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#623 Fine-Tuning and the Library of Babel

March 24, 2019

Hi, Dr. Craig. I have a question pertaining to various teleological arguments. I have been struggling to understand a short story by Jorge Luis Borges called "The Library of Babel," which posits a library full of an infinite number of books containing every possible letter combination. The story presents the idea that all great works of literature can be written purely by random chance, similar to the hypothetical monkeys on typewriters scenario. While this obviously sounds absurd on paper, this story has apparently been made into a reality, as there exists a website version of the Library of Babel. Since its inception, it has been generating random text into a supposedly infinite archive. I copied paragraphs from my own stories into the search bar and found word-for-word matches on pages of these infinite books, so it seems to me that that Borge's absurd hypothesis is indeed a reality.

This frightens me because it brings into question issues related to teleology and intelligent design, both on the cosmological and biological levels. If apparent order can indeed rise from infinite randomness, how can teleological arguments for God's existence have any value? Could it be that the order and meeaning we perceive in the universe is illusory? I hope my question isn't too esoteric. I really am struggling to understand this, and I'd greatly appreciate your insight.


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Dr. craig’s response


Sam, all you’re talking about here is the good ol’ multiverse explanation of cosmic fine-tuning! The multiverse just is an infinite collection of worlds in which every possible combination of constants and quantities is tried out.  So, of course, in such a collection finely-tuned worlds will appear, just as in an infinite collection of books in which every possible combination of letters is tried out the very words I’m now writing will appear. You needn’t be troubled by this at all (though it must be disconcerting to find your own compositions in the Library of Babel!).

The real question, then, is whether a multiverse of the sort described (a cosmic Library of Babel) exists. If it doesn’t, then the explanation of chance is as hopeless as explaining, say, the text of the Mueller Report as due to chance in the absence of such a Library. Now in my work (e.g., https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/existence-nature-of-god/has-the-multiverse-replaced-god/ ) I’ve given reasons for thinking, not only that there is no evidence that such a multiverse exists, but that the evidence strongly suggests that such a multiverse does not exist. If the multiverse hypothesis fails, then the alternative of chance collapses in favor of design.

- William Lane Craig