Thursday, July 24, 2008

Quote of the Day: Maybe I'm Amazed

George Ellis (South African astrophysicist)

“Amazing fine tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word ‘miraculous’ without taking a stand as to the ontological status of the word.” (h/t


The A-Team said...

The logical fallacy of the fine tuning argument is The Fallacy of Misused Statistics, aka The Lottery Fallacy. The argument is basically saying it's impossible for anyone to win the lottery because all 6 numbers have to line up perfectly. But of course people win the lottery every day, not because they play every possibility but because so many people play that it's statistically likely that SOMEBODY is going to pick all 6 winning numbers. If you and Ellis choose to view winning the lottery as "miraculous," feel free. Though I think you've set the bar for the miraculous quite low.

RkBall said...

I think you have misunderstood the probabilities.

People win the lottery every day. Yes. And that is because there are millions of attempts to win the lottery, and a very finite and relatively small (in cosmic terms) number of possible number combinations.

In terms of the universe just popping into place, imagine a lottery with 100 billion trillion possible numbers, and only one participant, with one chance to place his bet. The odds of him getting the right one are astronomical.

Now, imagine for a life-supporting universe, this same guy had to play eight different lotteries, with the same improbable odds, and win each time.

That is closer to the probabilities we are looking at.

Your use of the lottery fallacy is fallacious. It may be intellectually satisfying for some, but it will not fool those who, like the scientists I am quoting, see the illogic behind it.

The A-Team said...

Of course we're dealing with a larger data set with the universe but the principle is the same. The odds of the universe coming out exactly the way it happens to be is orders of magnitude less likely than a particular numerical sequence coming up in the lottery. But it's a fallacy to assume the universe had this end result involving human beings in mind and that if one thing was different, no other alternative exists. This is also sort of a false dichotomy. It's kind of a macrocosm of Behe's irreducible complexity argument. But if the universe were even slightly different, who's to say entirely different forms of life wouldn't have come about? If so, and they evolved to higher order thinking, who's to say they wouldn't be making the same assumption that the cosmic lottery had to come up the way it did to justify their existence?

Indeed, what we find is a planet where 99% of all the species who've inhabited it have already lost the cosmic lottery and gone extinct. We come from the limited perspective of having won the lottery, then working backwards creating post hoc rationalizations for our win as if it were destined to be so, though there is no evidence to support this.

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"