didn't read the article or watch the video. I might watch it later. Not now - can't bring myself to pause the Velvet Underground.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Premise 2 is not convincingly defended. The vid says, "There's no reason or evidence to suggest that fine tuning is necessary", which is fair enough, but it's a long way from that negative statement to the positive assertion that "fine-tuning is not due to necessity."

            I personally think that Premise 2 is "obviously true", but that is just an intuition, and apparently some people either don't have that intuition or don't trust it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I watched the video. I would say a convincing case for the truthfulness of 2 and 3 has not been made. At this point we only have agnosticism on these premises. There is some bad science/logic in those videos. WLC also too physicists out of context.

            Jim is pretty spot on about premise 2. With regard to premise three we don't have a probability distribution for universes nor do we know how many universes exist/have existed. Whoever made that video should learn prob/stats.

            There are also issues with the design terminology. In the end it is a very bad argument, which is why I don't see the point in going over it again.

            The only traditional theistic argument that gives me any pause is variants of the cosmological. I don't think it goes anywhere beyond a very ambiguous first cause (not sure if it even gets there), but it is the most interesting to me. Otherwise i prefer existential and pragmatic type arguments. To paraphrase Camus - no one ever died for the Ontological argument

    • Lazarus

      Does the whole theist enterprise not make a lot more sense if we stop seeing the omnipotence of a deity in these cartoonish terms? Where such a god can do anything, but really anything? What if this universe is the only type of creation possible? Would it be less "omnipotent "? Or a very limited toolbox of creation, where constants necessary for our existence is then "fine tuned".

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Then I direct you to Candide, where the best possible world is explored and detailed. ;-)

        I think if you are going to hypothesize that creation is somehow limited to this type of universe, you would have to posit some reasons as to why.

        • Lazarus

          Why? Maybe this is it. The only way a universe can be - see God's Manual p 752. You either don't create, or you craft this show. No billions of finely tweaked options. Or six options. It all seems more understandable if you accept a limited God (I know, the horror). But if it's this or nothing, then fine tuning is easier to understand, even the ole problem of evil gets a new spin.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            And of course, God is limited, not primarily by logic, but by love, from which logic flows.

          • Darren

            Jim wrote,

            And of course, God is limited, not primarily by logic, but by love, from which logic flows.

            ...And who forged the chains of logic which bind God?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            As I said, logic is begotten of love.

            God, who is love, is constrained by the logic that love entails.

            Of course, "the constraint of love" is a funny thing. It is a "free constraint". By its very nature, love is only love if it is given freely. Nonetheless, one can freely choose to constrain oneself for the sake of another.

          • Darren

            Yes... and who invented that love? and nature? and freely? and choose? and did the inventor have the ability to make them anything other than they are? If not, who invented _that_ rule?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yes... and who invented that love?

            No one. Love just is. Love "invented" everything else.

          • Darren

            Jim wrote,

            No one. Love just is. Love "invented" everything else.

            Having hit Brute Fact, I suppose we can leave it there.
            Thank you for the sincere answers. Disagree though I may, I greatly appreciate your willingness to give an honest answer to an open forum.
            Best regards.

          • Phil

            Hi Darren,

            Wanted to throw out a few more words, I hope it doesn't make things murkier.

            The big distinction is between seeing God's nature as a perfect free will that precedes the intellect, or as seeing God's nature as the perfect unity of the true (i.e., the intellect), the good (i.e., the will), and the beautiful (the interplay of those two).

            If God's nature is a perfect free will of indifference, then your questions would be a problem. But that is not God's nature (most easily seen because perfect indifferent freedom is incoherent). A perfect simple nature is that where the true and the good are in perfect harmony.

            In short--the true, the good, and the beautiful are not limits on God. In fact, those three things are metaphysical perfectants by which things only "exist" to the degree that they partake in them. Something that is not at all true, good, or beautiful at a metaphysical level is non-being, it doesn't exist.

          • Will

            I'd go with God is limited. How do we know that God can do anything that isn't logically possible?

          • Mike

            a married bachelor is non sense not a limit on God's power, no?

          • Husky Fan in Mass

            My brother-in-law Pete Bachelor is married.

          • Will

            Is the inability to create nonsense a limit? Yes.

          • Mike

            an imaginary logical limit not a real limit.

          • Will

            It is if it "really" can't happen. This is just silly Mike...

          • Mike

            i've read that confusing imagination for intellect can do that.

            do you think that God could create a universe in which circles are squares o r 1 plus 1 equals 3?

          • Darren

            Mike wrote,

            do you think that God could create a universe in which circles are squares o r 1 plus 1 equals 3?

            Shrug.

            He supposedly created a universe in which three things are actually one thing, but still three; bread is actually meat, but still bread; and every choice that was ever to be made was determined "prior" to the Big Bang and yet still somehow counts as "free".

            So, why not?

          • Mike

            not 3 things but 3 aspects on 1 thing, like a cube vs square.
            bread still has ALL the appearances of bread.
            we believe in free will so i am not sure what you mean by that part.

          • Darren

            Mike wrote,

            not 3 things but 3 aspects on
            1 thing, like a cube vs square.

            …and what better day than today to share this amusing exposition of common Trinitarian heresies:

            Saint Patrick’s Bad Analogies

            Now, off to confession you go, you wacky heretic.

          • Mike

            i can't see the video where i am.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Square circles are not logically impossible

          • Mike

            didn't know that.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There is a section on circles.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicab_geometry

            Basically, your distances are how a taxi driver would get from point A to point B rather than how a bird would fly.

          • Mike

            oh yes i knew that but i think we're considering something called a perfect circle like a perfect triangle.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Under a taxicab or L1 norm, a perfect square is a perfect circle.

          • Mike

            i take your word for it as the math seems too complex.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            There's nothing complex about it. The only non-obvious thing is that mathematicians define circles in a way that generalizes our intuition of what a circle is. A circle is defined (in special math world) as the set of points that are equidistant from a center point (you can blame Euclid for that definition). Therefore "what a circle looks like" depends on "what distance is". If "distance" is how far one would have to drive on a grid of city blocks, then the set of equidistant points from a center point fall into a pattern that a normal person would call a square.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That's a bit nitpicky though. If I were to nitpick further, I could say that square circles are logically impossible on certain logical systems, such as the logic of Euclidean geometry with a Euclidean norm (which is usually implied in parochial conversations about squares and circles). It's just that they are not meta-logically impossible.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I agree 100%. However, if we are going to say that God cannot do the logically impossible shouldn't we be very precise when discussing what that means. Exactly what is God's relationship to mathematics. Did he create it? Is mathematics necessary? If were to imagine God I would imagine a very absent minded mathematician, who forgot about us.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, fair enough. My own answers to those questions would be:

            The human enterprise of mathematics is one mode of exploration of the divine logic, and God cannot do what is contrary to divine logic anymore than Shakespeare could write in a non-Shakespearian style. (Of course, Shakespeare could have written in a style that we would judge to be out of character for him, but by virtue of Shakespeare writing it, it would have become part of the Shakespearean style repertoire.)

            As to whether mathematics is necessary, I think I would say on theological grounds that it is not. Mathematics is the grammar that God uses when speaking creation into being, and creation is a free gift from God, not a necessary one. Only God himself is necessary.

            As for very absent-minded mathematicians, I hold that every human bears the Imago Dei. So yes, that must be one valid way of imagining God. One way among many, of course.

          • Will

            Jesus violates math in the feeding of the 5000. Square circles can exist with the right mathematical axioms, see taxicab geometry. Minecraft is a virtual world where everything is built of squares.

          • Mike

            if a person steals 20 from your wallet and you know have 60 not 80s; has someone violated the laws of math or the state of north carolina?

          • Will

            Did this comment come from a random word generator?

          • Mike

            imagine if it did! what would be the odds of that? kinda like the fine tuning! ;)

          • Will

            Lol, that one generated a chuckle. Have you seen the Trump bot? Some AI researchers at MIT built it just for fun:
            https://twitter.com/deepdrumpf

            http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/04/donald-trump-deep-drumpf-twitter-bot

          • Mike

            my fav trump bit is on how he debates;

            opponent: mr trump your assertions about foreign policy are not supported by the evidence my position on the other hand is specific and addresses the problem directly

            trump: your ugly

            or that guy you rushed the stage who's some american acitivist. trump: he's an ISIS operatitve; nbc news "mr trump what are you talking about, he's from south carolina or whatever". trump's response: "well that's what i saw on the internet".

            anyway as crazy as it seems that kind of stuff resonates w the culture so it might just get him to the white house. i seriously doubt it but who knows.

          • Will

            Yeah, Trump is more evidence we need to go back to the original system and let the people pick electors who in turn elect the president. People are absurdly vulnerable to logical fallacies like argumentum ad hominem (you're ugly) and poisoning the well (you work for ISIS or remind me of Hitler). It makes me sad actually, but what can be done other than try to continue to improve education and teach this stuff in high school. We'd all be better off if critical thinking was a mandatory class in high school.

            http://www.wired.com/insights/2014/06/stem-success-starts-critical-thinking-problem-solving-skills/

          • Mike

            yeah. democracy i've read somewhere is giving the people what they want and giving it to them good.

            then again 330 million ppl, 50 states, places as diverse as alaska and florida, colorado to maine, no wonder there is alot of acrimony.

            then again check this out: so things aren't all that bad afterall

            "In the 1800 election, Jefferson's supporters described President Adams as a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." In return, Adams' men called Vice President Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father." As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward. When TOF was researching his family tree, he had cause to read the Washington (NJ) Star of sometime in 1864 whose front page was headlined WE SUPPORT MCCLELLAN AND THE ENTIRE DEMOCRATIC SLATE and referred in the body of the "article" to "Abe the Ape, King of the N*****s." Only they did not use asterisks. In case you think the media today is biased.

            from the tof spot aka YOS.

          • Jesus violates math in the feeding of the 5000.

            I suggest a gander at the Banach–Tarski paradox.

          • Will

            I wonder what axioms Jesus used? ;P

          • Michael Murray

            I'm sure Jesus uses Axiom of Choice.

          • Michael Murray

            I would have thought loaves and fishes that are not Lebesque measurable might be a bit indigestible.

          • Oh, only some bits would be. Not all needs to be digestible.

          • Phil

            Hey William--Long time, no talk!

            It would be no limit on something to say that it can't do what can't be done. Why is this? Well, something that can't be done is complete non-being. And from your hanging around here, I'm sure you've picked up that the Thomistic and Catholic understanding of God is that he is a complete, perfect act of being itself. So anything is that is non-being would be incoherent to say it exists in God or that God could do it.

            Our abstract logic here reflects the perfect internal logic of God. Incoherence is non-being. God is a perfect act of goodness, truth, and beauty. Something only exists insofar as it participates in those 3 things.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You need reasons, because otherwise it's just speculation. So this God isn't all-powerful?

          • Lazarus

            That's exactly what I'm proposing. Or to be more finely tuned - maybe our concept of all-powerful is too simplistic. Is it all that incorrect to call the being that created this universe, say out of a very limited number of potential models, "all-powerful"?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think there are several related things under discussion here. Firstly there are defenses against the PoE that limit what is meant by omnipotence. There is also the idea that an omnipotent being is not able to do what is logically impossible. The Free Will defense extends on this by arguing that a world with libertarian free will and no evil is logically impossible. So, to a certain extent I see the limiting of omnipotence as an ad hoc gimmick mean to salvage theistic beliefs from objections.

            Secondly, theists believe that a tri-Omni God is worthy and deserving of worship. Does this still hold when we limit omnipotence?

            Thirdly, there is the question of changes that this being could effect in this universe. Can this omnipotent being remove cancer from the earth? Does he have the power to do so? If not, I do not think we could properly call him omnipotent.

          • Lazarus

            But what if "omnipotence " does not mean "do whatever he wants to"? This is certainly not a novel idea, several apologists have tinkered with the proposition. I think it pays a small price theologically, but gains a lot of explanatory power. I'm not sure why that would be a gimmick, as opposed to a necessary recalibration of God's power.

            I do know however that the idea is not popular. God must be omnimaxed, or nothing at all. That comes at a tremendous cost, though.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Words mean what convention and common usage dictates. I think if our definition of omnipotence strays to far from convention and common usage we should use a different word to avoid language games. I referred to it as a gimmick because when apologists use it it seems more like a method of saving theism from solid objections rather than an honest attempt at understanding. I understand where you are coming from - I guess I am just a little jaded from apologists.

            To what extent can this God intervene in this world?

          • Lazarus

            Maybe that's limited too.
            Here I am comfortable with (most of) the standard hiddenness of God argument. That would lead us to the so-called self--limitation of God.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Why would you posit a God at all? I'm assuming to account for other evidence?

            If there are a limited number of possible universes - say six, doesn't that really hurt the fine-tuning argument. If there are only six possible universes than the fact that we got one with us isn't so astounding.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't understand why the possibility of other universes takes away from the fine-tuning argument? Is the fine-tuning credible only if earth is completely unique?

          • David Nickol

            If you deal out one poker hand, the odds of it being a royal flush (Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten—all of the same suit) are 1 in 649,739. If you deal out a 10 million poker hands, odds are that you'll get about 15 royal flushes.

            If there is only one universe, and the fundamental constants are random, then (the argument is) the fact that all the fundamental constants are "fine-tuned" to permit life is either a tremendous coincidence, or the result of a "Fine Tuner." However, if there are millions of universes (or maybe infinitely many) then it should be no surprise that one (or more) of them supports life.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm saying that fine tuning relies on the fact that the probability of obtaining a live able universe is exceedingly small. However if there were only 6 possible universes like Laz suggested then the probabilities would be much larger

          • Lazarus

            Well, yes, but the act of creation, limited though it may be in our musings would still need to be explained, would still be a pretty neat trick ;)

          • Darren

            Lazarus wrote,

            That's exactly what I'm proposing.

            Do you propose this god created ex nihilo?

          • Lazarus

            Yes.

            For my thought experiment it wouldn't bother me if he created ex nihilo or had a box of playdough and an old car battery to start with, but yes, ex nihilo would be more elegant and it would keep the purists happy.

          • Darren

            Then where did the rule governing God's limited set of creation options come from?

          • Lazarus

            Same place that gave God unlimited powers.

          • Darren

            The place that existed before God created "Place"... (EDIT) and "Before"?

          • Lazarus

            And with that we move into primary mover / necessary ground of being, I suppose.

          • Darren

            Lazarus wrote,

            And with that we move into primary mover / necessary ground of being, I suppose.

            Perhaps.

            It is surprisingly difficult, IMO, to come up with a Godly being sufficiently potent and knowing as to conjure forth all of reality, the supporting physics, the meta-physics, the meta-meta-physics, etc., etc., and not have that Godly being be sufficiently potent and knowing as to conjure forth all of reality, etc., etc., except without the cancer.

            ...Also, not sure why one would want to... an incompetent God who can’t do better than stupid callous nature hardly seems worth the effort.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And what of Euthyphro?

          • Lazarus

            I don't think the Euthyhro dilemma is much of a problem if we revisit "omnipotence ". It could lead to a simple question - if God had to choose between this universe and nothing, what should he have chosen?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            But Euthyhro has more to do with goodness. Is there an outside standard of morality?Are things moral because God commands it? Or is the standard apologetic answer still correct? ( It think it fails, but that is another discussion.)

            The first horn does touch on omnipotence.

          • Lazarus

            If anything, the "revised omnipotence " would assist God. What we see is the best he can do.

          • Mike

            so in that case God wouldn't be ultimate but would be in potency to whatever gave it those powers.

          • Lazarus

            No, it's simply the answer to "Who created God".

          • Mike
    • Tri-omni god could sustain life in any possible universe, it doesn't need to "fine-tune;" [...]

      Not per all conceptions of omnipotence; I suggest a perusal of WP: Omnipotence § Meanings.

      • Darren

        Tri-omni god could sustain life in any possible universe...

        Not per all conceptions of omnipotence...

        Are people alive in the afterlife?

        • I fail to see the relevance of this question.

          • Darren

            Luke Breuer wrote,

            I fail to see the relevance of this question.

            Only one way to find out...

          • If your choice is to only offer one way, I shall decline. I find that in online discussions such as this one, those who hold their intentions close to their chests have something to hide.

          • Darren

            Luke Bruer wrote,

            I find that in online discussions such as this one, those who hold their intentions close to their chests have something to hide.

            My intention is to explore the extent to which an omniscient god could sustain life according to his will, which was rather the point of your comment upstream, was it not?

            And I have nothing to hide. In learning, it is far more effective to ask questions and allow another to discover the answers on their own than to provide those answers by lecture.

          • Compare:

            SM: Tri-omni god could sustain life in any possible universe [...]

            D: Are people alive in the afterlife?

            I fail to see how a "yes" or a "no" answer to your question would shed any light on the truth or falsity of @SattaMassagana:disqus's claim. You are welcome to enlighten me; if you are not interested in doing so, we can axe this tangent.

          • Darren

            I fail to see how a "yes" or a "no" answer to your question would shed any light on the truth or falsity of SattaMassagana's claim. You are welcome to enlighten me; if you are not interested in doing so, we can axe this tangent.

            Perhaps you would like to enlighten us as to possible universes in which your preferred omnipotent god could not sustain life.

          • No, I don't think that the rules of justified true belief in play in this discussion require me to prove that someone else's bald assertion is false. It'd be just like me saying that the default position is that God exists, and the burden on you is to disprove that.

          • Darren

            Mmmm hmmmm...

            Or, you have no good answers to either question.

            It would seem SattaMassagana’s claim stands since the only opposition is a link to Wikipedia which may, or may not, have been an argument against. Who can tell?

            In any case, I remember you now. You were the one who chewed up some 90% of the bandwidth for months at Estranged Notions on interminable ramblings about who-knows-what that no one but you seemed to give two rat-farts about.

            Puts this conversation in perspective.

            My fault for making eye contact.

          • It would seem SattaMassagana’s claim stands since the only opposition is a link to Wikipedia which may, or may not, have been an argument against. Who can tell?

            All the Wikipedia link did was establish that there are multiple conceptions of omnipotence which have been advanced by people who have seriously considered the issue; at least one probably allows @sattamassagana:disqus's argument to succeed, while at least one probably entails its failure. The onus is on @sattamassagana:disqus to argue why we should accept a notion of omnipotence which allows his argument to succeed.

            The rest of your comment is irrelevant—whether it be true or false. I will therefore not contest any of it, here.

    • James

      The current state of science is not much different than 40 years ago when the fine tuning became apparent.........absolute Shock.

      When atheists entered the fields of Origins to prove the world only "appears" designed , following their cue from evolution, they expected to prove the parameters for a stable universe were *Wide. That its easy to cook up a universe. That it only looks designed. You know the line.... and after they ridiculed the big bang because it was their worst nightmare they were looking for a win but then they discover the math itself is infinitely more designed than anything that caused belief in God in the first place-

      It seems to be there a balance that needs to be maintained. DNA devastated an easy path to life. Bbang squashed another. FTUNING too. But atheists dont worry, doubt is in the plan. It seems there is always an out, as obvious as it is, it seems no one is forced

      • David Nickol

        But atheists dont worry, doubt is in the plan. It seems there is always an out, as obvious as it is, it seems no one is forced

        But it is a common Christian argument, seen on Strange Notions many times, that God deliberately set things up so no alleged proof of his existence is conclusive. It is by God's own design, we are told, that atheists can always find an objection to any proof that keeps them from being "forced" to believe.

        Many theists express contempt for atheists, as if atheists were denying the obvious. And yet we are told by many theists that God's existence really can't be proved.

    • Peter

      If multiple universes do indeed exist and conscious life emerges in each of them, then, as in our universe, the life in those universes would have emerged naturally in accordance with the physical laws which operate in each of them.

      Just as our universe would have carbon-based life forms - because carbon which comes from nucleosynthesis makes the most complex molecules necessary for life - so too in other universes life-forms would be based on different unknown elements which emerge from different unknown processes.

      The point is that God would not need to supernaturally create and maintain life in universes totally hostile to it. A universe hostile to carbon based life would be naturally fertile for life based on other unknown elements.

      This would give us a multiverse which is extremely fine-tuned in the sense that each of the countless individual universes would be fine-tuned for the natural creation of their particular form of conscious life. A highly fine-tuned multiverse would be a much greater sign of God than a fine-tuned single universe.

    • Randy Carson

      If the gravitational constant were stronger, would there be a universe at all? Sure, God COULD sustain life therein, but that would require that He first make the mistake of making gravity too powerful and then having to constantly overcome the gravitational pull toward a Big Crunch. Since he's all-powerful, this would be no real effort, but why not just get the constant right to begin with? Oh, wait...it appears He did. :-)

  • Will

    Personally I think fine tuning is one of the better arguments. Is it proof? No, there are other plausible explanations, but all explanations are currently out of reach of proof. Here is a good article on the subject which is basically an argument for agnosticism. The author is a philosopher who has done a great deal of work with anthropic reasoning. The multiverse is a major competing hypothesis, probably with more evidence behind it, however.

    http://www.anthropic-principle.com/preprints/god/god.html

    The conclusion:

    Conclusion: For the sake of brevity, some subtleties have been ignored: for example, the possibility that further developments in physics might show that it was inevitable that our universe would be life-permitting even without postulating an ensemble of universe. The main possibilities are nonetheless the following: either there is a large ensemble of universes with differing properties, or our universe was intentionally created. Currently, the ensemble hypothesis is the most plausible one.

    • ClayJames

      Couldn´t further developments in physics also debunk many beliefs that we hold today? We are warranted in believing that the universe is expanding even if it is possible that further developments in physics could show that our initial observations were wrong and that the universe is actually not expanding. No one would argue that we should avoid at coming to the expansion conclusion just because we might be proven false by further scientific discoveries.

      Secondly and probably more importantly, even if there is a multiverse it does nothing to invalidate any of the premises. It might bring into question premise 3, but there is no way that you could say that, given what we know today, that we are not warranted to believe in 3. Therefore, the only way to get around this argument is to cling to methodological naturalism which completely misses the point considering this is a philosophical argument and not a scientific one.

      • Will

        Anthropic reasoning and fine tuning is purely philosophical, although it has applications in physics. The multiverse would not require a mind to fine too for life, it would be like a massive search engine not looking for anything (probably the best analogy). If you'd like a more rigorous approach, here is an entire chapter on the subject that is quite rigorous. He is a well respected philosopher, as far as education:

        He holds a B.A. in philosophy, mathematics, mathematical logic, and artificial intelligence from the University of Gothenburg and master's degrees in philosophy and physics, and computational neuroscience from Stockholm University and King's College London, respectively. During his time at Stockholm University, he researched the relationship between language and reality by studying the analytic philosopher W.V. Quine.[13] In 2000, he was awarded a PhD in philosophy from the London School of Economics. He held a teaching position at Yale University (2000–2002), and he was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford (2002–2005).[6][14]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Bostrom

        In general, I find his work fascinating, though often difficult.

    • It seem to me that in this case the judgement of which is most plausible has very little to do with science and a lot to do with prior philosophical assumptions. Some people simple would never accept the "intentionally created" possibility. Some find it more intuitive to believe it. Even assuming the simpler answer is more likely to be right it is not at all clear which that is. Concluding God exists is a big conclusion but concluding a large number of universes exists seem quite large as well.

      • Will

        It seem to me that in this case the judgement of which is most plausible has very little to do with science and a lot to do with prior philosophical assumptions.

        Why? If we can glean scientific evidence that other universes have some impact on ours, science has quite a bit to do with. I expand more here. It's certainly under determined, at this point, however.

        https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/what_do_you_think_of_the_fine_tuning_argument_for_god/#comment-2573646755

        • It is undetermined by Science at this point. That always has the potential to change. It seems these articles are mostly about faith. An explained fluctuation might prove a multiverse? What would you say if I claimed it might prove God?

          • Will

            What would you say if I claimed it might prove God?

            What is your theory behind it? The multiverse is a consequence of cosmic inflation and it provides a solution to philosophical problems with God like the problem of evil. Your turn, defend the theist theory that God caused these fluctuations. Is it to deceive us into thinking there is a multiverse so we go to hell?

          • Ok, maybe aliens caused the fluctuations. The point is that unexplained data does not serve as evidence for you favorited theory unless you are desperate.

            Believing in a multiverse won't send people to hell. The fact that they are in a path to hell might cause them to believe in a multiverse. Irreligion is more likely to cause scientists to be biased than religion. Mostly because there is less awareness of the potential for bias that way.

          • Will

            Your comment is just ridiculous and without any argument. Have you even taken a calculus based class in physics or read the first detailed book on cosmology, not to mention philosophy of science? Clearly no. It's also clear that you haven't even bother to read the links and actually ponder what I have to say. What a waste of my time. Here are a couple more links I've read recently. Comment when you have something intelligent to say.

            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/multiverse-controversy-inflation-gravitational-waves/
            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gravity-waves-cmb-b-mode-polarization/

          • Your own article says, "Critics of the multiverse hypothesis claim that the idea is untestable—barely even science. "

            So these critics are people who have no knowledge of physics or cosmology? It sounds like exactly what I said.

            It does say that inflation implies multiverse. I don't see why. Why can't this rapid inflation happen after the big bang and still have the big bang be a unique event?

            As for the data that shows fluctuations in some areas and not others. Why would a multiverse predict that? That is why would specifically a multiverse cause that and not any other phenomenon?

            You won link has this quote

            Indeed, prominent atheists such as Stephen Hawking have proposed the multiverse theory as an alternative explanation for the story of Biblical creation and why things are the way they are. However, their use of the theory does not mean that creation occurred in any particular way or that there can't be other universes besides ours.

            I am not a scientist but I can see that is a bad way to do science.

          • David Nickol

            Your own article says, "Critics of the multiverse hypothesis claim that the idea is untestable—barely even science. "

            So these critics are people who have no knowledge of physics or cosmology? It sounds like exactly what I said.

            What do you expect critics of the multiverse hypothesis to say—that it's a great idea?

          • Will

            I am not a scientist but I can see that is a bad way to do science.

            Have you ever heard of the Dunning Kruger effect? You have it.

            The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which relatively unskilled persons suffer illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their own ineptitude and evaluate their own ability accurately. Their research also suggests corollaries: highly skilled individuals may underestimate their relative competence and may erroneously assume that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.[1]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

            By your standard, general relativity was a bad way to do science. At first it was very hard to test, and most scientists didn't buy it of course we are in a very different place today. One prediction of relativity, gravity waves, has only been confirmed this year but was predicted way back when Einstein developed his theory. Models of eternal cosmic inflation predict this in a similar way. Since it is hard to test and there is such scant evidence to support it, it is surely weak science as I have said repeatedly, but there is a HUGE DIFFERENCE (one reason I'm pointing out Dunning-Kruger) between weak science and bad science. At first, General relativity was weak science, though it was surely easier to test than the multiverse hypothesis. The big bang isn't testable either, is it bad science? It was developed by a Priest, after all.

            Edited to clarify why calling the multiverse consequence of cosmic inflation "bad science" is ridiculous.

          • I am surprised you don't agree that this quote describes a bad motivation for believing any scientific theory. I an not sure how much of Hawking's or anybody else's motivation that quote describes but to the degree it is accurate it is bad. I do believe that people often don't understand their own motivations when it comes to such things. So it is hard to know. You do seem quite touchy on the subject.

          • Will

            You said:

            Ok, maybe aliens caused the fluctuations. The point is that unexplained data does not serve as evidence for you favorited theory unless you are desperate.

            What if I said "aliens caused the disciples to see a resurrected Jesus", and accused you of using unexplained data as evidence for your favored (not favorited,that's not even a word) theory about Jesus because you are desperate? Who's desperate, are you? How on earth do you know bad science if you don't know anything about science? All I can do is shake my head in wonder, and step out of this conversation.

          • Will

            Oh, check this out:

            It is entirely plausible to accept the big bang theory and multiverse theory while maintaining a steadfast belief in God. God could have used any means He wished to create. Indeed, a Jesuit priest, Monsignor Georges Lemaitre, developed the big bang theory based on his work as a mathematician.

            http://www.catholic.org/news/technology/story.php?id=51025

            You deserved as must derision as I put into my last comment. I sometimes wonder why people like you comment on these blogs, you do nothing but make your case worse.

          • This is true. If the multiverse is proven that will not disprove Catholicism and I doubt it even means the end of the fine tuning argument. I have already heard talk that the multiverse must have been fine tuned. Remember people thought the existence of many planets ended the fine tuning argument once.

          • David Nickol

            Remember people thought the existence of many planets ended the fine tuning argument once.

            I think you are mistaken. I certainly don't remember that. The fine tuning argument has nothing to do with the number of planets. It is of course true that if you think the odds of life (as we know it on earth) arising spontaneously are very slim, then the more planets, the more chance for life to arise spontaneously. But the fine tuning argument is not about the probability of life. It is about the possibility of life. The fine tuning argument would say that if the universe were not fine tuned for life, then there would be no life no matter how enormous the number of planets.

            I have already heard talk that the multiverse must have been fine tuned.

            How can those who claim that a multiverse is impossible, unscientific nonsense also claim to know that it would have to be fine tuned?

          • There was a notion that the earth was well suited for life. The response was there are so many planets one is bound to be so suited. Then the argument moved to the universe being fine-tuned for human life. The ground keeps moving but the argument about whether the science points to a designer has always been there and I think will always be there.

          • David Nickol

            There was a notion that the earth was well suited for life.

            Yes, but that was not the argument from fine tuning. I agree that there have been a series of arguments (one might call them god-of-the-gaps arguments) in which it was claimed that the only explanation for life was a creator. It seems to me proponents of such arguments have had to retreat a number of times, and the current fall-back is the argument from fine tuning.

          • Fine tuning is a God-of-the-gaps argument. It does suffer from the possibility that some scientific advance might make the fine tuning seem less impressive. I would not call such instances a retreat. If God did X and we are amazed then we discover how God did X and we are amazed differently that does not seem like a retreat to me. It does make it less useful as an argument for unbelievers but science adds those as quickly as it removes them.

          • David Nickol

            If God did X and we are amazed then we discover how God did X and we are amazed differently that does not seem like a retreat to me.

            Well, if you being with the assumption that "God did X," you don't need any arguments for the existence of God. You assume it. The issue in "God of the gaps" arguments is not how God did something, but whether God did something.

            "God of the gaps" arguments are made by people who contend that certain phenomena cannot be explained "naturally" and consequently the only explanation for them is God. When it is argued that X could not have happened without God (a direct intervention of God), and it is shown that X could indeed have happened naturally, then the "gap" has been accounted for.

            The first "God of the gaps" arguments are the creation stories. We—or most of us—no longer believe that God formed the first man from dust and the first woman from a rib of the first man. We believe in evolution. There has been a retreat from the explanation in Genesis regarding how we got here, and it is a retreat even by those who believe in "theistically guided" evolution.

            It seems to me the two major "God of the gaps" arguments currently involve alleged fine tuning and the problem of consciousness. I don't think Catholics dispute evolution, although how (if) abiogenesis occurred still seems to be a "gap" that some people argue can only be explained by the direct action of God.

            In any case, it seems to me that a great many major advances in science have required major retreats by those who make "God of the gaps" arguments.

          • Will

            Sure, nothing can disprove Catholicism, it's current form is unfalsifiable, like my invisible magic dragon in my garage ;)

            https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/178/Unfalsifiability

            The multiverse may be falsifiable, it's very tentative right now, but predictions could be . If multiple universes exist, the constants of physics may vary in each universe. They could also vary in our universe as I've mention. I suspect you don't even know what we're talking about when we say fine tuned. Do you know what constants are involved?

            Edit to add: This article from MIT mentions them, and is, of course, against fine tuning, regardless of the multiverse hypothesis. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/422444/evidence-emerges-that-laws-of-physics-are-not-fine-tuned-for-life/

          • Catholicism can be falsified. It claims to teach the same gospel for 2000 years. Even the fact that the office of pope has existed for 2000 years is remarkable and would falsify Catholicism. Beyond that, one clear contradiction in the infallible teaching and the church's claims have been proven false. I know. At one point I didn't want to become Catholic and looked for such a contradiction. Many claim one exists but none stand up under scrutiny.

            It is not a matter of falsifiable. The existence of dinosaurs is unfalsifiable. So what? The fact is the physical evidence we have for dinosaurs points to their existence and to no other plausible cause. I just don't see that in the multiverse data. Maybe I am not up to date. Maybe I am listening to the wrong experts.

            Do I know the fine tuning argument? Not really well. I have heard a few talks on it but none that really dig into the science in great detail. I just bought a book by Robert Spitzer so that might change. I still won't be an expert but I do find these things fascinating.

          • David Nickol

            Even the fact that the office of pope has existed for 2000 years is remarkable and would falsify Catholicism.

            Read a good history of the papacy and you will see that it is quite a stretch to claim "the office of pope" is unbroken all the way back to Peter. If you go to Amazon, you can "look inside" and read the first chapter of Eamon Duffy's Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, Third Edition. At best what can be said is that the papacy was "nascent" in the earliest Church and developed over a significantly long time (perhaps about a hundred years) into an institution that then further developed over centuries. The whole chapter is worth reading, but here is a key excerpt:

            It was against this mid-century [i.e., mid-second-century] background of ritual and doctrinal confusion that the 'monarchic episcopate', the rule of the church by a single bishop, was accepted in Rome. Throughout the Mediterranean world the rule of bishops came to be seen as a crucial defence against heresy. As Irenaeus wrote in his Treatise against the Heresies, 'It is within the power of anyone who cares, to find the truth and know the tradition of the Apostles . . . we are able to name those who were appointed bishops by the Apostles in the churches and their successors down to our own times.' There is no sure way to settle on a date by which the office of ruling bishop had emerged in Rome, and so to name the first Pope, but the process was certainly complete by the time of Anicetus in the mid-150s, when Polycarp, the aged Bishop of Smyrna, visited Rome, and he and Anicetus debated amicably the question of the date of Easter. Polycarp, then in his eighties, and known John, the 'beloved disciple,' in his old age. He therefore strongly urged direct apostolic authority for the practice of the churches from Asia Minor (and their satelite [sic] ethnic congregations in Rome itself) of keeping Easter at Passover. Anicetus contented himself more modestly with defending the practice of 'the presbyters who had preceded him' in having no separate Easter festival.

            By now the pressure of heresy and the need for a tighter organisation was forcing the Christian movement as a whole to sharpen and refine its self-understanding, to establish its boundaries and clarify its fundamental beliefs. As part of that process of development and self-analysis, the Roman church began to reflect more self-consciously on its apostolic pedigree. It was in the time of Anicetus [Bishop of Rome from c. 157 to his death in 168 per Wikipedia] that the earliest attempts were made to compile a succession-list of the Roman bishops, drawing on the remembered names of leading presbyters like Clement. . . .

            . . . The earliest list to survive for Rome is the one supplied by Irenaeus, and in it this symbolic function is very clearly at work. Irenaeus underlines the parallels between Apostles and bishops by naming precisely twelve bishops of Rome and the current incumbent, Eleutherius. The sixth of these bishops is name Sixtus. It all seems suspiciously tidy.

            The list is certainly a good deal tidier than the actual transition to rule by a single bishop can have been. . . . [boldface added]

          • The office of pope and bishop did look different in the first centuries. There is going to be development. Still Clement of Rome was asked to weigh in on the controversy in Corinth in the 90's. The apostle John may well have been alive at the time. Yet it was understood you bring such matters to the Bishop of Rome. So there was some kernel of understanding of the papacy right back. That is precisely what the church claims.

          • Will

            Even the fact that the office of pope has existed for 2000 years is remarkable and would falsify Catholicism.

            Hinduism has been around for 7200 years, and Buddhism is nearly 1000 years older than Christianity, just fyi.

          • David Nickol

            The fact that they are in a path to hell might cause them to believe in a multiverse.

            So are you saying the idea of the multiverse is just something invented by atheists in response to the "fine tuning" argument?

            Irreligion is more likely to cause scientists to be biased than religion.

            Is it your contention that, say, a young-earth creationists is less likely to be biased in his or her scientific views than an atheist? What about Christian Scientists? Or Mormons? What about Muslims?

            By what standard do you measure scientific bias to determine that the "religious" are less biased than the "irreligious"? Who does the measurement? Can you cite any studies?

            By "religious" do you mean Catholic, and by "irreligious" do you mean non-Catholic? Do Buddhists and Hindus count as "religious" or not?

            How would you rate your knowledge of modern cosmology on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being an academic who makes his or her living researching/teaching and 1 being a person who reads about cosmological discoveries in the newspaper?

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    I would agree that the appearance of fine tuning is highly suggestive of a Fine Tuner.

    My only hesitation about this argument is in the way it is phrased, specifically that it uses the metaphor of "designer" to refer to God. My objection to this is primarily theological and linguistic rather than more abstractly logical. We naturally think of "design" in relation to lifeless artifacts, artifacts that do not have "the freedom to be themselves". I can design a piece of software. I can't design my son. What I can do in relation to my son is: teach him, play with him, correct him, pray for him. These things (hopefully) shape him, but they do not determine him. He is still free to "become himself", and my relationship with him is not one of preprogramming but is rather a relationship that is "living and active". That is the way the God of the Bible interacts with creation.

    From this theological perspective, I remain open to the possibility that these amazing "fine tuning" constants of the universe were not determined directly by God, but were freely chosen by the universe (or, more accurately, by the living freedom of the universe, which we call angels), albeit in dialogue with God.

    • Ahhh, but this presumes that there can be more than one true causal origin point. It would violate the [particular] spirit of determinism which has enamored so many internet atheists, and it would also violate the all-too-frequently held Christian position that God is sovereign such that nothing can happen without something which looks suspiciously like his approval, even if the word used is closer to 'permission'.

  • Darren

    Most scientists agree that the universe seems fine-tuned for life.

    I doubt most scientists do any such thing.

    What all scientists, myself, and presumably all of us would agree upon is that the universe does possess the qualities that are required to permit life. The former statement is the Strong Anthropic Principle, the latter is the Weak Anthropic Principle, and they are not at all equivalent.

    “Why is the universe apparently fine-tuned for life?” is the wrong question. A better question is, “given the properties that the universe appears to have, for what purpose might it be tuned?” This question still assumes teleology, which we have not yet shown to be a real thing, but we can proceed with it assumed.

    The universe appears to mostly want Dark Energy. Then Dark Matter. Then lots and lots of fatal-to-life vacuum. Then lots of fatal-to-life energy. Then some fatal-to-life matter (black holes, stars, just above absolute zero dust and gas). Then a teeny, tiny, less-than-a-rounding-error sliver of not-immediately-fatal-to-life energy and mater (though still mostly fatal, sooner or later).

    As the (apocryphal) story goes, British biologist J.B.S. Haldane, found himself in the company of a group of theologians. On being asked what could be concluded as to the nature of the Creator from a study of his creation, Haldane is said to have answered, “An inordinate fondness for beetles.”

    As to the fine tuning argument, apparently the universe is exquisitely fine tuned for just about everything but us.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I don't think that follows. If a meal consists mostly of roasted vegetables, should I then assume that the piece de resistance will also consist of roasted vegetables? Is it not possible that some fragile morsel of chocolate is actually the crowning achievement toward which the chef was working all along? Rarity and fragility can serve as indicators of ontological significance. We don't need to consider only volume and quantity.

      • Darren

        It is always possible the soup is for the fly.

    • Rob Abney

      Very well-written Darren. I hate to ask this because maybe it will simply show that I don't understand the science sufficiently, but how does what you've written contradict the conclusion? Your explanation seems to support the conclusion that fine tuning is required.

      • Darren

        Rob Abney wrote,

        …how does what you've written contradict the conclusion? Your explanation seems to support the
        conclusion that fine tuning is required.

        I will refer you to this link, as much of what I could write would be redundant.

        Rational Wiki – Anthropic Principle

        Briefly to your comment. The Fine-Tuning argument intends to establish a fine-tuner (God) since something so specific as a human being arising by random cosmic chance is too improbable to believe*. What I pointed out is that there is most likely no tuning at all since the universe is vastly fatal to us. Yet even if there is some tuning, it is certainly not tuning for us and so the notion that the tuner would be a self-aware, intelligent, benevolent agent specifically concerned with generating an optimized primate to love and punish becomes rather unlikely.

        * - Which it is, but the odds that something intelligent would evolve in the universe, purely by natural selection, while improbable at any specific moment and place, appears to approach greater than unity given enough space and time.

        • What I pointed out is that there is most likely no tuning at all since the universe is vastly fatal to us.

          I don't see how this follows. If the probability that a randomly generated universe supports any life at least as intelligent as we are is sufficiently low, then fine tuning would seem to obtain regardless of how fatal vast swaths of the universe are to that life.

    • "I doubt most scientists do any such thing."

      In my reading, most do, including not just renowned cosmologists but the most popular scientific leaders in several disciplines. For example, Stephen Hawking, Paul Davies, and even Richard Dawkins admit that the universe at least appears to be fine-tuned for life. Even the atheist/agnostic cosmologists I read believe in fine-tuning--they just don't think God is the best explanation for it.

    • "As to the fine tuning argument, apparently the universe is exquisitely fine tuned for just about everything but us."

      This only shows how you misunderstand the argument. I'm not sure if you watched the video, or have read in depth on the argument, but it's not meant to suggest that the universe is fine-tuned for the flourishing of human life. It's based on the realization that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of any life. See the difference?

      • Darren

        Brandon wrote,

        This only shows how you misunderstand the argument. I'm not sure if you watched the video, or have read in depth on the argument... See the difference?

        That was amusingly condescending.

        My reply is one word: Spandrel!

        • I'm sorry if you took it that way, but I didn't mean to be condescending at all. With good will, I meant to show how you fundamentally misunderstand the argument by insinuating that it somehow depends on the universe being fine-tuned for the flourishing of human life.

      • Rudy R

        And if the universe was not capable to support life, would you still contend that the universe was created by a supernatural being? And if so, why?

    • Lazarus

      Does the apparently inarguable hostility of the universe not actually support the fine tuning argument?

      • Darren

        The fleeting persistence of the snowball does not incline me to view Hell as being finely-tuned for it.

        • Lazarus

          If it's hell all around, why do we find your snowball there at all, fleeting or not?

          • Darren

            Who can say where these snowballs in Hell come from.

            Perhaps Tom Aquinas tormenting the damned like a good saint should.

          • Mike

            "Perhaps Tom Aquinas tormenting the damned like a good saint should."

            nice.

          • Darren

            Who am I to argue with the Big-T when he says it is a moral duty for Christians to take pleasure in the suffering of sinners.

          • Mike

            humanism at it's most magnanimous.

  • I think this is the best apologetic argument, but fails.

    To choose between the three options we need to know something about how and if universe ultimately came into being. But we have no such knowledge.

    The video uses a dial to demonstrate how narrow the window for these constants is. But this suggests that, in the process that resulted in the universe, there was such an array of options. It rules out necessity or that the range of options was more narrow. How do we know there is a dial with all those options, how do we know that there is a dial, or how many options there are? We simply do not know. There is no reason to accept or rule out necessity. It may not be necessary, but the constants, may indeed be brute facts of the universe, or the result of some other more fundamental fact or law of nature.

    The argument is good in saying, if it were chance, the probabilities are very unlikely. But then it goes on to rule out multiverse as unlikely, because "there is no scientific evidence for the existence of this multiverse". This is true, depending on what you mean by evidence. But, there are highly respected scientists such as Stephen Hawking and Sean Carrol who advance this model as being consistent with other observations and which would make sense of a number of other scientific observations. But I take the point, this is speculative, the science has not confirmed its existence and doesn't know how it can. It would seem that the video takes the position that we should reject explanations if they lack of scientific evidence. We should not accept explanations just because they would explain our observations, especially if we cannot account for the explanation itself.

    Hmmm. Then why should we accept the explanation of a designer? If instead of an image of a machine pumping out universes, we replace it with an image of a god drafting up the constants of nature, then say basically the same thing. Cross it out, because "there is no scientific evidence for the existence of this [god]". Then since we have ruled out design and necessity, we are left with chance.

    Then there is the larger problem. This argument relies on these constants being set specifically for a purpose, namely life. But this is far from clear, and when all the evidence is looked at the argument loses all of its force.

    Firstly, as the constants are currently set, it is by no means clear that life would arise. If it were just the laws of nature that resulted in life, rather than intervention of a deity, it would appear that it is entirely possible that abiogenisis would not occur. (I think given the size of the universe, it was probably likely to occur, but by no means virtually certain.) Now this is unsurprising on naturalism, but not on theism. On theism, God could have created a universe that would almost certainly result in the formation of cells and DNA.

    But the really big problem with this is that the vast, vast majority of this universe is deadly to life, especially human life. Tartigrades might be able to survive in space, but not humans. Humans cannot survive space, black holes, stars, or anything other than a thin crust on part of some planets, possibly just one. This is completely surprising if the universe was designed for us. It would be like designing a giant home for someone with billions of rooms that no human could hope to see in any lifetime, and making most of these rooms deadly to humans within seconds of entering. Certainly such a house would be awe-inspiring but you would be insane to think it was designed to support life, it would appear to be designed to kill any life that arose. Even our own tiny life supporting space, gets largely destroyed by meteors.

    Why would we expect any laws of nature or constants at all in a cosmos on theism? Why would we need atoms, of chemistry or any of this? We might expect the cosmos to be what humans thought it was 2000 years ago. Us at the centre of it, occupying a big part of it, with a number of levels up, that have theological value. In other words, the Ptolemaic model is much more what we would expect on theism.

    On balance, the features of this universe do not support a design for the purpose of humans, if anything, for black holes.

    Finally, note how reserved the actual conclusion is. It does not say this is a deductive proof of a God. It does not say God is more likely than not. It says that a designer might be the best explanation. The use of "might" means the narrator cannot say it is likely that there is a designer, and the use of "best explanation" further reduces the standard of proof.

    And even after all of that, even if this argument was convincing, it gets you only to a designer with a mind, not a god.

    • "I think this is the best apologetic argument [for God], but it fails."

      Really? That surprises me. I think it's actually one of the weakest since 1) it's an inductive argument based on scientific evidence, which tends to fluctuate over time, and 2) it proves such a thin slice of God.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Brian. However, I'm afraid It's almost impossible to respond to a comment this long, with this many assertions.

      Perhaps you can isolate the single most glaring problem you find with the argument and we could discuss that?

      • Let us go with this one. If we rule out the multiverse because the theory lacks scientific evidence to support it, we should also rule out a designer for the same reason.

        • "If we rule out the multiverse because the theory lacks scientific evidence to support it, we should also rule out a designer for the same reason."

          The lack of scientific evidence for the multiverse--indeed, the impossibility of ever detecting scientific evidence for it--is not the only reason we should reject the multiverse theory (though it's a major one.)

          There are other reasons, as noted in the video (e.g., Boltzmann brain problem) which make the multiverse an extremely unlikely explanation.

          One glaring problem is that leaning on the multiverse to explain our particular universe simply kicks the problem up a level. The multiverse itself would still demand an explanation since it would not be necessary or self-existent, as God, classically understood, is.

          So putting "God" and the "multiverse" next to each other as possible explanations is misleading. The former would explain the fine-tuned scientific evidence while the second would provide only a secondary explanation while still lacking an ultimate explanation.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            One glaring problem is that leaning on the multiverse to explain our particular universe simply kicks the problem up a level. The multiverse itself would still demand an explanation since it would not be necessary of self-existent, as God, classically understood, is.

            This is a different argument. The objection to find tuning would still stand.

          • "This is a different argument. The objection to find tuning would still stand."

            No it wouldn't, because the multiverse itself, as Robin Collins shows in his work, would have to be finely-tuned.

          • I think the Boltznan brain issue has been refuted. I'm not leaning on multiverse, I take the position we do not have an explanation for the constants. It's the proponent of the argument that needs to rule out necessity and chance as worse explanations.

            Again theistic design suffers from the same problem of pushing it up a level. Just stating that the agent is self existent leads to the same questions we would have of a necessity on naturalism.

          • Sample1

            Boltzman brain issue refuted

            Yes, succinctly explained here:

            Kimberly K. Boddy, Sean M. Carroll, Jason Pollack
            (Submitted on 11 May 2015)

            Many modern cosmological scenarios feature large volumes of spacetime in a de Sitter vacuum phase. Such models are said to be faced with a "Boltzmann Brain problem" - the overwhelming majority of observers with fixed local conditions are random fluctuations in the de Sitter vacuum, rather than arising via thermodynamically sensible evolution from a low-entropy past. We argue that this worry can be straightforwardly avoided in the Many-Worlds (Everett) approach to quantum mechanics, as long as the underlying Hilbert space is infinite-dimensional. In that case, de Sitter settles into a truly stationary quantum vacuum state. While there would be a nonzero probability for observing Boltzmann-Brain-like fluctuations in such a state, "observation" refers to a specific kind of dynamical process that does not occur in the vacuum (which is, after all, time-independent). Observers are necessarily out-of-equilibrium physical systems, which are absent in the vacuum. Hence, the fact that projection operators corresponding to states with observers in them do not annihilate the vacuum does not imply that such observers actually come into existence. The Boltzmann Brain problem is therefore much less generic than has been supposed. Source: http://arxiv.org/abs/1505.02780

            Mike

          • "I think the Boltznan brain issue has been refuted."

            It has not. It remains a serious problem for multiverse proponents, as exposed by William Lane Craig in his debate with Sean Carroll. Craig summarizes the problem in his post-debate reflections:

            http://www.reasonablefaith.org/further-reflections-on-the-sean-carroll-debate

            "I'm not leaning on multiverse, I take the position we do not have an explanation for the constants."

            Of course we don't have an explanation if by that you mean an undeniable, consensus view. But that's rarely the case in the philosophy of science.

            What must be done is to examine the evidence, weigh all the possible explanations of that evidence, and settle on the best explanation of the evidence.

            Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to agree that the fine-tuning of the universe is not necessary. We would both agree that this is the least likely explanation and can almost certainly be dismissed.

            And after reading most of your comments in this thread, I've yet to see you put forward any good evidence for thinking the remarkable precision of these many constants is due to chance. The odds are astronomically against this option.

            So that leaves only one option, that the fine-tuning was caused by a cosmic designer, and that's even before exploring positive evidence for such a designer. The relative strength of this option is high simply because the only other two options are so extremely unlikely.

            "It's the proponent of the argument that needs to rule out necessity and chance as worse explanations."

            This has been successfully done, from what I've seen, in the short video above but also in more deeper scholarly work. For example:

            http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Collins-The-Teleological-Argument.pdf

            "Again theistic design suffers from the same problem of pushing it up a level. Just stating that the agent is self existent leads to the same questions we would have of a necessity on naturalism."

            It seems you're prone to this same error in every discussion which touches on God's aseity (i.e., his necessary self-existence.) I've seen you say virtually the same thing on many occasions.

            Here's where I think you misunderstand things: Christians don't just posit God's necessary self-existence as an arbitrary, ad hoc way to "escape" an infinite regress of causes or explanations. Instead, they put forward arguments explaining why, logically, there must be a first cause, or ultimate explanation, which exists necessarily by its own nature. This most people would identify with God, but you can call it whatever you want until and unless you know more about it, perhaps from other philosophical arguments.

            In other words, you believe theists begin their argument by presuming God exists, demonstrating the existence of a self-existent being, and then claiming the two must be the same. And if this were really the case, then I agree it would be arbitrary, ad hoc, and even circular.

            But really theists only first presume the concept of God (not whether he exists). This is unsurprising, since you can't help but do this: in order to speak coherently about "God", we must first understand what we mean by that term, and one of the fundamental attributes of God is that he is uncaused and exists necessarily. Next, theists produce an argument that logically deduces a necessary self-existent being, and then finally they ask, what in our pool of explanations could meet that criteria? They then conclude that the strongest possibility is God or, in this particular and limited case of fine-tuning, a transcendent cosmic designer (whether God, god, or some other supernatural force.)

            See the difference between those two scenarios? The first presumes God's existence, the second arrives at it, deducing it as the best explanation.

          • Darren

            Brandon wrote,

            In other words, you believe theists begin their argument by presuming God exists...

            But really theists only first presume the concept of God (not whether he exists). This is unsurprising, since you can't help but do this: in order to speak coherently about "God", we must first understand what we mean by that term. Next, theists produce an argument that logically deduces a necessary self-existent being, and then finally they ask, what in our pool of explanations could meet that criteria? They then conclude that the strongest possibility is God or, in this particular and limited case of fine-tuning, a transcendent cosmic designer (whether God, god, or some other supernatural force.)

            Catholic Sunday school must be intense...

          • "Catholic Sunday school must be intense..."

            Of course this isn't taught to children in Catholic "Sunday school" classes. This is sophisticated philosophy.

            But just as quantum mechanics isn't discounted since we don't teach it to third-graders, neither should philosophically sophisticated understandings of God. Hopefully you'd agree!

          • Darren

            Brandon wrote,

            Of course this isn't taught to children in Catholic "Sunday school" classes. This is sophisticated philosophy.

            Well now I am just confused.

            Which one is it that comes first, then: the years of indoctrination in the Christian paradigm; or the deriving of the thrice-omni, a-temporal, non-material, first cause, unmoved mover, undesigned designer and part-time bearded Galilean - from first principles?

            :)

          • "Well now I am just confused.

            Which one is it that comes first, then: the years of indoctrination in the Christian paradigm; or the deriving of the thrice-omni, a-temporal, non-material, first cause, unmoved mover, undesigned designer and part-time bearded Galilean - from first principles?

            :)"

            Hey, Darren, I'd love to have a serious conversation with you, but there's no need for condescending, rhetorical questions (with obligatory smily faces.) That's how middle-schoolers engage, not serious adults. And it's not the atmosphere we're shooting for on this website.

            You asked a question--either seriously or in jest--about whether Catholics introduce a philosophically sophisticated understanding of God in "Catholic Sunday school." I responded, respectfully, by noting how Catholics (like all people) don't offer deep intellectual meat to children still getting used to milk.

            Unless you have a serious follow-up question or point, I'll leave it at that.

          • Darren

            Brandon wrote

            Hey, Darren, I'd love to have a serious conversation with you, but there's no need for condescending, rhetorical questions (with obligatory smily faces.) That's how middle-schoolers engage, not serious adults. And it's not the atmosphere we're shooting for on
            this website.

            You asked a question--either seriously or in jest--about whether Catholics introduce a philosophically sophisticated understanding of God in "Catholic Sunday school."

            As you said upthread, no condescension was intended and I regret you took it so.

            I believe this is simply a misunderstanding, as you have
            apparently failed to understand what I wrote.

            You state that I asked a question about “Catholic Sunday school”. I asked no such question. You had claimed theists do not start with God, they prove God first, and only then believe in the God thus proven. I did not believe this to be factual. To demonstrate this I made reference to a phenomenon with which all of us here are acquainted: religious indoctrination of children. You apparently misunderstood this statement, thinking it to be a question, and then subsequently provided an answer that contradicted your previous claim: of course children do not prove God.

            Yet, if children are not proving God, from whence do these proving-God-first-theists spring?

            Now we had two contradictory claims: theists proving God
            first; theists not proving God first; A and not-A.

            My next comment was a question, which of your contradictory claims did you support. It was a question entirely capable of an answer, “A”, “not-A”,“you misunderstood me, allow me to clarify”, etc., but in no sense rhetorical.

            What you may have been aiming towards was that theists
            historically started with proving God. That is a different claim, and one which I also think false, but less obviously so.

          • ClayJames

            You had claimed theists do not start with God, they prove God first, and only then believe in the God thus proven. I did not believe this to be factual. To demonstrate this I made reference to a phenomenon with which all of us here are acquainted: religious indoctrination of children.

            Are you really implying that everything you teach your children to be true, starts with first principles, then is followed by a formal proof and only then do you conclude to your kid that X exists? This is absurd. Children do not have the ability to formally reason through logical argument and this should not a prerequisite for parents to teach them what they believe to be true, in ways that they can understand. This applies to God or anything else.

            My next comment was a question, which of your contradictory claims did you support. It was a question entirely capable of an answer, “A”, “not-A”,“you misunderstood me, allow me to clarify”, etc., but in no sense rhetorical.

            He did answer your question. It is absurd to claim to children must prove anything formally first before believing because that is not how children come to believe anything. Therefore, he is clearly refering to how people with developed intellectual faculties normally encounter the problem of God, not children.

            Just because there are children that are atheists, does it then follow that atheism (defined as the belief that god does not exist) is first presumed and then argued. Atheists would say that atheism is a result logical arguments and reasonable proofs and yet, they teach their children, in a way that they understand, that atheism is true.

            Also, the word indoctrination is a pejorative one that implies that theists teach their children to believe in God without questioning. I dont think Brandon or any other theist on this site would discourage their child from questioning things they are taught about God. If anything this is ideal, since it leads to teaching experiences and an important sign that the child is ready for more sophisticated reasoning.

            You are (either accidentally or on purpose) taking the word ¨first¨ to mean ¨when they first encounter the concept¨, as children, instead of the ¨first¨ step that a person with developed reasoning skills takes in order to justify the belief in God.

          • Darren

            ClayJames, I am glad to see that we agree: theists do not prove god first. You will note that was the entirety of my claim.

            ClayJames wrote,

            Also, the word indoctrination is a pejorative one…

            I am sorry you took it so. You should, perhaps, double check
            your understanding of the term. “Indoctrination” is only pejorative for those who object to doctrine, which clearly is not the case with Catholics.

          • ClayJames

            ClayJames, I am glad to see that we agree: theists do not prove god first. You will note that was the entirety of my claim.

            In no way am I agreeing with you because you are completely misunderstanding what is being said. You are taking ¨first¨ to mean how humans first approach the concept of God (or any other concept) and then pointing to how children do not prove god first when what is being talked about is the steps that a person with developed reasoning skills (like those on this site) take in order to justify their belief in God.

            I couldn´t have been more clear in my last response to you so I don´t know how you took it as an endorsement.

            I am sorry you took it so. You should, perhaps, double check your understanding of the term.

            Indoctrinate: : to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/indoctrinate)

            Care to offer an alternative definition?

          • Darren

            ClayJames wrote

            In no way am I agreeing with you because you are completely misunderstanding what is being said.

            It is because you are failing to understand that all of your arguments against "my position", are the arguments I was making against Brandon's position. I suggest you go back and read the thread more carefully, perhaps making notes as to what I said .vs. what Brandon said.

            {Shrug}

            1 : to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments : teach

            2 : to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle

            Same Merriam-Webster page, just the part you chose not to quote.

            By all means, though, join me in considering doctrine/dogma a bad thing.

          • ClayJames

            {Shrug}

            Shrug indeed. My argument against you is that you are misrepresenting what Brandon said, so I fail to understand how this is the argument you are making against Brandon´s position.

            1 : to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments : teach

            2 : to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle

            Exactly. So if you want to take an alternative definition which basically means to simply ¨teach¨, then everyone indoctrinates their kids regarding anything they teach them. The word loses some of its implication.

            To make this easier, simply juste tell me how you define the word.

          • Darren

            ClayJames wrote,

            My argument against you is that you are misrepresenting what Brandon said, so I fail to understand how this is the argument you are making against Brandon´s position.

            Indeed. After exhorting you to check the public record, and you refusing to do so, there is little more to be gained here. Horse, water, etc.

          • ClayJames

            I did check the record.

            My mistake was not heeding Brandon´s initial warning about your intentions and middle school rhetoric.

          • Darren

            Oh, insults. If you were a non-theist that would earn you a talkin' to.

            BTW, and again you really should read more carefully, it is rhetorical questions (even though they weren't rhetorical) that apparently marks one as a middle-schooler, not rhetoric.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Children do not have the ability to formally reason through logical argument and this should not a prerequisite for parents to teach them what they believe to be true, in ways that they can understand. This applies to God or anything else.

            It seems to me that there has to be some limitations on what parent can ethically teach their children. We wouldn't approve of a parent teaching their children to be suicide bombers or KKK members.

          • ClayJames

            This is a very important point that has been addressed in the past in reference to Dawkins´claim that teaching children about religion is child abuse.

            I believe that for a parent to be ethical, they need to teach their children 1) what they believe to be true and 2) to question their own beliefs. Unfortunately, because many parents believe things that are not true, therefore, their children will believe things that are not true. The problem that should be attacked is the parent´s false beliefs and not the fact that they are teaching their children what they believe to be true.

            If the parents are right regarding their beliefs about suicide bombers, then it makes complete sense for them to teach these things to their kids. It is actually kind of crucial for them to do so. The focus is on debunking what the parents believe and not trying to get parents to not teach their kids what they believe to be true.

          • Darren

            Ignatius Reilly wrote,

            We wouldn't approve of a parent teaching their children to be suicide bombers or KKK members.

            You and I may think so.

            Then again, one man's KKK is another man's KofC; one man's PLO is another man's IRA.

          • David Nickol

            Then again, one man's KKK is another man's KofC; one man's PLO is another man's IRA.

            The point, I think, is that (in Western democracies, in any case), virtually no one would maintain that it is the right of parents to teach their children absolutely anything. Consequently, in the absence of absolute parental rights, we must face the question of where the line is to be drawn. Even in the United States, where we have freedom of religion written into the Constitution, it is not unthinkable for the state to intervene in extreme cases of religious indoctrination.

          • I'm curious: which Christians claim to be able to derive everything about God and Jesus from first principles? I cannot recall a single relevant one who didn't think that God had to actually speak—to reveal things about himself—in order for us to know very much.

          • Darren

            Sounds like a conversation you should have with Brandon; I am sure he would appreciate your illuminating his error.

          • Can you establish that he believes what you apparently assert, based only on reasoning from first principles (which exclude divine revelation)?

          • Darren

            Luke Breuer wrote,

            Can you establish that he believes what you apparently assert, based only on reasoning from first principles (which exclude divine revelation)?

            The text is available for inspection. I find no reference to "divine revelation", "God speaking", or "God revealing himself". Perhaps your cntl-f works better than mine.

          • I find no reference to the underlined—

            D: [...] the deriving of the thrice-omni, a-temporal, non-material, first cause, unmoved mover, undesigned designer and part-time bearded Galilean - from first principles?

            —in @bvogt1:disqus's philosophical arguments about God. If you cannot establish that this exists in his philosophical arguments from first principles, I suggest you edit what you have written to accurately capture what he has said.

          • Darren

            You will note the absence of quotes.

          • Irrelevant; the implication was clear.

          • George

            are the philosophically sophisticated claims of god as rigorous and falsifiable as science? are the sophisticated claims open and honest?

          • "Are the philosophically sophisticated claims of god as rigorous and falsifiable as science?"

            Yes. The classical, philosophical arguments for God are rigorous, and you can falsify them in many ways: by refuting one or more of their premises, by showing how their terms were badly defined, or by identifying a misstep in logic.

            "Are the sophisticated claims open and honest?"

            I think so.

          • George

            "I've yet to see you put forward any good evidence for thinking the remarkable precision of these many constants is due to chance"

            what would such evidence look like?

            "What must be done is to examine the evidence, weight all the possible explanations of that evidence, and settle on the best explanation of the evidence."

            the best explanation at that time, or ALL time? just like when apologists claim "science will never figure out X" (examples: "science will never discover the origin of life, science will never figure out how this baby was healed/survived an hour without oxygen(therefore Fulton Sheen did it)"). I have to ask how you would know.

            "in order to speak coherently about "God", we must first understand what we mean by that term"

            do you understand what you mean by the term?

            "theists produce an argument that logically deduces a necessary self-existent being"

            is "necessary self-existent being" your definition of God?

          • "What would such evidence look like?"

            At a minimum, it would demonstrate a high or even reasonable probability that the constants would randomly arrange the way they have. For example, if the range of life-permitting values was, say 30% likely given the background information and alternative possibilities, that's strong evidence for the fine-tuning existing by chance.

            "The best explanation at that time, or ALL time?"

            Of course at the present moment--it's the only time we have access to! It's certainly possible that in the future, contrary evidence would arise that would show the fine-tuning is either necessary or likely by chance. And in that case, the argument would have less force, or none at all! But that doesn't mean we shouldn't examine the evidence we have now and ask what the best explanation is for it today.

            "Just like when apologists claim "science will never figure out X" (examples: "science will never discover the origin of life)..."

            Let's be careful not to reduce all philosophers, theologians, and scientists who see limitations to science down to "apologists," when their groups include many non-believers.

            To answer your specific question, I'm not aware of many classic Catholic theists (as opposed to Protestant Intelligent Design proponents or Creationists) who suggest that "science will never discover the origin of life." But I am familiar with many who note that science will never discover the origin of the universe (perhaps that's what you were referring to.) Yet even many atheist philosophers and scientists agree with this point. The reason is because of science's methodological limitations. Science can only answer empirical questions, those dealing with the natural world of energy, matter, space, and time. Therefore, it can't ask meta level questions about where the natural world (i.e., the universe) came from. It's not that science is unlikely to discover these answers--it's inherently incapable of ever finding them, simply because of what science is.

            "Do you understand what you mean by the term [God]?"

            Yes.

            "Is "necessary self-existent being" your definition of God?"

            It's part of what we mean by "God," but it doesn't exhaust the definition. The attribute of "necessary self-existence" has been central to the conception of God among all major theistic traditions for the last two thousand years.

          • I would not require an undeniable consensus view of the origins of the constants, I would accept the very low standard of best explanation.

            No, I do not take the position that the constants are not necessary. I don't know their origin. I have no evidence to review on whether the constants are designed or necessary. The only evidence advanced is how specific they are. Well this is just as consistent with necessity as with design and chance by multiverse.

            You haven't ruled out the other options. No one has ruled out chance by multiverse or necessity.

            If you'd like to discuss cosmological arguments fine, but this is the design argument.

            Saying God is uncaused and exists necessarily is not an explanation of God that helps understand it, it raises more questions.

            If I speculate that the cosmos itself with the laws of nature is uncaused and exists necessarily, you would not accept it as explaining the origin of the universe. Similarly stating that the ultimate cause has these properties does nothing to assist your case.

          • "You haven't ruled out the other options. No one has ruled out chance by multiverse or necessity."

            Who has claimed the options have been "ruled out", in the sense of logical implausibility? The argument is an inductive argument which is meant to infer the best explanation.

            Even if it's impossible to "rule out" two competing explanations (necessity and chance), you can still affirm that a third explanation (design) is far more likely and better fits the data.

          • "If I speculate that the cosmos itself with the laws of nature is uncaused and exists necessarily, you would not accept it as explaining the origin of the universe."

            Of course not, but I would give reasons why. In fact, this very proposal (that the universe itself could perhaps be necessary and uncaused) has been refuted many times at Strange Notions. All of the philosophical and scientific evidence we have points to a temporal beginning of the universe, which would make it contingent (and thus unnecessary) and in need of a cause, since anything that begins to exist requires a cause.

            "Similarly stating that the ultimate cause has these properties does nothing to assist your case."

            But this isn't what I'm doing. I'm not just arbitrarily assigning these properties to God. I'm suggesting "God" is the name of the thing that has these properties!

            I've explained this distinction several times, here and elsewhere, but you seem unwilling or unable to grasp it.

          • So as I follow your argument, the justification for ruling out necessity on naturalism is that any possible explanation for the constants being necessary, is that any such explanation would have to be within the material world and in no sense prior to the Big Bang?

            Might I point out the following. When Lawrence Krauss offers an explanation for the Big Bang from quantum fluctuations, you and others rightly point out that this would not be a Universe from Nothing, philosophically speaking, but that it relies on the existence of this quantum foam (or whatever). But you must agree that there is nothing logically inconsistent with this non-temporal non-nothing giving rise to the universe. How do you know that this state of affairs is likely impossible? Why is this state of affairs not possible to be a brute fact of the cosmos?

          • "But you must agree that there is nothing logically inconsistent with this non-temporal non-nothing giving rise to the universe."

            I'm not sure what, specifically, you're referring to by a "non-termporal non-nothing" entity.

            We have a great word for non-nothing: something. So I get that part.

            But by non-temporal are you referring to something that is a-temporal (irrespective of time), eternal (uncreated; always existing), or timeless (outside of time)?

            Either way, none of these alternative are descriptive of the "nothing" Krauss refers to in his book, which is in fact within time. (His nothing includes quantum fluctuations, and fluctuations, like any change, occur within time.)

            It's impossible for me to answer your final two questions (whether such a state is possible or a universal brute fact) until I understand what you're referring to in the first place.

          • OK, I may be wrong with the a temporal, are you saying the theory advanced by Krause is incoherent?

            What basis is there for ruling out as unlikely, the quantum vacuum as being a brute fact of the cosmos along with its properties such as the constants, from which a universe may arise?

          • Sample1

            SN is evidently not current on the latest science if I understand Vogt below. Carroll vs WLC debate was in 2014.

            Carroll released a Boltzmann refutation in 2015. Link to paper below.

            Mike

          • "SN is evidently not current on the latest science if I understand Vogt below. Carroll vs WLC debate was in 2014.

            Carroll released a Boltzmann refutation in 2015. Link to paper below."

            Not sure what would give you this impression. I'm familiar with both the debate and Carroll's attempted refutation. I think Carroll's 2015 paper suffers the same deficiencies and misunderstandings about "Boltzmann brains" as he displayed in the debate.

          • Will

            There is a small amount of evidence for the multiverse, here is are a couple of articles.

            http://phys.org/news/2010-12-scientists-evidence-universes.html

            http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/evidence-multiverse-we-might-have-just-bumped-into-another-universe-1526526

            We might find more, or we might find there are other causes for this, but these things are not necessarily completely out of reach of science.

            There are more possibilities, the parameters could vary spatially or with time. If the universe is infinite, we could very well be in the region (possibly an absurdly large region) that has the necessary parameters to support our life.

            https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100909004112.htm

            It seems the correct conclusion is Socratic, i.e. "I know that I do not know".

            Edit to add: If reality is a giant search engine, there is no need for the "first cause" to be intelligent. Intelligence is a required property of what most people call God.

          • "It seems the correct conclusion is Socratic, i.e. "I know that I do not know"."

            I find this interesting. Nobody here is claiming that the fine-tuning argument serves as proof for God, nor that it leads to knowing that God exists (if by "knowing" you mean, as many modern atheists do, having certainty about.)

            We're simply suggesting that the evidence of fine-tuning can be best explained by a cosmic designer. Thus the argument is in an inference to the best explanation, not a proof.

            Many theists would happily nod in agreement with you that we can't know what caused the fine-tuning (again, "know" in the strong sense of certainty.) But we can make confident inferences based on the available evidence. We can be fairly confident that the fine-tuning is not due to necessity or chance, so that leaves only one other possibility--a cosmic designer.

          • Galorgan

            "Nobody here is claiming that the fine-tuning argument serves as proof for God... Thus the argument is in an inference to the best explanation, not a proof."

            To be fair, the last line of the article asks if it's a "sound proof."

          • Rudy R

            And like you said, nobody here is claiming a god as the designer (yeah, right), but a cosmic designer, so it could have been an alien lifeform?

          • George

            "self-existent, as God, classically understood, is."

            classically asserted, sure. why should we care if theologians traditionally say that about Yahweh? can you explain why one cannot be as ambitious as an apologist and claim the multiverse or anything else is "self-existent"? how could you determine that anyone else was wrong? how would you know?

        • ClayJames

          I don´t think that the universe is ruled out simply because it lacks scientific evidence to support it but more importantly, because it lacks any evidence to support it.

          EDIT: This should read multiverse, not universe.

          • Well the video said scientific evidence. I don't think there is any evidence that the constants were designed.

            I don't think we have any evidence supporting any of the three options. We have reason to reject chance I would agree.

          • ClayJames

            The argument does not require there to be evidence that the that the constants were designed. The argument claims that we have reason to reject necessity and chance (which you seem to agree) and in the absence of evidence against design, it becomes the most plausible alternative.

          • I disagree that we can rule out necessity and chance (by way of multiverse) and there is strong evidence this universe was not designed for life, that virtually all of the universe is deadly.

          • In the spirit of posting apparent contradictions and hoping for a "Brilliant!" comment by David in reply:

            "We have reason to reject chance I would agree...."
            - Brian Green Adams

            "I disagree that we can rule out necessity and chance..."
            - Brian Green Adams

          • Darren

            Brandon wrote,

            In the spirit of posting apparent contradictions and hoping for a "Brilliant!" comment by David in reply:

            I take it the mystery of the surreptitiously deleted comments is a mystery no longer.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            In the spirit of posting apparent contradictions and hoping for a "Brilliant!" comment by David in reply:

            What do you mean by this? David has never commented that anything was brilliant. That event never happened and any mention of that event never happened either ;-)

        • Does this not presuppose that God can be an object for science? We're not talking about habits of God, just like psychologists can scientifically study the more repeatable habits of persons. Instead, we're talking about all of God.

          Put another way, if God is ruled out as an object of study of science, that does not immediately mean that (1) God cannot be related to by humans in any way; (2) God is not important for all humans. What you meant by "rule out" is, of course, crucial.

          • David Nickol

            Does this not presuppose that God can be an object for science?

            Don't all of the alleged proofs of the existence of God assume, one way or another, that God's existence is an object for science?

          • I've never come across such an assertion before.

          • David Nickol

            It's actually a question. :-)

          • Then I suppose my answer is a simple, "No." Without knowing more about why you would think such a thing, I don't have any more detailed of an answer than that.

          • Darren

            David Nickol wrote,

            Don't all of the alleged proofs of the existence of God assume, one way or another, that God's existence is an object for science?

            Good point. All except for, perhaps, the Ontological.

          • ClayJames

            Unless I am misunderstanding what you are saying I would say that the opposite is true, alleged proofs for the existence of God assume that God is not an object of science.

          • Actually, if you notice, this argument does not actually imply the existence of a deity, but rather a designer. This designer could be a naturalistic being, indeed, even if design is the more likely explanation,we would be reasonable in inferring the designer would be a natural entity, since all designers we have encountered are natural entities.

            By rule out, in ts context, we simply mean, does the argument proponent provide sufficient basis to consider one of the three explanations for the specificity of the constants more likely than the others? This is a philosophical analysis based on facts accepted as true derived from science (our understanding of these constants).

            Whether a god or any other explanation of phenomena can be detected by science is an open question. If this god manifests in a material manner it is capable of being observed and may be distinguished from natural phenonomena, there would be no reason the question of Its existentence may not be addressed by science.

          • What do you mean by 'natural entity'? Keep in mind we're talking about design of a spacetime manifold from 'outside' of that manifold.

          • By natural I mean non-theistic by entity I just use the widest possible term this could be responsible for the constants.

            I do not think we are necessarily talking about out side time and space.

          • I'm sorry, but then I will simply have to ask you what you mean by 'non-theistic'. For example, consider the programmer of a simulated world, containing simulated beings which are sentient and sapient. Ought they consider the programmer 'theistic'?

            As to your 'necessarily'—I was assuming that the big bang really happened. Given the plausibility of the big bang, it seems safer to allow for the possibility that spacetime emerged from something not-spacetime, instead of trying to make all explanations fit within spacetime.

          • I'm afraid I cannot help you. I neither beleive in any deity, nor am I clear on what theists beleive deity is. Proponents of this argument are convinced that the constants are explained by deity, but they do not advance any hypothesis of what deity is or how it tuned theses constants or what it is they are tuning. In any event what the entities in an artificial universe beleive about the designers is not the point. The point is what is deity, and is it reasonable to accept theistic design over the other hypothesized contenders.

            Sure with respect to space-time. But the thing is, Big Bang cosmology simply takes us back to a state of affairs where our notions of time, space, these constants, stop making sense. We cannot understand what was going on in that state. This is why it is blank prior to this, science can simply say nothing about it, other than baseless speculation.

            Some theists believe they can say what was going on to some extent. They propose a form of existence, non-material, non-spatial, non-temporal, which is never observed or observable, for which there is no warrant to believe. They attach properties to this state of affairs such as mind, transcendent, good, powerful, and simply state that this is a "god", that is also a human being that died sort of. I see son reason to accept that any such state of affairs occurred, and no reason to accept it explains facts about the spatial, temporal, material existence. Such explanations are woefully ad hoc and I am unconvinced.

          • If you don't know what you're denying by saying "non-theistic", then it's not clear you know what you're asserting. This would be a sort of metaphysical version of falsification.

            What you seem to be saying is that proponents of a deity having designed our reality fail to provide an explanation in terms which would be at home in modern science: unchosen randomness evolved through time via impersonal forces. This simply begs the question: ultimate reality is not guaranteed to be impersonal, to have no will, to be telos-free.

            At this point, I think I would suggest Gregory W. Dawes' Theism and Explanation. He looks at what could constitute valid explanation, and argues that there is a type of explanation other than the standard scientific kind: the rationality principle. One can explain states of affairs as satisfying optimality according to purpose, instead of time-evolution of state. Now, Dawes is not particularly hopeful about any theists being able to provide an explanation which would suffice, even though he thinks such explanations are possible. But he opens up a metaphysical possibility that I frequently find presupposed to be shut.

            Finally, part of your objection seems to mirror Enlightenment frustration with understanding that was not based on "clear and distinct ideas". The hope was that in time, we would understand reality perfectly: there would be no ambiguity, nothing half-understood. I question the rationality of such a hope, and I question the empirical adequacy, on the basis that humans seem to be able to quite productively operate while thinking in ways which are not "clear and distinct". Indeed, this kind of thinking seems absolutely necessary to our expanding the frontiers of our knowledge; to try and use the old paradigm of thinking, with its concomitant formal systems, to penetrate the new is folly. If God is larger than our paradigms, then thinking about him will necessarily be something other than "clear and distinct".

          • I do not know how to put it any plainer. The theist advances an explanation for these constants as design. I am just pointing out that the argument as articulated here, points to design alone, it does not make an argument for what the designer was. If you want to advance theistic design, you need to establish what you mean by deity, and why you have excluded naturalistic design.

            "What you seem to be saying is that proponents of a deity having designed our reality fail to provide an explanation in terms which would be at home in modern science: unchosen randomness evolved through time via impersonal forces."

            No, this is not my position. I take it that this argument is advancing the low standard of proof, on a philosophical basis, that design is the best explanation. I disagree that it is the best explanation. I do not think we have enough information to prefer design over necessity and make a judgment on which is the "best" explanation.

            Again the point of this particular comment is to show that even if this argument is successful in making design as the best explanation, it needs to do more to show the best explanation for a designer was a deity.

          • I am just pointing out that the argument as articulated here, points to design alone, it does not make an argument for what the designer was. If you want to advance theistic design, you need to establish what you mean by deity, and why you have excluded naturalistic design.

            Why is your standard required? If I observe a Japanese rock garden, I can infer design by an intelligent agent, but I cannot tell you everything there is to know about the actual designer. Supposing you accept that this is a valid inference, can you sketch what might be 'enough' description of the designer of the universe, for the proposition "the universe was designed" to be a contender?

            Again the point of this particular comment is to show that even if this argument is successful in making design as the best explanation, it needs to do more to show the best explanation for a designer was a deity.

            I don't see how this is possibly true. It seems trivial to imagine a simulated universe created by a set of programmers, which contains sentient, sapient lifeforms. It seems trivial to imagine that the programmers could provide some evidence that the universe was designed, while not revealing overmuch about the designers.

          • Of course if you see a rock garden you can infer design. The fact that you call it a garden presupposes this. What tells you that this is a garden is the signs if cultivation. You know this because you have experience. You know how rocks are normally found in nature and you know something about how likely it is for them to be arranged by human efforts as opposed to natural ones.

            If you come across the Giant's Causway, you find pillars of rock seemingly arranged by design in hexagonal columns. This is very rare and looks "ordered" to you and you infer design again. But because here you cannot think of how humans could have designed done it, you infer superhuman agency. But you'd be wrong, we do know how this was formed and natural forces.

            Without some knowledge of what you are dealing with, you can mistake order, or apparent order for design.

            We do not have the knowledge we'd need to infer design in this case. So with respect to these constants, inferring design is not reasonable, on any standard of proof.

            If we suppose some designers who are sapient, we have proposed only that. Sapience would be entailed by design. It doesn't tell us if it is a material or some other way of being. It doesn't tell us if there was something like space and time, and these designers created a universe through a black hole or something.

            I think fundamentally, the dispute hinges on something touched on by the Yuma post yesterday. There is an intuition about order and coherence that I think is being clung to here. It is the intuition that order and coherence and determinism, cannot be the default ultimate state of the cosmos naturally. That this had to be arranged by some kind of mind. This intuition makes sense on the human scale. When we encounter things that we can order in an ordered condition, we infer something like us ordered them. But this is a poor mechanism to determine the ultimate origins of the cosmos.

            Personally, what I see is tremendous order in the natural world, these are laws of nature themselves. I don't see why this is not the default state of the cosmos. I agree that something must be. But to conclude that this default state is some kind of immaterial mind that has the power to create these laws themselves out of literally nothing, is fantastical. We have no evidence of any such entity.

          • Darren

            Very nicely written, Brian.

          • Without some knowledge of what you are dealing with, you can mistake order, or apparent order for design.

            True. But is the opposite error any less likely?

            Personally, what I see is tremendous order in the natural world, these are laws of nature themselves. I don't see why this is not the default state of the cosmos. I agree that something must be. But to conclude that this default state is some kind of immaterial mind that has the power to create these laws themselves out of literally nothing, is fantastical. We have no evidence of any such entity.

            How can one conclude what is the 'default state'? The 'default state' sounds more like a universal Bayesian prior probability—the probability you start with before you make a single observation. Make the universal prior strong enough and you can easily not collect enough data to reject propositions it considers 'true'. (This works both ways.) A strong enough universal prior can also cause you to say that there is "no evidence" for the falsity of said propositions. All observations are theory-laden.

          • I don't know what is more likely. But we need to have some reason to prefer design over the other alternatives.

            As I think I have made clear, I do not think we can reach a conclusion on the default state of the cosmos. I am criticising theists for taking a position on this. We don't have any priors to go on or ideas of what priors would be, as far as I know.

            You don't seem to be open to taking the position of not reaching a conclusion I on these questions..

          • But we need to have some reason to prefer design over the other alternatives.

            Sure; we also need some reason to prefer only the "laws of nature themselves" over "the other alternatives". I can think of a reason: the desire to control, to bend nature to our purposes, as Francis Bacon wished to do. To the extent that this reason determines what qualifies as 'prefer', we will be constitutionally unable to discover that our purposes are sub-par in one way or another.

            As I think I have made clear, I do not think we can reach a conclusion on the default state of the cosmos. I am criticising theists for taking a position on this. We don't have any priors to go on or ideas of what priors would be, as far as I know.

            This looks like a denial that all observation is theory-laden. I claim that we cannot avoid having universal priors. And I deny that we conclude what the default state is; I think we presuppose it, and cannot avoid presupposing something. What I would most strongly argue for is a constant re-investigation of the a priori as well as the a posteriori.

            You don't seem to be open to taking the position of not reaching a conclusion I on these questions..

            I don't know how you got that idea. I should think it would be obvious that I'm trying to understand your reasoning process, as well as explore some of the things I think are currently most likely true (or the best approximation of truth currently available).

            Perhaps you could tell me what it would look like to you, for me to be "open to taking the position of not reaching a conclusion". Would I need to look at things your way, or would I need to expose some sort of reservations or tentativeness which I am not? If the latter, then what does it look like for you to also do the same thing? If your only answer is "We have no evidence of any such entity.", I will push you on the the concept of theory-ladenness of observation, as well as what determines "reason to prefer".

          • Sure; we also need some reason to prefer only the "laws of nature themselves" over "the other alternatives".

            - agreed

            "This looks like a denial that all observation is theory-laden"

            I do not understand this comment. Also do you mean by "universal priors"?

            On a Bayesian analysis, the priors issue would be our background knowledge on universe creation. Given everything we know about how universes are created, how likely is it that a given universe was designed? That is the prior probability. We then look at the evidence, in this case the specificity of these constants, and ask how does this change the probability that this universe was designed?

            The problem is, is that we have no background knowledge on universe creation. We have pretty elaborate science on universe development, going back to a singularity. But nothing on universe creation.

          • I do not understand this comment. Also do you mean by "universal priors"?

            In order to possibly avoid a long discussion of the theory-ladenness of observation, let me ask: are you aware of the argument over whether there exists a 'neutral point of view' from which we could all view reality, if only we would shed our biases and prejudices? More precisely, do you think we can knowingly approach an NPOV?

            As regards universal priors, are you aware that Bayesian inference involves taking a prior probability, updating it with an observation, in order to obtain a posterior probability? If so, whence came the first prior? Is the particular nature/​value of that prior important?

            The problem is, is that we have no background knowledge on universe creation.

            Was theorizing about the atomic nature of matter fruitless before solid empirical evidence was found (e.g. Brownian motion)? If your answer is "no", then I question the relevance of our having background knowledge. Instead, I would argue that it is an absolutely critical aspect of science that it play with the a priori as well as collect more a posteriori. This is a fundamentally anti-positivist stance, and it rejects the idea of an NPOV.

            I will add that I suspect the first place a designed universe would be relevant is in the domain of the human sciences, not the hard sciences. I suspect that if you were to cross-reference the material in many influential religious texts, you will find that it is much closer to the subject matter of the human sciences than the hard sciences. A concrete example would be whether 'poverty' is defined in terms of the lack of physical things, or something else/​more. Many religions I know of definitely speak to this matter, and what definition is used when we attempt to alleviate 'poverty' is of paramount importance. If the universe is designed, we might expect there to be an objective definition of 'poverty' to be increasingly discoverable. If not, then perhaps there is no such objective definition, or perhaps it cannot have certain aspects (due to absurdly low probability, if nothing else).

          • No not aware of that argument or what would be mean by a ""neutral" point of view.

            I don't know what you mean by "first prior". We estimate a prior probability based on background knowledge. If we have no background knowledge or it is inconclusive, we cannot use Bayesian analysis.

            "Was theorizing about the atomic nature of matter fruitless before solid empirical evidence was found"

            No, if by "theorizing" you mean "speculating" or "hypothesizing". This allows you to test your speculation with empirical observations. It is wrong to take a position on whether your speculation is correct, without having any data to test it.

          • Andy_Schueler

            As regards universal priors, are you aware that Bayesian inference
            involves taking a prior probability, updating it with an observation, in
            order to obtain a posterior probability?

            Unbelievable.... You are still deliberately causing confusion by talking about your "universal prior" and pretending that it is related to bayesian prior probabilities although it is 100% your idiosyncratic and incoherent invention?

    • Sample1

      Unless the fine tuning argument claims to know exactly what life is (and it doesn't) who is to say that it couldn't exist under different parameters?

      I believe Carroll touches on that and it's my reason to calmly ignore this argument until more data are known.

      Mike

      • Yes, that is another one that these constants preclude life "as we know it."

        But I do not think it is plausible to speculate that something compatible with what we call life would be possible where molecules do not form.

        • Sample1

          deleted by me.

          Mike

      • Mike

        it just says for ex that atomic nuclei wouldn't be able to form if these ratios weren't so unbelievably well balanced.

  • David Nickol

    One often gets the impression, when apologists discuss the multiverse, that it has been invented out of whole cloth as a way to deny "fine tuning" and a "Fine Tuner." Dr. Stephen Barr addressed this in an answer to a comment about his article The Large Hadron Collider, the Multiverse, and Me (and My Friends) a few years ago. (I have quoted this previously in similar discussions.)

    . . . You are right that many theists see the multiverse idea as a "desperate invention" of atheists. But that is indeed, as you imply, an oversimplification of the situation. Attitudes about the multiverse cut across religious-atheist lines. Most physicists (including most of those who are atheists) dislike the multiverse idea for several reasons:(1) It is probably untestable, and thus dismissed as "not science." (2) If correct, then some numbers we thought were "constants of nature," and thus perhaps calculable from a fundamental theory, may be just descriptions of conditions in our part of the universe.

    True, some physicists who are atheists do welcome the multiverse idea as explaining some "anthropic fine-tunings" without invoking a God who tunes the universe for life.

    The paper that my friends and I wrote in 1997 is one of the most well-known (among physicists) papers proposing the multiverse as a solution to a theoretical puzzle. The authors include an atheist and two Catholics (including me).

    The multiverse idea has real physics arguments in support of it. To the extent that physicists are beginning to take it seriously, it is in spite of the strongly held feelings of most of them, including most atheists.

    Does the multiverse undercut the argument for God based on the "anthropic fine-tunings"? It weakens it, but does not destroy it,as I explain in my book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Some comments found here:
    https://thomism.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/the-ugliness-of-a-finely-tuned-universe/

    The problem with all probabilistic arguments is that probabilities do not exist other than in conjunction with a given model.

  • Premise 2 is not established. The video says that the constants are not determined by the laws of nature.

    How is this known to be the case? It is simply asserted.

    The video then says there is no reason to suggest fine tuning is necessary. The very term "fine tuned" presupposes design. We know they are precise, very specific. What accounts for their precision? I agree, we have no basis to conclude this is a brute fact of the universe, nor any basis to conclude they were determined by other laws, AND no basis to conclude they were NOT determined by laws of nature or that they are just brute facts of the cosmos.

    • Pierre Axiaq

      It is also interesting that you continuously mention the word "law". Why are there laws? Why isn't there chaos? From where do these laws come from? How come they are so? Why did they call them laws in the first place?

  • David Nickol

    I do not deny the appearance of "fine-tuning," but how are the numbers in the video dealing with the "fineness" of the tuning arrived at? For example, the video says that if the gravitational constant were different by an amount of 1 in 10^60, the universe would either have expanded or contracted to the point where life would not have been possible. But certainly we do not know the value of the gravitational constant to that degree of precision, do we?

    • "I do not deny the appearance of "fine-tuning," but how are the numbers in the video dealing with the "fineness" of the tuning arrived at?"

      Obviously a six-minute YouTube video isn't going this deep, but the answer to this question is widely available in the many books and articles on this argument. For starters, I highly recommend Robin Collins' scholarly article in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. A PDF version is available here from the "Common Sense Atheism" website:

      http://commonsenseatheism.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Collins-The-Teleological-Argument.pdf

    • Michael Murray

      That seems, via a footnote in the paper Brandon cited, to go back to a book by Paul Davies called The Accidental Universe. The footnote says

      10. This latter fi ne-tuning of the strength of gravity is typically expressed as the claim that the density of matter at the Plank time (the time at which we have any confi dence in the theory of Big Bang dynamics) must have been tuned to one part in 1060 of the so-called critical density (e.g. Davies 1982, p. 89). Since the critical density is inversely proportional to the strength of gravity (Davies 1982, p. 88, eqn. 4.15), the fine-tuning of the matter density can easily be shown to be equivalent to the aforementioned claim about the tuning of the strength of gravity

  • David Nickol

    It's interesting to note that the four scientists quoted in the video are all atheists—David Deutsch, Martin Rees, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Hawking.

    • "It's interesting to note that the four scientists quoted in the video are all atheists—David Deutsch, Martin Rees, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Hawking."

      I agree. But I'm guessing it's intentional. It's meant to show that the fine-tuning of the universe is widely accepted by top cosmologists, whether theist or atheist. This isn't really in question. What is in question is what best explains that evidence, whether the evidence is necessary, by chance, or designed.

      • David Nickol

        But I'm guessing it's intentional. It's meant to show that the
        fine-tuning of the universe is widely accepted by top cosmologists,
        whether theist or atheist.

        Being very careful to speak accurately, I would say that those who lean toward accepting the multiverse (and Martin Rees seems to be one, based on the last chapter in Just Six Numbers) would speak not of "fine tuning," but rather at most of "apparent fine tuning." If there is truly a multiverse, and there are an unknown number of other universes, all with different fundamental constants, then it is inaccurate to say our universe is "fine tuned." The idea of "fine tuning," strictly speaking, does require a tuner (which is the whole point of the argument).

        What is in question is what best explains that evidence, whether the evidence is necessary, by chance, or designed.

        Again, strictly speaking, if the universe is as it is by necessity or by chance, it can't be described as "fine tuned." It can only be fine tuned if it is the way it is by design.

        • "Being very careful to speak accurately, I would say that those who lean toward accepting the multiverse (and Martin Rees seems to be one, based on the last chapter in Just Six Numbers) would speak not of "fine tuning," but rather at most of "apparent fine tuning."

          That's fine (no pun intended.) It doesn't change the original argument, or the plausibility of a designer, whether you're attempting to explain "fine-tuning" or "apparent fine-tuning."

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Doesn't it change the argument significantly? The argument depends of the universe actually being fine-tuned, not on it simply appearing to be fine-tuned (but not actually fine-tuned)
            ---(note, edited last parenthetical to add the word "not". bad typo! 9:46 EDT)

          • "Doesn't it change the argument significantly? The argument depends of the universe actually being fine-tuned, not on it simply appearing to be fine-tuned"

            This is not true. If the argument depended on the universe actually being fine-tuned, then it would beg the question: it would circularly presume what it aims to prove, that there's a fine-tuner behind the universe.

            The mere appearance of fine-tuning is enough to ask, what caused that? What's the best explanation?

            To use an analogous example, take two cases:

            1) A miracle

            2) The appearance of a miracle

            If you ask, in reference to (1), "What caused that particular miracle?", then you're already presuming a supernatural origin (since miracles, by definition, are supernaturally caused events.)

            But if you ask, in reference to (2), "What caused that apparent miracle?", then you have several options: it could have a supernatural origin, or it could explained completely by natural phenomena.

          • David Nickol

            If the argument depended on the universe actually being fine-tuned, then it would beg the question: it would circularly presume what it aims to prove, that there's a fine-tuner behind the universe.

            But the narrator does beg the question when he says, within the first 60 seconds of the video, the following:

            Scientists have come to the shocking realization that each of these numbers has been carefully dialed to an astonishingly precise value—a value that falls within an exceedingly narrow, life-permitting range. . . .

          • David Nickol

            What it may do is give the false impression that the big-name scientists quoted in the video acknowledging there is a phenomenon to be explained (apparent "fine tuning") actually agree with the conclusion in the video that there is actual fine tuning by a "designer."

            It is a little bit like the move The Principle, in which well-known scientists were interviewed, and then those interviews were woven together into a documentary that argued in favor of geocentrism, which of course none of the scientists interviewed believed in.

        • Mike

          i think stephen m barr says that the multiverse idea is not that there are other universes but that the universe we're in is so big that different regions may have different constants.

          • David Nickol

            What makes you think that? A very large (or even infinite) universe is not the same thing as the multiverse. Can you quote anything by Dr. Barr to lend support to what you say.

          • Mike

            i am certain he said it in one of his videos. for some reason i think it was in a speech he gave at a california cath conference when someone asked him to explain multiverse. the vid is definitely on youtube.

            he said that the univ is so big that it may be possible. btw maybe he's the one who's confused!

          • David Nickol

            i am certain he said it in one of his videos. . . . the vid is definitely on youtube.

            I ask for a quote from Dr. Barr, and this is the best you can do?

          • Mike
          • David Nickol

            I provided a link to that very article in a comment yesterday. It does not say "that the multiverse idea is not that there are other universes but that the universe we're in is so big that different regions may have different constants," as you claimed. The very word multiverse implies multiple universes.

            btw i am not making it up.

            You are attributing to Dr. Barr an incorrect definition of the multiverse. Can't you consider the possibility that you are misremembering or that you misunderstood him?

          • Mike

            look i am at work so can't go on you tube but i swear i heard him specifically explain that a multiverse may refer to regions in our universe.

          • David Nickol

            Will you provide a link at some later date?

            Have you never misunderstood or misremembered something?

          • Mike

            i try to remember to find link.

            yes i have but i was just as surprised to hear him say it as i think you'd be. i agree it's a strange thing to say.

          • David Nickol

            Apologies for assuming you were mistaken and pressing you so hard for a source. It's clear now that Barr did says something very much along the lines of what you remembered—and not merely in a Youtube video, but in an interview right here on Strange Notions. (Thanks to Michael Murray for pointing it out.)

          • Mike

            i actually just got the video. he starts his answer at 39m

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi6pnxuIkAs

            no problem, at least you don't think i am some mystery moderator on here like kraker jak lol.

          • Alexandra

            Mike is correct.

            http://youtu.be/S-pWS7Ckla0

            At around 54 minutes.

          • David Nickol

            Thanks. He definitely does speak of one interpretation of the multiverse as consisting of different "domains" being far apart. So I was doubtful, but Mike remembered correctly. I was wrong.

            However, in terms of what we are to think of the fine-tuning argument for God, Dr. Barr contradicts the OP and says it is reasonable to believe in the multiverse. In fact, we may be living in (one domain of) a multiverse, according to Dr. Barr.

            So accepting Dr. Barr as an authority, which I do, what he says weakens the argument from fine tuning.

          • Michael Murray

            Q: What about the idea of multiple universes? Can we speak meaningfully of more than one "universe"?

            Dr. Barr: As most people use the phrase, "multiple universes" is really a misnomer. What they usually really mean is that there is just one universe that is made up of many "domains" or regions, which are mutually inaccessible in practice—for example, because they are too far apart. The physical conditions in the various domains could be so different that they would appear superficially to have different physical laws. However, in all such scenarios it is assumed that the various domains actually all obey the same fundamental or ultimate laws. This "multiverse" idea is a perfectly sensible one. In fact, there are reasons to suspect that our universe may have such a domain structure.

            https://strangenotions.com/modern-physics-ancient-faith-an-interview-with-physicist-dr-stephen-barr/

            There are lots of other ways multiverse is used which don't seem to all coincide with the above. Depending on what "mutually inaccessible" means.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hidden_Reality

          • David Nickol

            Thanks!

            It all seems "orthodox" to me (at least as I understand these things) except for the phrase "for example, because they are too far apart."

            It is nice to see him contradict the OP, which basically dismisses the idea of the multiverse, when he says the following:

            This "multiverse" idea is a perfectly sensible one. In fact, there are
            reasons to suspect that our universe may have such a domain structure.

  • Chris Snowden

    I do like the fine tuning argument, if not for any other reason then its use of science. The three explanations are all moved forward by rational argument instead of scientific data (which I have no issue with). While some can contest the explanations, it is much harder to contest the fact of fine tuning. This fact alone should make us wonder, leaving open a possibility for God. While this is not the argument that grips me the most, I do think it is useful is a debate that has been narrowed to purely scientific data.

  • Doug Shaver

    I’ve watched Craig’s video. It says that if the constants were different, “No physical, interactive life of any kind could exist anywhere.” I saw no evidence for that assertion. If the constants were different, life as we know it could not exist, but we have no reason to believe that no other kind of life is possible or that if there were any other kind of life, it could not possibly be physical or interactive.

    The chance option assumes that each constant could have had any value at all and that, absent design or necessity, the distribution of values would have been random. I see no reason to make that assumption.

    I see no reason to reject out of hand the necessity option. To say that each value was necessary is to say that had it been different, a contradiction would have obtained. I don’t believe our current state of scientific knowledge justifies any feeling of certainty that this was not the case.

    • "I see no reason to reject out of hand the necessity option. To say that each value was necessary is to say that had it been different, a contradiction would have obtained. I don’t believe our current state of scientific knowledge justifies any feeling of certainty that this was not the case."

      You think it's impossible that the finely-tuned values could be different than they are? Even minutely different? You don't think the gravitational constant or Planck's constant could have been off by one part in 10^10^10^1000000? If not, what evidence or reasons do you have to support that belief?

      You're trying to push the burden of proof away, but if you really think the universal constants are necessary, or even just plausibly necessary, you need to offer some rational warrant.

      • Doug Shaver

        You think it's impossible that the finely-tuned values could be different than they are?

        I told you what I think. I claim no knowledge about the possibility.

        You're trying to push the burden of proof away

        I have no burden to prove what I do not assert.

        • "I told you what I think. I claim no knowledge about the possibility. ...I have no burden to prove what I do not assert."

          If you're making no assertions, then I'm afraid you essentially have nothing to add to this conversation. After rereading your original comment, it seems to me you're saying:

          1) The fine-tuning may be due to necessity, or it may not--I don't know.

          2) The fine-tuning may be due to chance, or it may not--I don't know.

          3) The fine-tuning may be due to design, or it may not--I don't know.

          But all this has done is essentially restate the original premises of the arguments. You've offered no defense or critique, and thus no meaningful analysis.

          • Come on Brandon, you know or should know that the burden in this argument is for the proponent to demonstrate necessity and chance are unlikely and/or design is likely.

            Doug has clearly stated that he does not accept the proponent's rejection of necessity and chance. This is a fair an appropriate comment to make and it fully understands the burden of proof here.

            You need to respond by justifying the rejection of necessity and chance, or by showing the evidence of design.

          • "Come on Brandon, you know or should know that the burden in this argument is for the proponent to demonstrate necessity and chance are unlikely and/or design is likely."

            I agree. And that's been done. If you or Doug or others think those attempts have failed, you need to show why. Simply saying, "I don't agree" adds nothing to the discussion. This was my point.

            If Doug disagrees with the premises, and the support provided for them, he needs to explain why. But this would require making an assertion, something he seems unwilling to do because an assertion would come with a burden of proof.

            "Doug has clearly stated that he does not accept the proponent's rejection of necessity and chance."

            Indeed. But, once again, he hasn't given any good reason to doubt these premises. He's simply denied them. Mere denial is not the same as a counter-argument, nor a refutation--it's a bare assertion.

            "You need to respond by justifying the rejection of necessity and chance, or by showing the evidence of design."

            Once again, this has been done. If you think it has been a failed attempt, you need to explain why. You have not done this successfully--each of your attempted critiques have failed.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            But as noted several times, he hasn't given any good reason to doubt these premises.

            There is no good reason to believe the premises. You cannot tell me the probability of the fundamental constants being what they are unless you have a probability distribution of the constants. Do you have one?

            I have absolutely no idea if any of the premises are true or false. We cannot make arguments about things that we currently do not know anything about.

          • George

            "support provided"

            what is the support? I can imagine "constant X" being different? So what?

            "Simply saying, "I don't agree" adds nothing to the discussion."

            I see that Doug typed many more words than just those three. Are you keen on conveying such to those who may read your comment but miss Doug's?

          • Doug Shaver

            If Doug disagrees with the premises, and the support provided for them, he needs to explain why.

            I didn't see any support for the premises. All I saw was the premises being restated in various ways. Repetition with variation is not proof.

          • It hasn't been done and this is what Doug and I are pointing out. There was no justification for rejecting two of the three possibilities.

            Saying that because it is logically coherent for the constants to be otherwise, does nothing to establish that it is unlikely for them to be actually necessary. There is an equivocation here with respect to necessity. Logical vs actual necessity. Just like it is logically coherent for water to freeze at something other than 0 degrees, does not mean it is actually possible for it to do so.

          • Doug Shaver

            But all this has done is essentially restate the original premises of the arguments.

            The argument asserts that the premises are true. I am asserting that their truth has not been established. If their truth has not been established, then I am not epistemically obliged to believe them, and therefore I am epistemically justified in doubting the argument's conclusion.

          • "The argument asserts that the premises are true. I am asserting that their truth has not been established. If their truth has not been established, then I am not epistemically obliged to believe them, and therefore I am epistemically justified in doubting the argument's conclusion."

            I agree with your justification, Doug. However, that's merely an expression of your personal psychology--of great interest to you, perhaps, but I'm afraid not much to everyone else. I don't say that to be condescending or dismissive. I simply mean that whether you personally find yourself "epistemically obliged" to believe in an argument is of limited general interest.

            On the other hand, what we're all concerned with here--you, me, and everyone else--is what is objectively true, not subjectively persuasive or not what we're subjectively justified in believing.

            That's my point. The argument is either true or not. Dr. Craig (and others) have made a strong case for each of the premises, and thus the conclusion which logically follows. It's fine to say, "That argument doesn't persuade me," but what ultimately matters is whether the argument is sound (i.e., true.) If you think it is untrue, or at least possibly untrue, you need to show why. But that requires making assertions and shouldering a burden of proof, which you adamantly refuse to do.

            Again, that's fine. That's your prerogative. But we mustn't pretend that in your statement of personal epistemology you've somehow cast doubt on the argument or, even more, disproved it.

          • Doug Shaver

            what we're all concerned with here--you, me, and everyone else--is what is objectively true, not subjectively persuasive or not what we're subjectively justified in believing.

            Ideally, perhaps so. I’m sure we’d all like to think that we care about nothing in these discussions except to know the objective truth, the whole objective truth, and nothing but the objective truth.

            To whatever degree any of us actually lives up to that ideal, good for us. But how does any of us know when we have discovered any objective truth? If the question be phrased, How do we know infallibly? then I think the answer is: We cannot. At least, I don’t claim to. Craig can say, “These are objective truths about the universe,” and for all that I can infallibly know, he could be right. But if I already knew that they were objective truths, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Any dialogue between us can only concern itself with whether and to what degree we are justified in believing whatever we believe.

            If some proposition is objectively true, then by definition it is so regardless of whether anyone believes so or why they believe so. But that fact does not exempt any of us from the epistemic responsibility for examining our reasons for believing one way or the other. Indeed, that fact creates the responsibility, because nothing becomes objectively true just because someone says it is. The question “Is X true?” is inseparable from the question “Should I believe X?” and the question “Should I believe” is inseparable from the question “Why should I believe?”

            And the answers will be subjective to some irreducible degree. If I am to believe X, then it is I who must be persuaded, of course. Who else? This in no way means I am free to ignore the fact, if it be a fact, that every apparently sane person of my acquaintance is already persuaded. The epistemic responsibility is mine and mine alone, but there are right ways and wrong ways for me to exercise that responsibility. And if you believe I am being epistemically irresponsibile, then you may of course present whatever argument you have to that conclusion. Even if you fail to persuade me, you may, since this is a public forum, enlighten others by showing me to be an example of epistemic irresponsibility.

          • Doug Shaver

            what we're all concerned with here--you, me, and everyone else--is what is objectively true, not subjectively persuasive or not what we're subjectively justified in believing.

            Ideally, perhaps so. I’m sure we’d all like to think that we care about nothing in these discussions except to know the objective truth, the whole objective truth, and nothing but the objective truth.

            To whatever degree any of us actually lives up to that ideal, good for us. But how does any of us know when we have discovered any objective truth? If the question be phrased, How do we know infallibly? then I think the answer is: We cannot. At least, I don’t claim to. Craig can say, “These are objective truths about the universe,” and for all that I can infallibly know, he could be right. But if I already knew that they were objective truths, then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Any dialogue between us can only concern itself with whether and to what degree we are justified in believing whatever we believe.

            If some proposition is objectively true, then by definition it is true regardless of whether anyone believes so or why they believe so. But that fact does not exempt any of us from the epistemic responsibility for examining our reasons for believing one way or the other. Indeed, that fact creates the responsibility, because nothing becomes objectively true just because someone says it is. The question “Is X true?” is inseparable from the question “Should I believe X?” and the question “Should I believe” is inseparable from the question “Why should I believe?”

            And the answers will be subjective to some irreducible degree. If I am to believe X, then it is I who must be persuaded, of course. Who else? This in no way means I am free to ignore the fact, if it be a fact, that every apparently sane person of my acquaintance is already persuaded. The epistemic responsibility is mine and mine alone, but there are right ways and wrong ways for me to exercise that responsibility. And if you believe I am being epistemically irresponsibile, then you may of course present whatever argument you have to that conclusion. Even if you fail to persuade me, you may, since this is a public forum, enlighten others by showing me to be an example of epistemic irresponsibility.

          • George

            "If you're making no assertions, then I'm afraid you essentially have nothing to add to this conversation."

            "You're trying to push the burden of proof away"

            Is this how you will always respond to skepticism?

        • Lazarus

          I've said this before, at greater length, but this pretense, of both sides, to use the burden of proof and onus in theological discussions is just a sophisticated way of believing what we want to believe. It has absolutely no additional practical value.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In general, I agree with you here, but I think the Fine-Tuning argument makes use of a lot of premises that we have no idea if they are true or not. We don't know why the fundamental constants are what they are or how they could be different or how they might change in our own universe.

            For instance, with regard to chance, we have no idea how many universe have existed/exist. We don't know what the probability distribution is of the fundamental constants.

            Currently, we think the constants are fundamental. Perhaps there is something else beyond the constants that is fundamental. Perhaps there us a multi verse. Perhaps there is some sort of being(s) that is similar to our conceptions of God. Perhaps there is some sort beings(s) that designed the universe that not similar at all to our conceptions of God.
            Nobody knows.

            Since it is the Theist who puts this argument up as proof evidence for a designer the burden is entirely on him. The theist is making claims that he has no right to make. The proper stance on is the universe necessary, chance, designed, or some other option is agnosticism.

            This isn't something that can be discussed in the ways that you and I would usually discuss religion. On one hand you have people who are agnostic on the premises and on the other hand you have people who think the premises are true. The people who think the premises are true do not have epistemic warrant to do so.

            I'm perfectly fine with I don't know being an answer to a question. I let theists get away with it all the time. :-)

          • Doug Shaver

            OK, let's never mind whether anybody has a burden. If Craig can assert his premises without proof, then I can deny them without proof.

          • Lazarus

            That's only fair.

          • Doug Shaver

            If I'm going to believe just whatever I want to believe, do you think it matters why I want or don't want to believe something? Is it OK for me to believe something just because it makes me feel good, or do you think I should have a better reason than that?

          • Lazarus

            Obviously one's beliefs should be based on reason and facts as far as possible. In matters of faith, however, I do not believe that I have the right, or the need, to argue with a believer who believes because it makes him feel better. In any event, in my own personal experience most people do not believe simply because it makes them feel good, but because they have some reason (s) which they believe support such belief.

          • Doug Shaver

            In any event, in my own personal experience most people do not believe simply because it makes them feel good, but because they have some reason (s) which they believe support such belief.

            That is my experience, too, which is why I don't accuse people of believing something something just because they want to believe it.

      • Sample1

        Why are you listing Planck as a fundamental constant? Also, why are you listing the gravitational constant as a fundamental? Can I ask who taught you that those dimensional constants qualify as fundamental constants?

        Mike

        • "Why are you listing Planck as a fundamental constant? Also, why are you listing the gravitational constant as a fundamental? Can I ask who taught you that those dimensional constants qualify as fundamental constants?"

          This is bickering over semantics--a red herring. I'm willing to call them "dimensional constants" if that makes you happy. Yet it does nothing to affect the fine-tuning argument.

          • Sample1

            I disagree. There are fundamental constants and other things that are not fundamental constants. If you want to discuss the FTA and fundamental constants, you must be accurate about what those are.

            And so I'll ask again, why are you talking about Planck and the gravitational constant when discussing the FTA?

            Secondly, the tone of your reply is dismissible. It's dismissible because this isn't about making me happy, it is about getting it right.

            Mike

  • Without measuring anything, we know natures of entities within the scope of human observation and are aware of the harmony among their natures. Human inquiry includes instrumentally measuring the properties of entities in detail. Such an inquiry may be labeled a fine-tuning inquiry. At best, the conclusion of such an inquiry would be an affirmation of the nature of an entity as its nature was known prior to the inquiry. An affirmation leaves the philosophical question of justifying the very existence of a material entity at square one. Consequently, the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God fails by its irrelevance.

  • George

    Was Yahweh forced to create our universe this way if He wanted to have humans live in it?

    • Rob Abney

      Do you think it would detract from omnipotence if He is unable to violate the law of noncontradiction?

  • TomD123

    My worry with this entire argument is the multiverse. I think anthropic coincidences are real, but if the universe is big enough, then perhaps we have an alternative, non-divine explanation?

    Second, the argument only gets part way to God. At best, we get the conclusion: there is at least one intelligent agent responsible for certain features of our universe. However, this conclusion hardly amounts to theism. The problem isn't just that we don't deduce all of the divine attributes, the problem is that certain key attributes relevant to religious interest are completely missing (e.g. metaphysical ultimacy, status as creator, goodness, providential care of the world, ability to work miracles)

    • Hey, Tom! I encourage you to read through the other comments here because many tackle both of your points. But my quick response:

      1) The multiverse fails to explain the fine-tuning for several reasons, and even more, fails as a tenable scientific hypothesis in general. I suggest starting here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/multiverse-and-the-design-argument

      2) Of course the argument only gets part way to God--its proponents admit as much! But it does point toward a transcendent, supremely intelligent, creator of the cosmos. This doesn't compel theism, but it does make deism far more plausible than atheism or agnosticism, and lifts theism, too, to higher levels of probability.

      • TomD123

        1) I agree that the multiverse isn't a wholly satisfying explanation for the fine tuning. However, it strikes me as at least a strong enough hypothesis to significantly undermine the fine tuning argument. My problem isn't so much the multiverse as such but the fact that physicists in general, even those who study anthropic coincidences, are not by and large convinced of the fine tuning argument because of the multiverse. This is not proof that the argument fails, but it does suggest that the multiverse hypothesis may be more reasonable than William Lane Craig lets on in his article or presentation of the argument.

        2) Very true, but we have to be careful here. It does not point towards a creator in the traditional sense of the term. The claim that the universe was designed by a "fine-tuner" and the claim it was not created (in the traditional sense) are logically consistent. The problem with fine tuning is that the attributes of the transcendent intelligence of those attributes which are of limited religious signifcance. It is also difficult to bridge the gap between the "fine-tuner" and the God of revelation.

        • "My problem isn't so much the multiverse as such but the fact that physicists in general, even those who study anthropic coincidences, are not by and large convinced of the fine tuning argument because of the multiverse."

          Ah, but this is a wholly different question. The reasons why some physicists reject the fine-tuning argument are varied and myriad. There is a whole slew of psychological, personal, professional, etc. reasons why they may remain unconvinced by the design explanation. Perhaps, like Thomas Nagel, they just don't want God or a cosmic designer to exist--they don't want the universe to be that way.

          Thus, neither their rejection of the design explanation or their embrace of the multiverse should, by themselves, persuade you one way or the other. You should ask why they think the multiverse is a good explanation and whether their supporting reasons are defensible.

          "This is not proof that the argument fails, but it does suggest that the multiverse hypothesis may be more reasonable than William Lane Craig lets on in his article or presentation of the argument."

          I don't agree. This would only be true if William Lane Craig denied that many scientists embrace the multiverse hypothesis. But he doesn't. In fact, in his published work, he freely admits this! He just thinks their reasons are flawed, and attempts to show why. And he engages the arguments of the multiverse's strongest opponents, not just straw men.

          "The claim that the universe was designed by a "fine-tuner" and the claim it was not created (in the traditional sense) are logically consistent."

          That's a fair point. But I would respond: if the constants were not fine-tuned by the creator of the universe, by what or whom were they fine-tuned?

          "The problem with fine tuning is that [it attempts to prove] the attributes of the transcendent intelligence...which are of limited religious significance."

          I'm not sure I agree. Surely being "transcendent" (i.e., outside of the universe) and capable of nearly incomprehensible design has religious implications.

          "It is also difficult to bridge the gap between the "fine-tuner" and the God of revelation."

          Again, I'm not sure I'd agree. It depends on how you assign difficulty. It's true there are many steps between the "transcendent cosmic designer" and the God of Christian revelation, but that doesn't mean the steps are difficult.

          • TomD123

            1) Sure, Craig admits this. But a lot of physicists do reject the fine tuning argument because of the multiverse alternative. But even the others who have other problems with the argument, then all the more does this cast doubt on the argument. Craig is intelligent and aware of the physics involved, but then again, he is no expert. When he has debated guys like Lawrence Krauss and Sean Carroll, they have not been impressed with his grasp of the physics. This leads me to doubt some of his conclusions.

            This is not to say that natural theology should just bow to the authority of physicists. However, when complicated physics (e.g. fine tuning and the multiverse) come into the picture, I have trouble going against the consensus.

            2) I think we are largely in agreement here. I just would emphasize the need for caution. One reason is that it is easy to assume designer=God or is "good enough" to be counted as the designer.

            Also, a designer could have made the universe. Perhaps the designer is a team of aliens in another universe. However, "creator" has the specific connotation (at least in my mind) of causing the world to be, for as long as it exists, out of nothing. The "fine-tuner" may well require God to create him/her/them. Or he/she/they may not, it depends on whether or not God exists. But we needn't suppose God or the creator is the same as the designer

          • "Sure, Craig admits this. But a lot of physicists do reject the fine tuning argument because of the multiverse alternative. But even the others who have other problems with the argument, then all the more does this cast doubt on the argument. Craig is intelligent and aware of the physics involved, but then again, he is no expert. When he has debated guys like Lawrence Krauss and Sean Carroll, they have not been impressed with his grasp of the physics. This leads me to doubt some of his conclusions."

            Again, this has nothing to do with the strength or weakness of Craig's arguments. You're simply gesturing to people who disagree and suggesting that they must have some good reasons for disagreeing with Craig, rejecting a designer, and accepting the multiverse theory.

            But once again, we must look at the reasons they give for these positions, as I have done here and Craig has done extensively in his published work.

            At the end of the day, the fact that Krauss (an admitted "militant atheist") and Carroll are not "impressed" by Craig's arguments says nothing about their merits.

            Both of us could appeal to renowned physicists who support our views--some who attribute fine-tuning to design, others to chance; some who accept the multiverse, others who reject it. So that's a pointless exercise. We must look instead at the actual evidence and arguments.

            "The "fine-tuner" may well require God to create him/her/them. Or he/she/they may not, it depends on whether or not God exists. But we needn't suppose God or the creator is the same as the designer"

            Again, I agree that "cosmic designer" doesn't necessarily equal "creator of the cosmos ex nihilo". That's a fair distinction. But I think we have good reason to believe they are, in fact, one in the same, even if not by necessity.

            We should also apply Occam's razor and not needlessly multiply explanations. If a single explanation accounts for all of the evidence, there's no reason to suggest two transcendent explanations (e.g., aliens from a different universe who designed our universe, but who in turn demand an explanation since they are contingent beings.)

          • TomD123

            1) What expert physicists say does have a lot to do with Craig's arguments from a third-party point of view. Here is why: I am not capable (do not have the time nor the expertise) to examine the debate about the multiverse. I am in over my head there. Therefore, my best course of action is to trust the opinion of those I take to be informed on the issue. A number of prominent physicists (Carrol and Krauss come to mind there are others however) have not only argued that the multiverse is one reason among many to reject the fine tuning argument but also that Craig in particular does not have the understanding sufficient to engage in the debate. Of course, these guys could be wrong and Craig could be right. But for most of us who lack the ability to grasp the physics, taking the experts' word for it seems the best stance to take.

            And yes, there are physicists who take anthropic coincidences to be evidence for God (at least the one I know of is Steve Barr author of Modern Physics Ancient Faith). However, even he typically gives the argument with more caution and qualification than someone like Craig does.

            2) The reasoning in your last paragraph seems faulty. Assuming contingent beings need explanations which terminate in God, then it follows that ultimately everything is explicable in terms of divine activity. However, this is no cause to reject intermediate explanations. If your line of reasoning is correct, then positing any secondary cause would violate Occam's Razor because every secondary cause needs to be explained in terms of the first cause.
            I think then we don't have good reason to identify the "designer" with the "creator." If parsimony applies in this instance, then it applies to any instance where we posit an explanation for some phenomena.
            You could raise the objection that it does apply here because the designer would have to be transcendant and this is relevantly different from when we posit other causes. But there would be an equivocation on "transcendant" here. When it applies to the fine-tuner, it only means "the specific laws/constants of nature do not apply to the fine-tuner and thus can be explained by him/them." When it applies to God (i.e. the creator), it means something radically different, much more like the way an author transcends a story, she is not only separate from it but exists on an entirely different ontological level.

          • Tom, I'm afraid we're going in circles here:

            You're simply restating what you've already noted: that instead of engaging the actual arguments under discussion, you're content with mere appeals to authority (e.g., "Expert Scientists A and B are smart, and they believe X, therefore X seems very plausible.")

            The problem, as I noted, is that Expert Scientists C and D are smart, and they believe not-X. Appealing to experts can't by itself solve any debate. We must examine the actual arguments for/against the multiverse, as I, Craig, and many others have done, but which you seem unwilling to do.

          • TomD123

            Yes, I am content with appeals to authority rather than engaging the argument. But I don't think that is inappropriate here. Notice my reasoning:
            1) I do not have the expertise to intelligently comment on the debates surrounding the validity of the multiverse or fine-tuning in general.
            2) Therefore, I either ought to (i) withhold judgment or (ii) trust those who do know more about the topic

            I am opting for (ii), a reasonable approach when there are experts who do know more about the topic. Now, this means I am going to set aside the arguments themselves and argue based on the authority of those who know more than I. Craig does. But so do the physicists. However, the physicists are experts in the topic and Craig, while intelligent and familiar with the evidence and probably qualified to discuss it, isn't an expert in the same way people like Krauss are. Since there are many physicists like Krauss who reject fine tuning, many of whom reject it because of the multiverse, there is some evidence supporting their view.

            It is a straw man to say that I am appealing to authority based on the smartness of the physicists in question. Many smart people on both sides take opposing views. However, EXPERTISE do count, and the fact is, Craig is not a physicist. So instead of engaging in arguments above my level of education, I think the best bet is to side with the apparent consensus. I think many others are in my same shoes with regards to the high-level physics. I should note too that I am not claiming this is knock down evidence against the fine-tuning argument. However, it certainly casts some doubt on its plausibility as an argument.

            This may be going around in circles, but I don't think it is quite right to tell me I am just not engaging in the arguments. While true in one sense, I am ignoring them precisely because they are above my level of expertise. And pointing this out is an entirely reasonable thing to do, something that I wish many on both sides of these debates would do

  • Peter

    The key thing here is entropy, the unique low entropy at the beginning of the universe. According to Roger Penrose, the probability of the precisely balanced gravitational conditions of the early universe occurring by chance are 10>10>123. (There are far fewer particles in the entire cosmos).

    Although this smacks strongly of design, I do not belong to that Christian fold which believes that God supernaturally conjured up these conditions to create the universe. It is quite possible that these conditions are the inevitable consequence of naturalistic processes leading up to the big bang, processes we have yet to discover.

    Nevertheless, naturalistic or not, the early conditions of the universe have the hallmark of design. They are the reflection of a great mind which, in one way or another, has configured the universe to turn out the way it has, namely to create conscious beings such as ourselves who are capaple of recognising that mind.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    I think a very big unstated assumption of the fine tuning argument is that life is something supremely significant on a cosmic scale*. Sure, we has living things tend to care a lot about life, but that's kind of our bias as living things.

    To illustrate what I mean: while driving to work, I was behind a car with the license plate "26A-T72". You could easily, and accurately, say that the situation was "fine-tuned" to putting that license plate in front of me - if the timing of traffic lights, the motion of other cars, my morning routine, the registrar's pace at the DMV, etc. had been slightly different, then a different license plate (or none at all) would have been in front of me. The chances of "26A-T72" being in front of me are minuscule! There must be a designer! ....Except that there's no reason to select a "26A-T72" license plate as somehow significant. It's an arbitrary choice to care about "26A-T72."

    Sure, the constants of the universe are such that life can exist. If they were different we would have a very different universe with no life. But instead of the rare phenomenon of life, we'd have the rare phenomenon of X and then we could say that the universe is fine tuned to produce X. And if we tune the dials of the universe differently we'd get the rare phenomenon of Y - a fine tuned universe for producing Y. And if the traffic lights were slightly different, I would have seen a license plate of "45E-X23" instead. Fine tuning for "45E-X23"!

    In order for the result to be impressive, you gotta say why "26A-T72" is a significant thing. And similarly for the fine-tuning argument to work, why life is a cosmically significant thing. Sure, I'm a big fan of life, but as a living thing, I'm a bit biased.

    ----
    *Note, I am not saying that life is never important. It is certainly important on a human scale, and for morality, etc.

    • Mike

      yes but if the ratio of weak to strong force were even 1 in a zillion off atomic nuclei wouldn't form so forget life you wouldn't even have chemistry. for whatever reason the ratio REMAINS at what it needs to be otherwise all of this would explode.

      see if atoms could form no matter what the ratio was then it would appear not 'fine tuned' but we know atoms can't form unless this ratio is there.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        But that's kind of the same thing. Why is the existence of chemistry cosmically significant? Sure... you wouldn't get chemistry or life, but you'd get phenomenons X and Y instead.

        To use my analogy, your response was like saying "But if this thing was different, there wouldn't have even been a car in front of you, let alone a license plate of 26A-T72!" And my answer is. "Ok... sure. That would be different. Why is it supremely significant that there be a car in front of me?"

      • George

        And if God were not so loving we'd all be burning in hell right now, so someone must have finely tuned God to have those loving parts of Him be so loving.

        • Mike

          hee hee ;) i like that it's mental!

    • "I think a very big unstated assumption of the fine tuning argument is that life is something supremely significant on a cosmic scale*."

      This is not implied or assumed by the argument at all. The argument from fine-tuning has nothing to do with the significance of life, only its enormously high improbability given random, chance conditions.

      Suggesting that life might be ultimately insignificant raises many ethical problems--and worries me deeply--but it poses no real challenge to the fine-tuning argument.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        But you misunderstand my point. There are countless improbable possibilities. Obviously the universe had to be one of them. It's just like how there are millions of license plate numbers and the chances that I ended up behind "26A-T72" are minuscule. Should we all be amazed that I ended up behind that one, even with its "enormously high implausibility given random, chance conditions?" No, not unless 26A-T72 is somehow more important than all the other license plate numbers.

        The chance of any given set of Powerball lottery numbers being chosen is 1 in 292 million. Should we be amazed that that most recent numbers were 10, 12, 13, 46, 50 P21? It only had 1 in 292 million chance! It beat incredible odds! No, only if that combination was somehow more important than any other combination.

        And should we be amazed that this universe has life in it even against the odds? No, not unless the phenomenon of life is somehow more cosmically significant than any other phenomenon produced by other possible universes.

        -----

        Suggesting that life might be ultimately insignificant raises many
        ethical problems--and worries me deeply--but it poses no real challenge
        to the fine-tuning argument.

        I was afraid someone would misunderstand that part as well, which is why I included the asterisk in my original comment:
        "*Note, I am not saying that life is never important. It is certainly important on a human scale, and for morality, etc."

        I'll clarify. For humans, for civilization, for ethics and morality, life is certainly significant and important. Loss of life from this perspective, in this world, in this civilization, is tragic. But imagine a universe in which there is no life. Is it tragic that there is no life? I'm not sure that it would be. It would be like saying that it's tragic that there is no life on the moon and that we should mourn the loss of all the Moonians that have no life. So on a cosmic scale life does not seem significant, though for us it certainly is. You are correct that it does not affect the fine-tuning argument.

        • Mike

          how many ppl lost the powerball? how often will you have to play to win? that's the point i think you're missing.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            No.. I understand that winning the Powerball, and a universe with life is extremely rare.

            The point is: Why is a universe that has life considered "winning?" We pick out this one attribute, life, and designate it as the thing that makes a "winner." (Understandably, but not justifiably so, as living being we are obviously interested in life) But if we step outside our egoistic perspective, then I don't see why a universe with life is the "winner" and a universe with rare phenomenon X is the "loser"

            It's as if we said that being behind license plate 23E-T67 means we win without ever justifying why 23E-T67 is so cosmically significant. Sure it's rare, but why does it make it a winner.

            Sure, a universe with life might be extremely rare, but why is a universe with life considered the "winner"

          • Rob Abney

            but why is a universe with life considered the "winner"

            to paraphrase "to be or not to be, what difference does it make?"
            To call the absence of life as being equal to life is a philosophical position I am not familiar with, where does that position originate?

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            To call the absence of
            life as being equal to life is a philosophical position I am not familiar with…

            For your amusement and edification:

            They're Made Out of Meat

          • Rob Abney

            I shouldn't have read that during lunch, disgusting!

            But the aliens don't recognize the human soul, the immaterial life-giving organ that is a gratuitous gift. Just as many humans don't recognize it.

          • George

            What's a soul? How do you know anything about it?

          • Rob Abney

            Soul is what gives life to the meat, what would you call it?
            How do I know anything about it? By studying and reasoning, before that I didn't know anything about it.

          • George

            Okay so the soul is food? I can get behind that.

          • Mike

            it's soul food hee hee

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Not sure if I'd say absence of life is equal to life. But its about what perspective you look at it. From my point of view, I'm all in favor for life since I am a living thing. So I wouldn't say "what difference does it make" cause it makes a huge difference to me and all other living things personally.

            But putting my preferences aside, is it crucially important that a universe have life in it? I'm not sure that it is. A universe with no life could certainly be interesting and I don't see how it "fails" as a universe. Fails by what standard? By the standard that we living things decided?

          • Rob Abney

            A universe without life could be interesting but who would be the one showing interest? It would leave only the fine tuner!

            Is this an argument that I'm unfamiliar with or are you just proposing it to make discussion?

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Well, if you're gonna ignore my main points and instead go after tangents as if they are gotchya's then I am not surprised that you are not understanding what I am trying to say.

            So again... why would a universe without life be a "failed" universe? By what standard does it "fail"?

          • Rob Abney

            Sorry if that seemed like a gotcha. I am trying to understand how to even think about how we could conceive a universe without life in order to compare it to ours. I'm struggling to keep from expressing being egocentric and stating that the world was made for us, unfortunately it seems to me that it was made for us so that we can be grateful for existing.
            A universe without life would be a failed universe then because it would have no ultimate purpose. Our universe exists to allow life, from my point of view.

            What do you think is the purpose of a lifeless universe?

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            A universe without life would be a failed universe then because it would have no ultimate purpose. Our universe exists to allow life, from my point of view.

            It is fair judgement, though in my mind subjective.

            What purpose, indeed?

            Then again, since 99.9999-I-don’t-even-know-how-many-more-nines-but-a-lot-% of the universe is devoid of life, what is the purpose of the universe now? If life gives the universe purpose, and I am willing to consider the notion, then why bother with anything past low-Earth orbit? The Ptolemaic cosmology would have made a lot more sense.

            And that’s just space, lets talk about time. 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang, who knows how long “before”, life on Earth arose maybe 3 billion years ago and until 500 million years ago algae and bacteria was as good as it got. Not sure what the purpose of 2 billion years of slime was. Fish 400 million years ago, mammals 200, apes 5 million years ago and something we would recognize as human only in the last 200,000 - 300,000 years or so.

            The average species lasts a couple of million years, not sure if humans will go that long, who knows, maybe longer, maybe not. In any case, sun goes red giant and roasts the Earth in less than a billion years. Assuming humans are still around, and have sufficient technology, we could hop from star to star, eventually settling in to extremely low entropy existence around red dwarves which gives us, maybe another 10 billion years or so (maybe more, but that is a lot of maybe). Now, seeing as Catholicism does not have that flashy protestant Left Behind end of the world stuff, there is no upper end to time. Sooner or later entropy advances to the point that the last biological human dies and then we have nothing but cold and dark and cold and dark and eventually cosmic expansion rips apart even elementary particles and time just keeps on rolling “forever”, whatever that means in a universe in which space has expanded to the point that the local light cone won’t even cover the size of a Proton.

            So, compared to the total history of the universe, the time that life is even theoretically possible is as close as you can possible get to actually being zero.

            So, what what the point of that again?

            Heaven? Heaven and the universe going on together into infinity? And what exactly was the point of the physical world again?

          • Rob Abney

            Wow, that is daunting and humbling!

            And I feel inadequate to give a much briefer answer, but the point of the physical world from my perspective is the opportunity for reverence for the beauty of Creation and creativity, properly perceived in the outpouring of gratitude which is the fruit of humility. (Borrowed from Joseph Pearce)

          • Darren

            That is kind of you, Rob.

            Yeah, cosmic time is pretty humbling, and hard to really comprehend when even a couple of hundred years seems like a really long time to my monkey-brain.

            I find your answer quite suitable. It is similar to how I would answer myself, Existentialist that I am.

          • Peter

            What evidence do you have to claim with certainty that the universe will have an eternal heat death, that there is no upper end to time? Surely it's only a hypothesis yet you seem to be drawing a great deal of conclusions from it.

          • Darren

            Peter wrote,

            Surely it's only a hypothesis yet you seem to be drawing a great deal of conclusions from it.

            Perhaps you could refresh my recollection of what conclusions I was drawing. That entropy is increasing with no known mechanism by which that increase can be reversed? That space is expanding, and that this expansion accelerates according to an exponential rate with no known mechanism by which the expansion can be reversed? This is best current model, but feel free to educate me on how things really are.

          • Peter

            The following:

            "Now, seeing as Catholicism does not have that flashy protestant Left Behind end of the world stuff, there is no upper end to time".

            "Sooner or later entropy advances to the point that the last biological human dies and then we have nothing but cold and dark and cold and dark".

            "eventually cosmic expansion rips apart even elementary particles and time just keeps on rolling “forever”".

            "compared to the total history of the universe, the time that life is even theoretically possible is as close as you can possible get to actually being zero.".

            "Heaven and the universe going on together into infinity".

            These are all based on your claim that the eternal heat death of the universe is a certainty. However, if you now claim that it's merely the best current model, by calling it so you are implying that it will be superceded in future by another model. And anyway, is it the best current model?

            I know it's the most beloved one of atheists, but the discovery of the higgs field has given rise to other models where the universe is not eternal:

            http://www.livescience.com/27218-higgs-boson-universe-future.html

            http://www.livescience.com/47737-stephen-hawking-higgs-boson-universe-doomsday.html

            My point is that atheists keep harking on about the eternal heat death of the universe as though it's set in stone, when in fact it is far from being so.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Good questions. Although I think we're venturing into a bit of a different topic, its an interesting topic so I don't mind.

            I was almost going to agree with what (I think) you were getting at, that without life, a universe would have no purpose. But I think its a bit different... I think purpose depends not on life, per se, but on minds of some sort. A lifeless universe might have a purpose if, for example, it were created by a god who had some purpose in making it. (Or if it were inhabited by gods who may have their own purposes - I'm not sure that gods are considered "alive" in the same way as we are alive. If they are, then forget this example.)

            I see purposes to be dependant on the intentions of thinking things, so I may have an intended purpose for something while you have another, while God (if there is one) has yet another. It doesn't seem that just because a God has a purpose for the universe that we have to call that one the ultimate purpose and assimilate to it. If purposes are products of minds, then we can certainly have differences with God since we would have a different mind than He does.

            Now is a purposeless universe a "failed" universe? No, I don't think so. To "fail" is to not achieve a purpose (set by someone) and you can't not achieve a purpose that you don't have. You can't lose a game if you're not playing a game.

            Forgive me if that was rambling. I'm mostly typing my thoughts aloud. Either way, I gotta get going and I probably will be away from the internet through the weekend. Thanks for the conversation and thought prodding.

          • Mike

            it's not life per se but the complexity that it exhibits; it requires alot of stuff before hand to get going. that's what i think is weird that all of those conditions were met.

            that rare phenom x you cite apparently wouldn't be there w/o those fine tuned things bc all you'd have is dust clouds etc explosions or just universe expansion and collapse but nothing rare.

            your licence plate is just a proton in this analogy, what we're saying is imagine driving along and all of a sudden you see a car with the plates:

            "overlappingmagesteria you're dad wants you to be home by 7pm bc he's got a meeting to go to with the japanese to discuss the gravity constant xyz"

            AND imagine that that's exactly what your dad was doing (for example).

            What would you think then? holly crap what are the odds of that coming up on a licence plate by accident!

          • Doug Shaver

            I understand that winning the Powerball, and a universe with life is extremely rare.

            To say something is rare is to say there are many occasions on which it could happen but does not happen. There was only one occasion that we know of on which a universe could have existed. The argument assumes that there could have been countless other occasions and that, if they had occurred, there would have been no constraint on the possible values of the fundamental constants.

    • Peter

      Life is not just important on a human scale; it's also important on a cosmic scale. The special thing about this universe is that the end product of its interstellar material evolution are organic molecules, the building blocks of life. This was not known a few decades ago but is becoming increasingly known now. There is real evidence of meteorites that contain amino acids which means that these compounds were produced in space.

      All across the galaxy, and indeed in all galaxies across the cosmos, there are molecular clouds where organic compounds are being synthesised by stellar radiation. Molecular clouds are element-rich planetary nebulae and remnants of supernovae. These are the product of dead stars, the former leaving behind a white dwarf and the latter a neutron star or even a stellar black hole.

      New stars are born inside these molecular clouds. Within the disc of gas and dust surrounding these stars further irradiation takes place, creating more complex organic compounds. That's probably where the amino acids found in the meteorites were formed. Newly formed planets within this disc are then bombarded with compound-rich meteorites and comets.

      And on those planets within the goldilocks zone, where conditions for life are favourable, those compounds will settle and, in a manner as yet unknown to us, develop into the first stirrings of life. It appears from the observations that the universe is a cosmic factory for the production of life, which is quite contrary to what you imply.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        I agree that the universe produces life. But you are assuming that that is its sole purpose, that life is the "end product". The universe produces many many things, life is only one of them. There is a heck of a lot more dark matter in the universe than there is life... should we assume that the purpose of the universe is to produce dark matter, and life is just one byproduct? I prefer not to make those assumptions.

        • Peter

          Your reasoning is flawed. There is a heck of a lot more mass in the wood of a tree than in the seeds it produces, and the wood grows every year, yet the natural object of a tree is to produce seeds not wood. Dark matter is the wood; life is the seed.

  • "From this we can infer that this designer must be a transcendent, supremely intelligent creator of the cosmos."

    Even assuming design, how can we infer this?

    • "Even assuming design, how can we infer this?"

      The designer must be transcendent because whatever designed the universe cannot be something within the universe. The designer must be supremely intelligent to have ordered the universe with incomprehensible precision.

      • Perhaps it must transcend this universe, but when you had called it "transcendant" I thought of that in terms of the divine transcendence which is said to be beyond space and time in general. As for all that precision, is it incomprehensible when this argument seems predicted on comprehending that?

        Edited for clarity.

      • Darren

        Brandon wrote,

        The designer must be transcendent because whatever designed the universe cannot be something within the universe. The designer must be supremely intelligence to have ordered the universe with incomprehensible precision.

        This is speculative and so a long way from “must”.

        We are speaking of the origin of the universe, an area in which our best models have great uncertainty and limited data. Must our “designer” be transcendent? No. We do not know why cosmic constants are the way they are. For all we know, whatever that reason is may be a brute fact, or a necessary part of reality, or who knows. That is speculative, but not more so.

        We must also ask ourselves what we mean by transcendent. Is
        the hypothetical multiverse transcendent? From the standpoint of this universe, probably, but a reasonable argument could be made that any multiverse is an extension of the universe and so not transcendent. If it is the multiverse, we have no clue as to what “physical laws” might hold sway, if any. Perhaps the multiverse is necessary or a brute fact, perhaps logic and causality, if they even exist, operate much differently than we expect. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. All speculative, but not more so.

        Supremely intelligent? We have well supported physical models that plausibly explain intricate complexity arising from purely algorithmic, non-sentient processes. For all we know the physical layer underneath the constants of this universe or the physics of the hypothetical multiverse may have similar processes.

  • Rudy R

    ...a minuscule variance in one of the them would throw off the whole universe and make life impossible

    Since we haven't discovered other forms of life on other worlds, we are limited to only having knowledge of life as we know it on Earth.

  • So many objections spring to mind when watching the video. Here's the first. (I'll put the others in new comments per BV's request elsewhere on this page, since this is already a tad long.)

    First, why divide the categories of explanation into necessity, chance, and design? These three categories are neither independent nor exhaustive. There are gaps and overlaps among these categories. This argument is plainly a false trichotomy fallacy, and it should be rejected as such before we even begin to examine which options are most worthy of belief.

    Though logically there's no need to give specific counterexamples to a fallacy, I think it's helpfully informative to do so in this case. Here are four that are interesting to me:

    (Note: Discussion of how much the options are worthy/unworthy of belief will go in subsequent comments; it's not relevant to the logical point here.)

    1.) The most obvious gap is selection. Suppose a form of cosmological natural selection is true, similar to the idea of Lee Smolin. Then, just like biological natural selection is a distinct phenomenon from random mutation, cosmological natural selection would be distinct from whatever process generates physical constants. And just like biological natural selection generates the illusion of biological design, cosmological natural selection would generate the illusion of cosmological design. So selection is an important category of explanations omitted from the argument.

    2.) Next, consider a broad class of a cosmological models where design is out but necessity and chance as explanations for the physical constants overlap perfectly and can't be distinguished: chaotic inflation. Suppose chaotic inflation were true. Then there would an original singularity at expected-infinite-time in the past, and developing out of it would be infinite variations on physical constants in different, widely-separated regions of spacetime. If you average over your uncertainty about which type of chaotic inflation you started with, then you'll come up with various chances that randomly selected spacetime regions have a particular set of physical constants. But if you consider any of the models as a whole, then you get a 100% chance -- necessity -- that a possible spacetime region will be real somewhere.

    3.) Now consider an unusual "cosmological model" where neither necessity nor chance nor design can be distinguished: a Tegmark Level IV multiverse. The idea is that every "mathematical world" -- every possible world that can in principle be completely, perfectly precisely, noncontradictorily described -- is a real world. Suppose it were true. Then if a Universe-Designer can in principle be completely, perfectly precisely, noncontradictorily described, then that Universe-Designer too would be a real part of the multiverse. The model would then give us a 100% chance -- necessity -- that the Universe-Designer design the universes that it did. (And if a supposed Universe-Designer can't be noncontradictorily, perfectly precisely, completely described even in principle, then it's probably not worthy of belief no matter what worldview one starts from.)

    4.) Design need not be conceptualized in any rigorous way, of course: religious theists haven't bothered to specify the least bit of precision in their mental models of how their Universe Designer works. But suppose a new religious movement decided to rectify that oversight in their argument. These believers use the arguments here on SN to "prove" there really is a transcendent magical realm of universe-designing pixies. These pixies design and create some conceivable universes and not others. The believers develop a model that tells them the pixies designed as they did by their very nature, i.e. necessarily. The next day there's a schism, and some of the believers instead say the pixies designed as they did freely and so the model must describe the design process with some level of probability less than necessity. The next next day there's another schism, and some of the believers insist the Minds of the pixies are so far above ours that we're incapable of forming any models with any accuracy about how the pixies design what they design, and so the believers correctly conclude that this idea of a Universe Designer cannot validly be used in an argument alongside necessity and chance in the first place.

    -

    So yeah, the necessity-chance-design argument starts off baloney. The video just goes as yet another entry in the endless parade of apologists picking their conclusion first and not caring an iota about logic when the guise of logic will suffice.

    But hey! We can fix the faulty premise. Here's a good way:

    1. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that there exists a process or set of criteria which determines or influences the values of the physical constants. (Disregard for now the fact that we have no scientific evidence for such a process or set of criteria.)
    2. Among those processes or sets of criteria, we can choose to classify them as involving necessity, chance, design, some mix of those three, or being in the big 'other' bucket.
    3. Now let us go on to show (somehow) that the scientific evidence we do have comports best with processes and sets of criteria involving design.
    4. Then we will go on to further show (somehow) that the weight of this evidence overcomes the evidential burden of a designer hypothesis.

    That's how the argument ought to start.

  • Comment #2: Goose and Gander

    > Premise 2: The fine-tuning of the universe is not due to necessity.

    The video correctly stated that the currently-known physical laws do not constrain the physical constants, and that there's not yet scientific evidence on which to base a claim that the physical constants could not have been other than they are.

    The video then uses those facts to reject the viability of explanations for the physical constants that involve necessity. And that's a problem. As apologists are so fond of pointing out: a lack of scientific evidence for an idea is not proof that the idea is wrong (unless it's an idea that says we should have that evidence). If only apologists were also fond of consistency.

    > Premise 3: The fine-tuning of the universe is not due to chance.

    The video then proceeds to repeat the same mistake regarding multiverse models. The video also fumbles the matter by presuming that multiverse models involve chance, but that's a forgivable error. The rest of us could be forgiven for suspecting the video of repeating its glib mistake on account of that being more productive than expressing the subtle truth.

    Strangely, the video stops short of pointing out that there's not yet scientific evidence on which to base a claim that the physical constants were designed. Strangely, but not surprisingly. If only apologists were as fond of consistency as of repetition.

    Those of us who try to start with evidence and use it guide ourselves toward a conclusion, rather than the other way around, would say this:

    "Scientific evidence does not yet give us a reason to think one way or another about why the physical constants are what they are. Neither does other evidence. Therefore, we conclude that we do not yet know why the physical constants are what they are. But scientists are trying to find out, and possibly one day they will succeed."

    I hope they do succeed someday. Conceivably they might find evidence of design - though I wouldn't bet on it. Three cheers for curiosity unfettered by doctrine. :)

  • #3. FWIW: Unlike many of the other commenters here, I am completely willing to grant that some changes to the physical constants would render all life, not just known types of life, impossible. This is because some of physical constants control whether atoms are possible, for example. Far in our universe's future, the rate of expansion of space is expected to be so fast that it overcomes the strong force and even subatomic particles are ripped one from another, each to be forevermore isolated in a pointlike region of space, unable to interact with anything. If our universe had always had a rate of expansion like that, then no physical life could exist in it.

    If gravity had dominated the expansion of space instead of the other way around, then there might have been a 'Big Crunch' shortly after the Big Bang, before the universe had a chance to cool and form molecules. Unless one imagines a radiation-based form of life, that would also eliminate any possibility for physical life in our universe.

  • #4. Though of course I don't know why the physical constants are the way they are, I find a necessitarian Plenitude (mega mega multiverse :) scenario most intellectually satisfying. It would mean that everything that might consistently exist really does exist. I find it satisfying mostly because it makes it easy to understand notions like "possibility" and "existence", which are otherwise quite murky concepts. It collapses"possible" into meaning the same as "actual, but somewhere else". All possible worlds and all possible beings would be real somewhere out in the multiverse. Also, this kind of Plenitude makes for the best stories. (Hey, I said it wasn't knowledge.)

    Even if one insists on positing a single real universe, if it lasts forever we ought to consider the possible experiences of Boltzmann brains - and it turns out that there are interesting constraints on what they could experience. 'Brains' with less complex memories would pop in and out of existence more frequently than ones with more complex memories, so if you're possibly a Boltzmann brain you would expect the next 'brain' that pops into existence with a superset of your current memories - the "next moment" in your subjective experience - to have the simplest such extension. Mathematically, this constraint works out to be the same as experiencing a world that runs on quantum physics. (Note that the math still does not let you calculate the fundamental physical constants that you'd experience in your subjective universe; all you could determine is that the constants should be compatible with both your existence and with the simplest possible underlying physics.) Furthermore, we get basically the same results out of 'Universal Dovetailer' ideas that eschew bothering with any universes at all, and instead just overlay a statistical measure on all possible binary programs, supposing those (or just their information content) to be real. So Plenitude-like situations are hard to avoid even if one rejects them as being part of base-level reality.

    Anyhow, to get back to grounded-in-the-facts reality, my answer is still that I don't know yet. The video certainly didn't give any valid reasons to prefer its conclusion. What about y'all? Do you have any reasons to prefer a There-Is-A-Universe-Designer-That-Can-Create-Every-Conceivable-Universe-And-Did-Make-One-Universe hypothesis over just a There-Is-Every-Conceivable-Universe hypothesis? The former hypothesis has all the same information of the latter hypothesis plus additional assumptions, so it's strictly more complex than the latter. That makes it hard for me to imagine there being any rational reasons to prefer a Designer hypothesis unless and until we someday get scientific evidence for it.

  • Peter

    Is the fine-tuned universe the product of necessity, chance or design?

    My opinion is that it is most likely the product of necessity. In the decades and centuries to come we will discover that our fine-tuned universe is the inevitable outcome of natural processes which will appear even more fine-tuned to produce a universe as fine-tune as ours. No doubt certain Christians will then claim that God specifically designed those fine-tuned processes just as today they claim that God specifically designed the fine-tuning of the universe.

    From our observation of the evolution of the universe, the widespread creation of the building blocks of life is inevitable. Despite the current gaps in our knowledge, it looks like life itself, too, may be inevitable, including its evolution towards consciousness.

    My point is that there is a difference between what God intends by design and what God specifically designs. God may have intended the universe to be populated with countless races of conscious beings, but he wouldn't have specifically designed each and every one of them. He would have let the natural evolution of the universe do that. (Of course, being omniscient, he would know how they turned out but that's another issue).

    By the same token, God may have intended that our universe be fine-tuned for the creation of conscious beings, but he wouldn't have specifically designed it as such. Again, he would have let natural processes create it, processes which are still unknown to us.

    Christians who, at every stage where the limits of our knowledge are reached, claim that God specifically designed those things, whether it be the fine-tuned human body centuries ago or the fine-tuned universe today, leave themselves open to falsification when science discovers otherwise. God is not an artisan or a magician, but is far more subtle and transcendent than that.

    • Lazarus

      How would we ever know that such processes are "natural"?
      When is something natural and when is a seemingly natural event created by God?

      • Peter

        All natural events are seemingly natural events created by God. They are what is called secondary creation, where God uses nature to create.

        The question is whether the big bang is a secondary creation, where hitherto unknown natural processes have acted to create it. And what causes those processes? They too could be a secondary creation.

        There is no reason in principle why there couldn't have been countless naturally-occurring big bangs. Each one would produce a universe with different laws and entirely different forms of life which would attain consciousness and seek out their Creator.

        Just as our universe could be full of conscious life based on its own particular set of laws, so too could we have a multiverse full of conscious life based on countless different sets of laws. In fact, such a scenario would be more consistent with the idea of an infinitely powerful God.

        • Lazarus

          The question is really how we can tell the difference, if at all.

          • Peter

            Yes, but being unable to tell the difference is no excuse to discount God as some are trying to do. Take the multiverse again. Many cite it as a reason for God's non-existence whereas it actually reinforces God' existence.

            If God is omnibenevolent and omnipotent, he will want to give life to countless multitudes of creatures, in whatever form, who will come to know him. In that respect the multiverse makes perfect sense.

          • Lazarus

            I'm not discounting the possibility at all. I just see an endless debate about God. Whatever gets found to be the origin and even cause of the universe(s) would always be faced with this question. If tomorrow scientists prove without any doubt or contradiction exactly how the universe started, we still would not necessarily know how that apparently natural process got started. Here the non-believer is up against an impossible task.

          • Doug Shaver

            Here the non-believer is up against an impossible task.

            Looks that way. There will always be questions we don't know the answer to, and the believers will always be able to say, "The answer must be God."

          • Peter

            The task of the non-believer is made much easier by creationists insisting, at each juncture where we come up against gaps in our knowledge, that God supernaturally did it.

            All the non-believer has to do, in order to make God redundant, is construct a hypothetical yet scientifically plausible model to demonstrate how they may have occurred naturally.

            If non-believers are allowed by creationists to make God redundant at every juncture where the latter consider him to be active, it is not surprising that the former will form a strong opinion that God does not exist at all.

          • Doug Shaver

            Take the multiverse again. Many cite it as a reason for God's non-existence

            "Many"? Like who? I've never seen anyone argue "The multiverse exists, therefore God doesn't."

  • David Nickol

    Does the argument from fine tuning implicitly acknowledge that life is "merely" a complex chemical phenomenon? Or is the argument that the fundamental constants are necessary for life to exist in the universe, but not sufficient? Is life "miraculous"? That is, did the origin of life from nonlife at minimum require some direct intervention at the beginning? Or, going further, is life even in its simplest forms inexplicable by science?

    I think the concept I am getting at is vitalism. Do those who make the argument from fine tuning implicitly reject vitalism and acknowledge that the laws of nature can account for life? Or do they mean that without fine tuning there could be no life, but without special intervention by God, there couldn't be life in even the most "finely tuned" universe?

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me one of the most serious flaws in the video is the more-or-less outright dismissal of the idea of the multiverse. The fine tuning argument rests very heavily on being accurate about what current scientific thinking is, and although the idea of the multiverse is not universally accepted, neither is it universally rejected—by no means. In fact, Dr. Stephen Barr, in an interview published on this site (and quoted elsewhere in this thread by Michael Murray), said the following:

    This "multiverse" idea is a perfectly sensible one. In fact, there are
    reasons to suspect that our universe may have such a domain structure.

  • Sample1

    What do I think of the FTA? I think it's 100% without merit. And I don't mean that as a snarky comment, I mean that literally as in meaningless. I haven't read the article or watched the vid, so my comments can't be said to apply personally to the author.

    I think of it this way. What were the odds that I, being born before the digital native generation, would know that many years later I'd have a Welsh spaniel next to me as I sat in front of a Mac wearing polar bear pajama bottoms, scrolling through SN Catholic comments located on something called the Internet?

    Super duper improbable, right?

    But I am here, so is my dog, so is the internet and so is this site. Every single human, all 7.4 billion of us, can construct a scenario that feels improbable. What we identify as "the universe" succumbs to the same analogy as my life because the universe is the way it is today even if it could be thought as being improbable at any other point in time.

    TL;DR: assigning improbability in this way (FTA) to the universe's existence is as meaningless as assigning improbability to one's own existence: both exist, improbability is rendered moot.

    Mike
    Edit done to add more awesome sauce. Last tablespoon added.

    • Michael Murray

      What are polar bear pajama bottoms ? I could google but I'm scared.

      • Sample1

        Haha, just um, sleeping clothes? We say bottoms for the, uh, trouser part. I never thought of it until now, but climate does dictate outdoor clothing, why wouldn't it dictate indoor clothing?

        You sun-dwellers probably sleep in shorts or less. Ha.

        Oh, the bear is just the pattern on the bottoms I happened to be wearing when I typed that comment on SN. I have ones that have cabin/firewood prints too. Yes, I'm sounding like a massive stereotype now.

        Mike

        • Michael Murray

          Ah right! Sorry I was imagining something like the bottom of a polar bear suit. Polar bear pattern - got it. Yes bottoms and tops and pajamas or just pjs works fine here as well. They definitely vary in thickness and length of the bottom parts with time of year.

    • Rob Abney

      I've been thinking about the difference between the random chance scenario and the designer scenario.
      Drawing a Royal Flush in poker is a 1 in 650000 chance, but so is drawing any 5 cards. Why do we consider the Royal Flush special? Because we designed the game that way.
      Why should we consider the fact that you are alive and seeking your creator through SN, because you were designed that way.

      • Sample1

        Good morning Rob Abney,

        Yes, the game of poker is designed. It is a decision on behalf of the players to assign a value to any given poker hand and many variants of poker exist. Nothing prevents consenting players to assign a higher value to pairs than flushes.

        Religion is also designed. Consenting players assign an arbitrary value to any given scenario and many variants of religion exist. Nothing prevents you from assigning a value to atheists who post on SN.

        So far though I only see evidence of humans doing human things.

        Mike, faith-free

      • David Nickol

        Drawing a Royal Flush in poker is a 1 in 650000 chance, but so is drawing any 5 cards.

        Not exactly. There are 2,598,960 possible poker hands, so the odds of getting any particular hand are 1 in 2,598,960. However, there are four possible royal flushes, because you can get A, K, Q, J, 10 in Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, or Clubs.

        Why should we consider the fact that you are alive and seeking your creator through SN, because you were designed that way.

        You are begging the question. What is the evidence that things were designed to be the way they are?

        • Rob Abney

          I got that number from you!
          But, if you just compare possibility of designer against possibility of chance then there's not much difference. However we have other support that we can presuppose such as the uncaused cause and the appearance of life having a purpose.

      • Michael Murray

        Why should we consider the fact that you are alive and seeking your creator through SN, because you were designed that way.

        Designed ? Or perhaps he is a member of a species that evolved certain advantageous traits that had the side effect of causing consciousness and a search for meaning.

        • Rob Abney

          Could he evolve a trait that he didn't have? Or did he have that trait as a potential to be evolved?
          If he didn't have it somehow built-in then how could he evolve it? If it were already built-in then it seems as if it was designed as a potential.

          • Sample1

            Could he evolve a trait that he didn't have?

            Your phrasing is off, kind of Lamarckian actually, but I understand you are not a biologist. Rather than me evolving, it's probably better in this case to remember that genomes evolve and over time visible traits that are different or absent from previous generations can be evidenced. New gene variants, for instance, are produced by random mutation.

            So the answer to your question is a resounding yes. Potentials are about metaphysics. Darwin, not Aristotle, is the father of modern biology.

            Mike
            Awesome sauce finished.

          • Rob Abney

            I'll gladly listen to your biology explanation. What actually changes when a genome evolves?

          • Sample1

            The answer of what changes depends on what kind of evolving mechanism is involved!

            One way new information comes about, or evolves , is through something called a point mutation. In a point mutation, it is going to be a single nucleotide (a molecule that makes up RNA or DNA) that is changed. Such a change can result in a new expression not previously seen in the entire species (longer hair in some dogs compared to shorter hair in their wolf ancestors, for instance, is the result of a single point mutation).

            But other mechanisms like frame shift mutations can result in whole chromosome duplications or in the case of Prader-Willi syndrome, deletions. Prader-Willi syndrome is an example of chromosome deletion in which only one copy of the gene (a gene represents a section of nucleotides) is expressed resulting, again, in a genomic change different than either parent. Metabolic, mentation and other physical changes result from that genomic change.

            There are many other mechanisms that describe how new information evolves. I've only highlighted two ways: point mutation and frame shift mutations.

            Mike
            Edit done.
            Super done.

          • Rob Abney

            In your examples the biology is already present and is changed. So metaphysically the potential to evolve to something else was already present and ready to be actualized with the proper conditions?

          • Doug Shaver

            So metaphysically the potential to evolve to something else was already present and ready to be actualized with the proper conditions?

            If you must have an Aristotelian explanation, suit yourself. The scientific community left Aristotle behind them a very long time ago.

          • Rob Abney

            Then let's get to the bottom of it and see if that was a proper disposal or has it been there all along and just ignored.

          • Doug Shaver

            Aristotle hasn't gone anywhere. Most scientists have been ignoring him because he has been of no help to them.

          • Rob Abney

            Aristotle has been gone a long time! But the Aristotelan concept of act and potency is fundamental to scientists.

          • Doug Shaver

            Aristotle has been gone a long time!

            I was referring to his writings.

            But the Aristotelan concept of act and potency is fundamental to scientists.

            Not according to any science book I've ever read. And I've read a big bunch of science books.

          • Sample1

            You're question was:

            What actually changes when a genome evolves?

            This has been answered: a nucleotide.

            Do you disagree?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I don't disagree but it just pushes my question back one step. What actually changes when a nucleotide evolves?
            Thanks.

          • Sample1

            I don't disagree.

            Good! Happy to meet you at a point of mutual understanding. :-)

            ...it just pushes my question back one step

            That it may, but the agreed upon answer remains: I've met my obligation. What you are now doing is called moving the goalposts. You are trying to move the discussion to an area where, perhaps, an answer cannot be met. Be careful here, if I allow you to do this, you will have to allow me to do it (not that I'm interested).

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I'm not moving the goalposts, you have a better understanding of the biology so it was more of a clarification to ask the right question.
            I'm not trying to trap you, and if I'm wrong then I'll have to reconfigure some ideas.
            But, I suspect that the mechanism for the nucleotide to evolve is already present in the nucleotide and was brought forth by an external set of circumstances.

          • Sample1

            Moving the goalposts doesn't necessarily mean you are trying to trap me, but thank you for saying that you aren't. However, I am suspicious when you say, "it was more of a clarification to ask the right question." I do suspect you are tying to fit your questions to arrive at some already held conjecture considering you've already alluded to Aristotle's metaphysics.

            And besides, a clarification isn't needed; that a nucleotide changes is the answer to your question. You are now asking about a mechanism for change. That is a new category of question and it does fit the moving the goal post strategy whether you mean to or not.

            The mechanism for change, in the examples given, is natural selection (and in the case of the single gene affecting length of dog hair, artificial selection once it became human driven).

            Mike
            Edit done to add last paragraph and other do-dads.

          • Rob Abney

            "A nucleotide changes is the answer".
            Alright, I don't need to know the mechanism; but do you agree that the change occurs because of external circumstances that allow or enable the nucleotide to be expressed in a different way? That the new expression was somehow inherent in that nucleotide until it could be expressed due to combination, addition, or deletion?
            That seems to agree with the premise that the nucleotide had the potential to change built-in.

          • Sample1

            Well, we were discussing how a genome changes, not how a nucleotide changes. I think you mean to ask if a genome has the potential to change built in.

            Of course genomes can change, I've shown what exactly changes and offered the mechanism for why it might change.

            What practical knowledge of genetics is gained with your position that genomes also contain a metaphysical potential to change? It is here that I will mention Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace (1749 – 1827) who once said to Napoleon, I have no need for that hypothesis. :-)

            At any rate, if I allow you that insertion, you would have to allow me to insert metaphysical counters, so again be careful. Meanwhile, geneticists go about their work successfully without the baggage of Aristotelian potentials. Can we not just celebrate that?

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Rob Abney

            Meanwhile, geneticists go about their work successfully without the baggage of Aristotelian potentials. Can we not just celebrate that?

            Rather they go about their work because it is established that change requires potential to change. They don't have to think about potentials but they do have to think about actualizers, such as "what set of circumstances will/did make this genome change?" It is not a hypothesis, it is pretty close to being self-evident - for something to change it must have the potential to change.
            The practical knowledge I'm seeking is to discuss with you that your initial scenario is not just random chance, although it has to be demonstrated at many different hierarchal levels. Every part of you has potential for change built-in, and something external actualizes those potentials. Ultimately the questions are: 1. how did those potentials get there?, and 2. who/what is responsible for actualizing the potentials?

          • Sample1

            Rather they go about their work because it is established that change requires potential to change.

            I used to "do science", not much, but I have contributed to the process of published research; nothing earth shattering! However, never in my education have I come across a science book that taught, nor have I ever been tested, about actualizers and potentials the way you speak of them.

            So I have to ask, if I don't know about them, why do I need them? Are you are saying my science is wrong?

            Let me phrase it another way. What would happen if I didn't know about biomolecules? My understanding of nucleotides and genomes would be less than it currently is. What would happen if I didn't know about your potentials? According to you, apparently nothing as I could still go about my work.

            So why do I need to adopt your position on this?

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Rob Abney

            So why do I need to adopt your position on this?

            You don't have to, sort of like you don't have to understand exactly how your car works to drive it, it has nothing to do with being able to drive successfully.

            But, if you want to ponder these arguments you should consider some of the underlying presumptions that are used to support the existence and nature of God.

          • Sample1

            You don't have to...

            Agreed. A better question from me would be, why should I?

            ...you should consider some of the underlying presumptions that are used to support the existence and nature of God.

            I thought we were talking about genomes? Another goal post shift? But never mind that. Please respond to my first question.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for the dialogue Mike.
            I don't understand your request, I responded to your question of "why do I need to adopt your position?" but now you want me to respond to "why should I adopt your position?"
            Anyway, is it established that potential to change is built-in to genomes and nucleotides?

          • Sample1

            No, I don't think it is Rob. Your explanation of potential looks no different than something that isn't there.

            As to my question, well it goes to my point about something not being there. You've already strongly implied I could go about my work (or drive a car) without the need to know about your potentials. And so I do.

            The last remaining question for me to ask is, should I accept your idea of potential? Are there consequences if I don't? Will my science be wrong? Will my car not start?

            If the answer to both of my questions is no, then I don't understand why this topic should or even could be significant. I suppose as a hobby one may find Aristotle's ancient claims fascinating, but I can think of many other hobbies to occupy my time.

            Thanks for the back and forth but If I may, can I share a hunch with you? I think you want me to accept your Aristotelian idea of potentials by agreeing to it in scientific subjects because that would give you the ability to shoehorn Catholic doctrine into the discussion. I really don't think this is about cars starting, or science being wrong. This is probably about someone who thinks there is a dangerous place called Hell and people like me need to be warned about it. If I can be convinced potentials exist in the world I operate in, then maybe I can be convinced that potentials exist in the world that you operate in. Close?

            I think if you want to convince me of your position, you really need to demonstrate why it should be important enough for me to give more than a cursory glance at in on a website. Fair?

            Mike
            Edit: added barbecue sauce, I mean talk of Hell.

          • Rob Abney

            "I think if you want to convince me of your position, you really need to demonstrate why it should be important enough for me to give more than a cursory glance at in on a website. Fair?"
            Yes, I'll respond in the morning. But lighten up a little, we're only discussing philosophy, no damnation involved!

          • Sample1

            ...we're only taking philosophy

            Well, I was talking biology. There's the problem right there. :-p

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            This is the philosophy that makes it possible to accurately study biology. To understand that a seed will grow to become a plant with the right environmental factors is to know that that seed had the potential and that the potential was actualized by the nutrients and the sun. It is to also know that it didn't occur because fairies assisted or because a sun God was happy.
            I think it is such basic understanding that it almost never has to be considered and yet it is vital to our understanding of how things change.
            It does support Catholic philosophy which is to show that our faith is based on reasoning not superstitions.
            If you're interested, I'll continue explaining the hierarchy of that leads to God once we come to some agreement that this very basic foundation is established.

          • Sample1

            This is the philosophy that makes it possible to accurately study biology.

            Philosophy is really only about doing one thing: making arguments. It does not mean that it can, by default, accurately study biology.

            I think it is such basic understanding that it almost never has to be considered and yet it is vital to our understanding of how things change.

            You have not shown how it is vital to doing biology. If I don't know about your potentials, my biology still works. Saying it is vital, belies that fact. A fact I cannot overemphasize.

            It does support Catholic philosophy which is to show that our faith is based on reasoning not superstitions.

            I don't disagree that religions can maintain a consistent logic within a given philosophy. That doesn't mean it is universally sound and valid.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            once we come to some agreement that this very basic foundation is established.

            Tell me, there are Catholic schools all over the country. I attended one for four years. Can you point me to a text book used in a Catholic biology class that teaches what you claim? If it is vital, as you say, to understanding biology, it should be easy to find, yes?

            Likewise there are Catholic universities all over the country. I didn't attend Catholic university but my brother did (forgoing a full scholarship at a prestigious state university!). He majored in botany. I've asked him and he was never instructed about potentials in his science curriculum. Likewise, I took botany as a side interest during my public university time. I can relate the same experience.

            My other brother is a chemist. I haven't asked him, but I suspect he will relate the same experience. No talk of potentials. On EN, we had a long discussion with Fr. Sean on this topic. The physics folks over there echo my experience in biology.

            Can you at least appreciate my confusion at your position?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            What else did they not teach you in biology classes? I won't try to fathom a clever response.

            Seriously Mike, you must understand that biology/science has to rest upon metaphysical/philosophical presuppositions. This is not a discussion about science vs philosophy, its about very basic foundations.
            You don't lose this discussion by agreeing nor do you win by continually denying.

            Can you agree with either or both of these statements:
            1. Everything that exists changes
            2. Something cannot come from nothing

            Let me know what your answer is and then we'll try to proceed together from there.

          • David Nickol

            Seriously Mike, you must understand that biology/science has to rest upon metaphysical/philosophical presuppositions.

            In a certain sense that is true. The same is true, I would say, of baking cookies or smelting iron or doing laundry. However, I would say that "rest upon" is not accurate. Just because those who are philosophically inclined make attempts to identify philosophical presuppositions, that doesn't mean that philosophy is necessary for science. And it seems to me what you are trying to do is argue that Aristotelian or Thomistic philosophy is what science "rest[s] upon."

            I have delved a bit into the philosophy of science, and to the best of my recollection, there was no mention of Aristotle's notion of potentiality, nor did we get axioms like "everything that exists changes" and "something cannot come from nothing."

            Also, there are a lot of unanswered questions in the philosophy of science (including what, exactly, science is), and the answers to them are of little or no interest or importance to science itself. The great practical success of science is not dependent on philosophy. In 1962, Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions had a profound impact on the philosophy of science, but I have never heard anyone argue that it had an impact on science itself.

          • Rob Abney

            Can you give me a link to see where the discussion with Fr Sean is?

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            That the new expression was somehow inherent in that nucleotide until it could be expressed due to combination, addition, or deletion?

            That depends. Would you consider War and Peace to be inherent in a keyboard?

          • Rob Abney

            To some degree, yes. The keyboard had the potential that had to be actualized by Tolstoy.

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            To some degree, yes. The keyboard had the potential that had to be actualized by Tolstoy.

            Then yes. If you consider every actual and possible literary work to be inherent in a keyboard, then in a similar way every actual or possible genome would be inherent in the ATC&G of DNA.

            Of course, why stop there. We can assign arbitrary values to anything and then everything is inherent in everything. If I say every electron with spin +1/2 equals letters A-M and -1/2 equals N-Z, then all of human thought is inherent in a ham sandwich.

          • Rob Abney

            But it is inherent in the keyboard because humans designed it that way.
            Do we know what the potentials are of the ATC&G? Does it depend upon the environment they are in?
            I wasn't saying that I know what the potentials can/will be, I'm saying they all have potential to change.

          • Darren

            Hello, Rob, sorry for the delay.

            In order to move forward, it would help if I knew what you were after. Are you wanting to know more about evolution and biology? Are you seeking converts to AT? Honing your debate skill? Just taking your metaphysics for a walk?

            All perfectly reasonable, but each would elicite a different response from me.

            While we are on the topic, I am sufficiently aware of my own limitations that debating AT metaphysics is not something I can do justice. If you really want to see arguments about AT metaphysics, I suggest The
            Christian Agnostic
            . Blog owner Steven Jake is for it, commenters Ray and Mike D. are agin’ it. From my perch discussions get heated, but I have not seen it turn ugly (but I don’t read regularly, so my sample size is small).

          • Rob Abney

            Great question, I appreciate that. My primary intention is to hone my metaphysical reasoning skills by discussing the practical understanding of it with those with differing understanding.
            Converts or saved souls won't come from knowledge alone but from a change of Will, so fear not a hidden agenda!
            I'll check out that blog, thanks.

          • David Nickol

            You are mistaken if you think Tolstoy typed War and Peace,which was published in 1869. According to several web sites, Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi (1883) was the first published book for which a typewritten manuscript was submitted to the publisher.

            So I think you have to consider Tolstoy's pen as having a potential War and Peace in it to be "actualized," which seems more than a bit silly (to me, at least).

          • Will

            Why not just say "It's possible to type War and Peace with a keyboard". It's also possible to chisel it into a clay tablet, write with a pen, dictate it with voice, any manner of information transmission. The whole potential and actualization think seems to be an unnecessary use of words trying to sound fancy, in my view. I really like philosophy, but that stuff is completely useless and all modern philosophers completely ignore it (other than a few Catholic ones) for good reason.

  • Jack

    As a firmly believing Catholic, I find intellgent design (ID) arguments incredibly vulnerable to "God of the gaps" arguments, and as such I believe true metaphysical arguments are the only way to approach this question. ID skates on very thin ice if viewed through the lens of advanced science and classic Catholic accounts of Divine Action. Though article seeks to adress the topic through the anthropic principle, the following article responds to the same prinicples from a biological perspective in the Thomistic tradition. Fr. Nicanor, the author, recieved his PhD in molecular biology at MIT, and as such he and his team are very sensitive to maintaining an honest view of science within traditional theological framework. The link to the article follows: http://www.thomisticevolution.org/disputed-questions/a-thomistic-response-to-the-intelligent-design-proposal/

  • 3:24:1200am. I think this is finally 'passable'. Will not attempt another rewrite. See end note!!!!
    https://ca.video.search.yahoo.com/search/video;_ylt=A0LEV2kKFe9WaKIAdyzrFAx.;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw--?p=The+Sound+of+Silence&fr=ssb-uh-t1
    I have decided to delete this comment and am transferring it to my computer for continued revision. I trust however, that you are 'fine tuned' with respect to this attempt to contrast a creative or imaginative focus on the 'song' 'Sounds of Silence' with an attempt to discover and develop an understanding of 'fine tuning' within both contexts of the 'argument' proper! :) I really didn't expect that this comment would end up being so long but it has served as a good writing exercise. But I'm so exhausted. I want now to study some of the comments that have been coming up. Thank you for your patience. I am not going to give up on this experiment though, at least not yet.
    Edit: 3-23-2016. I read the comments on this one too. http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/7354/ (This 'exercise' could be thought of as an adaptation of what I read about the requirement in Buddhist argument that it contain a narrative reference, --as with the parables in the 'arguments' Jesus!!?? :)
    But in attempting to bring diverse 'ideas' together, on a later reading, (there were 21 pages!) I did find that I had indeed attempted to 'make a synthesis'. Perhaps my writing was neither necessary, nor a matter of chance but merely an attempt to include both possibilities within the 'design', (a God thesis!!) On the other hand, writing has to be about 'something': whether it be quantifiable as in science, or qualitative as in narrative, as possibly in evolution or 'genesis'. Possibly one could attempt an assimilation between quantitative and qualitative, placed within a contrast as the two positions: dia-lectics/dia-logics??? -
    First Example: Could such allow a possible interpretation of genesis, as bringing 'light' out of 'darkness'? contrasted with the quantitative scientific explanation. such as bringing order out of chaos. - -The idea of 'order' is closer perhaps to the recent interpretations of the cosmologists with their big bang 'theories' than the the theory of St. Augustus of angels being the light, as an explanation of light- before the creation of stars!! I also had difficulty with St. Augustus, that light as the creation of the good angels preceded the fall of Satan. unless Satan is a beacon of light too!!! Yes. Although we have Venus who is both morning and evening there is on this subject: http://www.acts17-11.com/dialogs_morningstar.html. Second Example: to continue... Oh! The paradoxes of madness! Seems like some ideas of Deleuze are catching on. Found an advertisement today offering strategies that will allow 'schizophrenic' approaches to business; in order to become a better entrepreneur they suggest working out contrary and even contradictory possibilities! and business I assume includes some form of math, although I understand difficulties exist in quantifying 'schizophrenia', per se. But this is 'metaphorical'!!! Beyond that I don't know enough to even speculate, on this conception of what it means to be 'divine'!!!!.
    Both of these example suggest perhaps the contrasts found in the early philosophies of the fourfold: (Heidegger's source?)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empedocles#Love_and_Strife
    Anyway, please regard these 'examples' as just an attempt to suggest that perhaps choice between necessity, chance, in contrast to design, might not require independent arguments- or exclusion of one or the other, but rather the need to combine them in some way into a both/and,...within a presentation, or even 'real-life' problematic, rather than merely 'reduce' the focus to an either-or...'argument', with the intent to eliminate contradiction. (Derrida on the polarities in language for instance). This would perhaps entail a more multi-perspective kind of narrative. I know not what would be required 'scientifically'. But levels of plot as a design can make a more interesting story,for example. Such also suggests a synthesis of the first two categories of relationship, quantity and quality through Kant's adaptation of Aristotle's principles, which is most often identified I believe as the tripartite 'laws of contradiction'. which he placed within a more empirically grounded schemata, that of his third category which contain. 1.Thesis: Identity or Kant's categorical 2. Anti-thesis: cause and effect 3. synthesis: reciprocity. (A suggested method of application here). The either-or leads to limitation, the both-and to 'infinite 'possibilities', depending, I believe on the 'modality'???? (Another method of use 'function?'.
    Hopefully I now leave you once again to/in peace! Thanks for allowing the 'experiment'....And thanks for your patience regarding that other 'narrative'....now deleted.
    Edit again: Well the arguments continue, but are generally so 'difficult' to follow.. Although I have not the intelligence to be a cosmologist, or theologian among other professions, it is still important for me to understand how "I" can become more creative; how I can 'fine tune' my guitar, to use the required 'metaphor' as per Buddhism. (A parallel approach as a way to avoid dogmatism, (language unrelated to empirical evidence - one definition.) within Western tradition?) That's one of the reasons that analogy was so important for me to explore, in my attempt to find, or express, Hegel's Unity in opposites, a thesis from his Logic. Indeed while researching Hinduism,- Brahma, the creator of the universe, created by Vishnu and rarely worshiped today- I found one theory that suggests it is within the material form, or the temporal sphere that the opposites are 'necessarily' encountered as the G-d manifest. Would this suggest that contradiction is 'primarily qualitative', although perhaps this would need to include language and/or -"logic"....??? as qualitative as well as quantitative - a definition of logos I recently found - which would make logos - what? reason which contains contradiction????
    James Chaste (Just Thomism) suggested something like 'contradictions were only in the mind' on the introductory page of a recent post, but the comment is deleted on the main page.
    Knowing vs. reality by James Chastek
    "Knowing a contradiction in the mind, we know that none can exist in reality. Thus, the act of knowing is not a reality".
    Interesting. What IS a contradiction, epistemologically? ontologically? necessity? chance? But only God is 'necessary Being'!! Anyway, we still have: Actuality-Potentiality: Hegel's Being and Becoming, the same idea that Aristotle's presented but in yet another way? But what of the Nothing???? as Hegel's mediating principle? (the negation of the negation) or as a 'source' (that 'nothing' which is created by God to become what? becoming? Another 'issue' to deal with at some other time? Perhaps one seeming opposite which can indeed be resolved into an other?
    Yet, I can't help note that opposites remain in opposition within my life!!!. Kierkegaard's paradoxes? But at least I worked myself through the initial temptation to just accept the original thesis, that it was an either-or situation and nothing else. It takes me a long time, though, to work something up into a possible coherence, and so my ability to 'create' remains somewhat 'passive'- according to Aristotle. But I'm not going to feel guilty because I'm not up to perfection, on this issue. Yet, it is such a temptation to want to be... "scientific". Perhaps that is the reason that I continue these attempts to argue according to 'standard', even though my instrument could indeed benefit from a little 'fine tuning'. Nevertheless I shall return now to a theme from my original comment, and leave you with a song: 'while my guitar gently weeps' Adieu. :)
    https://ca.search.yahoo.com/search?p=why+my+guitar+gently+weeps&fr=ssb-uh-t1

    Note of explanation: The original distinctions were that of necessity and chance. By following as a precedent that several definitions of necessity could be given, the 'narrative' led me to relate chance to such concepts as contingency, and even the Aristotelian concept,accident, but whether or not substance would be considered necessary or a contingent within the temporal world I know not. Because of this lack of knowledge, this may be considered presumptive. However, as such a theory as evolution assumes some form of chance, hopefully this will possibly allow the placement of these terms within the categories of Immanuel Kant. Although this exercise was primarily directed to the difference between argument and narrative in any case, whether considered intelligent or not, I trust it will provide a demonstration of my cognitive bias towards the latter!!! I guess I'd be sola scripture in a 'final analysis' !! And even considering the possibility that such is heresy I hope that the contingency of my being does not mean that it is not capable of some 'fine tuning' :). Thank you.

    • From Chabad:

      I agree with the heretics. The god they so despise does not exist—

      —a god who peers in through the clouds at a world he sometime made,
      and plays with it from his heavens as a child plays in the sand . . .

      Such a god is no more than another of Man’s toys. A man has a house,
      he has a car, a job, a wife and children. So he must also have a god.
      And he creates one in his image.

      G‑d is not a construct of the human mind. G‑d is the reality in which we stand.

      Edit: And yet I have attempted to describe what 'the fine tuning argument' means at this time in my life, 'for myself', 'for me'. Whether or not I have avoided both heresay and/or heresy, I know not. I have attempted to avoid paraphrasing what I have read on scientism, naturalism, dogmatism, fundamentalism, yet this still contributed to my attempt to 'discover' if not 'define' where I stand. I cannot speak the languages of mathematics, physics, of theology or the 'language' of God. Yet, there are many variations of the song: Sound of Silence, that include the 'Gregorian', depictions of desperation, and of course the renditions of Simon and Garfunkel. What is 'really' real? What is 'constant'? It would seem that there are many ways in which we can take a stand. Many constants. Are these also the realities in which we stand?'

    • Brandon Vogt. An article that I had saved this date last year turned up in my memories on FB. It was all about your love of argument, and indeed is regarded as a necessity in instructing someone towards having faith. May I suggest, that as a woman, I was not trained in this capacity, until late in life, with some logic courses in my 40's. I believe philosophy is called the love of Sophia, or Wisdom, as in a former article on this site, because wisdom i guess would be in the category of beauty, order, (but I'm referring to Kant again). And yes, I like Augustine's emphasis on this as the basis of theology, rather than Aristotelian/Thomistic placement within that intelligibility that resulted in scholasticism. But I had the same difficulties with some methods within Analytic philosophy. The best description on how it affected me, was that it was 'boring', because it was without 'life' (in all its details). But on the other side of the 'argument', I suspect I have much work to do if I will ever be able to write a book, or story, or narrative that 'can't be put down' - in any sense of that phrase. :)

  • Jack

    Although I'm a Catholic scientist, I find this argument lacking:
    1.) It sounds far too much like a God of the gaps argument
    2.) Yes, it is tuned for life (good), but one can argue it's finely tuned for a bunch of bad things
    3.) If it's tuned for life, why isn't there intelligent life everywhere?
    4.) It's easy to dismiss as it only seems like it's finely tuned for life as we know it. It seems more likely that life finely tuned itself to the universe, and not the other way around.
    4a.) Humans are finely tuned to run long distances, monkeys are finely tuned to swing from trees, dish are finely tuned to swim. Because they adapted to their surroundings

    • Sample1

      1-4: Nice, though fine tuning sounds more like a teleological shoehorn. There are better sciency terms.

      4a. Monkeys swinging, humans running, fish swimming. Unneeded, confusing. I don't play the piano because I've adapted to my surroundings (which might be concert halls). There was selection for an opposable thumb in one of my very distant cousins and that had the incidental effect of me being able to play piano millions of years later.

      Adaptation, as has been said, is an onerous term. One must be careful when naming a specific characteristic above the level of the gene as an adaptation or certainly no higher than evidence allows.

      Mike
      Edit done. Added second paragraph.

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    Here's a short late comment to this post, giving the reasons I don't buy the fine tuning argument:

    (1) We don't know that we know the fundamental constants. The constants that we do know may be functions of other constants, and may therefore not be uniformly weighted.

    (2) We don't know the parameter space for the constants.

    (3) We don't know how or even if constants are selected. The only proposed mechanisms (such as finding local minima in a very complex high dimensional space) tend to imply the existence of a multiverse where all possible solutions would be realised.

    For these reasons, I don't think the trichotomy of chance/necessity/design is especially useful at this point, at least until a mechanism and parameter space is identified for whatever the truly fundamental free parameters are.

    Finally, I think the open trichotomy is inconsistent with one of the deepest positions for other philosophical arguments here, the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), the idea that there's an explanation for everything.

    If there's really an explanation for everything, then there's an explanation for why these constants and not others. Even if God chose these constants, there would be an explanation for why God chose these constants and not others. The PSR seems to entail that 'design' overlaps with 'necessity' and that 'randomness' is impossible. The trichotomy reduces to a single option: necessity. The constants are what they are and could not possibly have been different.

    • Peter

      Even if God chose these constants, there would be an explanation for why God chose these constants and not others.

      There is a plausible explanation of why God would have chosen these constants, irrespective of whether they came about naturally or supernaturally, which is for the creation of conscious life-forms who would seek out and come to know their Maker. It is plausible because the building blocks of life are widespread throughout the cosmos, and the physical laws, known and unknown, which lead to the evolution of minds capable of consciousness, are the same everywhere in the universe.

      The only proposed mechanisms (such as finding local minima in a very complex high dimensional space) tend to imply the existence of a multiverse where all possible solutions would be realised.

      Even if countless other universes exist with different sets of laws, there is no reason why conscious life-forms could not exist within them, also seeking out their Maker. Like ourselves, they too would be asking why their particular universe is so fine-tuned for their own particular form of life.

      All the multiverse hypothesis does is push fine-tuning back from the level of the universe to the level of the multiverse. Instead of a universe fine-tuned for life based on the chemistry of the particular stars it contains, there could be a multiverse fine-tuned for so many different forms of life that we could never imagine and based on what we could never know.

      None of this is inconsistent with the notion of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. Quite the opposite, in fact. Why would such an infinitely loving and powerful God limit himself to giving life to a finite number of conscious beings in one universe when he can give life to an infinite number in countless others?

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        There is a plausible explanation of why God would have chosen these constants, irrespective of whether they came about naturally or supernaturally. which is for the creation of conscious life-forms who would seek out and come to know their Maker. It is plausible because the building blocks of life are widespread throughout the cosmos, and the physical laws, known and unknown, which lead to the evolution of minds capable of consciousness, are the same everywhere in the universe.

        That's right. Stipulating that it's plausible that God cares about life, that could be part of the explanation for why God chose these constants and not others. The rest of the explanation would make sense of why God wanted this particular life exactly where it is and the way it is and not somewhere else or some other way.

        If everything has an explanation, then all divine decisions likewise have explanations, and knowing the explanations shows us why God couldn't have done things differently. The answer is both design and necessity.

        The multiverse where all solutions are realized requires no fine tuning because there's no free parameters. There's nothing to vary over. It's again necessity.

        • Peter

          I look at things in a different way. God can achieve what he wants in whatever way he wants; there is no constraint whatsoever in the way God creates. God is utterly free to create in any way.

          That's why a multiverse is significant. A multiverse where all combinations of laws are possible could result in multiple universes each containing conscious life which came about through a particular set of laws.

          In this way God has created conscious beings in every universe and therefore in every possible way, through the operation of every possible law and process. There is no process, no solution, through which God is unable to create. A multiverse of conscious beings would truly bear witness to an omnipotent God.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I think that's a fair way of looking at things, although doing so sacrifices the principle of sufficient reason. There's many different ways God could have done things, and there's no real satisfactory reason about why God chose this way rather than others. If there were a perfectly good explanation for God making the universe one particular way, and God didn't, then God acted without a good explanation.

            That would put you in very good company. Most philosophers these days reject the principle of sufficient reason. Some things just don't have satisfying explanations. Why did I choose the cheerios over the rice crispies this morning? Maybe the origin of the universe is just one of those things that doesn't have a good explanation. It's just the way it is. This doesn't answer the fine-tuning argument, although I think there are independent reasons not to take the fine-tuning argument very seriously given our present state of ignorance.

            In this way God has created conscious beings in every universe and therefore in every possible way

            If every possible combination of physical laws is instantiated in the multiverse, most universes will be devoid of life as we know it. Maybe every physically possible universe has life, though. If so, that would be absolutely fascinating, and it would completely kill the fine-tuning argument.

          • Peter

            There's many different ways God could have done things, and there's no real satisfactory reason about why God chose this way rather than others. If there were a perfectly good explanation for God making the universe one particular way, and God didn't, then God acted without a good explanation.

            There is a perfectly good explanation of why God would have used the multiverse to create conscious life. First, being infinitely good, he would want to give life to an infinite number of conscious beings. Second, being infinitely powerful, he would have created them through an infinite variety of ways in an infinite number of universes.

            Creating a finite number of conscious beings in one universe alone, and creating them in only one particular way through the laws of that universe, would imply limitations on God's benevolence and his power.

            If every possible combination of physical laws is instantiated in the multiverse, most universes will be devoid of life as we know it

            But not necessarily devoid of life as we don't know it.

            Maybe every physically possible universe has life, though. If so, that would be absolutely fascinating, and it would completely kill the fine-tuning argument.

            On the contrary, it would make for a supremely fine-tuned multiverse where every single universe would produce conscious life capable of recognising and seeking out its Maker.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            There is a perfectly good explanation of why God would have used the multiverse to create conscious life.

            Then God had no choice in the matter, and the answer to the trichotomy is necessity. And I'd agree. But most philosophers wouldn't.

            On the contrary, it would make for a supremely fine-tuned multiverse where every single universe would produce conscious life capable of recognising and seeking out its Maker.

            What's being fine-tuned for the multiverse that instantiates all possible universes? What free parameter is being set? As far as I understand, there are no free parameters, and so there's no fine tuning. What would be 'fine' about tuning for everything?

          • Peter

            Such a multiverse would be fine-tuned in the sense that every single universe produces conscious life. It would be fine-tuned in the sense that universes which are barren of life and universes where life cannot achieve consciousness are not possible. God's multiverse would be a limitless family of living universes populated by beings who seek out their Maker, recognise his signs and worship him.

            God does have a choice. He chooses to create a multiverse where all possible outcomes produce conscious life, with no scope for outcomes where there is no life or where life is not conscious. This makes perfect sense. What would it serve God to do otherwise?

          • Darren

            Ah, a theist who is unafraid of omnipotence.

            Kudos!

          • Peter

            Why should I be afraid of omnipotence?

          • Darren

            Peter wrote,

            Why should I be afraid of omnipotence?

            This requires me to speculate on the motivations of others, but I suspect its torpedoing of theodicy is the prime factor.

          • Peter

            Why would it torpedo theodicy?

          • Darren

            Peter wrote,

            Why would it torpedo theodicy?

            Theodicies seek to insulate God from culpability by limiting
            his capability to actualize his will. If “…God can achieve what he wants in whatever way he wants…”, this removes any possibility that the world is not exactly and only what God wishes.

            If we say Evil must exist in order for Good to exist/have meaning/etc., we are saying God is incapable of creating Good without Evil.

            If we say that Evil exists so that God can bring about Good from it, we are saying the same.

            If we say Evil exists due to some unspecified plan, we are
            again saying God is incapable of accomplishing whatever plan without Evil.

            If we say God created creatures with Free Will and this must result in some Evil, we are saying that God is incapable of creating Free Will without Evil.

            Having belabored the point, all theodicies can be
            rephrased such, that God is incapable of achieving his will.

          • Rob Abney

            Your four points all conclude with God be incapable of achieving His will, but there is also the option that actualizing His will includes evil.
            Now you may say that makes him less than omnipotent or less than goodness itself but you'll have to define those terms. (I knew I asked you to define omnipotence for a good reason!)

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            Your four points all conclude with God be incapable of achieving His will, but there is also the option that actualizing His will includes evil.
            Now you may say that makes him less than omnipotent or less than goodness itself but you'll have to define those terms. (I knew I asked you to define omnipotence for a good reason!)

            Well, Good and Evil are tricky to define, no doubt, and personally I see no reason to believe there are any such Universals, but theists do, and it serves as a convenient shorthand for "things that are beneficial / desirable in my subjective value paradigm" and "things that are harmful / undesirable in my subjective value paradigm".

            You can, if you like, substitute Malaria/Osteogenesis imperfecta for Evil and not-Malaria/Osteogenesis imperfecta for Good. :)

          • Rob Abney

            Just for the sake of discussion, how do you define omnipotence?

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            Just for the sake of discussion, how do you define omnipotence?

            I would tend to agree with Descartes:

            I do not think we should ever say of anything that it cannot be brought about by God. For since every basis of truth and goodness depends on his omnipotence, I would not venture to say that God cannot make an uphill without a downhill, or that one and two should not be three. But I merely say that he has given me such a mind that I cannot conceive an uphill without a downhill, or a sum of one and two which is not three, and that such things involve a contradiction in my conception.

            (I am told this is Volunteerism and/or Libertinism, but I am not sure about that)

            Descartes was pretty influential in the last few years of my Christianity, so I am not surprised, really. It was somewhat prophetic, I suppose, as I found Descartes skepticism
            far more robust than his faith. But I digress.

            As I conceive omnipotence, it is God’s ability to bring about anything that he wishes to bring about. I think this follows naturally on what is attributed to him, the ex nihilo creation of all reality.

            To quote myself (to you, as it turns out):

            If we posit a creator deity calling forth all of reality from utter and complete Nothing, what does that mean?

            Did the Nothing contain anything when it was still Nothing? Certainly not matter or energy. Neither the rules under which matter and energy operate. Nor space, time, or their corresponding rules. How about (for lack of a better word) metaphysics? Does the non-existent Nothing contain the metaphysical principles of non-existence or Nothingness? Perhaps Plato’s forms? The Rules of Logic? Is there such a thing as “2” in the Nothing, and if so would two of them make “4”? Is there Good or Evil in our Nothing? True, False, Blue, Essence, Nature, Freedom, Bondage?

            Nope. Nada. Zip.

            When our favorite Omni-deity cried “Let there be Light”, he was also saying let there be Evil, and Loss, and Privation, and Suffering, and Sin (and lots of other things, some good, but that is beside the point). If he created physics
            (matter and energy and space and time and the rules governing them), so too did he create Metaphysics (Ontologies and Forms and Essences and Natures and the rules governing them)…

            So, our theists who are comfortable with their god being master of the finely-tuned constants of the universe, crafting them as he wished and abrogating them at his whim, yet who somehow think that the similarly fashioned rules of logic or metaphysics were any less a creation, any less a subjective part of the universe have, IMO, drawn a rather arbitrary and unsupported line. Why is transmogrification of water to wine and transubstantiation of essences trivial but squared circles forbidden?

            This is incomplete, but it is the end of the days and it should serve as a sufficient starting point.

          • Rob Abney

            Omnipotence refers to the power to actualize. And there is simply no power greater than the power to create and to sustain all of creation at every moment of existence through actualization.It may seem as if a created being such as Descartes or you or I or Peter could come up with a better solution such as "no evil allowed"or "God can violate the law of noncontradiction" but that would only be a magical fairy tale world without the ordered existence that is the reality that we can know.
            You are correct in labeling this as voluntarism, which is the invoking of will, in this case God's will, over His knowledge/reasoning. But God as the unactualized actualizer cannot have an imbalance between will and knowledge or else He could not be pure actuality because he would then have potential in His knowing.

            I appreciate your thoughtful response, you have a very good understanding of the subject. Unfortunately it can be shown that Descartes made some fundamental mistakes early in his reasoning which lead to bigger mistakes later.
            I'd like to discuss transmorgification and transsubstantiation also, its not magic.
            But will go to Good Friday service now for more philosophy in action.

          • Darren

            Rob Abney wrote,

            Omnipotence refers to the power to actualize. And there is simply no power greater than the power to create and to sustain all of creation
            at every moment of existence through actualization.It may seem as if a created being such as Descartes or you or I or Peter could come up with a better solution such as "no evil allowed"or "God can violate the law of noncontradiction" but that would only be a magical fairy tale world without the ordered existence that is the reality that we can know.

            Unfortunately it can be shown that Descartes made some fundamental mistakes early in his reasoning which lead to bigger mistakes later.

            I'd like to discuss transmorgification and transsubstantiation also, its not magic.

            comment edited, by me, for brevity

            Descartes certainly made his mistakes. Even as a committed theist I recognized that everything he said after cogito was little more than wishful thinking (or perhaps plausible deniability in an age when expressing too much skepticism was hazardous not just to one’s career). I do not want to give the impression, though, that Descartes was the source of my conception of omniscience; I simply appreciated the quote and felt it reasonably summed up my own thought.

            The Problem of Evil is affected by our conception of omnipotence, and always a favorite topic, but even stipulating a Weak Omnipotence (one wherein God is bound, by whatever mechanism, to shoulder along under the yoke of logic with the rest of us) is no help, but that is a different comment.

            I make no assertion that either transmogrification or transubstantiation is magic (though I see the definition of transmogrification does have that flavor – then again, it was extensively referenced in Calvin & Hobbes, so
            how can I not use it?). I list them as divine transgressions of, on the one hand, physical laws, and on the other metaphysical laws. Again, I see no reason to assign logical laws a sacrosanct status that even God must abide them.

            Speaking of logic… In my world without Universals, these
            laws are expressions of physical processes and conceptual models. In your world with Universals, they do not appear to be much different. It has yet to be shown how the universals of “Red”, “4”, and “Identity” are fundamentally different from each other and why God is master of the first two but not the third.

            Additionally, and this speaks again to logic being an expression of physical systems, the rules were consistent with observations of the world in Aristotle and Aquinas’s’ day, but for more than 100 years we have had a ready-to-hand alternate universe where our logical rules do not hold sway. This alternate universe is our own, only at a different scale. It seems rather presumptuous to say that an omnipotent God cannot, within the universe or beyond the walls of reality, cause something to exist and not exist simultaneously when the lowly electron has already mastered that trick.

            So far, we have focused on whether or not God is bound (or his Nature is bound, or what have you) by logic in the present tense. You will certainly have considered that, even if God is bound by these laws now*, he would have written the laws that he was to be subsequently bound by (and the rule that he would be bound by them to boot). Are we to claim that God could not actualize anything he wished, in any way he wished, because he is restricted by a law of logic that he himself wrote, knowing full well that it would prevent him from actualizing as he otherwise might wish? It reminds me of the scene in “A Princess Bride” where the two master swordsmen fight each other with their swords held in their left hands.

            A joyful Easter to you.

            * - EDIT - understanding that "now" is a different thing when speaking about a hypothetical a-temporal being. Take it to mean however it is that such a being manages to do one thing before another thing and yet still be a-temporal.

          • Rob Abney

            Are you saying that God is not omipotent because He has rules of logic which He is bound by? But I see that as our limitation not His.
            The rules of logic are for us to have order in our world, how else can we do science. If He did not follow the rules of logic then our reasoning about Him and His nature would be only based on faith.
            We do believe there is/will be another life where those rules may be totally different but they will likely have some sort of consistency anyway.
            Thank you for the Easter greeting.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In this way God has created conscious beings in every universe and therefore in every possible way, through the operation of every possible law and process.

            Including a place of eternal torment and suffering. I wish God's goodness would put a check on his Omnipotence.

          • Peter
          • Ignatius Reilly

            Really doesn't change the meaning of my comment. God uses his omnipotence to create places and awful states of being.

          • Peter

            If you read the link I supplied, you will see in paragraph 3 that eternal damnation is not attributed to God's initiative.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm glad the Church says eternal damnation is not attributed to God. That does not mean the Church is being consistent in holding that belief. Word games are word games.

          • Peter

            If you want to rewrite Catholic theology to suit your arguments, who am I to stop you?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm not rewriting Catholic theology. I am pointing out that is inconsistent.

          • Lazarus

            This is sophistry at its worst. If God ultimately allows eternal damnation then of course whether it was by his initiative or not is rather immaterial. If he does not condone it, he is not omnipotent and/or omnibenevolent. The conclusion of what you are accepting here is that eternal damnation exists, it should not be attributed to a God's initiative but nevertheless- it's still there. How do you make sense of it? Or is that one of those theological deadends where, when one sees it, you shrug and look the other way?

          • Peter

            We are veering off-topic here, but that's no excuse to sidestep the question, although it's difficult to explain it to anyone who does not accept free will.

            God wants everyone to be saved, but he grants everyone free will and accepts the choices they make including the choice to turn their backs on him. Damnation is such a choice in life made permanent by death. God did not create this state; this state is created by those who freely choose to separate themselves from him.

            If God did not accept that choice, then the choice to do the opposite, to love God, would be worthless. Love would cease to exist in the world and the entire world would turn into a living hell. By not accepting the choice to turn one's back on God, God would indeed be creating a place of torment.

          • Lazarus

            Why eternal damnation? Even conceding every submission you have made. There is no need to veer off that topic.

          • Peter

            It is said that immediately beyond the point of death, even the greatest sinners among us have a single fleeting opportunity to beg forgiveness of the Lord. Even then, when faced with the Lord himself, there are some whose hearts are so hardened against him in life that they refuse that forgiveness in death.

            They remain in a perpetual state of defiance by their own volition. They consign themselves to eternal damnation. Of course, those who seek forgiveness could spend much time in purgatory commensurate with their sins, but at least they will be saved.

          • Darren

            Peter wrote,

            Even then, when faced with the Lord himself, there are some whose hearts are so hardened against him in life that they refuse that forgiveness in death.

            Peter, your sincere answers are refreshing, and you are a smart guy; smart enough to see the glaring problem with this.

            EDIT - and on second thought, that you even suggest this shows you recognize, despite appeals to God's justice, that the situation is neither just nor good.

          • David Nickol

            It is said that immediately beyond the point of death, even the greatest sinners among us have a single fleeting opportunity to beg forgiveness of the Lord.

            Where is this said, and by whom?

          • David Nickol

            It is said that immediately beyond the point of death, even the greatest sinners among us have a single fleeting opportunity to beg forgiveness of the Lord.

            How do you reconcile that with the following paragraph from the Catechism?

            1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

            It seems to me that in most Catholic thought about the afterlife, death is the definitive dividing line, and whatever has happened in life becomes final and fixed at the moment of death. Let me say that it makes perfect sense to me—if there is meaningful life after death—that human beings don't lose the ability to make meaningful choices after death. But it seems to me the overwhelming message of Catholicism is that if a person dies "in a state of mortal sin," any chance of salvation has been lost.

            I recall that related issues were discussed a couple of years ago relating to a piece titled "Will We Have Free Will in Heaven?" I don't have the willpower to go back and reread that, but it seems to me if everything is fixed at the moment of death, it is meaningless to claim there is free will in heaven (or hell).

          • Darren

            Peter wrote,

            God did not create this state...

            God did not create the rules under which that state occurs?

            God did not invent free will and the rules governing it*?

            God did not chose those rules exactly as they are, though being omnipotent and having the blank-slate of pre-reality he could have written them in any way he wished?

            * - Free Will itself being a concept without a consensus definition to begin with.

          • Peter

            We say that God is love. But the nature of love is that it can only be given freely otherwise it's not love. Therefore God is the perpetual free expression of love. We could go into the Trinity to look at it more deeply, but that's for another time.

            God loves us, his creatures, so much so that we are granted his very own attribute which is the freedom to love, which many call free will. As creatures we are greatly dignified by this gift which puts us above all animals. In, fact we become reflections or images of God himself.

            God is also just because without justice there can be no love. God's justice ensures that our free will is a gift which remains with us all our life irrespective of how we use it. Because God loves us, he desires that we use it to love instead of to hate, but his justice allows us to hate instead of to love. .

            Those of us who choose to love become united with God and those who choose to hate become separated from God. God's justice permits us either to unite or to separate from him. Without this justice which permits us to exercise our freedom to love or hate, we would never have the freedom to love. Without that freedom, love could not exist. And a world without love would indeed be hell

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't think it is sophistry to distinguish between God's active will and his passive will. If He actively wills our true freedom, then He must passively will whatever we do with our freedom. I don't see how you can get the former if you don't accept the latter.

            But in my view, all this active / passive will stuff overcomplicates things. I think we can conceive of Hell in much more practical and even secular terms, beginning with something that I think most believers and non-believers alike acknowledge: it is possible, through decisions that we freely make, to totally f' up our lives, to live lives that are, in the final analysis, just plain bad, permanently bad. I view that as an obvious fact that does not require any special philosophical or theological reasoning to support it. If I ever write A Beginner's Practical Guide to Making the Most of Hell or something like that, I would propose this realization as the key "value added" of all teachings on Hell, the key thing that, if remembered, will steer us toward better lives.

            With that common baseline established, one can then look at whether the specifics of Christian revelation offer some additional "value added" over and above what I am calling the "secular understanding of Hell". And, I would suggest that Christianity at least offers a hint, with Jesus's descent into Hell (in the Apostles Creed), that what is naturally irreedemable, may in fact, in some final analysis that we can only dimly perceive, be supernaturally redeemable.

          • Lazarus

            I'm trying to give you a pass-mark for that effort, Jim, but sorry .... no can do. Again, I don't think the question is addressed, other than some punt to God's mercy. Does anything in the Bible give us hope that God will redeem all. And, again, why are things set up this way? Why not annihilation or rebirth or hell for two centuries?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Does anything in the Bible give us hope that God will redeem all.

            Well, there is the apocatastasis referred to in Acts. Of course, interpretation is everything, but if you are just looking for possible textual support, that would be one obvious place.

            Again, I don't think the question is addressed, other than some punt to God's mercy.

            I kind of agree. But, what's wrong with punting for God's mercy?

            I mean, just focusing on myself for a moment, leaving aside the question of convincing anyone else. I think the reality of God is obvious, and I think the reality of Hell is obvious, but what God ultimately does about Hell is beyond my event horizon. Is it not then reasonable for me to hope that the eternity of damnation is outlasted by the eternity of grace?

            And, again, why are things set up this way?

            I have some suggestive inklings, but all my reasoning is very inadequate in the face of truly extreme suffering. So, basically, my answer is, "how the hell should I know"?

            EDIT TO ADD: Of course, Romans 8:19-21 is also a favorite for justifying a reasonable hope in universal salvation.

          • Darren

            To quote J. L. Mackie

            “...if God has made men such that in their
            free choices they sometimes prefer what is good and sometimes what is evil, why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good? If there is no logical impossibility in a man’s freely choosing the good on one, or several occasions, there cannot be a logical impossibility in his freely choosing the good on every occasion. God was not, then, faced with a choice between making innocent automata and making beings who, in acting freely, would sometimes go wrong: there was open to him the obviously better possibility of making beings who would act freely but always go right. Clearly, his failure to avail himself of this possibility is inconsistent with his being both omnipotent and wholly good.

            EDIT – The full text, if anyone wants:

            EVIL AND OMNIPOTENCE

          • Ignatius Reilly

            From a secular standpoint, isn't it true that there are a lot of external factors when people ruin their lives permanently? Things like addiction, poverty, mental illness, and the general genetic make up of a person are all external factors that influence a persons life. They are all parameters that God built into the universe. I wouldn't say that someone with depression and anxiety is freely choosing to ruin their life, but rather God stacked the deck against them. The gift of free will has been given in half measures.

            We are after all, in a world in which, according to the Church, it is easier to sin than not. thou knowest in the state of innocency Adam fell; and what should poor Jack Falstaff do in the days of villany? Thou seest I have more flesh than another man, and therefore more frailty.

            Lewis once hypothesized that perhaps the soul of a Himmler could be better than the soul of a religious Christian, because Himmler's flesh could have had a strong tendency to evil actions, while the Christian may find it very easy to be moderately good.

            None of this touches on the Catholic conception of hell, in which one un-confessed mortal sin merits eternal damnation. A conception all the stranger when you realize mortal sins include our strongest natural urges, prudent things like wearing a condom, and harmless things like eating meat on a Friday in lent.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            From a secular standpoint, isn't it true that there are a lot of external factors when people ruin their lives permanently?

            Yes, definitely, and this is also true according to Catholic teaching. As just one example, David Nickol recently quoted this from the catechism:

            "Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide."

            God stacked the deck against them.

            Well, someone stacked the deck against them, but God is not the only free agent on the list of suspects. For starters, there is the entire human community. And, going deeper than that, there is this sense that the even non-human universe is alive with freedom, including a freedom to turn away from God, a.k.a. the freedom of Satan.

            mortal sins include ... prudent things like wearing a condom, and harmless things like eating meat on a Friday in lent.

            All of that is part of the Catholic "little 't'" tradition, to be sure, but I don't think anyone could reasonably argue that that stuff is at the core of the Christian gospel, or at the core of the Catholic eucharistic experience. Catholic teaching has always involved a hierarchy of truths, a principle that Pope Francis famously emphasized when he said: "The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently." Reasonable Catholics can argue about where different teachings fall in the middle ranges of this hierarchy of truths, but certainly no one would argue that the things you mention are as central as, say, the Nicene Creed. I would agree with you (and, I think, Pope Francis) that some peripheral teachings can be distracting and even detrimental, when not properly contextualized. This is primarily a function of the way that these things are taught in relation to more fundamental truths, the emphases that they are given, etc. I think we Catholics can certainly do better in that regard.

          • David Nickol

            It seems to me that we are taught to think of our talents and special abilities as "God-given gifts." Why does God get credit only for the good things? Why is great musical talent a gift from God while dyslexia, schizophrenia, or profound mental disabilities are not "gifts." How can we say God does not burden us with the bad things but give God credit and thank him for the good?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Who says God only gets credit for our blessings and not for our afflictions? Jesus famously blamed God for his own estrangement, unless there is another way to interpret Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani? I think every good theist should express frustration with God from time to to time. Speaking for myself, if I never got mad at God, I would start to worry that I was God, and that would be very unsettling.

            Also, as I'm sure you are aware, many people do come to count their afflictions -- their cancer, their dyslexia, their loss of a job -- whatever it may be, as blessings that ultimately draw them closer to God. I would certainly never propose that another should view his affliction in that way, but from a purely descriptive standpoint, this seems to be a very common pattern in life. From a theological perspective this makes sense, since the essence of the paschal mystery is that we need to be broken open, like the shell of a seed, in order to allow for new growth.

          • David Nickol

            Jesus famously blamed God for his own estrangement, unless there is another way to interpret Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?

            The standard interpretation—which I see no reason to disagree with—is that the quoting of Verse 2 of Psalm 22 is to be taken as a reference to the complete psalm, which begins as a lament but is nevertheless, by the end, a statement of faith.

            Whether any of the last words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels were actually spoken by him seems to me highly doubtful. If (as is generally assumed) Luke knew the Gospel of Mark, why did he omit the reference to Psalm 22? And why is it not reported in John?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The standard interpretation ...

            That sounds pretty reasonable to me. This wouldn't change the fact that Jesus is at some level attributing his state to God (whether to God's failure to intervene, or whatever), even while maintaining his faith that God would make things right in the end. So, my point stands that there is nothing unbiblical about seeing the hand of God as working through our afflictions. We could also look at Paul's thorn in the flesh, or many Old Testament examples, in which God "brings us down", in order to reorient us to "what is up". In Paul's case, it seems that God's activity and Satan's activity don't even ultimately compete, but rather God is managing to achieve something through the activity of Satan that is afflicting Paul. In other words, God is taking Satan's "turning-away-ness" and putting it to work in the service of "turning-back-towardness", or something like that. This is consistent with modern notions of God's non-competitive nature.

            Whether any of the last words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels were actually spoken by him seems to me highly doubtful.

            This seems to me to be a completely separate topic, but OK. I don't have especially strong feelings either way, though the preservation of the Aramaic seems to suggest both that it comes from very early in the tradition and that the Markan author(s) attached very special importance to the phrase. In any case, whether it is factual reporting or a more impressionistic account doesn't seem to affect the way that the text would shape a believer's relationship with God. The take-home message is the same in either case, it seems to me.

          • Lazarus

            If that state changes, do we not then leave hell? Can it change back?
            What does your statement, and that of the Church, say about eternal damnation?

          • Rob Abney

            Here's Aquinas' answer to that question:
            ...because guilt remains for ever, since it cannot be remitted without grace, and men cannot receive grace after death; nor should punishment cease so long as guilt remains.

            He seems to say that our state cannot change after death.

          • Lazarus

            An odd arrangement, that. My "state" during life can change, regardless of the severity and regularity of my guilt, but after death, once I have all the facts before me, then it can not.

            Who would have set it up like that?

          • Rob Abney

            Who would hold you guilty if you don't have the facts? You don't purposefully go against what you understand to be true.

            It seems to me that most courts of judgement Can consider mercy for those who repent prior to sentencing, but not so much after being sentenced.

          • Lazarus

            That's completely muddled, Rob. You concede that our courts don't hold us guilty if we don't have the facts. Are we saying we have all the facts? Clear and undisputed?

            You then say that mercy is not given after sentencing. What was the offence? What was the rule or law that was broken? Unbelief?

          • Rob Abney

            That did get muddled, because I was discussing final judgement and also a court system.

            You concede that our courts don't hold us guilty if we don't have the facts.

            Here I was referring to eternal judgement, we cannot be capable if we don't understand the facts.

            are we saying we have all the facts? Clear and undisputed?

            we can have all the facts but they are not clear and undisputed to everyone or even to many (I'm not saying that I have the facts)

            You then say that mercy is not given after sentencing. What was the offence? What was the rule or law that was broken? Unbelief?

            Here I was referring to a court system but making the point that the eternal judgement cannot be the impetus that changes our "state" just as someone convicted in a court system cannot then expect the mercy of the court only after he has been sentenced.

            I'm not in favor of eternal damnation and maybe it won't happen but if we apply the rule of justice as we understand it then it is a possibility.

          • Phil

            Hi Lazarus--

            I think that things can get a little clearer when we understand heaven and hell a little more deeply. I saw it discussed above, and it is correct to say that heaven and hell are not physical places. So they are not somewhere, they are somehow, a state of being.

            That state of being is ultimately either union with God or separation from God. Heaven is perfect union with God, hell is perfect separation from God. This means that even in this life we are either growing closer in union/relationship with God through prayer, true love of neighbor, sacraments, etc. Heaven and hell starts here on earth to the degree that we grow in union with God, or turn away from him.

            After our death, there will come a point where we make the final decision to turn towards God or to turn away from him. That is that "facts all before us" that you speak of above. We have to understand that the choices we make in life--to either turn towards or away from God--have an effect on our ability to turn towards or away from God when presented with our final choice.

            It is totally up to us whether we choose to be with God (heaven) or not (hell). God is not a judge in merely our human meaning of that word. But God also loves and respects our autonomy and free will enough not to force upon us something we don't desire. He is not like the pagan gods conceived who would wrestle with persons to try and get their way.

          • Darren

            Phil wrote,

            He is not like the pagan gods conceived who would wrestle with persons to try and get their way.

            Nice choice of words, considering God is recorded as physically wrestling with people at least twice.

          • David Nickol

            After our death, there will come a point where we make the final decision to turn towards God or to turn away from him. That is that "facts all before us" that you speak of above.

            As I have argued elsewhere, this is not what the Catechism teaches.

            1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

            I find Catholic thinking on hell very disturbing, so I wish it were not so. But it seems crystal clear to me that if a choice is made to turn against God, it is not made (or seconded) after death. It is made at the moment the person commits a mortal sin. If a person in a state of mortal sin does not repent before death, then I see almost nothing in Catholic teaching that gives the person a chance to repent after death.

            Death, in Catholic thought, appears to be a sharp dividing line in what human beings are capable of. There appears to be no possibility, for those who are damned, of repentance following death, and for those who are saved, no possibility of being damned.

            I note, by the way, that the Catechism says people "descend" into hell. If hell is a state and not a place (which seems a reasonable concept), it is unfortunate that even the Catechism implies it is a place that is reached by descending. (I remember being taught in elementary school that hell need not be a specific place. The old joke was that it would be perfectly possible to combine a hell for dogs with a heaven for fleas.)

            It is totally up to us whether we choose to be with God (heaven) or not (hell).

            Totally? That is going much too far, it seems to me. McKenzie's Dictionary of the Bible points out (in a passage I can't bring myself to retype here in full) that

            . . . the apocalyptic imagery of other NT passages is to be taken for what it is, imagery, and not as strictly literal theological affirmation. The great truths of judgment and punishment are firmly retained throughout the NT, and no theological hypothesis can be biblical which reduces the ultimate destiny of righteousness and wickedness to the same thing; the details of the afterlife, however, are not disclosed except in imagery.

            It seems to me that you and others who try soften the concept of hell, making it a purely personal choice for individuals with God simply acquiescing in each person's choice are willfully ignoring or covering up "the great truths of judgment and punishment."

            To quote the Catechism again we have

            1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"

            This is quite different from God saying, "It is my hope that you do not choose hell, but if you do, it's your choice to make, and my hands are tied."

          • Michael Murray

            If we can really change our minds after death then Pascal's wager seems somewhat redundant. As does the teaching I (and I'll bet you) had about how to baptise someone from a puddle. I just don't believe it. Call me cynical but the Church's loses its major lever if after death I am allowed to say

            "Oops. Big G. I wasn't expecting to see you. My bad. Pass me a harp."

          • Lazarus

            Well then, is the more conservative view not correct then? Any changes after death should not be allowed, so we better get it right before we die?

          • Will

            Any changes after death should not be allowed, so we better get it right before we die?

            This is a cognitive hack exploited by marketers. "Buy now since time is running out." Urgent, rushed, and fear driven decisions are far less rational and very useful for selling people something they don't need. FWIW Jesus's original teachings on heaven and hell (at least from the earliest gospels, if anything is original it's that) were about right action, not "buying Jesus". The parable of the Sheep and the Goats is a great example. In Mark's gospel, faith is about powering Jesus's miracles. I can help look at that as nothing other than an early treatise on the power of belief/placebo. Such things are back up by science reasonably well at this point.
            There does seem to be a sense of urgency in the early Church, but I believe it was about the expectation a very near parousia at first, at least.

          • Lazarus

            Hack or not, Michael seems to agree that an opportunity to change your mind after death would be unfair, at least from the CC's perspective.

          • Michael Murray

            Not sure about unfair. If the CC wants to take the line that anyone who tries to be basically good regardless of who/what worship or even if they don't worship anything all have an equal chance to go to heaven that seems fair. But I can't see the CC having survived until now if that was its approach.

            EDIT: Sorry I put in another sentence subsequent to posting.

          • Will

            My statement is in answer to the question "Why would this be the RCC's perspective". Considering the chaos and competitive story telling of early Christianity, not to mention second temple Judaism and the mixing of culture at the time in the Roman empire, it's not surprising that the stories told that maximally influence the fear response became the dominant ones. Fear is the most powerful motivator for evolutionary reasons.
            If we are judged by our actions on earth, which seems reasonable to me, then it's impossible to make up for them or change them after death. Being judged by our "faith" seems immoral and silly. For example a serial killer who suddenly gets baptized right before death is better off than Mahatma Gandhi (not saying the Church teaches that specifically, an extreme case)? Besides, what if the Muslims or some other sect are closer to the truth. Pascals wager fails for many reasons.

          • Will

            Just fyi, one reason I make a big deal about this is because there are many people who I grew up with who returned to Christianity out of fear of hell...that's it. I cannot help but regard such as a form of psychological slavery, something I detest on moral grounds.

          • Michael Murray

            I guess I was just thinking about how likely the religion was to have survived this long based on its precepts. In the olden days I can't see a religion with a "join us if you want or not as you like" approach surviving very long. But maybe that is different in the modern world.

          • Will

            Here is a comical parody on Pascal's wager called "Pascal's Mugging" by a modern philosopher. Some of the comedy doesn't come through if you aren't familiar with some esoteric economic/philosophical topics like utility maximization. Still only 3 pages so worth a read :)

          • Phil

            Hey David,

            What specfically happens between physical bodily death and our eternal choice of being with God or turning away from him is more speculation. I may have been unclear, but I was simply noting that a final choice does happen at the point of death or sometime after (which is clear from the paragraphs you quoted). And this final choice is influenced by how we have formed ourself by our life. What we do forms our very being--our soul--at a metaphysical level.

            ----------

            We also need to read all the paragraphs that surround the ones you quoted so as to get the whole of what the Church teaches. Only then will our understanding be balanced and true. Also, be careful not to take the apocalyptic language we find when discussing damnation, hell, and heaven in a overly fundamentalistic way. I'm more than willing to talk about some reasons why this type of language and images may be used. But I'll leave that up to you, if you desire me to run my mouth more than I already do!

            From a paragraph in the Catechism just before the one's you mentioned above:

            1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves.

            To die in mortal sin [i.e., a willful turning away from God] without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice.

            And here is one just after:

            1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willing turning away from God is necessary, and persistence in it until the end.

            All paragraphs, 1033-1041 are held together as true. If we focus on one at the detriment of another, then we have an imbalance that needs to be corrected.

            Once we read all these paragraphs, I think that what I was saying will be seen as perfectly in line with Church teaching (now, whether I was clear or not is another question!).

          • David Nickol

            Once we read all these paragraphs, I think that what I was saying will be seen as perfectly in line with Church teaching (now, whether I was clear or not is another question!).

            I think you heavily overemphasize the "free choice" claims (and maybe even the Catechism does as well). And, as I said, you make it sound like God has no choice but to sit back and let people freely choose hell. What about the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed which both say he (Jesus) "will come again to judge the living and the dead"? What about these paragraphs from the Catechism?

            1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.

            The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul--a destiny which can be different for some and for others.

            1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, -- or immediate and everlasting damnation.

            Judgment and retribution are not words used in a situation in which an authority figure sits back and says, "Make your own choice. I will honor it whatever it may be."

            And those who try to make it sound like hell is freely chosen conveniently gloss over eternal punishment.

            We might make an analogy between a person who commits a serious crime and goes to prison and a person who "chooses" hell. There is a certain sense in which the criminal in prison (assuming the sentences is just) chose his or her fate. But that does not mean there were no police who made an arrest, no trial, no judge, no jury, no sentence, and no prison officials. It does not mean the prisoner would say, "I am here of my own free choice. In fact, in prison we lock the doors from the inside."

            And let us not forget that in the teachings of the Catholic Church, the choice between eternal bliss and eternal damnation is entirely the invention of God. If you are given a choice between death by firing squad and death by hanging, you can freely choose between them. But if you choose the firing squad, it would be very misleading to say, "Oh, he chose to be shot entirely of his free will."

          • Phil

            I think you heavily overemphasize the "free choice" claims (and maybe even the Catechism does as well). And, as I said, you make it sound like God has no choice but to sit back and let people freely choose hell. What about the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed which both say he (Jesus) "will come again to judge the living and the dead"? What about these paragraphs from the Catechism?

            When I emphasize "free choice", it is directly tied to the Catechism's choice to emphasize "free choice". Now, the Catechism is the summary of official Church teaching right now, so I always defer to it.

            I personally do not think it is true that we should step away from emphasizing our free choice. Whether we choose God or not is our free choice, and God is loving as he revealed, so he will not ultimately undermine our free choice. He will not coerce or force us, even though he desires, more than we could imagine, for us to be united with him for eternity. He will do all he can to "attract" us to chose Love, choose Himself, but he will never force anything upon us.

            Judgment and retribution are not words used in a situation in which an authority figure sits back and says, "Make your own choice. I will honor it whatever it may be."

            And those who try to make it sound like hell is freely chosen conveniently gloss over eternal punishment.

            It sounds like you maybe doubt that a person would freely chose to be separated from God? Only if you doubt this, could you then also hold that a person couldn't freely chose eternal punishment. Eternal punishment is simply eternal separation from love itself, from God. That's hell. That is way more punishment than anything we could imagine here on earth! We are able to experience God's love here on earth more than is possible in hell. But, we can always choose to begin "living in hell" right here on earth by separating ourself from God right now. The most basic experience of heaven or hell begins here on earth!

            There is also no intrinsic contradiction to saying that God's judgment is to honor our free choice. Now, one could argue that "judgment" and "retribution" are not words that tend to the belief of free choice that is also taught in the Catechism.

            But since they are both taught in the Catechism, we must hold that both are true in some way. So either our understanding of "free choice" must be nuanced, or our understanding of "judgment/retribution" must be nuanced.

            I personally think that God's judgment/justice is one of the hardest things to understand. Because God is also revealed to be merciful. Well, how can these things come together?? First we must understand that our concepts of judgment/mercy reflect God's justice and mercy. They are not perfectly equivalent to it.

            What I've learned slowly is that God's justice is merciful. It is absolutely fascinating to see this played out in daily life!

          • Phil

            Based on your last two comments, it seems that we are actually more in agreement then disagreement.

            Our specific disagreement seemed to have to do with what "judgment" meant. When we die, we stand before God with our entire life presented to him--including the movement away and towards him, and also our desire at that very moment. So, as long as we understand God as the perfectly just judge, our entire life will ultimately form our decision to say 'yes' or 'no' to God at the time of final judgment.

            But all this comes down to our own free choices we have made. Personally, it seems that the only ways we actually choose hell are either if we choose not except God's mercy and forgiveness, or if we choose to only selfishly serve ourselves and cut ourselves off from God and others. These are both forms of pride and the second is the reason the fallen angels fell. If I have turned away from God my entire life, that will influence whether I desire to be with God at the time of Final Judgment.

          • Michael Murray

            If I have turned away from God my entire life, that will influence whether I desire to be with God at the time of Final Judgment.

            Many atheists would say they don't currently believe in any of the gods other people believe in due to inadequate evidence. Obviously that would change if subsequent to death more evidence came to light.

          • Phil

            I think that there's validity to your point. That's the reason why I take a little less of a hard lined position in regards to death in what David and I were discussing. He was focusing more on judgment and retribution at the time of death, and I was trying to present a more balanced view that also holds the free choice aspect.

            So it is very possible that a person that wasn't able to choose to actively love God during earthly life (but they also didn't cut themselves off completely from God), when faced with the final choice they choose to love God.

          • David Nickol

            And this final choice is influenced by how we have formed ourself by our life. What we do forms our very being--our soul--at a metaphysical level.

            In simplest terms, I think the Catholic doctrine of salvation and damnation as a "free choice" is a matter of choosing to live one way or another, not a matter of saying (at the moment of death), "I choose heaven" or "I choose hell." I think there is a certain amount of "spin" when the "choice" involved is narrowed down to a particular instant." What you say here comes closer to what I am saying than what you have said previously. But I just don't see support in "orthodox" Catholic teaching on heaven and hell for a "yes or no" choice at the moment of death (or some point beyond it).

            The "choice" comes throughout life, not at the moment of death. What comes at the moment of death is judgment.

          • Phil

            Yes, I think you are correct and I think we are actually on the same/similar page. Maybe I simply wasn't clear enough that how we live has the greatest influence on the choice we make for eternity. There isn't a wall between the choices we make during life and our choice after death.

            I just want to make sure we don't emphasize judgment and retribution at the expense of free will and choice.

            The only clarification I'd make is to make sure we recognize that while our choice towards or away from God is not definitive on earth, it is definitive sometime after death.

          • Will

            nor should punishment cease so long as guilt remains.

            So, my kid steals a cookie. He will always be guilty of that crime, even if he's sorry and I punish him. Should I continue to punish him today for a cookie he stole two years ago? I hope I'm missing context because that quote seems awfully silly for Aquinas.

          • Rob Abney

            no, your kid was forgiven by you and served his time.
            it would be a different scenario if he hadn't "repented"

          • Will

            it would be a different scenario if he hadn't "repented"

            Are you saying that you would punish your kid for years over a cookie if they don't "repent"? Punishment without the possibility of repentance makes no sense. Preventing a dangerous person from harming society does, but who can be harmed in the afterlife?

          • Rob Abney

            It depends on the age of the kid but if he doesn't understand that stealing is wrong then he will be harmful to society. Length and type of punishment are relative to the circumstances so saying that I would punish him for life sounds excessive.

            And I would say that no one can be harmed in the afterlife.

          • Will

            Jesus taught it was a place, specifically Gehenna. Every instance in the gospels uses this word, not Hades (other NT books use Hades in some cases). Gehenna was a place here on earth. Like it or not, Catholic teaching contradicts what Jesus supposedly said. I'm still baffled as to how you guys think you can have a pass on that. Oh, I know, Jesus didn't mean what he said ;)

          • Peter

            There are scores of Christian sects who interpret the Bible in their own way; you have interpreted it in your way.

          • Will

            What the gospels say is a matter of fact, not interpretation, right? Here are referenced to the word in the gospels.

            Paul and Jesus generally teach a destruction of the body in the fires of Gehenna, it is total, permanent destruction, not torment. It's actually what I think happens when the body dies, the mind goes with it, so it's much more moral, in my opinion, than your view (for whatever that is worth. Here, I'll provide evidence. It's funny how little evidence seems to matter on this site, however. Links go to the greek, notice Gehenna and the greek word for destroy ἀπολέσαι means to totally destroy: "apóllymi ("violently/completely perish") implies permanent (absolute) destruction, i.e. to cancel out (remove); "to die, with the implication of ruin and destruction" (L & N, 1, 23.106); cause to be lost (utterly perish) by experiencing a miserable end."

            Matthew 10:28

            "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (note the greek word used is γέεννα, Gehenna).

            John 3:16

            16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

            There's more, but why spend the time, right? Certainly Gehenna could have a figurative meaning, but why not use the word ᾅδου*, Hades? It's used in other places, like here in Matthew 16:18

            And I tell you, you are Peter,[d] and on this rock[e] I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

            .

            Isn't Matthew 16:18 the verse Catholics used to justify the authority of the Church? Important verse then, and an important difference in word choice.
            P.S. Guess were I've learned so much of this stuff from... Bart Ehrman. He seems to know so much more about the details of all this than any Catholic I've encountered. Fascinating thing is, he's always right on with his facts, but interpretation is a quite a different thing.

          • Peter

            If what the gospels say is a matter of fact, how do you account for all the Christian sects who interpret them differently?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            So, do I understand correctly - you think it is perfectly obvious that Jesus intended his reference to Gehenna to be interpreted literally, and that his audience would have understood it that way? Doesn't it seem at least somewhat plausible that Jesus, speaking as he was in a culture in which people regularly used symbolic and evocative language, was himself using symbolic and evocative language? When he says, in the Gospel of Matthew, "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you to escape the sentence of Gehenna?", do you think he really thought the Pharisees were actually serpents or vipers, or that his followers would have interpreted him in that way?

          • Will

            See this comment, where I elaborate. Why use Hades in one place and Gehenna in another? Why use a word that always means total destruction in Greek?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Because one is speaking poetically? And because those different proper nouns evoke differently textured thoughts about the same underlying reality, thus providing a more complete picture of that underlying reality?

          • Will

            Sounds good. So my interpretation of the poetry is as good as anyone else's, as long as it's based on reasons. We are clearly not in the realm of matters of fact, of course, more like art :) That's generally where I was headed, depending on the response from Peter, he's acting as if the Pope has some special track on what Jesus was trying to get across, no reason at all to think that, of course.
            Annihilationism is a mainstream view, of course, and it's much more moral than the Catholic teachings I've seen, though Pope John Paul's view isn't that bad morally speaking (if I understand it correctly, of course). Of course, I'm basing this on my subjective views of morality, but it's contrasted with everyone else's, only subjective views of morality.
            Of course, as we turn this all into poetry, it would be mad to expect a literal resurrection of the dead, only a poetic one :)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            We are clearly not in the realm of matters of fact, of course, more like art :)

            You seem to want to separate "art" from "facts". That is not how biblical literature seems to work, and I think that is a bad move in any case, quite apart from whether we are talking about the Bible. Art is a way -- perhaps the most effective way -- of conveying the existential import of facts, among other things. Facts devoid of personal meaning -- if such things even exist, which I doubt -- don't seem to be very helpful for navigating reality. In the Bible, poetic language and accounts of "what actually is / was / will be the case" are inextricably intertwined, for good reason.

          • Will

            Facts devoid of personal meaning -- if such things even exist, which I doubt -- don't seem to be very helpful for navigating reality.

            As an engineer, I bow out of this conversation. Wow...

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Really? Please tell me about an engineering fact that is devoid of personal meaning.

            I'm a statistician. I spend my days fitting models to characterize biomedical data and describe biological processes. In my line of work I have yet to come across a fact devoid of personal meaning.

          • Will

            Apparently you have a radically different definition of "personal meaning" than I do. Out of curiosity, what is your definition?

            In my world, if a fact has one meaning to one engineer, and another to a different one, the end result usually results in a fire or another catastrophe. Precision is key, and there is nothing but fuzz to be hand in any of these conversations as far as I can tell. Precision is also key to prediction, though very complex systems can be next to impossible to predict precisely due to incompletely information or a lack of a sufficiently accurate model. It is wise not to trust a prediction from a very fuzzy model, economics is a great example. Christianity is another, it's model of reality is so much fuzzier than anything in modern economics where it counts, and has historically been dead wrong in so many places one could write an entire book. All that's left is fuzz, as far as I can tell.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think something is personally meaningful if it is meaningful to a person?

            Whether you and I assign the same or different interpretations to a datum is really a separate issue from whether we each consider that datum to be personally meaningful.

          • Will

            Of course, according to these guys, it's heresy to deny the reality of hell

            The doctrine of hell is so frightening that numerous heretical sects end up denying the reality of an eternal hell

            http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-hell-there-is

            What a disaster. Truth promotes convergence, not continuous divergence. The Truth is always a shelling point. Sorry if calling it a disaster is offense, but it seems a disaster by any standard of knowledge.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, it is a Catholic heresy to deny the reality of Hell, and I have no intent of engaging in any such denial. I think the reality of Hell is fairly obvious. It's just a reality to which we can only successfully refer in poetic language.

          • Will

            8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless,[e] the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

            Revelation 21:8. Very poetic, if you want to call it that. It gets better, let's look at the Apocalypse of Peter which probably dates to around the same time as the Apocalypse of John (Revelation)

            21 And I saw also another place over against that one, very squalid; and it was a place of punishment, and they that were punished and the angels that punished them had their raiment dark, according to the air of the place. 22 And some there were there hanging by their tongues; and these were they that blasphemed the way of righteousness, and under them was laid fire flaming and tormenting them.

            23 And there was a great lake full of flaming mire, wherein were certain men that turned away from righteousness; and angels, tormentors, were set over them.

            24 And there were also others, women, hanged by their hair above that mire which boiled up; and these were they that adorned themselves for adultery.

            And the men that were joined with them in the defilement of adultery were hanging by their feet, and had their heads hidden in the mire, and said: We believed not that we should come unto this place.

            25 And I saw the murderers and them that were consenting to them cast into a strait place full of evil, creeping things, and smitten by those beasts, and so turning themselves about in that torment. And upon them were set worms like clouds of darkness. And the souls of them that were murdered stood and looked upon the torment of those murderers and said: O God, righteous is thy judgement.

            26 And hard by that place I saw another strait place wherein the discharge and the stench of them that were in torment ran down, and there was as it were a lake there. And there sat women up to their necks in that liquor, and over against them many children which were born out of due time sat crying: and from them went forth rays of fire and smote the women in the eyes: and these were they that conceived out of wedlock (?) and caused abortion.

            27 And other men and women were being burned up to their middle and cast down in a dark place and scourged by evil spirits, and having their entrails devoured by worms that rested not. And these were they that had persecuted the righteous and delivered them up.

            28 And near to them again were women and men gnawing their lips and in torment, and having iron heated in the fire set against their eyes. And these were they that did blaspheme and speak evil of the way of righteousness.

            29 And over against these were yet others, men and women, gnawing their tongues and having flaming fire in their mouths. And these were the false witnesses.

            30 And in another place were gravel-stones sharper than swords or any spit, heated with fire, and men and women clad in filthy rags rolled upon them in torment. [This is suggested by the LXX of two passages in Job: xli. 30, his bed is of sharp spits; viii. 17, on an heap of stones doth he rest, and shall live in the midst of gravel-stones.] And these were they that were rich and trusted in their riches, and had no pity upon orphans and widows but neglected the commandments of God.

            31 And in another great lake full of foul matter (pus) and blood and boiling mire stood men and women up to their knees And these were they that lent money and demanded usury upon usury.

            http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/apocalypsepeter-mrjames.html

            I guess my criticism is blaspheming the righteous? I suppose I'm to be hanging by my tongue, lol! Poetic indeed...

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm curious why you are quoting from The Apocalypse of Peter? The relevance of that text for a Catholic (or for a mainline Christian of any stripe) is ... unclear, to say the least. We consider ourselves to be in continuity with a different early Christian community, one that recognized only a specific canon of texts as a definitive reflection of its beliefs and experiences.

          • Will
          • Will

            The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God. Rather than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy.

            http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/audiences/1999/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_28071999.html

            So everyone who doesn't believe in God must also have a frustrating and empty life? Uh...no. Of course, saying we aren't separated from God even though we don't believe seems against a lot of the Christian religion. Mindfulness meditation from Buddhism has been making waves in psychology for quite some time for it's ability to reduce suffering and frustration, and my life is full and rich for all kinds of reasons. Where is the reason in any of this?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Of course, saying we aren't separated from God even though we don't believe seems against a lot of the Christian religion.

            I am too lazy to look up the lines in the catechism right now, but this is specifically disavowed in Catholic teaching. Whether you believe in God at a cognitive level and whether you are separated from God are two very different things. Personally, I think that many people who say they don't believe in God are quite close to God. I'm pretty sure that that does not put me at odds with Catholic teaching in any way.

            Mindfulness meditation is fantastic. No arguments there.

          • Will

            This catechism is interesting:

            2123 "Many . . . of our contemporaries either do not at all perceive, or explicitly reject, this intimate and vital bond of man to God. Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time."58

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c1a1.htm

            One of the most serious problems of our time? I beg to differ on priorities, but that's just me ;) You do realize intellectual laziness breeds lack of precision, right? If I do something, it seems right not to approach it lazily.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree with you as regards prioritization, but to be clear: I do think that what we believe, at a cognitive level, matters. What we think shapes who we are. It just doesn't completely define who we are. I think many people manage a high level of competence in the way that they live their lives, in spite of very muddled thinking at the conscious level. Nonetheless, it is best to correct errant thinking where we find it.

          • Will

            What we think shapes who we are. It just doesn't completely define who we are. I think many people manage a high level of competence in the way that they live their lives, in spite of very muddled thinking at the conscious level. Nonetheless, it is best to correct errant thinking where we find it.

            Please clarify what you mean by muddled and errant thinking. If you mean what I think you mean...

  • TylerDurden

    Hi Brandon,
    my posts seem to be disappearing. Is there a problem with Disqus?
    Thanks,
    Tyler

  • "Of course there is divine tuning, and a divine tuner,- if you believe such." I'll just leave that with you, but not join any possible argument! :)
    But my purpose for coming here has been, I believe, accomplished, as I now 'feel' that I have assimilated my understanding of Kant to what is now my understanding of Thomistic/Aristotelian philosophy. I feel I have accomplished what I am able - for now: With the help of this short summary. https://www.dropbox.com/s/b1v31e6qzx991kq/Thomas%20Aquinas%20in%2050%20Pages%20text%20CreateSpace%20June%2026.pdf?utm_source=Taylor+Marshall%27s+Updates&utm_campaign=30d8e2c9bf-Thank_You_Note4_21_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_64accbc3c7-30d8e2c9bf-59602705

    Hopefully, I am not giving this information illicitly, so I must state that this book was written by Taylor Marshall, of the St.Thomas Institute. Reading it was better than any Google search. It was simple and straightforward; -just the 'facts'!
    I now understand how for instance, "Jesus as two natures within one person", is 'logically' compatible with the theological definition or essence of God, as three persons with one nature. The definitions did it for me, - not the argument. My understanding would also include such points of view as that the post-modern conceptions of the poetic, are compatible, (can be put in tune with) not only Kant, but also with Aquinas. So much in philosophy and argument depends on the definition of terms. There is as well a distinction to be made between argument and proof, arguing to win one's case, in contrast to pointing out the logical characteristics required in revealing 'truth'.

    I feel, though that my recent attempt to relate necessity and chance to 'agency' within a 'finely tuned causation' fell short. Is the possibility that necessity and chance placed together involve a contradiction also a 'constant'? Perhaps if there is fine tuning, not only life, but all that is, would have to be part of the song. If so, perhaps even the hypothetical within Kant' would entail infinite more possibilities which would have to be included as part of the fine tuning?? Looking for constants? Well, on my level of narrative, my guitar demands constant retuning- yes another constant!!??
    So, again, I feel that something more is needed than a single and narrowly focused 'argument' in order to draw some specific point or conclusion, or to make the case for specific constants, especially with respect to something so 'dramatic' as an all-comprehensive teleology whether expressed as fine tuning, design, or final cause. Teleology! Another big word would be 'possibility'- that which perhaps can best be associated temporally with what is yet to be. So- can we know the future - ontologically?? Ah! the probabilities of science? Of course! But how good are we at anticipating what will be within our lives? What is the scope of science and even ancient prophecy in this regard? Would not a theory of design be incomplete without including a constant of inconstancy? :) After all, if I may be allowed to say, in sincerity - isn't that life!!!!

    At least I feel good about the clarification I found regarding the relation of Jesus to the Holy Ghost - or the intellect to judgment, of 'law to order', of 'truth to beauty': (instead as it is often thought - a will attributable to G-d, or the 'common good', which would be beyond the 'control' of any individual).- this duality can be defined within the human context , perhaps as 'desire',a need than an 'act 'because it places us within a passive relation to the object, Another inadequacy! Will in contrast, is more AI, whether this in the long run will be an Active/Actual Intelligence, or an Artificial one!!!! So perhaps just plain 'judgment', is the limit of our will 'on earth'. Again, context as well as definition is so helpful in preventing confusion, especially regarding what one can hope to 'fine tune' within this world. Yes, although I feel that now I can see clearly! the relation between Kant and Aquinas, to attempt a placement of my interpretation within a comprehensive but focused summary, any finality, or fine tuning, would I think be beyond my capacity. What one learns often incrementally, as one goes along, through reading and the attempt to understand others, is accumulative, but does not necessarily translate from the thought to the written word. Perhaps those authors like Aquinas who write their scores of books, are actually doing their thinking as they go along. But my rants are not saying more in fewer words. Their intellect is obviously more 'active' than mine (yes, I really do understand this concept of 'actuality', I believe.) Indeed, being in a state of passivity, with respect to the conundrums of logical possibility and within the potentiality of being, there is a need to depend on the prior genius of the author I am reading. Often I am only thinking within the hope to achieve at some time the actuality of comprehension, (a fine tuning?) that I search for in their writings. How is it possible for such authors to generate such volumes of ideas? What is the 'content' of their ideas - the 'meaning'? (Yet I understand the relevance that Aquinas did indeed have the 'help' of Aristotle, and Avicenna, who however was too Platonic, and so Averroes was the approved source of Aristotle's works...!! so perhaps indeed, there are gradations of fine tuning with respect even to 'originality'. )

    So one note of 'interest'? before I leave. A comment in this volume, that most of the arguments directed for or against the existence of God, by 'unbelievers' are not really such in 'substance' (i.e. real materiality as form or 'essence' i.e. by definition - see how good I am getting!!!) but really veil, (hide rather than disclose, hiddenness rather than revelation) what is really happening - some 'interest?' in a theodicy. As to paraphrase Christopher Hitchens: religion and 'the church' are just "bad". The real motivation then would be directed towards some issue within the context of making a moral or pragmatic 'judgment' - but your choice of term here. I'll leave this for all of you to argue about. Just to let you know that this idea/suggestion really 'hit home with me'. particularly with respect to that quote from Jewish philosophy within another comment, which 'defined' non-believers within a context in which (at least) they did not attempt to make G-d in their image..
    Lest there is any further 'estrangement': Hopefully, you will not have to deal with any more of my experiments, thought or otherwise, and attempts at creative narration! Perhaps I can indeed learn, or be able to do this work, away from a source of confirmation or comparison with other comments as an ongoing 'check list' or something. So yes. Some remarks did indeed 'Outshine the sum'! of my contributions? and I grant the validity, in that this, my constancy is not always appreciated. Don't know where I'm going from here, but possibly I should remember that it is a good idea to know a little about something before you go looking, (pre-judice?) or make an attempt to confirm it's 'existence' or 'non-existence'. I mean - in essence only....although like all else - when it comes to G-d's "essence", I don't really 'know' ontically -primarily- what I'm talking about!!!! Yet from reading about Thomism, yes- philosophy and/or theology is a good place to begin.... but... (Well at least I feel reconciled to Aquinas, and thankfully I have Just Thomism, and the crazy bursts of genius found in this blog, in the posts and the comments, https://thomism.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/arguments-and-core-beliefs/ but I definitely don't feel I could ever get up to understanding the 'Summa'...)

    Now, after reading over the last paragraph, the big question has become how to understand the validity or rather the placement within the schema of Kant - of his- a priori. Did Kant really defeat the position/argument of David Hume? Indeed, my rants are a good example of 'thought?' associations. It's never 'done' is it...but I am thinking that perhaps Hume could be appreciated more than Kant by Aquinas, if it was allowed that his 'atheism' could be interpreted as a 'form of humility'!!!! (I'm thinking of that quote from Chabad again!) Yes, all of this is surely part of the 'design', and 'the reason for everything'....or is the PSR rather that 'everything has a reason'. Big difference here! In any case, I feel at the moment, the need to 'tune my guitar' ). All the best....

  • Jason Lem

    There is no such thing as intelligent life finding it's self in a universe which is incompatible with the existence of intelligent life, ergo any intelligent life will find it self in a universe that is compatible with it's existence. This necessary precondition creates a bias on the observer (eg humans) who will find them self in such a universe.

    So no, you can't just conclude oh look how improbable it all is, it's probably the act of intelligent design.

    The universe we find ourselves is also compatible for the existence of black holes, dirt & the ebola virus.

    There is a joke about a puddle that thinks to it's self, wow the hole I find myself in fits just right, it can't just be a co-incidence.

  • Good God, Bad God?
    How about a Divine Tinkerer?

    This Tinkerer sets up a cosmos in which energy and matter are mixed incessantly for inconceivably long periods (that could never be reproduced by humans in any lab) to finally produce living things, many of which keep dying and going extinct, sometimes in mass extinction events (the Tinkerer shaking His Etch-I-Sketch) and only some of those myriads of creatures have finally attained human levels of consciousness/intelligence, and even many of those humans one wonders about their levels of consciousness/intelligence.

    So, how about a Divine Tinkerer who spent eons just getting his fine-tuning constants right? Perhaps experimenting by creating endless cosmoses to get those constants right? And this cosmos might not even be the most finely-tuned for life, it could be an experimental cosmos that led to the Tinkerer coming up with an even better one more congenial to life.

    • Of course distinguishing between a Divine Tinkerer and Natural Selection is going to be that much more difficult.

    • I am reminded also of the fact that organisms evolve in stages. The earliest feathered reptiles were not designed as great fliers. Far from it, they still have heavy bones, a long bony tail that creates drag, a small keel bone that could not have thick flight muscles attached to it like in modern day birds since it was so small, they had teeth and triangular shaped thick skulls like reptiles, not very aerodynamic smooth skulls like modern birds, etc. But I guess the Tinkerer kept tinkering.

      The earliest cetaceans were not designed to live their entire lives in the ocean far from land. Their nostrils were either still at the tips of their noses or only halfway up their snouts. They still had hind legs that creates drag. Etc.

      So the "tinkering" continued. And let's not forget the endless species of extinct monkeys and apes in the past prior to the earliest upright species of apes arising and finally, different species of humans. We are the last species of upright ape and last species of human left standing. (But if our species ever get to travel to the stars we will have to adapt biologically to different environments, either via natural or artificial selection and genetic engineering. And our species may start to branch off from one another in different parts of the galaxy.)

  • Harvey

    The argument against the notion of fine tuning are several:

    The anthropomorphic, If our universe wasn't "fine tuned" there'd be no possibility of life, so it stands to reason that, because we are here and can only live in a fine tuned universe, we'd be living in one.

    The many universe's argument: There is increasing thought that our universe is but one of many in a system that was always here and that continually produces many universes. Our universe produces mini-universes, called Black Holes, but our universe may have been produced from a state of quantum flux in conditions that allow for a short, rapid inflation (note, it's been hypothesized that, when matter and energy is of sufficient density, gravity will become a "pushing" force, as opposed to its present "pulling" appearance, and that these conditions occur often, even continuously, but exist outside our present view). Depending on initial conditions, a universe such as ours is but one state of an almost infinite variety.
    As such, it stands to reason that some of these universes will have the type of physics that allow for the formation of life and, of course, we are in one of these universes, ours.

    The fine tuning is inevitable argument: In conditions of rapid inflation, the quantum realities of the original state of our universe inevitably average out to what we now perceive. In computer simulations this reality has been viewed and confirmed. Of course the variable used in this simulation may be in error, but, even with some wide ranging variables, the evolving result led to a universe that allows for atoms, molecules, etc.