Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Revisiting "The Fine-Tuning Argument Revisited"

I’ve been asked to comment on this article:


Here are my off-the-cuff impressions:

1.Drange puts a lot of weight on the burden of proof. In so doing, he indulges in the usual shell-game. But it’s just a rhetorical trick to recast your position in negative terms, then claim the onus lies on the other guy. Vallicella has done recent some stuff exposing this fallacy. For example:


2.Drange spends a lot of time attacking Craig, and Drange simply denies that there’s any special or improbable about the universe. However, this isn’t just Craig’s impression. Penrose, in his Road to Reality, corroborates many of Craig’s claims. There’s some raw material for FTA’s in Penrose.

There is, admittedly, a point at which Penrose introduces a caveat. He thinks that cosmic inflation is a gratuitous extravagance. So, for him, inflationary cosmology weakens an otherwise promising FTA.

3.Drange simply denies that anyone has ever made a good argument for the principle of sufficient reason. But he doesn’t engage the arguments of Leibniz or Pruss (to name a few).

Furthermore, to say, “Maybe reality is not the way we would like it to be, and in fact, maybe there simply is no explanation for why the physical constants of our universe have the particular values that they happen to have,” is a double-edged sword. If he’s going to help himself to that escape route, then he thereby loses any warrant or presumption for methodological naturalism or the uniformity of nature. He can no longer exclude the miraculous or the paranormal.

4.It’s unclear to me from how he handles probabilities that a casino could every detect cheating.

5.Apropos (4), in his treatment of the firing squad, it seems to me that he commits the Monte Carlo fallacy. Since other executions by firing squad are causally insulated from one another, their relative frequency doesn’t raise or lower the probable outcome in any particular case.

6.I don’t see that invoking a megaverse salvages his position. A megaverse, like a universe, would still be a contingent object. So he’s only pushing the same problem back a step. Moreover, he’s exacerbated the original problem by several orders magnitude since the megaverse is an aggregate, resulting in the sum-total of all the individually improbable universes.

7.He fails to recognize the evidential asymmetry between FTA's and the megaverse. FTA’s are based on actual, extant evidence, whereas the megaverse is based (if you can call it that) on what is, at best, promissory evidence. The hope (or faith) that in the future we will discover some evidence for the megaverse.

There’s also the question of whether, even in principle, we could discover any evidence for the megaverse from within our own universe. For each universe in the megaverse is isolated from every other universe (or so I understand).

8.The inadequacy objection is just a catch-all objection, containing a number of hackneyed objections to theist proofs.

i) To say that IDH is incomplete doesn’t mean it’s “hopelessly” incomplete. It would be supplemented by other theistic proofs.

ii) The “how” question is prejudicial. It assumes the “designer” must have employed some medium. But that involves a particular model of causality that Drange needs to defend.

iii) As to why the universe is so big and so old, there are two possible responses:

a) The conventional OEC or theistic evolutionary anser is that it takes a vast universe to create and sustain the biofriendly conditions for the possibility of life on any planet. Likewise, it takes a vast amount of time for those conditions develop by natural processes.

b) If, however, he denies the necessity of (a) on the grounds that an omnipotent designer could skip the preliminaries, then we’re at liberty to agree with him. We could deny the antiquity of the universe. We could claim the appearance of age is the incidental side-effect of creation ex nihilo. That God instantiated the universe at a certain point in the cycle.

iv) He simply denies appeal to necessary existence. But, once again, he isn’t arguing for his denial. And he doesn’t engage the literature on theistic modal metaphysics.

There’s an obvious parallel with the debate over abstract objects. Are abstract objects necessary existents?

v) Hawking’s theory is a mathematical model or mathematical formalism. Drange needs to show how that corresponds to a real world state of affairs.

1 comment:

  1. A friend added this observation (via email): "And it's also the case that a good explanation of X (including personal explanations) don't require that the how- question even be answered. Suppose we find a large quantity of submarine-like structures in the subsurface oceans on Europa. The hypothesis of intelligent design seems entirely reasonable, even if we can't say much about the designers, how they accomplished this, or their modus operandi."