Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fine Tuning

I've been fascinated lately with thinking and reading about the origins of life (or "OOL" as my betters refer to it), and the fine tuning of the universe necessary to give rise to and/or support life. I think there isn't much argument about the fact that our universe is incredibly fine tuned. You certainly don't need to subscribe to ID (Intelligent Design) to accept that fact. In fact I'd guess about the only partaker in the origins arguments that don't need to make a big deal about fine tuning might be the YEC or OEC (Young/Old Earth Creationist) camp. I think some Theists, certainly some Christians, probably believe that God holds the universe and life together in some sort of magical/supernatural fashion which doesn't really need fine tuning, just lots of magic powers.

Just in case anyone wasn't sure, I am a Christian, and I do believe that God has lots of "magic" powers. I just happen to think that it's becoming abundantly evident (to me at least) that one of two things is true. Option one is that God created a universe and life in a literal Genesis 1 and 2 kind of way but gave it every appearance of being much much older than it really was, with every evidence that some sort of big bang happened, and with every evidence that some sort of really long evolutionary process gave rise to life via common descent. Option two is that God created a universe that actually began with some sort of big bang and actually did give rise to life through a really long evolutionary process via common descent.

Either option is equally plausible since God, being God, could pull off the deception in option one so well that it is indistinguishable from option two. You'd just have to wonder why he would do such a thing.

I like this clip of Richard Dawkins talking about fine tuning. I think his points are very good ones.

I think the most interesting thing about his remarks is that he summarily dismisses any sort of Theistic role in the origins of the universe and of life, stating that it can be quickly dismissed because it is just a regression and passes the origin question back up the line (who created God?). He also dismisses a science fiction theory that this is all some sort of "Second Life" simulation for the same reasons (who created the Programmer?). The theory he doesn't dismiss is the multiverse theory which, instead of falling prey to regression, seems to fall prey (to me at least) to infinite expansion.

This theory is a clever one in that it tries to remove the basis for the fundamental questions. It basically says: "fine, since you're always asking where X came from or what caused X or what came before X, we'll make the questions moot by positing an infinite number of universes, all of which could be tuned in completely different ways.". With this theory our universe could have been "birthed" out of a singularity in another universe which was in turn birthed in a similar fashion and so on ad infinitum. When someone asks "how likely is it really that our single universe, ancient and massive as it is, could have been fine tuned enough for life?", this theory can say "well, given an infinite number of universes it's not so hard to believe that 2 or 3 of them might just happen on the right tuning."

So let me get this straight, you dismiss the notion of a God infinite in scope and duration as the causal explanation for the universe, but accept the notion of a multiverse infinite in scope and duration. I'm afraid it's still just another regression. Even though you've made it infinite in scope and duration, doggone it I still just can't help asking where the multiverse came from, what caused it to be, and why.


Lexrst said...
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Dan G said...

Actually I'm not a big fan of the fine tuning argument either. At least in the way it is typically used to support ID. I think I agree completely with your statements about it.

If I wasn't clear I do not identify myself with the Intelligent Design group nor with young/old earth creationists. I am uncomfortable with any sort of "God of the gaps" notions. Gaps have a nasty way of getting filled in over time. I guess I could align myself with Theistic Evolution or BioLogos.

I'd agree with you that probably a lot of Theists are not content with "We don't know", but I think more and more Theists are perfectly content to allow the evidence to lead wherever it will. The God I believe in can never be destroyed by the discoveries of science, because I don't require the Bible to hold the answers to my questions about science.

The problem is that we've got too many Atheists running around trying to use science to disprove the existence of God and too many Theists running around trying to use science to prove the existence of God (e.g. ID). What is everyone so afraid of? Why can't we just say look, we're obviously here aren't we? Let's use these brains of ours to learn as much as we can about the cosmos. While we're at it lets do our best to figure out how it all went down over the course of time.