“Intelligent Science” part 1 – on Eric’s “fine-tuned universe”

First, I want to address Eric’s major claim about the “fine-tuned universe argument”. That is, that the universe has many characteristics that , should any one of them be even slightly different than it is, then human life, or any form of life as we know it, would not be possible.

Eric opens up with this little caveat:

Lately I’ve been addressing, following the logic of the atheist universe, the atheist’s inability to explain the uniformity of nature.  First showing that science depends on the universal nature of absolute physical laws, which we cannot expect to have if the universe has a random beginning as atheists claim.  Then showing that the atheist must use the Christian worldview to expect an orderly universe, in order to make science viable, to then use that science to reject God.  As if science in and of itself could give them the ability to rationally do so. ”

This shows a lot of interesting inherent assumptions that I was simply embarrassed to notice: Firstly, that science “depends” on the (or a-) universal nature of absolute physical laws. First of all, Eric here seems to equate Atheism with the scientific method. Even though I’m aware that atheism is the product of the scientific method and worldview, it doesn’t have to be. It could be the mere desire for rebellion against the authority of God or his self-ordained representatives on earth.

In any event, Eric doesn’t seem to give a chance to the possibility that some aspects of the universe are chaotic. I seemed to have missed his explanation as to why he assumes that everything has a cause or why randomness is impossible or isn’t observed. Maybe I should forgive him, since this wasn’t a major topic in his discussion of the so-called “atheist worldview”.

He definitely doesn’t define what “orderly” means to him other than the fact that it allows life to exist.

But, thing is, what Eric doesn’t seem to contemplate is that the only reason the universe may “seem fine-tuned for living forms” is because we know of DNA-based living forms but not of anything else. We could, of course, imagine to ourselves life forms that are not DNA-based, life forms that evolve in nanoseconds and not in billions of years, life forms that are only possible in a universe in which Planck’s constant is equal to 50 (and not aproximately 6*10^-34 as it is now), etc.

In short, the only reason that Eric gives for the universe being “fine-tuned” is because it exists and we exist. This is a very naive, yet understandable assumption, and I’ll give Eric credit for the fact that it is, in fact, irrefutable that there is any other universe that exists that can support life (of any kind) merely because this is the only universe we have access to and any case, refuting the fine-tuned argument, like refuting the existence of God, is impossible, and because of the same reason: you can’t refute what you can’t investigate. This inconvenient fact, I’m afraid, makes the fine-tuned argument completely moot. This refutation, by the way, is not something I just made up. I think I read it up on Talk Origins about 3 years ago when I just started reading about origin sciences (evolution and cosmology) and definitely before going to the university to study biology.

As an epilogue to my addressing of this particular argument, I would like to say that there is some creepy gullibility, and thus was I so intrigued by this argument, in the absolute faith that a universe that allows us to exist is a universe that was custom-made for our existence. It is an exercise in teleology that is so reminiscent of childish teleology (of the “trees exist so that we can hide from the rain” persuasion) that it bespeaks some psychological process that is way beyond my understanding. Maybe by investigating Eric’s reasoning and arguments about atheism and science, I will eventually learn more of why Eric thinks the way he does, or how he casually regresses to puerile teleology regarding something as mind-bogglingly imperceptible as the creation of the entire universe (assuming he doesn’t use that same teleology regarding trees as shelter for rain).

4 Comments »

  1. Eric Kemp Said:

    “First, I want to address Eric’s major claim about the “fine-tuned universe argument”.”

    I’m actually not using the fine tuned argument at all.

    ” Firstly, that science “depends” on the (or a-) universal nature of absolute physical laws. First of all, Eric here seems to equate Atheism with the scientific method.”

    I’m doing no such thing. I’m saying that the vast majority of atheists, in fact I’ve never met one who didn’t, rely on science to deny God. This science requires the uniformity of nature, which, is impossible without an all-powerful, all-knowing Creator God. (The atheistic alternative to God is “chance” and chance does not lead to absolute, universal laws).

    “It could be the mere desire for rebellion against the authority of God or his self-ordained representatives on earth.”

    Right, but if your reason for rejecting God is “I don’t like Him or His followers” (whom are only self-ordained, btw, if God doesn’t exist) then you’re just acting on an emotional response. One that I understand because Christians can be just as nasty as anyone else, but it’s not one based on rationality. I’ve never talked to anyone who fits solely in this category, they all also give scientific reasons.

    “He definitely doesn’t define what “orderly” means to him other than the fact that it allows life to exist.”

    My point is that “orderly” allows for nature to be tested and those results to be reliable, to be reflective of future tests. Science depends upon this reliability, this uniformity.

    “But, thing is, what Eric doesn’t seem to contemplate is . . . We could, of course, imagine to ourselves life forms that are not DNA-based, life forms that evolve in nanoseconds and not in billions of years, life forms that are only possible in a universe in which Planck’s constant is equal to 50 (and not aproximately 6*10^-34 as it is now), etc.”

    Wait, you’re giving me imagined scenarios in order to refute my argument. Really?

    But even so, you’re not talking about the issue at hand and you’re begging the question. Why is Planck’s constant reliable? How do you empirically verify the absolute reliability of the constant? You can’t, you must assume it’s the same everywhere since you can’t test everywhere. So you are begging the question of what explains uniformity.

    “In short, the only reason that Eric gives for the universe being “fine-tuned” is because it exists and we exist.”

    Excuse me? Where did I say anything even close to this?

    Anyway, you haven’t offered any explanation for where uniformity comes from, nor have you addressed the issue. So I’ll await your response.

  2. freidenker85 Said:

    Hi Eric! Welcome to my humble and new blog. First of all, I have no idea where I got the idea that you wrote about the fine-tuned argument. Since I’m a bit new at this whole thing of blogging about other blogs, I’m a bit wet behind the ears as far as linking to every assertion I make. This notwithstanding, there is still a discussion to be made!

    “I’m doing no such thing. I’m saying that the vast majority of atheists, in fact I’ve never met one who didn’t, rely on science to deny God. This science requires the uniformity of nature, which, is impossible without an all-powerful, all-knowing Creator God. (The atheistic alternative to God is “chance” and chance does not lead to absolute, universal laws).”

    By this, I think you mean that atheists who use the scientific method see no reason to believe in God because the god hypothesis is not a scientific one. Do you disagree with this statement?

    Furthermore, you continue to “accuse” (I have no other way of putting it mildly) atheists (as a homogenous group, again, something that I see as completely bizarre) of having “faith in chance” while at the same time, hypocritically believing in something contrasted with chance.

    This is pure nonsense. No atheist that I’ve ever read about, known or actually, myself as an atheist, have ever expressed a disbelief in that sense of order in nature that allows for scientific thought. You’d be right to say that it’s self-contradictory to be an atheist, basing your atheism on science, while believing that there is nothing that is in any way consistently occuring.

    But again – sometimes your definition of “chance” escapes me. And when I thoroughly wrote about what chance actually means (in statistics) as opposed to “non-randomness” – a concept that I, as an atheist, have no qualms about (hereby making an exception to atheists you’ve lumped together as a group with the exact same belief towards it).

    You say here that uniformity is impossible without an all-powerful God. I don’t get it. Why? Why is postulating an even more unexplained, uninvestigated entity that you cannot verify not one single fact about, is any explanation for why the universe is uniform?

    You know what? I’ll make it a bit simpler for both of us. I, as an atheist, and any other atheist I know, for that matter, have “faith” (which is a bad way of putting it) in one thing: Experience. This experience INCLUDES consistency in nature. It says nothing of the creation of the universe, at least not for me, because I have absolutely no IDEA how the universe was created, and because my cosmology is quite weak, I do not venture and say that “God didn’t do it because he doesn’t exist” in relation to cosmology. I simply don’t know. You could say that I’m “a biological atheist, but a cosmological agnostic”. As a naturalist, which is a more comprehensive way of depicting my worldview – I simply refuse to have any faith in anything that has not been tested,exhibited, observed, etc. I’m only asking for reasons to believe, I’m only asking the very fair request of not being gullible enough to fall for reasoning and rhetoric while evidence works better than both every time.

    “My point is that “orderly” allows for nature to be tested and those results to be reliable, to be reflective of future tests. Science depends upon this reliability, this uniformity.”

    Oh, that’s it. Okay, so “orderly” for you and for me is the same thing. There is consistency in the universe. Something I have a firm belief in because, well, I’ve experienced it all my life. This nature, with it being capable of being tested and all, has shown no signs of a God in it. Particularly not of any Abrahamic God and absolutely is odds with this particular’s God’s account of the history of the earth.

    “(The atheistic alternative to God is “chance” and chance does not lead to absolute, universal laws).”

    Okay, I’m going to have to ask you to find some other term for “the atheistic alternative”, because in no way does “chance” replace “God” in my experience. What replaces “God” in my experience is, well, “experience”. That’s it, and no more to it.

    Also, to further rebuke your point about “absolute, universal laws” – I personally have no “faith” in any of them. There is NOTHING universal, nothing absolute about the “laws” in science. Laws in science work in a particular set of circumstances. But that goes against any definition of universal I can think of. You could say that a “scientific law” is true until proven otherwise. That’s in stark contrast to any authoritative law that lawbooks or bibles might have. The whole idea of “scientific laws” are mere abstractions for things that we’ve observed umpteenth times. That does not disclose an assumption that they will ALWAYS be true, and simple “law-breakings” such as Einstein’s breaking Newton’s demonstrate just that.

    And the fact that apples continue falling down does not mean that I do not find relativity convincing (it produced results!)

    “Right, but if your reason for rejecting God is “I don’t like Him or His followers” (whom are only self-ordained, btw, if God doesn’t exist) then you’re just acting on an emotional response. One that I understand because Christians can be just as nasty as anyone else, but it’s not one based on rationality. I’ve never talked to anyone who fits solely in this category, they all also give scientific reasons.”

    Sorry, I read and re-read this paragraph and saw absolutely no rebuttal to my original point – atheists don’t HAVE to be atheists because of some metaphysical/philosophical argument. They can be atheists simply because they hate religion. I dated with a girl who was JUST that kind of an atheist. She hated God because he “allowed bad things to happen”. Those kind of atheists are probably the easiest to convert, to my opinion.

    “Wait, you’re giving me imagined scenarios in order to refute my argument. Really?”

    Again, I’m so sorry, I have no idea where I picked up you referring to the “fine-tuned argument”. But regardless, I AM referring to the fine-tuned argument here. In a way, I was using some straw-man strategy. But without mischief. In any case, my refutation of the argument stands firm, whether or not you, yourself, raised it.

    “But even so, you’re not talking about the issue at hand and you’re begging the question. Why is Planck’s constant reliable? How do you empirically verify the absolute reliability of the constant? You can’t, you must assume it’s the same everywhere since you can’t test everywhere. So you are begging the question of what explains uniformity.”

    Okay, now that you’re dealing with the FT argmuent as well, let me address the question being begged:

    There is no need to explain why Planck’s constant is reliable because it ISN’T. It’s simply consistent. Whether age-old scientists (and just pessimistic realists such as myself) have an emotional tendency to think that things are “always going to be the same” – it does not betray the inescapable, RATIONAL conclusion that consistency does not mean “absolute law”. My mother had consistently been alive until she died abruptly of cardiac arrest. I think my emotional ties to this consistency are what made me take it so hard. But I never THOUGHT for a minute that her being alive every day, and consistently, means that she will live forever.

    Don’t call me an atheist, call me a realist. I take reality as what it is. If it’s consistent, I’ll bet my money on what’s consistent. If it ain’t, I’ll lift my hands and say: “okay, this thing is purely random, I see no pattern here”.

    ““In short, the only reason that Eric gives for the universe being “fine-tuned” is because it exists and we exist.”

    Excuse me? Where did I say anything even close to this?

    Anyway, you haven’t offered any explanation for where uniformity comes from, nor have you addressed the issue. So I’ll await your response.”

    You should excuse me, I don’t think you said anything close to this. in the other posts about your blog, I put links and quotes to exactly what it is you said. In that respect, discussing those posts would be much more productive. Again, so sorry.

    In any event, I haven’t offered any explanation for where uniformity comes from because I don’t have to, and also, because your explanation doesn’t explain it either. Postulating an imaginary being to explain something is not an explanation. You can postulate any imaginary being, but so long as you make no testable assertions about that being, your explanation is meaningless. I don’t have to offer an explanation to uniformity because:

    A.Uniformity is a misleading term – there’s consistency. Sometimes, and Carl Sagan wrote about it in “Demon-Haunted World”, you get phenomena that are not consistent with anything we know. So if there’s no uniformity, only consistently, there’s no need to explain it, because it doesn’t exist. Also, this consistently is something that I “vouche for” because, well, it’s practical. That’s it. Call me a greedy little devil, but if something works on a regular basis, I find it a good enough reason to base my worldview upon it – and that is: the rigorous, ever-self-testing scientific method.

  3. Eric Kemp Said:

    Freid

    “Hi Eric! Welcome to my humble and new blog.”

    Thanks!

    “First of all, I have no idea where I got the idea that you wrote about the fine-tuned argument. Since I’m a bit new at this whole thing of blogging about other blogs, I’m a bit wet behind the ears as far as linking to every assertion I make.”

    No worries, thanks for admitting that a mistake was made, I’ll show you the same courtesy when the roles reverse.

    “By this, I think you mean that atheists who use the scientific method see no reason to believe in God because the god hypothesis is not a scientific one. Do you disagree with this statement?”

    What I mean by that is that atheists use science to deny God must ignore that they have no explanation of where the uniformity science relies on came from.

    I’m a bit confused by your use of the term “scientific method” here, I want us to be on the same page, so can you elaborate?

    But yea, most atheists have rejected “the God hypothesis” on the basis that it’s not empirically verifiable. My assertion would be that while doing so they are ignoring all the non empiricially verifiable statements they are making as well.

    “This is pure nonsense. No atheist that I’ve ever read about, known or actually, myself as an atheist, have ever expressed a disbelief in that sense of order in nature that allows for scientific thought. You’d be right to say that it’s self-contradictory to be an atheist, basing your atheism on science, while believing that there is nothing that is in any way consistently occuring.”

    Two things:

    1. I’ve never said that any atheist rejects the order in nature. In fact, I’ve said the opposite. I’m saying that the atheistic academic consensus is that the universe came about by pure chance (the definition of chance is spelled out clearly in my blog post).

    2. I AM saying that this belief in the chance beginning of the universe is inconsistent. Pure chance is the opposite of orderly. And yet atheists believe that nature is orderly while believing in a chance beginning to nature. This is irrational.

    “You say here that uniformity is impossible without an all-powerful God. I don’t get it. Why? Why is postulating an even more unexplained, uninvestigated entity that you cannot verify not one single fact about, is any explanation for why the universe is uniform?”

    Good question. Before answering I’m going to explain something so that we are on the same page. There are two different types of statements/explanations: empirical and metaphysical. Empirical statements are scientific ones, they are observable, testable and falsifiable. Metaphysical statements are neither observable, testable or falsifiable in the empirical sense. They are subject to the laws of logic but unprovable by scientific techniques. An example of a metaphysical statement would be “God does not exist”, as would “God does exist”. Similarly, the question “what explains the uniformity of nature?” is a metaphysical question with a metaphysical answer, “An all-powerful, all-knowing Being created the universe uniform”.

    An all-powerfull, all-knowing Being, being all-powerful and everything, is absolutely a metaphysical explanation for the uniformity of nature. When you say God is “unexplained, uninvestigated entity that you cannot verify one single fact about”, you are attempting to apply empirical expectations on a metaphysical explanation. This does not follow. Not only this, you are doing so all the while ignoring that your own position either negatively “God is NOT an explanation for the uniformity of nature” or positively “naturalism IS an explanation for uniformity” is also a metaphysical position. Also, the assumption that nature is uniform, upon which all of science is built, is a metaphysical assumption!

    So, in short, expecting an empirical explanation for a metaphysical statement is irrational and ignoring your own metaphysical statements is disingenuous.

    “I’ll make it a bit simpler for both of us. I, as an atheist, and any other atheist I know, for that matter, have “faith” (which is a bad way of putting it) in one thing: Experience.”

    Naw, “faith” is a good way to put it because it’s an honest statement. We all have faith in many things.

    “As a naturalist, which is a more comprehensive way of depicting my worldview – I simply refuse to have any faith in anything that has not been tested,exhibited, observed,…”

    But don’t you see the inconsistency there? You MUST have faith in untested, unobserved phenomena. One being the uniformity of nature but one other also being the miracle of non-life turning into life all by itself. Neither of these are empirically verifiable but you believe in both. This is faith.

    “I’m only asking for reasons to believe, I’m only asking the very fair request of not being gullible enough to fall for reasoning and rhetoric while evidence works better than both every time.”

    Me too, my friend, me too. Here, I’ll give you one. Just as I argued in “Atheists Believe in Chance”, a chance beginning cannot bring forth orderly, absolute, natural laws. And yet, here we sit in an orderly universe, relying on absolute laws to do science (and anything for that matter!). This is evidence for God.

    “This nature, with it being capable of being tested and all, has shown no signs of a God in it.”

    You saying “…has shown no signs of God…” is as faith based and absolute a statement as one can get. It also happens to be massively false. But the evidence for God in the natural universe is another discussion, one that I’d be glad to have with you at any time.

    “What replaces “God” in my experience is, well, “experience”. That’s it, and no more to it. ”

    You’re going to have to explain that better. I don’t know what you mean or how this is possible.

    Absolute laws: I’m not talking about scientific laws such as the Laws of Thermodynamics. I’m talking about the universal and absolute uniformity of nature that science requires to be viable. This is just true, there is no fighting it.

    “In any case, my refutation of the argument stands firm, whether or not you, yourself, raised it.”

    Just so you know, imagining scenarios that are outside of our sense experience/reality to refute arguments won’t fly very far with any one, you’re going to have to form arguments with some sort of substance to them.

    “There is no need to explain why Planck’s constant is reliable because it ISN’T. It’s simply consistent.”

    If this is true, then you have no rational basis for using Planck’s constant…ever.

  4. freidenker85 Said:

    “I’m a bit confused by your use of the term “scientific method” here, I want us to be on the same page, so can you elaborate?”

    I use a textbook definition of the scientific method:

    “Scientific method
    Scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. It is based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning, the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.

    (there’s plenty of definition out there, but in this case, I also find Wikipedia’s definition to be most accurate).

    In here, there is no presumption of “uniformity of nature”. Only of experimentation (experience), testing hypotheses (experience) and collection of data (yep, you said it: experience!)

    Throughout your entire reply, you have simply ignored the fact that I do NOT believe in universal uniformity, and have actually given a hypothetical example wherein uniformity may not occur. I do believe that there’s uniformity in the space close to us and on earth because this has been exhibited. This is an important fact – because it completely demolishes your argument regarding my “metaphysical faith in uniformity”. There is no such metaphysical faith in uniformity – there’s consistency in a FINITE chunk of space. It may be a HUGE chunk of space, but it’s still finite, and just because it’s consistent in there, does not allow me to conclude that it’s consistent everywhere. I may ASSUME that – but I can never PRESUPPOSE that. Sorry for using caps, I got no idea how to use bold in my comments. Do you? I’m not to wordpress, as you can see.

    Moving on.

    “But don’t you see the inconsistency there? You MUST have faith in untested, unobserved phenomena. One being the uniformity of nature but one other also being the miracle of non-life turning into life all by itself. Neither of these are empirically verifiable but you believe in both. This is faith.”

    Again, not true. If I see that apples fall in China AND in Latvia AND in Arizona – I have a good reason to believe that the laws of gravity apply to every place on the earth. If I see that the same laws applied by the same theories (Newton’s gravity) – also apply, with observations included – upon celestial bodies, etc. – then I can say that these laws apply at least in our near solar system. Other than that, contra to what even some dictionary could say about science, or an encyclopedia, or even a chunkful of scientists: I PERSONALLY do not have any presupposition that it’s just the same as it is in our solar system as it is in some solar system on the edge of the universe, where things could just as well all be blue, fluffy and somehow shaped like elephants. Since I haven’t been there, nobody’s seen that place, and there’s no data – then I will never simply presuppose that “space is uniform, hence there there are no celestial elephants”. I will simply say:”Gee, I don’t know.”

    So again, let me point this out more firmly: your accusation, at least in my case, is unwarranted. I’m simply not guilty! Consistency is assumed because we use our past knowledge of consistency to induce it on the future. Strictly, no one can KNOW if it’s true or not in the entire universe until we’ve visited the entire universe – but because induction has proven itself so useful, I’d bet my money on it. It’s not a presupposition. I don’t KNOW I’m right, I don’t even THINK I know I’m right. I’m just betting my money on what worked well in the past. Also, in my heart, hoping hard that my wager is gonna turn out okay.

    But again, like many atheists that are scientifically inclined – we’re all mathematical gamblers: we have information, data, probablistic information, and we use this experience and bet on the next race. We don’t have the comfort of your faith in an absolute God.

    “Me too, my friend, me too. Here, I’ll give you one. Just as I argued in “Atheists Believe in Chance”, a chance beginning cannot bring forth orderly, absolute, natural laws. And yet, here we sit in an orderly universe, relying on absolute laws to do science (and anything for that matter!). This is evidence for God.”

    I thought you said that the existence of God is a metaphysical (and metaphysical alone) question: how can there be empirical evidence for God at the same time? Don’t YOU see the inconsistency there?
    Also – my entire blog post about YOUR blog post has been circling around the fact that I don’t, and I don’t see any reason for any other atheist to believe that the universe was causeless. For the lack of empirical reasons to believe in a God, I lack the reason to believe in a “causeless”, or a “caused”, for that matter, universe: I simply don’t know. I don’t get metaphysical about it: I just don’t have an explanation to it simply because metaphysical assumptions (that is, anything that isn’t already built on my metaphysical assumption of induction and evidence-based reality) simply don’t include, in my case, a metaphysical assumption about the universe.

    It’s an interesting metaphysical discussion, and I’d like to hear all sides of the story (since this is a somewhat subjective matter) – but really, in a scientific framestructure, I have no idea how the universe started, and I don’t see a scientific reason to attribute its creation to a metaphysical God. A metaphysical reason might be nice, good, and proper. It’s just not scientific, and thus will never be good enough for me.

    “Absolute laws: I’m not talking about scientific laws such as the Laws of Thermodynamics. I’m talking about the universal and absolute uniformity of nature that science requires to be viable. This is just true, there is no fighting it.”

    Again, see above comments. I have no faith, and apparently, neither did my professor in Thermodynamics – in any absolute laws. If he could say that these laws are easily broken, and the wikipedia definition defining these laws as “law-like” – then nobody has any faith, metaphysical or otherwise, in absolute uniformity of space. All we have is observed consistency. This is not just “faith”. This is evidence-based faith.

    “Just so you know, imagining scenarios that are outside of our sense experience/reality to refute arguments won’t fly very far with any one, you’re going to have to form arguments with some sort of substance to them.”

    What’s wrong with thought experiments? They actually “fly very well” if I want to make a point. Since we are talking somewhat hypothetically here, then thought experiments are a good, and in this case, fair tool to attempt to refute any of your arguments. What imaginary scenarios to what arguments of yours are you referring to?

    “There is no need to explain why Planck’s constant is reliable because it ISN’T. It’s simply consistent.”

    If this is true, then you have no rational basis for using Planck’s constant…ever.”

    Huh? I just SAID: Planck’s constant is consistent. Okay, I’ll say further: it’s VERY VERY VERY VERY VERY consistent. Better?
    This is a vey rational basis for using it, because it’s an extremely safe bet that it will be the same value next time someone measures it. A rational foundation on any belief would be this kind of experience, this kind of consistency. If this is not the criterion for “rational belief”, then anything you said about rational belief is meaningless anyway, since we’re not using the same “rational belief” here.


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