Six items appear below:

1 ID, Evolution and the Existence of God 126
K Straughen
2 Fine-Tuning of the Universe 127
K Rogers
3 Intelligent Design — A Reply to Kevin Rogers 129
K Straughen
4 Teleological Argument – Reply to Straughen 130
K Rogers
5 Teleological Argument – A Final Reply 131
K Straughen
6 Fine-Tuning Argument – 2nd Reply to Straughen 132
K Rogers
 



ID, Evolution and the Existence of God

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 126, 2009 May)


Introduction

Creationists claim that certain biological structures possess degrees of complexity that cannot be accounted for by natural evolutionary processes, and the only alternative explanation is that these structures — the human eye, for example — have been designed outside the province of the natural realm.

This assertion, called Intelligent Design (ID) by creationists is, in essence, a version of what philosophers call the Teleological Argument, which basically claims that order and complexity in nature necessitates the existence of a designer — namely God.

The purpose of this article is to examine the belief that ID can provide us with a satisfactory, alternative explanation as to the origin of complex biological structures.


The Weakness of the Teleological Argument

William Paley (1743-1805), an Anglican clergyman and philosopher, was an eloquent expounder of the Teleological Argument. In his treatise Natural Theology — Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature (1802), he argues that if we found a watch upon the ground we would know by its complexity and precision of design that an intelligence was responsible for its construction. He then goes on to argue that nature, which is far greater and more complex than a watch, must likewise be the product of an intelligence far superior to that of Man.

The problem with this kind of reasoning — whether we call it ID or the Teleological Argument — is that it is based on analogy, and it is never possible to argue by analogy:

A and B may be similar in seventeen different ways and these similarities may be observed, commented on and form the basis of interesting metaphors, but we can never go on to argue that because A has some property 'x', therefore B has it too. (Emmet, E.R. The Use of Reason, page 165)

Therefore, we cannot argue that because there is some similarity between the order and complexity we find in a watch and the order and complexity we find in nature, and that because the watch is the product of intelligent design that nature must also be the product of intelligent design.


Moreover, such analogies are imperfect to begin with as the philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776), pointed out in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779). His criticisms can be summarised as follows:
The universe is analogous less to an artefact by a designer than to a plant or animal which had parents of a like kind. Moreover, from a finite effect, infinite intelligence cannot be inferred. (Encyclopaedia International, Vol. 17, page 554)

Put simply, we know we must ascribe intelligent design to a watch because it bears the hallmarks of human manufacture. These characteristics, however, do not apply to naturally occurring entities, be they plants, animals or stars (if the world was powered by clockwork mechanisms, it might). Therefore, it does not follow that we can conclude complexity in nature is due to intelligent design.

Another concept related to the Teleological Argument is the Anthropic Principle — the idea that nature is somehow arranged for the benefit of humanity. For example, there are six mathematical values that are crucial for the existence of the universe as we know it:
•    The three dimensions of space
•    N - the ratio of gravity to electromagnetism
•    Epsilon - the ratio of mass lost to energy when hydrogen in stars fuses to helium
•    Omega - the total of dark matter in the universe
•    Lambda - the cosmological constant
•    Q - the scale of smoothness in the universe

If any of these six values is changed, then the very nature of the universe changes, and we end up with a different cosmos in which life as we know it cannot exist. However, does this prove the universe has somehow been designed with the intention of giving rise to human beings through natural processes?

To claim that it does is like the man who wins the lottery, and concludes divine providence lies behind the random numbers that resulted in what for him is a fortuitous set of circumstances. Indeed, we may marvel at the fact of existence, but our existence as a species is no more foreordained than our existence as individuals.

Consider your own existence, for example, and all the factors that resulted in it. Firstly, your parents (out of all the possible people they could have met) fell in love with each other. Secondly, they made love (out of all the possible times they could have made love) at a certain time. Thirdly, out of all the possible sperm ejaculated (about 40 million) only one fertilized a certain egg. Now, change any of these parameters and you would still get a baby, but it wouldn't be you.

A similar situation applies to the universe — change say, omega, and you would still get a universe, just not the one we inhabit. As the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) pointed out — the assumed purposive action of nature may merely be an illusion arising from the way in which humans describe the universe in terms of their own actions.

Finally, the central weakness of all supernatural explanations is they can explain anything and therefore, paradoxically, can explain nothing:
For since, by definition, nothing is outside the power of the supernatural, any kind of universe and any kind of fact within the universe can be attributed to its will and explained as an effect of its action. But a theory which can explain anything, explains nothing. Since everything can serve as evidence for it, nothing in particular can. (Randall, J.R. & Buchler, J: Philosophy, An Introduction, page 178)


The Eye — Evidence for Evolution

Evolution works by gradual degrees. Mutations occur, and if any slight change confers some advantage to the organism it will be preserved by natural selection and passed on to future generations. The first light sensitive organs were not eyes as we know them, merely eyespots (similar to those of contemporary flatworms) sensitive to light. These arose in marine invertebrates evolving between 600 and 1000 million years ago.

In primitive animals, including all invertebrates, the site of light-sensitive cells is on the outer surface of the outer layer or epidermis, which is, of course, where rays of light first impinge on the animal. This is also where pigment-cells are found. In addition, the outermost layer of cells gives rise to two other types of tissue that are intimately involved in the production of an eye: nerve cells and nerve-fibres that transmit nervous impulses, and black melanin pigment, which is opaque to light. Transparent cells, or secretions of cells of a convex or spherical shape, form simple lenses that can concentrate the rays of light. Lenses are found even in one-celled organisms. (De Beer, Sir G.: Atlas of Evolution, page 105)

A continuum of photosensitive organs can be found in the animal kingdom. In their simplest form, photosensitive receptors act as registers of light, and in a slightly more advanced state, of movement. Finally, they are capable of vision as we understand the term.

Among the most primitive would be the lancelets, where light sensitive cells lie on the inner edge of the organism's neural tube. Slightly more complex photosensitive organs are found in the larvae of ascidians, where the eye is developed out of the foremost part of the neural tube. The eye of the organism is composed of a number of photosensitive cells arranged in a cup shaped layer, which contains three vesicular cells forming a lens. More complex still are the paired eyes of lampreys, which are lateral outgrowths from the wall of the brain.

It is from the simple physiology of these kinds of early organism, as outlined above, that more complex eyes arose through the process of evolution adding ever increasing layers of complexity to pre-existing structures, such as the neural tube. Finally, the anatomy of the eye itself demonstrates that, rather than being designed by a supernatural engineer, it evolved through non-conscious natural processes.

The most famous flaw is found in vertebrate eyes. Their light-sensing structure, the retina, is wired up back-to-front, with the light-sensitive cells behind the nerves and blood vessels that support it. Not only does light have to pass through this layer first, obscuring the image, but the nerves and blood vessels have to dive through the retina, creating a blind spot in each eye.

In cephalopods, such as squid and octopuses, the eyes are built the "right" way around, so why not in vertebrates too? The answer is that when eyes first evolved in the ancestors of modern vertebrates, the retina arose from an infolding of the developing brain, and the cells that could form light receptors happened to end up on the inside of this fold. "Once you have done something like this it's very hard to change," says Michael Land, a specialist in eye physiology at the University of Sussex, UK.

As always, evolution has made the best of a bad job. Vertebrates have a number of adaptations to compensate for the ancestral blunder. One is the fovea in primates, a patch of retina where the nerves and blood vessels are swept aside and which is jam-packed with light receptors. This has to be kept small to ensure it gets enough oxygen, giving us fuzzy peripheral vision but sharp central vision. "The cephalopod eye is not as good as ours," says Land. But again, birds have outdone us, eliminating most blood vessels from the retina thanks to a structure called the pecten. This means that the animal with the sharpest eyesight of all is the hawk. (Ainsworth, C. & Le Page, M. p. 38)


What Would Organisms Look Like if Designed?

If God created life as a potter moulds clay, then what would it look like? Obviously, the Divine Artificer would not be constrained by evolution, and could give free reign to its creative talents, populating the world with chimeras like those found in a Medieval bestiary.

The discovery of a mammal-bird hybrid, could also disprove evolution. There are animals with a mixture of mammalian and reptilian features - such as the spiny anteater - and there are fossils with a mixture of bird and reptilian features, such as the toothy archaeopteryx. But no animals have a mixture of mammalian and bird features. This is exactly what you would expect if birds and mammals evolved from separate groups of reptiles, whereas there is no reason why a "designer" would not have mixed up these features, creating mammals with feathers and bird-like lungs, or furry, breastfeeding ostriches. (Le Page, M. p. 26)

If life was a product of design rather than evolution, then organisms of similar appearance could have radically different physiologies, just as LCD and plasma TV screens, although performing the same function, do so in very different ways.

If each species was a unique creation, then each could be utterly different in terms of their internal workings. Genomic research, however, has revealed that all organisms function in essentially the same way, using the same biological molecules to store and translate genetic information, with only a few minor variations in the most primitive forms of life. This is because all contemporary forms of life evolved through gradual stages from the very first organisms that established the chemical basis of life approximately 3.5 billion years ago.


Conclusion

The testimony of nature does not support Intelligent Design. Instead, what we see is multiple streams of evidence clearly indicating life evolved by natural, non-conscious processes from primitive beginnings to the present day. It is entirely unnecessary to postulate the existence of a supernatural intelligence standing behind the cosmos and guiding its development. Indeed, such an idea is simply the remnant of a pre-scientific age that has outlived its usefulness as an explanatory concept, and therefore has no relevance to modern science.

Finally, there are two modes of reasoning we can adopt when attempting to elucidate the truth. The first is to reason in such a way that the evidence determines our conclusion. The second is to reason in such a way that our pre-existing beliefs determine the "evidence."

The first method is that of science, the second that of pseudoscience. The creationists, it seems, are attempting to find evidence for what they have already decided is the truth, and choose to ignore all which is unfavourable to their belief. As a consequence, they have become trapped in an intellectual dead end, and therefore cannot contribute to the growth of scientific knowledge. It is only by adopting the methods of science that we can gain an accurate understanding of our place in the universe, and how we came to be what we are.


Bibliography

Ainsworth, Claire & Le Page, Michael   Evolution's Greatest Mistakes, New Scientist, Vol. 195, No. 2616
Attenborough, David   Life on Earth, Fontana/Collins, 1986
De Beer, Sir Gavin   Atlas of Evolution, Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd., London, 1964
Emmet, E.R.  The Use of Reason, Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd, London, 1966
Le, Page, Michael   Evolution: A Guide for the Not-yet Perplexed, New Scientist, Vol. 198, No. 2652
Randall, John & Buchler, Justus Philosophy: An Introduction, Barnes & Noble, New York, 1959
Williams, Robyn   Unintelligent Design, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, 2006
Encyclopedia International, Grolier Inc., New York, 1972.







FINE-TUNING of the UNIVERSE

Kevin Rogers

(Investigator 127, 2009 July)

Introduction

In "ID, Evolution and God" (#126) Kirk Straughen lumped together the Teleological Argument, Intelligent Design (ID), Evolution, and their bearing on the existence of God. In this response, I intend to separate out the Teleological Argument from ID, as they are distinct issues.

Modern forms of the Teleological Argument are based on:

a)    The fine tuning of the constants in the laws of physics, and
b)    The fine tuning of the initial conditions in the Big Bang.

This fine tuning is required for the universe to generate what Paul Davies calls "interesting outcomes", such as galaxies, stars, planets, atoms, molecules and you and me. This fine tuning is sometimes called the "Goldilocks Effect": the universe is "just right" for supporting life of any kind. Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson put it this way: "The universe somehow knew we were coming". If there was no fine tuning then the universe would be sterile. There would be no life, let alone intelligent life, and no observers.

The form of the Teleological Argument as proposed by philosophers, such as William Lane Craig, can be summarised as a syllogism (two premises and a conclusion) as follows:

a)    The fine tuning of the constants in the laws of physics and the Big Bang initial conditions are due to Law, Chance or Design.
b)    The fine tuning is not due to Law or Chance.
c)    Therefore it is due to design.


Creationism and ID

Those who promote the fine tuning argument are usually not creationists or followers of ID. Creationists substantially reject evolutionary theory. ID challenges some aspects of evolutionary theory, claiming that evolutionary theory cannot explain some forms of life that are "irreducibly complex".

The fine-tuning argument is distinct from Creationism and ID. The fine tuning argument considers the origin of atoms and molecules that are the precursor for life and bypasses arguments about the origin and development of life.


Fine Tuning Background

Kirk discussed the Anthropic Principle. This is an ambiguous term, but Kirk defines it to mean "that nature is somehow arranged for the benefit of humanity". This is the same as the fine tuning argument.

The initial investigations on fine tuning were performed by Brandon Carter. Following this, a key book on this issue was, "The Cosmological Anthropic Principal" by Barrow and Tipler. Another more accessible book on this subject is "The Fire in the Equations" by Kitty Ferguson. Paul Davies also discusses this issue in a number of his books, especially "The Goldilocks Enigma" and "The Cosmic Jackpot".

Kirk claimed that there are six mathematical values that are crucial to the universe as we know it. The items that he listed are correct, but incomplete. In fact there are at least 12 physical constants that are crucial to life of any form plus a similar number of values for the Big Bang initial conditions. I will illustrate the fine tuning from a couple of examples that Kirk did not mention:
a)    The strong nuclear force allows large atomic nuclei to exist. It does not obey the inverse square law, but only acts at short distances like superglue. It is 1040 times stronger than the gravitational force, yet it is just at the right value to overcome the electrostatic repulsive force between protons. If it was 3% weaker then all matter would be hydrogen. If it was 9% stronger then all matter would be helium. It is a mystery why the strong nuclear force exists at all, let alone that its value is just right, but we should thank our lucky stars that it is as it is. Even the stars are lucky as otherwise they would not exist either. So this fine tuning between the strong nuclear force and the electrostatic force enables the existence of the 100 or so elements in the atomic table.

b)    The fine structure constant is the ratio between photonic energy and electrostatic energy. This is finely tuned to allow the formation of large molecules, such as DNA.

These two quantities are finely tuned to allow the existence of a wide range of atoms and molecules, which are necessary for the existence of stars, galaxies, planets and any form of life.


Law

Some have suggested that the physical constants are prescribed due to an underlying Theory Of Everything (TOE). In other words, the physical constants are not arbitrary, but cannot be other than they are. However, this is not the case. String theorists, such as Stephen Hawking, have claimed that the physical constants are not constrained by a TOE. Besides this, the initial conditions in the Big Bang are also un-prescribed. So, the fine tuning cannot be due to Law.


Chance

Could the fine tuning be due to chance?

Like all atheists who attempt to rationalize this phenomenon, Kirk does not quantify the problem. If he did, it would be immediately evident how ridiculous his arguments are. Cosmologist Roger Penrose has estimated that the probability that a random universe would be life-permitting is 1 in N, where N is 1 followed by 10123 zeros. This is a bizarre number, considering that there are approximately 1080 atoms in the observable universe. The fine tuning greatly disturbed the famous, atheistic physicist, Fred Hoyle. He claimed, "Someone has been monkeying with the laws of physics," and, "The universe is a put up job." (Page 111 of "There is a God", by Antony Flew)

So, if there is only this one universe, it cannot be due to chance.

There have been various attempts to avoid the obvious conclusion that the universe is designed by a designer. The most popular is the multi-verse scenario as proposed by Andrei Linde. He proposes that there is an inflating super universe that spawns an infinite number of child universes in isolated bubbles. The argument proposes that we live in one of the lucky universes that can support life.

This proposal has the following problems:
a)    There is no evidence for it.
b)    It is virtually un-testable as we cannot observe the other universes.
c)    The inflation of the super-universe has to be finely tuned, and so it does not solve the fine tuning problem. It just pushes it back one level.
d)    Paul Davies and others argue that if there were an infinite number of orthogonal universes, then we should expect this universe to be radically different from what it is.

Kirk's Objections

Kirk provided the following objections to the teleological argument:
a)    Paley's watchmaker argument is an argument from analogy and "it is never possible to argue by analogy".
b)    We may just be lucky.
c)    Infinite intelligence cannot be inferred from a finite effect.
d)    Supernatural explanations can explain anything and therefore explain nothing.

Paley's argument was by analogy. Kirk is right in this and the watchmaker argument has been subject to considerable criticism. Paley's argument was mainly based on perceived design in living structures, and this has since been challenged by Darwinism. However, the form of the teleological argument given in my introduction is not an analogical argument. It is a logical, inductive argument. To refute the argument, you have to show that either premise 1 or premise 2 is untrue.

Analogies do have their use. They are a communication aid. The analogy may be valid or invalid. Kirk also argued by analogy himself when he spoke about the man who won a lottery. Kirk's analogy suggested that, just like a man who wins a lottery, we may have just been lucky and we should not infer divine providence. However, Kirk's analogy is invalid. In a lottery it is highly probable that there is a winner and so we should not be surprised if someone wins the lottery even though it was improbable for the specific individual. However, for a random universe it is highly improbable that there will be any winners unless the cards have been stacked in our favour. Given the improbability that a random universe could be life-permitting, luck is not a realistic option.

Kirk claims that infinite intelligence cannot be inferred from a finite effect. This may be true. However, we can still infer intelligence (whether finite or infinite) from a finite effect as the designer of the universe; and this is sufficient to discredit the atheistic hypothesis.

Kirk claims that supernatural explanations can explain anything and therefore explain nothing. There are two problems with this objection:
a)    The initial premise is wrong. Kirk goes on to argue that God must be a defective designer. This opens up a Pandora's box and there isn't space to address it, but it does illustrate that at least Kirk believes that supernatural explanations cannot explain anything.

b)    The conclusion does not follow from the initial premise. Let's accept the conclusion for the moment and see where it leads. Should this throw us into the arms of the alternative? Atheism is not able to provide any answer for the fine-tuning at all. Which is preferable? Should we choose a hypothesis that can explain the evidence or one that can't?

Conclusion

The physics on which the fine-tuning argument is based is well-established and widely recognised, and provides the basis for a compelling argument for theism.

Thus Paul Davies claims, "Science is based on the assumption that the universe is thoroughly rational and logical at all levels. Atheists claim that the laws of nature exist reasonlessly and the universe is ultimately absurd. As a scientist, I find this hard to accept. There must be an unchanging rational ground in which the logical, orderly nature of the universe is rooted."

I believe that the apostle Paul was right when he said, "God's eternal power and divine nature is clearly seen, being understood by what has been made" (Romans 1:20).








Intelligent Design — A Reply to Kevin Rogers

K. Straughen

(Investigator 129, 2009 September)


In his article (Investigator 127, page 54) Kevin Rogers claims that the fine tuning of the universe is not due to law or chance. Therefore, it is due to design (this is a paraphrasing of his syllogism). Is this a reasonable conclusion?

Before going any further, I'd like to make it clear that I respect Kevin's right to believe in God, and also apologize in advance if what I'm about to say offends him or anyone else. Having said this I'll now state my reasons for disagreeing with his conclusion.

An examination of the syllogism reveals some problems.
Firstly, the statement that "the fine tuning is not due to Law or Chance" remains a moot point.
Secondly, the syllogism presents us with a false dichotomy. It implicitly assumes that if current natural theories are proven to be deficient, then the supernatural alternative must be true by default. However, if current theories are found to be inadequate, then the only conclusion that can be validly reached is that further research is required.


My analogies concerning a man winning the lottery, and the birth of individuals remain valid. These analogies were not offered as proof, but were intended as examples of what could be called an argument by statistical incredulity — that people with a religious world view can find it difficult to conceive of the universe originating from non-conscious, natural processes.
To argue that "we were incredibly lucky it [our universe] was one that would produce us" is a trivial observation, for it could be said of any universe that it was equally lucky that it was the universe that came out of the pool of possibilities. The only difference is that humans are the lucky outcome in this case, and to argue that this makes this universe special over all [possible] others is not to argue a fact independent of human thought, but to state a value judgment, a judgment that naturally all humans would make about themselves. This may be a true value judgment, but it is a statement of value nonetheless, which exists only after the fact, and thus cannot relate to what caused our universe. Without positive evidence for a specific cause, as against a random one (assuming a random cause is possible in the first place), there is no basis for concluding the cause of this universe was not random.
Carrier, R: Response to James Hannam's 'In Defense of the Fine Tuning Design Argument':
www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/finetuning.html

The problem as I see it is this — all design arguments are based on the material world, seeking as they do to prove the existence of God by reference to aspects of nature. However, is this reasoning valid? Can we deduce the existence of the supernatural by reference to the natural?

Science endeavors to understand nature, broadly speaking, by finding relations of cause and effect between aspects of the material world. However, the supernatural (if it exists) is of an entirely different order. What deductions, if any, can be made about a hypothetical transcendental reality based on observations of nature?

I think the answer is none — the two modes of being are entirely different: Nature is the world of matter and energy open to investigation by the senses, whereas the supernatural is considered immaterial — the diametric of the reality we inhabit.

It is for this reason that we can't infer intelligence (whether finite or infinite) is responsible for the origin of the universe. Intelligence depends on matter — on the physical structure of the brain. Mental impairment resulting from brain injury proves that this is so. There is simply no evidence that intelligence can exist in a disembodied, immaterial form.

In order for supernatural explanations of cosmic origins to be necessary, all naturalistic explanations must be proven either logically impossible, or falsified by contrary evidence. And in order for any supernatural explanation to be substantially superior, all naturalistic explanations must be highly improbable, or the supernatural explanation must have considerably greater direct empirical evidence than all naturalistic explanations.

Are naturalistic explanations highly improbable? Let us consider the following argument for the affirmative and a criticism of it:
1. It is extremely implausible that living things could have come to exist by mere chance.
2. Living things exist.
3. Therefore, probably, living things did not come to exist by mere chance.
4. If living things did not come to exist by mere chance, then living things were designed.
5. Therefore, living things were designed.

Premise 1: It is very difficult to understand how this premise is justified. What is the basis for the claim that a chance-origination of living things is implausible? More significantly, why should it be any more plausible that a supernatural being exists who is responsible for the creation/design of living things?

Premises 2 and 3: Let us grant both of these.

Premise 4: There are good reasons to reject premise 4. This premise, in effect, says that there are only two possibilities for the origination of living things, viz., design, and mere chance. This is, however, a false dilemma.
Again, consider a snowflake. Snowflakes do not spring into being by mere chance — by a spontaneous "poofing" into existence ex nihilo. Rather, they arise as a result of the chemical and molecular properties of water as it freezes. Likewise, it may be that life arose as a result of the chemical and molecular properties of various naturally occurring substances. As various substances bonded together, they acquired new properties and therefore new and different ways in which they could interact and bond with other substances. Over millions or billions of years such combinations may have given rise to simple self-replicating structures, and eventually to DNA. Thus even if there was some chance involved in the genesis of living things, such chance need not have been mere chance — the possibilities were restricted by the objective (and law-like) properties of the chemicals and molecules in interaction with one another.
Sotnak, E: Analysis of the Teleological Argument:
www.infidels.org/library/modern/alex_matulich/why_i_believe/3_ apndx.html

As far as I can see, the atheistic hypothesis isn't damaged in any way by creationism. Besides, in my article I wasn't arguing that God does not exist. Rather, I was showing that the intelligent design argument is defective, and has no relevance to modern science. This is a separate issue altogether from whether God exists or not.

In order to prove the existence of God we need more than just philosophical arguments. What is required is sound empirical evidence of a direct nature. Such proof has not been forthcoming to date.

I don't believe in the existence of God for the same reason I don't believe in the existence of fairies namely, a lack of sound evidence that justifies an affirmative conclusion.

In the final analysis, the God of the design argument is a god of the gaps in human knowledge. There are many things science can't explain, perhaps never will explain. But when our knowledge and/or reason fail us are we justified in turning to the supernatural? I think not. For example, at one time people couldn't conceive in scientific terms of how the sun shone. For some cultures the answer was that the sun was a god who rode the heavens in a fiery chariot. Now we know, thanks to scientific research, that thermonuclear fusion makes the sun shine.

Despite what Kevin may say, supernatural explanations explain nothing. Ultimately, all supernatural explanations are based on faith (which is fine when confined to the sphere of religion). Science, however, requires empirical evidence, and the consensus of informed opinion among cosmologists is that the universe does not owe its existence to any supernatural causative agency. Indeed, when it comes to scientific theories, supernatural speculations are inadequate for the following reasons.

For various reasons, IDH [Intelligent Design Hypothesis] is an inadequate explanation. First, it does not tell us anything about the alleged intelligent designers of the universe except that they were intelligent and presumably had great power. That is certainly insufficient and there is apparently no way to gather more information about the matter, which makes IDH hopelessly incomplete. Second, no description whatever is supplied for how the designers did any creating or designing. The "modus operandi problem" is left completely unsolved. Third, nothing is provided regarding the motives of the designers. Sometimes it is suggested that they wanted there to be intelligent life. But, in that case, why should they wait billions of years for life to emerge, and billions more years for life to develop intelligence? And why should they make the universe so large in relation to the life on earth? None of that appears rational, at least from a human perspective, which is the only one we have.

Finally, no explanation is given for the origin of the designers. What good is it to introduce the concept of design if nothing at all is said about how the design came to be? It would be, at best, simply replacing one mystery by an even greater mystery. Our object here is explanation, not the introduction of new mysteries. Some say that there was just one designer and that it (or "he") was a "Necessary Being," which in some sense had to exist. But all that is exceedingly obscure. Many philosophers, myself included, have found the notion of "Necessary Being" incomprehensible. With all the defects, IDH is clearly inadequate as an explanation for anything, and that in itself is reason to reject FTA's [Fine Tuning Arguments] premise (P8) [that the fundamental physical constraints of our universe are due to God].

In putting IDH in place of the God Hypothesis, advocates of FTA may appear to have removed FTA from the debate between theism and atheism. Of course, that is not their intention. Usually they say that proof of God is a matter of "stages," where the first stage involves arguing for the existence of "intelligent design" and a second stage involves showing that the given design is the work of God as traditionally understood. Thus, although they would grant that the new FTA is strictly a first-stage argument, they would insist that it does have a bearing on the theism-atheism issue. In reply, I would certainly challenge the claim that the alleged "intelligent design" could ever be shown to be the work of the God of traditional theism. But aside from that, FTA can be refuted, even as a first-stage argument and that has been my aim here.
Drang, Theodore M.: The Fine-Tuning Argument Revisited (2000)
www.infidels.org/library/modern/theodore_drange/tuning-revisited.html

From what I can see, Kevin's beliefs are of a religious rather than scientific nature. There is nothing wrong with that. Religion, like art, is an aspect of human culture. However, religion must be based on faith, and faith alone. Any attempt to link science and religion will result in bad science and bad religion. Indeed, it is the separation of the supernatural from science that has advanced humanity.
So to large extent laws of nature are not laws of nature per se, but mathematical expressions of certain simplicities (symmetries) of space, time, etc. In other words, there are quantities (e.g. the origin of the coordinates for time and space, the identity of a specific electron) upon which nothing depends. Currently the search for the most fundamental law(s) and most fundamental object(s) of nature is synonymous with the search for the most general mathematical symmetry group that can be applied to the fundamental interactions...

Despite widespread lay belief that laws of nature are somehow "god-given," there is no scientific evidence of this, because practically all laws are either simply definitions, or statements of independence of anything on certain quantities like time, space, phase, etc — see laws and symmetry above.

In essence, modem science aims at minimal speculation about metaphysics, and laws of nature are the result. This results in spectacular efficiency of science both in explaining how universe works and in making our life better, longer and more interesting (via building effective shelters, transportation, communication and entertainment as well as helping to feed population, cure diseases, etc).
www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Physical-law#Origin_of_ laws_ of_nature

In view of all the above, I think it is fair to conclude that Kevin's case (the idea that we need a 'God Explanation') remains unproven.


Further Reading

Response to James Hannam's 'In Defense of the Fine Tuning Design Argument':
www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/finetuning.html

Analysis of the Teleological Argument:
www.infidels.org/library/modern/alex_matulich/why_i_believe/3_apndx.html

The Fine-Tuning Argument Revisited (2000)
www.infidels.org/library/modern/theodore_drange/tuning-revisited. html

Physical Laws
www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Physical-law#Origin_of_laws_of_ nature

The Anthropic Principle Does Not Support Supernaturalism
http://quasar.as.utexas.edu/anthropic.html

Does the Cosmos Show Evidence of Purpose?
www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Cosmo/anthro.skinq.html


 



The Teleological Argument – A Reply to Straughen

Kevin Rogers

(Investigator 130, 2010 January)


Introduction

"ID, Evolution and God" by Kirk Straughen was published in Investigator #126. In #127, I replied with the "Fine Tuning of the Universe" and in #129, Kirk responded with "Intelligent Design – A Reply to Kevin Rogers".

The reader (and Kirk) should not confuse the Intelligent Design (ID) movement with the Fine Tuning Argument (FTA). The ID movement is concerned with irreducible complexity in the development of living species. The FTA is concerned with the fine tuning of the laws of physics and the initial conditions in the Big-Bang. The ID movement is controversial, whereas the fine-tuning is well-established by physics research over the last 50 years.

This fine tuning is required for the universe to generate what Paul Davies calls "interesting outcomes"; the universe is "just right" for supporting life of any kind. If there was no fine tuning then the universe would be sterile. There would be no elements other than hydrogen or helium, no molecules, no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no life, and no observers.

The form of the Teleological Argument that I presented is based on the FTA:
a)    The fine tuning of the constants in the laws of physics and the Big Bang initial conditions are due to Law, Chance or Design.
b)    The fine tuning is not due to Law or Chance.
c)    Therefore it is due to design.

Kirk's critiques of this argument are:
a)    Premise 2 is a moot point, and
b)    The FTA offers us a "false dichotomy".


The False Dichotomy

Kirk stated that the FTA, "assumes that if current natural theories are proven to be deficient, then the supernatural alternative must be true by default. However, if current theories are found to be inadequate, then the only conclusion that can be validly reached is that further research is required."

I fully support further research. However, the above claim is not a logical statement. It rules out the supernatural by fiat. Why is "further research" the only valid alternative? Kirk does not say.

The conclusion in the FTA logically follows from the first 2 premises. If the argument is wrong, then at least one of these 2 premises must be false. If Kirk happens to be right and further research uncovers a naturalistic explanation for the fine tuning then at least one of the premises in the FTA must be wrong.

The FTA offers a true dichotomy, not a false one. Either the fine tuning was planned by a Designer or there exists a natural explanation of the fine tuning without recourse to design.


The Moot Point

Kirk's article is dominated by 3 long quotations from www.infidels.org.

Infidel # 1 – Richard Carrier

The essence of this quotation is:
a)    All universes are improbable, so it is no surprise that ours is too.
b)    Just because humans were the lucky outcome is a value judgement, even if true.
c)    To claim that this is a particularly lucky universe is mainly due to our elevated opinion of our own value.
d)    Since the outcome occurs after the cause of the universe, the outcome cannot relate to the cause.
e)    Without positive evidence for a specific cause, there is no reason to conclude that the cause was not random.

This is an attempt at claiming that the fine tuning is not so remarkable.

The 1st statement is correct.
The 2nd statement is also correct but is of no consequence.
The inference in the 3rd statement is somewhat warped. It demeans the wonder of this universe and the wonder of life.
The 4th statement is false. If God is the designer, then he would know the outcome of the initial cause.
The 5th statement is true. However, the fine tuning is massive evidence for a specific cause rather than a random cause.

Since we are into analogies, consider this one. Every poker hand that you are dealt is highly improbable. So, if you are dealt an improbable hand, then you should not be surprised. However, if you are dealt 4 Aces for ten hands in succession, then you are right to suspect that someone is stacking the deck. That is the situation we are in, but much more so.

The probability that the universe was life-permitting if the initial parameters were chosen by chance is approximately 1 in 10^(10123). This is the number l followed by 10123 zeroes. The probability for being initially dealt 4 aces in a poker hand is just over 1 in 50,000. If the universe was life-permitting by chance, then this is equivalent to being dealt 4 aces in a poker hand 2 x 10122 times in a row; on your first attempt!

The universe is a stacked deck. The fine tuning is far more plausibly explained if it was by design rather than occurring by chance. Former atheist Fred Hoyle stated, "The universe is a put up job" and, "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics."


Infidel #2 - Alex Matulich/Eric Sotnak

This article is about ID and creationism. It is irrelevant to the FTA and is not worth comment.


Infidel #3 – Theodore Drang

This is also primarily targeting ID. However, the main points are:
a)    The design argument does not tell us much about the designer.
b)    It does not tell us how the designer did it.
c)    It does not identify the designer's motives.
d)    Who designed the designer?
e)    Drang admits he doesn't understand the concept of a "necessary being".
f)    The FTA can be refuted.

Note that none of these arguments attempt to provide a natural explanation for the fine tuning. They are simply objections about the designer.

I agree with the first three points, but so what! "Natural revelation" tells us some limited things about God. The cosmological, teleological and moral arguments together tell us that God is the creator, eternal, timeless, personal, powerful, the designer and the source of objective moral values. However, we need to know more. The Bible is claimed to contain the record of God's special revelation to humanity climaxing in God Incarnate. The teleological argument is limited in its scope but it is still a good argument for a designer and gives us one strong reason to reject atheism.

If a designer is invoked to explain the fine tuning, then who designed the designer? However, an explanation does not require an explanation of the explanation. If an archaeologist discovers primitive tools, then he would normally presume that they had a human origin. If he does not know which tribe developed the tools, he does not therefore decide that the tools did not have a human origin. If we always required an explanation of the explanation then we would entail ourselves in an infinite regress.

Drang claims he has difficulty in understanding the concept of a "Necessary Being". Too bad for him. The Ontological Argument claims that a maximally perfect necessary being has to exist in all possible worlds. The Ontological Argument can wait till later, but a maximally perfect necessary being is the perfect candidate for the designer of the universe.

Drang claims the FTA can be refuted, but I did not spot any point where he did.


Kirk's Arguments

In addition, Kirk provided the following arguments:
a)    Science is the study of the natural world and so cannot make any inference about the super-natural.
b)    In order for supernatural explanations to be necessary, all naturalistic explanations must be falsified.
c)    To prove the existence of God we need more than a philosophical argument. We need empirical evidence, which has not been forthcoming.
d)    The design argument is a god of gaps argument.
e)    Kevin is religious rather than scientific. Religion must be based on faith alone.

The scientific method seeks to explain the world via natural causes. However, the scientific method does not inherently imply that the natural is a complete description of the world. By contrast, naturalism is a philosophy that believes that the natural world is all there is and that everything happens by natural causes. The scientific method has confirmed that the universe had a beginning and is extraordinarily finely tuned. Both of these factors cannot be explained via naturalism. Thus, the scientific method can be used to falsify naturalism by showing that naturalism is incomplete, incoherent or self-refuting. Thus we can make inferences about the existence of the supernatural as a result of using the scientific method.

Kirk says he will not accept a philosophical argument but wants evidence instead, which he claims is not forthcoming. This is interesting. Kirk has just claimed that science cannot be used as evidence for the supernatural. Now he says he needs evidence and that he can't get any. Some people are difficult to please. Kirk is wrong here on 2 counts:
a)    Philosophical arguments are based on logic. If a philosophical argument is correct, then a sensible person should believe it. A good argument can stand on its own.
b)    We do have evidence anyway. Kirk just doesn't want to recognise it.

The god of the gaps argument is not a law of physics, nor is it even a logical argument. It is more like a social commentary. Indeed science has provided explanations that formerly only had superstitious explanations. However, often the trend has gone the other way. Science has now confirmed that the universe had a beginning and that it is finely tuned. Neither of these facts can be explained by naturalism; so in some ways science has caused the god gaps to increase. The god of the gaps argument also suffers from Kirk's own critique. It can be used to explain anything, regardless of the evidence, and thus explains nothing.

Kirk claims that:
a)    My beliefs are religious rather than scientific, and
b)    Religion is based on faith alone.

Thus I presume my arguments can be automatically rejected as unscientific and irrational. In all of my arguments I use reason and evidence and do not rely on any religious authority. I believe I use the same tools of argument as Kirk claims to. The claim that religion is based on a non-rational faith is a stereotype that atheists love to promote. Kirk seems like a nice bloke but effectively his remarks are condescending and false.


Conclusion

Kirk's primary tool is to rig the rules of argument such that atheism is assumed true prior to considering any argument or evidence. He has attempted this by making the following claims:
a)    Where naturalism cannot explain the evidence, we are not allowed to consider the supernatural; we are only allowed to assume that a natural explanation will be found as the result of further research. Even if we cannot find that explanation, we must still believe that only a natural explanation exists, regardless of the evidence.
b)    Scientific evidence cannot be used to infer the supernatural and therefore there is no evidence for the supernatural.
c)    Philosophical arguments for the supernatural are insufficient and so can be ignored.
d)    Religious people base their arguments on faith. Thus their opinions need not be taken seriously.

These claims are ridiculous but are indeed what Kirk claimed.

The fine tuning is widely recognised within physics, astronomy and cosmology as a phenomenon that requires explanation. Kirk is trying to wriggle his way out and infer that it is not significant. The FTA is based on empirical evidence and logic. The fine tuning is evidence screaming in our faces, but the atheist shrugs and says, "Show me the evidence".

Kirk has not provided a naturalistic explanation for the fine tuning or addressed the quantitative probabilities. He has skirted around the FTA rather than face it. Ultimately his argument is the argument from ignorance. This is the ace up an atheist's sleeve when he has nothing in his hand. With the FTA they have no answer and meekly say, "I don't know, but one day we may find out".

Kirk claims I have not proven my case. On this we can agree. I have presented an argument, not a proof. There is little in this world that we can prove and we all make critical decisions based on less than certainty. Cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin has stated, "A wise man is convinced by a good argument, a fool requires a proof".







The Teleological Argument — A Final Reply

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 131, 2010 March)


I read Kevin's article in Investigator 130 (page 32) and am unable to agree with his claim that the existence of the fine tuning of the universe requires a supernatural explanation. However, before I go any further I would like to correct some misunderstandings that seem to have arisen.

First of all, if Kevin has found any of my remarks condescending, then naturally I apologize. They certainly weren't meant to be. I am not in the habit of deliberately setting out to insult or ridicule people's beliefs.

I don't think that Kevin is an irrational or deluded individual. I do, however, maintain that religion must be based of faith, and that he has simply dressed up his beliefs in scientific language. If the existence of God was capable of proof, then God would be just another mundane fact like the existence of London, Rome or Paris. I think there would be a loss of that numinous quality that is essential to religion — a sense of mystery, if you like.

Religion is like music or art. It can lift the individual out of their mundane existence and provide them with a mystical experience — an experience (which I consider to be purely psychological) of being immersed in something greater than themselves. Religion, like love, involves the emotions and appeals primarily to them.

Is religion irrational? It can be at times, but this doesn't necessarily make all aspects of it a bad thing. This might sound strange coming from an atheist. But when you think about it why should it be so? We are, in the end, regardless of our beliefs, human beings, and though I can't agree with Kevin I can appreciate his position and the fact that his beliefs are meaningful to him.

I don't share Kevin's beliefs because I really don't see any sound grounds for concluding that there is a God. Having said that, do I take Kevin's beliefs seriously? Of course I do. If I didn't I wouldn't bother offering him a reply or apologizing to him if I have inadvertently caused offence.

Having said that, I really don't think there is a necessary causal connection between God and the universe. Even if God exists it doesn't logically follow that God is the cause of the universe. The universe may very well have a cause other than God.

Indeed, I can't see any logical reason why God (if he exists) and the universe can't be entirely independent of each other.

Finally, I don't think there is much more that I can say that I haven't already said in my previous articles with regard to the fact that the supernatural has no place in modem cosmology. When looked at dispassionately, Kevin's arguments can't prove the existence of God, something that he admits (page 40). However, nor can his argument show God's existence is even probable let alone possible:

A Bayesian probabilistic discussion by mathematician Michael Ikeda and astronomer William H. Jefferys argues that the traditional reasoning about intelligent design from the presence of fine-tuning does not properly condition on the existence of life and is also based on an incorrect reversal of conditional probabilities: it is an example of the prosecutor's fallacy, which in this form erroneously claims that if fine¬tuning is rare in naturalistic universes, then a fine-tuned universe is unlikely to be naturalistic. (In this context, "naturalistic" is taken to be synonymous with "not intelligently designed".)

Ikeda and Jefferys offer a proof which, they argue, indicates one should in fact draw a conclusion opposite to the traditional reasoning: instead of implying intelligent design, the presence of fine-tuning actually argues against such design. Their proof hinges on the assumptions that

1.    our universe exists and contains life (L),
2.    our universe is "life friendly" (F), in that its conditions are compatible with life existing naturalistically, and
3.     life can exist in a "naturalistic" (N) universe only if that universe is "life-friendly" (N&L F: the Weak Anthropic Principle).


The Ikeda-Jefferys fine-tuning theorem states that, under these assumptions, the probability that our universe is naturalistic, given it contains life, is less than (or equal to) the probability that our universe is naturalistic, given that it contains life and is also fine-tuned — in probabilistic notation, P(N/L) ≤ P(N/L&F). In other words, the existence of fine tuning increases (or rather, cannot decrease) the probability that our universe is naturalistic, given that we already know it contains life. Thus, Ikeda and Jefferys argue ironically, supporters of intelligent design should try to prove that our universe is not fine-tuned. The philosopher of science Elliott Sober makes a similar argument.

The Ikeda-Jefferys argument arrives at a different conclusion from that of standard Cosmological Intelligent Design due to a differing assumption held by the two arguments concerning the nature of omnipotence. Cosmological Intelligent Design arguments assume that an intelligent designer has chosen to work through "natural" laws (which he can modify) while the Ikeda-Jefferys argument does not make this assumption. Thus the conclusion most Cosmological Intelligent Design arguments draw is that one should look for a low probability of randomness producing life-friendly conditions, and the Ikeda-Jefferys conclusion is that one should look for life that is not supported by natural law.

If the Ikeda-Jefferys argument holds the same assumptions as Cosmological Intelligent Design, fine-tuning provides no new information about the likelihood or unlikelihood of design; using the variables above, we would obtain P(N/L) = P(N/L&F), because we would have L  F: life could exist only in a life-friendly universe, regardless of how that universe came to be, or whether it was subject to continued divine intervention.

(Fine Tuned Universe, Article ID: 573880
http://infao5501.ag5.mpi-sb.mpg.de:8080/topx/archive?link=Wi kipedia-Lip6-2/573880.xml&style )

The fine tuning argument is a version of Intelligent Design, for it assumes that the universe's physical constraints are what they are because a supernatural intelligence designed them to be that way. Modem cosmology rejects the supernatural, not because of an opposition to the idea of God, but because it is a poor explanatory concept.

Kevin closes his reply with a quote from Vilenkin, which seems to suggest he considers an argument without any sound proof sufficiently convincing. Is this really so? I ask that my readers consider the following less emotive belief than the existence of God.

If a man comes to you and claims there are fairies at the bottom of his garden, are you being unreasonable when you ask him for proof? Furthermore, if the gentleman concerned is unable to provide you with proof that there are fairies at the bottom of his garden, then are you not being sensible in disbelieving him?

He may present you with all kinds of arguments. These arguments may even be logically consistent. In the end though, the only thing he has demonstrated is that he is capable of constructing an argument, and this is not the same as demonstrating that there are in fact fairies at the bottom of his garden.

Kevin may disagree with this. I respect his right to do so and wish him well in his endeavors to validate his beliefs.
 





The Fine-Tuning Argument  – 2nd Reply to Kirk Straughen

Kevin Rogers

(Investigator 132, 2010 May)

Introduction

In Investigator #131 Kirk provided his final reply on the fine tuning argument. This included an apology for any condescending remarks. Kirk, you are the most polite atheistic writer I have come across and a credit to your cause, and I take no offence.

God and Evidence

Kirk maintains that belief in God must be based on faith, as opposed to scientific evidence. However, this is not a scientific statement and he does not support it with evidence. I claim it is quite untrue.

While there may be many Christians who believe without much evidence, this is not in accordance with the New Testament: Luke was not an eye witness. However, in his prologue he claims that he conducted a careful investigation of written records and interviewed eye witnesses. He wrote an orderly account so that the reader could be certain of what happened. In Acts, he records the apostles as frequently claiming eyewitness testimony to Jesus' resurrection. The writer of the gospel of John claims to be a direct eyewitness. In 1 John he states, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life." Here John is making a direct appeal to the senses. Both writers appeal to evidence as a basis for belief. They did not expect their readers to take a blind leap.

In addition, the fine tuning argument has caused major philosophers and scientists to change their minds. Antony Flew was one of the most influential atheistic philosophers of the 20th century. However, in 2005 he announced that he now believes in God. This is in line with his commitment to "go where the evidence leads". Paul Davies is an eminent physicist and cosmologist. He has written many books covering the fine tuning of the laws of physics and the initial conditions in the Big Bang. The fine tuning has led him to believe in God. Neither of these men are Christians or adherents to any particular religion. However, they both believe that the scientific evidence points to the existence of God.

Modern Cosmology

Kirk claims that modern cosmology rejects the supernatural. This is not generally true. The accumulated evidence has increasingly indicated the difficulty of achieving a natural explanation for the fine-tuning. Many cosmologists and physicists believe in God and have not rejected the supernatural.
Kirk also doesn't think that there is any casual link between God and the universe. However, he has not suggested a plausible non-theistic cause of the universe.

The Ikeda-Jefferys Fine Tuning Theorem

About half of Kirk's article is a copy of an article from the web about the Ikeda- Jefferys fine tuning "theorem". The theorem is:
P(N/L) <= P(N/L&F).

This means that the probability of naturalism (N) being true given that life (L) exists is less than or equal to the probability that naturalism is true given both that the life exists (L) and that the universe is finely tuned (F). From this they then claim that the more the universe is finely tuned, the more likely it is that naturalism is true. This is effectively saying that the presence of design makes the existence of God less likely. Considering that traditionally atheists have argued that the absence of design makes the existence of God less likely, this should immediately raise alarm bells, and this suspicion is well justified. The derivation of the theorem is quite long-winded and I haven't checked it. I also strongly suspect that Kirk hasn't checked it. So, let's be generous and assume that the above theorem is true. There are still several problems with the argument.

The conclusion only follows if P(N/L) is less than P(N/L&F). If P(N/L) is equal to P(N/L&F) then the conclusion does not follow. However, the equality relationship is far more likely, as the fine tuning of the universe is a necessary precondition for life to exist.

In the original paper the authors argued that if life existed and the universe was not finely tuned then that would be more impressive evidence for the existence of God. However, this is complete nonsense. If the gravitational constant was slightly stronger, then soon after the Big Bang the universe would have quickly collapsed back into a black hole. If the nuclear force was slightly weaker, the only element in the universe would have been hydrogen. Both of these outcomes would have made any form of life impossible. According to the authors if God made life to appear if the universe was just a black hole or consisted entirely of hydrogen then this would have been more impressive evidence for His existence. This is like expecting God to create a square circle and is obviously ridiculous.

The argument does nothing to address the fact that P(N/L), P(N/F), P(L/N) and P(F/N) are all effectively zero due to the bizarre improbabilities associated with the necessary fine tuning occurring in a random universe. It essentially is an attempt to argue that one particular zero is greater than another zero and it certainly does not remove the original problem for the atheist.

Some of the above argument is a little technical, so consider the following analogy. The Skoda cars are produced by the Czech Republic. The original Skodas were pretty crude. However, according to the Ikeda-Jefferys argument we should conclude that a Skoda is more likely to be the product of a designer than a BMW because it is less finely tuned. This is clearly ridiculous. However, even though the original Skodas were not a brilliant design we should still conclude that both the Skoda and the BMW were designed by a designer rather than being the products of chance.

The original Ikeda-Jefferys article was posted on the web in 2006. It has never been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and for good reason. I have never even heard of it being used in a debate. It is obscure, counter-intuitive nonsense.

Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden

We both agree that the fine-tuning is an argument and not a proof.

However, I stated previously that there is very little in this life that we can prove, and that we make critical life choices based on less than certainty. Even science does not provide us with proof. Science is inductive. It can only falsify, but it cannot prove.

Kirk stated that he wanted more than an argument if someone claimed that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden. However, the existence of God should not be compared with the existence of fairies. The existence of God is a subject that is seriously debated by philosophers, whereas the existence of fairies or Santa Claus is not.

The possible explanations that have been given for the fine tuning are:
•    The universe was created and designed by God.
•    There are an infinite number of unobservable universes and we happen to live in one of the lucky ones.
•    Our universe just happened to be extraordinarily lucky.
•    Our universe was designed by aliens.
Which ones are the fairies?


Why isn't the Existence of God universally accepted?

If scientific evidence is relevant to the existence of God, then why isn't it accepted as a mundane fact?  Several comments that can be made.

Firstly, the existence of God is widely accepted. Atheism is comparatively rare. Unless you live in the godless city of Brighton in England, the overwhelming majority of people accept that the existence of a God of some sort is intuitively obvious. If you asked the man in the street why he believes in God, he will probably reply with something like, "Well, we had to come from somewhere". It may be naïve, but it is also quite valid.

It is Richard Swinburne's view that God maintains His "epistemic distance". He can be found if we seek him, but He is not "in our face" to such a degree as to be undeniable. This allows us room to make our choice.

The existence of God can be a highly emotive issue. This colours our interpretation of the evidence. For example Richard Dawkins would prefer to believe that our universe was created by aliens rather than God. It is difficult to expect complete consensus when there exist people with such extreme views. So, atheists generally do not believe in God simply because they do not want to.

Conclusion

The fine-tuning argument is quite simple. The physical constants for the laws of physics and the initial conditions in the Big Bang are extraordinarily finely tuned in such a way as to enable any form of possible life. The odds are too great to ascribe this to chance. To quote Fred Hoyle, "The universe looks like a put up job."

There is plenty of evidence for a Designer in other aspects of nature. However, the FTA has the following advantages:
•    Most of the fine-tuning can be confirmed by experiments and observations that can be performed in the here and now. We are not reliant on forensics or obscure interpretations of the past.
•    The effects of variations in physical parameters can be readily modelled mathematically.
•    The subject is relatively easy to understand compared with the life sciences.

Thus the conclusion that the universe is finely tuned is relatively uncontroversial.

In this dialogue Kirk has made no attempt to provide a naturalistic explanation for the fine tuning, nor has he addressed the quantitative improbabilities of a naturalistic explanation. He has simply raised invalid objections (mainly copied from the web) and I believe I have effectively addressed them all.

In the end, all Kirk has done is to repeat his unsupported assertion, such as, "I am unable to agree", "I maintain that religion must be based on faith" and "(Kevin) has simply dressed up his beliefs in scientific language". As far as I can see, the fine-tuning argument is valid and Kirk has not raised any plausible objections.

During this dialogue I have spoken about the fine tuning of the constants in the laws of physics and the fine tuning of the initial conditions in the Big Bang. One thing I have not mentioned is the very nature of the laws of physics themselves. Why does the strong nuclear force exist at all and why does it have such fortunate characteristics? The Pauli Exclusion Principle is absolutely necessary for anything interesting to happen.

The nature of the laws of physics is a source of wonder in itself. As theoretical physicist Paul Davies writes, "If nature is so 'clever' as to exploit mechanisms that amaze us with their ingenuity, is that not persuasive evidence for the existence of intelligent design behind the universe? If the world's finest minds can unravel only with difficulty the deeper workings of nature, how could it be supposed that those workings are merely a mindless accident, a product of blind chance?" (Superforce, pp. 235-36)


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