Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fine Tuning and the Intellectual Necessity

You have probably heard about the multiverse--the idea that the universe is really a large number of universes. The multiverse helps to explain why our particular universe seems so special. Our universe seems to be a finely tuned machine and the evolution of life would require low probability events. Is our universe special? The multiverse helps to deflect such thinking. If there is a large number of universes, then perhaps each has a different set of natural laws. And perhaps intelligent life can only be supported by a very particular set of laws. So the only life forms that would exist to observe their universe would be those that live in special universes. Presto, we're not special and fine tuning and evolution are explained.

There is, however, another type of fine tuning that evolutionists have not explained. In addition to physics and biology, philosophy is also fine-tuned. I suspect it can also be explained with the multiverse, but we need to start keeping a list of all the little things we sweep under the multiverse rug. Philosophy is fine-tuned in the sense that evolutionary theories of origin are both (i) fact and (ii) intellectually necessary. Let me explain.

On the one hand, evolutionists say they know that evolution (of one sort of another) is a fact, every bit as much as gravity is a fact. Life and all the species arose strictly by purely naturalistic processes. If you doubt this, it is equivalent to doubting the existence of gravity. It is remarkable that evolutionists have this level of certainty, but keep in mind they are very smart people.

On the other hand, evolutionists say that evolution (again, of one sort of another) must be assumed in order to do science. We saw how evolutionary thinkers, from the Joseph LeConte in Darwin's day to PZ Myers today, have illuminated this requirement. Here is another example from another evolutionist, Barbara Forrest:

Intelligent design creationism (ID) is a religious belief requiring a supernatural creator’s interventions in the natural order. ID thus brings with it, as does supernatural theism by its nature, intractable epistemological difficulties. ... I examine the ID movement’s failure to provide either a methodology or a functional epistemology to support their supernaturalism, a deficiency that consequently leaves them without epistemic support for their creationist claims.

In other words, in order to avoid "intractable epistemological difficulties" and get along with the business of doing science, evolution is a must. So, evolution is both a fact and intellectually necessary. These are two independent properties. It didn't have be this way. We could live in the universe where evolution is not a fact, but yet intellectually necessary. Or we could live in the universe where evolution is a fact, but yet not intellectually necessary. Either way things would be very confusing. I'm glad we're not stuck in one of those universes. Thanks to the multiverse, there are options. We live in a universe that is finely-tuned for truth, and full of evolutionists to explain this to us.


  1. Nice article. Evolutionists are, once again, hosted by their own petard. One of the more intractable epistemological difficulties with the multiverse hypothesis is the following. It is illogical that the number of parallel universes be finite because no number is any more special or essential than another.

    On the other hand, if the number is infinite, then the evolutionists run right smack into an infinite regress, infinity being the religion of cretins, of course.

  2. ID presents deep philosophical problems - therefore Evolution is necessary? Are you saying that the only alternative to ID is evolution?

  3. Mark, it's either ID (construed broadly, as it usually is by ID theorists) or evolution. That's one point on which I agree with Richard Dawkins. He made a forceful case for it in The Blind Watchmaker.

  4. I this discussion we forget what is a fact and what is a theory. Fact is that if I open my hand my keys will fall on the floor. The gravity is only the teory that explains that fact. And the gravity is partial explanation of the reality, because until there is another prove of the existance of the dark matter, or the error in the neasurements of the mass and speed of the components of the galaxies, gravity can explain why galaxies stay togheter. In the same way evolution is a teory not a fact that can explain some fenomena but is only partially true until there is a prove that the common ancestor of southamerican and african monkeys rafted on the sea from africa to south america.

  5. Every once in a while, I try to have some fun by paraphrasing an evolutionist's argument as a rebuttal to his or her argument:

    Evolutionism is a religious belief requiring a commitment to unsubstantiated claims about the natural order. Evolutionism thus brings with it intractable epistemological difficulties… I examine the evolution movement’s failure to provide either a methodology or a functional epistemology to support their claims that random processes can indeed create complex things, a deficiency that consequently leaves them without epistemic support for their evolutionist claims.

  6. Mark Frank: "Are you saying that the only alternative to ID is evolution?"

    That is the $64,000 question.

    Is the ID Movement only about throwing stones at one competing theory, or is it about following the evidence wherever it leads?

    Ironically, ID proponents tend to indirectly postulate randomness exists by trying to argue its lack of explanatory power.

    If it doesn't exist, it definitely has no power.

    Quantum Mechanical experiments show an interconnected world that, while non-deterministic, is not random.

    Following the evidence leads to a strong suggestion that life is quantum-based. Consciousness is also very likely quantum based.

    As part of the Dover trial, Dr. Dembski wrote an Expert Witness Report that included...
    "How, if at all, does quantum mechanics challenge a purely mechanistic conception of life? The intelligent design community is at the forefront in raising and answering such questions."

    So, let's raise these questions and try to answer them.

    Or is everyone too busy throwing stones at non-existent randomness?

  7. For the record, multiverse is an oxymoron.

    The universe by definition is the totality of natural phenomena.

    We should be wary of anyone that combines multi and universe into a single word.

  8. Not to mention that the universe is predicatable /
    uniform so we can do science at