The fine-tuning of the universe

We should note that the preceding arguments are not ‘God of the gaps’ arguments; it is advances in science, not ignorance of science, that has revealed this fine-tuning to us. In that sense there is no ‘gap’ in the science. (73)

No, there is no gap in the science, merely in the understanding of the meaning of ‘God of the gaps’. The gap referred to is the explanation for the facts, not how the facts were revealed. Based on what he’s said here, it might come as a surprise to Lennox that everything we know, we know from advances in science. Strangely, revelation has revealed nothing about the natural world that any kind of science can be built around. ‘God of the gaps’ is:
“Wow, look at all these crazy giant fossils we’ve found in the ground. How did they get here?”
“God did it.”
Or in this case:
“Lucky the universe isn’t a little bit different or we wouldn’t exist. How’d that happen?”
“God did it.”

I cannot believe that a man in his position could make this mistake, nor that it could slip through the editing process that the book must have gone through. This is a deliberate attempt to befuddle the reader with his own version of ‘God of the gaps’.

Much of the section goes on about the incredibly low chances of all these phenomena appearing that are required for us to be here. Ergo, there must have been a designer. Now I’m not a scientist, but I’d like to know if that just means that if any of these variables were different, then there’d be life Jim, but not as we know it. In other words, there wouldn’t be the universe we know, but some other. Some other in which the beings are made out of living rock, or whatever the equivalent is in that universe. Some other where the laws that we know are altered, or the same, or both. The same, only different. Maybe everyone who’s evil sports a goatee?

And why make a universe which has laws that can sustain us without recourse to a god? Why make a universe where the tolerances are so exact for our existence and then put us in it, when instead he could have made a universe where without god we’d surely be without existence, yet somehow we’re sustained. Why don’t we live on a plane of fire that doesn’t burn our flesh? I vote for the land of chocolate. Of the set of all possible universes god could have created, he chose the least interesting one, the completely dull one where science makes sense, where math works and where avocados have a seed that’s too big. Bonus points if you can get the avocado reference without recourse to a search engine.

It’s been some time since I read the “The God Delusion” but I think it talked about just this kind of argument. There is an ameba sitting in a rain puddle contemplating how the puddle must surely have been designed, for how else could such a perfect environment for it have come into existence.

Indeed.

11 thoughts on “The fine-tuning of the universe

  1. Chris Fellows (@cfellows65536)

    I think this is a crazy awesome universe, and I don’t get your avocado reference. I do recall reading a theory once that avocados evolved needing to pass through the gastrointestinal tract of a giant sloth to germinate and were on the point of following the giant sloth to extinction when they were rescued by benevolent Aztecs.

    It has just struck me that the anthropic argument is entirely content free, through imagining the counterfactual where we found instead that any of the fundamental constants could have any value whatsoever, and we would still be here. “Wow!” Xonnel the sentient lepton would say. “What fantastically good planning so that *whatever* happens, the universe is primed for life. It must be the work of a truly wise and benevolent creator.”

    Reply
  2. David Yerle

    Did not get the avocado reference. But yes, explaining a high improbability (the fine-tuning of the universe) recurring to a higher improbability (the spontaneous creation of an all-knowing, all-powerful being who for some reason wants us to keep him company) does not seem like a rational attitude.

    Reply
  3. Marco

    Origins of the term God of the Gaps

    The term goes back to Henry Drummond, a 19th century evangelist lecturer, from his Lowell Lectures on the Ascent of Man. He chastises those Christians who point to the things that science can not yet explain—”gaps which they will fill up with God”—and urges them to embrace all nature as God’s, as the work of “… an immanent God, which is the God of Evolution, is infinitely grander than the occasional wonder-worker, who is the God of an old theology.”[

    God of the Gasp – Wow! what an amazingly improbable world we live in – lets call it impossible. Must be a work of supernature.

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  4. Nathanael Small

    So you say lets see what evidence Lennox has, then ignore all the evidence to get into semantics on God of the Gaps?
    Lennox is not saying that God did it.
    He’s saying that scientific discovery has led a wide range of scientists to conclude that there’s an impression of design in the fine tuning of the universe that makes Theism probable.
    Keep asking scientists if you want to know whether what Spock’s describing to Jim is possible – but again, that’s not Lennox’s point.
    Their investigations of beyond our planet haven’t found other life yet, but maybe we just can’t detect them yet.
    Ask all the whys you like about why we don’t have a magic faraway tree that can open doors to lands of chocolate, caramel (or choc/caramel – mmmmmmm….), but again you miss the point and end up behaving as Penzias is quote on page 75.
    To paraphrase Lennox from page 75:Have your personal preferences by all means but they’re not science.
    If Lennox could be accused of anything it would be closer to doing what Drummond encourages, rather than God of the Gaps here.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      So you say lets see what evidence Lennox has, then ignore all the evidence to get into semantics on God of the Gaps?
      Lennox is not saying that God did it.

      This is not a disagreement of semantics. Lennox offers a meaning of god of the gaps which is simply wrong. He then says that his claims aren’t god of the gaps because they don’t match this wrong meaning. On examination of the claims he does make, they turn out to be god of the gaps.

      So I do in fact take a look at his evidence, and determine that it is exactly what he said it wasn’t. BTW, I’ve no idea whether his evidence is correct or not. It probably is. But it is also god of the gaps.

      And he quite clearly says that this is the work of the creator. He says this several times. On page 75 he even says god could make parallel fine tuned universes if he wanted to. He also quotes several scientists as support for the creator as designer who say this, and then he finishes the section prepping for the chapter on biology and design by saying that any mention of god in connection with biology causes even more of a stir than it does in connection to cosmology. That wouldn’t be necessary if he’d never mentioned god as the reason.

      He’s saying that scientific discovery has led a wide range of scientists to conclude that there’s an impression of design in the fine tuning of the universe that makes Theism probable.

      So what he does is find a gap in scientific knowledge (how the fine tuned universe came to have the appearance of being designed) and says that god did that. God of the gaps.

      Reply
  5. Nathanael

    No no no no no no.

    It’s because of the scientific discovery that he’s led to a position of Theism, not because there’s a gap in the knowledge.

    Try these links that I think offer greater granularity to both what Lennox has written and also provide some alternate ways to approach God of the Gaps:

    http://johnlennox.org/index.php/en/resource/god_of_the_gaps/
    Brief video that distinguishes between gaps in reality & gaps in knowledge.
    The use of bad & good gaps is not entirely helpful language

    http://www.godevidence.com/2012/06/the-god-of-the-gaps-why-god-and-science-are-not-competing-explanations/
    Blogger distinguishes between scientific questions and ontological questions – that God is the God of the whole show, not a God of the Gaps.

    And from the other side:
    http://www.newdualism.org/papers/R.Larmer/Gaps.htm
    Is there anything wrong with the God of the Gaps Reasoning?

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2001/PSCF9-01Snoke.pdf
    In favour of the God of the Gaps Reasoning.
    An examination of the presumed fallacy

    So not only is Lennox not claiming sloppy God of the Gaps, it’s also possible to cogently argue that what is apparently a fallacy may not be at all.

    Look forward to your response on reading and absorbing each of these.

    Reply
    1. winstoninabox Post author

      There are two very similar forms of the argument from ignorance that you’re confusing. One is to say “you can’t disprove what I said, therefore it is right”. The other, which I clearly showed in my original post is to say “we don’t know how it happened, therefore it is god”. In the comment above your last comment I point out where Lennox says this in response to your previous “Lennox is not saying that God did it.” To repeat, he does so on page 75 (the very page you yourself quote) and other pages, too. Or to look at it another way, do you really think that Lennox is NOT going to claim that the universe is the work of the creator,

      Really the warning bells should ring when Lennox chooses the topics of the creation of the universe, it’s purpose and later biogensis. We have no definitive scientific answer to these, therefore there is a gap in the scientific knowledge, therefore Lennox can posit a creator. As I said before you never see ID propenents positing a creator-based reason for magnetism nor gravity (although I’m waiting for them to find Dark Matter). It’s always the same topics that god is put into. Tell people that it’s god making the needle spin or the apple drop makes one look a little strange. But actually Lennox will go on to do that, and I comment about that, too.

      So yes, this is god of the gaps.

      Next , you want to argue that god of the gaps isn’t so bad after all and we shouldn’t just dismiss Lennox’s argument just because it is. I’m not sure if you’d still argue this once you realize that the god of the gaps I’m talking about is not the same as the one you’re talking about. In case youdon’t already know I personally find it a less than convincing argument to go around saying “god did it” whenever we don’t know the answer.

      Reply
      1. Marco

        I cannot say I entirely agree with Winston. “Science” has a tendency to fill these gaps in scientific knowledge with naturalist “filler” for instance saying that the Big Bang just happened, or that the universe is self existent, or parallel universes can explain the way the universe can be so improbable. Similarly for abiogenesis or even speciation. Scientists do not get accused of naturalism of the gaps, so does it really matter, in a scientific sense, what we invent to explain it while we don’t know? Of course it would be nice to have testable hypotheses on these things, but in some ways that is an unrealistic expectation.

        Reply
        1. winstoninabox Post author

          “Science” has a tendency to fill these gaps in scientific knowledge with naturalist “filler” for instance saying that the Big Bang just happened, or that the universe is self existent, or parallel universes can explain the way the universe can be so improbable.

          A theory has to first be stated so that we can discuss it.

          Similarly for abiogenesis or even speciation. Scientists do not get accused of naturalism of the gaps, so does it really matter, in a scientific sense, what we invent to explain it while we don’t know?

          To go beyond what we know at some point we must imagine possible answers to the unknown. In science those answers extrapolate from what we already know and then evidence is looked for to back that up. In some cases we may never know, and will be left with an answer that best fits the evidence.

          So it matters what scientists “invent to explain” in that they are still talking about and searching for natural mechanisms for observed natural phenomena.Once the answer becomes “the supernatural did it”, and the supernatural is NEVER falsifiable, then that is not science.

          Reply
      2. Marco

        So it matters what scientists “invent to explain” in that they are still talking about and searching for natural mechanisms for observed natural phenomena.Once the answer becomes “the supernatural did it”, and the supernatural is NEVER falsifiable, then that is not science.
        Although I agree with this statement in a general, when I look at the hypotheses scientists propose for Cosmology and abiogenesis, and even to some extent, speciation, I see weasel words, virtually unverifiable statements, and a stretch to your “observed natural phenomena” ie. where we can’t observe and can’t repeat, we can’t scientifically prove.

        Besides which, theology is not professing to be a science. Lennox is only bringing science into it for evidence of improbability of these same weasel hypotheses.

        The utility of science and of theology are in completely different contexts. Fiction, far from being a liability, is an asset for demonstrating moral imperatives. Like with placebos, moral imperatives work even better if the person swallowing them believes that there is a proven basis to the benefit.

        Reply

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