Fine-tuning argument rebutted?

by Paul Buller

In this brief article on the fine-tuning of the universe, the “friendly Atheist” (aren’t they all friendly?) tells us that the fine-tuning argument has been “debunked so many times over,” and that it is, at heart, a fallacy (and an absurd one at that), and he also reminds us that Victor Stenger has written a 350 page volume refuting it. Rather than getting into details, he offers “the simplest response” which is, in essence, that every single person’s history is a series of unimaginably improbable coincidences because our lives could have taken so many different paths. Yet here we are on the one path that we took out of all the infinite paths we might have taken. Shocked? Not really. Same goes for fine-tuning. Clearly there is nothing interesting to discuss here. Move along, please.

It almost sounds like a reasonable response, doesn’t it? But there’s a problem.

At root this “rebuttal” fundamentally misunderstands the fine-tuning argument. But let’s start with what the author gets right. The author is perfectly correct to observe,

Our lives are nothing but a string of coincidences put together. Each one seems incredible on its own and it’d be impossible to predict it all in advance, but you have to travel down some path.

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But the problem with his “refutation” is in the last sentence. We all had to travel down “some” path. This particular path is just one of a seemingly limitless number of alternative paths we could have taken. We might have ended up in a different career. We might have married somebody else. We might have lived somewhere else in the world. The list goes on.

Each of these alternatives, though, is more or less just different versions of the same thing. In all cases there is an overall “human history” and it either takes one form or it takes another form, but in all of the different possible forms of human history we are busily scurrying about our lives.

The fine-tuning argument for the universe as a whole, on the other hand…

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