Author Topic: Fine tuning the universe...  (Read 782 times)

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Offline The Gawd

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Fine tuning the universe...
« on: December 12, 2013, 12:12:23 AM »
This idea of a god fine tuning the universe makes no sense to me. Even if I granted earth being fine tuned for human life (ignoring all the evidence to the contrary), how does this account for things like volcanoes and weather on other planets that have absolutely nothing to do with humans?

How do volcanoes on Mars assist human existence on earth?
How does a hurricane on Saturn assist human existence on earth?

Can someone help me with this?

Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2013, 01:23:42 AM »
I have questions too. Like, why cliffs? This god guy didn't give us wings. Why did he make things that we could fall off of?

What about parasites? What was the guy thinking, making river worms that can crawl into your eyeballs, blind you, and that breathe by sticking body parts out of your now useless cornea? I mean, I appreciate the sentiment and all, but holy crap.

How about that tiny little fish in the Amazon that can swim up a stream of urine if you happen to be peeing in the river (and don't worry fellow environmentalists, the rest of this story will stop such behavior immediately). This little fish swims right into your bladder (Whether you are male or female), lodges itself there using extra special painful methods, and starts drinking your blood. I've always wondered what Adam named it. Since it isn't detailed in the bible, thoughtless others called it the Candiru, and I'm pretty sure I'd use another name if I was attacked by this little critter.

Poison oak and stuff? Poisonous plants of any kind? Why bother. If you're gonna make a plant, make it taste like ice cream, make it be full of good nutritional stuff, and be done with it. Why bother with strychnine and arsenic and stuff? What was he thinking?

Weather? Hawaii does it just right. Except it is 12,000 miles from Eden. Why go for the extremes. Surely the occasional rain storm is all we need to get by. What's with the cold waves and the heat waves and the humidity stuff?

And I haven't even mentioned earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, mudslides, sinkholes, riptides or Yugos.

One or two trips to Home Depot and I could build a far better planet. Give me a week and we'd have a universe you could walk around in. But this god guy? Nooooo! Either he had help from a committee or he missed every episode of Myth Busters and just had no idea what he was doing.
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Offline xyzzy

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2013, 03:36:40 AM »
Why cliffs? Because when god created the world there weren't any cliffs. Those were added after Eve messed up. That's what the expression the fall of man really refers to; it's a biblical prophecy of cliffs.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool -- Richard Feynman
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Offline Jonny-UK

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2013, 06:41:08 AM »
To be fair, it's probably not too bad for a first attempt.
Perhaps when he's all grown up he might have another go, a mk 2 universe.
If he reads this thread then I'm sure he will appreciate people going to the trouble of pointing out areas for improvement.
"Do I look like someone who cares what god thinks" - pinhead

Offline penfold

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2013, 06:45:58 AM »
This idea of a god fine tuning the universe makes no sense to me. Even if I granted earth being fine tuned for human life (ignoring all the evidence to the contrary), how does this account for things like volcanoes and weather on other planets that have absolutely nothing to do with humans?

How do volcanoes on Mars assist human existence on earth?
How does a hurricane on Saturn assist human existence on earth?

Can someone help me with this?

This really is a question about the teleological proof of God's existence. The claim that the universe shows clear purpose and thus must be designed by an intelligence.

As you have pointed out, even if we accept this argument, there are some baffeling design decisions (cancer anyone?) to contend with.

However there is an interesting, if a little obscure, philosophical observation we can make here which might explain why for atheists like us this argument seems so obviously stupid, yet for theists so obviously true. I don't think it is because theists have never heard of cancer (or cliffs) but rather something deeper is going on.


Let’s start with the question: If purpose does not exist in nature, what on earth is purpose?

Obviously it is a relationship between two things. We always find purpose in the following type of propositions A is for the purpose of B. eg The universe exists for the purpose of humanity, I traveled to the bank for the purpose of robbing it. Thus we should always talk of individual purposes existing; it is a nonsense to talk of purpose abstracted from things existing (just as the relationship of love can only exist between persons, it cannot exist in itself).

Secondly all examples of purpose can be phrased as an answer to a why question. If I have a proposition that A is for the purpose of B then In answer to the question Why A? I can respond For the purpose of B.

Both these observations (that purpose is a relation between objects, and are a response to why questions) is equally true of another work reason. I would contend that any proposition of the form A is for the purpose of B – can be re-written as A is a reason for B[1]. I would further contend that any why question answered by A is for the purpose of B is also satisfactorily answered (if somewhat differently) by A is a reason for B. It is important to note that if the latter is true then the former is also true – because for something to fulfil a purpose it must also be a reason.[2]


What then is the difference between a purpose and a reason? As far as I can see it is that purpose implies intention and that requires a mind. So, to my mind, those who see the universe as ‘fine tuned’ by God are seeing exactly the same thing as we are. They are not blind, it is merely they assume the existence of a mind. Here’s the rub: The assumption of the mind must come prior to the observation of purposes – if a mind is not assumed then we can talk equally coherently of the same things using the language of reasons.[3]

Anyone who offers the ‘argument from design’ as a proof of God is a fool – they must have started with with the assumption of God for the ‘proof’ to have any sense!

This is why the argument makes no sense to you or me, it is because we do not assume God at the outset. Similarly it is why to a Theist this argument does make obvious sense.
 1. I do not wish to imply sufficiency in this relationship, only necessity
 2. Interestingly this does not work the other way around, we can easily conceive of a reason which is not a purpose - the existence of ice is the reason I was late to work this morning at no level implies the existence of ice has the purpose of making me late for work this morning!
 3. Put another way the talk of purpose as opposed to reasons does not acutally increase our ability to answer why questions.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2013, 06:51:36 AM by penfold »
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Offline Fiji

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2013, 06:51:14 AM »
To be fair, it's probably not too bad for a first attempt.
Perhaps when he's all grown up he might have another go, a mk 2 universe.
If he reads this thread then I'm sure he will appreciate people going to the trouble of pointing out areas for improvement.

He'd better not do the African coastline all in fjords!
Science: I'll believe it when I see it
Faith: I'll see it when I believe it

Schrodinger's thunderdome! One cat enters and one MIGHT leave!

Without life, god has no meaning.

Offline Jonny-UK

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2013, 08:25:43 AM »
He'd better not do the African coastline all in fjords!
I knew that must have been a reference to something, well done jinnan tonnix for knowing that.
My attention to detail must be slipping- damn getting older.
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Offline mhaberling

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2013, 03:27:35 AM »
This idea of a god fine tuning the universe makes no sense to me. Even if I granted earth being fine tuned for human life (ignoring all the evidence to the contrary), how does this account for things like volcanoes and weather on other planets that have absolutely nothing to do with humans?

How do volcanoes on Mars assist human existence on earth?
How does a hurricane on Saturn assist human existence on earth?

Can someone help me with this?

This really is a question about the teleological proof of God's existence. The claim that the universe shows clear purpose and thus must be designed by an intelligence.

As you have pointed out, even if we accept this argument, there are some baffeling design decisions (cancer anyone?) to contend with.

However there is an interesting, if a little obscure, philosophical observation we can make here which might explain why for atheists like us this argument seems so obviously stupid, yet for theists so obviously true. I don't think it is because theists have never heard of cancer (or cliffs) but rather something deeper is going on.


Let’s start with the question: If purpose does not exist in nature, what on earth is purpose?

Obviously it is a relationship between two things. We always find purpose in the following type of propositions A is for the purpose of B. eg The universe exists for the purpose of humanity, I traveled to the bank for the purpose of robbing it. Thus we should always talk of individual purposes existing; it is a nonsense to talk of purpose abstracted from things existing (just as the relationship of love can only exist between persons, it cannot exist in itself).

Secondly all examples of purpose can be phrased as an answer to a why question. If I have a proposition that A is for the purpose of B then In answer to the question Why A? I can respond For the purpose of B.

Both these observations (that purpose is a relation between objects, and are a response to why questions) is equally true of another work reason. I would contend that any proposition of the form A is for the purpose of B – can be re-written as A is a reason for B[1]. I would further contend that any why question answered by A is for the purpose of B is also satisfactorily answered (if somewhat differently) by A is a reason for B. It is important to note that if the latter is true then the former is also true – because for something to fulfil a purpose it must also be a reason.[2]


What then is the difference between a purpose and a reason? As far as I can see it is that purpose implies intention and that requires a mind. So, to my mind, those who see the universe as ‘fine tuned’ by God are seeing exactly the same thing as we are. They are not blind, it is merely they assume the existence of a mind. Here’s the rub: The assumption of the mind must come prior to the observation of purposes – if a mind is not assumed then we can talk equally coherently of the same things using the language of reasons.[3]

Anyone who offers the ‘argument from design’ as a proof of God is a fool – they must have started with with the assumption of God for the ‘proof’ to have any sense!

This is why the argument makes no sense to you or me, it is because we do not assume God at the outset. Similarly it is why to a Theist this argument does make obvious sense.
 1. I do not wish to imply sufficiency in this relationship, only necessity
 2. Interestingly this does not work the other way around, we can easily conceive of a reason which is not a purpose - the existence of ice is the reason I was late to work this morning at no level implies the existence of ice has the purpose of making me late for work this morning!
 3. Put another way the talk of purpose as opposed to reasons does not acutally increase our ability to answer why questions.

You do make an excellent point on the two different mindsets, it is why evidence is so tough of a thing between theists in atheists. Evidence is based on observing how things are, and measuring that against the implications of a theory. Atheist usually believe that if there was a god things would be different, Theists tend to believe that everything would be exactly the way it is.
"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." - Benjamin Franklin

Offline Ataraxia

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2013, 04:05:30 AM »
This idea of a god fine tuning the universe makes no sense to me. Even if I granted earth being fine tuned for human life (ignoring all the evidence to the contrary), how does this account for things like volcanoes and weather on other planets that have absolutely nothing to do with humans?

How do volcanoes on Mars assist human existence on earth?
How does a hurricane on Saturn assist human existence on earth?

Can someone help me with this?

It's simple. You see, saying the universe is fine-tuned for (human) life implies that God could've done it differently. From there it follows that a universe doesn't need to be fine-tuned the way this one is in order for life to exist (take heaven as the prime example of a world where life exists without this universe), because God has the potential to allow life to exist in a universe not "fine-tuned" like this one.

Either that or God is constrained by natural laws which aren't governed by him so he has no choice but to stick to these laws so that life can exist.

Whichever it is, it renders any fine-tuning by God as a no-go. God created this universe for life on a whim or he stuck to rules for a life permitting universe that he has no control over.
"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh." - Voltaire

Offline nogodsforme

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2013, 08:00:03 PM »
^^^^Exactly.

Clearly, god could have made the world differently (and much better) because he already has. At least twice. He made the Garden of Eden and he made heaven. So it is not true that Christians believe that god can only make things the way the earth is now. They are the same people who tell us that god can make things that are much, much better! Why we ended up with this craptastic mistake-fiilled earth is anyone's guess. &)
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline wheels5894

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2013, 11:14:27 AM »
^^^^Exactly.

Clearly, god could have made the world differently (and much better) because he already has. At least twice. He made the Garden of Eden and he made heaven. So it is not true that Christians believe that god can only make things the way the earth is now. They are the same people who tell us that god can make things that are much, much better! Why we ended up with this craptastic mistake-filled earth is anyone's guess. &)

Come on! We've been told this before! It's all 'cos of Adam and the apple! This apparently rotten but quite liveable planet is the result of sin. If the snake hadn't offered the fruity treat we would still be living in the Garden - naked munching fruit... apparently.   :D
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2013, 01:08:23 PM »
Someone needs to explain to me how he could fine tune the entire universe and not fine tune us.

Then they will have to explain why not. If he made the earth perfect, he could have at least made us tolerable.
Jesus, the cracker flavored treat!

Offline wheels5894

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Re: Fine tuning the universe...
« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2013, 01:45:38 PM »
Someone needs to explain to me how he could fine tune the entire universe and not fine tune us.

Then they will have to explain why not. If he made the earth perfect, he could have at least made us tolerable.

Hang on - this is the god that couldn't defeat iron charriots isn't it? I suppose fixing DNA was a bit much too!
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)