Why I Am Against Theories of a "Fine Tuned" Universe

This is not a discussion of God versus No-God. This is not a discussion of best- versus worst-of-all-possible-worlds. This is not a discussion of luck versus chance.

This is just me thinking about the ideas of a "fine tuned" (generally called anthropic principled) universe. An idea I do not buy, and would go so far as to say I am opposed to them. There are a few basic categories of reasoning I have against them, and I will discuss each in brief. They can be summed up as: issues of ineffeciency, issues of "evil", and issues of mathematically having your horse before the cart.

The Finely Tuned Model

I do not quite understand the reasoning, outside of a wholy theological mindset, of the finely-tuned model. There are many versions, some are religious and some are not, and I cannot and willnot attack them all. The general stance is this: the universe as a whole was made to fit humanity. Some versions allow for differences in words. Instead of humanity, it might be consciousness. Of course, since consciousness is based on the ideas we have of humanity, that means "to fit humanity". Instead of humanity, it might be "to build up to this point in time". Since "this point in time" includes humanity, that means "to fit humanity". Some will argue that it means only this small section of the universe, but since a small section of the universe requires a larger section of universe to support it, ad infinitum, we get right back around to "to fit humanity".

In a theological mindset, with the idea that humanity is God's crowning achievement, this all makes sense. God's whole plan was the human outcome. Therefore God's whole creation is planned around the outcome. No problem. Done and argument won. But, well, if you do not hold both that humanity is obviously God's greatest plan and God is control of everything then you can't come right to that point.

At any rate, I generally think that most of the "finely tuned" argument can be pointed out as unnecessary and based on a seemingly instinctive need to feel as though our genetic type is the best damned genetic type in existence and for all existence. This also tends to stop us from thinking of it as genetics, which would wind us all down.

Issues of "Evil"

This is the weakest complaint I have against it, the most anecdotal. And it does not deal with evil (or Evil) in the classic sense of all. it just asks "why?". If the universe is finely tuned for humans, then how come there are so many things that are deadly to humans. Maybe it causes us to struggle and makes us strong? That works as a counter argument, I guess. Most of space keeps us out by being inhospitable. Maybe that's to keep us on the Earth where we belong, I suppose?

Disease could be to keep us guessing. Pain is a warning system. Starvation keeps us working. Suffering, as a whole, is a motivator to reach a point where we don't suffer.

These arguments seem valid, if a little truistic. They are a version of Leibniz's "best of all possible" argument. If life seems hard, just keep in mind that every other possible outcome was worse.

I just don't buy the argument because the universe/human juxtaposition is more than suffering. If the universe is for us, then how come the Sun and the Moon cover about the same space in the sky, a fact that confused astronomy for years and caused some people to be put to death for heresy? How come we see and hear such a small portion of the spectrum of light and sound that we have seriously been retarded in our research except the last couple of centuries. Why did the universe end up in such a way that scarcity was a more vital lesson than exploration, especially since several versions of the anthropic principle believe that humanity will exist for a long, long eternity?

Most arguments against this sort of claim rely on the limited understanding that humans have for the universe (and God). "It must be ineffable," they say, which is a way of saying "Who knows, let's wait and see." Which means there is no argument against that complaint besides "Maybe the future will tell us". And maybe the future won't. As an answer, this requires faith in a higher power prior to the argument.

In some ways, this aspect has won many people over to the side of faith. I have heard said, several times, that "the universe and pain just does not make rational sense without God". And I guess that is true.

A Matter of Ineffeciency

There is also the question of why such a big damned universe for such a small, earth-bound race whose bones and psychology prevent them for seeing more than a tiny little bit in person? And whose telescopes and cameras and x-ray reading satellites illuminate some but nevertheless fail to not all. Is it just for a sense of mystery? Is it just for something to look at at night. While you read this, there is a fair chance that a star like exploded somewhere*. Why in the crap would that be needed for our benefit? Surely a much cozier universe would have sufficed?

That's right, it's ineffable.

A Matter of "Horse Before the Cart"

Rather than continuing to be snarky and making puns and plays on words, let me just say what I think. I agree with those that say the universe seems to be made for us, because we were made out of it. That's it. We see certain colors that have a wide number of uses to our daily life because those colors had a wide number of users to our proto-human ancestors. We are built for this gravity, this temperature, this moisture level and more because we were "built" in this gravity, tempeature, moisture level and more. We are amazed by how well the carbon cycle works because we are made out of the carbon cycle. We are alive, now, to stare at the miracle of the universe because the universe was already there and, frankly, it makes sense that those of us with a dreaming instinct would do better because we try and do more and our ancestors were more effecient conquerors in every sense of the word.

It is also really bad to ever look at a series of random events from the end and marvel at their complexity. Think about yourself. Think about your parents. Go back 2000 years, to about the time of Christ. Think about your ancestors at that time and what must have occurred for them to meet and breed and travel and meet others and breed and get the jobs that will enable them to keep building up. And the same with their children and their grandchildren and so on until your grandparents and your parents. Think of the stories how your granddad skipped work one day due to a headache and met your grandmom in the park. Think about how your dad went to war and met your mom as a nurse. Seems pretty much like a miracle, right?

This is because we are looking at it wrong. We are assuming that you are the necessary bit of information because the one doing the assuming is you. A universe without you is not contemplated by you, except as an act of egocentric thought modeling based on your own ideas of how much you are worth or you lack thereof.

Let's start with you, and think about how you met your wife. You met her in class one day at college. There were other girls that seemed to be "the one" before you met her. She was the quiet nerd in the back of the classroom. You almost didn't approach her until one day you figured "why not?" and asked her to a study date. She was dating another guy at the time, a highschool sweetheart that she was falling out of favor with. Sparks flew, and a couple of years later you are married and starting a family of your own. Now picture your kids going off and getting married, some with cute stories and some marrying a guy that got them pregnant after a night of drunken lust.

Your family expands. Your genetics are now down to 1/256th their original level. It has been 8 generations. Maybe 200-300 years, since you have passed on. The country you came from is gone, replaced by a similar country with similar laws but a different sort of feel to it. There have been great advances and great setbacks. Then it is suddenly 2000 years later, total, and there have been 80 generations, and your genetic contribution is only one part in the 1.2e24 bits of genetic code that have been contributed. That distant descedant of yours is mostly not you, mostly not affected by your decisions in life and the place you worked. Except for one vital thing, the choices you made set up a unique universe where they can possibly exist. Had the night of conception been off in any of that chain of 80 people that led to them, then they would be different. Maybe quantifiably the same, but different.

2000 years is a lot of chances and choices and makes for some unique outcomes, but this is not to say that your decendents were finely tuned to become who they did. This is just to say that had things been different, they would have been different. They will look back on you with semi-mythical terms, because their universe requires them just as yours requires you.In that way, the universe might be said to be "finely tuned", but only in the congnitive, personal universes, that we each are the center of. The universe as a whole, that reality that (to paraphrasing Philip K Dick) "is still there even when we stop believing in it", cares not one whit for us and our beautiful children and their beautiful children.

A way of thinking about it quicker than this involves a pack of cards. Take a pack of cards, shuffle it for a few seconds and then draw a card. Say you take 30 seconds per shuffle and draw. In 1560 seconds, which is 26 minutes, you can drawn and laid out all 52 cards of the deck. The chance of any given order of cards is 1 in 8.1e67. That is 8000 times a billion billion billion billion billion billion billion. A massive number. If you were to try and draw that same exact order, it would be miraculous.

But, from the point of beginning to end, it is a simple shuffle and draw operation. 1 in 52 you will draw a particular card. Not that big a deal, you see that card in every poker game you play. Then 1 in 51, even less of a big deal. Later, 1 in 20, a real simple deal. Even later, a 1 in 10 or 1 in 5. The outcome, though, is a number bigger than we can contemplate. Think about two decks of cards, possibly with 8 suits (for simpflication, just think of reversed color suits, so red spades and black spades) and it suddently gets even bigger. 1e166. That's like the first number, except 1000 times 9 more billions than before.

The whole point here is that it is easy to construct a working model of something that is simple when viewed in proper order but looks horribly complex when viewed from the (wrong) end.

That, more than anything, is I why I think we are fine-tuned (or at least rough-tuned) to the universe, not the other way around.

*: And in 12,000,000 years, that light will reach the Earth and the cockroach derived humanoids will wonder what their cockroach God is trying to say them about their plan to explore new continents.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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