An Objection to Fine-Tuning
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An Objection to Fine-Tuning

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The late Christopher Hitchens once noted in the documentary Collision Course that the best argument for a divine creator was the fine-tuning argument. The fine-tuning argument states that because the cosmological constants and quantities which make up the universe fall into such a narrow life permitting range, the most plausible explanation for the life-permitting universe is an eternal Fine-Tuner.

A common response to the fine-tuning argument comes in the form of a question: Why is an explanation needed for why we observe a life-permitting universe when that’s the only kind of universe we can observe? For, if the universe were not life-permitting we wouldn’t be observing it. This is an appeal to the Anthropic Principle, which states we can only observe the properties of the universe that are compatible with our existence. [1] However, does this objection nullify the fine-tuning argument?

The fact that human beings can observe only a life-permitting universe does not do anything to eliminate the need for an explanation for why a life-permitting universe exists.[2] For example, imagine you’re traveling to a nation that has been historically hostile to the United States and they arrest you on fake charges. They send you to trial where a biased jury sentences you to death by firing squad from point-blank range (bleak situation right?!). To make sure you don’t anticipate your execution they tie your hands behind your back and blindfold all you. “ONE! TWO! THREE!” You hear all the guns go off. However, you manage to untie your hands and take off your blindfold; to your amazement, you come to realize that all the members of the firing squad missed!

What would your reaction be? What would you conclude? “Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they all missed! After all, if they hadn’t all missed, I wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it! Nothing more to explain here!”[3] Such a response is highly unlikely. Even though you may not be surprised that you’re not dead, you should be surprised that you’re alive, given the high improbability that all the terrorists would miss you from point blank range. From there you would conclude one of two possibilities, either the terrorists are really bad shots or the whole thing was engineered for a specific reason by a specific person. The most likely answer is the second option, someone engineered your escape.

If this is true for the firing squad, why isn’t it true for the fine-tuning we see in the universe? If not, why not? The fact that we can observe a finely-tuned universe does not do anything to negate the need for an explanation for the existence of a finely-tuned, life permitting universe. Thus, the skeptic seems to miss the mark with this particular objection to the fine-tuning argument.


[1] William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 116.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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