In the field of physics there are a set of numbers called the Cosmological Constants that pertain to certain observable phenomena in the universe. Examples of these constants include the speed of light, the force of gravity, and the rate of inflation of the universe.
Life (at least of the carbon-based types we find on Earth) seem to only be able to exist if each of these constants fall within a certain, quite limited range. If they were different by very much at all, then either stars could not have formed, or the universe would have collapsed in on itself almost immediately after expansion began, or other situations would have occurred that would have resulted in our form of life being unable to exist.
But since each of these parameters do in fact exist within the ranges necessary for our carbon-based forms of life to exist, the Fine Tuning Argument asserts that the existence of a designer is the best explanation for why these values exist within that precise range.
A formal presentation of the rationale would be this:
P1) Human life can only exist if the cosmological constants have values that fall within a very precise range.
P2) The cosmological constants fall within the precise ranges that enable the existence of human life.
P3) The only potential explanations for P2 are that the CC have those values due to A) random chance, or due to B) intentional design.
P4) It is extremely unlikely that the CC would fall within these precise ranges by random chance.
P5) But if the CC were set by design by an intelligent being then it would be guaranteed that the CC would fall within these precise ranges.
P6) Therefore it is more probable that an intelligent being created our universe by design.
In my view, the cumulative weight of the points that counter the FTA’s reasoning make for a stronger case that no ultimate designer produced our universe.
1. Improbability alone does not indicate design
Even if we accept random chance of a single ‘roll of the dice’ and designer as the only two options that could explain our universe’s CC, we must acknowledge an important point: any outcome would have been extremely unlikely to occur, not just what we in fact ended up with.
I think this point is best explained using the same sort of analogies that are used by supporters of the FTA. For example, a deck of cards is shuffled then every card is laid out in a row in the order they now find themselves in the deck.
Supporters of the FTA argue that the CC of our universe are analogous the the sequence of cards all coming out in exactly an order you desired which you had in mind before you saw the order of the cards. And since this coincidence is so incredibly unlikely to occur in a single test, it makes most sense to conclude that the order of the cards was maniuplated by an intellignet being rather than being a matter of pure chance.
The conclusion in the context of this analogy actually makes perfect sense. But that is because the analogy contains a crucial factor that has no counterpart in the case of the universe and human life (with the current body of evidence of course): a person involved in the scenario desired the outcome before any outcome came to be.
This is the key point: A particular outcome would only suggest manipulation by agency if there exists some involved entity’s association with or desire for that specific result before the result manifested. Otherwise, the outcome is not a coincidence of any kind. It simply is what it is, and it has no connection to any prior associations, predictions, or any reason that would indicate there was manipulation to achieve that result.
Such is the case with the universe and human life. The available body of evidence germane to the FTA does not include any factors that would render the fact that the CC enable life a coincidence. By this I mean that prior to the universe’s existence, life did not exist to desire a life-sustaining universe in the first place and would have suffered nothing had one not come into being. The universe was formed with CC as they are – then humanity came about and was pleased to exist (because creatures tend to evolve to desire survival once they enter the world).
In my opinion, that is the most explicit flaw in the FTA.
If my point is not yet clear, consider the analogy of the deck of cards again but with the factor of agency adjusted so as to make the analogy more accurate:
Someone shuffles a deck of cards then shows you the resulting sequence. The event is meaningless but you enjoyed the encounter regardless and from that day onward that became your favorite sequence of cards. Or better yet, we can forget the card analogy and consider a more relatable example. Humans tend to feel most comfortable in – and most affection for – the town, region, or country in which they grew up, and the religious ideas they were raised to believe. No one considers these things to be an astounding coincidence for good reason.
2. The Cosmological Constants may have been naturally probable
In section 1 I already explained why the FTA fails to indicate that there was agency and intention behind the CC even if we assumed it was extremely unlikely that the CC would end up as they did. But in addition to this, there are also reasonable theories that describe why a universe like ours may have actually been quite likely to come into existence. Also bear in mind that none of these theories about the universe were formulated as responses to the FTA.
In no particular order:
2A) Multiverse: Just as there are multiple galaxies, there may be billions or infinite universes which form with different values for the cosmological constants. This theory would mean that so many universes come into being that there was a very high chance of one or more of them being able to support our form of life. Since we already know that one universe exists, the notion of there just being multiple universes appears to me like a simpler explanation than an external designer (especially after considering how strange and unlikely it seems that a designer would create the universe this way. I will discuss this point in sections 3 and 4).
2B) Rebounding Universe: This theory states that perhaps our universe collapses into a singularity then expands again in repeated cycles. In each of these expansion events – which you could call Big Bangs – the CC randomly take on different values (that is to say, the characteristics of the universe which the CC describe change). Just like the Multiverse theory, this theory would mean that there was a very high probability of a life-permitting universe eventually forming without a designer.
2C) Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics: This interpretation of the evidence in quantum mechanics holds that all potential outcomes of every quantum process are actually manifested as a parallel universe. This would mean that every possible potential set of values for the CC would inevitably occur in some universe and we are simply experiencing one of those universes.
3. Why would a designed universe appear “finely tuned” in this way?
Note: The points made in this section do not address the issue of a designer period, but instead are only relevant to the concept of God that is generally promoted by supporters of the FTA. This is, a God with limitless power and who was not subject to any notable restrictions to their creative efforts other than what would be logically incoherent.
By contrast, a supernatural deity that, although powerful by human standards, struggles in his divine laboratory to grow a few living creatures in a minuscule speck of space is not the concept of God we are being asked to believe in, and it is not the sort of being that Theists mean by ‘God’.
Honestly, due to the points I will raise here, I think the FTA would seem a bit less absurd (but no more logically sound) if its supporters were trying to argue for a designer that is limited by numerous constraints rather than one that is omnipotent.
Why would a universe designed and constructed by an all-powerful being even appear finely tuned at all? If the cosmos were designed by God from scratch – all of reality apart from God himself – then why would all these factors need to be precisely aligned? Why would these issues of inflation etc even exist… and be issues at all?
If a designer existed, then that would mean that life in the form of “spirits”, or whatever you believe gods are, would already be capable of existing without our universe. The designer would have no reason to need or choose to make new life forms carbon-based, require oxygen and external energy sources, or include all the other aspects of physics that play such a major role in our universe.
The FTA is oddly treating their own theory as if there were already established limitations and factors in the nature of reality and physics that God had to work with, then, like a human scientist would do, God had to adjust these variables very precisely in order to achieve his desired result.
But instead, the Theists who use the FTA try to use it in support of a God they say existed alone without being subject to any limitations, and he designed and created the very nature of reality and physics itself. Yet this sort of designer could have much more simply and directly made new beings – of any design with any needs or lack of thereof he so chose – or made the nature of a new universe inherently support further life without unnecessary factors to set in an unnecessary balance.
So the fact that we’re even talking about there being numerous parameters in a state barely enabling life by razor thin margin is itself evidence against the Theist position.
4) The universe’s evolution and current state do not have characteristics of a place made for life
The FTA bases its argument entirely on the fact that life is able to exist at all. Yet its conclusion (a designer that wanted to create life) carries further implications about what such a universe would be like. The FTA’s conclusion is makes little sense in context of factors that impact life in the universe aside from the CC.
The conditions of the universe in which humans and other creatures must exist are not well suited for us. The universe appears just as one would expect of a universe that was not designed around the purpose of fostering life.
4a. Convoluted creation process: If a designer had the goal to create life, then it makes no sense that they would use the unnecessary, convoluted process of the big bang, inflation, forming stars over billions of years, species evolving over billions of years, countless species going extinct, etc.
4b. A universe almost completely empty and hostile to life: The universe is overwhelmingly comprised of lifeless, empty space, peppered with black holes, radiation, and exploding stars. And this would be true even if every planet in every solar system were as capable of supporting life as Earth. But of course the planets are not even like that. Many are severely hot or severely cold, have no water, have toxic and intolerant atmospheres, and so on.
The analogy has been made to finding a single iron atom in a rock and declaring, “This is the ideal source of iron! Sure, we could have had great bars of it lying abundantly on the earth ready to be used and shaped by us, but no – this rock is such a more perfect solution, and therefore I say that it must have been designed by a wise and powerful overlord!”
If the universe were designed, then it appears less like it was fine tuned for life than it appears lazily set to just nigh of the bare minimum necessary for any life to exist.
4c. Environment and natural disasters: Even on Earth, vast portions are ferociously harsh, including deserts and cold wastelands, and humans (the primary organism that followers of Abrahamic religions believe the universe was designed for) are not designed to live in the oceans which cover 2/3 of the planet’s surface. And the interior of the planet is completely filled with rock and the Earth’s molten core.
Then even in the places where life is relatively abundant, there are viciously cold winters each year during which myriad species including humans need to seek special shelter and store food, otherwise the environmental conditions will literally kill them. And there are natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis that cause enormous damage to human cities.
4d. Death, viruses, and eating each other: If a designer’s goal is to create life then it does not make sense that they would design those beings – plants, animals, bacteria – in a way that makes so many of them rely on killing other life in order to survive. And furthermore, it makes no sense that this designer would build a natural process of deterioration and death into these beings.
4e. Even religious people see that the universe is not ideal for life: It’s interesting to note that the way many religious people believe the world once was and how they believe it will be in the future are both much closer to a universe that would actually seem designed for life. For example, in Christianity, Eden was ideally suited for carbon-based life, and someday God will either render the world that way again or transform us into undying, purely spiritual beings which he could have done from the start. So ironically, even the people who believe the universe was designed for life are also quite able to conceive of how everything could be infinitely better designed.
Thus believers in the design hypothesis are faced with either the conclusion that life was not the designer’s primary concern or they lacked the ability to make a universe any more suitable for life – or the universe was simply not designed.
For emphasis: What supporters of the FTA are asking us to believe is that a super-powerful being wanted other life to exist. The creation of other lives was the goal. But instead of just manifesting them, he created an unnecessary plethora of substances, forces, and other factors, and insisted that the new beings have specific forms built around and dependent upon these substances and forces, thus unnecessarily imposing a set of arbitrary restrictions on his creative efforts which made him need to adjust these pointless forces just right for it all to work.
Then instead of flashing this new world and its inhabitants into existence, he makes the new realm go through the process of expanding space, fusion of stars, creation of planets, evolution and struggle and extinctions of species, just to get some physical creatures to exist in absurdly small areas within the vastness of his nearly empty universe that all regularly kill each other for food while they suffer diseases, harsh weather, broken bones, and soon deteriorate and die anyway. And on top of all that, those life forms have “souls” that contain their actual self which do not even require any of these physical substances or forces in order to exist.
Do you think this scenario is probable?