Thursday, July 16, 2009

Refuting the Fine-Tuning Cosmological Argument for God

I. Fine-Tuning Argument (as stipulated by Richard Swinburne)

1. The universe is finely tuned for intelligent life.
2. If God existed, he would want to create Intelligent life.
3. The existence of Intelligent life is extremely improbable without God's existence.
4. Intelligent life exists.
5. Intelligent life is good and needs explanation.

Therefore, it is extremely probable (using Bayesian Probability) that God exists.

Swinburne uses Bayesian Probability (Hypothesis h being theism, evidence for theism e being intelligent life, and background knowledge k being facts of our natural universe) to compare to against the hypotheses of a universe suited to intelligent life with no god, as well as against the multiverse hypothesis.
One problem with this is that he presumes intelligent life needs explanation at all, thereby putting it into evidence for theism. A non-teleological explanation would simply say that it isn’t a logical necessity that anything needs explanation, thus denying there is any background information about our world that belongs in any sets of evidence for anything additional to its own existence.

In more detail:

II. My Criticisms of Swinburne

Swinburne sneaks in other arguments:

Argument from Design (teleological argument)
This is the argument that things around us look rich, complex, and in need of a designer. Referring to the various complexities of life, the particular way that human evolution historically occurred, and stating that these coincidences are both necessary and good as a product of cosmic formation, is befuddling the cosmological argument with the intuitions of an argument from design.

Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN)
This is the argument that evolutionary naturalism should find it hard or impossible to produce creatures with true beliefs.
Much like the previous part, to go into detail about the rich mental lives of humans, their purposes, and their beliefs, only stacks Swinburne’s deck using the presupposition that an omni-competent personal deity of an incredible likeness with our own mental lives would need to exist in order to bring about mental lives such as our own. It only confuses the issue at hand, being the cosmological argument.

Kalam Cosmological Argument (argument from first cause)
This is the argument that everything that begins to exist has a cause, the universe began to exist, and therefore the universe has a cause (and that cause is probably God). Swinburne tries to sneak in discussion about a finite age to the universe to conflate statistical intuitions of the Bayesian probability for his cosmological fine-tuning argument with other thoughts about the first cause argument for God. The singularity nicely addresses the first-cause argument, particularly as our intuitions about time and the causal chain may be wrong; science tells us that the universe is around 15 Billion years old but NOT that there is a time t=0 that requires causal explanation (I won't go into further detail here, but it involves the counter-intuitive nature of time as you near the singularity). Also, through modern physics we are aware of examples of paired matter and anti-matter that come into existence without a cause around our universe, the reason why black holes radiate (one half of the pair gets sucked inside, the other half escapes). Therefore not everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe could be of this same category of things.
Regardless, Swinburne should not conflate these arguments.

Replying to the Fine-Tuning Argument:

1. The universe is finely tuned for intelligent life.
(1) The universe is highly hostile to all forms of life:
The hostile vacuum: Why don’t humans easily send a manned mission to mars and beyond? The cosmic radiation outside our atmosphere is incredibly fatal life as we know it after a relatively short duration of exposure.

The hostile past: The number of species that have ever existed but now have gone extinct is 99% of all life.

The barren whole: Proportion of the cosmos that is non-baryonic: 98%. That is, rather than being amazingly supportive and flourishing with “good” life, the universe is almost completely a barren void.

Our barren planet: the percentage of the earth that is actually biomass is only 0.00000000117%.

(2) In total reverse to Swinburne's above point, it is intelligent life that is finely adapted to the universe:
We fit the universe because we were formed by and within the universe. This is like Douglas Adam's sentient puddle who was amazed at how well he fit his hole. As far as the puddle is concerned, such a shapely fit must only be a miracle. If the laws of nature define our bounds and evolution formed our nature, we shouldn't be amazed at how necessary, desirable, or virtuous we find any of these things to be.
The cosmos bounded our only choice of feasible conditions for life, hence we formed within those guidelines.
Our biological environment literally shaped us to fit it, killing all non-adapted alternatives. It is no surprise that we find it to be so perfectly suited to us.
Lastly, our minds formed within the universe as it is, thereby ensuring that if we were to find anything intelligible then we (as intelligent observers) must find our universe intelligible. The alternative is creatures without working minds who find the universe unintelligible and die.

2. If God existed, he would want to create Intelligent life.
If humans really are the evidentiary product, e, of a personal God, h, then this might be fair. This is, however, an egocentric supposition rather than a necessary fact. As some say, it is no accident that people’s gods look like themselves. It is also no accident here that Swinburne defines himself as the evidence for a omni-Swinburnian god who would want to create things just like Swinburne.
After all, bats exist so why isn’t god a bat? You might argue that bats are more probable than humans. However, Apple iPods also require a cosmos that can support matter and life, human evolution to produce their inventors, and then a complex design tree of technological production plus the correct combination of sociobiological, cultural, economic, and marketing factors to produce them. They are at least as improbable and probably much more improbable than humans, therefore why isn’t god a Cosmic iPod?
Swinburne cannot presuppose that his hypothesis should assume the evidence for his own hypothesis without being circular.

3. The existence of Intelligent life is extremely improbable without God's existence.
This presumes:
(1) The combination of cosmological constants that we observe is the only one capable of sustaining life as we know it.
This isn’t the case: Victor Stenger’s “MonkeyGod” programme focuses on only four cosmological constants and shows that other life-sustaining universes are possible with other permutations of the constants.
Additionally, how many worlds even exist? Just our single cosmos? That would certainly provide the best sense of amazement at our fortuitous set of constants. If so, and if no other worlds can exist, then we have no other alternatives to our life-sustaining cosmos and the fact that we exist isn’t amazing at all. What is simply is what is.
However, it may be that other current cosmological theories are true, such as the oscillating universe, a higher-order multiverse, or “embedded” cosmoses. If so, then it is possible that the chance of a life-sustaining cosmos existing is very high. After all, if I have 99 boxes with dogs and one with a cat, then the chance of choosing a cat is only 1%. But if the number of boxes is infinite, then the number of boxes containing cats also tends towards infinity.
No matter how small the chances of getting a life-sustaining universe are, in a multiverse the chance of one existing is guaranteed.
Swinburne does not know how many possible worlds, if any, exist and therefore he cannot claim to know the relative probability of having a life sustaining universe without god.

(2) Similar to above, this argument assumes that other combinations of cosmological constants are possible.
We have no evidence for this. Cosmological constants may be non-contingent facts. The physical “laws” describing our universe simply mathematically describe what is and what happens, it doesn’t determine that which it describes. Equally, the constants are descriptions of what we observe and some of our values and constants are post-hoc fudged values that make our calculations work.
Simply because we can ascribe a number to a description that we have of our universe, that doesn't mean that it is feasible that this descriptive number value can change. It only means we can imagine it changing. However, just because something is imaginarily conceivable it doesn't mean that it is possible.
Who said the constants can change? Who said they could have been different to what they are now? How were they set in the first place?
To presume that they were ‘finely tuned’ as if by a purposive agent is a circular argument (from a theistic perspective) and an unwarranted presupposition that may actually be entirely imaginary and incoherent.

4. Intelligent life exists.
I wouldn’t argue with this. I would only qualify it with the fact that this need not necessarily be the case (except if we presuppose intelligent observers).

5. Intelligent life is good and needs explanation.
This teleologically presupposes that the big bang and evolution, if played through again, should re-produce humans. Otherwise, it is true that we are a unique fact of historical happenstance (Bayesian background knowledge k), but not evidence for anything (Bayesian evidence e for intelligence-creating theism, h).
If you don’t presuppose that we should exist, then you open yourself up to the fact that “history could have gone differently” and we simply wouldn’t have existed in an alternative situation. This robs the fact of our existence of anything that begs explanation, as we would simply be the one outcome of many possibilities that happened to occur.

A final self-refutation of Swinburne:
(credit for this self-refutation goes to Iron Chariots)
The initial premise of the argument is that in order for life to exist, the universe must have such properties that warrant a designer. However, in this line of reasoning, the designer of those properties would exist in a state where none of these properties were true. Therefore, any properties deemed to require a designer can't be necessary for existence in the first place, as the designer can exist without them. The argument is self-refuting.

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