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← Francis Collins: Atheist Richard Dawkins Admits Universe's Fine-Tuning Difficult to Explain

Francis Collins: Atheist Richard Dawkins Admits Universe's Fine-Tuning Difficult to Explain - Comments

Michael Austin's Avatar Comment 1 by Michael Austin

I love how Richard can go to great lengths to explain what he means by this, but that never seems to make press.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 00:44:31 UTC | #844172

Polesch's Avatar Comment 2 by Polesch

The universe is not fine-tuned. Please stop making that argument.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 00:45:11 UTC | #844173

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 3 by Steve Zara

I certainly agree. Fine Tuning is difficult to explain. What is difficult to explain is what fine tuning means, or even if it makes sense at all. But that doesn't worry me. Why should we expect the origin of our universe to be easy to explain? And, why should finding the origin of our universe difficult to explain lead to the absurd conclusion that some being who thinks an ignorant tribe in the middle east is important set things going?

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 00:45:28 UTC | #844174

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 4 by Ignorant Amos

Oh Richard, have you been chatting out of school? Or have you been misquoted? Or heaven forbid, Francis Collins is fibbing? C'mon, fess up, we need to know that page 169 of TGD and the divine knob twiddler of the Anthropic Principal (Cosmological Version) is not at odds with your private beliefs.

On second thoughts, forget it, someone at that Christian jamboree must be at their work.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 00:54:01 UTC | #844176

mjwemdee's Avatar Comment 5 by mjwemdee

Facepalm. This is simply religious rubbish trying to claw back some ground lost to science. I'm still waiting to hear how god and evolution are compatible. I hear all the time that they ARE compatible, but no one ever explains HOW. This idea that ‘God used evolution by natural selection as his means of creating’ only raises bigger questions: Why would god just happen to use the one process of achieving creation that doesn't require his existence to explain it? Is he TRYING to make it look like he doesn't exist? And why would he use a process that inherently guarantees maximum suffering?

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 00:54:14 UTC | #844177

Quine's Avatar Comment 6 by Quine

The universe is not fine-tuned. Please stop making that argument.

Yes, it is a confusion of map vs. territory. Sticking voodoo pins in the models that the physicists make does not change the reality they are modeling. Speculation of what would correspond in a different reality to hypothetical changes to the model is exactly backwards, untestable and meaningless.

See my blog on this from 2008:

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 00:54:39 UTC | #844178

houseofcards's Avatar Comment 7 by houseofcards

good thing Victor J. Stenger just released his book "The Fallacy of Fine Tuning" so hopefully this will clear things up a bit.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:03:55 UTC | #844183

Robert Firth's Avatar Comment 8 by Robert Firth

I confess to disliking this argument, for several reasons. First, and most basic, where is the evidence that the universe is "tunable" in the first place? Maybe when we learn a bit more physics we will realise that the constants of Nature have the values they have of necessity, and could not have been otherwise.

For example, suppose I argue that the value of pi must have been very finely tuned, to implement God's high purpose that balls should be round. After all, without that supreme intelligence, cricket would be impossible! The argument is clearly absurd, because we know tthe value of pi is immutable. The fine tuning argument is plausible only because we are ignorant of the physics of the things supposedly tuned.

But my real exasperation is with the statement itself: "The universe is fine tuned for life". If that is so, tell me, where is the life? Where are the worms of Mercury, swimming in molten lead? The dinosaurs of Venus' swampy jungles? The egg-laying Martian princesses - the floating medusae of Jupiter's upper atmosphere - the crystalline cities of Titan? From where I sit, this universe seems almost implacably hostile to life, and we exist, precariously, on the razor's edge of that "almost".

Even here on Earth, 99% of all the species that have ever existed are now extinct. All that labour, all those creatures, those endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful, evolved just to be returned to nothingness. Some tuning! Some tuner!

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:04:11 UTC | #844184

Polesch's Avatar Comment 9 by Polesch

I'm just a physics student, so don't have the same grasp of the physical constants as many other physicist. And there are many good physicists who do think that the universe is fine tuned in some sense, trying to rationalize it with ideas of other universes etc. Maybe they are trying to over romanticize their field, or the universe itself, in some ways. In order to say that our universe is special because of the fine tuning, you will have to do a whole lot more. You first have to understand all the different ways life can be "assembled" and then you have to change every constant a bit, and run every natural selection scenario in each universe. If life can be assembled in 1 billion ways, and the physical constants can be changed in a quadrillion ways, there's a lot of assumption to make. Could the current universe still have life if the proton charge was 1.61*10-19 instead of 1.60 ... ? If you changed the gravitational constant just a bit, and made a simulation of the entire universe from beginning to end with the new constant, would the tiny effect accumulate and render the universe completely inhabitable? Or would the we all just weight a bit more/less and the atmosphere be a bit more or less dense?

These are questions we can't answer at the moment, and those making the fine-tuning argument surely can't either. And why would it be fine tuned for human life? Why not fined tuned for rats? Crocodiles? Eh?

Last comment, 99% of the entire universe we live in is already inhabitable by all advanced lifeforms we know. So where's the rationalization there?

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:12:53 UTC | #844187

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 10 by Marc Country

Sure, not as difficult to explain as, say, how Jonah lived in that big fish, but difficult...

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:13:43 UTC | #844188

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 11 by God fearing Atheist

Congratulations to Francis Collins on receiving yet another PhD, this time in cosmology.

Poor old biologists like Richard Dawkins are usually stuck on such questions, give tentative answers using their admitted very limited knowledge, and humbly defer to the cosmologists.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:14:21 UTC | #844189

Drizzt Do'Urden's Avatar Comment 12 by Drizzt Do'Urden

If there was a God that created life on Earth why would there need to be perfect physical constants for that life to exist. It seems a God created life would be able to survive on the power of God and every little thing wouldn't need to be just right.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:22:48 UTC | #844190

All About Meme's Avatar Comment 13 by All About Meme

Francis Collins:

If you are an atheist, either it is just a lucky break and the odds are so remote...

Daniel Dennett fascinated me with a discussion of this topic in Darwin's Dangerous Idea. If an eternity of time was available, and you purchased a lottery ticket every day, there would be occasions when you would win the lottery seven times in a row. One hundred times in a row. One million times in a row, etc.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:26:43 UTC | #844191

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 14 by Steve Zara

Comment 6 by Quine

Oh dear :) That was some time ago, wasn't it?

I'm now entirely with you. The idea of fine tuning doesn't make sense in any way. It's quite reasonable to ask questions about how the physical constants got to have the values they do, but to ponder on why they aren't other values is strange. The existence of Steve Zara was the outcome of some very unlikely events if we considered all the sperm in all my male ancestors that did not succeed but could have. That should not lead me to think that my existence was so important that God must have guided each sperm.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:35:53 UTC | #844196

Random Jerk's Avatar Comment 15 by Random Jerk

Shocked to hear such arguments from Francis Collins. Isn't this God of the Gaps rehashed ? I thought sophisticated scientists like Collins had to offer better explanations/reasons as of why they believe in a deity. But, to my shock Collins also relies on same logically incoherent arguments, this time pandering on a biologist's incomplete knowledge of cosmology. The only other person that I can think of and hope might have a better argument for God is Ken Miller, considering that even Collins has discredited himself in my opinion.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:40:22 UTC | #844199

MilitantNonStampCollector's Avatar Comment 16 by MilitantNonStampCollector

How is this argument still taken seriously? Strip the fine-tuning argument down and your left with: we exist therefore God. It's the argument from solipsism. If it was really fine-tuned it would stay tuned for life.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:45:18 UTC | #844201

Andrew B.'s Avatar Comment 17 by Andrew B.

If you are an atheist, either it is just a lucky break and the odds are so remote,

But luck can only be claimed by people (or in this case species) that were "born!" People that never existed can't complain of being "unlucky" because, inexplicably, non-existent people are uniformly shy about expressing their opinions.

Yes! You were lucky to be born! You can only say this BECAUSE you were born! Under no circumstances would you be able to claim that you were unlucky, because that would require that you not exist!

All of this fine-tuning blubbering seems to be based on the assumption that homo sapiens simply HAD to exist, an assumption no one is entitled to make.

-If the constants weren't they way they were, we wouldn't be here! -Then we wouldn't be here. So what?

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:46:30 UTC | #844202


We burden random occurrences like life with significance and meaning, so we assume the universe does as well.

You know, I was driving to work last Friday, and I saw a license plate with the pattern BCI 0162!

I couldn't believe it! What are the chances that I would see a license plate with that pattern on that day! Incredible!

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:52:13 UTC | #844203

All About Meme's Avatar Comment 19 by All About Meme

James Evans:

You know, I was driving to work last Friday, and I saw a license plate with the pattern BCI 0162!

I've seen that license plate, too! That's just too unbelievable.

Ergo, Jesus existed and died on a cross to clean our slates of Adam's egregious sin of half-inching a D'Arcy spice. See you all in church on Sunday. Bring your wallets.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 01:59:39 UTC | #844205

Naturalist1's Avatar Comment 20 by Naturalist1

Steve...your statement..."That should not lead me to think that my existence was so important that God must have guided each sperm." Remember....Every sperm is sacred...Every sperm is great...When a sperm gets wasted....God gets quite irrate.... Just had to...couldn't resist...

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 02:04:09 UTC | #844206

Tony d's Avatar Comment 21 by Tony d

This business of the fine tuning of the universe seems bizarre to me. It made me speculate that if a flea could reason. It might look at the stray dog on which it lived and think to itself that the sole purpose for the existence of the dog was to provide nourishment and a home for itself and its family.

How do you get from the observation that our form of life would not have come about if the constants in the universe were set at different value's.To the conclusion that therefor we are the purpose of the universe?

Oh yer, with faith anything is possible.

This fine tuning argument honestly seems so weak to me.Its making me wonder if i'm missing something about it.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 02:16:50 UTC | #844209

Drosera's Avatar Comment 22 by Drosera

The fine-tuning argument could at most lead to the conclusion* that a god exists. It doesn't follow in any way that this is the god of the Bible. Collins is like someone who spots hoof prints on a beach and infers from these that unicorns exist.

*Not one that I endorse.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 02:28:48 UTC | #844212

kraut's Avatar Comment 23 by kraut

"if God is outside of time then it might not seem long to God."

If god is outside time he cannot experience time. He therefore does not have a reference point to create anything at any particular time. So - why is the Universe either only 6000 or ten thousand or 15 billion years old.? If god had created the universe it would have to be eternal. No beginning, no end as those points make only sense in time.

Fine tuning could be just another argument for cosmological many universes till we had one that was conducive to have certain gases (COHN) develop into something that was able to procreate and wiggle about.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 02:39:38 UTC | #844216

Charisma's Avatar Comment 24 by Charisma

Why is this even a news article?

Scientists openly admit that they can't yet explain everything about the origin of our universe. This does not in any way suggest that a god is behind it, nor does it suggest that the universe is fine-tuned. Maybe there is only one way for a universe to be. It's also very possible that had the universe been set up with different laws and constants, different life would have evolved.

When those who claim that the universe is too fine-tuned to have come about by itself actually demonstrate that the universe is fined-tuned, maybe then I'll take this argument seriously.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 02:47:06 UTC | #844220

_Mandrellian_'s Avatar Comment 25 by _Mandrellian_

I wonder how Collins would feel knowing he's using the same essential argument as renowned grimacing used-god salesman and apologist for child-rape & genocide, William Lane Craig.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 02:49:34 UTC | #844222

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 26 by Robert Howard

Best bit of the article: '.....Collins, who believes the Earth is over 13 billion years old.'

You gotta love these evangelicals; even when they get it right, they get it wrong.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 03:00:46 UTC | #844224

Overmann's Avatar Comment 27 by Overmann

The underlying premise of such fine-tuning arguments is that the purpose of the universe was to foster life and that life is the single-most important aspect of the universe. Such arrogance. Of course life is important to us, Frances Collins, but that doesn't mean life is important to the universe. Life is a consequence of the universe, not its raison d'être.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 03:03:09 UTC | #844227

SnowyDoc's Avatar Comment 28 by SnowyDoc

Comment 7 by houseofcards

good thing Victor J. Stenger just released his book "The Fallacy of Fine Tuning" so hopefully this will clear >things up a bit.

Thanks for mentioning that. I was unaware the book had been released yet. Downloading the Kindle version right now... :-)

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 03:07:46 UTC | #844229

BloodywombatTSI's Avatar Comment 29 by BloodywombatTSI

I take it that his god, being the god of the bible, is a loving god that cares about his creations. Why then, choose such a brutal mechanism full of birth defects and lots of death and suffering? I guess if you read the bible you'll find your answer. He's not so loving and perfect.

I find evolution beautiful and interesting in many ways, but only as a naturalistic explanation that just is what it is, because if a loving all powerful and perfect creator used this process, then it's just despicable and cruel. I see no way around this conclusion. Maybe Francis Collins could explain the error in my thinking. yeah, I doubt it.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 03:21:38 UTC | #844232

Robert Howard's Avatar Comment 30 by Robert Howard

Note to the editors of The Christian Post: the sentence 'There are some serious scientists in the world, however, such as English theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who believe in the multiverse hypothesis' should have read: 'There are some serious scientists in the world, however, such as English theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who believe in the multiverse hypothesis.'

Please correct this oversight.

Wed, 29 Jun 2011 03:25:29 UTC | #844236