The Fine-Tuning Argument and Random Sampling

by Max Andrews

One of the objections raised by an audience member at the VT debate on the existence of God was against the fine-tuning argument and probability (for my method of argumentation please see: VT Debate-My Method of Argumentation).  In statistics a random sample drawn must have the same chance of being sampled as all the other samples.  The objection was based on this problem.  Since we know of only one universe we don’t know what the range of values for the constants and physics could be.  This was also brought up in conversation with both atheists after the debate.  Since we don’t know how narrow or broad these ranges could be there’s no way of drawing out any probability based argument from fine-tuning.  The thing is that we can know what other universes would be like if the values were different.  If our natural laws have counterfactuals that are in any way incoherent then this is an appropriate sampling.  Also, to make this objection and advocate that we just so happen to live in a life permitting universe in the multiverse then this objection cannot be made since the claim that we happen to life in a life-permitting one amongst countless others suggest we can know what the other samplings are.  For instance, here are a few examples:

  • Strong Nuclear Force
    • +, no hydrogen, an essential element of life
    • -, only hydrogen
  • Weak Nuclear Force
    • +, insufficient helium to generate heavy elements in stars
    • -, stars burn out too quickly and supernova explosions could not scatter heavy elements across universe
  • Electromagnetic force
    • Different atomic bonds, and thus complex molecules needed for life could not form
  • Gravitational Constant
    • +, stars too hot and burn out too quickly
    • -, stars never burn heavy elements
  • Entropy
    • Roger Penrose calculates that the odds of the special low entropy condition having arisen by chance in the absence of any constraining principles is at least as small as about one part in 1010^123 in order for our universe to exist.

If these counterfactuals make any coherent sense and are possible then we can draw an appropriate random sample.  Also, note that we don’t have to know how narrow or broad the range of values could be.  That doesn’t matter.  It could be very narrow or extremely broad and this sampling still be appropriate.  What I’m arguing for is the mechanism that produces these random constants.  This mechanism would be superstring theory or M-theory.  Thus, by virtue of the possible counterfactual expressions of the values of the constants and laws of nature I believe we can make an appropriate probability based abductive argument from fine-tuning.

Recommended Read: The Word of the Week Wednesday: Regularity Theory


2 Responses to “The Fine-Tuning Argument and Random Sampling”

  1. I’m looking forward to Robin Collins new book “The well tempered Universe” (or something like that)
    It’s going to go on my shelf of started but yet to be completed books.


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