Discoveroids Embrace Fine Tuning Argument

Any old creationist argument will do for the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

Today they’re gushing about the fine tuning argument. That’s a close relative of the anthropic principle, which we’ve discussed in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. We said there, among other things:

It shouldn’t surprise us that everything we discover about the universe is consistent with our existence — were it otherwise we wouldn’t exist. But it doesn’t follow that the universe exists for the purpose of our existence.

What makes you think that without supernatural tinkering, the universe would have been different? How does one compute the odds against this specific universe? From where we sit, the odds favoring the universe seem to be 100%. Where is the evidence suggesting that this particular universe shouldn’t exist, or that its attributes should have been different from what they are?

Well, the Discoveroids are all worked up over the fine tuning argument. They claim that it’s virtually proof that their magical designer set things up for us — although as we’ve remarked about all their other “evidence,” it’s equally solid proof that Zeus is responsible. Anyway, their article on this is Scientific American Challenges the Multiverse. It’s by Casey Luskin, our favorite Discoveroid creationist.

Casey begins by mentioning a recent article in Scientific American by George F. R. Ellis: Does the Multiverse Really Exist? That article discusses the concept of the multiverse:

In the past decade an extraordinary claim has captivated cosmologists: that the expanding universe we see around us is not the only one; that billions of other universes are out there, too. There is not one universe — there is a multiverse.

Okay, now here’s what Casey has to tell us, with bold font added by us and his links omitted:

The upshot of the [Scientific American] article was that if it [the multiverse] does [exist], then science has no way of discovering it. In essence, it is an unscientific concept that has its roots in philosophy.

That’s true. What of it? Casey continues:

So if there’s no possible way to observe or interact with the many alternate universes predicted by the multiverse, why are do some scientists advocate this idea? According to Ellis [the author of the Scientific American article], they’re trying to get around the evidence for the fine-tuning of our universe: … .

We’re omitting the quote from Ellis, but it doesn’t quite say what Casey says. Let’s read on:

Buying more lottery tickets will give you better odds of winning the lottery. In the same way, multiverse proponents hope that inventing more universes will help them explain the insanely small probability of finding a universe whose physical laws are finely tuned for life. So the motive for believing in a multiverse stems from a materialistic philosophy that hopes to overcome the evidence for design. Unfortunately for multiverse proponents, as Ellis points out, “we have no hope of testing it observationally.”

We always have to ask: What evidence of design? It’s true that we evolved to live here (and far more species did not and no longer exist), but that in no way argues that the universe was designed so that we could live here. Casey continues:

Just how finely tuned is our universe? According to Roger Penrose, the initial entropy of the universe must have been fine-tuned to within one part in 10 raised to the 10123 power [Casey’s wording] . That’s not 1 in 10 with 123 zeros after it. That’s 1 in 10 with 10123 zeros after it. And that’s just for one physical parameter. The fine-tuning of our universe is a big problem for materialists.

Wowie! Big numbers! We couldn’t track down where Penrose said that, so let’s just read some more from Casey’s article:

Ellis argues that detecting purpose lies outside of the realm of science, but if we base our views upon scientific observations, we are nonetheless left with the following [what follows is apparently a mix of Casey’s conclusions slipped in among Ellis’]:

• The laws of nature exhibit an incredibly unlikely degree of fine-tuning that is required to produce a life-friendly universe.
• There is currently no physical explanation for this fine-tuning.
• We can observe our universe, and no others.
• This unlikely fine-tuning represents astronomically high levels of specified complexity embedded in the laws of nature.

Ooooooh! Specified complexity! Here’s Casey’s conclusion:

And what, in our uniform experience, is the only known cause of high levels of specified complexity? Intelligent design.

Or Zeus (and the Titans who preceded him). If one thinks it’s necessary to explain why the constants of the universe are the way they are (and we don’t see any such necessity), then we prefer the Olympian gods as an explanation. That theory has nearly 3,000 years of solid documentation — easily going back to the Iliad, and the Olympian gods are a far more attractive explanation than some creepy designer who sneaks around tinkering with the flagellum.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Discoveroids Embrace Fine Tuning Argument

  1. Typo. “Today their gushing” -> “Today they’re gushing”, please.

  2. Yes, the Universe is so finely tuned that we can live exactly here on this planet and nowhere else. In fact, we can’t even live anywhere on the planet without carrying an artificial environment with us.

    Furthermore, we couldn’t have lived on our own planet as it existed 3 billion years ago with a reducing atmosphere of methane and carbon dioxide.

    Yeah, lots of “specified complexity” there, Gerbil Boy. Finely tuned, boy, howdy!

    In other news, “specified complexity” or as we say here Oogity Boogity has no definition, no units and can be neither measured nor calculated. If any ID “theorist” would like to correct me on those points I’m all ears, naturally selected, naturally.

  3. How embarrassing! Thanks, MarcC. All fixed now.

  4. Ceteris Paribus

    Fine tuning? I know what fine tuning is, and it isn’t what the creationists think it is. Fine tuning is trying to pick up a clandestine shortwave broadcast from some weirdos out in Idaho, and not getting your ears blasted by one of the giant Christian shortwave transmitters in Chile using a nearby frequency.

    If God intended for fine tuning, there would be just one frequency and it would be a time share between Fox News Network and Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. Why not? They are already sharing a good deal of content on the topic of theocracy.

    So if the creationists were right about fine tuning in our universe there would be proof in just having one broadcast frequency since there is only one message and one audience designed to hear it.

    If there were a designer behind TV broadcasting, would be no need for a color spectrum on your screen since plain old fine tuned black and white suits the content of the creationist message.

  5. Saying the universe is fine-tuned for life is like saying the pond in my back yard is fine tuned for the amount of water in it.

    No, silly. It’s just a result of it.

  6. I reread the article (luckily I had the August issue still lying around…how far behind is Casey in his reading?).

    As you would expect, he completely misconstrues what Ellis had to say. First of all, Casey omitted the final two paragraphs after what he quotes as Ellis’s conclusion. One interesting quote from the second-to-last paragraph is:

    To make progress, we need to keep to the idea that empirical testing is the core of science. We need some kind of causal contact with whatever entities we propose; otherwise there are no limits. The link can be a bit indirect. If an entity is unobservable but absolutely essential for properties of other entities that are indeed verified, it can be taken as verified. But then the onus of proving it is absolutely essential to the web of explanation.

    That statement, particularly the last sentence, applies equally well to ID. Odd that Casey would skip over that part, don’t you think?

    Ellis continues to state that contemplation of multiverses is fine, but one must know the limits of what one is doing. His final lines are “Nothing is wrong with scientifically based philosophical speculation, which is what multiverse proposals are. But we should name it for what it is.”

    Nowhere in the article does Ellis suggest that, as Casey opines “…the motive for believing in a multiverse stems from a materialistic philosophy that hopes to overcome the evidence for design.” He doesn’t mention design. He notes that string theory allows multiple universes with varying laws and so neatly solves the fine tuning argument, but he does not suggest that the argument needs solving. He states: “…we cannot apply a probability argument if there is no multiverse to apply the concept of probability to. This argument thus assumes the desired outcome before it starts; it simply is not applicable if there is only one physically existing universe.” And, as Ellis notes, we have no proof that there is more than the one existing universe. If the universe is the only one, then it is what it is. Probability just doesn’t apply. Casey’s coupling of probabilities and fine tuning arguments with quotes from this article, to suggest that scientists are trying to evade “evidence for design”, spins the story out of any possible relationship with the author’s intention.

    It is a classic Luskin lie.

  7. Luskin said:

    why are do some scientists advocate this idea?

    That’s some great grammar there, folks. Too bad he doesn’t allow comments.

  8. Buying more lottery tickets will give you better odds of winning the lottery.

    According to ID “theory” it should not matter how many lottery tickets you buy. The IDer does not decide who wins based on the number of tickets purchased.

  9. Ed says: “It is a classic Luskin lie.”

    I’m shocked. Shocked!!

  10. Fine tuning tells us things like this:

    The speed of light couldn’t possibly be any different. So those lights in the sky really are thousands, millions and billions of light years away, and thus the universe really is “old”. Likewise for the radioactive decay rates and other ways of dating things. Our knowledge of science is reliable in its reliance on “fine tuning”.

    In brief, the world of life looks like it has been evolving for billions of years because it really has been evolving for billions of years (and is still evolving).

    To deny that would be to deny “fine tuning”.

  11. Just how finely tuned is our universe? Why, so finely tuned that approximately 0.00000000000000000000000000015% (1E-28%) of our solar system is habitable! And even assuming there is a human-habitable planet in every star system, the number gets smaller as you consider larger units, since there’s a lot of space in between.

  12. The universe is finely tuned to produce lots of empty, lifeless space.

  13. To posit that the universe is finely tuned for anything is to sneak in teleology into your argument. “Fine-Tuned” implies an objective; an end state that a conscious entity had in mind. Life is a result of this universe, but it doesn’t follow that life was intended to be a result.