Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Robin Collins on fine-tuning

This is a link to work by Robin Collins, probably the leading defender of the fine-tuning argument today.


Steven Carr said...

Not a good start by Mr. Collins.

I nearly quote him 'Suppose we went on a mission to Mars, and didn't fid a domed structure in which everything was set up just right for life to exist. The temperature, for example, was not set around 70o F and the humidity was not at 50%; moreover, there was not an oxygen recycling system...'

His conclusion is that Mars is part of a fine-tuned universe.

How can he conclude that the universe is fine-tuned for life, when he *starts* by contrasting the universe with something designed to support life?

Anonymous said...

Well, good thing its not an argument from analogy! But leave it to Steve to nitpick the largely irrelevant. The thing is - he doesn't start by assuming this "domed structure" is designed as you have. It is an analogy and what is analogous to the universe in this instance is the fine-tuning itself, not any prima facie notions about how such a dome must have come about if it if it exists on Mars.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. But apologetics is all about the argument one happens to be defending at that moment, not about forming a consilient picture of the world. No sooner has the Sunday school teacher hit the eject button on The Privileged Planet (arguing that Yahweh miraculously created a universe suited for life as we know it), than he begins to read from Gish and Dembski, who explain in no uncertain terms that in fact life as we know it is impossible.

Now, finding life on Mars that physically requires more water, oxygen, and warmth than are present, but which nonetheless thrives, would be an impressive step towards demonstrating the miraculous. That life is found only in such places as it is possible to be found should not be cause for much consternation.

Anonymous said...

Neither Gish nor Dembski argue that life, as we know it, is impossible - only that it is impossible without intelligent input (and specifically due to a direct type of intervention). And Dembski's argument, as Michael Murray has pointed out, really can't distinguish between life-specifying higher-order laws or information front-loaded into at the point of origin of the universe, and interventionist accounts of the origin of life. So Collins doesn't have much to worry about there.

Collins argument isn't about localized conditions for life requiring anything miraculous. He sidesteps fine-tuning parameters for the solar system entirely. He's looking at boundary conditions, constants, and laws that apply to the universe as a whole, and how narrow that window is. So he isn't asking us to be surprised that life is found where it is possible.