Friday, January 19, 2024

The Anthropic Teleological Argument for God's Existence

                                                                  (Holland, Michigan)
See Betty & Cordell, “The Anthropic Teleological Argument,” in Peterson et. al., Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings (4th edition)

The Anthropic Teleological Argument for God’s Existence

1. The Anthropic Principle

a. “If the universe were in fact different in any significant way from the way it is, we wouldn’t be here to wonder why it is the way it is.” (Betty & Cordell, 224)

2. We have a universe fine-tuned for our existence.

a. According to Cambridge University physicist Brandon Carter, “if the initial conditions at the Big Bang had been any different from what they were, life as we know it could not have evolved.” (Ib.)

b. Princeton physicist Robert Dicke “was specifically concerned to show that the Hubble constant, which governs the rate of expansion of the universe, could not have been much different from what it in fact is, or otherwise life could not have evolved.” (Ib., 224)

3. The question is: “How likely is it that our spectacularly complex, orderly universe should have arisen from the chance twitchings and interactions of these strings?” (Ib. Note: Superstring theory “is the theory of the universe, a ten-dimensional one, in which the fundamental building blocks of matter and energy aren’t infinitesimal points but infinitesimal strings.” (Ib., 223)

a. “It is no wonder that today a few scientists who are aware of the anthropic principle are asking the question, “Does this all mean that cosmology has come to the point of having to postulate a ‘Creator’?” The answer would seem, on first glance, to be Yes. For how else can we explain all these “coincidences”?” (Ib., 224-225)

4. Betty and Cordell use this example to illustrate.

a. “Imagine nine jars, each containing ten slips of paper with one number from 0 to 9, one number to a slip, with each number represented, placed side by side. Suppose now that a mechanical device drew at random one slip from each jar, and that the numbers drawn in sequence happened to correspond exactly to your nine-numbered Social Security Number. What are the chances of a random drawing giving such a result? They are exactly one in a billion. Now suppose, unlike a legitimate, genuinely random lottery drawing, there was no special reason dictating that the drawing had to be random, even though the mechanical device suggested randomness. If your number were drawn, would it not be far more reasonable to assume that the drawing was not random, that it was instead being superintended by some intelligence behind the scenes who was in some way invisibly manipulating the mechanical device? Would it not, in other words, be reasonable to conclude that the drawing was fixed – foxed in your favor?” (Ib., 225)

b. I think this analogy would be stronger if we added the idea that one’s life depended on your S.S. number being drawn. Since the odds of drawing any 9-digit number are one in a billion, it is not strange that a particular 9-digit number is drawn. I think John Leslie’s “firing squad analogy” works better here. If fifty sharp shooters all miss me, the response “if they had not missed me I wouldn’t be here to consider the fact” is not adequate. Instead, I would naturally conclude that there was some reason why they all missed, such as that they never really intended to kill me. Why would I conclude this? Because my continued existence would be very improbable under the hypothesis that they missed me by chance, but not improbable under the hypothesis that there was some reason why they missed me. Thus, by the prime principle of confirmation, my continued existence strongly confirms the latter hypothesis."

5. The argument, using inference to the best explanation

a. On the atheistic single-universe hypothesis the existence of the fine-tuning is very improbable.

b. On the theistic hypothesis the existence of the fine-tuning is not improbable.

c. Therefore the theistic hypothesis (God exists) is more probably than the atheistic single-universe hypothesis.

6. But what if multiple universes exist? For example, University of Texas physicist John Archibald Wheeler “reasoned that, given enough universes, it is not unlikely that one would come along which had the right ingredients for life, and our universe is it.” (Ib., 225) Betty and Cordell say Wheeler’s view found few supporters, “largely for the reason that such universes have never been observed and, moreover, are in principle unobservable.” (Ib.)

a. Betty and Cordell’s essay appeared in International Philosophical Quarterly 27, Dec. 1987. A lot of discussion has happened about this argument and multiverse theory since. Recently, e.g., Hawking and Mlodinow recited the amazing “coincidental” fine-tuning of our universe for life but posited multiverse theory to explain this (The Grand Design). For objections to multiverse theory as a solution to the anthropic coincidences see here.