Defender's Guide to Science and Creationism

Mark Vuletic

Assertion

The fine-tuning of the cosmological constants proves the universe was created.

Analysis

The creationist contention is that if the fundamental constants of our universe were slightly different than we find them, life could not exist in the universe, and that, therefore, the fundamental constants must have been set by a creator. However, whether or not the universe was actually created, the fine-tuning argument does not establish this conclusion.

I. No one knows how many other kinds of universes can support intelligent life

Physicist Victor Stenger (1995) has argued that many more possible universes admit the potential for intelligent life (not necessarily carbon-based) than is generally thought. Physicist Sean M. Carroll cautions that since we cannot deduce even the basic properties of atomic nuclei in our own universe from the laws of subatomic physics alone, it is somewhat premature to make claims about the probability of life in universes with different laws (Carroll 2003).

II. The number of truly fundamental constants is unknown

The number of supposedly fundamental constants has diminished over time, as physics has become progressively more unified. For all we know, we may end up with a single constant, or perhaps no fundamental constants whatsoever, when and if physics reaches its ultimate unification with a successful theory of everything (TOE).

III. The probabilities of the values of the current fundamental constants are unknown

Philosopher Robin LePoidevin puts asks the right questions:

What determines the probability of [a] lamp's coming on is a conjunction of the various states of affairs obtaining and the laws of physics. Altering any of these will alter the probability. But if the probability of events is determined in part by the laws of physics, what can it mean to talk of the probability of the laws of physics themselves? If we judge that it was extremely improbable that the charge on the proton should have been 1.602 x 10-19 coulomb, against what background are we making this judgment? What do we suppose is determining the probability of this value? (LePoidevin 1996:49-50).

A principle of indifference will not help here, since any attempt to view a continuum of values indifferently founders upon a mathematical problem pointed out by the mathematician Johannes von Kries (Vuletic 2000). There are only two ways to establish a background for the probabilities of the constants of nature: either by directly observing all other universes and counting, or else by appealing to a physical theory that explains how universes are generated and the values of their constants established. The first possibility is out of the question for now, and there is not yet any consensus about the second. However, some of the main contenders for the second are theories that predict the existence of a multiverse of universes the values of whose constants range across every possible value: in such scenarios, a universe like ours is inevitable.

IV. Summary by Carl Sagan

The late astronomer Carl Sagan eloquently brings together most of the above points when he explains that

deducing that the laws of Nature and the values of the physical constants were established (don't ask how or by Whom) so that humans would eventually come to be...sounds like playing my first hand of bridge, winning, knowing that there are 54 billion billion billion possible other hand that I was equally likely to have been dealt...and then foolishly concluding that a god of bridge exists and favors me, a god who arranged the cards and the shuffle with my victory foreordained from The Beginning. We do not know how many other hands there are in the cosmic deck, how many other kinds of universes, laws of Nature, and physical constants that could also lead to life and intelligence and perhaps even delusions of self-importance...Clearly we have not a glimmering of how to determine which laws of Nature are "possible" and which are not. Nor do we have more than the most rudimentary notion of what correlations of natural laws are "permitted." (Sagan 1994:34-35)

 

References

Carroll SM. 2003. Why (almost all) cosmologists are atheists. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/sean_carroll/cosmologists.html. Spotted 09 Jan 2015.

 LePoidevin R. 1996. Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. London: Routledge.

 Sagan C. 1994. Pale Blue Dot. New York: Random House.

 Smolin L. 1997. The Life of the Cosmos. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stenger V. 1995. The Unconscious Quantum. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus.

 Vuletic MI. 2000. Book Review: Nature's Destiny. Philo 3(2): 89-103.

Last update: 9 Jan 2015

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