Robin Collins Interview Transcript
The following transcript is from an Apologetics 315 interview with Robin Collins. Original audio here. Transcript index here. If you enjoy transcripts, please consider supporting, which makes this possible.
BA: Hello, this is Brian Auten of Apologetics315. Today’s interview is with Robin Collins. Robin is Professor of Philosophy at Messiah College. His training is in physics and in philosophy. And, he is a leading advocate for using the fine-tuning of the universe as a design argument for theism. This is often considered one of the more contemporary and persuasive arguments from design. The purpose of the interview today is to learn more about the fine-tuning of the universe, explore what this means in a case for design, and answer common objections to the fine-tuning argument. Thanks for joining me for the interview today Robin.
RC: You’re welcome, glad to be here.
BA: Well, first off, would you mind just giving our listeners a bit of background about yourself and the work that you’re involved in?
RC: Well, a little bit of background about myself. I graduated with three majors from Washington State University back in the ‘80s; majors in philosophy, physics, and mathematics, and completed all three. And then I went to graduate school in theoretical physics at University of Texas at Austin, and really felt a sense of calling to do philosophy, so I applied to the University of Notre Dame, and went there. At that time, after two years of graduate study in physics at University of Texas, and then I went to the University of Notre Dame, and I was focusing on philosophy of religion. But eventually, I got back into this issue of fine-tuning in which I’ve been working on, probably started about twelve years ago, and have published a lot of articles on it, and have finishing up two books on it. One dealing with the physics and cosmology aspects, and one dealing with more of the philosophy and theology. And, I’ve got several grants for it, and then I’ve done a bunch of other works, mostly in areas of science and religion, philosophy of physics, philosophical theology, philosophy of religion. And I’ve got quite a few back forty publications.
BA: Great, well, I’m excited to talk to you today about fine-tuning So, I know many of our listeners will be familiar with this to some extent, but, let’s just start at sort of ground level. What is fine-tuning and what are the kinds of fine-tuning we observe in the world?
RC: Well usually, the fine-tuning refers to the fact that the universe is extremely precisely structured for the existence of life. And, this has been something discussed since the 70’s, which is that the basic structure of the universe is set just right for life in a very very precise way. Now, I think it’s not just life that is the relevant factor, and I can explain that later, but it’s actually for embodied conscious agents, who can make moral decisions. So, it’s beings like us, not necessary that look like us, but have to make choices that are morally relevant. So, if you want to give analogy for what the universe is like, it’s like a biosphere. You know, they construct these, they actually constructed one out in Arizona, but the biosphere is something you can place on another planet, and everything would be set just right inside, so that human beings could exist – the right atmosphere, intake of energy and things like that. And so, things would have to be extremely precisely set for that biosphere to work. The universe is like that, in extra-ordinary ways it has to be precise. And now, most of the fine-tuning that’s been discussed, is for life, which I think is relevant when I said a conscious agents, but there’s whole new area of territory I’ve broken into, and it’s only been hinted at, and mildly discussed. And it also seems to be set just right for the existence of scientific technology and our ability to discover the universe. In fact, I think optimally so.
BA: Well, fascinating. Now I wonder, just from the perspective of contemporary physics, is this fine-tuning at all in dispute, or is this sort of the accepted observation by people?
RC: I assume you’re asking about mainstream physicists who have actually looked into the subject. Okay, and in that regard, there are several cases of fine-tuning that are not in dispute. And one of those has to do with the cosmological constant, or dark energy density, the value of, let’s call it the vacuum energy for the Higgs Field. It’s the fundamental field of physics. It seems to be set just right, and the quark masses, which are the constituents of protons and neutrons, and then another one is primordial density fluxuations, those are the fluxuations in density that gave rise to galaxies. Even a skeptic like Steven Weinberg accepts these. Now there’s other cases that are in dispute. So, part of my first volume of my book is to shore up these cases. And also, I’ve broken new ground into other cases. I should also mention another area that’s not in dispute, and that’s the one of initial conditions of the universe, that the universe started off in an extremely low entropy state, which means a very very unlikely state from the perspective of statistical mechanics. So, a highly ordered state, and that’s another case for fine-tuning So, I’d say, certain cases are not really disputed, there’s other cases that are, and but, even the ones that are disputed are enough to make the case.
BA: Well, you do sort of have three strands that you mention in your writings – the laws, the fundamental constants, and then the initial conditions. Can you sort of describe the differences between those things? When you’re talking about a “law,” what should people think of, or a “constant,” maybe they hear that word, but don’t really have a grasp on what that may be. Can you describe the differences between those, and then maybe give some examples of how you mean that they are fine-tuned?
RC: Okay, so what a law of nature is, basically, it’s kind of a rule of nature, and it says how it’s supposed to operate. And, it’s usually written in the form of a mathematical equation. So, there’s for example the law of gravity, and that says, masses attract each other. And, it tells the masses to attract each other by what’s proportional to the amount of mass, so if you have twice as much mass (your body), the earth will attract you twice as much. And, it also gives a relation between the amount of attraction and the distance—if you were twice as far away from a mass, then the attraction will be one fourth, if you’re four times away, then it’ll be one eighth. Okay, that’s what you could call a “law of nature.” Gravity is a good example, and there’s other laws of nature that say for example, that like charges repel each other, unlike charges attract each other. And, to say that the laws are fine-tuned means you have to have just the right set of laws, right set of rules in other words, for the universe to support life in my sense of embodied conscious agents. Now, a constant of physics, if you think about, let’s focus in on the law of gravity. If you have the law of gravity which says that masses attract each other, that’s not going to be good enough. You’re also going to have to say the amount they should attract each other. And, so, you could say, “Well, attract each other proportional to the mass.” But then you need a number that specifies the amount. That’s called a “constant of physics.” So, a constant of physics is just a number you have to put in the equation. So, I don’t know how your listeners are familiar with the law of gravity, but I can give Newton’s Basic Law of Gravity: it’s force equals mass G (that’s the gravitational constant) times the value of the first mass times the value of the second mass, divided by their distance squared. And that G is necessary to tell it how much, that number, which is called the gravitational constant.
BA: Now, what about the initial conditions? Can you talk about that?
RC: Well, according to current cosmology, the widely accepted theory of cosmic origins, the universe started in a big bang, which means, in our visible universe. We look around at the galaxies and things like that, about 13.7 billion years ago. All that matter was squished into less than the size of a basketball, and that matter had to get galaxies, and to get life, and to have stars, it had to have a very precise arrangement. You can think of it, in analogy to get a human body, if you looked at a zygote, and you looked at it under a microscope, a very powerful microscope, you would see it was intricately structured. It wouldn’t look that way on the surface, but it would just look like a blob of protoplasm, but under the microscope, it would have an intricate structure of DNA and the rest of the sort of organelles in the cells to form a human being. So, similarly, the universe has to be in an extremely precise state, and that’s the initial conditions, the arrangement of mass energy to get galaxies, stars, and ultimately to get life like ourselves. That preciseness of that is measured by what physicists call phase space, which a space of possibilities, and there’s a standard probability measure that can be put over that to say how probable it is to be in this part of that space of possibilities. So, when you do those calculations, as for example, Roger Penrose at Oxford, leading mathematical physicist at Oxford University has done, it turns out to be enormously fine-tuned, and one part in ten to the ten to the hundred and twenty third power, unimaginably small number. And, we can talk about it later, how an analogy to how small that number is, but, if I was to say what it is, “ten to a power” means like ten to the third power, means one followed by three zeros, so that’s a thousand. Ten to the second power is one followed by two zeros. So, this is ten to the power of ten which, that number ten raised to the power of one twenty three. So, if you can imagine and it’s ten and then put a power of ten (superscript of ten), and then put another superscript of one twenty three on top of that ten. And so, the number of zeros you would have after the one, and if you had like a zero the size you would have a regular sheet of paper, those zeros would extend clear across the universe. So, I mean it’s one part in that, that’s how precise we’re talking about.
BA: That’s just an example of say one…
RC: That’s one entropy, yeah, that’s an initial condition, it’s not quite a constant, it’s an initial condition, but it is a number that tells you how precise the arrangement of mass of the universe had to be.
BA: So, let’s say you have these laws fine-tuned, they all have possible ranges they could fall into, but only a very narrow range per law or constant would permit life, you’re saying. And so,
BA: you’ve got this astronomically large small probability of life permitting ranges in each constant, and then roll them all together and take them all together, and they’ve all got to be right in that range for there to be life. Is that sort of the idea in a nut shell, would you say?
RC: Yeah, that’s the idea in a nut shell. Let me just through each one of them. You have to have the right laws, which are the principles of physics. So, you have to have things like gravity, you’d have to have the laws of electrostatics that tell charges to attract or repel each other. You have a bunch of other laws, and I can give examples of those, about fourteen if you want to count those. So, those are the basic kind of principles you’ve gotta have in place. Then for each of those laws, that go into those laws, there’s a set of basic parameters which physicists have called constants, are just numbers. And they have to be enormously fine-tuned. So that’s set just right over a large range of possibilities, that’s the fine-tuning of the constants, or the fundamental parameters of physics. Then the third is the initial conditions of the universe, and that’s just what I mentioned with the case of the very low entropy, very precise arrangement of the mass energy that the universe started off with. So, you have three distinct types of cases, the first two, there’s many instances that fall under the first two, the last one, their just about the range only one instance. And that’s the initial conditions, there’s only one initial condition, and that’s the arrangement of mass energy at the beginning of the universe.
BA: Can you give any other examples of how finely tuned that the numbers are, you know, some sort of visualization?
RC: Okay, I’ll give you two other numbers. You’ve asked for two constants here, the strength of gravity and the cosmological constant. Let’s look at the strength of gravity, that’s the number G that we talked about. And in that strength of gravity, there’s a huge range gravity could be in. And one way of thinking about the range is in terms of the strong nuclear force, the strongest force there is, that’s the one that holds the protons and neutrons together in the nucleus. Because, protons repel each other, so if you have like helium, the protons would repel each other, so we have to have another force, that’s an example of another law that you need in order to have nuculei at all. That’s the strong nuclear force, and that force is extremely strong compared to the gravitational attraction of the protons. It’s ten to the fortieth power stronger, that’s one followed by forty zeros stronger. So, that’s the kind of scale for the strength of gravity. So, gravity could be zero, or it could be all the way up to the strength of the strong nuclear force. If you think in terms of a ruler, it’s like a ruler stretched all the way across the visible universe, which is, the length of that ruler would be about fifteen billion light years, and a light year is the distance light travels in a year. Light travels one hundred and eighty six thousand miles in a second, and there’s eighty six thousand seconds in a day, and there’s approximately three hundred and eighty six thousand, and there’s three hundred sixty five days in a year, so multiply all those together, that’s how far light travels in a year. Then multiply that by fifteen billion, that’s how far we’re talking about. So, imagine this ruler stretching across the universe, that’s our scale. The strong nuclear force would be at the very end of that ruler, that’s its strength. The current strength of gravity would be in the first trillionth of an inch, okay? If gravity were not within the first, let’s say, millionth of an inch, there, or if it anywhere else, beings like ourselves would not be possible. In fact, it’s even less than a millionth of an inch, it’s just a really small region at the beginning there it has to be in compared to that entire ruler. So, that’s one way of visualizing it. So, if you thought of an old fashioned radio receiver, and I use for my students “WKLIFE,” you’ve got to tune in WKLIFE, so you’re flipping G, which is the gravitational constant, just randomly flip it. WKLIFE comes in at that first little teeny region at the beginning of the ruler, you’d have to land in that teeny teeny region in order for any kind of beings like ourselves to exist in the universe. And so, if you look at you know, a straight forward calculation of probability, it seems to be about one part in ten to the thirty eighth of, which is one followed by thirty eight zeros, which is approximately one part in a billion billion billion billion. So, the theory very finely set it has to be. If you look at the case of, that’s one of the cases, the other case is the cosmological constant, or dark energy density. Dark energy density in the universe acts as a repulsive force, pushing matter apart if it’s positive, and energy density can actually be negative even though its very counter-intuitive. If it’s negative, it will act as a strong attractive force. So, let’s just look at the case of it being positive — if it’s very much positive, galaxies and matters coming out of the big bang, universes exploding would move apart so quickly galaxies and stars could never form. So, it has to be very very small, the dark energy density. And when physicists have made these calculations, it comes out to be, compared to its possible range, one part in ten to the hundred and twentieth power, which is one part in one followed by a hundred and twenty zeros. If it were larger than that, galaxies couldn’t have formed. That’s by the way, the most discussed case in the cosmology literature of the fine-tuning And that’s the one had led Steven Weinberg to propose this multi-verse explanation, which we’ll get to later. So, there’s a couple more examples, the cosmological constant is probably considered the most impressive case of a constant being fine tuned.
BA: But again, even if they were taken on their own there, astronomically amazingly fine-tuned, but you have to roll them all together as well. So, how does that effect the probabilities, say exponentially?
RC: Well, if they’re independent, you multiply the probabilities together. So, you would multiply ten to the one hundred twentieth power times ten to the fortieth power, times, then multiplied by the entropy number, you get an extremely small number. But, entropy is so small you hardly can get any smaller than that. So, in some sense, you can multiply them together, that’s one way of doing it. Another way of doing it is thinking of them as just independent lines of evidence that the universe is fine-tuned. So, another way of thinking , in a courtroom analogy, let’s suppose you have a defendant up there, on trial, so you have one piece of evidence – fingerprints on the gun. Okay, that indicates guilt. But it may not be enough. But, let’s suppose you have witnesses, saw the person, you know, going into the building where the person was killed. Okay, that would be another independent line of evidence, and let’s suppose then you had DNA evidence, both on the gun, and on around the body. That would be another independent line of evidence. When you took those all together, you would have an extremely strong case for guilt. So, even if a person questioned one of them, let’s say, “Well, how did you quite measure the fingerprints? Maybe they weren’t his fingerprints, or maybe there’s some other explanation.” It would still, the whole case would still stand. That’s what philosophers call a cumulative case argument, because you have independent lines of evidence indicating the same things, you think they all couldn’t be wrong. And, if any one of them was right, it would be enough to establish guilt. So, likewise here, if any one of these things were completely held up, it would be enough to establish fine-tuning And, there’s lots and lots and lots of ‘em. So, that’s another way of thinking about it. You get an extremely strong case for fine-tuning that way.
BA: I think that’s really helpful because when we look at theistic arguments, we tend to take them as accumulative case together in that way as well. So, we have to look at the fine-tuning you’re saying, in the same way as that it’s its own sort of cumulative case for fine-tuning, all these different constants and laws then.
RC: Yeah, and I want to give you another analogy with the cosmological constant with the strength of gravity, just how small these number are. So, and then one for the entropy. So, if you threw a dart let’s say, and you were going to try to hit a single proton, which is very small, I mean it’s not just the size of an atom, but much smaller than the size of an atom, and you were coming from outer space. It would be much more probable for you to hit that single proton you picked out than for the cosmological constant to be that value. It would be peanuts in comparison. And, in the case of entropy, you could think of it, another analogy to think of it is, let’s suppose a building has been all crumbles, and you take dynamite, and you’re just going to place the dynamite in the right place, right ways, so that the building will all come back together like, you know, in a reverse photography – you go in one direction and you watch the building collapse, and then you turn it back, and if all the masses were just going just right, reversing their trajectories, the whole building would come back together. So, it would be physically possible to place dynamite is just exactly the right ways where all the whole building would come back together, and all the, you know, furniture in the building would come back together. But, it would be enormously improbable. It’s far more improbable, the initial conditions of the universe. Nothing, compared to that.
BA: So what is the theistic argument that you formulate for the fine-tuning of the universe? How do you formulate that, present that in a brief form?
RC: Okay, there’s two different ways that’s formulated. One is very intuitive, but the other way is more rigorous, but and is helpful when you answer objections. So, I consider two separate hypotheses for explanations or responses to the fine-tuning or three different ones is the theistic response. Okay, God did it. The other is what could be called the “group fact hypothesis,” or “single universe brute fact,” there’s just one universe, and it just happens to be the case that everything is just right in the universe for life to occur. So, we’re just extra-ordinarily lucky, it just happened that way. Okay? And the third one is the multiverse, which is there’s just many many universes, and I’ll get to that later, but I want to focus on the brute fact one now, and theism, and offer reasons to prefer the theism over the brute fact.
So, the brute fact says that it just happened by chance that we have life. So, this is analogous to, you know, let’s say you have a roommate in an apartment and he’s a biology major in college. And, you open it up, and you go back to the back, and there’s mold growing, and it grows just into the face of Abraham Lincoln. You know, it looks just like Abraham Lincoln. You wouldn’t say that happened by chance, you would say, “Hey, your biology major was doing a clever, artistic design.” Because, it would be so improbable for everything to be arranged just in the face of Abraham Lincoln. So, you have two factors there, the reason you don’t accept that it was just by chance. One is, it’s very improbable. The other is there is something special about it, namely it looks like the face of Abraham Lincoln, and special in the sense you can glimpse alternative explanation, a way of making it not improbable, namely your roommate did it. Similarly, or another analogy would be an ink spill, you know, any ink spill is very very improbable, but, if it comes out to a face, there’s something special about that, we wouldn’t just accept it by chance. I’ll give one final analogy is that if you toss the coin a hundred times in a row, any sequence is extremely improbably, but what if it all came up heads a hundred times in a row? You wouldn’t just think that happened by chance, that would be the last thing you would accept, you’d be looking for an explanation, there’s something special about heads every single time. So similarly, look at the universe, it just seems enormously improbable, enormously surprising that it’s this way, and there’s something special about it, namely, gives rise to beings slightly like ourselves. And, we can glimpse an alternative explanation that takes away that surprise, namely a theistic hypothesis. So, just an analogy to what we do in these other cases, the last thing we should accept is the brute fact hypothesis. So, that’s one way I go with it. There’s a little more formal way to take this into account, and that says, works off of what could be called the surprise principle – that’s just a layman’s way of saying a certain kind of principle standardly accepted in what’s called confirmation theory. So, let me give what the surprise principle is.
RC: It says if, you know, you have some body of evidence, some occurrence, you have an occurrence, and if it’s more surprising under one hypothesis than another, then that occurrence counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis that it’s least surprising under. So, the more surprising it is under a hypothesis, the more it counts against that hypothesis.
So, let’s consider the case of fingerprints on a gun. Why do we take fingerprints on a gun typically to be a sign of guilt? Well, and the fingerprints matching the defendants fingerprints. Well, we take it as very improbable that they would match. It’s possible, somebody else had almost identical fingerprints, but if we take that as very unlikely that they would match if the defendant was innocent. But not surprising if the defendant is guilty; hence, we conclude that evidence supports guilt over innocence. It not completely, doesn’t actually prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, any doubt, but it counts as strong evidence. So, similarly, this case of the structure of the universe, we have the same sort of thing going on—very, very unlikely under a brute fact that the universe is here, but not very unlikely under theism. Hence, it counts as very strong evidence in favor of theism over that hypothesis.
BA: Well, very good. Now, I know that there are some objections out there to the fine-tuning argument. So, I want to kind of throw various common objections, and maybe some different questions that come up that at least I‘ve heard. I think maybe someone like Professor Richard Dawkins might say something like, “Well, you know we all thought biology was designed because it appeared designed, but you know, along came Darwin, and showed us that we don’t need a designer. Now physics is just waiting for its own Darwin to come along and show us we don’t need a designer to explain the appearance of design.” So Robin, how would you respond to that sort of objection, or perhaps if you want to call it a hand wave?
RC: Okay. The analog to the Darwinian explanation in the case of the fine-tuning is the multiverse hypothesis, which I notice you have a question later on. Let me say why it’s an analog. So that alternative explanation, the Darwinian Analog, is already out there being promoted. Okay, the Darwinian explanation of organisms consists of chance variation in offspring, like chance genetic variation or chance variation in the structure of an organism, plus natural selection, which means those organisms that are the most fit survive, and the other ones die off. So, that’s how the evolutionary explanation works. In the case of the multiverse, it’s the same thing, is the idea, and this is the leading alternative explanation to theism. I mean if you were to ask cosmologists about this, almost all and did not want to accept theism, almost all would go to a multiverse. So, the multiverse is the idea, there are not just one multiverse, but there are many many many universes. And each universe, its structure is different. So, if you have enough universes, eventually one will have just the right structure so that beings like us can arise. And then there’s, so, that’s the chance variation. And then it’s no surprise, they say, that we observe our universe to be fine tuned because we wouldn’t have existed otherwise, so that’s the observers selection. So, among all the universes that have observers, the observers are only going to be able to observe fine tuned ones. So, it’s also no surprise that we, as randomly selected observers, observe our universe to be fine tuned. And that’s what they call the observers selection effect, so it’s really just a parallel to the Darwinian explanation.
BA: And, so, about the thing there where this is just the appearance of design, it’s not really designed, the explanation is, “Look, there’s just countless universes out there, and we just happen to be the lucky one that can see this.”
RC: Right, and there’s countless events, so eventually one of them arises, and when one of them arises, the observers can only observe the universes that are fine tuned, and so it’s no surprise we observe a fine tuned universe.
BA: Alright, another question then. If we’re arguing that the laws and constants are fine-tuned for the possibility of life, basically. A few possible questions or objections come to mind on this one, and the first, what is meant by life? You know, couldn’t there be other kinds of life out there that we’re not familiar with?
RC: Okay, there’s two parts to this question. One is, whether there’s other kinds of life in our universe that we’re not familiar with, and that’s fine for the fine-tuning argument, let the universe be populated with life, it still has to be fine-tuned in order for that life to exist. So, maybe there’s Klingon, Romulans, Borg, and that’s out there, right? And, that still doesn’t effect the fine-tuning argument, ‘cause in order for those beings to exist, the universe would still have to have just the right structure. Okay?
RC: So, the objection you’re really trying to get at, is couldn’t there be universes that are different in structure that have life forms that let’s say, are not based on carbon, or are different kinds of life forms. So, what the fine-tuner is saying, “Well, you have to have just the right conditions in order for there to be life.” The objector is saying, “Well, that’s assuming life only can occur, you know, have to have a certain kind of structure.” I claim, “No, that’s not the case. All that’s, first of all, the first point is embodied conscious agents, or the relevant kind of life.” Because, remember, I said it has to be unsurprising under theism, and what makes it relevant, that body of data, ‘cause that’s the way, you know, it’s very surprising to occur under one hypothesis, but not under another. Well, the only way you can see it’s unsurprising under theism is there has to be some good reason why God would create a particular kind of life, and so it has to have value. And, I don’t think there’s much reason we can see why bacteria or crystals or viruses would themselves have value. But, we can see that in the case of agents like ourselves that can makes choices, there seems to be a kind of value that arises, like courage, self-sacrificial love, those sorts of things. So, we can glimpse a reason why God would have created this sort of universe with those kinds of beings. So, that’s really the relevant kind of life.
Now, that kind of life requires everything we know about it, embodied conscious agents, requires a lot of stable reproducible complexity. You can do simple thought experiments to show that you cannot get that stable complexity unless things were just right. For example, let’s look at one of the cases of the right sort of law. Let’s suppose there was no strong nuclear force. If there were no strong nuclear force, that’s what holds the protons and neutrons together, the only kind of atoms you could have would be hydrogen. Because, if we tried to get helium, for example, you have two protons, the protons would repel each other, and the nucleus would fall apart. So, you would have hydrogen gas throughout the universe. A universe composed of hydrogen gas is not going to have embodied conscious agents. You just can’t get stable reproducible complexity with hydrogen gas. Another example would be in the case of the cosmological constant. If you don’t get galaxies and stars forming, you don’t have energy sources for life. You don’t have any place for them to exist at, and so you just have matter that blows apart so fast, the matter becomes thinly distributed throughout the universe, no room for stable reproducible complexity. You can’t get the conditions for it. So, it’s a very minimal condition were asking for, stable reproducible complexity, that can go through an evolutionary process, and you just don’t get that in a lot of these cases, and by very straight forward arguments.
BA: Okay, well, you’ve opened up a lot of stuff there that I want to keep looking at. You’ve defined like minimally what life would be and talked about Star Trek characters, you didn’t say Star Wars characters, that’s a point against you.
BA: But, no, I’m kidding, but, and we talked about there could be some other sort of life, but the thing that I want you to elaborate on more is I hear the objection along the lines of, “Why fine-tuned for life, you know, it could be fine tuned for rocks, or hydrogen.” But you mentioned there and started to sort of answer this question, but I want you to elaborate. You mentioned it being part of a confirmation that yet this would be something God would want to create. I mean, ‘cause some people would say, “I mean, come on look at all the hydrogen out there.” Or, “Hey, you know, the universe is more fine-tuned for death because, you know, there’s more death than there is life.” So they kind of look at it as whatever you find the most of, then that’s what it’s tuned for. But, go back to why embodied conscious moral agents, and elaborate on that some more.
RC: Okay, well we have to look at an analogy because we are looking at what counts as relevant evidence. I mean, there’s all kinds of features of the universe that simply aren’t relevant. So, let’s go back to our courtroom analogy. Typically, if they’re just kind of scratch marks on a gun, they count as, no one brings them up as relevant evidence. Why? Because there’s no reason to think a particular, you know, pattern every gun will have some scratch marks on it. You look at the scratch marks, there’s no reason to think that pattern of scratch marks is less surprising under the hypothesis the defendant is guilty than if the defendant is innocent. But we have a reason to think that in the case of fingerprints. If the defendant is guilty, then it’s not surprising the fingerprints match, they fall under this pattern. But very surprising under the innocent hypothesis. So, you have to look at, in that case, what’s making it relevant, is there’s a difference, a differential in surprise under one hypothesis versus another, the two you’re looking at.
Now, let’s do a further thought experiment, let’s suppose we knew there was these fingerprints on a gun or knife, and we knew that a certain kind of serial killer always leaves, you know, has certain kind of a paranoia or neurosis that he leaves certain kind of scratch marks on his gun. If we found those scratch marks on that gun, a certain pattern, now they certainly would become relevant. Because, given that neurosis of that defendant, it’s no longer equally surprising under the innocence and guilt hypothesis. So now, that becomes a relevant piece of evidence.
So, going back to the case of the fine-tuning what we have to look at is what about the universe makes this differential and surprise? There being, you know, rocks or, you know, so many moons around Jupiter is no more less surprising under theism than under a brute fact hypothesis. Just like if I throw up a hundred coins, and they come up all heads in a row, that’s no less surprising under theism than brute fact. They’re both very improbable. But in the case of life, we can glimpse a reason in the kind of embodied conscious agents I’m talking about. We can glimpse a value that those agents have. Now, the theistic hypothesis is not just God as a designer, but God is a perfectly good designer. And so, what we would expect such a being to create is a universe that exemplified value. Because that would be the only thing that would motivate God to create something. We don’t need any expectations about what God would will. Because otherwise, we have no guidance on what God would will, but if we know God is good, we know God’s going to create a universe that, you know, has a better balance of good over evil, let’s say. So, we can glimpse a value in our existence, we can’t glimpse a value in just there being hydrogen and nothing more. Why hydrogen and nothing more versus any other kind of universe? So, those cases, there’s no differential in surprise. In the case of embodied conscious agents like ourselves, there is a differential. So, it suddenly becomes relevant evidence. And what you do in these cases is just like you do in the court cases, you take all the relevant evidence together. So if there’s a piece of relevant evidence, you include it. So, in the case of the court case, the scratch marks are relevant because the defendant, the serial, has a certain kind of neurosis that makes him likely to put the scratch marks on a gun. Then they suddenly become relevant, so you add them to the fingerprint evidence. And so here, what you do is everything that might be relevant, everything you can glimpse or reason why God would do it, you include as part of your evidence pile. So, you would include embodied conscious agents, not just hydrogen. The goodness is a key, I mean, goodness of God is key. If you didn’t have goodness, a generic intelligent designer, there’s no confirmation given to that, so it has to be goodness, because the goodness gives you an expectation about what God would do.
BA: Alright, well here’s another objection, how about this, you know, some might say that, “There just some fundamental laws out there that are maybe yet to be discovered that will explain why the constants are this way, you know, so if some other laws were discovered, would that undermine fine-tuning at all?
RC: Well, let’s look at the extreme case where we have a final theory, the physicists are searching for a final theory, some master set of equations that explain everything else. And, let’s suppose that final theory entails the values of all the constants. So given that final theory, we can clearly explain why those constants are what they are. In fact, that was the hope of super string theory, but kinda got busted, about ten or so years ago, that it would do that. Even if that were true, then it just pushes the issue of surprise up one level, why that final theory versus any of the other ones that would entail different values for the constants. So, it would be very surprising if the actual set of final laws would be such that they would entail just life permitting values under chance, than non-life permitting values. Now, under theism, it wouldn’t be surprising that God would, you know that would be very elegant way to do it, create a set of laws that gave you all the constants. So, it’s not surprising those laws would exist under a theistic hypothesis, but it is under the non-theistic hypothesis.
Here’s another analogy which you could use for that. Let’s suppose you had a final theory that not only implied the constants of physics, but also implied all the initial conditions of the universe, and determined everything else. Okay? So, we have a complete explanation from that final theory, why everything occurs. That still would not take away, it would still be very improbable. Let’s say I found, you know, I go up to the mountains and I find rocks arranged in a “Welcome to the mountains Robin Collins” in that pattern. It would still be very improbable, and I have two hypotheses, my brother was up there and arranged them, and they just happened, you know, earthquake happened, they fell in that pattern. Even though that final theory would explain it, it would still be very improbable that that would happen by chance and versus my brother hypothesis. I would still say it was strong evidence my brother was up there and arranged them. Why? Because, I would say of all the final theories there could be, it would be extremely improbable that it would just be the one that would entail this to happen. But, it’s not improbable if my brother did it. So there’s still the improbabilities still occur, and you don’t have to decide that question whether there’s such a final theory that would entail all the initial conditions and constants to make those ordinary inferences. So, similarly in the case of the fine-tuning.
BA: We’ve talked a bit here about the multiverse hypothesis, and maybe some ways that this could account for the fine-tuning, or explain away the fine-tuning So, are there variations on the multiverse view? Do these variations take different approaches to how they explain fine-tuning? And, what would say is the main weakness of using that as an explanation?
RC: Well, there’s two variations of the multiverse hypothesis, two major categories. There’s one what I call the universe generator version, there’s some underlying physical process that generates these universes. And that’s what inflationary cosmology and the multiverse generated by the concept of inflation where there’s a free space in which it’s rapidly expanding and generates double universes that whose constant is slightly different. And so, that gives you a variation in constants, and then there’s this observer selection that occurs, I talked about before. So, eventually you get a universe with just the right values for the constants under that scenario. The super string, you know, that Stephen Hawking is promoting in The Grand Design, that does, that’s the same kind of hypothesis, except it’s using super string theory, that underlying dynamic to generate the many universes. So, that’s one kind, it’s a physical process doing it, giving you those universes. The other kind is metaphysical, and that’s just the idea that all possible realities exist. So, every possible set of laws that could exist in every possible set of constants is instantiated somewhere. So, there’s some world where a being just like me is president of the United States; there’s another world, you know, anything you can; there’s the Star Wars world, if it’s logically possible; there’s the Star Trek world; there’s the Lord of the Rings world, you know, every world you see in every single science fiction or fantasy. If it’s possible, it exists under that hypothesis. So, that’s the two major ones, and let me start with the universe generator version. For obvious reasons, the all possibilities one is not nearly as popular. It seems like most people find it kind of outrageous to think that’s true. But, the universe generator version is by far the most popular.
Now, there’s a couple of objections to the universe generator version. One, is if you look at the details of it, and I’ve done that for the case of inflationary cosmology, that’s been published. Other physicists and astrophysicists have looked it over. It requires to generate the universes, there has to be just the right laws and mechanisms to do it. So, to a large extent it just pushes the question of design or fine-tuning back one level to the universe generator itself—why those laws versus all the others? So, we have fine-tuning again, just at another level. The other response is, as a matter of fact, it doesn’t really explain the fine-tuning of the constants, and the reason is is that it’s still very surprising as it uses the observer selection effect, that’s real critical to it, so we’d say as a randomly selected observer, it’s not improbable that I see a fine-tuned universe. Now, let me say why that’s extremely critical. Under a multiverse hypothesis, every kind of improbable occurrence will occur somewhere. Okay, so I gave you the example of the coins coming up a hundred times in a row on heads, you know, fair coin. That will happen somewhere. A being just like me will observe it happening, because there will be a universe in which that happens, you get a wide enough variation in the multiverse. Well, you don’t want the multiverse explaining that away, so if I observe that to happen, you don’t want the multiverse saying, “Well, no problem, no need for an explanation, it’s going to happen somewhere.” ‘Cause if you do that every single kind of probabilistic inference gets undercut and science and all their every day inference just collapses because it explains everything, there is no need for any other explanation. Everything we consider improbable, not improbable. So, they don’t want to do that, so to avoid that, what they say is that the coins coming up this way, a randomly selected observer, be very unlikely for, although some observer will observe that is very unlikely any randomly selected observer would observe that, so it’s very rare for an observer to observe that. So, the improbability here is me as a randomly selected observer will observe the coins coming up a hundred times in a row, so I can still claim it’s very improbable. Good so far?
BA: Yeah, yeah.
RC: Okay. So, then now comes the problem and it’s really nicely illustrated in the case of low entropy. What makes the low entropy so intractable is that, you know, this multiverse objection or hypothesis was raised to the low entropy of the universe once the idea of entropy and probability was first developed in physics, called statistical mechanics around 1900, by Ludwig Boltzmann. He raised this idea that maybe there’s many many universes, that explains it. The immediate objection was that it’s vastly more probable for an observer to rise as a fluctuation in its local region as ordered, but the rest of the universe is disordered, than for the whole universe to be ordered as we observe. And so, it doesn’t explain why we’re not as they call the “Boltzmann Brains,” the Boltzmann Brain is just an observer that fluctuates into existence, has the order of a brain structure, so can observe things, but then only lasts a very small amount of time, and is surrounded by chaos and disappears, that’s how most observers will be under the normal measure in statistical mechanics.
To understand that idea, let’s give a couple of analogies. One analogy is back to my hundred coins. Let’s suppose that five coins in that hundred, let’s put a hundred laid out, you know, on a sequence, on like a table, they’re just in a line, and they’re restricted to that line. And, let’s suppose five coming up in a row on heads is enough order for there to be observer, that’s the analogy. Now, suppose I shake it. It’s way more probable to get sequences of five in a row and then, you know, the other ones being random, heads and tails, than for all of them to come up heads. So, what we would expect, is under a random shaking, we would expect isolated kinds of order, just enough to get an observer. Another analogy would be monkeys typing on a, you know, typewriter. Eventually, Shakespeare will be produced, if you have enough of them. But it’s vastly more probable for them to get a paragraph that makes sense and the rest is chaos. So, if you looked at, you know had, every universe you had a monkey typing on a typewriter, in one of those, Shakespeare will be, but in most of those universes, the vast majority, you will have mostly junk, with isolated paragraphs that makes sense. That’s isolated order. So, and so, that would be the vast majority of ordered arrangements, paragraphs that are ordered. Let’s say that’s the equivalent of an observer. The vast arrangement of paragraphs that make sense, that are sufficiently ordered to make sense, will occur in texts that are just chaos everywhere else. Only very very rarely will it occur in all complete set of Shakespeare.
So similarly, under the multiverse hypothesis, it’s, even if there is a multiverse, and it’s just random, it’s extremely extremely unlikely that we would find ourselves as observers in a universe that’s ordered throughout. That there’s not just isolated, not simply ordered throughout, but that there’s other beings around us, we’re part of a community of beings. That’s enormously improbable, and that’s what we find now, so it doesn’t explain it. What theism does, because if we’re going to have possibilities of moral action in the world, courage, there has to be other beings around, we can’t just be isolated. So, what you get is just, you just re-get the probabilities in the case of entropy. You get the, you just push the improbability now to why were not isolated observers, what they call Boltzmann Brain or fluctuation observers. Now, what I’ve shown elsewhere, it’s on my website, is that this actually, the same objection comes up with other constants. So, it’s not the low entropy case, now it’s widely recognized from a low entropy case like you could say look at Closer to Truth, and Roger Penrose, that’s why he had rejects entropy explanations in terms of multiverse, he doesn’t see it helping at all because of his problem. So that’s widely accepted, called the Boltzmann Brain problem. But what I show really hits the other constants too, and so the multiverse really doesn’t give, the universe generator version doesn’t give a good explanation of that problem.
BA: Well, thank you, because I finally understand what’s meant by the Boltzmann Brains, because I’ve heard it lots of times, I’ve read through it, just didn’t fully grasp it, but that really make it clear for me.
RC: So, you can see it in the case of the monkeys, right? If you had the text, you’d have most meaningful paragraphs would be surrounded by chaos.
RC: Yeah, because it would be so unlikely the whole thing to be ordered to all make sense. So, that second problem, the all possible realities version, it really effects that one to an enormous extent, because order, our world is very ordered in terms of its laws, and it has a simple intelligible order. If you think of all the possible patterns the universe could be in, arrangements of mass energy, and that’s just what the laws are, they describe the arrangement of mass energy, and that arrangement of mass energy in the universe happens to be simple, following simple patterns that we can put down in an equations. But of all the possible arrangements, most do not fall into any kind of pattern at all. Very complex patterns that we not even be able to grasp, so they’re what we would call very disordered. So, the vast majority of realities, possible realities, were to be very disordered, and just like the book of Shakespeare, it would be vastly more likely to have local regions of order, and the rest chaos, among possible universes, than the ones that have order throughout. So, once again, you get this overwhelming expectation that we would be Boltzmann Brains, if the all possible universes was true, but it’s not just now in the case of entropy, it’s the laws themselves. It’s everything. So as one Peter Forrest had put it, a philosopher, what he called “rubbish universes,” rubbish universes are the ones that are just, you know, they’re like the ultimate messy room, are vastly more likely than ordered universes. And, by the way, for people listening, you can see that, that’s why if you have trouble keeping your room in order, that’s the reason, is because disordered arrangements are vastly more likely, so unless you put energy in to making, keeping everything ordered in the room, because there’s so many more ways of being disordered than there is of being ordered. It’s vastly more likely your room goes to a mess if you don’t do something about it, and that’s why buildings crumble, that’s why bridges fall, all those processes are dependent on that idea. So, that’s a really crucial idea in physics and understanding the world, there’s vastly more ways of disorder than order.
BA: And it gets exponentially worse the more kids you have.
RC: Yeah, yeah. So, that especially worse, right? So that really presents a huge problem for the all possible realities version, and even the random universe generator version. So, you’ve got a problem arising that doesn’t really explain, it doesn’t explain everything we know, that not only we exist as observers, but we’re observers in an ordered universe that we can understand, that we can interact with, we’re not isolated from each other, we’re what as I call them, embodied agents, ‘cause we’re agents within the community, and then there’s a whole additional stuff that the universe seems to be fine tuned for, technology and discoverability, kind of adds to that. So, it doesn’t really explain that.
BA: Well, just briefly, I know some people might hear about fine-tuning and they might google it, and find say, the book by physicist Victor Stinger, and he’s got one called, The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning, Why the Universe is not Designed for Us. So, I mean, what, briefly, would his view be? What reasons would he have for calling it this is a fallacy, and do they carry any weight against the case you’re making in here?
RC: Well, I’m rolling my eyes when you mention Victor Stegner, his arguments are pathetically bad. He misunderstands physics; this is one of those books that should be thrown on the junk heap. What he wants to say is he has various criticisms of the fine-tuning argument, mostly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Now, I have a response to him, we did an Oxford dialogue series for Christian theism which is coming out soon. I have an expanded version of that on my website. And, physicist Luke Barnes has done a detailed response to him published on the astrophysics website and now is going to come out, a condensed version of it, in the Australian Journal of Astrophysics. There are just so many misunderstandings he has, it really is pathetically bad. And, I could just go through some of the stuff he says, like he thinks that, he criticizes me for example, when I mention there needs to be gravity. Well, he says gravity would exist in any universe because he says it comes from the idea of point of view in variance, which he takes to be that the physical laws have to be in variance, remain the same, no matter what point of view you look at ‘em from. So, that’s a condition of objectivity, something’s objective means that if it’s still the same event, if you look at it from your description of it, ultimately what it is is the same no matter who’s looking at it. Okay, that makes sense. But then he says then gravity has to come out of that. And, you can just think about that for a minute, and you can see he’s completely confused. We can understand what a world would be like without gravity. Without gravity, masses wouldn’t attract each other, well what would that mean? You could imagine a universe in which all the masses moved apart and no matter, even if there were some places where there’s a more density of mass than others, they would still be moving apart. It wouldn’t make a difference about the rate they’re moving apart, that would be a universe without gravity, would be completely objective universe. So you simply cannot get the law of gravity from objectivity, because you can describe completely objective universes that have no gravity, in other words, masses when they get close to each other don’t tend to come together, they still move apart. Okay, when they’re closer together. So gravity is actually something we discover.
Another one that just is appalling is what he says about the low entropy. He thinks you can explain the low entropy by the size of the universe. The universe starts off as small size. That was refuted over thirty years ago, by Roger Penrose and others, and what did they imagine is you have a universe that’s expanding, then stops, then collapses, which is one of the possible models in general relativity. The entropy still increasing, and universes shrinking in size. So, the size, having a small size, does not explain the low entropy, because it’s going to continue increasing even if the universe now is collapsing. And there’s a whole bunch of other objections to that. You can just do simple calculations that show that the entropy is really extraordinarily low from what it could be. Everyone accepts that, this is standard physics and cosmology, and Stegner thinks that he has a new explanation. No, it’s an old explanation from the ‘70s that’s been shown from many reasons to be completely false. So, he thinks he knows something everybody else doesn’t know. Then he explains like the other issue, explain the smallness of the proton mass, that’s one way of understanding why gravity is small. Just think that the proton and neutron mass is small, and he attributes that to, he says, oh, that’s because the protons and neutron mass is coming from the quark masses, which are the result of what’s called quantum correction, which is, there’s a certain amount of mass that comes with the quantum correction, so it’s because those are small. Yeah, that’s okay, but the whole problem is why are those so much smaller than what they could be? And if he looked at the physics literature, that’s the problem everyone discusses, so he’s presenting the problem as the solution. Barnes points this out again and again. So, it’s like saying, “Oh, I can explain the smallness of the proton mass because it’s composed of quarks and their small mass.” Yeah, but why are they so small? You haven’t explained anything yet. So, you know this just goes on and on, but you know, look at my website, I have a shorter version of this than Barnes does, but it’s not to be even taken seriously at all.
BA: Now, I’ve heard that you are, were, authoring, you mentioned at the beginning there, some books coming out. Can you talk just a bit about what those are going to cover?
RC: Okay, the physics and cosmology one, which is the one I’m planning finishing first is, my title of it is, “The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Life, Technology, and Discoverability.” So, it expands the cases of fine-tuning that it’s not just fine-tuned for the existence of beings like us, but also for the existence having technology, and for us being able to discover it. In fact, it’s optimally set just right for that. So, let me give you a couple cases. And some of these several physicists have looked over, they check out, so these are some of my new cases.
But one of ‘em, the one that, you know, I first really came across, first of all, I already knew about the discoverability of the laws, people have noticed that. Like, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics,” Eugene Wigner, a famous article. And that the laws seemed to be right so that we could discover them. And I had already written something on that. But this goes beyond to look at the constants and those parameters, so I looked at the case of what’s called the fine structure constant, which measures the strength of the electrical and magnetic interaction. Electric force and magnetic force are unified in current physics, it’s really electromagnetic interaction, and a fine structure constant measures the strength of it. In certain units, atomic units, it’s the inverse of the speed of light. So, you can think of it as changing the speed of light in those units. So, that’s probably more intuitive for most people, so let’s just think of it in those units, changing the speed of light. So, if you decrease the speed of light slightly, you can’t get a wood fire going, and the reason is, so that’s one direction. If you can’t get a wood fire, you can’t forge metals. If you can’t forge metals, you’re stuck in the stone age, okay? So, why is that? Well, if you think about a fire, and most people have never asked themselves this question, but you’re standing around a campfire, and you feel heat coming off. What accounts for the amount of radiant energy that comes off? You know, the campfire’s at a certain temperature, well, what actually accounts for it in those units is the speed of light. It’s one of the factors that go in and it’s these fundamental constants determine it, so if you decrease the speed of light for that same temperature the amount of radiant energy is coming off increases, so if you imagine turning a knob and decreasing the speed of light, you’d get more radiant energy coming off, now more energy would be leaving the fire, through smoke and radiation than being produced by combustion, that forces the temperature of the fire down, because energy has to be conserved. If you do it very much, the temperature’s forced down to such a point that fire would just go out, because it has a combustion temperature, so you won’t be able to have wood fires. If you go in the other direction, you get an increase in, so that’s one direction, no wood fires. And you can already see it, it’s very close to the edge, ‘cause if you just do this in your own experiment, have a stick in the campfire, expose the surface to air where it’s not getting radiant energy, it will tend to go out. And, you know, I have pictures on my powerpoint presentation, the campfires, exactly what happens. And so it explains why fires are actually pretty difficult to, right on the edge to get going. If you go the other direction, then electric motors, generators, and transformers all have to get proportionally larger. So, it seems to be set so you can have the smallest you can get, the most efficient you can get, electric generators, motors, and transformers, which is central to a modern technology, and also best resolution for light microscopes, while at the same time still being able to have forged metals. So, you’re just at an optimal point. And there’s a bunch of other things that are optimal just like that. So, that’s one example of the new territory it goes in, and it rigorizes a lot of the cases of, a much more rigorous treatment than you get anywhere else in the fine-tuning. So, that was the idea behind the book. It was initially to just rigorize the cases.
BA: Uh, huh.
RC: And now it’s instead of this, and now what’s happened personally with me, is years and years ago, I was not so sure they would hold up, because there was major mistakes I found in the literature at the time, and the more popular literature. But, now I’m really sure of the fine-tuning after so many cases, more than I thought there were.
BA: So, when should we expect those do you think?
RC: I’m hoping to finish the first one by mid-summer, and I’ll probably post the drafts on my website, and now coming out as a book that always takes the publisher, and thus it might take a couple years, I know the slowness of those things. But, I should have a lot of it put on my website. And the second one I’m hoping next year to finish, so I’m pretty close to both of them, but it’s taken a long time already, so.
BA: Well, we’ve been talkin’ all about the ins and outs here of fine-tuning and questions and objections, but as we start to wrap up, you know, what about those who see the power value of using this as part of an argument for theism or Christianity, what would be, you know, the practical application for someone who’s not super well versed in this, but you know, in other words, if you were talking to a lay person, Robin, and you wanted to put this information into a pretty simple presentation, what sort of tips would you have? How would you encourage people to lay something out like that?
RC: Well, I just encourage them to point out the universe is enormously precisely set for our existence. Okay, point number one, that’s the fine-tuning. It makes sense, it’s not surprising, under theism, but extremely surprising under we’re just here as a brute fact. So, the Lincoln analogy, you know, the Lincoln faith. And then, to point out some of the problems with the multiverse as an explanation. Like, you know, even if there is a multiverse, the generator has to have just the right laws, and there’s this well known Boltzmann Brain problem. So, it’s doubtful that’s really going to be able to do it. And, then say, “Well, you know, if they just still want to say something like will the universe just didn’t happen by chance, that’s it.” I would say, “Well that’s not really intellectually honest ‘cause you’re applying a double standard here. Why don’t you do that in other cases? Which you’re clearly not doing. Like when you argue for the big, you argue against let’s say young earth creationism and point out the big bang, you know, the evidence for the big bang, be very unlikely you know. But, if God just created it, it would make it all look like it was all well, you’re playing the same sort of probabilistic reasoning there, and a whole bunch of other cases, but you’re not willing to do it here, you better be able to point out what the differences are if you want to you know, keep your intellectual honesty.” So, I’d say something along those lines.
BA: Well, are there any common mistakes people make when they’re trying to properly understand or present the argument?
RC: They often focus on the special conditions on earth, like it has to have the right distance from the sun and things like that. Instead of the special conditions of the universe as a whole, and the former can be easily explained by the fact that there are many many planets in the universe. We know there are three hundred billion galaxies around now, about three hundred billions stars per galaxy, we know a lot of stars do have planets now, and the universe is probably way larger than the visible universe, so just by chance, it’s likely a planet will have just the right conditions. So, you need to focus on the fine-tuning of the universe as a whole, not of planets, per se.
BA: Okay, that’s good. Now, when you presenting this information for audiences, what do you think has been maybe the most common objection that you’ve encountered?
RC: The most common objection I have encountered is the “who designed God” objection. They’ll say, “Well, you appeal to God as a designer, but wouldn’t God be just as in need of an explanation as the universe?” In fact, that’s the most common atheist objection to the design argument itself, and I think it’s a red herring because they don’t really understand traditional theism. If you have an anthropomorphic designer, one that has like a brain and a body, let’s say like the Mormons believe in, then you do really have a problem, because then you just push the problem back to, “Who designed that brain and body?” Would also need to be fine-tuned, okay? But, in traditional theism, God has been thought to be unbounded, the attributes are unbounded, omniscient, that means all knowing, all powerful, and so, no internal complexity. To have internal complexity requires boundaries. Like, we look into a watch, there’d be a boundary between, you know, the old style watch, between the spring, things making spring, and gears and other things. The material has well defined boundaries, that’s what makes it the part it is. So, God is traditionally, for independent reasons, God is thought to have no internal complexity. So, if such a God exists, is logically possible, then it explains the fine-tuning So, the only real question is, “Does the existence of such a being make sense?” Can, is it what is thought to be logically possible? If it is, it will explain the fine-tuning without transferring it up a level. Okay, so that question whether it’s logically possible still remains, and fine-tuning doesn’t remove that question. But, if it is, then it explains the fine-tuning. On the other hand, what the fine-tuning does, is hugely raises the cost of atheism. Because, now it’s much more difficult to be an atheist, ‘cause you have to swallow that this just happened as a say brute fact this universe as just an enormous coincidence, one part, you know in ten, the ten to the hundred and twenty-third power, it’s just that’s so difficult to swallow, so it makes atheism, that alternative, so much worse, and because it does that, it supports theism. So that’s how I would answer that.
BA: Well, Robin, you’ve spent like a considerable amount of time dealing with, you now, the subject of fine-tuning and may people, even atheists would say, “You know, this is one of the most powerful theistic arguments.” So, I’m curious, just how powerful an argument for design do you think it is?
RC: I think it’s a very powerful. I would not say design, I would say theism, is a very powerful argument. It’s really hard, let’s go back to the brute fact hypothesis. It’s, “Do you really believe that it’s just one part to the hundred and twenty-third power, that just happened by chance? Do you really believe that?” I mean, look at the other cases, it’s just very hard to swallow that, so I think it’s a very powerful argument. Now, and I think among more lay people and scientists find it the strongest argument. Now, philosophers are their own breed, and so, I think, you know, I think a lot of people would find it the most powerful argument, let’s put it that way, and I certainly do.
BA: Well, if you want to point people to further resources if they want to delve into the topic deeper, where would you suggest for them to actually begin?
RC: I would go to my website and look at some of the articles on there, and especially ones written for more anthologies and more common audience, and also, I have my powerpoint presentation, and look in the references therein. And for further books and things, other people’s discussions of these issues, and also the infidels.org, leading atheist website, did an online book called The Great Debate: Philosophers Debate the Evidence, and there’s a good debate between me and somebody else, Paul Draper, in the case of the fine-tuning there. So there they can get the exchange back and forth.
BA: Well, excellent. Now Robin, I really appreciate all the time you’ve given to this subject, and your work. It’s been a real pleasure speaking with you today.
RC: It’s good speaking to you.