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#361 Is the Argument from Fine-Tuning Presumptuous?

March 16, 2014

Dr. Craig, I'm an atheist and I've long followed your debates. Though I'm not moved by your arguments I think you present and defend them well. One of these arguments, the fine tuning argument, seems to be quite presumptuous in it's attempt to explain life. It seems to me that it skips quite a few steps to land at a conclusion that life is an ultimate goal of the universe.

Given that the argument hinges on the values of various physical forces wouldn't it be more correctly stated that the universe is tuned for mass/matter? Why jump far ahead and pick life as a goal of the universe instead of atoms or stars or comets?



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Dr. craig’s response


It seems to be a widespread misunderstanding of the argument from fine-tuning that it concludes or is intended to prove that we or life is the purpose for which the universe exists.

As I’ve stated the argument, there is no such presumption. The argument simply states:

1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to physical necessity, chance, or design.

2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

3. Therefore, it is due to design.

The argument says nothing about the ultimate goal or purpose for which the universe was created.

You might say that the argument surreptitiously smuggles in this assumption. For example, when the argument’s proponent says that the universe is fine-tuned for intelligent life, doesn’t that mean designed for intelligent life? The answer is, no, otherwise the argument would be patently question-begging. It would be saying, in effect, that the best explanation of the universe’s being designed for intelligent life is design! Rather fine-tuning concerns the narrow range of values which the fundamental constants and quantities must fall into if intelligent life is to exist. The argument is that the best explanation of those parameters’ all falling in the life-permitting range is design.

But isn’t the hypothesis of design just another way of saying that this is the purpose for the universe was created? Not at all! You could run a sound fine-tuning argument using earthworms. The best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe for earthworms is also design. But it would be presumptuous, indeed, to claim that the purpose for which the universe was created is earthworms!

Doubtless, part of the reason we are interested in the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life is, not merely because that’s what we are, but also because we are vastly more complex creatures than earthworms (or atoms or stars or comets). In fact the human organism is the most complex structure in the entire universe! The fine-tuning required for us to exist is much more exquisite and thus more compelling than the fine-tuning necessary for matter or even stars to exist. But that’s not to say that we are the reason the Designer made the universe.

So the argument does not presume to tell us what is “the ultimate goal of the universe.” For that we may need divine revelation.

- William Lane Craig