Read Part One of this series here.

At this point Strobel and Meyer left the stage. The room grew dark, and a video came on the large screen to my left. It was an excerpt from the The Privileged Planet, based on the book of the same title. The book was written by astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and theologian Jay Richards, and represented yet another gloss on the fine-tuning argument.

Richards was the next speaker. I had not read The Privileged Planet when it was published, and therefore was only vaguely familiar with its arguments. After hearing Richards speak, I’m not inclined to buy the book.

Things got off to a bad start. The portion of the video being shown was discussing the various physical parameters that have to be just right for intelligent life to be possible on Earth. We have to be orbiting a star with the correct physical properties (not too hot, not too cold), we have to have a moon of the right size to stabilize our orbit, and on and on. At this point an equation appeared on the screen. On the left hand side of the equation was the probability of the Earth having all the correct physical properties. On the right-hand side was a list of thirteen symbols, each one apparently representing the probability of some specific physical parameter being precisely what it needed to be. I say apparently because the clip never identified what the symbols meant.

Someone identiifed as a physicist came on the screen and informed us that if we now conservatively estimate each of the terms on the right-hand side to have a value of 1/10, and then multiply them all together to get the probability of all of the necessary events occurring at once, then we very quickly get a vanishingly small probability.

I was somewhat distressed to find that the people sitting near me were murmuring with approval. Personally, I was gagging. This childish argument is wrong for three obvious reasons:

  1. First, they had no basis for their assertion that a value of 1/10 represented a conservative estimate of the probabilities in question. That was simply a made-up number. Frankly, it is not even clear what it means to talk about the probability of the universe having a certain property. Probabilities are things that typically apply to outcomes of repeatable experiments. Is the idea that if we replayed the Big Bang over and over again, the universe would show the relevant properties one time out of every ten? I can’t imagine how the folks in the video defend any of their probability assertions.
  2. Second, the business about multiplying probabilities of individual events to obtain the probability of all the events happening simultaneously only applies to independent events. If the events are not independent, then it is simply incorrect to evaluate their joint probability in this way. Suffice it to say that the question of independence was not addressed in the video clip. (Richards casually asserted later in his talk that the events were independent, but provided absolutely no justification for this).
  3. Let us suppose that it really is very improbable to have all the necessary physcial characteristics on one planet. What would that prove? Only that something very improbable had occurred. So what?

After a few minutes of this Richards took the stage. He started by repeating the point that Darwin made the world safe for materialism, but that he did not know what cosmology had in store. The discovery that the universe had a beginning put great pressure on materialist conceptions of the universe. Everything that began to exist had a cause, remember?

Materialists try desperately to get around this, he said. When Sagan said the cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be, he was putting a stake in the ground against the idea of a supernatural creator. Darwin is just one part of the debate. There’s a larger world-view issue that must be resolved.

Sagan was quite the little star of Richards’ performance. He was also given the credit for popularizing the Copernican Principle, which Richards described as follows:

The Copernican Principle is basically the idea that the Earth and our location in the universe are unexceptional or unimportant that we’re sort of adrift on a speck of dust in a cosmic sea that is otherwise purely impersonal and doesn’t have a mind. …The Copernican Principle is something entirely different [from Coprnicus’s astronomical work], the claim that the Earth is unexceptional that whatever happens here must happen elsewhere in the universe.

Somewhere in the part of the quote represented by the ellipsis Richards’ had said that the Copernican Principle has nothing to do with Copernicus.

Sicne Richards is about to argue that his cutting-edge research, undertaken with Dr. Gonzalez, puts the lie to this notion, we ought to point out that very little of what Richards said here is accurate. First, it is called the Copernican Principle becuase Copernicus is credited with establishing that the Earth was not the center of the universe. He finally put to rest the Ptolemean idea that the Earth was the center of everything. And that is the basic point of the principle; that the Earth occupies an unexceptional location in the universe.

Unexceptional, in this context, means unexceptional for the purpose of making obervations of the universe. To the extent that it finds acutal applications in cosmology, it is really just the idea that the universe is homogenous and isotropic over large scales (meaning that what we see is independent of the direction in which we look, at least over vast scales). It certainly does not mean the Earth is unexcetional in the sense of having properties that make it suitable for life, unlike the majority of planets that lack those properties. Richards will go on to argue that the Earth is singularly well-suited for making scientific observations, but as will become clear, the sort of things he has in mind are not the sort of things addressed by the Copernican Principle.

The Copernican Principle has nothing to do with whether the universe is impersonal or has a mind, and it has nothing to do with whether things that happen here must also happen elsewhere in the universe.

This was a lead in to just what an exceptional place Earth really is. Over the next ten minutes he rattled off a bunch of things that have to work out just right for complex life to be possible. You need carbon, and liquid water, and a planet that orbits the Sun at the right distance and on and on. This part of the talk culminated in a list of bullet points being presented on the screen which was meant to impress us with how fine-tuned everything is. Among these points were the need for a large moon to stabilize our orbit, and the need for large planets like Jupiter to shield us from collisions with comets.

This was a common style of argument throughout the conference. Show that if some physical parameter were changed in isolation from all other physical parameters the result would be a planet not hospitable to complex life, then deduce from this that an intelligent designer must have been behind it all. This argument has great rhetorical force, but it adds up to very little scientifically.

Moving on, there was next a discussion of probability. Richards raised the obvious issue that even things that seem very improbable become probable if you are given enough tries. This poses a problem with going straight from the observation of fine-tuning to the conclusion of design. Not much to comment on here beyond noting that Richards was constantly using the phrase “Probabilistic Resources” during this portion of his talk. This is not a term you will hear mathematicians using very often. It is, rather, a little phrase William Dembski likes to use in his writing, because it makes the commonplace observation that unlikely events become likely if you wait long enough sound wonderfully technical and rigorous.

So how does Richards get around this argument? Well, one answer is that he is so enamored of the tiny numbers his probability calculations lead to that he thinks chance is simply not an adequate response no matter how big the universe is. A billion tries isn’t very impressive when your probability is one out of ten trillion. But his main response, I’m not kidding, was the following:

This is the idea. The same narrow circumstances that allows us to exist also provides us with the best overall setting for making scientific observations. …The very conditions that make Earth hospitable for complex or intelligent life also make it well-suited for viewing an analyzing the universe as a whole.

If you are thinking at this point that you must have misunderstood that last quote, that no one could actually be so myopic as to pick out some fature of the world and conclude that the world was desgined specifically to manifest that feautre, then welcome to my world. Rest assured, however, that Richards now spent the final fifteen minutes of his talk explaining that yes, unbelievably, you heard him right.

Exhibit A in his discussion of this improbable point is the fact that our moon and Sun are arranged in just the right way to produce perfect solar eclipses on Earth. And such eclipses are precisely what we needed for a crucial test of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. If we didn’t have such eclipses, we couldn’t have carried out this test!

Still not convinced? Consider the galactic habitable zone. There are only certain locations within a galaxy in which complex life could form. Too close to the center and you are more subject to radiation threats and comet collisions. Too far away and only small planets can form. There is a sweet spot in the middle where planets suitable for complex life can form. And this sweet spot is also the place you would most like to be to make astronomical observations of the universe. You are far enough from the center that you can see out into the distant universe. But you are close enough to the center that you have plenty of nearby stars to observe. So once again we have a correlation between the properties necessary for life and the properties necessary for scientific investigation.

I’ve done my best to present Richards’ argument accurately, but it still sounds so foolish to me that I’m not sure I’ve understood him properly. I invite you to consult this article by Richards and Gonzalez, eerily similar to Richards’ presntation, to see for yourself if you think I have misrepresented them.

What is wrong with their argument? There are many possible points of attack. Physicist William Jeffreys points out one of them in his review of The Privileged Planet:

Finally, I turn to Gonzalez and Richards’s notion that our earth is uniquely designed for its inhabitants to do scientific exploration, and that the universe is similarly designed for us to do that scientific exploration. They point to a number of phenomena that have aided our scientific enterprise, such as the transparency of the earth’s atmosphere, the fact that we have a moon that is just far enough from the earth to produce spectacular solar eclipses, and so on. Of all the arguments in the book, I find this the weakest. It puts the cart before the horse. For suppose it were not so; if we existed on another world very different from the earth, then we would surely be doing something. We would be doing whatever was possible for us to do under the circumstances in which we found ourselves. If we accepted the Whiggish reasoning of the authors, we would be just as justified in concluding that our planet — and our universe, if we could see it in this alternative reality — was designed so that we would do whatever we happened to be doing at the time or find interesting at the time (as diverse human cultures have always done). The authors could learn much by studying a little anthropology and a little history.

Religious Studies professor Hector Avalos raises a similar objection:

Even more puzzling is that Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, who is an astronomer, concludes that the earth was positioned for his convenience (in order to make scientific measurements of the universe). He begins Chapter 1 of TPP with a story about how the observation of a solar eclipse led him eventually to posit the idea that Earth was positioned so that he could make such observations.

This rationale is analogous to a plumber arguing that if our planet had not been positioned precisely where it is, then he might not be able to do his work as a plumber. Lead pipes might melt if the Sun were much closer. And, if our planet were any farther from the Sun, it might be so frozen that plumbers might not exist at all. Therefore, plumbing must have been the reason that our planet was located where it is.

Moreover, if this planet were designed to facilitate scientific discovery, it leaves unexplained the fact that 99.99999% of our planet’s 4.5 billion-year history was not inhabited by creatures that could record measurements. One might just as easily postulate that the Designer meant for earth to be inhabited mostly by creatures that made no intelligent measurements.

To these excellent points, I would add a third: If the universe was designed with its eventual scientific discovery in mind, why is scientific investigation so difficult, and why is it something that seems so unnatural to many people?

For most of human civilization there was no organized attempt to investigate nature scientifically. And even today, most people do not engage directly with the understanding of the universe that science provides. Indeed, they cannot. Even something as simple as Newtonian mechanics requires considerable mathematical training to fully appreciate, after all. Most people find such mathematical mastery either impossible to attain, or attained only at the expense of an enormous amount of highly unpleasant work.

And then there is the fact that in many cases people positively resist scientific explanations for commonplace phenomena, preferring instead various sorts of mysticism and irrationality. The rudiments of logical thinking, crucial to serious scientific investigation, are things that have to be taught and practiced before they seem natural.

On top of that we have the many hurdles to scientific advancement. Richards is excited about the fact that the possibility of perfect solar eclipses makes it possible to test the general theory of relativity. Personally, I’m more struck by the fact that the general theory of relativity, one of the fundamental principles of physics, has to be tested in a manner so complex it takes geniuses of Einstein’s calibre to think of it. If the Earth is designed for scientific discovery, why are its basic principles so complex and counterintuitive that most people are unable to participate actively in science? It is trivial to imagine changes in the natural world that would make scientific advancement easier to achieve. Should such hurdles persuade us that scientific advancement is not the raison d’etre of the Earth? Apparently we have just the right balance of discoverability and difficulty for Richards to see a wise designer indeed.

If Gonzalez and Richards are right then on the one hand the designer went to a great deal of trouble to create a planet on which complex life was possible, and established conditions specifically intended to make scientific discovery attainable. Then He populated that planet with complex life forms singularly incapable of the patterns of thought necessary for successful science. Forgive me for not being impressed.

Richards closed by noting that his argument should be understood as an inference to the best explanation. We note this correlation between habitability and measureability, he says. Under a materialist conception of the universe there is no reason to find ourselves in a part of the universe singularly conducive to scientific investigation. But under the hypothesis that the universe was designed for discovery, this fact becomes comprhensible.

This style of reasoning is distressingly commonplace. The fact is RIchards has precisely zero basis for his assertion regarding what we should expect in a universe without design. Why, exactly, shouldn’t we expect scientific progress to be possible in a universe without design? We have only the one universe to observe. It is not as if we have a multidue of universes to study, some designed and some not, that allows us to draw distinctions between them. We will encounter this sort of argument again in later posts.

Coming Up: Stephen Meyer on the origin of life. Confronting the other side in line at the local Subway.

Comments

  1. #1 J. J. Ramsey
    March 27, 2007

    Look on the bright side. At least they didn’t say anything about PYGMIES and DWARVES.

    [crickets …]

    I’ll get my coat.

  2. #2 carey allen
    March 27, 2007

    People need to be careful with anthropocentric views. Probabilities are so non-intuitive, that we quickly jump to unwarranted conclusions. Today I saw a person sitting in a car with the license plate LFD293 – have you any idea how astronomical the odds are of that happening?

  3. #3 Sunil
    March 27, 2007

    Wonderful write-up. Many thanks for making this effort!

  4. #4 natural cynic
    March 28, 2007

    I think that the Church Lady said it best:

    “Well, aren’t WE special” :-P

  5. #5 Mike
    March 28, 2007

    If astronomers benefit from such wonderful gifts to make their professions possible, isn’t it even more generous for God/the Intelligent Designer to give evolutionary biologists a wonderful world in which to do their business? It’s perfect for them!

  6. #6 matt
    March 28, 2007

    Jesus, these people really are the most dizzyingly solipsistic nitwits. How on Earth did you manage to sit through a whole day of this masturbatory tripe?

  7. #7 Tom
    March 28, 2007

    Jason, you deserve a medal–your endurance is admirable. Thanks for reporting on this.

    The creationists, with just a little more effort, could make their “probability” argument even more convincing to the naive believers: “Conservatively estimate” that the probability of each physical parameter is 9/10 (or 99/100 or …). Then find enough physical parameters (which should be no problem–you’ve got the entire universe) so that the product is your desired probability. The naming of these parameters could be sold as “scientific research” to the IDers.

  8. #8 Andrew Wade
    March 28, 2007

    And this sweet spot is also the place you would most like to be to make astronomical observations of the universe. You are far enough from the center that you can see out into the distant universe. But you are close enough to the center that you have plenty of nearby stars to observe.

    But it’s a terrible vantage point for observing the structure of our galaxy as a whole. (There appears to be a dwarf galaxy colliding on the other side of the disk for instance, but because of our location it’s hard to make out). Being part of a larger galactic cluster would also be nice; you can see more detail in nearby galaxies. The orientation of our galaxy is also a bit of a bummer; it gets in the way of observing whatever the “great attractor” is. Could be worse I suppose; at least we’re not stuck in the middle of a nebula.

  9. #9 Joe
    March 28, 2007

    “The Priviledged Planet” is a work of fantasy. They rationalize how each feature of our astronomical locale allows us to exist. And then they extrapolate from one example of “complex life” (that is, us) to the limits of the Universe. That is one HUGE extrapolation. They do not allow for life adapting to other conditions, or the ability of some feature of another stellar system to compensate for the lack of some feature in ours. In truth, they only make an interesting argument for the likelihood of finding an Earth-like planet in a Solar-like stellar system.

    Victor Stenger has written on this: http://www.csicop.org/sb/2005-09/reality-check.html

  10. #10 Leni
    March 28, 2007

    Mike wrote:

    If astronomers benefit from such wonderful gifts to make their professions possible, isn’t it even more generous for God/the Intelligent Designer to give evolutionary biologists a wonderful world in which to do their business? It’s perfect for them!

    Don’t be silly *sigh*

    Satan made it that way, after The Fall. :)

  11. #11 Ambitwistor
    March 28, 2007

    Not to mention that the eclipse test of general relativity, despite being hailed as a success at the time, was probably not accurate enough to establish the validity of that theory. Many, more reliable tests were performed later (none of which required total eclipses or other astronomical coincidences).

  12. #12 Blake Stacey, OM
    March 28, 2007

    Exhibit A in his discussion of this improbable point is the fact that our moon and Sun are arranged in just the right way to produce perfect solar eclipses on Earth. And such eclipses are precisely what we needed for a crucial test of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. If we didn’t have such eclipses, we couldn’t have carried out this test!

    Actually, the measurement of stars behind the Sun during the 1919 solar eclipse was not a very good test of general relativity! The sources of experimental error were big. From this standpoint, the “prediction” of Mercury’s advancing perihelion was a better test of the theory, even though we had already measured the perihelion, so that it wasn’t technically a “prediction” in the strictest sense. (Over at the n-Category Cafe, we had a pretty lengthy discussion about what words to use in such circumstances: prediction, retrodiction, postdiction — er, what?)

    We tested general relativity much better when we figured out how to use the Moessbauer Effect to measure the gravitational redshift of gamma rays. This doesn’t require a solar eclipse: you can do it within a building. The experiment was first done in 1960, only two years after Moessbauer discovered the monochromatic emission and absorption of gamma rays by atoms trapped in a crystal lattice (and a year before he got the Nobel Prize for it). This was the first test of general relativity which did not involve astronomical measurements and large error bars.

    Incidentally, gravitational redshift had been observed as early as 1925. In that year, an American astronomer named Walter Sydney Adams (1876–1956) managed to obtain the spectrum of Sirius B, the densely packed white dwarf companion star of Sirius (invisible to the naked eye and first seen by telescope in 1862). By studying the position of Sirius B’s spectral lines, Adams was able to calculate how much those lines had been affected by the white dwarf’s gravity. Like the measurement of the 1919 eclipse, this was a borderline result, but it was consistent with Einstein’s equations. Even without the eclipse observations, this would have kept general relativity on the table until it could be tested more stringently, thirty-five years later.

    So, supposing that we had no eclipses to observe, we would only have had to wait six years for an equivalent result!

    I learned about all this, by the way, when I read Asimov’s Chronology of Science and Discovery, in the sixth grade. What does it say when a sixth grader knows more science than the professional creationists?

  13. #13 jeffk
    March 28, 2007

    Ugh, the probability thing is awful. I like Douglas Adams answer: ‘Imagine a puddle thinking to itself, why, what a great hole I reside in. It fits me perfectly and seems as though it was made just for me!’

  14. #14 SLC
    March 28, 2007

    The notion that the moons location relative to the earth is evidence of design because it allows of total solar eclipses is complete nonsense. The moon is slowly receding from the earth due to the effects of tidal friction so that eventually, total eclipses will not occur. What will the creationists (if they still exist) argue when that occurs?

  15. #15 386sx
    March 28, 2007

    I learned about all this, by the way, when I read Asimov’s Chronology of Science and Discovery, in the sixth grade. What does it say when a sixth grader knows more science than the professional creationists?

    What makes you think a sixth grader knows more science than the professional creationists? Gonzalez is a scientist, and he can read, so he knows all about the Douglas Adams puddles and whatnot. And yet he still carries on. He’s a professional creationist.

    Even more puzzling is that Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, who is an astronomer, concludes that the earth was positioned for his convenience (in order to make scientific measurements of the universe).

    What’s so puzzling about that? He’s a professional creationist.

  16. #16 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    March 28, 2007

    Sagan’s latest book, The Varieties of Scientific Experience, is pretty good. He starts with good coverage of the Copernical principle, with pictures.

  17. #17 socinius
    March 28, 2007

    Even though his dates may be way off, perhaps Mark Twain put it best:

    Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno.
    – “Was the World Made for Man?”

  18. #18 Sastra
    March 28, 2007

    If Gonzalez and Richards are right then on the one hand the designer went to a great deal of trouble to create a planet on which complex life was possible, and established conditions specifically intended to make scientific discovery attainable.

    Actually, if Gonzalez and Richards are right then on the one hand the designer went to a great deal of trouble to set reality up in such a way that complex life is only possible within the narrowest of physical parameters — and then on the other hand He went on to work hard to show off His other skills by creating an actual universe which falls within the very narrow, special, hard to pinpoint physical parameters which he set up. Very impressive. If God hadn’t managed to tweak everything just right to begin with by making it real hard, then it would have been a sloppy unimpressive miracle when life occurred, instead of a virtuoso demonstration of divine sharpshooting.

    Why does an all-powerful Being which creates Reality have to aim carefully ?

  19. #19 kemibe
    March 28, 2007

    People seem to have a preexisting hunger for buying into the anthropic fallacy, since it satisfies an innate quasi-romantic need for humans to feel privileged.

    It’s easy enough to explain the bad reasoning to someone by picking an event, any event, that has also happened and explaining how improbable it is. For example, go back 20 years and examine what Jason and I were doing at the time. What were the chances at that point that Jason would ultimately make the above post and that I would ultimately read and comment on it? Think of the incredible maze of right decisions and random happenings that had to transpire, at every moment of every day, in order for this outcome to be guaranteed. Hell, everything could have gone smoothly until 15 minutes ago and I might have decided to play Web sudoku instead of read about creationist morons on this blog. But I didn’t.

    Similar examples about with lottery winners, or any event great and small — all of which are uniquely, amazingly improbable. People need to grasp the difference between retrospectively recognizing the improbability of something that has transpired (meaning that the “hard part” is already accounted for) and predicting such a thing.

    On a more general level, it should be intuitive to people that, given the physical parameters in our midst, of course the only organisms here are the ones suited for the conditions. It’s only “amazing” that the universe suits our needs if you take the position that humans and their requirements were designed first and the universe unfolded thereafter, magically conforming to human needs.

    I’m amazed your head didn’t explode.

  20. #20 Blake Stacey
    March 28, 2007

    Sastra:

    A few months ago, this came up at Good Math, Bad Math:

    OK, say the cosmological parameters of the Universe were “fine-tuned”. Then, the argument goes, there had to be a Fine Tuner. But the Fine Tuner does not — indeed, cannot — live within the Universe we know. Ergo, intelligence can exist in a realm which is not at all like our Universe. Yet the whole argument was based on the idea that all the peculiarities of our Universe are essential for intelligent life!

    All fall down.

  21. #21 Pierce R. Butler
    March 28, 2007

    …we have to have a moon of the right size to stabilize our orbit…

    Eh? IANAA, but it seems to me that the presence of our moon complicates Earth’s orbit (and tectonics) by adding another set of oscillations, while moon-less, unchaperoned Venus shows no tendency to flip out and disrupt the neighborhood (even though she is an acknowledged hottie).

    I’ve seen it claimed that Luna’s gravitation, combined with rotation of molten metal around the planetary core, creates a dynamo effect resulting in a magnetic field strong enough to shield Earth’s surface from dangerous levels of radiation (anyone here know about the validity of this?).

    The title chapter of Neil F. Comins’s intriguing _What If the Moon Didn’t Exist?_ hypothesizes an Earthlike but moonless world called Solon:

    Removing the moon seems harmless enough at first. Of course, Solon would differ from the earth. The tides would be lower without the moon, and it would lack eclipses and romantic, moonlit nights, but in the global scheme of things these changes seem trivial. As we dig deeper, we discover that lower tides, higher winds, and shorter days would greatly affect Solon’s geography, its ability to evolve life, and the quality of the life animals would have there. … Solon would be a much less hospitable place in which to live.

    Un- fortunately/surprisingly, Richards & Gonzalez offer a model of far lower quality than that of the informed, occasionally whimsical pop-science presented by Comins.

  22. #22 J-Dog
    March 28, 2007

    It seems to me that by following Richards and Gonzalez’s convoluted logic, one could argue that the best argument against their design theory is the existence of idiots like Richards and Gonzalez.

  23. #23 island
    March 29, 2007

    He finally put to rest the Ptolemean idea that the Earth was the center of everything. And that is the basic point of the principle; that the Earth occupies an unexceptional location in the universe.

    Except that isn’t what is observed, and the “exceptional” anthropically-pointed features of our universe that occur in contradiction to this “natural” expectation are why we have an anthropic principle as a a reaction against exaggerated subservience to the Copernican principle

    Confrontations of Cosmological Theories with Observational Data

    Unfortunately there has been a strong (not always subconscious) tendency to extend this to a most questionable dogma to the effect that our situation cannot be privileged in any sense. This dogma (which in its most extreme form led to the perfect cosmological principle on which the steady state theory was based) is clearly untenable, as was pointed out by Dicke (Nature 192, 440, 1961).
    –Brandon Carter

    SLC wrote:
    The notion that the moons location relative to the earth is evidence of design because it allows of total solar eclipses is complete nonsense. The moon is slowly receding from the earth due to the effects of tidal friction so that eventually, total eclipses will not occur. What will the creationists (if they still exist) argue when that occurs?

    I dont’t know about creationists, but the point of the anthropic principle is that we exist at a specific time and location in the history of the universe, so a logically derived prediction would fall-out of this that says that we won’t be here to see it.

  24. #24 Sastra
    March 29, 2007

    Blake:
    Yes, that argument seems to combine what I wrote with kemibe’s excellent point right after: that Fine Tuning implicitly “take(s) the position that humans and their requirements were designed first and the universe unfolded thereafter, magically conforming to human needs.”

    A Living Intelligence which is All-Powerful could have created any kind of living intelligences capable of existing within any physical parameters it wanted. After all, it is capable of both living and being intelligent in all environments itself, so it’s logically possible. Assuming in advance that there is something cosmically important about you , specifically, will — after the fact — make it seem like an uncannily accurate act of sharpshooting that the conditions necessary for you to be here are the very conditions which you find yourself in.

    As has already been pointed out, it’s the puddle marvelling over the unique shape of the hole it’s in. Try starting out with the assumption that “there is nothing particularly significant or important about human life” and see how far the Fine Tuning Argument will get you. It can’t even start. After all, it begins with “human life is remarkable” in order to end up with “so isn’t it miraculously remarkable that there is human life!”

  25. #25 island
    March 29, 2007

    As has already been pointed out, it’s the puddle marvelling over the unique shape of the hole it’s in. Try starting out with the assumption that “there is nothing particularly significant or important about human life” and see how far the Fine Tuning Argument will get you.

    Some of the things that you guys say in response to creationists really cracks me up for their painfully obvious flaws, if you don’t harbor this good-for-nothin-scientific, junk:

    If you were an honest, unmotivated scientist, then you’d get the same results that Brandon Carter got, except that his anthropic point would be compounded by orders of magnitude, since so many more commonly balanced anthropically-pointed coincidences have been discovered since Robert Dicke, (an equally honest scientist who started out without any special feelings about life), related Dirac’s Large Numbers, (in terms of natural units that define the physical constants), to biological features that most apparently place a non-random constraint the forces.

    Carter had Dickes coincidence and a few other anthropic “enigmas”, but the near-perfectly balanced “flat” structuring of the universe doesn’t ONLY match up, (align with, line up with all of them including), the near perfect eco-balance for which we, ***contributing members arose from*** at this particular time and location in the history of the universe, because it doesn’t most apparently appear that the universe is “fixed” to produce carbon based life over a golden region of the observed universe because there is no apparent preference toward carbon based life in a 10:1 carbon-chauvanistic universe where carbon chains and molocules form more-readiy even with these conditions are reversed (10:1 in favor of the next most plausible form of life that we’ve ever been able to imagine, silicon-based life), like they are on Earth!

    Nah, nothin to see here… if you bury your freaking head under a big pile of anticentrist dogma, like Blake Stacy insists on doing.

  26. #26 Kristine
    March 29, 2007

    Richards casually asserted later in his talk that the events were independent, but provided absolutely no justification for this

    I don’t get this assumption. But it seems that IDists also insist that the various mutations, gene duplications, and refinement of steps comprising a complex adaptation must all be independent events too (when in fact a gene can have multifaceted phenotypic effects), which is why, perhaps, they arrive at the conclusion that “nature is not sufficient” (Dembski). Just a thought.

    Let us suppose that it really is very improbable to have all the necessary physcial characteristics on one planet. What would that prove? Only that something very improbable had occurred. So what?

    Exactly. What, after all, is the probability of you getting any particular hand in poker? And if there’s a Designer, then why would there be any “improbabilities” at all? Why juxtapose probable and “improbable” events when both would have to have been, er, designed? I mean…huh?

    The very conditions that make Earth hospitable for complex or intelligent life also make it well-suited for viewing an analyzing the universe as a whole.

    Wha-? What’s the point here? God (oops, Designer) wrapped the general theory of relativity in a Christmas package and placed it under the tree for man to find, then led man right to it? First of all, that’s ridiculous, but even so, if it were true…so what? That’s a letdown if you ask me.

    These guys sound like men who don’t want to grow up.

  27. #27 Robert O'Brien
    March 31, 2007

    Religious Studies professor Hector Avalos raises a similar objection…

    Avalos is a dumb ass with an unhealthy fixation on Dr. Gonzalez.

  28. #28 Robert O'Brien
    March 31, 2007

    As has already been pointed out, it’s the puddle marvelling over the unique shape of the hole it’s in.

    Argument via analogy is the weakest form of argumentation.

  29. #29 Freelurker
    April 1, 2007

    Jason wrote:

    This argument has great rhetorical force, but it adds up to very little scientifically.

    I agree. When I saw the Privileged Planet video, I thought to myself; “It’s as if all of this is intended to make me feel grateful…” On a lark, I googled “Argument from Gratitude” and came upon this article: http://www.geoffrobinson.net/thankfulness.html. My assessment is that the PP authors are making the same argument for the same purpose.

  30. #30 Freelurker
    April 1, 2007

    (The above link works if you take off the period at the end.)

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