Fine-tuning of physical constants

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Aposteriori Unum's picture
@ the fine tuning argument

@ the fine tuning argument

There are a few major problems with the argument. Just to name a couple: 1) we don't know that the values of the 'constants' that we observe aren't so necessarily. 2) we don't know that they are constants. ( several commonly sited are not) And 3) we don't know that other values couldn't allow for other forms of life to exist in the universe in other places or other times.

It is entirely based on assumptions. Things that we do not know with any sufficient degree of certainty to justify the assertion as fact. Since the premises have not been demonstrated the whole argument can be rejected.

Sheldon's picture
The conclusion of theargument

The conclusion of the argument is also pure assumption. Even if the argument the universe were fine tuned for life was anything more than a string of assumptions already, what evidence can be demonstrated beyond bare assertion that the cause of fine tuning is a deity?

Apologists usually compound the fallacious argument and assumptions they've made here, by then resorting to argumentum ad ignorantiam, declaring they "know" of nothing else that can fine tune a universe. You'll also note if you understand to look for logical fallacies, that this is begging the question as the claim for fine tuning is being assumed in the argument for it.

Life is fine tuned by species evolution for it's environment. This is a scientific fact established by a weight of objective evidence that puts it beyond any reasonable doubt.

It's also worth pointing out that the fine tuning argument for a deity is not reflected by the current scientific thinking in the relevant field. The assertion it's fine tuned is on very shaky ground, but the assertion that it is fine tuned *by a a deity is pure assumption.

Someone's picture
It is simply that physicalism

It is simply that physicalism gives no reason to have expected those physics constants, and they seem a very small subset of what physicalism could have expected.

The point is that objective bayesian inference is considered best practise when deciding between two theories. It doesn't guarantee a correct result, but it is considered the best method we have. And if you remove the multiverse situation, then the theory that the universe is by design objectively appears more favourable using objective bayesian inference than the theory that it is physicalist universe that just happens to be that way. And the issue is about whether there would be any complex chemistry or not. Without it there would be no evolution.

Sure some physicalist could say, well if we had some theory which would place a limit on the constant values considered then the objective bayesian inference could change. Sure, if you did, but until then....

So many physicalists favour the idea of a multiverse. But as I have pointed out, I have supplied a different fine tuning argument, the fine tuning of the experience. There even restricting consideration to what experiences correlate with the neural correlate of consciousness (and leaving considerations of what the physical activity the correlate of consciousness could have been), physicalism gives no reason to have not expected any experience at all, or favour how it is over being a flash of light every time a neuron fired. And there a multiverse doesn't help. What difference would it make to behaviour in their theories if the universe had of been one in which the experience that correlated to neural firings had been a certain sound every time a neuron fired.

Aposteriori Unum's picture
Speaking of fallacies... the

Speaking of fallacies... the argument can be summed up as:

"I can't think of any other way that life could exist and therefore god must be the answer."


"I can't believe that the universe could have come about in such a way as to allow for life on this planet all by itself; therefore god must have made it so."

Either an argument from ignorance or an argument from personal incredulity. At least, when I hear the argument presented, that's how it's translated in my brain. And even if you could calculate probabilities and it turns out to be astronomically low... and yet here we are calculating it... that still doesn't get you to "goddunnit", it only gets you to "holy shit, we are really lucky."

Sheldon's picture
A more candid appraisal might

A more candid appraisal might be they believe a deity exists so they are going to insist that every gap in our knowledge not thoroughly explained as a natural phenomenon by science gets their God fallaciously inserted into it.

Not only have they failed to notice it works as well for Zeus as it does for Yahweh Jesus or Allah, but they've failed to notice you could define anything into existence using that argument, magic using fairies and Leprechauns et al.

How do intelligent people not see the significance of that.

LogicForTW's picture
At least the poster "someone"

At least the poster "someone" does not use that ridiculous 1 in 10^128 (or something like that) number lots of apologist like to spout off on this topic.

Of course "someone" looks a tiny less silly making such an argument not using such a number, but the entire argument still remains quite silly, even w/o such an incredibly silly large number.

As I have stated in other threads similar to this, it is like asking what are the odds I will breath in exactly 8229671350134252 atoms in my next breath?
1. There is no way to know
2. It simply does not matter
3. large numbers are meaningless beyond that they are simply "large"
4. The breath already happened, obsessing over some unknowable detail of the past is a huge waste of time.

^All of the above points about a single breath also applies to trying to quantify odds of "life" as we know it.

Aposteriori Unum's picture
"How do intelligent people

"How do intelligent people not see the significance of that."

At that I am perpetually bemused. I see otherwise very intelligent people say utterly absurd things when it comes to their favorite fairy tales. Like everything they say about everything else is accurate and correct and then when god pops up the logic switch is turned off. As if one is on normally closed and the other is on normally open (on a relay) and thus cannot simultaneously have output.

Closet_atheist's picture
I have only a high school

I have only a high school silver medal and a college general physics course under my belt. So I don’t have a full grasp of your argument but in my opinion, physics, the Big Bang, the contradictions of the Bible, and philosophy, don’t even matter in the argument of how we came to be, when compared to human evolution.

arakish's picture


I think you could do with reading some books on the fine tuning of the physics parameters. For if you had you would realise that there theoretical physics suggests there wouldn't have still been life. Because there wouldn't have been any complex chemistry. Considering the masses of just the up quark, the down quark and the electron, and limiting the consideration of the parameter space to the current mass of the top quark: If one were to pick random masses in that space for the up quark, the down quark, and for the electron, it would be something like a 1 in 5 trillion chance of those chosen masses being in the parameter space that would allow complex chemistry (according to theoretical physicists).


I have already seen that video (link not included above). I have also seen countless others. I have also read journal articles, you know, the peer-reviewed ones. Although still in the minority, yet it is also growing, theoretical physicists are now coming around to the FACT that those fundamental parameters, which you call fundamental constants, actually do have a range of values that could still have led to a universe that could reach a state similar to the universe as we know it today, but would be "fundamentally" different.

Life as we now know it here on Earth could have been drastically different with different values in those fundamental parameters.

As Nyarlathotep has been trying to inform you, you do NOT know the allowed values, you are using confirmation bias, and you are beginning to sound like an Absolutist. Just one from a different viewpoint.

And what in 7734 is a physicalism scientist? Post Link

In all honesty, that is perhaps the stupidest term I have ever heard.


chimp3's picture
I think every theist that

I think every theist that proposes the fine tuning argument does a disservice to religion. If you are going to argue for cosmological constants, etc., then you are proposing that we should experience the Universe/Nature as consistent. Yet religion makes claims that are inconsistent with laws which explain the consistent Universe. Sticks turn into snakes, diseases are cured by bringing cloths to the sick, Prophets fly to Heaven on winged horses or just float up into the clouds, women are constructed from the ribs of men, people walk on water, water turns to wine, trumpets knock down city walls, the sun freezes in place in the sky, human virgins get pregnant, horny blue gods manifest themselves a hundred fold and fuck 100 women at once, men survive long voyages in the bellys of huge fish, the dead return to life. WTF! Either the Universe / Nature is consistent or it is not!

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Chimp3

@ Chimp3

Ah but doesn't every "sciency" theist claim that thse examples are but metaphors, and if you learned to read the bibble/Kurran "properly" you wouldn't make such elementary errors?

arakish's picture
@Old Man

@Old Man

I like that term "sciency theist". Perhaps combine to scientheist? To distinguish from an actual scientist? Don't know. Seems a bit too easily confused. Maybe scitheist?

Hmm... have to think on this.


Closet_atheist's picture
I really like your new

I really like your new compound word “scientheist”...

Do you mind if I start using it?

arakish's picture


As far as I am concerned, you can use anything I post as wished.


adragonist's picture
'scientheist' LOL.

'scientheist' LOL.

Tin-Man's picture
@Old Man and Chimp Re:

@Old Man and Chimp Re: Metaphor vs. Literal

Ah, that just brought something to mind. Yeah, it is always interesting how theists swing back and forth between things in the bible being literal or metaphor whenever it suits their needs. So I was just wondering how that might work in the real world in - say, maybe - a court of law. Hmmmm.... Let's see...

Judge: Mr. Smith, you have been charged with the crime of murder. How do you plead?

Mr. Smith: Not guilty, your Honor! And for the record, I believe I should have never been arrested in the first place, and that I should be immediately released.

Judge: Oh, really? I am most curious. Please explain why, Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith: It's very simple, your Honor. Yes, I freely admit to brutally killing my friend in a most heinous manner. However, what you fail to understand is that my killing him was meant only as a metaphor. It was not meant to be taken as a literal killing. Obviously, your Honor, you, and the police, and the family of the deceased totally misinterpreted my reason for killing my friend. You simply have to look at it in the proper context. Honestly, sir, it is almost funny that you thought my actions were to be taken literally. I was merely using it a method to teach his family and friends about loss. It's okay, though. I can totally see how you and everybody else may have been confused. Therefore, I am totally willing to forgive you and everybody else if you release me immediately. No hard feelings at all.

Yep. Metaphors are awesome!

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ TM...

@ TM...

Yeh, I'll go with that...and let's use allegories as well!

arakish's picture
Let's not forget:

Let's not forget:


What others am I missing?


Any others?


TheBlindWatchmaker's picture
From our simplistic point of

From our simplistic point of view it may appear to be fine tuned, but if we was to turn the "dials", so to speak....
How are we to know that life would no exist on all planets?

This also takes a huge punt on the idea that life only exists on earth, which is in itself an arrogant and foolhardy claim.

Sapporo's picture
God is too imperfect for the

God is too imperfect for the universe not to have designed him IMO.

arakish's picture
Don't know if I said this

Don't know if I said this here (too lazy to comb thread) or not.

Absolutist Apologists have it completely backwards.

Nothing fine-tuned the universe for life.

Life fine-tuned itself for this tiny speck of dust in the vast universe.


Sheldon's picture
Correct Sir. What's more wtf

Correct Sir. What's more wtf would an omniscient omnipotent deity needs to fine tune anything? Is it a bungling incompetent creator? The bible certainly portrays such a diety, whose creation is so messed up it had to flood the entire planet and kill everything to start from scratch. Of course one also is left wondering why it needed such a clumsy heavy handed restart when it could simply will a new existence into being without genocidal floods and the unnecessary suffering? Well that and why this global flood suspiciously left no geological evidence, and seems to have been plagiarised from the biblical authors from an earlier flood myth.

Pah, coincidences surely. Although it would explain why someone as dumb as Someone focuses their efforts on obscure unevidenced claims of fine tuning, even though we have only one test sample.

Matt Davies's picture
I agree with you that the

I agree with you that the best argument against atheism is the fine-tuning argument on the cosmological scale. A "lower level" fine-tuning argument used to be to appeal to the Earth and how "suited" it was for life as evidence for the likelihood that it can't be a coincidence.
Notice that the way of dissolving this issue is to appeal to other planets - there are many planets out there all with different conditions, it's no wonder that we ended up on a planet that was capable of hosting life because we couldn't exist on one that couldn't! Think about it like trying to pick the ace of spades from a deck of cards. If there were only one planet we should be suspicious that the one planet in existence is capable of hosting life when the chances are that it was more likely not to be capable.

But when dealing with the universe, we're only aware of there being one universe! So the fine-tuning argument applied to the universe is much more concerning - why should the one universe in existence be able to harbour life, when we know that if we fiddle even slightly with the fundamental constants, we'd end up with a universe that wouldn't be able to?

If we were to try to solve this in the same way as with the lower-level fine-tuning we have to resort to many-worlds. If you believe in many-worlds theory, then the fine-tuning argument is easily resolved. There are several other ways the argument can be resolved however - either if the universe we live in is the ONLY possible universe (but this seems unlikely), or if most possible universes can host life (but this is also unlikely given our current knowledge, most other values of the fundamental constants give universes in which no chemical compounds are possible - so certainly no life as we know it).

The best option is many-worlds, but many are reluctant to accept it. It really should be made more publicly aware that many-worlds is a dead-serious theory in Physics and Philosophy of Physics. Many-worlds isn't just a vague idea that seems to make sense of some things, many-worlds is a very detailed theory and interpretation of quantum mechanics which solves many problems to do with the interpretation of quantum mechanics. One criticism of Many-worlds is the obvious "we can't observe other worlds", but this is actually incorrect on the Many-Worlds theory. Quantum superpositions for a Many-Worlds proponent are indirect evidence for the existence of many-worlds.

A more technical, but interesting advantage of many-worlds is that it avoids non-locality. Quantum mechanics is infamous for being a non-local theory of the world. Ever since the experimentally verified violations of Bell's Inequalities, we have known that there are two main options in interpreting the results of this experiment. The violation entails that either the world is non-local (particles at the edge of the galaxy can instantly influence what goes on here on Earth), or that there are many-worlds.

There are plenty of physicists that think it's better to accept non-locality than many-worlds, but there are also plenty of respectable physicists that think non-locality is much more ludicrous than many-worlds.

In any case, the public should be less quick to write off many-worlds! Especially the atheist, many-worlds makes the fine-tuning argument disappear.

Sapporo's picture
The fine-tuned universe

The fine-tuned universe argument = Texas sharpshooter fallacy.

Brittany Mavins's picture
Im glad to read this blog

Im glad to read this blog.

Sheldon's picture
"if the value of a couple of

"if the value of a couple of physical constants would be just slightly off, our universe (and more specifically 'life') would not exist."

In order to accept the theistic assertion that this evidences "fine tuning" the very least they'd need is a test group larger than 1.

As Sapparro says, they're drawing a bullseye around a dart already thrown. This is fallacious, and means nothing.

From a theistic point of view the claim produces several problems of its own...

1) Why did a deity that can supposedly create life at will need to fine tune anything?
2) Why if is fine tuned for us as its 'main purpose' is so much of it hostile to life?
3) Why waste billions of years tinkering before humans ever show up (evolve) just a couple of hundred thousand years ago?
4) If a deity fine tuned the universe for (human) life why isn't it everywhere.
5) Why did a fine tuned universe need evolution and natural selection, entirely insentient processes?
6) Why if it's fine tuned a universe for humans have we existed for a tiny fraction of the time other species like dinosaurs have existed?
7) If the universe is fine tuned why are large parts of it destroying itself randomly?

The claim has no real evidence to support it, is based on a fallacy, and doesn't fit all the facts we have.

Atheist Jogger's picture
A couple of thousand years

A couple of thousand years ago people could not explain rain and thunder, so they said "god". They didn't know that the earth revolved around the sun, so they said "god". They didn't know evolution so they said "god". Each time humanity made discoveries, theists initially denied it, and then came up with a question to which mankind currently had no answer as their evidence of god.

In the 20th century with the advent of quantum mechanics all theists are doing is trying to find a reason why there is a god. One day we may identify more information about particle physics, and all they'll do will be to change their current viewpoint and then ask another question to try to justify their original beliefs.
My best answer to their question is "I don't know, and of course neither do you"

Muashkis's picture

Very simplified and neat explanations of both Many Worlds roots, and the current efforts to basically dismiss 'Fine Tuning' - without even invoking the Multiverse. Can't wait for them to succeed, no matter how much that would disturb my own views on fundamental reality.

Needless to say, that Many Worlds interpretation (as any QM) is much, much deeper than that. And make for some great thought experiments, enriched by tweaking the constants. BUT! Just because we can imagine something, doesn't necessarily mean it's real. On the contrary, it makes me feel like going down the path many of us have gone before. That's why I refuse to accept the MW interpretation until it devises ways to prove their claims.

As for the indirect evidence being Superposition, I don't bite. Else I just can't reconcile that with our current advances in quantum computing. If anything, these states seem to be used as phenomena based purely in our own reality. I can understand that some might claim them and their connection to parallel realities being the actual explanation of their effectiveness for computing, but exponential math does that just as effectively.

Also, I see no basis for even assuming that constants ever COULD have different values. I find it a purely speculative claim, based on our own arbitrarily assigned values. Given our understanding of Gauge Symmetries, I find it somewhat irrational to believe. Nature shouldn't give a fuck how we assign it's constants, it doesn't need to follow our abstract views about it's basic values even being possible to change.

Then again, despite my own reluctance of aligning with these views, I can't wait to see some experimental results. And not just because of personal curiosity, but because I would very much like another reason to admire human ingenuity. If they actually prove my misgivings to be false, great. Theists shut is the best possible scenario, if I have to review my standpoint towards reality.


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Bill Kilpatrick's picture
The only constant is change.

The only constant is change.

Muashkis's picture


There's no clear indication of that being either true or untrue. It's a great saying, but it doesn't necessarily reflect reality. Just look at the Muslim communities over the past millennia.

I'm not trying to enforce my own view of what fundamental reality is, I'll leave it to the much more qualified people of their respective fields. The point I'm trying to get across is that we should be very careful with our own definitions. Especially the abstract ones.


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