Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Jeff Lowder Fine Tuning Bait and Switch

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Jeff Lowder at Secular Outpost, argues against William Lane Craig's fine tuning argument. His objective is to show that even if the argument is valid it doesn't establish probability for God.

Lowdwer's syllogism of the argument:

1. The life-permitting nature of the universe’s initial conditions is either the result of chance, necessity or design. (Premise)
2. It is not the result of chance or necessity. (Premise)
3. Therefore, it is the result of design. (From 1 and 2)

This argument is clearly valid, i.e., the conclusion follows from the premises. We want to know the probability of (3). The probability of (3) will depend upon the probability of (2). If we have a very weak degree of belief that (2) is true, say we think Pr(2)=0.25, then, by itself, this argument only warrants the belief Pr(3)=0.25. N.B. I’m not claiming that (2) has an exact numerical probability equal to 0.25; that value is simply an example to illustrate the point.
Excluding it as a result of chance means showing the improbability of a given variable. For example hitting the target levels necessary for large open bodies of water on a planet. If that is extremely improbable then it's less likely that it "just happened" as the result of chance. The very fact of target levels and the extreme improbability of hitting them all argues against necessity. The universe did not have to turn out as it did. as Paul Davies Tells us:

Paul Davies:
"You might be tempted to suppose that any old rag-bag of laws would produce a complex universe of some sort, with attendant inhabitants convinced of their own specialness. Not so. It turns out that randomly selected laws lead almost inevitably either to unrelieved chaos or boring and uneventful simplicity. Our own universe is poised exquisitely between these unpalatable alternatives, offering a potent mix of freedom and discipline, a sort of restrained creativity. The laws do not tie down physical systems so rigidly that they can accomplish little, but neither are they a recipe for cosmic anarchy. Instead, they encourage matter and energy to develop along pathways of evolution that lead to novel variety-what Freeman Dyson has called the principle of maximum diversity: that in some sense we live in the most interesting possible universe."

"Some scientists have tried to argue that if only we knew enough about the laws of physics, if we were to discover a final theory that united all the fundamental forces and particles of nature into a single mathematical scheme, then we would find that this superlaw, or theory of everything, would describe the only logically consistent world. In other words, the nature of the physical world would be entirely a consequence of logical and mathematical necessity. There would be no choice about it. I think this is demonstrably wrong. There is not a shred of evidence that the universe is logically necessary. Indeed, as a theoretical physicist I find it rather easy to imagine alternative universes that are logically consistent, and therefore equal contenders for reality." [2]
We can eliminate necessity and even Andre Linde himself tells us the probabilities are overwhelmingly against life, meaning it is most unlikely that the universe's life bearing aspect would come about randomly.[3] That means premise two checks out and thus the argument is valid. But I think Lowder is attacking the soundness by brining arguing that the fine turning argument doesn't include all relevant material, that will change the probability factors.

At this point he's going to pull an interesting bait and switch. He's going to transpose fine tuning into design argument so he can argue the counter design argument. But first he brings up the idea that FT dies not reflect all the data:
Second, such arguments fail to embody all of the relevant, available evidence. .... It may well be the case that, by itself, the life-permitting nature of the universe’s initial conditions does make it more probable than not that the universe is designed. But that doesn’t entail that, all things considered, the total available, relevant evidence makes it more probable than not that the universe is designed. In order to defend that claim, you have to look at all of the evidence, including the evidence of evolution, biological role of pain and pleasure, nonresistant nonbelief, etc. And once you do that, it’s far from obvious that the total evidence favors theism, much less Christian theism.
What he's calling "relevant data is anti-design data, FT is a from of design but does it have the same implications such that anti-design evidence would  count against it? Most of us know that evolution is not counter evidence to God. God can use evolution so how is that counter? There is the extinction aspect. The cruelty of nature. He fleshes some of it out thusly:
We also know that so much of our universe is hostile to life due to things such as containing vast amounts of empty space, temperatures near absolute zero, cosmic radiation, and so forth. Given that our universe is life-permitting, the fact that so much of it is hostile to life is much more probable on no-design than on design. So once all of the evidence about cosmic life-permitting conditions has been fully stated, however, it’s far from obvious that facts about cosmic “fine-tuning” favor design over non-design.
That only matters because he's brining in the conventional design arguments or bait and witch. In the conventional design argument the argument turns u[on things looking designed fitting together and seeming like the result of a plan. That's why empty space life threatening aspects are taken as counter design evidence they don't paper life so they are not part of a plan. All he's really doing there is to turn the conditions that make life improbable (counts for FT) into evidence for unplanned universe. That's because he switched arguments. In FT the only appearance of planning is so many totally improbable things working out. All that empty space bad water and so on is actually pro design if the deign is FT. In other words with FT the only aspects of design are where the target levels are hit and how overwhelming  the odds against hitting them. None of his counter design stuff really matters.

see my FT argument on Religious a priori 

More on this in comment section. Please join me there and comment.

[1] Jeffery Jay Lowder, "WLC Denies That Anyone Has Ever Died a Sincere Seeker Without Finding God" Secular Out Post, January 2, 2016 (blog URL)  Accessed 1/10/16
all quotations from Lowder will be from this source.

[2] Paul Davies  "Physics and The Mind of G: The Tempelton Prize Address,"First Things, August 5 (1995) On line URL:  accessed 1/20/16

[3] Andre Linde,"The Self  Reproducing Inflationary Universe, Scientifi9c American Nov 19994, 48-55

Now Linde is confident that the new inflationary theires will explain all of this, and indeed states that their purpose is to revolve the ambiguity with which cosmologists are forced to cope. His co-author in inflationary theory. Physicist Paul Steinhardt, had doubts about it as early as his first paper on the subject (1982). He admits that the point of the theory was to eliminate fine tuning (a major God argument), but the theory only works if one fine tunes the constants that control the inflationary period.

John Horgan, “Physicist slams Cosmic Theory he Helped Conceive,” Scientific American Blogs, December 1, 2014. on line, URL accessed 10/5/15. Horgan interviews Steinhardt.
“The whole point of inflation was to get rid of fine-tuning – to explain features of the original big bang model that must be fine-tuned to match observations. The fact that we had to introduce one fine-tuning to remove another was worrisome. This problem has never been resolved."



Joe Hinman said...

Lowder also said:

on the basis of Purdue University philosopher Paul Draper’s work, Craig’s appeal to cosmic fine-tuning is a textbook example of the fallacy of understated evidence. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the life-permitting conditions of our universe are more likely on design than on no-design. That fact–if it is a fact–hardly exhausts what we know about the habitability of our universe.

Contrary to Craig’s special pleading, I conclude that nontheists and theists alike are amply justified in concluding, with a high degree of confidence, that there is ultimate (lifelong), nonculpable or nonresistant nonbelief. If that creates problems for historic Christian doctrines such as Christian particularism, then so much the worse for those doctrines.

Joe Hinman said...

(Taken from Secular Outpost):

INTRODUCTION: "Paul Draper has usefully identified a fallacy of inductive reasoning he calls the 'fallacy of understated evidence.' According to Draper, in the context of arguments for theism and against naturalism, proponents of a theistic argument are guilty of this fallacy if they 'successfully identify some general fact F about a topic X that is antecedently more likely on theism than on naturalism, but ignore other more specific facts about X, facts that, given F, are more likely on naturalism than on theism.'[1]

this is just a fancy way of saying what I summarized already, the "editi90onal material" empery space and all that. My argument covers it.