The Anthropic Evangelical Alien
Thanks to Ross Raffin for this essay!
Perhaps the strangest line of reasoning I have heard to show the existence of God is the Anthropic, or fine-tuning, argument. Once I made the mistake of reading George Smith’s Atheism: A Case Against God in public and within minutes was approached by a born-again. Before I could tell her that I wasn’t at all interested in debating the issue, she launched into natural theology. I respect metaphysical faith in God, but these attempts at giving evidence for a metaphysical concept simply depress me.
In A Brief History of Time Stephen Hawkings accurately noted that if many variables, such as the charge of an electron, were slightly different after the big bang, we could not possibly exist. He goes on to say that this possibly is an act of God. It seems that apologetics stop reading at this point. He goes on to define why God is not necessary.
Necessity is a key word in natural theology. In the cosmological, intelligent design, and nearly every other argument for God, there is the equivocation of possibility for necessity. The fact that it is possible that God did something is not evidence that God did something. The fine-tuning argument falls prey to a more familiar apologetic fallacy, circular reasoning.
Assume, for the moment, that somehow the variables of the big bang were altered slightly, not in way that would re-collapse the universe but would simply make life in our galaxy impossible. On some other planet in some other galaxy, over billions of years a sentient species of aliens arise. Using the logic of the fine-tuning argument, those aliens could easily say “our god exists because if the universe had been slightly different, we wouldn’t exist.”
This hopefully makes the fallacy clear. The fine-tuning argument only works if one assumes humans are the goal, and not by-product, of the universe. The apologetic says “if variables were different humans wouldn’t exist.” I nod my head, waiting for them to make an actual point.
The only way to argue that humans are the teleological goal of the universe is to presume a teleological force behind it i.e. God. If God is not presupposed, then the “fine-tuning” argument makes no sense. The very name of the argument “fine-tuning” betrays this problem. Fine-tuning for what? How would the universe tune for anything unless it had a goal in mind?
The Enlightenment wounded the beast, but the killing blow has yet to land...