Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Discuss the latest podcast here.

Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby Emery » Sun Apr 03, 2011 8:47 am

We're on ch. 5 of "On Guard," where the topic is the Fine Tuning Argument for God's existence. If anyone has expertise in math and probability calculations, your help is needed here!
They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea. - Sir Francis Bacon
User avatar
Emery
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 1579
Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2005 1:00 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Affiliation: Atheist

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby Dave B » Sun Apr 03, 2011 2:32 pm

I have a little expertise in math and probability. Hopefully this helps. Measuring probability after the fact is problematic. Suppose I flip a coin and it comes up heads. Now that I've done this, what is the probability that the coin came up heads? The answer is 100%. It already came up heads and that will never change. You may ask a different question, what were the chances that the coin would come up heads? That depends on the coin. Perhaps it is double-sided or weighted. Perhaps when I say I flipped the coin, I mean that I took it off the table, turned it over a few times, then placed it back heads up. Without knowing the process by which the coin arrived in its current state, it is impossible to even guess at the hypothetical chance that the flip could have turned out differently. We don't know how the constants came to be the way they are, so it's impossible to say what the chances are that they could be different.

Even worse for this argument is that we don't know how many universes there are. If there is more than one universe, then the chances of a particular universe being supportive of life need not be great for the chance of some universe being supportive of life to be great. If I told you that I flipped 10 heads in a row on a fair coin, you could rightly be suspicious, as this is has probability around one in a thousand. If I later added that I actually spent all day flipping coins until this happened and that I actually performed several thousand flips, you'd find the 10 heads in a row claim a lot less impressive. As this argument suggests, we need not even have multiple simultaneous universes for a universe supporting life to be likely. If a new universe begins any time the current single universe ends, then a universe like ours is inevitable. The only way to conclude that this argument supports the idea of a god is to reject other possibilities out of hand.

To better illustrate the fallacy of estimating probabilities without any understanding of the underlying process, consider your own existence within this universe, rather than that of this universe. If your genome were just slightly different, you would have been miscarried or died shortly after birth. Examining your genome, it contains around 3 billion base pairs, each of which could be any of 4 bases. So the probability of your genome is about one in 4 to the 3 billion, or less than one in 10 to the billion. This is the sort of calculation that people arguing for fine tuning are making. Yet against these odds, people manage to have children within their relatively short lifetimes and people are much more worried about the possibility that the world will become overpopulated than the unlikelihood of any more children ever being born. Is this because we assume that everyone's genes are fine tuned, or because we understand enough about the underlying process that there is no mystery here?
Last edited by Dave B on Mon Apr 04, 2011 4:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
Dave B
resident
resident
 
Posts: 166
Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2011 1:35 am
Affiliation: Atheist

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby Shillyer » Sun Apr 03, 2011 2:54 pm

Strict science should not make claims about what could have happen only what has happened. A model might make predictions about what could have or might have happened but the models why have are almost certainly wrong... I think

At 27min. 40sec. I pretty sure we do not study the universe at plank (planc?) time. I think we use mathematical models that can be calculated to plank time but that is not studying the universe. We model the universe to plank time.
Shillyer
recruit
recruit
 
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:24 pm
Affiliation: Atheist, Former Mormon

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby JustJim » Mon Apr 04, 2011 3:06 am

Dave B,

Wow, man.... What a perfectly clear and concise explanation of an enormously difficult and complicated subject! Even I understood it! Thanks!

Jim

P.S. I wonder if anyone has bothered to explain those things to William Lane Craig, and how he wangled his way around it. Maybe Tony knows, since he pretty much parrots Craig....
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, refuses to go away...."
User avatar
JustJim
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 3515
Joined: Wed Nov 22, 2006 1:30 am
Location: Ohio - USA
Affiliation: Agnostic Atheist

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby NH Baritone » Mon Apr 04, 2011 5:15 am

Dave B wrote:I have a little expertise in math and probability. Hopefully this helps. Measuring probability after the fact is problematic. Suppose I flip a coin and it comes up heads. Now that I've done this, what is the probability that the coin came up heads? The answer is 100%. It already came up heads and that will never change. You may ask a different question, what were the chances that the coin would come up heads? That depends on the coin. Perhaps it is double-sided or weighted. Perhaps when I say I flipped the coin, I mean that I took it off the table, turned it over a few times, then placed it back heads up. Without knowing the process by which the coin arrived in its current state, it is impossible to even guess at the hypothetical chance that the flip could have turned out differently. We don't know how the constants came to be the way they are, so it's impossible to say what the chances are that they could be different.

Even worse for this argument is that we don't know how many universes there are. If there is more than one universe, then the chances of a particular universe being supportive of life need not be great for the chance of some universe being supportive of life to be great. If I told you that I flipped 10 heads in a row on a fair coin, you could rightly be suspicious, as this is has probability around one in a thousand. If I later added that I actually spent all day flipping coins until this happened and that I actually performed several thousand flips, you'd find the 10 heads in a row claim a lot less impressive. As this argument suggests, we need not even have multiple simultaneous universes for a universe supporting life to be likely. If a new universe begins any time the current single universe ends, then a universe like ours is inevitable. The only way to conclude that this argument supports the idea of a god is to reject other possibilities out of hand.

To better illustrate the fallacy of estimating probabilities without any understanding of the underlying process, consider your own existence within this universe, rather than that of this universe. If your genome were just slightly different, you would have been miscarried or died shortly after birth. Examining your genome, it contains around 3 billion base pairs, each of which could be any of 4 bases. So the probability of your genome is about one in 4 to the 3 billion, or less than one in 10 to the billion. This is the sort of calculation that people arguing for fine tuning are making. Yet against these odds, people manage to have children within their relatively short lifetimes and people are much more worried about the possibility that the world will become overpopulated than the unlikelihood of any more children ever being born. Is this because we assume that everyone's genes are fine tuned, or because we understand enough about the underlying process that there is no mystery here?

I have heard this argument before, but never so clearly and succinctly articulated. Put this little essay aside, because I expect you may find a future use for it.

Thanks for taking the time.
Diversity is the offspring of Liberty. Nonetheless, frightened, mainstream ideologues treat diversity like a bastard stepchild, instead of like a welcome indicator of our overall well-being.
User avatar
NH Baritone
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 3040
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:38 am
Affiliation: Agnostic Atheistic Meditator

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby Dave B » Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:13 pm

JustJim and NH Baritone,

I'm glad you both found this useful. Probability can be confusing and counterintuitive, so it's easy to befuddle people with nonsense. If you have any followup questions, feel free to ask.

JustJim,
JustJim wrote:P.S. I wonder if anyone has bothered to explain those things to William Lane Craig, and how he wangled his way around it. Maybe Tony knows, since he pretty much parrots Craig....

I predict a casual dismissal full of logical fallacies and revealing a deep lack of understanding. In particular, I'm betting on god of the gaps. Let's hope I'm proven wrong.
Dave B
resident
resident
 
Posts: 166
Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2011 1:35 am
Affiliation: Atheist

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby Wheelman » Mon Apr 04, 2011 10:01 pm

Dave B wrote:JustJim and NH Baritone,

I'm glad you both found this useful. Probability can be confusing and counterintuitive, so it's easy to befuddle people with nonsense. If you have any followup questions, feel free to ask.

JustJim,
JustJim wrote:P.S. I wonder if anyone has bothered to explain those things to William Lane Craig, and how he wangled his way around it. Maybe Tony knows, since he pretty much parrots Craig....

I predict a casual dismissal full of logical fallacies and revealing a deep lack of understanding. In particular, I'm betting on god of the gaps. Let's hope I'm proven wrong.


I wouldn't be surprised. I'm not super familiar with Craig, but if Tony parrots him, then as much of Tony's "proofs" seem to rely on gaps in human knowledge I can imagine Craig's would be similar.

The last discussion Tony had (the cosmological argument) seemed to rely quite a bit on assumptions about time, causality in the early universe stated with the certainty that no scientist would ever offer. The Big Bang isn't the theory of everything and as much as the theory explains how our universe evolved to it's current state at least some of the math leads to an antilogy which, at this point, cannot be resolved. Tony's certainty aside there is a lot to learn here.

Now we head into fine tuning and find more gaps in knowledge are covering the bases. Emery really hit the nail on the head pointing out that Tony is making a probability argument where the probability densities are entirely unknown. 3000 years ago (or maybe even more recently) Tony might be the guy saying tides go in, tides go out. Never a miscommunication. Can't explain that. The only rational, reasonable, logical explanation is goddidit.

Maybe it is just me, but all Tony's arguments are starting to blend together in my mind to essentially replace any "I don't know" or "I'm not certain" with certainty that "goddidit". He hits many of these esoteric topics with a black and white certainty that I don't see in too many scientists he seems to think implicitly support him 100%. To Tony's credit at the end of the cast he did recognize Emery's criticism of his "god of the gaps" argument when Emery started talking germ theory of disease and acknowledged he understood Emery's point and that it was valid.

p.s. Tony, your choices are not just random, designed, or necessary. The choices would be random or not random to be logically correct. You can speculate about what processes there might be that are not random but designed and necessary are not your only choices - keep this in mind should a chapter on biological evolution come up :P

p.p.s Congrats to Emery on the future twins! You'll be my hero if you can raise two and still keep up this cast. I raise one and can barely find time to comment.
Last edited by Wheelman on Mon Apr 04, 2011 10:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Every mystery / Ever solved has turned out to be / Not Magic. -Tim Minchin, Storm
User avatar
Wheelman
resident
resident
 
Posts: 136
Joined: Mon Apr 20, 2009 7:54 pm
Location: Minnesota
Affiliation: athiest

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby WinstonNoble » Mon Apr 04, 2011 10:01 pm

Totally nailed it Dave. Especially loved this example:

To better illustrate the fallacy of estimating probabilities without any understanding of the underlying process, consider your own existence within this universe, rather than that of this universe. If your genome were just slightly different, you would have been miscarried or died shortly after birth. Examining your genome, it contains around 3 billion base pairs, each of which could be any of 4 bases. So the probability of your genome is about one in 4 to the 3 billion, or less than one in 10 to the billion. This is the sort of calculation that people arguing for fine tuning are making. Yet against these odds, people manage to have children within their relatively short lifetimes and people are much more worried about the possibility that the world will become overpopulated than the unlikelihood of any more children ever being born. Is this because we assume that everyone's genes are fine tuned, or because we understand enough about the underlying process that there is no mystery here?


I would also like to point out that, in the case of a continuous probability distribution, the probability of any one single-value outcome is actually 0. It's the craziness of infinity. If you take an infinity of zero probabilities together in a continuous manner, they still manage to add up to something non-zero. Very much like the idea that a line is made up of points. Each point has zero dimension. But if you take an infinite, continuous string of zero-dimensional points, you get a one-dimensional line which actually has a measurable length (whereas no individual point has the property of length).

The probability that someone has a height of exactly 6ft is precisely 0, because heights are a continuously distributed quantity. The probability of finding someone with a height between 6ft and 6.1ft is non-zero, but still probably small. A small probability doesn't make it unusual or rare though. A better question to ask is: What is the probability of finding someone taller than 6ft? That probability is much more sizable, making a height of 6ft not unusual, because there are lots of people 6ft or taller. What's the probability of finding someone taller than 7ft? That is fairly small, making 7ft an unusual height, because you won't find many people that tall or taller.

Bringing this back to the fine-tuning argument, if the values for the constants of the universe are continuously distributed (part of a continuous spectrum of possibilities), then the probability of getting exactly any particular, specified set of values will be precisely zero. The probability that they fit in a narrow range will be small, but that doesn't necessarily make them unusual values. If the probability that (the speed of light is greater than c) = 20%, then the speed of light being equal to 'c' is not at all unusual, regardless of what is necessary for life to occur.

The fact that the actual values happen to allow for the existence of life is a different issue. That life could only exist if the constants were just so is an indication of how rare and unusual life might be, not how rare or unusual the universe is.

And what about the auto-tuning argument made famous by Faheem Rasheed Najm? Emery, you and Tony definitely should have brought this up!

~Winston Noble
It is evidently socially impolite to point out hypocrisy when one sees it...

Is this what allows untenable positions to remain tenuously tenable?
WinstonNoble
resident
resident
 
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:42 pm
Affiliation: 6 on the Dawkins Scale/Deist?

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby Emery » Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:40 am

Wheelman wrote:3000 years ago (or maybe even more recently) Tony might be the guy saying tides go in, tides go out. Never a miscommunication. Can't explain that. The only rational, reasonable, logical explanation is goddidit.

You know, I don't think you have to go that far back. Didn't Bill O'Reilly make a similar argument recently?

Wheelman wrote:p.p.s Congrats to Emery on the future twins! You'll be my hero if you can raise two and still keep up this cast. I raise one and can barely find time to comment.


Thanks man, I'll try to keep 'em coming (podcasts, that is). You just may hear the occasional screaming baby or two in the background. Somehow Scott manages with a full house, so the trail has been blazed.
They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea. - Sir Francis Bacon
User avatar
Emery
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 1579
Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2005 1:00 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Affiliation: Atheist

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby Emery » Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:47 am

WinstonNoble wrote:And what about the auto-tuning argument made famous by Faheem Rasheed Najm? Emery, you and Tony definitely should have brought this up!


An unfortunate oversight indeed. I wonder if God's foreknowledge of T-Pain's autotuner is how he did it, as it seems even a deity could use some digital help keeping 10300 particles on pitch.
They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea. - Sir Francis Bacon
User avatar
Emery
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 1579
Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2005 1:00 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Affiliation: Atheist

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby kenp94 » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:05 am

I'm not sure that fine tuning is a great reason to give for the existence of God. Although I am a believer, I'm not sure that it's a worthwhile path to go down in when defending the Christian God. It leads back to the question of "where did all this come from", and what is possible outside our own universe, which leads back to the explanation that outside our universe there is no time, so whatever created the universe is timeless, which is what we call God.
Besides getting into the confusing world of probabilities and statistics (yuck!), I think the whole argument of fine tuning is just not necessary and that other reasons for God's existence are more worthwhile endeavors.
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.
- Albert Einstein
User avatar
kenp94
recruit
recruit
 
Posts: 82
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2010 10:27 am
Location: Ft. Mitchell Ky
Affiliation: Catholic

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby tonyenglish7 » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:35 am

Dave,

Without knowing the process by which the coin arrived in its current state, it is impossible to even guess at the hypothetical chance that the flip could have turned out differently. We don't know how the constants came to be the way they are, so it's impossible to say what the chances are that they could be different.



Yes, I also studied statistics and probability in college a long time ago and we studied the very example you are giving. Yet this kind of study is done all the time. For example, in a murder scene. The guy had a knife and his wife is dead on the floor with 13 stab wounds. His defense? I accidently fell against her. Thirteen times... You do not have other events to compare it too. It only happened once. Specifically because it happened only once and because the chances are so small that you would fall 13 times against your wife while carrying a knife, it is logical to reject the criminal defense.

In the same way, Roger Penrose, an famous Oxford physicist calculated the odds of the low entropy to 10 to the 10 to the 123. I am sure had the same college level statistics class that you had. P.C.W. Davies another famous astrophysics' professor has calculated that changes in the weak force by one part in 10 to the 100 would have prevented a life permitting universe. Stephen Hawkings calculated the expansion rate of the big bang by one part in a hundred thousand million million, one second after the big bang, would have prevented the universe from either having galaxies or expanding at all.

These scientist are not Christians, not followers of Craig, and fully understand statistics. They all agree with fine tuning....
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 2 Peter 1:16
User avatar
tonyenglish7
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 2011
Joined: Sat May 10, 2008 10:13 pm
Location: Laguna Niguel, CA
Affiliation: Evangelical

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby gary_s » Tue Apr 05, 2011 11:04 am

If you are going to reference Hawking's name, you should be a little more forthright with his ideas:

Steven Hawking wrote:Our universe seems to be one of many, each with different laws. That multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine tuning. It is a consequence predicted by many theories in modern cosmology. If it is true it reduces the strong anthropic principle to the weak one, putting the fine tunings of physical law on the same footing as the environmental factors, for it means that our cosmic habitat—now the entire observable universe—is just one of many.
Just trying to get along
User avatar
gary_s
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 1200
Joined: Wed Mar 26, 2008 6:08 am
Affiliation: agnostic

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby Emery » Tue Apr 05, 2011 11:28 am

tonyenglish7 wrote:Dave,

Without knowing the process by which the coin arrived in its current state, it is impossible to even guess at the hypothetical chance that the flip could have turned out differently. We don't know how the constants came to be the way they are, so it's impossible to say what the chances are that they could be different.



Yes, I also studied statistics and probability in college a long time ago and we studied the very example you are giving. Yet this kind of study is done all the time. For example, in a murder scene. The guy had a knife and his wife is dead on the floor with 13 stab wounds. His defense? I accidently fell against her. Thirteen times... You do not have other events to compare it too. It only happened once. Specifically because it happened only once and because the chances are so small that you would fall 13 times against your wife while carrying a knife, it is logical to reject the criminal defense.

In the same way, Roger Penrose, an famous Oxford physicist calculated the odds of the low entropy to 10 to the 10 to the 123. I am sure had the same college level statistics class that you had. P.C.W. Davies another famous astrophysics' professor has calculated that changes in the weak force by one part in 10 to the 100 would have prevented a life permitting universe. Stephen Hawkings calculated the expansion rate of the big bang by one part in a hundred thousand million million, one second after the big bang, would have prevented the universe from either having galaxies or expanding at all.

These scientist are not Christians, not followers of Craig, and fully understand statistics. They all agree with fine tuning....

Now it gets interesting. :popcorn:
They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea. - Sir Francis Bacon
User avatar
Emery
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 1579
Joined: Mon Dec 26, 2005 1:00 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Affiliation: Atheist

Re: Ep. 92: Fine Tuning Argument

Postby hamax » Tue Apr 05, 2011 11:31 am

If you are going to reference Hawking's name, you should be a little more forthright with his ideas

And his name :)

You do not have other events to compare it too.

Of course you have. We have many murders and many fells to compare it to. We know how gravity works and how our body is structured.
This is why we can say that his story is not very probable.
Do we have anything like that for the beginning of our universe?
hamax
recruit
recruit
 
Posts: 72
Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2011 3:33 am
Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU
Affiliation: Agnostic Atheist

Next

Return to Podcasts

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron