There’s a very nice podcast here by Australian cosmologist Luke Barnes answering the common objections to Cosmic Fine Tuning. And very amusingly, too.
His blog is good value as well. It majors on CFT too, and is notable in critiquing even-handedly (if not without scorn when deserved!) arguments not only from physicists, but from atheist apologists like Richard Carrier and Christian apologists like philosopher William Lane Craig and OEC astrophysicist Hugh Ross. I should add that it comes across clearly, but not crudely, that Barnes himself is a Christian theist.
I think GD might like his physicist’s-eye review of Coyne’s Why Evolution is True, in which he rubbishes the poor level of logic and the misdirected apologetic, and asks the kind of pertinent questions that others of us not in the biological guilds ask, like why the random walk of a mollusc over 50 million changing years, finally reducing the shell spiral by half a turn, is the best example of gradualist evolution that can be found in the fossil record, or how natural selection can be both a fundamental concept and a undefinable tautology.
Having heard the podcast, I was walking the dog and idly musing on how I would explain the Cosmic Fine Tuning problem to someone from a previous age: Newton, or Leibniz, maybe. Given the state of their scientific knowledge, I was thinking how one would phrase the fundamental values of weak force, electromagnetism, cosmological expansion and so on. Then I suddenly realised that the real problem would be that these guys would look at me as I floundered around in physics-for-antediluvians, and eventually chip in, “But why do you say this is a problem?”
Even the least of them would explain, “Look, we’re in a contingent universe that’s quite clearly made by the wisdom and power of the Deity, so how would it not be fine-tuned? Does a man build a house without making sure it is suitable for people? It’s what science would predict.”
After all, although it’s usually forgotten, we still base our science on the twin pillars of God’s faithfulness in the universe’s law-like properties, and his freedom in making it contingent and, therefore, in need of investigation rather than just rational deduction. The first level (that we know) of created contingency is CFT, which is no more or less fundamental than the existence of the laws as the outworking of created regularity. Both regularity and contingent order were, originally, the theistic assumptions on which science depended, so why get involved more in apologetics about fine-tuning than about apologetics for the existence of laws? There’s a place for apologetics, of course – but why should it be in the lab, or on Christian web forums?
That reveals to me (not for the first time) that there is something wrong with the mindset of many scientific Christians nowadays. Very often you’ll read people discussing whether CFT really is good evidence for God, or whether it’s insufficient, or logically flawed, or whatever. But it’s always about “evidence for”. Very seldom do you see CFT regarded as a self-evident working truth, given the properly basic foundation of theism, not to mention the personal conviction of a Christian’s faith that, supposedly, defines the deepest level of their being.
As an aside, Paul Davies did an article not long ago, focusing on the strangeness of there being a universe with laws, and how they might originate, with replies in comments from all kinds of celebrity cosmologists like Krauss and Stenger. The saddest was from a scientist asking why anyobody was even interested in asking why there are laws, which are merely an axiom of science. There spoke a man paradoxially too wedded to science to wonder about the world. Perhaps his attitude is not a million miles from the findings of this study, suggesting a link between absence of awe (an emotion in itself closely related to theism) and belief in the explanatory power of science. It seems largely to mean diminishing what warrants explanation in the first place.
But to return to the subject, the fact that a confident assurance in the Christian scientist, simply rejoicing in the specific contingency of the cosmos, is often not the case betrays something, but what exactly? I don’t think the answer is rocket science… well no, obviously it isn’t. That would be silly. I suspect it reveals an inherent soft-scientism, associated with a deistic bias, in which God somehow remains a “hypothesis” even in the presence of faith.
This might explain how the animus of Evolutionary Creationists against ID’s being able to prove scientifically that certain things in life are designed so often seems to conceal a doubt that God actually is behind the design of life at all. Witness arguments like, “Michael Behe’s attempts to prove God’s hand in evolution are poor science, and in any case trying to pretend science can prove God is bad theology, for God hides himself!” So far, so good. But then the argument so often goes on, “And is he going to say that God designed the malarial parasite? (Ha gotcha!)”.
So the “definiton” of Evolutionary Creation, that “evolution is the means God used to create living things”, isn’t true in the case of malarial parasites, apparently: evolution is the means some other power used for that, whilst God used it for the good things like… what exactly? That’s not often spelled out.
Christian Monotheism 101: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible” (Nicene Creed, 325AD).
But we don’t, actually, do we? Like the atheists, in practice practically every article on theistic evolution is about how evolution (Peace be upon it!) explains humanity, the Cambrian explosion, the immune system or any other damned thing quite happily without the ignorant and anti-science ID and Creationist appeal to God. There is no sign that anyone is in the least interested that evolution is no more than God’s wonderful instrument of creation, except in generic statements – usually restricted to debate with Creationists – like, “I believe it’s far more wonderful for God to have set up evolution than to make everything go ‘poof!'” God designed everything in general, but nothing (it seems) in particular.
Can we put this down to the need to rein back the damaging excesses of the Ken Hams and Stephen Meyers of this world? If so it’s a sad reflection on EC’s intellectual confidence if it spends its whole effort attacking the other Christian positions (which at least say a hearty “Amen” to the first clause of the Nicene Creed, excepting of course non-Judaeo-Christian IDists). It’s also strange how their protests so closely track the agenda of the atheist hooray-henrys of evolution (that’s an analogy, by the way), and not infrequently their methodology, against their opponents – all with the Guantanamo Bay excuse that “These are Bad People, you know.”
So if you’re an Evolutionary Creationist, prove it. Don’t give me that guff about, “No Intelligent Designer in sight!” The scoffers ought to be on the other side. Tell the world instead just how your small corner of science shows forth the glory and wisdom of God, just as I anticipate, usually with justification, the Christian cosmologist marvelling at the God axiomatically revealed by Cosmic Fine Tuning.
I want to know what you believe, not what you don’t.