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The teleological argument is aimed at proving the existence of God by establishing links between the features of natural objects and living creatures and the possibility of intelligent design. The credibility of the fine-tuning principle, the most recent argument in favor of intelligent design, presents an important research problem as it allows defining whether science and religion can finally co-exist peacefully. This essay argues that the objections to the fine-tuning argument are not extremely successful.
Exposition: The Argument from Fine-Tuning and Objections to It
The most recent version of the teleological argument, which is quite successful, is the argument from fine-tuning. As the central idea of fine-tuning suggests, life in the universe can develop only when the basic physical constants take on very specific values (Halvorson, 2018). Considering that, even slight changes involving the constants would be almost likely to nullify the universe’s ability to produce matter and provide conditions for the emergence of life.
Unlike many philosophical claims, the described version of the teleological argument uses scientific truths that are widely supported with facts. Despite the extensive use of scientific evidence and the ability to make peace between religion and science, the argument from fine-tuning is criticized with attention to the anthropic principle. According to this objection, the existence of fine-tuning is not something improbable, and it follows from the fact of people’s existence (Collins, 1999). The objection states that the observation that humanity exists is claimed to support the fine-tuning argument (Hawthorne & Isaacs, 2018). At the same time, as it states, we could never observe the non-emergence of life, which makes the initial argument limited.
The next counter-argument introduces the alternative forms of life to disprove the argument. The critics of the fine-tuning argument state that if the fundamental physical constants were different, there would be non-carbon-based life (Collins, 1999; Hawthorne & Isaacs, 2018). To place it in other words, life would take a different form to adjust to specific physical conditions instead of having zero chance to emerge.
Another objection aimed to expose the argument’s weaknesses involves the centuries-long problem of God’s creatures. The objection claims that God, the alleged creator of the most wonderful thing such as the universe, should be structured even more wonderfully than his best creation and designed by a more powerful creature (Collins, 1999). As is clear from the counterargument, God, as the most difficult creature to understand, is often claimed to be a being that did not need a designer to emerge. If so, it is illogical to think that the universe, which is much simpler than God, could not come into existence without contributions made by an intelligent creator.
The so-called multiverse objection to the discussed argument is based on the idea of the omniverse or the presence of hypothetical universes that are incalculable. This cosmological term refers to the possible existence of alternative universes, each of which has its unique physical conditions and constants that are different from the ones we know today (Azadegan, 2019). If people were able to analyze all of them, it would be entirely possible to find one or more universes with alternative physical constants and physical conditions permitting the existence of life.
Although all four objections are supposed to point to the weak sides of the fine-tuning argument, not all of them do it with the same degree of success. At first sight, the objection based on the anthropic principles seems to sound reasonable. However, questions arise when it comes to the very first claim – the observation that humanity exists as evidence to support the argument from fine-tuning.
According to Hawthorne and Isaacs (2018), this objection misinterprets the argument when claiming the fact of our existence to be the basic evidence. Instead, the argument is supported by the claim that life is possible only under extremely specific conditions (Collins, 1999). Therefore, the objection would be regarded as much more sound if it was aimed at disproving the intelligent design arguments coming from the premise that life exists.
The objection linked to the alternative forms of life poses an interesting question but, just like the previous objection, adds entirely new details to the fine-tuning argument. It draws from the idea that the proponents of the argument do not allow for the existence of non-carbon life, which is also a misinterpretation of the initial argument from fine-tuning. As Collins (1999) states, researchers who support the argument do not commonly negate the opportunities for other forms of life to exist. Instead, the proponents of the fine-tuning argument regard “some degree of stable, reproducible organized complexity” as the basic prerequisite to the emergence of life (Collins, 1999, p. 8).
Therefore, the people who use fine-tuning to prove God’s existence do not deny the possibility of non-carbon life. They just give pride of place to physical characteristics that limit some chemical substances’ ability to produce intelligent life.
The third objection linked to the need for God’s creator also has specific flaws linked to the interpretation of the main argument and the premise. As is clear from the objection, the claim that God exists makes the argument even more complex by involving the need to explain who created God. On the one hand, the claim sounds quite reasonable as any action that takes place is a consequence of something, and God’s emergence should not be an exception from the rule. On the other hand, those supporting the idea of God do not claim this creature to have appeared from nothing and in a defining moment of time. Rather than that, God is often referred to as the only being that has existed forever (Hawthorne & Isaacs, 2018).
Another potential weakness of the objection is that the creator does not always have to be much more complex than the creation. Technically, a creator can make something new by adding small and new details to the work that has been completed by others. Therefore, the objection related to complexity and the creator of God has certain weaknesses making it less successful.
The multiverse counter-argument is probably the least effective objection on the list. First of all, the so-called “this universe reply” is possible in this case (Azadegan, 2019, p. 2). Thus, the concept of the omniverse explains why some hypothetic universes can sustain life but fail to elucidate why life actually exists in our universe, which reduces its ability to undermine the argument from fine-tuning. Another weakness that should be mentioned is that the objection implements a range of new physical concepts instead of extrapolating from what is actually known. It provides its proponents with an opportunity to manipulate the concepts in any way and explain any objections with reference to knowledge gaps and the unapprehensiveness of the multiverse.
To sum up, the four objections to the most successful version of the argument from design are different in terms of success and have their own flaws. The most common problems with the objections include the misinterpretation of the fine-tuning argument and failure to recognize the characteristics that are commonly ascribed to God. Moreover, some counter-arguments use too many unknown variables instead of extrapolations from the existing scientific knowledge.
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Azadegan, E. (2019). Evil in the fine-tuned world. The Heythrop Journal, 1-10. Web.
Collins, R. (1999). The fine-tuning design argument. Web.
Halvorson, H. (2018). A theological critique of the fine-tuning argument. In M. A. Benton, J. Hawthorne, & D. Rabinowitz (Eds.), Knowledge, belief, and god: New insights in religious epistemology (pp. 122-135). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Hawthorne, J., & Isaacs, Y. (2018). Fine-tuning fine-tuning. In M. A. Benton, J. Hawthorne, & D. Rabinowitz (Eds.), Knowledge, belief, and god: New insights in religious epistemology (pp. 136-168). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.