Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A.C. Grayling’s Objection to the Fine Tuning Argument

Atheist philosopher A.C. Grayling wrote a book called The God Argument and in it he has an interesting objection to the fine-tuning argument:

If my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents (all 64 of them, living about two hundred years ago) had not lived where they did, and done the things they did – and pretty exactly as they did them – I would not exist. But this is a retrospective observation, which I can only make because I fact I exist, even if I am filled with wonder at the (very fortunate for me) millions of coincidences which resulted in me. If my forbears had been inconsiderate enough to do other things in other ways and places instead, with the result that I did not exist, I would not be marveling at how fine-tuned history was in bringing it about that I exist. I do not however think that my existence was the point and purpose of all these events, however lucky for me. Rather, I think that it is only because I exist that I see that I would not have existed unless tehse coincidences occurred.

The ‘Goldilocks dilemma’ of my personal existence, and that of the universe’s parameters and laws [that are fine-tuned for life], is exactly the same thing.[1]

I wouldn’t call it exactly the same thing, but it does raise an interesting point: here we have a “fine-tuning” for an individual’s existence, and yet we don’t grasp at “design” as the correct explanation; chance will do just fine. Why then is chance an illegitimate explanation for the cosmic fine-tuning for life? Yes, on chance physical life is very improbable (at least in a single-universe scenario; a multiverse wouldn’t have that trouble) but our own existence is also mind-boggingly improbable anyway given the innumerable events of the past that had to take place for our own existence, as Grayling’s example suggests. The fact that it’s extremely improbable for the chance hypothesis yielding the outcome it does for the fine-tuning of us as individuals still doesn’t make it a bad explanation. So if we accept a chance explanation for this fine-tuning even though the fine-tuned outcome in question is extremely improbable on chance, why not the same for the universe with respect to life on our planet?

  1. Grayling, A.C. The God Argument (New York: Bloomsbury USA., 2014), pp. 79-80.