Intelligent Design

The death of fine-tuning?

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The blogosphere is abuzz with reports about a physics paper, Evidence against fine-tuning for life, written by an evangelical Christian physicist named Don Page, professor of physics at the University of Alberta. The paper is surprisingly non-technical and very easy to read. Also worth reading is Dr. Don Page’s non-technical online presentation, Does God so love the multiverse? Professor Page has since rewritten this presentation as a 26-page scientific article, available here.

The gist of Professor Page’s latest paper is that in an optimally designed fine-tuned universe, we’d expect the fraction of baryons (particles composed of three quarks, such as protons and neutrons) that form organized structures (such as galaxies and eventually living things), to be maximized. However, the facts do not bear this out. In our universe, the observed value of the cosmological constant, lambda-0, is very slightly positive – about 3.5 x 10^(-122) – whereas in an optimally designed universe, the cosmological constant (lambda) should be very slightly negative – somewhere between zero and minus 3.5 x 10^(-122):

[H]ere we are examining the .. view, that a biophilic principle fine tunes lambda to the value that maximizes the fraction of baryons that develop into life. Martel, Shapiro, and Weinberg [11] found that not only does this fraction drop steeply with lambda if it is much larger than lambda-0, but also that it is a decreasing function of lambda for all positive values. The reason is that a positive cosmological constant gives a repulsion between separate particles that reduces the ordinary gravitational attraction and leads to less gravitational condensation of matter. Therefore, other factors being equal, any positive cosmological constant decreases the fraction of baryons that condense to form galaxies and other structures that eventually form living substructures.

As an immediate consequence, no positive value of the cosmological constant (such as the observed value lambda-0) can maximize the fraction of baryons in life. Therefore, the observed positive value of the cosmological constant is evidence against this specific hypothesis of fine tuning for life by a biophilic principle that would
maximize the fraction of baryons that form living organisms or observers.

Later on in his paper, Page admits that his initial assumption, that in a fine-tuned universe the fraction of baryons that form living beings should be maximized, may be mistaken; it may simply be the total number of baryons that form living beings which should be maximized. But then he says that we don’t know how the total number of baryons would depend on lambda (the cosmological constant), and he adds that in their calculations, Martel, Shapiro, and Weinberg just considered the fraction of baryons condensing into structures, as that was something they could calculate. He adds that he’s a little worried about this, especially as the simplest estimates for the total number of baryons tend to be infinite! Not being a scientist, I can’t comment on the simplifying assumption made by Martel, Shapiro, and Weinberg.

In his online presentation, Does God so love the multiverse? , Professor Page speculates that God may have created a multiverse instead of just one universe, because it was simpler for Him to do that, and more elegant as well. A multiverse would still require laws of Nature, and God could well have chosen these laws. Page also adduces some Bayesian arguments in support of the multiverse as well, but I’ll skip over these, as I don’t think they’re very rigorous. Page concludes:

* Multiverses are serious ideas of present science, though not yet proved.

* They can potentially explain fine-tuned constants of physics but are not an automatic panacea for solving all problems.

* Though multiverses should not be accepted uncritically, I would argue that Christians have no more reason to oppose them than they had to oppose Darwinian evolution when it was first proposed. (Emphasis mine – VJT.)

* God might indeed so love the multiverse.

Interestingly, in his technical paper on the multiverse, Professor Page reveals his profound theological bias against the fine-tuning argument:

I personally think it might be a theological mistake to look for fine tuning as a sign of the existence of God. I am reminded of the exchange between Jesus and the religious authorities recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 12:38-41: “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.’” In other words, I regard the death and resurrection of Jesus as the sign given to us that He is indeed the Son of God and Savior He claimed to be, rather than needing signs from fine tuning. (Emphasis mine – VJT.)

Here are a few of my thoughts on Professor Page’s arguments regarding fine-tuning and the multiverse:

Scientific comments

(1) Professor Page’s latest paper undercuts the view that the universe is optimal, but it doesn’t undercut fine-tuning. The evidence for fine-tuning remains compelling. That’s the most important thing that readers need to take away from this whole story.

Some people, upon reading about Page’s paper, may feel massively demoralized, and think: “So the universe wasn’t designed after all.” But this would be a really stupid reaction. Why?

To put the whole matter in perspective, it should be pointed out that the argument really hinges on whether God should have designed a universe with a very, very, tiny negative value for the cosmological constant, or a very, very, tiny positive value. Think of the values we’re talking about here: 3 x 10^(-122) is 3 divided by 1 followed by 122 zeroes. That’s a very small fraction. It’s perfectly legitimate to ask why the universe has such a low value for the cosmological constant. Why isn’t it 3, or 300, or 3 trillion, or 3 with 122 zeroes after it (3 x 10^122)? The riposte, “Because we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t” is a cop-out, as it merely addresses the question of why we observe a life-compatible value for the cosmological constant (lambda) in our universe. What it fails to address is the question of why a life-friendly universe such as ours exists in the first place.

(2) Fine-tuning would still exist in Nature, even if there were a multiverse, as Professor Page believes. Professor Page’s latest findings fail to dent Dr. Robin Collins’ brilliant defense of the fine-tuning argument in his article, The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe (in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, 2009, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, ISBN: 978-1-405-17657-6). In his article, Dr. Collins carefully evaluates the version of fine-tuning considered to be most likely by Professor Page – namely, one that combines inflationary cosmology with M-theory. Collins argues that “the laws of the multiverse generator must be just right – fine-tuned – in order to produce life-sustaining universes,” and concludes:

In sum, even if an inflationary/superstring multiverse generator exists, it must have just the right combination of laws and fields for the production of life-permitting universes: if one of the components were missing or different, such as Einstein’s equation or the Pauli-exclusion principle, it is unlikely that any life-permitting universes could be produced. Consequently, at most this highly speculative scenario would explain the fine-tuning of the constants of physics, but at the cost of postulating additional fine-tuning of the laws of nature. (Italics mine – VJT.)

(3) If a multiverse does exist (as it may well do), then Intelligent Design proponents should assume that there must be a good reason for it to exist, and that this reason has to do with the needs of intelligent life. Interestingly, Oxford physicist David Deutsch has provided a possible reason why human beings might need a multiverse: according to him, quantum computers couldn’t perform their computations unless there were other universes. In his article David Deutsch’s many worlds (in Frontiers magazine, December 1998), Deutsch rhetorically asks: “So I issue this challenge to those who still cling to a single-universe world view: if the universe we see around us is all there is, where are the quantum computations performed? I have yet to receive a plausible reply.”

If Deutsch’s argument regarding quantum computers is indeed correct, then the next question we need to ask is: how many universes do humans need, to perform all their quantum computations? And can we use this result to weed out physical theories which postulate an absurdly large or even infinite number of multiverses?

(4) Professor Page admits in his latest paper that if the cosmological constant is less than zero, as he thinks it should be, “the entire universe will recollapse, putting a limit on how much time there is for life to develop, and therefore on what fraction of baryons actually form life” (emphasis mine – VJT). To give the universe enough time for life to evolve, Page argues that the optimal negative value for the cosmological constant needs to be very, very small. On the contrary, I would suggest that maybe the reason why the cosmological constant is positive is that God doesn’t want this universe to one day recollapse. Maybe He wants it to exist forever. Page also admits that the very, very small positive value for the cosmological constant which obtains in our universe has very little (if any) adverse impact on the development of life, after galaxies begin to form in the cosmos: “For a positive cosmological constant no larger than its observed value, once gravitationally bound structures like galaxies develop, lambda appears to have an insignificant effect on the development of life…” So all the fuss in the media over the sub-optimal value of the cosmological constant (lambda) is a bit of a storm in a tea-cup.

(5) Professor Page thinks a multiverse might be more elegant than a single universe. Maybe he’s right. Well, “elegance” is a very nice term, but it’s not much good, scientifically speaking, if you can’t compare it, measure it or quantify it. Is an infinite multiverse more elegant than a finite one, for instance? And if a finite one is more elegant, what’s the most elegant kind of finite multiverse? Unfortunately, in his technical paper, Professor Page doesn’t provide a scientific measure of elegance. Intelligent Design proponents need to press him on this one.

Professor Page also mentions simplicity, but admits in his technical paper that the notion faces a problem, highlighted by Oxford physicist David Deutsch: “simplicity depends on one’s background knowledge that itself depends on the laws of physics.” So we are back at square one.

Theological comments

(6) Professor Page doesn’t like the fine-tuning argument for theological reasons: he thinks humans have no right to ask God to give us a sign of His existence, in the cosmos. For my part, I’m extremely distrustful of a priori theological arguments which take as their premise the assertion that God doesn’t want to reveal Himself too obviously. I’d like to ask: why not? If He made the universe, then presumably He would want to reveal His existence to the intelligent beings that live in it. Professor Page thinks it’s presumptuous to look for a sign of God’s existence in the fine-tuning of the cosmos, because he thinks God wouldn’t want to show Himself like that. For my part, I consider Page’s attitude to be both elitist and exclusive. It’s elitist, because it ignores the mass of ordinary people, struggling with their daily lives, who find it very hard to continue believing in God in a world filled with evil, and who have a deep-felt need for a sign from the heavens which shows that they are indeed part of a Divine plan. Fine-tuning is such a sign. For many people, it provides strong confirmation of their belief that God meant them to be here – confirmation which sustains them in a world filled with trials and assaults on faith.

Professor Page’s response is also theologically exclusive, because the Resurrection is a sign which non-Christians can draw no comfort from. What Page is saying is that if you were not born a Christian, and you live in a land in which the Christian faith is not being widely preached, and you are sincerely trying to find meaning in your life, then God will offer you no evidence of His existence. If you haven’t heard of the Resurrection, then the world will look godless to you. I find that assertion appalling. But in any case, Scripture itself contradicts Page’s position. St. Paul tells us that God’s existence can be clearly known, from the things that He has made (Romans 1: 20). And on a popular level, design arguments for the existence of God have always been the most appealing. We would therefore expect to see the hand of God in Nature. The fine-tuning argument and the argument from the specified complexity we see in living things are the two design arguments which make the best case for God’s existence, at the present time. It would therefre be prudent to follow these leads, and see where they take us.

(7) From a purely religious perspective, I wouldn’t expect this universe to be optimal, anyway. I would expect it to be pretty close to optimal, however. In an optimally designed universe, living things would never die. Religious believers have a name for this optimally designed universe: it’s called Heaven. It’s out there, but we can’t reach it, as it lies beyond our space and time. The constants of Nature must be somewhat different in Heaven, since in our universe they permit only mortal life-forms to arise.

(8) Reading Professor Page’s paper, I was reminded of the atheist philosopher Bradley Monton’s blog post on how he would explain the problem of evil, if he were a believer – The many-universe solution to the problem of evil:

… I’ll present it with a parable. Suppose that God exists, and God is omnipotent and omniscient, and has the desire to be omnibenevolent. So God creates a very nice universe, a universe with no evil. We might at first think that God has fulfilled the criterion of omnibenevolence, but then we recognize that God could do more – God could create another universe that’s also very nice. Agents could exist in that universe that didn’t exist in the first universe, and so there’s an intuitive sense (which is admittedly tricky to make precise mathematically) in which there would be more goodness to reality than there would be were God just to create one universe.

But of course there’s no reason to stop at two – God should create an infinite number of universes. Now, he could just create an infinite number of universes, where in each universe no evil things happen. But in doing so, there would be certain creatures that wouldn’t exist – creatures like us, who exist in a universe with evil, and are essential products of that universe. So God has to decide whether to create our universe as well. What criterion should he use in making this decision? My thought is that he should create all the universes that have more good than evil, and not create the universes that have more evil than good.

So that’s why an omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent God would create our universe, even though it has evil — our universe adds (in an intuitive sense, setting aside mathematical technicalities) to the sum total of goodness in the universe, and hence it’s worth creating.

I’d like to know what readers think of Professor Monton’s solution to the problem of evil.

(9) I found Page’s comment on Darwinism to be risible. Professor Page writes: “Though multiverses should not be accepted uncritically, I would argue that Christians have no more reason to oppose them than they had to oppose Darwinian evolution when it was first proposed.” On the contrary, Professor: Darwinism, more than anything else in the past 200 years, has shattered religious faith in the Western world.

Concluding remarks

To sum up: Professor Page’s paper suggests that the cosmological constant isn’t optimal: instead of being very, very slightly negative, it’s very, very slightly positive. That may be so, but the remarkable thing is that the cosmological constant is still compatible with life at all.

The existence of the multiverse postulated by Professor Page does not do away with the need for design: indeed, it requires additional fine-tuning of the laws of nature.

The argument from fine-tuning stands.

31 Replies to “The death of fine-tuning?

  1. 1
    tragic mishap says:

    Optimal according to who? God or Dr. Page?

    There’s a very special place in heaven for people like him. It comes with a dunce cap.

  2. 2
    dgosse says:

    As a fellow Albertan I suspect the recent cold and snow may have affected Dr. Page’s faculties.

    As tragic mishap notes “Optimal according to who?” But, if the universe is sub-optimal for the formation of living organisms – what of the already highly improbable living organisms we see all around us? What of SETI and the idea of a fecund universe where life would necessarily arise and arise nearly everywhere?

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: We would do well to recall that here is a considerable number of fine tuned parameters setting the observed cosmos to an operating point for life, and that the fine-tuning issue is not dependent on any one of them, but on the cumulative impact. Cf. Ross here.

  4. 4
    Collin says:

    Wait, does fine tuning have to be absolutely perfect? Can’t it be very very fine but not very very very very fine to the 10th degree? Has the argument really lost very much of its power?

  5. 5
    Spiny Norman says:

    >> the observed positive value of the cosmological constant
    >> is evidence against this specific hypothesis of fine
    >> tuning for life by a biophilic principle that would
    >> maximize the fraction of baryons that form living organisms
    >> or observers.

    Maybe its explained elsewhere, but what is the reasoning whereby one concludes that a God creating any universe ought to create one that maximises the number of living organisms or observers?

    Its a moral argument (an ‘ought’ not an ‘is’) so what is at the foundation of this obligation? How does one derive such a moral obligation on a creator

  6. 6
    Spiny Norman says:

    Is he perhaps suggesting that our universe is just not large enough? If it were bigger, we could fit more living creatures in it? Any finite universe that you can possibly imagine could always have another cubic metre of space added to it, thus making it larger and therefore capable of sustaining more life. Given that any created universe is necessarily finite in size, is his argument therefore that because said universe exists there cannot be a creator? Just plain dopey. I’ll leave it to the philosophers to pull his argument apart and show just how vacuous it really is.

  7. 7
    Bantay says:

    I wonder what his theological view would be on Hebrews 3:4

    “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    This is simply incredible, instead of rigidly investigating and elucidating the ‘information theoretic’ foundation by which God created and sustains reality, that modern physics has now concretely revealed to us, this Professor has chosen to write 26 pages of how he personally thinks God could have done a better job of creating the universe??? Methinks the good professor should think a little less of himself and a little more of the God of the Bible he claims to believe in!

  9. 9
    ciphertext says:

    I find it peculiar that he would object to the “fine tuning” argument as being a “sign” of the existence of God. If anything, the perceived fine tuning is an interpretation of discoveries. Much the same as mathematics, in my humblest of opinion, is the science of discoveries (for lack of a better term). Not one mathematician sits down with a blank sheet of paper and decides what mathematical theorems, axioms, and laws “should” exist. Rather, they observe reality and attempt to manifest those realities as something communicable among humans. Those “communicable observations” manifest in the form of theorems, axioms, and laws (to name a few).On the other hand, if what he meant by his statement is that you should require no other reason to believe that God exists beyond the fact that God himself claims He exists. Sort of the divine “I think, therefore I am.” I would concur.

  10. 10
    tjguy says:

    Professor Page reinterprets the Bible for himself. He picks and chooses what verses to use to support his personal ideas and his scientific data which as we all know is certainly not set in stone.

    He thinks we should not look for a sign and quotes a verse in Matthew. But this is a mistaken use of that passage. They wanted a sign that would verify that Jesus really was who He said He was. That request had nothing to do with a sign of God’s existence.

    He conveniently ignores the many verses that speak of the universe showing God’s glory and pointing to a Creator like this one:
    Romans 1:18-21″The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people,
    who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
    19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

    Prof Page says: “I personally think it might be a theological mistake to look for fine tuning as a sign of the existence of God.”

    Hmm. Thank you for your opinion, but really, I personally think it might be a theological mistake to look for truth in Professor Page’s comments as if He knows the mind of God. The Word of the Creator Himself seems more reliable to me and God is quite clear on the issue as the above passage shows.

  11. 11
    tjguy says:

    You said you would like to know what readers think of Professor Monton’s solution to the problem of evil.

    Like it or not, here are my thoughts.

    It is not a solution to the problem of evil for the God of the Bible who is 100% holy, just, true, powerful, and loving. According to the Bible, God did not create evil. It is an impossibility for Him.

    He tells in His Word that He created a perfectly good universe, free from evil, death, sin, and suffering. As Genesis explains and the New Testament confirms, evil and death entered the universe when Adam and Eve sinned. Obviously the humans He created had the potential to choose evil as opposed to being programmed like a robot to always choose what is right, but He provided everything they ever needed so that there would be no compelling need to choose it. He made it as easy as He could for them to follow Him, but they still chose to doubt His Word when they believed the lies of Satan. He holds humans responsible for their sin rather than Himself.

    Where did Satan come from? It is a bit unclear, but he seems to have been an angel that got proud and tried to usurp God’s position and glory. When he sinned in this way, he along with whatever angels chose to follow him, were thrown out of heaven. Why He chose to create angels in the first place when He knew this would happen, no one knows. We’ll have to wait until we get to heaven to find out the answer to that question. But one thing is certain – God did not use the death and suffering of living creatures over millions of years to create the living creatures that we see today. This goes against His own nature and is therefore an impossibility.

    Anyway, even if there are multiple universes, it would still seem that God would be responsible for the evil in this universe if He actually created it. It is not a matter of degree when it comes to God. He is 100% holy and nothing that is not 100% holy can enter heaven. So, I cannot see how the possibility of multiple universes will get God off the hook. Plus, I see no reason to buy into the multiple universe idea.

    By the way, I find it quite intriguing that scientists are so willing to believe in the multiverse theory even though they cannot see any other universes. What is the difference between believing in that and believing in a Creator. You can’t see either one of them. There is no evidence for multiple universes! We go to great lengths to support our man made ideas of what happened in the past in order to resist the obvious – admitting there is a Creator.

  12. 12
    second opinion says:

    Is the fine tuning a positive argument for ID?

    There are three possibilities:
    1) The universe is not fine tuned. This would not be to bad for ID (the intelligent design of biological life). ID could still be true.

    2) The universe is fine tuned. In this case the laws of nature are fine tuned not only to make life possible and to sustain life but also to produce life and to evolve life. If this was the case it would be the deaf blow to ID. ID could go home. A universe with completely fine tuned laws would be evidence for theistic evolution.

    3) The universe is fine tuned but only to a certain degree. It is only fine tuned to make life possible and sustain life but not to produce or evolve life. This could very well be. But the problem is that this only becomes an argument in favor of ID if you can demonstrate that the fine tuning is actually limited.
    Even if you demonstrate by other means that the laws of nature are insufficient to produce life or evolve life than you could only conclude that the fine tuning must be limited thus this limited fine tuning in turn can not become a positive argument for ID.

  13. 13
    avocationist says:

    Second Opinion-

    Fine tuning does not make a death blow for ID. Creating a situation friendly to life does not take care of the problems with probability in arranging proteins and a first living cell, nor irreducible complexity or functionally complex specified information.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Torley:

    With all due respect to prof Page, I do not think he has made his point.

    Or rather, his remarks, in effect [if not intent], seem to be a matter of providing a “but if . . . ” rhetorical talking point to persuade people to dismiss the cumulative evidence for fine-tuning, than any cogent, broadly based response to what is inherently a cumulative case. However, one cannot responsibly dismiss a cumulative case on a single point, unless one thereby shows an inescapable self-referential absurdity, such as a contradiction. Which prof Page’s papers and presentation do not present.

    First, he notes that if the cosmological constant — “(or dark energy density)that quantifies the gravitational repulsion of empty space . . . ” [EAFTL, p.2 of 8] — were . . .

    of magnitude smaller than the Planck value, but if it were just a few orders of magnitude larger than its tiny positive observed value [8, 9], with the other constants of physics kept the same, life as we know it would appear to be very difficult . . . . [T]he fact that the cosmological constant is roughly 122 orders of magnitude smaller than the apparently simplest natural nonzero value for it (the Planck value) cries out for an explanation beyond pure coincidence, since the probability of such a remarkable coincidence is extremely low, much less than the probability of having a monkey randomly type on a simple typewriter in one go,

    The cosmological constant is 10^(-122) in Planck units.

    [p. 2, EAFTL]

    So, he here acknowledges that the present, observed value does seem to be fine tuned to put the observed cosmos at a — note, not “the”; i.e., following John Leslie we are talking about an isolated fly on the wall swatted by a bullet [and implying local fine-tuning in the teeth of multiverse arguments], not the possibility that there may be other flies or even carpets of flies, elsewhere on the wall — fine-tuned operating point that fits well with C-chemistry, cell based life.

    This comes out further on p. 4, where he says:

    . . . if indeed there is a multiverse with a wide range of values of that are fairly uniformly distributed near [L] = 0, the third view, observer selection within a multiverse, would be a good explanation for the observed value [L0]

    We need to slow down a moment here. For, if there is such a multiverse, then that multiverse is in effect searching the range near L = 0. That is, we are back at Collins’ sub-cosmos bakery that is set up to put out good loaves, not burned hockey-pucks. The multiverse has to be set up at a condition sufficient to produce such a happy distribution of sub-cosmi, and — surprise — all that has happened is that the fine-tuning has been elevated one level. Do we then resort to a quasi-infinite array of multiverses, each somehow set up to search a zone of interest? That would now strain credulity, multiplying unobserved entities without limit, in an ad hoc argument to avoid a conclusion one plainly is hostile to, rather than to seek a reasonable explanation.

    Now, too, on prof Page’s own approach: that a twiddling of the cosmological constant to a slightly negative value might create more baryons is not a demonstration of a contradiction or other absurdity. In fact, it would naturally increase the gravitational attractions, and trigger a cosmological contraction, so indeed Page remarks:

    Although one could make the fraction of baryons condensing into structures larger by a negative cosmological constant, the flip side is that if [L] < 0, the entire universe will recollapse, putting a limit on how much time there is for life to develop, and therefore on what fraction of baryons actually form life. (For a positive cosmological constant no larger than its observed value, once gravitationally bound structures like galaxies develop, [L] appears to have an insignificant effect on the development of life, so that the fraction of baryons that form life can be taken to be the fraction that condense into galaxies multiplied by a tiny factor that depends on the other constants of physics but which has negligible dependence on [L].) [EAFTL, p. 5.]

    As a consequence, he resorts to — surprise!! — A FINE TUNING ARGUMENT.

    As we may see on the same p. 5:

    For example . . . with the cosmological constant being the negative of the value for the MUM that makes it have present age

    t0 = H0^- 1 = 10^8years/alpha, the total lifetime of the anti-MUM model is 2:44t = 33:4 Gyr.

    Values of [L] more negative than this would presumably reduce the amount of life per baryon that has condensed into galaxies more than the increase in the fraction of baryons that condense into galaxies in the first place, so I would suspect that the value of the cosmological constant that maximizes the fraction of baryons becoming life is between zero and – LO ~ 3.5 * 10^- 122, with a somewhat lower magnitude than the observed value but with the opposite sign.

    SOMETHING THAT IS SET TO WITHIN 3 – 4 PARTS IN 10^-122 IS PLAINLY EXQUISITELY FINE-TUNED.

    In short, Prof Page is arguing for another possible finely-tuned operating point, not against fine-tuning as such.

    However, that another fine-tuned operating point for the cosmos is possible does not refute the observation that the observed operating point is evidently fine-tuned.

    Reports of the death of fine-tuning are somewhat over-stated.

    GEM of TKI

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: A few notes on Prof Page’s slideshow presentation:

    1] Pp. 7 – 8: When Darwin proposed evolution, many conservative Christians accepted it. However, many later came to oppose it . . . . Benjamin B. Warfield [a leading conservative theologian of c. 100+ years ago, said:] ” . . . I do not
    think that there is any general statement in the Bible or any part of the account of creation, either as given in Genesis 1 and 2 or
    elsewhere alluded to, that need be opposed to evolution.”

    Prof Page, here, needs to distinguish the concept of evolution in general [including theistic and old earth Creationist forms of both today and the turn of C20], from the canonical, a priori evolutionary materialist form that is not only dominant in the key institutions today, but evidently was Darwin’s own view. As his Oct 13, 1880 letter to Aveling, a physician and Marx’s son-in-law who waned to dedicate a book to Darwin documents, CRD’s view was:

    . . . though I am a strong advocate for free thought [NB: free-thought is an old synonym for skepticism, agnosticism or atheism] on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family [NB: especially his wife, Emma], if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.

    In short, Darwinism was in part motivated by specifically anti-Christian skepticism, and was intended to undermine the general faith in God by making God seem unnecessary, through presenting a materialistic, chance and necessity view of the origin of species.

    However, at no point has the evolutionary materialistic framework — which in the main today is promoted in the name of methodological naturalism as an a priori, question begging and censoring imposition on science –succeeded in accounting for the origin of digitally coded functionally specific complex information [dFSCI] required to explain the origin of life, or the origin of the dozens of major body plans.

    More generally, we have excellent reason to see that dFSCI is an empirically reliable diagnostic sign of design, through the explanatory filter.

    2: p. 10: It does seem true that we could not be here if many of the constants of physics were significantly different.

    If the mass and charge of the proton
    and electron were much different,
    suitable stars to produce elements and to sustain planets could not exist.

    If the cosmological constant weren’t so tiny, structures would not form at all.

    In short, prof Page acknowledges that there is a cluster of fine-tuned parameters.

    Also, his own argument, as we just saw, boils down to arguing for another possible fine-tuned range for the cosmological constant, not against fine tuning at the range we do see.

    3] p. 23: Is it sufficient to explain what we see by a
    multiverse theory in which there are enough different conditions that ours necessarily occurs somewhere?

    To get that searching of the neighbourhood of our locally isolated fly on the wall, we arguably need a fine tuned multiverse.

    4] p. 28: If the constants of physics we see are optimal, it might be simplest for God to
    choose them and them only. They do seem very good, but it is not clear that they are optimal, so it might be simpler for God to choose a set of varying constants,
    a multiverse rather than a single universe.

    A locally fine-tuned cluster is just as wondrous as a global one, as Leslie’s fly on the wall analogy shows. He puts it aptly in Our Place in the Cosmos:

    . . . the need for such explanations does not depend on any estimate of how many universes would be observer-permitting, out of the entire field of possible universes. Claiming that our universe is ‘fine tuned for observers’, we base our claim on how life’s evolution would apparently have been rendered utterly impossible by comparatively minor alterations in physical force strengths, elementary particle masses and so forth. There is no need for us to ask whether very great alterations in these affairs would have rendered it fully possible once more, let alone whether physical worlds conforming to very different laws could have been observer-permitting without being in any way fine tuned. Here it can be useful to think of a fly on a wall, surrounded by an empty region. A bullet hits the fly Two explanations suggest themselves. Perhaps many bullets are hitting the wall or perhaps a marksman fired the bullet. There is no need to ask whether distant areas of the wall, or other quite different walls, are covered with flies so that more or less any bullet striking there would have hit one. The important point is that the local area contains just the one fly.. . . the need for such explanations does not depend on any estimate of how many universes would be observer-permitting, out of the entire field of possible universes. Claiming that our universe is ‘fine tuned for observers’, we base our claim on how life’s evolution would apparently have been rendered utterly impossible by comparatively minor alterations in physical force strengths, elementary particle masses and so forth. There is no need for us to ask whether very great alterations in these affairs would have rendered it fully possible once more, let alone whether physical worlds conforming to very different laws could have been observer-permitting without being in any way fine tuned. Here it can be useful to think of a fly on a wall, surrounded by an empty region. A bullet hits the fly Two explanations suggest themselves. Perhaps many bullets are hitting the wall or perhaps a marksman fired the bullet. There is no need to ask whether distant areas of the wall, or other quite different walls, are covered with flies so that more or less any bullet striking there would have hit one. The important point is that the local area contains just the one fly.

    And, the definition of “optimal” is subtle: to go to a maximum or minimum as relvant, subject to a cluster of conditions. So, to judge thathe cosmos as observed is NOT optimal, one would have to have a good reason to know that s/he has accurately pictured the full range of constraints on the choice.

    This condition, we plainly cannot meet. Indeed, the OT reminds us to be humble on such a theme:

    Is 55:8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
    9(N) For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.[ESV]

    5] [Multiverse models are] Not observable or testable. But if one had a theory giving the distribution of different
    conditions, one could make statistical tests of our observations (likely or unlikely in the distribution). Unfortunately, no such theory exists yet.

    In short, the proposed multiverse is speculation, in absence of a means of even indirect empirical testing.

    6] p. 34: Though multiverses should not be accepted uncritically, I would argue that Christians have no more reason to oppose them than they had to oppose Darwinian evolution when it was first proposed.

    The Oct 13, 1880 CRD letter to Aveling — as already cited above — suggests that there were excellent reasons to be concerned over Darwin’s motives, rhetorical intent and hidden assumptions for his theory.

    __________________

    On balance, it seems that the reported death of the fine-tuning argument has been considerably overstated.

  16. 16
    markf says:

    Well for once I agree with the ID proponents here. It really doesn’t matter whether the range is one zillionth of a unit or two zillionths of a unit.

    The logical error of the fine tuning argument is equating an accuracy of 1 part in a zillion with a probability of one in a zillion.

  17. 17
    bornagain77 says:

    markf states:

    ‘The logical error of the fine tuning argument is equating an accuracy of 1 part in a zillion with a probability of one in a zillion.’

    This would be true save for the fact that materialism’s initial presupposition was to presuppose a wide variance of life permitting values for the universal constants instead of extremely harrow values we find. For you to ignore the falsification of the initial predictions of your foundational hypothesis (materialism) is severely prejudiced.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I have responded to prof Page here.

    ________________________________

    F/N 2: MF’s error just above is to conflate a sensitivity argument — e.g. prof Page, it turns out is proposing a possible second fine-tuned band from about 0 – – 3 * 10^-122 for the cosmological constant — with a dubious and selective hyperskeptical response to standard probabilistic reasoning, routinely used in grounding say statistical thermodynamics.

    When we see no reason to prefer any one of a range of possible contingencies, the Bernoulli-Laplace criterion of indifference applies.

    For simple example,

    a –> suppose we have no reason to doubt the fairness of a given standard die.

    b –> In that case, the probability of it rolling and tumbling to read any given face will be 1 in 6.

    c –> Statistical studies of such dice abundantly support that view.

    d –> So much so, that when a given die shifts radically away from that for a long enough run of throws, we suspect that it has been loaded, i.e that there has been intelligent design applied to bias the outcomes.

    e –> This is of course a crude application of the explanatory filter and inference to design.

    (We may note how studiously MF has avoided responding to the post on that topic, here.)

    GEM of TKI

  19. 19
    lars says:

    Thank you vjtorley for bringing this article to our attention.

    Based on what I read here about Page’s presentation, I think there are two additional reasons why his line of reasoning does not weaken the fine-tuning argument. (Apologies that I have not taken into account others’ comments… I composed this response last night and am only posting it this morning.)

    1) As others have alluded to, fine-tuning does not necessarily imply maximization – especially not maximization of every individual parameter that someone might speculate would be beneficial to maximize. Page disclaims “other factors being equal”, but we certainly don’t know other factors to be equal. If every factor had to be maximized, an observer might speculate that every designed vehicle should carry powerful weapons in order to improve its driver’s chances of survival. Since my minivan doesn’t have any guns, it isn’t optimized for the driver’s fitness… and therefore there is no evidence of it being designed?? The fallacy is obvious… My minivan was designed with certain priorities in mind, among which the driver’s survival in war was a lower priority than affordability and civil peace. By a similar line of reasoning, giraffes show no evidence of design because they do not have fangs and poison glands, which would (“other factors being equal”) improve their chances of survival. But biologists know that herbivores have their own survival strategies, that have been highly successful. The assumption that maximizing fangs will maximize fitness is hopelessly naive.

    The universe shows extreme evidence of fine-tuning to be suitable for life: as far as we know, lambda must fall in a very very narrow range in order for life to be possible at all. It falls in that range. And the fine-tuning of lambda is successful: life exists, just fine. The fact that lambda does not meet a speculative maximization function reflects very little on a design argument.

    2) I think his maximization assumption is linked to an assumption of unguided evolution. If you have to design a universe where you want life to evolve by unguided processes, then it makes sense to maximize the chances of that happening, by whatever means possible. (However omniscience or at least prescience would eliminate that requirement: the designer could ensure the emergence of the desired type of life, without having to maximize all contributing factors.)
    Take away the assumption of unguided processes, and the requirement to maximize factors contributing to those processes is removed. Then the evidence for design is tied to the fine-tuning of physical constants to a range suitable for life to exist, not to a range where evolution is most likely to happen successfully by chance.

  20. 20
    lars says:

    @kairosfocus: “F/N: I have responded to prof Page here.”

    The link goes to a draft page which is inaccessible.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    Lars

    Sorry, my response page to prof Page is here.

    GEM of TKI

  22. 22

    VJT,
    Congratulations!
    I had considered a post on this paper, but couldn’t get myself worked up enough to refute a TE like Page. As you and many others have pointed out, he’s making a theological argument when he talks about “optimality”, and that isn’t science anymore.

    On the other hand, no one has pointed out that his initial assumption–that the cosmological constant his small and positive–is also an assumption, a statement of faith. The universe is most consistent with lambda=0, and both the Type Ia supernovae and cosmology models that fit a positive lambda, do so with biassed (in a Bayesian sense) priors.

    Furthermore, the density of baryons or even absolute number of baryons depends on a BBN model which is itself questionable. So by the time all the science has been assumed, there’s very little objective facts left to do theology with.

    The entire exercise is more of a pub conversation than a paper, and one more piece of evidence that our post-modern world can’t distinguish between news and opinion in the NYT, between conjecture and science in the peer-reviewed literature.

    So there really is very little science

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    RS:

    Not only so, but when we look at the fine print, this is what prof Page is actually claiming as the alternative value for the constant:

    I would suspect that the value of the cosmological constant that maximizes the fraction of baryons becoming life is between zero and – LO ~ 3.5 * 10^- 122, with a somewhat lower magnitude than the observed value but with the opposite sign. [EAFTL, p. 5]

    I would call that a fine tuned range, and would do so even if it was 0 to -3 * 10^-22 or even 10^-12 or even 10^-2. (The O and C resonances are about 4% as I recall Hoyle. [Ever fiddled with an old-fashioned radio dial to catch a faint short wave station?])

    I discuss this here.

    GEM of TKI

  24. 24
    lars says:

    P.S. Based on my point 2 above, his presentation should perhaps be retitled “Evidence against fine-tuning for evolution” instead of “Evidence against fine-tuning for life”. Of course even that requires a bunch of questionable assumptions.

  25. 25
    vjtorley says:

    kairosfocus

    I greatly appreciate your comments, since you are a physicist, and you’re therefore familiar with the kinds of arguments that Professor Page is attempting to make in his critique of fine-tuning. I was glad to read that you shared my opinion that the fine-tuning argument is still a perfectly valid one. Thanks for the post.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Torley:

    Prof Page’s range of values remark is quite plain.

    He has proposed a fine-tuning argument to dismiss fine-tuning arguments.

    His rebuttal therefore fails.

    And, besides, if we focus on water [cf here or the excerpts here], the issues he poses fade into the background.

    What accounts for water, given the need for stellar nucleosynthesis to forge O and the implications of nuclear resonances for that?

    And that independently goes to the way physics works for sub-atomic particles in stars — the fusion process in stellar cores, in the context of burning up H, expanding and contracting, heating up sufficiently to burn higher atoms starting with He, and then the runaway toward Fe, where the process runs into the binding energy per nucleon roadblock [fusing or fissioning Fe nuclei USES energy].

    If stars are big enough, we then see supernovas that sythesise the really heavy elements.

    Of course lighter stars cast off planetary nebulae, and there are all sorts of details we can track in the H-R diagram.

    All of this is quite strongly tied to uncontroversial theoretical astrophysics analysis and backed up with a huge body of observations.

    That is why Hoyle was so direct in his monkeying with physics remarks:

    From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16.Cited, Bradley, in “Is There Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God? How the Recent Discoveries Support a Designed Universe”.]

    GEM of TKI

  27. 27
    nullasalus says:

    VJTorley,

    Please tell me if I’ve understood Page (and your criticisms) correctly.

    He’s not denying that there is an extremely tiny range of values possible in the constants that are amenable to life, and that said tiny range (obviously) has been obtained.

    Instead, it’s that within that ridiculously small range, Page thinks that there is a slightly ‘better’ point (positive versus negative lambda) that we did not arrive at. It’s not that there isn’t tuning, so to speak, but that Page thinks the tuning (if you grant his assumptions) could possibly have been ‘done better’.

    On target?

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    Null:

    He is proposing a slightly improved point for one constant, which in his view would make more baryons — the stuff of atoms, which gives more material for forming terrestrial planets and life.

    That immediately raises the point that he is playing at flies on walls. That an isolated fly on the wall gets swatted by a single bullet is itself a sign of a marksman.

    But, he is trying to dismiss fine tuning, by appealing to — a fine-tuned range.

    A discussion on which of two ranges would be on balance more robust or more optimal — I am suspicious of claims of optimal solutions as they tend to be very sensitive to objective function constraints — is a separate one form a debate talking pointtat tries to dismiss the concept of fine tuning.

    In addition, the multiverse needs a driving mechanism, which will have to be set up right to create the distribution. That is the cosmos bakery issue.

    Then, when I glance at his theology and worldviews analysis, it does not add up. {I gave links on that, rather than major discussions, beyond citing Darwin’s Oct 13, 1880 letter.)

    The net effect of the Page paper is to give a rhetorical excuse and talking point, instead of to seriously and soberly engage.

    I was particularly disappointed in the contrast between the dismissive tone on fine tuning and discovering that his counter-argument pivots on a fine tuned alternative operational point.

    The net effect of this, unfortunately, is to unnecessarily cloud the atmosphere, and put additional strain in the discussions, which are already prone to confusions and contentions.

    GEM of TKI

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Oops, I forgot, the negative L values will trigger a relatively rapidly collapsing cosmos. That single issue may well be a decisive issue for a cosmos designer, so the claim that the negative value is superior is itself highly tendentious, as VJT pointed out above.

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Nor, should we forget that the fact that (despite the impression created by the wording of his title: “Evidence Against Fine Tuning for Life”) his alternative model point is also highly finely tuned — a highly significant result — only emerges on p. 5 [of 6 content pages] and is not acknowledged in the abstract. It had to be dug out. And yet the fact of a narrow range would have to have been evident as soon as it was specified in the analysis.

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    PPPS: Nor should we forget that he is talking about points that are in a range of about +/-7 * 10^-122 units apart, i.e. apart from the import of reversal of sign [collapse vs expand] the entire range is tiny beyond belief and supports the contention that the real value is about 0 to well within +/- 1 part in 10^- 120. In fact in the real world we would probably say 0 +/- (as someone points out above).

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