Fine-tuning argument

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With different physical constants, the universe would look quite different.

In cosmology, fine tuning refers to the precise balance of cosmological constants that allow the observable universe to exist as it does. If the constants were slightly different, the universe would be significantly different. There are many such physical constants including: the speed of light, the rate of expansion of the universe, the force of gravity, the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force. The fine tuning argument states that these values occurring in such a precise state by mere chance is highly improbable, and that there must have been a creator to fine tune these values in order for our universe to exist as it does and for life to exist on Earth.

The argument of fine tuning is a rather new one. It has only become popular since the mid-1990s with recent observations about the observable universe and cosmological constants. Cosmologists have theorized that even minute variations in the values of these constants would have resulted in a radically different universe or one altogether unsuitable for supporting life as we know it.

"The cosmos is fine-tuned to permit human life. If any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, life would be impossible. (This claim is also known as the weak anthropic principle.)[1]"
"To believe that the facts and figures here detailed amount to no more than happy coincidence, without doubt constitutes a greater exercise of faith than that of the Christian who affirms the theistic design of the universe.[2]"
"In fact, the universe is specifically tweaked to enable life on earth-a planet with scores of improbable and interdependent life-supporting conditions that make it a tiny oasis in a vast and hostile universe.[3]"

Essentially this argument is just a variation on the argument from design but uses cosmology rather than biological problems. Just as biological mysteries were solved by scientists, so too might the mysteries in cosmology. Fine tuning heavily depends on the argument from ignorance fallacy, god of the gaps and shifting the burden of proof. Also, this argument is essentially the same as the anthropic theistic principle.


Specific fine tuned parameters[edit]

There are many physical constants which, if varied, would result in a very different universe. These include:

  • Strengths of the fundamental forces.
    • "Another finely tuned value is the strong nuclear force that holds atoms — and therefore matter — together." [2] The strong nuclear force is the force which binds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus of an atom. Scientists have calculated that variations in the strong force of as little as ±1% would have drastically affected the breakdown of naturally occurring elements in the universe, prohibiting the formation of stars, black holes, and other natural occurring phenomena.
    • Gravity [3]
  • "The rate at which the universe expands must be finely tuned to one part in 10^55." [2] The rate of expansion of matter after the Big Bang had to occur at precisely the right rate to allow our universe to form as it has. If it had expanded any faster, matter would have dissipated too quickly for stars and solar systems to form. If it had occurred any slower, the universe would have collapsed upon itself shortly after the Big Bang, resulting in what is known as a Big Crunch.[3]
  • Lumpiness of the density of the universe, as seen in cosmic background radiation.[2]
  • Ratio of protons and electrons. [2]
  • The Earth-Sun distance. [4]
  • The tilt of the Earth's axis (life could probably survive with less tilt) [4][3]
  • The composition of the Earth's atmosphere. [4][3]
  • Atmospheric transparency (which is not even a real constraint to life) [3]
  • The Moon stabilizing the Earth's rotation. [3]
  • Speed of light [3]
  • Jupiter protecting the Earth from many asteroid collisions [3]
  • Thickness of the Earth's crust [3]
  • Length of the Earth day (which is not even a real constraint to life) [3]
  • Lightning (which is not even a real constraint to life) [3]
  • Earthquakes (which is not even a real constraint to life) [3]

The argument[edit]

Here is Drange’s formulation: [5]

  1. The combination of physical constants that we observe in our universe is the only one capable of the "origin, development, and continuation of life as we know it".
  2. Other combinations of physical constants are conceivable and are just as probable.
  3. Therefore, some explanation is needed why our actual combination of physical constants exists rather than a different one.
  4. The occurrence of life is "a very special feature" of our universe. This requires explanation.
  5. The very best explanation of life in our universe is that it is "a product of intelligent design".
  6. Therefore, there is very good evidence an intelligent designer exists.

Theists cite this remarkable balance of cosmological constants as evidence of a creator, being a far too unlikely set of circumstances to have occurred naturally. Some apologists set up a choice between types of explanations or causes and then rule out the alternatives to find the actual one.

"What is the best explanation for this astounding phenomenon? There are three live options. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design. Which of these options is the most plausible?"

William Lane Craig[6]

Fine tuning is quickly becoming the argument of choice of creationism proponents like Lee Strobel. Strobel presents this concept as incontrovertible empirical evidence of God in his book The Case for a Creator.

The theistic hypothesis is more probable[edit]

A version of the fine tuning argument is based on probabilities:

"our existence as embodied, intelligent beings is extremely unlikely under the atheistic single-universe hypothesis (since our existence requires fine-tuning), but not improbable under theism. [7]"

This argument fails because it pretends it can evaluate the probability of our universe having the properties it does by natural processes or chance. This information is currently unknown to humans.

Argument from cosmic coincidences[edit]

A variant of the argument asks why various astronomical facts seem to be tailored to improve our appreciation of the universe, such as the apparent size of the moon making total eclipses possible. Along with the usual flaws in the argument, it also suffers from the projection fallacy. [8]

"Today’s eclipse provides another example of this so called “fine-tuning”. [9]"
"Why subscribe to the incredible odds that the tilt and position of our planet relative to the sun are merely coincidental?" [10]"

Arguably, this is more closely related to the argument from design than fine tuning of physical constants. Some examples also draw on the argument from aesthetic experience.

Fine tuned for discovery[edit]

For more information, see the TalkOrigins Archive article:
"the conditions most suited for life also provided the best overall setting for making scientific discoveries.[2]"

This is a fairly absurd statement, particularly to professional scientists. The universe is hard to explore and investigate. Many phenomena are far away, tiny, occurs over long time scales, only evident in rare circumstances, invisible or hard to detect. In any case, why would God want us to discover it when he could just tell us directly?


Most or all counter-arguments for argument from design, the natural law argument, and the anthropic principle are also counter-arguments to fine-tuning.

False dichotomy, argument from ignorance[edit]

The fine tuning argument is based on the dichotomy of:

  • The parameters of the universe are a "happy coincidence"
  • or God selected the parameters to fulfil some purpose.

This is a false dichotomy. A better fork would be:

  • The parameters of the universe are a "happy coincidence",
  • or God selected the parameters to fulfil some purpose,
  • or the universe could not be other than it is,
  • or some unknown natural process caused the universe to be as it is.

The problem is it is almost impossible to rule out the last two options, making the argument an argument from ignorance and god of the gaps. Apologists often confuse natural processes with random processes, which leads them to equate them. The argument is essentially the same as saying "lighting occurs and Thor is the best explanation" at a time before the understanding of electricity.

"There will never be an Isaac Newton for a blade of grass."

Immanuel Kant

Sean Carroll pointed out there was a genius that did the same for grass, and biology generally: Charles Darwin. [11] It is not unreasonable to expect there would be a similar genius that might one day solve the cosmological mystery.

Not evidence for God[edit]

Largely the argument itself hinges on the narrow range of properties for the universe to develop to allow for life. But, this narrow range is precisely the required range needed for life in this universe to occur naturally if there were no God.

"The intelligent beings in these regions should therefore not be surprised if they observe that their locality in the universe satisfies the conditions that are necessary for their existence. It is a bit like a rich person living in a wealthy neighborhood not seeing any poverty."

Stephen Hawking

"Similarly the “fine tuning” of the universe’s physical constants: that would be a great proof—if it wasn’t exactly the same thing we’d see if a god didn’t exist."

Richard Carrier [12]

"Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for."

Douglas Adams

Firing squad counter argument[edit]

Apologists liken this response to surviving a firing squad execution because all the shooters "missed". They point out that it is more likely they never intended to kill rather than they all had poor aim. Similarly, we might ask what is the likeliest explanation for the universe.

"Of course all of the shots missed, otherwise I wouldn’t be here to notice that I’m still alive![13]"

This goes back to making probability claims about the universe, which the apologist has not yet established reliably (since it is currently beyond human knowledge).

Another problem is that the explanation that the shooters missed on purpose is a testable explanation, while the explanation of "God did it" is not. This applies to both God saving you from a firing squad or selecting the properties of the universe. [14]

Invalid use of probability[edit]

"Premise 2. The existence of the fine-tuning is very improbable under the atheistic single-universe hypothesis. [7]"
"Astrophysicist [and creationism apologist] Hugh Ross has calculated the probability that these and other constants-122 in all-would exist today for any planet in the universe by chance (i.e., without divine design). Assuming there are 1022 planets in the universe (a very large number: 1 with 22 zeros following it), his answer is shocking: one chance in 10138-that’s one chance in one with 138 zeros after it![3]"

The argument assumes that there is a certain range of values that each physical constant could assume. The greater these ranges, the more unlikely that a given set of constants would have assumed the values we observe. However, to simply imagine a certain range of possible numerical values that each constant could assume and calculating the probability that this value would be arrived at by mere chance is fallacious for two reasons. Currently, we have no access to data that would tell us a) what range the constants could possibly assume in reality and b) how many trials there were in which the constants assumed certain values (Texas sharpshooter fallacy). If in a lottery one number were drawn from a pot of five numbers, then winning the lottery would become comparatively likely. Likewise, even if a trial with an extremely unlikely outcome - say winning an actual national lottery - were repeated a sufficient number of times, the outcome would become likely to occur overall.

To avoid an argument from ignorance, an apologist must rule out all other hypotheses, including as yet unknown hypotheses, to make an argument by elimination. It is almost impossible to rule out all undiscovered hypothesis in a field so far removed from human experience. However, without doing this, the apologist inevitably makes an argument from ignorance and commits god of the gaps.

Assuming parameters are contingent[edit]

"The particular group of values that exists for the fundamental physical constants of our universe (call it "GPC") is just one of a huge number of different groups of values, all of which are physically possible (i.e., not ruled out by more basic laws).[5]"

The argument presupposes that there is a certain range of possible values the constants can take. We don't know whether this is true, we have no idea what values the constants can take or if they can take other values at all.

"There's no reason or evidence to suggest that fine-tuning is necessary."

William Lane Craig[6]

The apologist is again shifting the burden of proof. They are the ones that need to demonstrate that "the properties of the universe are contingent, not necessary" for their argument to work. Saying "we have no evidence to the contrary" is an argument from ignorance.

"According to the atheistic single-universe hypothesis, there is only one universe, and it is ultimately an inexplicable, "brute" fact that the universe exists and is fine-tuned. [7]"

That is not the case and is a straw man argument. Skeptics say that the properties of the universe may be brute facts or possibly explainable some time in the future, but the burden of proof is on the apologist to show that this is not the case. They have so far only offered various arguments from ignorance.

Parameters are not necessarily independent[edit]

"One must leave open the door to the possibility that future investigation in theoretical physics will demonstrate that some of the fifteen physical constants that so far are simply determined by experimental observation may be limited in theory potential numerical value by something more profound, but such a revelation is not currently on the horizon."

In order for the probability argument to be valid, the fundamental constants under consideration have to be independent. That is, one cannot claim that the gravitational constant and the speed of expansion of the universe were individually tuned, since they are clearly related. The electromagnetic force is mediated by massless photons which travel at the speed of light, so therefore the strength of this force is likely related to the speed of light. Similar relationships may yet emerge between other constants. Ignoring that results in a god of the gaps.

Major advances in physics are not generally predictable and certainly not beyond a few years.

Majority argument or analogy[edit]

"Upon looking at the data, many people find it very obvious that the fine-tuning is highly improbable under the atheistic single-universe hypothesis. [7]"

It is unwise to use a appeal to majority when discussing a subject that is very far removed from peoples' experience. Human intuition may be quite misleading in this case.

"Accordingly, from this analogy it seems obvious that it would be highly improbable for the fine-tuning to occur under the atheistic single-universe hypothesis--that is, for the dart to hit the board by chance.[7]"

An analogy can be either valid or invalid. We can only know its validity with some other data or experience. For this reason, analogies are not appropriate when they can be independently verified. This is not the case here.

Natural processes are not random[edit]

Apologists often confuse natural processes with random processes, which leads them to equate them. Natural processes proceed by necessity. If the properties of the universe were determined by natural processes, it is inappropriate to apply probability because chance does not enter into it.

Apologists would not be satisfied by a scientific explanation[edit]

Apologists object saying that any law that explains the parameters or the relationship between them would also require an explanation, leading to infinite regress.

"the problem with postulating such a law is that it simply moves the improbability of the fine-tuning up one level, to that of the postulated physical law itself[7]"
"this essentially results in a fine-tuning problem even for Theories of Everything.[15]"

If the fine tuning argument is resolved by scientific discoveries, apologists would still not be satisfied. They move the goalposts to the natural law argument. This is not a reasonable way of arguing and the fine tuning argument probably should be abandoned for the natural law argument since apologists are not going to be satisfied with a scientific explanation anyway. If the natural laws were somehow explained, apologists probably would switch to asking why is there something rather than nothing? This again illustrates that the fine tuning argument is irrelevant.

The multiverse?[edit]

Some scientists theorize that given the infinite nature of time and space, an infinite number of other unobservable universes could exist parallel to our own, each with infinite variations of constants. This is known as the multiverse theory. Given infinite possibilities, the formation of a universe such as our own is not so inconceivable. There is no evidence of the multiverse so far but scientists are looking to see if there is any interaction between our universe and other universes; this might happen on the cosmic scale. It is important to remember that the existence of the multiverse does not have to be proved to undermine the fine tuning argument, but only that it is a possibility.

"Note that the multiverse does not need to be proven to exist to invalidate the fine-tuning argument for a creator. It just needs to be a possible alternative. Nevertheless, theologians have vehemently objected to the multiverse. [16]"

One way of looking at the multiverse is to imagine somebody claiming to be psychic and they win the lottery three times in a row. That seems to be good evidence. However, if they bought every possible combination of numbers for each of those lotteries, that feat requires no psychic abilities at all.

Arguments against the Multiverse[edit]

The idea of the multiverse is speculative:

"First, and most significantly, there’s no evidence for it![3]"

An argument by analogy is that humans one believed that the Earth was the only planet, then they believed this solar system was the only one, then they believed this galaxy was the only one. Each time they have been wrong. Along similar lines, it is quite conceivable that many universes exist. However, the burden of proof is on the apologist since they claim that "this is the only universe", which is an implicit premise of their argument.

Apologists such as William Lane Craig argue that for the multiverse to work as an explanation, more needs to be known.

"If MWH [many world hypothesis] is to commend itself as a plausible hypothesis, then some plausible mechanism for generating the many worlds needs to be to be explained. [17]"

This is not the case. Of course, he is correct in that MWH is very speculative but it is plausible without a full understanding of its details. It may be we can one day travel to other universes but still have no understanding of their origin. It also is shifting the burden of proof because it is on the apologist to prove that this universe this the only one, which is required for their argument to work.

Apologists are generally critical of multiverse theories but their criticism misses the point: they also have to rule out all other plausible explanations, including ones that have not been yet considered by scientists. Since the origin of the universe is beyond our everyday experience, almost any scenario is plausible. Ruling them out is not yet practically possible but until it is done, fine-tuning is an argument from ignorance.

The Multiverse must have had a beginning[edit]

Apologists point out that the multiverse must have had a universe. This actually moves from being a fine-tuning argument to being a cosmological argument, which is a case of moving the goalposts.

"Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem requires that the multiverse itself cannot be extended into the infinite past [17]"

This assumes the multiverse experiences time in the normal way, and that it is "expanding". Nether assumption has been demonstrated for the multiverse, which is not surprising because it has never been directly observed. Apologists pretend that the theory of "eternal inflation" is the only theory of the multiverse, and pose a false dichotomy between eternal inflation and God. Far too little is known about the multiverse to rule it out as a possibility, but it remains a possibility.

Infinite regress[edit]

Apologists argue that the multiverse, as an explanation, suffers from infinite regress.

"And the universe generator, itself, would require an enormous amount of fine-tuning!"

William Lane Craig[6]
"even if other universes could exist, they would need fine-tuning to get started just as our universe did (recall the extreme precision of the Big Bang we described in the last chapter). So positing multiple universes doesn’t eliminate the need for a Designer—it multiplies the need for a Designer![3]"

It is possible that the universe generator is defined by natural laws and has no "free parameters", so no tuning is required (and the apologist might switch to the natural law argument). Also, this objection is plausible but the same criticism can be levelled at the "God" explanation.

Steve Shives makes an analogy with snowflakes. If a person claims that a particular snowflake had a designer, we can point out that particular snowflake is not special because many just-as-special snowflakes exist. The person cannot reasonably argue that all the other snowflakes require a designer because the property that indicated design has already been explained. [18]

If it exists, the universe generator cannot be said to be fine tuned because it churns out an excessive number of universes apparently without reason. A God might be expected to be more parsimonious and directed in his actions. Such a situation would lend itself to an argument from poor design.

There can't be an actual infinite number of universes[edit]

"[...]as we discussed in the last chapter, an infinite number of finite things—whether we’re talking about days, books, bangs, or universes—is an actual impossibility. There can’t be an unlimited number of limited universes.[3]"

Firstly, how can they know this? This is just an unsupported assertion.

Secondly, the authors are applying their principle based on evidence within universe to a situation outside our universe. This is far from reliable. [18]

Also, there can be a finite but unlimited number of other universes (i.e. a potentially infinite number), which would side step this objection. [18]

Anything can be explained by the multiverse[edit]

"the Multiple Universe Theory is so broad that any event can be explained away by it. For example, if we ask, “Why did the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?” we need not blame Muslim terrorists: the theory lets us say that we just happen to be in the universe where those planes—though they appeared to be flown deliberately into the buildings—actually hit the buildings by accident[3]"

This is a false analogy because the causes of our universe and the causes of everyday occurrences have different amounts of available evidence. The "cause" of the universe is highly speculative since there is scant evidence and we may therefore entertain the multiverse hypothesis. Everyday occurrences are repeatable and we require more predictive and falsifiable explanations.

This argument can also be applies to the "god did it" explanation: there is literally nothing that it can't explain![18]

Fine tuned for life or something else?[edit]

Another flaw with this argument is that it assumes our universe is finely tuned for the sole purpose of supporting life. This is not necessarily the case at all. Given the laws of our universe, scientists theorize that our universe is composed of less than 2% baryonic matter, that is matter consisting of protons, neutrons or other particles equal or greater than that of a proton. Dark matter is by far the most common form of matter in our universe. Our universe, if anything, is far more suited for the creation of black holes than it is for supporting life. [19] Life on our planet constitutes only an insignificant portion of our universe. Some apologists argue that the universe must be fine tuned for life on Earth, which is basically begging the question in that it assumes that the Earth is the only possible scenario for life to exist:

"Even a slight variation in the speed of light would alter the other constants and preclude the possibility of life on earth.[3]"

Life is just one of the possible things that may arise in the universe, and by itself is no more or less important than any of those other things. It's just that, as living beings ourselves, we tend to place a higher value on life than other aspects of the universe. This is another instance of humans' bias towards anthropocentrism and the confirmation bias. Humans have evolved to suit their environment, rather than our environment being tailored to suit us - a flag points north because the wind blows north; the wind doesn't blow north to allow the flag to point north.

In a hypothetical universe with different physical constants, there may be an emergent natural phenomenon that is vastly more complex than the emergence of life, the evolution of life, and the ecology of life. This phenomenon, we will label "phenomenon x", would be impossible in our universe because our physical constants may not permit phenomenon x to occur. There is no objective reason why the possibility of life demands a fine tuner more than phenomenon x. There is also no objective reason why any natural phenomenon, no matter the complexity, should demand a fine tuner any more than another. Hypothetically, if it were shown that life of some kind is possible in most possible universes, but the phenomenon of lightning is only possible in this one, then an apologist might assert that because we occupy the only possible universe with lightning, this universe must have been finely tuned.

Illustrative example[edit]

A reductio ad absurdum can be constructed to demonstrate the weakness of the argument. If life is improbable then the existence of spaghetti is even more improbable.

  1. The combination of physical constants that we observe in our universe is the only one capable of sustaining spaghetti as we know it.
  2. Other combinations of physical constants are conceivable.
  3. Therefore, some explanation is needed why our actual combination of physical constants exists rather than a different one.
  4. The very best explanation of the given fact is that our universe, with the particular combination of physical constants that it has, was created out of nothing by a single being who is omnipotent, omniscient, and interested in spaghetti, and that he “fine-tuned” those constants in a way which would lead to the evolution of such foods.
  5. But such a being as described in (4) is what is meant by the "Flying Spaghetti Monster".
  6. Hence [from (4) & (5)], there is good evidence that the "Flying Spaghetti Monster" exists.

Assumes life "as we know it" is the only type of life[edit]

"[our universe has] the only group of values for the fundamental physical constants of a world (or region of spacetime) that would permit the origin, development, and continuation of life as we know it within that world. [5]"

"It is certainly true that if you change the parameters of nature, the local conditions around us would change by alot. I grant that quickly. I do not grant that therefore life could not exist. I will start granting that once someone tells me the conditions under which life can exist. What is the definition of life, for example? If it is just information processing, thinking or something like that, there is a huge panoply of possibilities."

Sean Carroll[11]

The fine tuning argument assumes that life as we know it is the only possible form. If the constants of the universe were different, that does not rule out the possibility that intelligent life could nonetheless still arise, albeit in a form currently unimaginable to us. Asking how a particular outcome could have happened when other outcomes would have been just as significant commits the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. The apologist needs to show that no other forms of life are possible, which is not practical to do.

The premise "our universe contains the only possible life" is compatible with the conclusion "humans exist". However, attempting to use the conclusion to support the premise is affirming the consequent fallacy.

No evidence of other types of life[edit]

"This assumes that different types of life exist, something for which there is absolutely no evidence. [20]"

This tries to shift the burden of proof without a valid justification. The burden of proof that "this is the only possible form of life" is on the apologist.

No atoms would exist[edit]

"If [the strong nuclear force] were slightly larger or smaller, no atoms could exist other than hydrogen. [7]"

How does the apologist know that life requires atoms? Again, argument from ignorance. There may be a much more straightforward way for life to emerge in very different physics and it is our universe's life that is an exception. Apologists should be careful not to claim life in our universe is typical of life in general, or they commit the spotlight fallacy.

Infinite regress[edit]

If there were a creator who "fine tuned" the universe for our existence, who "fine tuned" the universe in order for said creator to exist? This argument of a creator suffers from infinite regress. If someone counters that the creator always existed (as is common) so too could we counter that the universe has always existed in some form. Either is an unproven assumption.

If god designed the universe to support life, this means that god itself has features that lead to the creation of life. The same argument therefore applies to the higher level - it follows that God was created in order to create life. And this God-creator was itself designed to create life, and so on and so forth. If he was not, and has always existed, one could equally say the universe has always existed.

Poor explanation[edit]

Main Article: Ultimate 747 gambit

God supposedly is an explanation for fine tuning. However, God is a bigger mystery than the one we seek to explain. A reasonable explanation would depend on known entities, rather than using one mystery to explain another.

Even if we accept the apologist's possibly explanations, God, brute fact and chance have equal explanatory value (which is about zero). In this case, we may use Occam's razor and discard the God hypothesis.

In cases where explanations are poor, not predictive or unverifiable, it is perfectly legitimate to say "we don't know why or how!" Theists, and humans generally, often have an extreme aversion to the statement "I don't know".

"Could you even blame me, if I had answered at first, that I did not know, and was sensible that this subject lay vastly beyond the reach of my faculties? You might cry out sceptic and railler, as much as you pleased: but having found, in so many other subjects much more familiar, the imperfections and even contradictions of human reason, I never should expect any success from its feeble conjectures, in a subject so sublime, and so remote from the sphere of our observation.[21]"

Believing that the whole universe exists for our benefit is consistent with our anthropocentrism, but it has not been justified by evidence. Previous beliefs, like the Earth is at the centre of the solar system have similarly turned out to be incorrect.

"The theistic explanation for cosmological fine tuning [says] I know why it is like that. It is because I was going to be here, or we were going to be here. But there is nothing in our experience of the universe that justifies the kind of flattering story we like to tell about ourselves."

Sean Carroll[11]

Was fine tuning necessary for the designer to exist?[edit]

The designer of those properties would presumably exist in a state where the fine tuning parameters did not apply. Therefore any properties deemed to be necessary for life can't be necessary for existence in the first place, as the designer can exist without them and is allegedly "alive". The argument is self-refuting.

"Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others? If you say that he did it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others -- the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it -- if there was a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary."

Bertrand Russell

Begging the question[edit]

For the fine tuning argument to make any sense, one has to start with the assumption that humanity is not an accident, i.e. that it has a purpose (such as to result in life), which begs the question of an intelligent agent that gives it a purpose. Another way apologists beg the question is by asserting the parameters were "selected" or "carefully dialed" as a premise to their argument: selected parameters imply a selector i.e. God.

"Scientists have come to the shocking realization that each of these numbers have been carefully dialed to an astonishingly precise value - a value that falls within an exceedingly narrow, life-permitting range."

William Lane Craig[6]

What scientists have actually found is that if the properties of the universe were slightly different, it would result in an extremely different result. When scientists speak of "fine tuned constants", they don't (usually) mean it literally.

Argument from poor design[edit]

Main Article: Argument from poor design

Some philosophers have noted that the fine tuning argument is not a very good argument for the existence of God but rather a very good argument for the non-existence of God.

Only upon the assumption of atheism do we really need these exact values. For only these values allow the formation of life to occur without God and without any outside influences.

The fine-tuning argument is actually therefore a great argument for atheism, which theists are wrongly claiming as evidence for God.

"The universe looks exactly as it should look if there is no God. How amazing is that exactness? Therefore God exists." -- If the universe looked as if it couldn't exist only by chance, theists would and do claim God exists in that case as well. The universe either cannot happen naturally and therefore God did it, or the universe can happen naturally and what an amazing feat that is and therefore God did it. This results in a Brian's Paradox.

The universe is larger than necessary[edit]

"[A] universe that produced us by chance would have to be enormously vast in size and enormously old, so as to have all the room to mix countless chemicals countless times in countless places so as to have any chance of accidentally kicking up something as complex as life. And that’s exactly the universe we see: one enormously vast in size and age."

Richard Carrier [12]

If there were a God, rather than needing 70 sextillion stars and 13.75 billion years, there would only be a need for one planet, rather than having more planets than there are grains of sand on all the beaches of Earth. The only reason this universe needs to be this vast and this old is if life occurs randomly without any intelligent design. If life occurs only by happenstance, then any life that exists should exist in a amazingly vast universe just to allow the chemicals needed to kick up life enough chances to happen to kick up something as complex as life.

"Even if God created a universe consisting of only one organism, the rest of that universe would exist to make that one organism possible.[22]"

The rest of the universe is clearly not necessary. God could just have created the solar system.

The universe is largely hostile to life[edit]

It may be useful to realize that the vast majority of the universe is uninhabitable by any form of life, albeit human life. If there are so many regions of space, and indeed our own planet, that are uninhabitable by life, then why should we call the universe "fine-tuned"?.

"A godless universe would also only produce life rarely and sparingly, and that’s also what we see: by far most of the universe is lethal to life (being a deadly radiation filled vacuum) and by far most of the matter in the universe is lethal to life (constituting stars and black holes on which no life can ever live)."

Richard Carrier [12]

The Earth's total mass is 5.9736×1024 kg while the estimated total biomass on Earth is around 7×1013 kg. This means that the percentage of life on Earth is 1.17182269 × 10-9. That is .00000000117%. The Earth, let alone the universe, is hardly fine tuned for life. Man has created and tested [23] much more finely tuned mediums for simple life in the form of specialized agar solutions that support life/medium ratios far greater than .00000000117%.

Also, Earth was formerly not capable of supporting life and will one day be incapable of supporting life. If it was designed to support life, we might expect it to have always been life supporting. [18]

God created details that are unnecessary for life[edit]

For more information, see the Wikipedia article:

There are more elementary particles than are necessary for life. For example, mesons are extremely rare in the solar system and apparently serve no role in life.

There are also an over-abundance of worm and insect species, which would be unnecessary if human life was the goal of fine tuning.

Omnipotent God could create life anywhere[edit]

If an omnipotent God exists, life should be able to arise under any set of circumstances whatsoever, with infinite possibilities even without fine tuning. In other words, the premise "life requires fine tuning" is false. However, the argument can still work without that premise.

"In fact, the whole argument from fine-tuning ultimately makes no sense. As my friend Martin Wagner notes, all physical parameters are irrelevant to an omnipotent God. 'He could have created us to live in a hard vacuum if he wanted.' [24]"

If the constants necessarily had to be what they are than that implies that there is some set of governing rules that even God must follow, that supersede his power. If God had to fine-tune the universe to these particular set of constants because not doing so would not have allowed him to bring life into existence (and as they claim in their argument, a different set and there's no life), then God is indeed not omnipotent. This is incompatible with most theistic beliefs, particularly the Abrahamic monotheistic ones. If there were rules that had been established that God had to work within using fine-tuning, this implies a superior deity than God.

Lack of evidence for omnipotence[edit]

An omnipotent God could create life that didn't conform to normal physical processes and there is no particular reason to think he would deliberately limit himself. The case for supernatural intervention would be much more plausible if humans found themselves floating in the vacuum of space, on a toxic planet with no oxygen, or somewhere else where our continued survival was a complete mystery to scientists. As it is, we find life only in areas where the facts of biology tell us it can exist. This is exactly what we would expect if we were the products of natural processes, rather than the products of omnipotence.

Irrelevance of fine tuning according to TAG[edit]

To restate the argument, in the form of the transcendental argument for the non-existence of God:

Let X be "the combination of physical constants which is necessarily capable of sustaining life" and Y be "the combination of physical constants which is necessarily incapable of sustaining life".

  1. X is necessary, in whole or part. Y is necessary, in whole or part.
  2. If theism is true, then divine creation obtained the universe.
  3. If divine creation is true, then all in the universe is contingent to God's act of creation, and nothing in the universe is necessary (God could have created any universe).
  4. If theism is true, then no X or Y can be necessary or have a necessary part (from 2 and 3).
  5. Theism is false (from 1 and 4).

If a theist denies premise 1, they would deny the fine-tuning argument, since the first premise of this argument is the same as the first premise of the fine-tuning argument.

In a similar form of the argument:

  1. If theism is true, then divine causation obtained the universe.
  2. If divine causation obtains, then all facts of the universe are contingent upon God's act of creation.
  3. If theism is true, then life can arise under any possible physical condition. (from 1 and 2)
  4. If theism is true, then fine-tuning is invalid. (from 3)

Maybe the transition from premise 2 to 3 requires further justification. Denote the physical constants by {X; Y; Z} and the obtainment of life by L and negation by ~.

A fact of the universe is that {X--> L; Y--> ~L; Z--> ~L}. That is, X can result in life, and Y and Z can not result in life.

Since the fact is contingent upon God's act of creation, then it is not necessary and so can be altered.

If it can be altered then the following can be true {X--> L; Y--> L; Z--> L}, such that God could make anything result in life, or life consist in any environment. Basically, X, Y, and Z are irrelevant to God if divine causation obtains.

Some parameters don't need fine tuning[edit]

"From this discussion we see that the earth is just the proper distance from the sun to maintain the right surface temperature suitable for life and the many important geologic processes! To the evolutionist the distance of the earth from the sun is a strange accident, but to the creationist it is a marvelous testimony of God's planning. [4]"

Some of the constants used by apologists do not require exact tuning. With regards to the Goldilocks zone, the amount Earth can be distanced from the sun is approximately 37%, right out to Mars (yes, our solar system has two planets in the Goldilocks zone). The point being that the so-called precision we find, is actually not that precise in reality (this is one of the more extreme cases, most others can be changed but the difference being not as much).

If all planets were within the Goldilocks zone, apologists might have something to work with!

Weak conclusion[edit]

The fine tuning argument concludes that an intelligent designer exists but that does not necessarily imply it is God or even supernatural. It also tells use relatively little about the attributes of the intelligent designer. The fine tuning argument therefore has a weak conclusion.

It is not necessary for the creator to be all-loving-he could be making us with the notion of torturing us for all we know. It is not necessary for the creator to be eternal-he could have fizzled out in the creation or could have died of some unfathomable cause. And it is likewise unnecessary for the creator to be omniscient and/or omnipotent-there are logical arguments against the proposition of such contradictory attributes, and the being need not be all-powerful/knowing - he could just be really, really powerful and know a lot, but not everything.

Using the conclusion "the intelligent designer exists" to support the premise "an intelligent designer is omnipotent, all loving, etc" is affirming the consequent.

The argument supports no particular religion or theology. According to fine-tuning, deism and polytheism are just as likely as theism.


  1. Ross, Hugh, 1994. Astronomical evidences for a personal, transcendent God. In: The Creation Hypothesis, J. P. Moreland, ed., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, pp. 141-172.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 [1]
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 [2]
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Theodore M. Drange, The Fine-Tuning Argument, 1998, The Fine-Tuning Argument Revisited, 2000
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 [3]
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 [4]
  8. Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, 2011
  9. [5]
  10. [6]
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 [7]
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 [8]
  13. John Leslie, Universes (London and New York: Routledge, 1989), 13-14. Quoted in: Polkinghorne, "The Science and Religion Debate: An Introduction."
  14. [9]
  15. [10]
  16. [11]
  17. 17.0 17.1 [12]
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 Steve Shives, [13]
  19. [14]
  20. [15]
  21. [16]
  22. [17]
  23. [18]
  24. Victor J. Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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