August 09, 2009
Fine Tuned Universe
Fine-Tuning and Improbability
We live in a fine-tuned universe—one in which its fundamental constants and quantities are set precisely for life. The odds are beyond astronomically small that these constants would align via random chance; therefore one may conclude that the universe has been designed. But does this mean that other incredibly unlikely events would also imply a Designer? Dr. Craig corrects a questioner who assumes that the fine-tuned universe only shows the imprint of design because of its improbability. Instead, one can properly detect design when the occurrence in question is not only improbable, but also conforms to an independent pattern. Our fine-tuned universe exhibits both qualities.
I'm interested in how the teleological argument can escape the criticism of some who would argue that if an infinitesimally improbable event such as a finely-tuned Universe could warrant belief in a God, then how what about other incomprehensibly improbable events?
For instance, imagine a possible Universe that is much larger than our own, in which there are only two small space rocks in existence, but they are located on different edges of the Universe. The possibility of these two small rocks colliding is fantastically improbable, but if it did theoretically happen, would that warrant a supernatural explanation?
Yes, our fine-tuned universe is improbable, Ariel, but if you read the work of Intelligent Design theorists, you’ll find that none of them appeals to the simple high improbability of an event or thing as a basis for a design inference. Your own existence, for example, is due to the incredibly improbable union of a certain sperm and a certain egg, yet we would not infer on that basis that your conception was intelligently designed.
The dean of the contemporary Intelligent Design movement William Dembski argues that in addition to high improbability there also needs to be conformity to an independently given pattern. When these two elements are present, we have what Dembski calls “specified complexity,” which is the tip-off to intelligent design. Thus, for example, in a poker game any deal of cards is equally and highly improbable, but if you find that every time a certain player deals he gets all four aces, you can bet this is not the result of chance but of design.
Now in your example, if the two rocks collided, you would infer neither design nor chance as the best explanation, but the third alternative, physical necessity. Since gravitation acts over infinite distances, it is actually inevitable that those two masses will eventually collide. What would warrant a design inference would be if the rocks were to break into pieces which then came together to spell “Welcome to the Milky Way.”
To detect design look for high improbability conjoined with an independently given pattern. Our fine-tuned universe displays both qualities, which is why we infer design.