Friday, August 20, 2010

Fine-Tuning and "The Big Fluke"

The highest quality resolution version of this...Image via Wikipedia
Is the universe fine-tuned for life?


Let's say you found four metal rods on the ground as you walked along the beach. Different sizes. You strung them, banged on them, and they "just happened" to play a C chord - C-E-G-C.  


Beautiful!  What are the odds of that, you might think?!


Now imagine you went out collecting more rods. You strung them all together, as you found them, and, to your amazement, found that they played the notes to Beethoven's Ode to Joy. 


What are the odds of that ??!!


Infinitely better than the odds that the parameters of the universe we inhabit "just happened along" and each "just happened" to be within the range of narrow constraints that would permit life to arise.


This is what is called the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God. As with origins of life (OOL), people who write about it use the word "fluke" to describe it. (If this keeps up, we may need to cut to the chase and call the Big Bang The Big Fluke.)


As we begin our primer on fine-tuning, let's start with a Wikibit of facts:
Martin Rees[6] formulates the fine-tuning of the universe in terms of the following six dimensionless constants:
Now let's expand to 34 fine-tuned parameters. Evidence for the Fine Tuning of the Universe by Rich Deem.


Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe has compiled a list of 140 fine-tuned parameters, but, who's counting.


Finally, let's take a look at a scholarly perspective -- THE FINE-TUNING DESIGN ARGUMENT:
A SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD by Robin Collins of the human genome project: "Suppose we went on a mission to Mars, and found a domed structure in which everything was set up just right for life to exist..."   For more, visit Robin's site.


Now, none of this "proves" that God exists -- there's always wiggle-room -- but it certainly makes it rational to believe that there is a guiding intelligence behind the universe.  


Plus, when you combine the uncanny convergence of these fine-tuned factors of physics with origins of life studies which show that the laws of chemistry seem to have been conspiring to create life, and biology (in other words, it was all far more law-based than chance-based), this is a powerful, powerful one-two punch indicator that an intelligent agent, a mind, is behind the universe.


The skeptic's response? "The rods on the beach all had to resonate at some frequency, and there was just as much probability that they would resonate at these frequencies than any other".  This is the actual counter-argument that is made. I will leave it to the reader to decide how convincing this counter-argument is.  (The other is the "multiverse",  a topic for another day.)


Note to Jonathan: this post is in response to a question you asked me.


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13 comments:

jonathan said...

"Let's say you found four metal rods on the ground as you walked along the beach. Different sizes. You strung them, banged on them, and they "just happened" to play a C chord - C-E-G-C.

Beautiful! What are the odds of that, you might think?!

Now imagine you went out collecting more rods. You strung them all together, as you found them, and, to your amazement, found that they played the notes to Beethoven's Ode to Joy.

What are the odds of that ??!!"


There seems to be an appeal to ridicule hidden in your argument. You may want to get it fixed.

"This is what is called the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God. As with origins of life (OOL), people who write about it use the word "fluke" to describe it. (If this keeps up, we may need to cut to the chase and call the Big Bang The Big Fluke.)"

Actually this should be called the fallacy of fine tuning instead of the fine-tuning argument. As for the rest of this post being a response to a question I asked I will say that it is a rather poor response. I could go through it and pick it apart as I would normally do but to be honest I'm kind of getting tired of constructing these responses and having them hand waived away. So, I'll ask a question that you either overlooked or ignored that pertains to fine tuning. Is there anywhere in the universe where the constants are not the same?

RkBall said...

" Is there anywhere in the universe where the constants are not the same?"

What constants?

RkBall said...

"There seems to be an appeal to ridicule hidden in your argument. You may want to get it fixed."

Not at all. It's a good analogy. The lengths of the pipes could either be random or by design. They either are tuned to play a C chord, or they just happen to play a C chord.

Joe said...

"Is there anywhere in the universe where the constants are not the same?"

Good question Jonathan.

Google gravity anomaly. It would seem that it was determined that both Voyager and Pioneer space craft were not where they should have been if gravity is the constant we think it is. Unless of course there is some other unknown acting upon them.

P@J said...

I always thought it funny that Christian fundamentalists can look at the entire universe and say “all this was done for me”.

The universe is 880,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 metres across, and in all of it, there is one tiny spot, a region less than 4,000m thick on the surface of a tiny sphere, where you could survive (most of that surface covered by water that would drown you in minutes, so cold you would freeze to death in an hour, or so dry you would desiccate in days). The rest of the universe is dominated by extremely dissociated hydrogen gas, and bombarded by cosmic rays. (There may be other, similar small areas where you could survive, but none within a reachable distance, of course). But that only accounts for less than 5% of the universe mass, as most is less ordered than the hydrogen atom. The universe is at least 13,750,000,000 years old, our sun less than 5,000,000,000 years, the planet only slightly younger, and an atmosphere with sufficient oxygen that you do not asphyxiate instantly less than 2,500,000,000 years. Your oldest relatives that could even loosely be termed “hominid” developed less than 2,000,000 years ago. Your religion was invented less than 2,000 years ago, and you, I suspect, are less than 100 years old.

So less than a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of the universe is habitable by you, and your life span is a billionth of the life span of the universe. But somehow it is all about you. How self-deluded and self-important do you have to be?

But hey, whatever floats your beach ball. Have fun.

RkBall said...

God is in no hurry. And such vast distances are not unexpected when you are talking about a God as grand and majestic as the God who made the atom, DNA, and us; and trees, which are used to make wood which was once used to make a cross, which you keep stubbing your toe on.

P@J said...

I’m not stubbing my toe; I’m kicking.

And like any sign of oppression, once a single person starts kicking, more eventually join in, and the oppressor will fall.

RkBall said...

A man who graciously offers to trade his place in heaven for your place in hell and then goes the extra mile by giving you the freedom to either accept or reject this offer is your example of oppression?

P@J said...

Let us deconstruct that sentence:

A man who graciously offers… How gracious is an offer than cannot be rejected? His supposed self-sacrifice took place before I was born, to atone for an alleged act by an alleged distant relative of mine, which also happened long before I was born. And this benefits me how? Oh, you continue: to trade his place in heaven for your place in hell…, are you suggesting Jesus is in hell? My understanding was that after the last of his multiple deaths he rose up to sit on the right side of himself, or his father, or whomever. Regardless, I challenge the assumption that such places as “heaven” and “hell exist, so his alleged sacrifice simply provides me an option between two imaginary experiences? Yikes. You have to do better than that to make me renounce rational thought. and then goes the extra mile by giving you the freedom to either accept or reject this offer except he doesn’t really does he? Correct me if I’m wrong I either accept his loaded offer, or suffer death.

I would argue that history’s worst oppressors offered the same or better. At least if you rejected Stalin you were likely to be allowed to live in a forced labour camp, although the possibility did exist that he would put you to death. Pol Pot, Hitler, Kohmeini, Arndaud-Amaury, etc., etc., oppressors through the ages have offered the same: exchange of freedoms today for an obscure future reward, and suffering and death if you refused.

So what does an oppressor request in exchange for not dying? We must completely and rigorously follow a somewhat vague and arbitrary list of commands, many of which are completely contrary to our natural urges and have no effect on other people. For this we must constantly give thanks, but only for the good stuff, since we cannot hold him equally accountable for the bad things that happen. We cannot worship or respect any other person who makes the same claims as him, nor can we create our own rules that better suit our society. Like most oppressors, we cannot have him thrown out of office or elect another leader, even if our benevolent dictator chooses to kill off millions of his followers in completely arbitrary ways. Day and night, surveillance is constant. He not only watches all of our actions, but carefully monitors our very thoughts, Even dreaming of escape from the surveillance is a crime against him, punishable by death. Of course, the prize for all this is utopia, but a utopia no reputable source has ever seen.

Now go back to that last paragraph and ask yourself: Stalin or God? Perhaps the difference between you and I, Rick, is that you love Big Brother.

RkBall said...

"How gracious is an offer than cannot be rejected?"

It can be rejected. Your call.

"are you suggesting Jesus is in hell?"

He descended into hell, i.e., the place of the dead. He took the place of the man cut-off from and separated from God -- which is hell.

"Regardless, I challenge the assumption that such places as “heaven” and “hell exist, so his alleged sacrifice simply provides me an option between two imaginary experiences?"

The fact that you challenge their existence does not make them imaginary, unless you are somehow an ultimate arbiter of reality.

The central conceit of the atheist is that he can, by his own powers, sufficiently discern reality to arbitrate whether God exists or not.

RkBall said...

"Correct me if I’m wrong I either accept his loaded offer, or suffer death."

In death and hell you merely get what you deserve.

His offer is loaded with grace, and came at great personal cost.

RkBall said...

"Now go back to that last paragraph and ask yourself: Stalin or God? Perhaps the difference between you and I, Rick, is that you love Big Brother."

No, the difference is you express hostility to a god who does not exist, a god who is the creation of your perverse mind, a perversion of the true God, whose knowledge you reject.

It is strawman writ large.

P@J said...

I am not hostile towards your God, or any other god for that matter. I do not think he exists, so there is no need to be hostile towards him. To be hostile towards somehting that does not exist is a sign of mental illness.

My decription of God comes not from hostility, but from an honest reading of the Old and New Testaments, and through interactions with true believers like yourself.

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