God Is the Best Explanation of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life

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The Ancient Greek philosophers devoted countless thoughts to the order that pervades the universe, such a place as Plato’s academy spent much time dwelling on such questions.

Plato stated that there are two things that lead men to believe in God: the argument from the existence of the soul, and the argument “from the order of the motion of the stars, and of all things under the dominion of the Mind which ordered the universe” (Laws 12.966e). Plato employed these arguments to refute atheism and concluded that there must be a “best soul” who is the “Maker and Father of all,” the “King,” who ordered the primordial chaos into the rational cosmos that we observe today (Laws 10.893b–899c).

Also, Aristotle too was filled with wonder at the majestic skies above, without all this light pollution getting in the way. There one would wonder, what caused all this? Aristotle concluded that the cause was divine intelligence. He imagined the impact that the sight of the world would have upon a race of men who had lived underground and never beheld the sky:

In his Metaphysics, Aristotle went on to argue that there must be a First Uncaused Cause, which is God—a living, intelligent, immaterial, eternal, and most good being who is the source of order in the cosmos. 

To us, we believe there is a ringing connection in the statement by Paul to Rome:

“Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made”

Romans 1:20

From earliest times men have concluded on the basis of the design in the universe that God must exist.

The Rebirth of Design

The assumption in science is, given enough time, intelligent life forms like ourselves would eventually evolve somewhere. However, as a result of discoveries over the last fifty years and more, we now know that that assumption was wrong. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Astronomers are in awe of the precise balance of the initial conditions present in the big bang itself to allow for the existence of intelligent life anywhere at all in the cosmos. This has come to be known as the fine-tuning of the universe for life. It has a level of complexity and delicacy that defies human comprehension which you’ll see as we get into some of the numbers. 

Two Kinds of Fine-Tuning

There are two kinds of fine-tuning. 

  1. Constants of nature
  2. Arbitrary physical quantities

Nature’s Constants

What is a constant? This is when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, you find appearing in them certain symbols that stand for unchanging quantities, like the electromagnetic force, the force of gravity, and the subatomic “weak” force. These unchanging quantities are called constants. The laws of nature do not determine the value of these constants. There could be universes governed by the same laws of nature even though these very constants had very varying values. The actual values of the various constants are not determined by nature’s laws. Depending on the values of those constants, universes governed by the same laws of nature will look very different.

Arbitrary Quantities

As well as these constants, there are these arbitrary quantities that are just put in as initial conditions on which the laws of nature operate. Because these quantities are arbitrary, they’re also not determined by the laws of nature. An example would be the amount of thermodynamic disorder (or entropy) in the early universe. It’s just given in the big bang as an initial condition, and the laws of nature then take over and guide how the universe will develop from there. If the initial quantities had been different, then the laws would predict that a different universe be be produced as a result.

Definition of “Fine-Tuning”

Another surprise to discover for scientists is that the constants and quantities described fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of values for the universe to be life permitting. This is what is meant by the fine-tuning of the universe for life.

Examples of Fine-Tuning

Fine-tuning in this neutral sense is uncontroversial and well established. We have many examples of fine-tuning (see the list later on)

Here’s a fun fact when it comes to fine tuning from the example of time. The number of seconds in the entire history of the universe is around 1017 (that’s 1 followed by seventeen zeroes: 100,000,000,000,000,000). The number of subatomic particles in the entire known universe is said to be around 1080 (1 followed by eighty zeroes). Such numbers are so huge that they’re simply incomprehensible and some bigger numbers we’ll get to, are beyond writeable.

Bear in number these massive figures discussed so far, they’ll help as we go on.

The weak force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, which operates inside the nucleus of an atom, is so finely tuned that any alteration in its value by even one part out of 10100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe! Similarly, a change in the value of what is named the cosmological constant, which drives the acceleration of the universe’s expansion, by as little as one part in 10120 would have rendered the universe life-prohibiting.

Now when it comes to another example, the low-entropy state to which the universe began in, Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of that low-entropy state’s existing by chance alone has a value of one chance out of 1010 (to the power of 123), a number that is so inconceivable that I’d far exceed the character count for any word doc!

The fine-tuning here is beyond our comprehension. Having an accuracy of even one part out of 1060 is like firing a bullet toward the other side of the seen universe, twenty billion light-years away, and hitting a one-inch target! There are so many examples of fine-tuning that the advance of science isn’t likely to eradicate them. Fine-tuning is so well established it is just a fact, one all must accept unless they want to be left on the fringes of modern science.

Hugh Ross in his book Why the Universe Is the Way It Is details a list of the fine-tuning examples.

  1. Strong nuclear force constant
  2. Weak nuclear force constant
  3. Gravitational force constant
  4. Electromagnetic force constant
  5. Ratio of electromagnetic force constant to gravitational force constant
  6. Ratio of proton to electron mass
  7. Ratio of number of protons to number of electrons
  8. Ratio of proton to electron charge
  9. Expansion rate of the universe
  10. Mass density of the universe
  11. Baryon (proton and neutron) density of the universe
  12. Space energy or dark energy density of the universe
  13. Ratio of space energy density to mass density
  14. Entropy level of the universe
  15. Velocity of light
  16. Age of the universe
  17. Uniformity of radiation
  18. Homogeneity of the universe
  19. Average distance between galaxies
  20. Average distance between galaxy clusters
  21. Average distance between stars
  22. Average size and distribution of galaxy clusters
  23. density of giant galaxies during early cosmic history
  24. Electromagnetic fine structure constant
  25. Gravitational fine-structure constant
  26. Decay rate of protons
  27. Ground state energy level for helium-4
  28. Carbon-12 to oxygen-16 nuclear energy level ratio
  29. Decay rate for beryllium-8
  30. Ratio of neutron mass to proton mass
  31. Initial excess of nucleons over antinucleons
  32. Polarity of the water molecule
  33. Epoch for peak in the number of hypernova eruptions
  34. Numbers and different kinds of hypernova eruptions
  35. Epoch for peak in the number of type I supernova eruptions
  36. Numbers and different kinds of type I supernova eruptions
  37. Epoch for peak in the number of type II supernova eruptions
  38. Numbers and different kinds of type II supernova eruptions
  39. Epoch for white dwarf binaries
  40. Density of white dwarf binaries
  41. Ratio of exotic matter to ordinary matter
  42. Number of effective dimensions in the early universe
  43. Number of effective dimensions in the present universe
  44. Mass values for the active neutrinos
  45. Number of different species of active neutrinos
  46. Number of active neutrinos in the universe
  47. Mass value for the sterile neutrino
  48. Number of sterile neutrinos in the universe
  49. Decay rates of exotic mass particles
  50. Magnitude of the temperature ripples in cosmic background radiation
  51. Size of the relativistic dilation factor
  52. Magnitude of the Heisenberg uncertainty
  53. Quantity of gas deposited into the deep 
  54. intergalactic medium by the first supernovae
  55. Positive nature of cosmic pressures
  56. Positive nature of cosmic energy densitie
  57. Density of quasars during early cosmic histor
  58. Decay rate of cold dark matter particle
  59. Relative abundances of different exotic mass particles
  60. Degree to which exotic matter self interacts
  61. Epoch at which the first stars (metal-free pop III stars) begin to for
  62. Epoch at which the first stars (metal-free pop III stars) cease to form
  63. Number density of metal-free pop III star
  64. Average mass of metal-free pop III stars
  65. Epoch for the formation of the first galaxie
  66. Epoch for the formation of the first quasar
  67. Amount, rate, and epoch of decay of embedded defects
  68. Ratio of warm exotic matter density to cold exotic matter density
  69. Ratio of hot exotic matter density to cold exotic matter density
  70. Level of quantization of the cosmic spacetime fabri
  71. Flatness of universe’s geometry
  72. Average rate of increase in galaxy sizes
  73. Change in average rate of increase in galaxy sizes throughout cosmic history
  74. Constancy of dark energy factors
  75. Epoch for star formation peak
  76. Location of exotic matter relative to ordinary matter
  77. Strength of primordial cosmic magnetic fiel
  78. Level of primordial magnetohydrodynamic turbulence
  79. Level of charge-parity violation
  80. Number of galaxies in the observable universe
  81. Polarization level of the cosmic background radiation
  82. Date for completion of second reionization event of the universe
  83. Date of subsidence of gamma-ray burst production
  84. Relative density of intermediate mass stars in the early history of the universe
  85. Water’s temperature of maximum density
  86. Water’s heat of fusion
  87. Water’s heat of vaporization
  88. Number density of clumpuscules (dense clouds of cold molecular hydrogen gas) in the universe
  89. Average mass of clumpuscules in the universe
  90. Location of clumpuscules in the universe
  91. Dioxygen’s kinetic oxidation rate of organic molecules
  92. Level of paramagnetic behavior in dioxygen
  93. Density of ultra-dwarf galaxies (or supermassive globular clusters) in the middle-aged universe
  94. Degree of space-time warping and twisting by general relativistic factors
  95. Percentage of the initial mass function of the universe made up of intermediate mass stars
  96. Strength of the cosmic primordial magnetic field
  97. Capacity of liquid water to form large-cluster anions
  98. Ratio of baryons in galaxies to baryons between galaxies
  99. Ratio of baryons in galaxy clusters to baryons in between galaxy cluster
  100. Rate at which the triple-alpha process (combining of three helium nuclei to make one carbon nucleus) runs inside the nuclear furnaces of stars
  101. Quantity of molecular hydrogen formed by the supernova eruptions of population III stars
  102. Epoch for the formation of the first population II (second generation) stars
  103. Percentage of the universe’s baryons that are processed by the first stars (population III stars)
  104. Ratio of ultra-dwarf galaxies to larger galaxies
  105. Constancy of the fine structure constants
  106. Constancy of the velocity of light
  107. Constancy of the magnetic permeability of free space
  108. Constancy of the electron-to-proton mass ratio
  109. Constancy of the gravitational constant
  110. Smoothness of the quantum foam of cosmic space
  111. Constancy of dark energy over cosmic history
  112. Mean temperature of exotic matter
  113. Minimum stable mass of exotic matter clumps
  114. Degree of Lorentz symmetry or integrity of Lorentz invariantce or level of symmetry of spacetime
  115. Nature of cosmic defects
  116. Number density of cosmic defects
  117. Average size of the largest cosmic structures in the universe
  118. Quantity of three-hydrogen molecules formed by the hypernova eruptions of population III stars
  119. Maximum size of an indigenous moon orbiting a planet
  120. Rate of growth in the average size of galaxies during the first five billion years of cosmic history
  121. Density of dwarf dark matter halos in the present-day universe
  122. Metallicity enrichment of intergalactic space by dwarf galaxies
  123. Average star formation rate throughout cosmic history for dwarf galaxies
  124. Epoch of rapid decline in the cosmic star formation rate
  125. Quantity of heavy elements infused into the intergalactic medium by dwarf galaxies during the first two billion years of cosmic history
  126. Quantity of heavy elements infused into the intergalactic medium by galactic superwinds during the first three billion years of cosmic history
  127. Average size of cosmic voids
  128. Number of cosmic voids per unit of cosmic space
  129. Percentage of the universe’s baryons that reside in the warm-hot intergalactic medium
  130. Halo occupation distribution (number of galaxies per unit of dark matter halo virial mass)
  131. Timing of the peak supernova eruption rate for population III stars (the universe’s first stars)
  132. Ratio of the number density of dark matter 
  133. subhalos to the number density dark matter halos in the present era universe
  134. Quantity of diffuse, large-grained intergalactic dust
  135. Radiometric decay rate for nickel-7
  136. Ratio of baryonic matter to exotic matter in dwarf galaxies
  137. Ratio of baryons in the intergalactic medium relative to baryons in the circumgalactic media
  138. Level of short-range interactions between protons and exotic dark matter particles
  139. Intergalactic photon density (or optical depth of the universe)
  140. High spin to low spin transition pressure for Fe++
  141. Average quantity of gas infused into the universe’s first star clusters
  142. Degree of suppression of dwarf galaxy formation by cosmic reionization

For more in-depth information check us Hugh Ross’ Why the Universe Is the Way It Is 

A Possible Objection and Its Answer

Hmm, perhaps if the constants and quantities were different, different life forms would evolve as a result? Well that underestimates the value of these constants and misunderstands the devastating ramifications that could happen if these values were changed.

When scientists say a universe is life-permitting, they’re not talking about just current forms of life. By “life” scientists just mean the property of organisms to take in food, extract energy from it, grow, adapt to their environment, and reproduce. Anything that can fulfill those functions counts as life, whatever form it might take. So in order for life, so defined, to exist, the constants and quantities of the universe have to be unbelievably fine-tuned. If there is no fine-tuning, there just would be no chemistry, potentially no planets and highly likely no life of any kind anywhere.

Another Objection and Its Answer

How about if the laws of nature were different? Would that be so bad? Well again, this would be a misunderstanding of what’s being addressed. We’re clueless about what would happen if there were different laws that governed nature. What we are concerned with are universes governed by the same laws of nature but with different values of the constants and arbitrary quantities. Because the laws are the same, we can determine what would happen if the constants and quantities were to be altered. Scientists know the results would be terrible and lifeless. Among universes governed by our laws of nature, there’s almost no chance that a randomly chosen universe would be life-permitting.

An Argument for Design

So the universe is fine-tuned for life, but what is the best explanation for fine-tuning?

Well people like myself and others would agree it was designed by a life-permitting intelligent designer. But this isn’t the only option on the table, there are two other options people hold to (well, really one, but there are two). The key to inferring that design is the best explanation will be eliminating these other two alternatives. 

What we will achieve here onwards Is this:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
  3. Therefore, it is due to design.

This is a logically valid argument whose conclusion follows necessarily from the two premises. So the only question is whether those premises are more plausibly true than false. So let’s look at them.

Premise 1: The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

The first premise, that the fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design, is unobjectionable because it just lists the three alternatives available for explaining the fine-tuning. Since we know the universe is fine-tuned and well established we merely need to introduce the argument. The fight is in the second premise. Are there other options? Not known to me or from what I’ve read but the more the merrier!

Premise 2: The fine-tuning is not due to physical necessity or chance.

Let’s examine the alternatives.

Physical Necessity?

According to the first alternative, physical necessity, the universe has to be life-permitting, it has no other choice. The constants and quantities must have the values they do, so that a life-prohibiting universe is physically impossible.

Physical Necessity isn’t really an option

Now on the face of it, this alternative seems implausible. It would require us to say that a life-prohibiting universe is a physical impossibility, only universes that produce life are possible. 

The constants we discussed earlier are not determined by the laws of nature. So why couldn’t they be different? Moreover, the arbitrary quantities are just boundary conditions on which the laws of nature operate. Nothing seems to make them necessary. This option has no proof, it’s just a bold proposition seen merely as an alternative.

A life-prohibiting universe is far more likely based on the establishment of the universes fine-tuning. Chance and Design are the only two games left in town.

Chance?

This view, which is where the debate usually is. This alternative would explain everything as a cosmic accident and we just got lucky with our constants and quantities—like winning a 100 slot machine with all your ducks in a row! What we take issue here is the chances of a life-permitting universe is so remote it becomes an unreasonable option 

(Elsewhere in a more in-depth case for fine-tuning, Stephen Meyer in Signature in the Cell describes chance not only as highly unlikely, but due to the existence of certain factors, the time for chance is incredibly limited to the tiniest of windows reducing it’s probability to zero)

The Improbability of a Life-Permitting Universe

Some have considered this topic pointless to speak of. We have one universe, thats just the way it is, end of discussion. So you can’t things like one out of every ten universes, for example, is life-permitting. 

But the following illustration from the physicist John Barrow clarifies the sense in which a life-permitting universe is improbable. 

  1. Take a sheet of paper and place upon it a red dot. That dot represents our universe.
  2. Now alter slightly one or more of the finely tuned constants and physical quantities that we’ve been discussing. As a result we have a description of another universe, which we can represent as a new dot in the neighborhood of the first. 
  3. If that new set of constants and quantities describes a life-permitting universe, make it a red dot
  4. if it describes a universe that is life-prohibiting, make it a blue dot. 
  5. Repeat the procedure over and over again until the sheet is filled with dots. 
  6. What you wind up with is a sea of blue with only a few pinpoints of red. 

That’s the sense in which it is overwhelmingly improbable that the universe should be life-permitting. There are just many more life-prohibiting universes in our local area of possible universes than there are life-permitting universes.

Lottery Illustrations

Sometimes people will appeal to the example of a lottery in order to justify the chance alternative. In a lottery where all the tickets are sold, it’s highly improbable that any single person should win, yet somebody has to win! It would be unjustified for the winner, whoever he may be, to say, “The odds against my winning were twenty million to one. And yet I won! The lottery must have been rigged!”

Now apply the same illustration to the universe, does it check out?  All the universes are equally improbable, but one of them, by chance, has to win. This is a misunderstanding but one we can clear up here. The argument for design is not trying to explain why this particular universe exists. Rather it’s trying to explain why a life-permitting universe exists. The lottery analogy was misconceived because it focused on why a particular person won, with the universe, you didn’t have to have a winner.

A more accurate analogy would be a lottery in which billions and billions and billions of white ping-pong balls were mixed together with just one black ping-pong ball, and you were told that one ball will be randomly selected out of the horde. If it’s black, you’ll be allowed to live; if it’s white, you’ll be shot.

You an observe that any particular ball that is randomly selected is equally improbable: No matter which ball rolls down the chute, the odds against that particular ball are fantastically improbable. But some ball must roll down the chute. This is the point illustrated by the first lottery analogy. That point,however, is irrelevant because we’re not trying to explain why this particular ball was picked.

The crucial point is that whichever ball rolls down the chute, it is overwhelmingly more probable that it will be white rather than black. Getting the black ball is no more improbable than getting any particular white ball. But it is incomprehensibly more probable that you will get a white ball instead of a black one. So if the black ball rolls down the chute, you certainly should suspect that the lottery was rigged to let you live.

So in the correct analogy, we’re not interested in why you got the particular ball you did. Rather we’re puzzled by why, against overwhelming odds, you got a life-permitting ball rather than a life-prohibiting ball. That question is just not addressed by saying, “Well, some ball had to be picked!” The stakes are higher.

So in the same way, some universe has to exist, but whichever universe exists, it is incomprehensibly more probable that it will be life-prohibiting rather than life-permitting. So we still need some explanation why a life-permitting universe exists.

Is an Explanation Needed?

There’s another line of reason propounded by sceptics of this view. It is the simple observation that no explanation is needed as to why we observe this life-permitting universe because it’s the only type we can observe. If the universe were not life-permitting, then we wouldn’t be here to ask about it. (This is known as the  Anthropic Principle, which says that we can observe only properties of the universe that are compatible with our existence.) 

There are severe problems with this line of reasoning. The fact that we can observe only a life permitting universe does nothing to eliminate the need of an explanation for why a life-permitting universe exists.

Firing squad illustration

You’ve been arrested for a crime you didn’t commit in a dangerous country and you’re dragged in front of a firing squad of 100 trained marksmen standing at point blank range. The command is given to fire, you hear the sound of gunshots inches away from you, aimed at you. But now, you observe that you are still alive. All of the one hundred marksmen missed! Now what would you conclude?

“Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they all missed! After all, if

they hadn’t all missed, I wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it! Nothing

more to be explained here!” That response would be ridiculous. It’s true you shouldn’t;’t be supposed that you don’t observe that you’re dead, since if you were dead, you wouldn’t be able to observe it! But you should still be surprised that you do observe that you’re alive, in light of the enormous improbability that all the marksmen would miss. Indeed, you’d probably conclude that they all missed on purpose, that the whole thing was a set up, engineered for some reason by someone. 

The Many Worlds Hypothesis

So anthropic principle theories don’t work on their own, but what if they are bound up with the many worlds hypothesis?

According to this hypothesis, our universe is one member of many in a world ensemble or “multiverse” of randomly ordered universes, preferably infinite in number. If all of these other universes really exist, then by chance alone life-permitting worlds will appear somewhere in the world ensemble. Since only finely tuned universes have observers in them, any observers existing in the world ensemble will naturally observe their worlds to be finely tuned. So no appeal to design is necessary to explain fine-tuning. It’s pure chance when there are so many chances for such a world to come into being.

First Response to the Many Worlds Hypothesis

One way to respond to the many worlds hypothesis would be to show that the multiverse itself also involves fine-tuning. For in order to be scientifically credible, some plausible mechanism must be suggested for generating the many worlds. But if the many worlds hypothesis is to be successful in attributing finetuning to chance alone, then the mechanism that generates the many worlds had better not be fine-tuned itself! If it is, then you go a step backwards and wonder who finetuned the multiverse “generator”? 

Second Response to the Many Worlds Hypothesis

Why think that a world ensemble actually exists? If you have read the section on the Kalam cosmological argument you will know that even the multiverse must of had a beginning and falls prey to the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem— it needs a creative process at the beginning. So the BVG, Kalam cosmological argument as well as Leibnitz’s Contingency argument stand at odds with the multiverse.

Third Response to the Many Worlds Hypothesis

The invasion of the Boltzmann brains! This objection also turns up in the Kalam Cosmological argument case. What made Boltzmann’s hypothesis fall apart was the fact that if our world is just a random member of a world ensemble, then it’s highly more probable that we should be observing a much smaller region of order. So there is also a parallel problem faces the many worlds hypothesis as an explanation of cosmic fine-tuning.

Roger Penrose has pressed this objection firmly. He points out that the odds of our universe’s initial low-entropy condition’s existing by chance alone are one chance out of 1010 (to the power of 123,that’s a tiny 123 above the little 10! I just can’t type that out so I will put them in brackets). By contrast the odds of our solar system’s suddenly forming by the random collision of particles is one chance out of 1010 (to the power of 60). This number Penrose clarifies is ridiculously small in comparison with 1010 (to the power of 123). What this all means is that it is far more likely that we should be observing an orderly universe no larger than our own solar system, since a world of that size is unfathomably more probable than a fine-tuned universe we inhibit.

Illusionism

There’s also another real problem with this related to the Boltzmann brain. Carried to its logical extreme would lead to illusionism (the world appearing as a illusion). The most probable observable universe is one that consists of a single brain that pops into existence by a random fluctuation with illusory perceptions of the orderly cosmos! So if you accept the many worlds hypothesis, you’re obligated to believe that you are all that exists and that this book, your body, the earth, and everything you perceive in the world are just illusions. When I was an atheist I went through a period of this possibility as an option but came to the conclusion that not only was it unliveable, but there just appeared to be nothing to ground this view.

If you want to be considered rational and sane, it’s advised avoiding the world of the Boltzmann Brain. 

So in atheism it would be highly improbable that there exists a randomly ordered world ensemble. Ironically, the best hope for a multiverse is that God created it, ordered it’s worlds, perhaps setup the multiverse generator. Under this, God could give preference to observable world and those that are cosmically fine-tuned. So the multiverse needs God to succeed!

And those were the chance defeaters, defeated. Physical necessity nor chance  provides a good explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe.

Design: Dawkins’ Objection

So is design the best option? Or is it equally flawed? Well, lets see what Dawkins has to say!

Well, who designed the designer? This is what we get from Richard Dawkins and he calls it “the central argument of my book” in The God Delusion. He summarizes his argument as follows:

  1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.
  2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself.
  3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.
  4. The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.
  5. We don’t have an equivalent explanation for physics.
  6. We should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.

Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist.

Invalidity of Dawkins’ Argument: The Conclusion Doesn’t Follow

Dawkins’ argument is jarring because the atheistic conclusion, “Therefore, God almost certainly does not exist,” doesn’t follow from the six previous statements even if we concede that each of them were true. No rules of logic would allow this “leap”. Dawkins’ argument is plainly invalid.

The only thing that follows would be that we should not infer God’s existence on the basis of the appearance of design in the universe if his premises held up. This conclusion is quite compatible with God’s existence and even with our justifiably believing in God’s existence. Maybe we should believe in God on the basis of the cosmological argument or the moral argument. Maybe our belief in God isn’t based on arguments at all but is grounded in religious experience or in divine revelation. The point is that rejecting design arguments for God’s existence does nothing to prove that atheism is true or that belief in God is unjustified. Dawkins’ lack of philosophical depth is plainly on display here. If we had 100 arguments and 12 was invalid, that doesn’t mean the other 99 are ruled out.

Falsity of Dawkins’ Premises

But does Dawkins case even undermine the design argument? No. Many of the steps in his argument have serious issue, it’s hard to concede them more than bullet points than an actual philosophical syllogism. Step 5 refers to the cosmic fine-tuning that has been the focus of our discussion. Dawkins has nothing by way of explanation for it, and therefore the hope expressed in step 6 represents nothing more than the faith of a naturalist.

Also consider step 3. Dawkins’ claim here is that we are not justified in inferring design as the best explanation of the complex order of the universe because then a new problem arises: Who designed the designer?

First Problem with Step 3: You Don’t Need to Explain the Explanation

There are two reasons why this claim is flawed. The first being that in order to recognise the best explanation you don’t need to have an explanation for that explanation. This is a 101 in philosophy of science. If archaeologists digging in the earth were to discover things looking like arrowheads and pottery shards, they would be justified in inferring that these artifacts are not the chance result of sedimentation and metamorphosis, but products of some unknown group of people, even though they had no explanation of who these people were or where they came from. The same would apply if you got to Mars or the moon and found a mars rover, you would infer intelligent life put it there and not the chance result of erosion and combining of materials in a particular way without intervention. 

This position would actually lead to an infinite regress of questions. Before any explanation could be acceptable, you’d need an explanation of it, and then an explanation of the explanation of the explanation, and so on until you got bored…

Whether the Designer has an explanation can simply be left an open question for future inquiry and not dealt with here in this equation.

Second Problem with Step 3: God Is Remarkably Simple

Dawkins also thinks that in the case of a divine Designer of the universe, the Designer is just as complex as the thing to be explained, so that no explanatory advance is made. This brings up the role of simplicity. There are many other factors other than simplicity that scientists weigh in determining which explanation is the best, such as explanatory power, explanatory scope, etc. An explanation that has broader explanatory scope may be less simple than a rival explanation but still be preferred because it explains more things. Simplicity is not the only, or even most important, criterion for assessing theories.

But you don;’t need to worry about wrapping your head around these standards, there;’s a simpler solution. Dawkins problem lies in the assumption that a divine Designer is just as complex as the universe. This just is false as philosopher William Lane Craig in On Guard puts it:

“As a pure mind without a body, God is a remarkably simple entity. A mind (or soul) is not a physical object composed of parts. In contrast to the contingent and variegated universe with all its inexplicable constants and quantities, a divine mind is startlingly simple. Certainly such a mind may have complex ideas—it may be thinking, for example, of the infinitesimal calculus—but the mind itself is a remarkably simple, spiritual entity. Dawkins has evidently confused a mind’s ideas, which may, indeed, be complex, with a mind itself, which is an incredibly simple entity. Therefore, postulating a divine mind behind the universe most definitely does represent an advance in simplicity, for whatever that’s worth”.

William Lane Craig, On Guard

I think we can conclude this is a bad argument that sounded right to Dawkins but in the end isn’t logical, nor correct and makes false conclusions.

Conclusion

With the alternatives removed and design surviving the trial of Dawkins, we can safely conclude that design is the best explanation for God’s existence and this argument flows well with the Contingency and Kalam Cosmological argument. Once these are in place I think to discuss and deploy the moral argument would be great as it works as a standalone but very well if you’ve established an intelligent designer.

Sources

1. Roger Penrose, The Road to Reality (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005) 762–5.

2. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 157–8.

Resources 

Here are a list of resources to aid you on your quest to grapple with the simple (but also complex) argument. Many of these are listed at my website 1c15.co.uk.

Videos

Stephen Meyer | Fine-Tuning and the Origin of the Universe

Stephen Meyer| DNA and Information

Jay Richards | The Privileged Planet

Bijan Nemati | Rare Earth

Fine-Tuning the Universe | Robin Collins

Richard Dawkins and the Teleological argument for God | William Lane Craig

Answering Objections to the Fine-Tuning Argument with Dr. Robin Collins and Dr. Josh Rasmussen

Cosmic fine tuning, the anthropic principle and the multiverse | Joshua Moritz

Refuting weak anthropic principle arguments (short)

On the Origin and Design of the Universe | Michael Strauss

Podcasts

The Existence of God (Fine Tuning)

Many Worlds and Boltzmann Brains

Michael Strauss Takes on Hawking and Mloldinow

Is the Multiverse Dead?

Questions on the Soul, Fine Tuning, and a Maximally Great Being

Have We Reached the End of Physics?

Are Humans the Center of the Universe?

Is the Watchmaker Argument Still Valid?

Scientific American on Multi-Verses

Some Questions About Design

YouTube Channels: 

Dr Craig Videos

Reasonable Faith

Reasons To Believe

Books

On Guard

The Creator and the Cosmos

Reasonable Faith

Blackwell Companion to Natural theology

Why The Universe Is The Way It Is

Websites

ReasonableFaith

Reasons To Believe

Michael Strauss

Films

Lee Strobel: The Case For A Creator

The Privileged Planet

Debates

Luke Barnes and Alex Malpass Discuss The Fine-Tuning Argument for God

Atheist Sean Carroll vs. Theist Luke Barnes: Does God or Science Better Explain Fine-Tuning?

Debate: Materialism & Theism – Do Fine-Tuning Arguments Succeed?

Fine Tuning of the Universe – Dr. Robin Collins vs Dr. Peter Millican

Articles

The Grand Design – Truth or Fiction?

New atheism and five arguments for God

Barrow and Tipler on the Anthropic principle vs Divine design

The Teleological argument and the Anthropic principle

Why God Exists | Fine-tuning, Beauty, and Discoverability

Podcasts

The Existence of God (Fine Tuning)

Many Worlds and Boltzmann Brains

Michael Strauss Takes on Hawking and Mloldinow

Is the Multiverse Dead?

Questions on the Soul, Fine Tuning, and a Maximally Great Being

Have We Reached the End of Physics?

Are Humans the Center of the Universe?

Is the Watchmaker Argument Still Valid?

Scientific American on Multi-Verses

Some Questions About Design

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