Is the Apparent Fine-Tuning of the Universe Simply An Observational Phenomenon?

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Is the Apparent Fine-Tuning of the Universe Simply An Observational PhenomenonThe just so appearance of “fine-tuning” in our universe is rather uncontroversial amongst scientists and cosmologists. Even Paul Davies (who is agnostic when it comes to the notion of a Divine Designer) readily stipulates, “Everyone agrees that the universe looks as if it was designed for life.” Oxford philosopher John Leslie agrees: “it looks as if our universe is spectacularly ‘fine-tuned for life’. By this I mean only that it looks as if small changes in this universe’s basic features would have made life’s evolution impossible.” In my new book, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence For A Divinely Created Universe, I describe the foundational, regional and locational conditions of our universe, solar system and planet to show how they are delicately balanced and finely calibrated for life. The slightest modification of these conditions would be disastrous. The delicate requirements for the existence of galaxies, star systems, and planets capable of supporting “intelligent observers” are incredibly fragile.

While scientists may stipulate to the appearance of fine-tuning “in the room,” this does not mean they agree on the existence of an external “Fine-Tuner”. Some scientists believe we observe fine-tuning because, if not for such fine-tuning, we wouldn’t be here to observe the universe in the first place. According to this explanation (sometimes referred to as the “Anthropic Principle” or the “Observer Selection Effect”), any humanly observable universe would display the conditions necessary for human life, so we shouldn’t be surprised to observe such conditions. As theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Lawrence Krauss, says, “Put another way, it is not too surprising to find that we live in a universe in which we can live!” Anyone who exists and inspects their environment will, of course, discover a world encompassing whatever it takes for them to exist. If they didn’t discover a world of this nature, they wouldn’t exist to examine it in the first place. But this explanation of cosmic fine-tuning fails for two reasons:

This Explanation Confuses Observations with Explanations
While an observer who exists in our universe will most certainly find it highly probable to observe fine-tuned conditions, this does not mean it was highly probable such a universe would exist in the first place. In God’s Crime Scene, I describe a murder scene in which a husband sabotaged the heating system of his home to asphyxiate his wife. There were many layers of tampering evident at the scene. Imagine if, as a detective, I had arrived at the scene of this crime and said the following: “We shouldn’t be surprised to find dead bodies in a house with the windows and doors suspiciously closed and the vents and gas lines found as they were. If the conditions weren’t like this, no one would have died and we wouldn’t have been called to the scene!” How long do you think we would have kept our badges as detectives? As investigators, we were dispatched to the scene to find out why the windows, doors, vents, and gas line were in that condition. Either they were manipulated by an intelligent being or they weren’t. Good detectives can’t confuse observations with explanations.

While an observer who exists in our universe will most certainly find it highly probable to observe fine-tuned conditions, this does not mean it was highly probable such a universe would exist in the first place. Click To Tweet

This Explanation Ignores Obvious Inferences
Our investigative team made several observations at death scene I described in God’s Crime Scene. But if the woman had not died in that scene (if she had not been home, for example), the circumstances we observed would have been meaningless. In fact, we wouldn’t have been called to the scene in the first place. But when the dead body was discovered, the obvious inferences from our observations compelled us to look for a better explanation. Physicists and cosmologists studying the appearance of fine-tuning are similarly compelled. Rather than dismiss the evidence as an Observer Selection Effect, they continue to search for a better explanation. In fact, their ongoing dismissal of the Anthropic Principle motivates them to propose additional scientific theories in an effort to explain the obvious inferences.

The fine tuning of the universe cannot be dismissed as an observational phenomenon. It is, instead, one of eight pieces of evidence “inside the room” of the natural universe that is best explained by a cause “outside the room” of the universe. This brief summary of naturalistic explanations just begins to describe the problem with such theories. For a much more robust account of the inadequacy of naturalism in this regard, please refer to God’s Crime Scene, Chapter Two – Tampering With the Evidence: Who Is Responsible?

For more information about the scientific and philosophical evidence pointing to a Divine Creator, please read God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe. This book employs a simple crime scene strategy to investigate eight pieces of evidence in the universe to determine the most reasonable explanation. The book is accompanied by an eight-session God’s Crime Scene DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.

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