Intelligent Design

An excellent new paper by Robin Collins on fine-tuning

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I’m delighted to announce that Dr. Robin Collins has written a thought-provoking paper titled, The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability, which develops a new fine-tuning argument for the existence of God, to the effect that some of the laws, initial conditions, and the fundamental parameters of physics were set in order to make the existence of an Intelligent Designer of the cosmos more easily discoverable by the embodied conscious agents (such as human beings) living in the cosmos. I should point out that Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards first drew attention to a striking correlation between habitability and measurability in their book, The Privileged Planet, back in 2004. As Richards put it in a conversation with lawyer and apologist Lee Strobel: “What’s mysterious is that the same conditions that give us a habitable planet also make our location so wonderful for scientific measurement and discovery” (The Case for a Creator, Zondervan, 2004, Chapter 4, p. 231). However, Dr. Collins’ new paper goes further, arguing that the laws, fundamental parameters, and initial conditions of the universe as a whole must be just right in order for the fine-tuning of the universe to be discovered by agents like us. Dr. Collins also addresses specific topics, such as the fine-structure constant (alpha), radiometric dating, the low entropy of the early universe, the cosmic microwave background radiation and dark energy, and he makes a strong case that their values can be scientifically explained in terms of their being fine-tuned for discoverability.

Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction to Dr. Collins’ draft paper:

One of the most persuasive evidences for the existence of God from the cosmos is the argument from the fine-tuning of the cosmos for the existence of life, the so-called anthropic fine-tuning… The most commonly cited case of anthropic fine-tuning is that of the cosmological constant. If it were not within one part in 10^120 of its theoretical possible range of values, either the universe would expand, or collapse, too quickly for galaxies and stars to form. There have been a variety of challenges to the fine-tuning evidence itself, and whether it supports the existence of God or a multiverse. I have developed a detailed argument elsewhere (Collins, 2009) that the fine-tuning evidence does provide strong confirmatory evidence for theism over naturalism. Here I primarily want to explore another kind of fine-tuning and its implications for this debate: the fine-tuning of the universe for being discovered. By this fine-tuning, I mean that the laws, fundamental parameters, and initial conditions of the universe must be just right for the universe to be as discoverable as ours. After presenting examples to illustrate this kind of this fine-tuning, I will argue that if this kind of fine-tuning exists, in general it cannot be explained by a multiverse hypothesis – by far the leading non-theistic explanation for anthropic fine-tuning. Further, I will show how the idea that the universe is fine-tuned for discovery answers some other commonly raised objections against the fine-tuning argument, and finally I will look at its potential predictive and explanatory power.

Finally, to be absolutely clear, my project in this paper is not so much to argue for the existence of God, but to explicate where one might look for new evidence one way or another. This is in keeping with the spirit of scientific inquiry.

So, is the universe designed in order that its fine-tuning can be discovered more easily? What do readers think?

11 Replies to “An excellent new paper by Robin Collins on fine-tuning

  1. 1
    JGuy says:

    Why should any universe be filled with Lego blocks to make stuff?

  2. 2
    JGuy says:

    Why should any universe be filled with Lego blocks to make stuff?

  3. 3
    ppolish says:

    Fine tuned for the discovery of a multiverse ain’t too shabby either.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    In regards to the ‘Fine-Tuning for Discoverability’, I find it interesting that the Theistic presupposition of the world being rational, and approachable, by the human mind is what led to the founding of modern science in the first place.

    Science and Theism: Concord, not Conflict* – Robert C. Koons
    IV. The Dependency of Science Upon Theism (Page 21)
    Excerpt: Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism—and from the perspective alone—that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has. Without the faith in the rational intelligibility of the world and the divine vocation of human beings to master it, modern science would never have been possible, and, even today, the continued rationality of the enterprise of science depends on convictions that can be reasonably grounded only in theistic metaphysics.
    http://www.robkoons.net/media/.....ffd524.pdf

    Founders of Modern Science Who Believe in GOD – Tihomir Dimitrov – (pg. 222)
    http://www.academia.edu/273960.....OD_Journal

    The reason why Christian Theists such as Collins, Gonzalez and Ross, hold, (and the original Christian founders of modern science held), that the world is rational and approachable by the human mind is that they/we believe that since the world was created by the infinite Mind of God, and we are made in His image, then we are able to comprehend the universe. Moreover as Collins is currently showing, the fact that that the universe is discoverable by man since we are made in the image of God is now being born our empirically. As Dr. Torley has already pointed out, Gonzalez and Richards noticed the correlation between Habitability Discoverability

    Privileged Planet – Habitability/Discoverability Correlation – Gonzalez and Richards – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5424431

    The very conditions that make Earth hospitable to intelligent life also make it well suited to viewing and analyzing the universe as a whole.
    – Jay Richards

    The Privileged Planet – The Correlation Of Habitability and Observability – book
    “The same narrow circumstances that allow us to exist also provide us with the best over all conditions for making scientific discoveries.”
    – Guillermo Gonzalez – Astronomer
    http://books.google.com/books?.....38;f=false

    At the 38:10 minute mark of the following video, Dr. Huterer speaks of the “why right now? ‘coincidence problem’” for dark matter and visible matter:

    Dragan Huterer – ‘coincidence problem’ – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qTJc1Y7duM#t=2290

    In the following video, Dr. Hugh Ross points out that we live at the right time in Cosmic history to view the Cosmic Background Radiation (a discovery which has rightly been called ‘the greatest scientific discovery of the 20th century’):

    We Live At The Right Time In Cosmic History (To see the Cosmic Background Radiation) – Hugh Ross – video
    http://vimeo.com/31940671

    Moreover as Dr. Torley announced in the OP, Dr Robin Collins delivered a paper, at the Craig-Carrol debate, showing that the intensity of the Cosmic Background radiation is maximized for observers like us to discover:

    The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability – Robin Collins – March 22, 2014
    Excerpt: Predictive and Explanatory Power of Discoverability – Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
    Prediction: The most dramatic confirmation of the discoverability/livability optimality thesis (DLO) is the dependence of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) on the baryon to photon ratio.,,,
    …the intensity of CMB depends on the photon to baryon ratio, (??b), which is the ratio of the average number of photons per unit volume of space to the average number of baryons (protons plus neutrons) per unit volume. At present this ratio is approximately a billion to one (10^9) , but it could be anywhere from one to infinity; it traces back to the degree of asymmetry in matter and anti – matter right after the beginning of the universe – for approximately every billion particles of antimatter, there was a billion and one particles of matter.,,,
    The only livability effect this ratio has is on whether or not galaxies can form that have near – optimally livability zones. As long as this condition is met, the value of this ratio has no further effects on livability. Hence, the DLO predicts that within this range, the value of this ratio will be such as to maximize the intensity of the CMB as observed by typical observers.
    According to my calculations – which have been verified by three other physicists — to within the margin of error of the experimentally determined parameters (~20%), the value of the photon to baryon ratio is such that it maximizes the CMB. This is shown in Figure 1 below. (pg. 13)
    It is easy to see that this prediction could have been disconfirmed. In fact, when I first made the calculations in the fall of 2011, I made a mistake and thought I had refuted this thesis since those calculations showed the intensity of the CMB maximizes at a value different than the photon – baryon ratio in our universe. So, not only does the DLO lead us to expect this ratio, but it provides an ultimate explanation for why it has this value,,, This is a case of a teleological thesis serving both a predictive and an ultimate explanatory role.,,,
    http://home.messiah.edu/~rcoll.....osting.pdf

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Along that line, light is also found to be extremely fine tuned for life and ‘discoverability’:

    Extreme Fine Tuning of Light for Life and Scientific Discovery – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/7715887

    Fine Tuning Of Universal Constants, Particularly Light – Walter Bradley – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4491552

    Fine Tuning Of Light to the Atmosphere, to Biological Life, and to Water – graphs
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc.....aGh4MmdnOQ

    As well, Michael Denton has also recently added to this line of evidence by showing multiple lines of evidence from chemistry that show that chemistry is ‘set up’ to be of maximal benefit for ‘air-breathing organisms such as ourselves’:

    The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis – Michael J. Denton – February 25, 2013
    Summary (page 11)
    Many of the properties of the key members of Henderson’s vital ensemble —water, oxygen, CO2, HCO3 —are in several instances fit specifically for warm-blooded, air-breathing organisms such as ourselves. These include the thermal properties of water, its low viscosity, the gaseous nature of oxygen and CO2 at ambient temperatures, the inertness of oxygen at ambient temperatures, and the bicarbonate buffer, with its anomalous pKa value and the elegant means of acid-base regulation it provides for air-breathing organisms. Some of their properties are irrelevant to other classes of organisms or even maladaptive.
    It is very hard to believe there could be a similar suite of fitness for advanced carbon-based life forms. If carbon-based life is all there is, as seems likely, then the design of any active complex terrestrial being would have to closely resemble our own. Indeed the suite of properties of water, oxygen, and CO2 together impose such severe constraints on the design and functioning of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems that their design, even down to the details of capillary and alveolar structure can be inferred from first principles. For complex beings of high metabolic rate, the designs actualized in complex Terran forms are all that can be. There are no alternative physiological designs in the domain of carbon-based life that can achieve the high metabolic activity manifest in man and other higher organisms.
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2013.1

    “Dr. Michael Denton on Evidence of Fine-Tuning in the Universe” (Remarkable balance of various key elements for life) – podcast
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....3_59-07_00

    Of note, I believe, via rumor mill, that a documentary on ‘The Privileged Species’ theses, based in large part on Dr. Denton’s work, is coming out later this year (2014)

    Here is another fact, echoing Denton’s book Nature’s Destiny’, that Dr. Robin Collins highlighted in his paper:

    The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability – Robin Collins – March 22, 2014
    Excerpt: Examples of fine – tuning for discoverability.
    ,,A small increase in ? (fine structure constant) would have resulted in all open wood fires going out; yet harnessing fire was essential to the development of civilization, technology, and science – e.g., the forging of metals.,,,
    Going in the other direction, if ? (fine structure constant) were decreased, light microscopes would have proportionality less resolving power without the size of living cells or other microscopic objects changing.,,,
    Thus, it is quite amazing that the resolving power of light microscopes goes down to that of the smallest cell (0.2 microns), but no further. If it had less resolving power, some cells could not be observed alive. The fine – structure constant, therefore, is just small enough to allow for open wood fires and just large enough for the light microscope to be able to see all living cells.
    http://home.messiah.edu/~rcoll.....osting.pdf

    corroborating notes:

    The Concentration of Metals for Humanity’s Benefit:
    Excerpt: They demonstrated that hydrothermal fluid flow could enrich the concentration of metals like zinc, lead, and copper by at least a factor of a thousand. They also showed that ore deposits formed by hydrothermal fluid flows at or above these concentration levels exist throughout Earth’s crust. The necessary just-right precipitation conditions needed to yield such high concentrations demand extraordinary fine-tuning. That such ore deposits are common in Earth’s crust strongly suggests supernatural design.
    http://www.reasons.org/TheConc.....tysBenefit

    Ancient Minerals: Which Gave Rise to Life? – Nov. 25, 2013
    Excerpt: Carnegie’s Robert Hazen compiled a list of every plausible mineral species on the Hadean Earth and concludes that no more than 420 different minerals — about 8 percent of the nearly 5,000 species found on Earth today — would have been present at or near Earth’s surface.
    By contrast, thousands of mineral species known today are the direct result of growth by living organisms, such as shells and bones, as well as life’s chemical byproducts, such as oxygen from photosynthesis. In addition, hundreds of other minerals that incorporate relatively rare elements such as lithium, beryllium, and molybdenum appear to have taken a billion years or more to first appear because it is difficult to concentrate these elements sufficiently to form new minerals. So those slow-forming minerals are also excluded from the time of life’s origins.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....164814.htm

    Verse, Quote, and Music:

    Isaiah 45:18-19
    For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘seek me in vain’; I, the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.”

    “When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.”
    George Washington Carver

    Evanescence – The Other Side (Lyric Video)
    http://www.vevo.com/watch/evan.....tantsearch

  6. 6
    Eric Anderson says:

    I’m probably in the minority here and might get into hot water for saying this, but I’ve never been too impressed with the general thrust of the Privileged Planet argument.

    Not the idea that the Earth is relatively rare and that lots of conditions are needed to support life as we know it. That part is pretty secure.

    I’m talking about the idea that various parameters required for life also happen to be particularly suited to lead to scientific discovery. I just don’t find it all that persuasive.

    For example, yes, it is interesting that the angular size of the Sun and the Moon as seen from Earth both happen to be about the same, allowing for various eclipse-related discoveries over the centuries. But with the advent of spacecraft and satellites and special optical viewing equipment we can discover the same things even if the Moon didn’t exist or had a different angular size, or even if the atmosphere were completely opaque and so on.

    And don’t tell me that there wouldn’t be spaceflight or satellites or telescopes if we couldn’t see the Sun’s corona or couldn’t see the stars. Nonsense. While it is true that many a young lad, myself included, has dreamed of adventures to the stars while gazing up at night, the desire for flight would have eventually arisen, and — once on the other side of the hypothetical dense cloud cover obscuring the heavens — the desire for further knowledge and exploration of the heavens would have taken hold just the same. It seems just as likely that some of the phenomena Gonzalez and Richards point to are (i) simply the way the engineering worked out, and/or (ii) there for beauty and wonder, as much as for scientific discovery.

    Anyway, I think the fine tuning arguments are valuable in terms of discussing overall probabilities and drawing an inference about the likelihood of our universe and our home planet and life thereon. I’m just not convinced that those parameters happen to make things meaningfully more amenable to discovery than they would be otherwise.

    Or, perhaps differently said, I think that is the weakest part of their argument.

    I’ll have to read Dr. Collins’ paper to see if it is any more convincing.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Eric, and a lot of people also find it hard to believe that material reality does not exist until we look at it,,,

    Quantum Physics – (material reality does not exist until we look at it) – Dr. Quantum video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1ezNvpFcJU

    Lecture 11: Decoherence and Hidden Variables – Scott Aaronson
    Excerpt: “Look, we all have fun ridiculing the creationists who think the world sprang into existence on October 23, 4004 BC at 9AM (presumably Babylonian time), with the fossils already in the ground, light from distant stars heading toward us, etc. But if we accept the usual picture of quantum mechanics, then in a certain sense the situation is far worse: the world (as you experience it) might as well not have existed 10^-43 seconds ago!”
    http://www.scottaaronson.com/democritus/lec11.html

    If you have trouble accepting the implications of the preceding video and article, don’t feel alone, Nobel prize winner Anthony Leggett, who developed Leggett’s inequality to try to prove that an objective material reality exists when we are not looking at it, still does not believe the results of the experiment that he himself was integral in devising, even though the inequality was violated by a stunning 80 orders of magnitude. He seems to have done this simply because the results contradicted the ‘realism’ he believes in (realism is the notion that an objective material reality exists apart from our conscious observation of it).

    A team of physicists in Vienna has devised experiments that may answer one of the enduring riddles of science: Do we create the world just by looking at it? – 2008
    Excerpt: In mid-2007 Fedrizzi found that the new realism model was violated by 80 orders of magnitude; the group was even more assured that quantum mechanics was correct.
    Leggett agrees with Zeilinger that realism is wrong in quantum mechanics, but when I asked him whether he now believes in the theory, he answered only “no” before demurring, “I’m in a small minority with that point of view and I wouldn’t stake my life on it.” For Leggett there are still enough loopholes to disbelieve. I asked him what could finally change his mind about quantum mechanics. Without hesitation, he said sending humans into space as detectors to test the theory.,,,

    (to which Anton Zeilinger responded)

    When I mentioned this to Prof. Zeilinger he said, “That will happen someday. There is no doubt in my mind. It is just a question of technology.” Alessandro Fedrizzi had already shown me a prototype of a realism experiment he is hoping to send up in a satellite. It’s a heavy, metallic slab the size of a dinner plate.
    http://seedmagazine.com/conten....._tests/P3/

    Thus Eric, why should you think it any more strange that the universe is ‘set up’ for discovery by human beings than material reality does not exist until we look at it???

    Of related interest to this ‘set up for discovery’ topic, The following site is very interesting;

    The Scale of The Universe – Part 2 – interactive graph (recently updated in 2012 with cool features)
    http://htwins.net/scale2/scale.....olor=white

    The preceding interactive graph points out that the smallest scale visible to the human eye (as well as a human egg) is at 10^-4 meters, which ‘just so happens’ to be directly in the exponential center of all possible sizes of our physical reality (not just ‘nearly’ in the exponential center!). i.e. 10^-4 is, exponentially, right in the middle of 10^-35 meters, which is the smallest possible unit of length, which is Planck length, and 10^27 meters, which is the largest possible unit of ‘observable’ length since space-time was created in the Big Bang, which is the diameter of the universe. This is very interesting for, as far as I can tell, the limits to human vision (as well as the size of the human egg) could have, theoretically, been at very different positions than directly in the exponential middle;

    Verse and Music:

    John 3:12
    I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

    Nickelback – Savin’ Me
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JQiEs32SqQ

  8. 8
    Joe says:

    Eric, without our moon we wouldn’t exist. And it just happens to provide us with an awesome natural experiment. Without it being exactly the way it is Einstein may have been forgotten as people doubted his equation until it was proven by an eclipse. Consider:

    “The same narrow circumstances that allow us to exist also provide us with the best over all conditions for making scientific discoveries.”

    “The one place that has observers is the one place that also has perfect solar eclipses.”

    “There is a final, even more bizarre twist. Because of Moon-induced tides, the Moon is gradually receding from Earth at 3.82 centimeters per year. In ten million years will seem noticeably smaller. At the same time, the Sun’s apparent girth has been swelling by six centimeters per year for ages, as is normal in stellar evolution. These two processes, working together, should end total solar eclipses in about 250 million years, a mere 5 percent of the age of the Earth. This relatively small window of opportunity also happens to coincide with the existence of intelligent life. Put another way, the most habitable place in the Solar System yields the best view of solar eclipses just when observers can best appreciate them.” – The Privileged Planet

    “The combined circumstance that we live on Earth and are able to see stars- that the conditions necessary for life do not exclude those necessary for vision, and vice versa- is a remarkably improbable one.

    This is because the medium we live is, on one hand, just thick enough to enable us to breathe and prevent us from being burned up by cosmic rays, while, on the other hand, it is not so opaque as to absorb entirely the light of the stars and block the view of the universe. What a fragile balance between the indispensable and the sublime.” Hans Blumenberg- thoughts independent of the research done by Gonzalez.

    What type of gases may an opaque atmosphere?

    Did you read the book- “The Privileged Planet”? Cause I got a whole lot mo…

  9. 9
    Joe says:

    For example:

    Chapter 16 offers a “Skeptical Rejoinder” answering the following 14 objections:

    1) It’s impossible to falsify your argument.

    “The most decisive way to falsify our argument as a whole would be to find a distant and very different environment that, while quite hostile to life, nevertheless offers a superior platform for making as many diverse scientific discoveries as does our local environment.. The opposite of this would have the same effect- finding an extremely habitable and inhabited place that was a lousy platform for observation.”

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    supplemental notes:

    Dr. Ross points out that the extremely long amount of time it took to prepare a suitable place for humans to exist in this universe, for the relatively short period of time that we can exist on this planet, is actually a point of evidence that argues strongly for Theism:

    Anthropic Principle: A Precise Plan for Humanity By Hugh Ross
    Excerpt: Brandon Carter, the British mathematician who coined the term “anthropic principle” (1974), noted the strange inequity of a universe that spends about 15 billion years “preparing” for the existence of a creature that has the potential to survive no more than 10 million years (optimistically).,, Carter and (later) astrophysicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler demonstrated that the inequality exists for virtually any conceivable intelligent species under any conceivable life-support conditions. Roughly 15 billion years represents a minimum preparation time for advanced life: 11 billion toward formation of a stable planetary system, one with the right chemical and physical conditions for primitive life, and four billion more years toward preparation of a planet within that system, one richly layered with the biodeposits necessary for civilized intelligent life. Even this long time and convergence of “just right” conditions reflect miraculous efficiency.
    Moreover the physical and biological conditions necessary to support an intelligent civilized species do not last indefinitely. They are subject to continuous change: the Sun continues to brighten, Earth’s rotation period lengthens, Earth’s plate tectonic activity declines, and Earth’s atmospheric composition varies. In just 10 million years or less, Earth will lose its ability to sustain human life. In fact, this estimate of the human habitability time window may be grossly optimistic. In all likelihood, a nearby supernova eruption, a climatic perturbation, a social or environmental upheaval, or the genetic accumulation of negative mutations will doom the species to extinction sometime sooner than twenty thousand years from now.
    http://christiangodblog.blogsp.....chive.html

    As a Christian, I like the metaphor of ‘preparing for a wedding’ that Dr. Ross uses in the following video to illustrate the disparity that ‘The Anthropic Inequality’ presents in terms of time:

    Hugh Ross – The Anthropic Principle and The Anthropic Inequality – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8494065/

    At least one secular scientist is far more pessimistic about the ‘natural’ future lifespan of the human race than 20,000 years:

    Humans will be extinct in 100 years says eminent scientist – June 2010
    http://www.physorg.com/news196489543.html

  11. 11
    ppolish says:

    There are 19billion chickens in the world today. I can’t imagine humans being completely extinct in 100 years. At least a few roving bands of chicken hunters will survive?

    BA77, your comments and links are always spectacular/insightful/informative. Thank you!

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