Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Honors Thesis on Fine-Tuning



Recently my focus has shifted to analyzing arguments on a much deeper level. The first product of this new level of searching is my Honors Thesis on the Fine-Tuning Argument. To transform this into blog format, I have made a few very minor edits (including the very-exciting alternate title). If you have a bit of time, I hope you will enjoy reading. -JTS



A Biologist’s Perspective on the Fine-Tuning of the Universe for the Origin of Life, with an Emphasis on the Scholarly Conversation Between Dr. Victor J. Stenger and Dr. Luke A. Barnes

OR

Tearing the Mask off Nature to Look at the Face of God


OR

Breaking the 4th Wall... of Space...


by

Joshua O. Willms

AN HONORS THESIS

for the

UNIVERSITY HONORS COLLEGE


Submitted to the
University Honors College
at Texas Tech University in
partial fulfillment of the
requirement for
the degree designation of


HIGHEST HONORS

MAY 2014


ABSTRACT
Over the past one hundred years, physicists and cosmologists have begun to notice that if certain fundamental characteristics of our universe had been anything other than what they are, life in our universe could not exist. Examples of these characteristics, called “parameters,” include the gravitational constant, the cosmological constant, Planck’s constant, and the speed of light. The general consensus of the scientific community is that these parameters are finely tuned for life, meaning that miniscule variations in the parameters would have rendered the universe unable to support life. There is significant debate, however, on the interpretation of this information. Dr. Victor Stenger and postdoctoral fellow Luke A. Barnes have engaged in the most modern and scientifically informed version of this conversation. In this work, I will provide a biologist’s perspective on a topic largely dominated by physicists. I argue that the target for fine tuning is not our kind of life specifically, but rather abiogenesis. In addition, due to the Normalization Problem, it is impossible to quantify fine-tuning. I conclude that our universe is qualitatively fine-tuned.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to thank Marjean, James, Aimee, Alex, Brandon, Lori, Scott, the Texas Tech University Honors College, and Micah.

~For Neil~
Thank you for helping me develop an open mind for an honest search.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

ABSRACT...................................................................................................................... ii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS........................................................................................... iii
TABLE OF CONTENTS............................................................................................... iv
LIST OF FIGURES........................................................................................................ v
LIST OF TABLES......................................................................................................... vi
INTRODUCTION TO FINE-TUNING......................................................................... Purpose........................................................................................................................... 6
Defining Life.................................................................................................................. 8
CHAPTER 1:  Summary of the Debate between Stenger and Barnes........................... 10
Dr. Stenger’s Arguments................................................................................................ 10 
Dr. Barnes’ Arguments................................................................................................... 13
CHAPTER 2:  Counter to The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning.................................................. 16
Section 1: Arguments which increase the area of parameter space............................... 19
Section 2: Arguments which decrease the total area of parameter space...................... 23
Section 3: Arguments which decrease the number of dimensions in parameter space.. 25
CHAPTER 3:  Counter to Popular Objections to Fine-Tuning...................................... 30
Fine-Tuning vs. Intelligent Design (Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson)..................................... 30
The Multiverse (Dr. Brian Greene)................................................................................ 33
Cosmic Natural Selection (Dr. Lawrence Krauss)......................................................... 37
CHAPTER 4:  The Normalization Problem................................................................... 38
CHAPTER 5:  Conclusions............................................................................................ 39
BIBLIOGRAPHY........................................................................................................... 42


LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1: A graphical representation of parameter space............................................... 4


LIST OF TABLES

Figure 1: The list of physical and cosmological parameters used by Barnes................ 6

Figure 2: Stenger’s Summary of his Arguments (Fallacy 293)................................... 17

Figure 3: The Analogy of 15 Lotteries........................................................................ 18

Figure 4: Ways to Refute Fine-Tuning......................................................................... 19

Figure 5: Explanation of the normalization problem utilizing the lottery analogy...... 41



Introduction to Fine-Tuning
Over the past one hundred years, physicists and cosmologists have begun to notice that if certain fundamental characteristics of our universe had been varied in their numerical value, the evolution of life in our universe would have been impossible. Examples of these characteristics, called parameters, include the gravitational constant, the cosmological constant, Planck’s constant, and the speed of light. The general consensus of the scientific community at this point is that these parameters are finely tuned (FT) for life (Barnes 7), meaning that miniscule variations in the parameters would have rendered the universe unable to support the evolution of any kind of life.
In 2011, Dr. Victor Stenger, of the University of Colorado, published The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us, which I will hereafter refer to as Fallacy. In this work, Dr. Stenger attempts to refute the idea that the universe has been fine-tuned for life without relying upon the multiverse (the most common objection to FT). Shortly after publishing Fallacy, postdoctoral fellow Luke A. Barnes, of the University of Sydney, published a critical review of Stenger’s work, The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life in favor of FT. Stenger has responded to Barnes in Defending the Fallacy of Fine-Tuning, which I will hereafter refer to as Defending Fallacy, submitted to the online archive arXiv in January of 2012. Two of Stenger’s primary objections to Barnes’ work were that Stenger was targeting a popular audience, not a scholarly one, and that the two were merely interpreting the same information in different ways. This micro-conversation between Stenger and Barnes is the most modern and scientifically informed version of a debate that has been raging for the past one hundred years.
For the purposes of this discussion, I will adopt the definition of FT used by Barnes in his review paper “The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life.”
FT: In the set of possible physics, the subset that permit the evolution of life is very small.
Within Barnes’ definition, the word ‘physics’ refers to “the laws of nature, initial conditions, and physical constants of a particular universe” (2). I will further refine this definition to include the true target of FT, an origin event.
FT: Out of the set of possible physics, the subset that permit at least one origin of life per universe is very small.
The reasoning of FT can be used with reference to our universe even though other universes and physics have not been observed. Consider the following analogy: if I buy a single ticket, I will almost certainly fail to win the lottery. If I do win, my success can reasonably be explained by blind chance due to the large number of lottery tickets that are bought in each game of the lottery. If the odds of winning the lottery are one in ten million, and ten million people buy lottery tickets, there is no surprise if someone wins. However, in the case of our universe, only one ticket has been bought. If only one person bought a lottery ticket, and won, it would be more reasonable to assume that the game was rigged than that a solitary ticket was the one in ten million.
Additionally, if fifteen separate games of the lottery are played, and a single individual buys a single ticket in each game (no other individuals buy tickets), the odds become unimaginably unlikely that this individual will win every game. If the individual did win every game, it would be more reasonable to assume that the games were rigged than to assume that this person won purely by chance.
To phrase this analogy in terms of Barnes’ definition of FT: Out of the set of possible lottery tickets, the subset of tickets which will allow a single individual to win fifteen separate games after buying one ticket for each game is vanishingly small.
The obvious solution to the huge improbability of a single person winning the lottery fifteen times is for that person to buy an immense number of tickets. If there existed many universes, the sum total of which would form a universe-ensemble, or multiverse, then the apparent FT of our universe becomes easily explained (assuming that the number of universes is great and that parameters vary from universe to universe). Due to the lack of empirical evidence for the multiverse and string theory (string theory, if true, may imply a multiverse), I will refrain from addressing the multiverse as a viable counter to FT in this document (Greene). In addition, Stenger refrains from utilizing the multiverse as an argument in Fallacy.
            Stenger explains the basic idea of FT in The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning. He does so by postulating a universe with two parameters, P1 and P2, and mapping their possible values in a corresponding parameter space. The following diagram is an adaptation from his original figure.

Figure 1: A graphical representation of parameter space.
In this example universe, P1 and P2 could take on values ranging from positive to negative infinity, meaning that there is no limit upon the range of values for P1 and P2. The light blue rectangle represents all of parameter space for P1 and P2. The dark blue section of the rectangle represents the region of parameter space which will allow for some kind of life. The green dot inside of the life-permitting region represents the region of parameter space corresponding to the values they have in our universe. According to Stenger, “In the fine-tuning view, there is no wedge and the point has infinitesimal area, so the probability of finding life is zero… Now, it would seem that the probability is also zero when the parameter space is unlimited and A1 is infinite. However, in that case, the wedge area A2 is also infinite. The probability can then be estimated by just taking the ratio of areas in the quadrant. Even a probability of a few percent undermines the fine-tuning hypothesis, which rests on probability numbers more like 1 in 10^120” (Fallacy 71). While Stenger gives no justification for his statement, “a probability of a few percent undermines the fine-tuning hypothesis,” and it is simply false that the fine-tuning view holds that the point has infinitesimal area, his explanation of FT in general in nonetheless useful.
            When examining FT parameters, we can add extra dimensions to formulate an n-dimension ‘wedge’ to compare with the surrounding parameter space. In this way, the range of potential values for gravity, the speed of light, the inflation rate of the universe, Planck’s constant, and any other parameters being examined each represent a single dimension in an n-dimension parameter space. The entirely of this area constitutes the specific region of parameter space which will allow for the evolution of life.
Barnes utilizes the following table (Table 1) from Burgess and Moore as a template for the “fundamental and derived physical and cosmological parameters” (5).

Table 1: The list of physical and cosmological parameters used by Barnes in The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life, which is taken from Burgess & Morre (2006). Each value is a candidate for FT, although only a select few will be addressed in this document.
 
In this discussion, I will focus my attention on four of these parameters: the speed of light, the gravitational constant, Planck’s constant, and the Cosmological constant. I will not attempt, as do most FT proponents, to demonstrate that the odds of the universe being FT for at least one origin of life are astronomically low. Instead, I will only seek to demonstrate whether or not the chances of the universe being FT for at least one origin event should be categorized as “likely” or “unlikely.”
Purpose
The purpose of this Honors thesis is to engage popular and scientific arguments for and against FT in order to develop the most up-to-date picture of whether or not our universe is FT. First, I will provide a critical review of the scholarly conversation between Dr. Victor Stenger and Dr. Luke Barnes (Stenger is against FT, Barnes is for it). Second, I will engage several popular responses to Fine Tuning from popular physicists Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, and Lawrence Krauss. Third, I will examine what I believe to be the only true counter to FT, the Normalization Problem, which makes it impossible to quantify FT. Fourth, I will respond to the Normalization Problem by relying on the insight of philosopher Alvin Plantinga. And finally, I will come to a conclusion concerning whether or not our universe is FT for life based upon our best current understanding of physics.   
In Stenger’s response to The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life, he cites the difference in audience as one of the main points of contention between himself and Barnes.
Postdoctoral fellow Luke Barnes has written a lengthy, highly technical review of the scientific literature concerning the fine-tuning problem titled ‘The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life’. The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning did not address the scientific literature. Barnes’ paper is written for experts in the field, who were not my intended audience and with whom I have no significant scientific disagreements (Defending Fallacy 2).
Because Barnes responded to Stenger at the scholarly level, an appropriate review of Stenger’s work has not been generated for the purpose of public understanding. This thesis will provide a critical review of the works of Stenger and Barnes on the topic of FT on the level Stenger chose for his target audience.
             Finally, a topic of paramount importance for the debate on FT which has been discussed by neither Stenger nor Barnes is the origin of life. Both have correctly recognized that FT applies to the evolution of life rather than to the existence of life in general. This insight increases the flexibility of parameters, because the parameters need not be FT for our kind of life specifically, but for the evolution of any kind of life. I will refine this line of thinking even further by establishing that an origin of life event (abiogenesis) is the key point of interest. Origin events are less understood than evolution in general, but we can infer that the flexibility of parameters will once again be increased. The specific targets of FT are origin events, which will subsequently be followed by periods of evolution.
Defining Life
To understand FT, it is essential to understand the area of parameter space in which we are interested. We don’t know how hard it is to hit a target unless we know how large the target is; therefore, we need to define life as it will be discussed in this debate. Due to the broad diversity of life on our planet alone, it is excruciatingly difficult to provide an accurate definition for life that will apply to all organisms. Instead of nailing down an exact definition, it is more helpful to create of list of properties which generally distinguish between the animate and the inanimate. Campbell and Reece suggest the following emergent properties for life: order, evolutionary adaptation, response to the environment, regulation, energy processing, growth, development, and reproduction. I would add a final property common to all life: information. While these guiding principles certainly are useful in most cases, the line between life and non-life greys when one considers the existence of entities such as viruses and prions, both of which express a limited number of the properties of life. While the intuition to recognize living organisms is deeply engrained within all of us, it is essential for the purposes of this thesis to determine what life is, so that the factors necessary for the origin of life can be identified.
For the purposes of the FT debate, life includes, but is not limited to, every type of organism that has ever inhabited earth. I say “but is not limited to,” because had starting conditions or environmental changes which drove evolution all along the way varied, different organisms would have been generated via natural selection. Abiogenesis could have taken place with radically different results as well. Thus, any list of living organisms must include the caveat that alternative organisms could have been generated, and should be included within our definition of life.
 Assuming that a single entity (living, not living, or somewhere in between) that existed on Earth some 3.4 billion years ago is the common ancestor of every living organism ever to have existed on planet earth, life can be defined in terms of genealogy. Every descendent of the common ancestor which has been produced is considered “life.” As with the previous definition, differential starting points and environmental forces driving evolution could have been present, which would have altered the identity of the living organisms.
For the purposes of this thesis, I will use the definition of genealogy. This is because the “target” of FT is abiogenesis, as opposed to one particular form of life (i.e., salamanders). Evolution allows for flexibility in form, but evolution cannot take place unless a prime common ancestor arises.

Chapter 1: Summary of the Debate between Stenger and Barnes
            Dr. Stenger begins Fallacy by introducing readers to the culture of conversation surrounding FT, including a brief discussion of non-overlapping magisterium, natural theology, Darwinism, and intelligent design (ID). Next, he includes a brief background section on the history of FT, the anthropic principle, scientific modeling, the nature of space-time, and the meaning of parameters as they pertain to FT. At this point, he introduces his first argument on the speed of light, c. Stenger argues that c cannot be FT because its value can take on any value scientists prefer by changing the units. Using the same basic principle, Stenger attempts to demonstrate the arbitrary nature of Planck’s constant and the gravitation constant. Because Barnes chooses not to address the issue of the speed of light in detail, an in-depth discussion of Dr. Stenger’s argument concerning c will be included in the next section.
            While Fallacy is directed towards a popular audience, a significant level of understanding concerning physics and cosmology is essential for grasping Stenger’s arguments. For the purpose of simplification and communication, I will break down Stenger’s arguments into five sections, labeled S1-S5. In response to Fallacy, Dr. Luke A. Barnes wrote The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life, a document designed to refute Dr. Stenger’s contention that our universe does not display FT. I will outline Barnes’ responses to each of Stenger’s arguments with labels B1-B5. After Dr. Barnes published The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life, Dr. Stenger uploaded a short counter response to B1-B5.
Dr. Stenger’s Arguments
S1: Point-of-View Invariance (PoVI)
According to Dr. Stenger, “The models of physics cannot depend on the point of view of the observer” (Defending Fallacy 5). This means that in order to describe reality, physicists choose not to develop models which will only apply to the universe if a specific point of view is adopted. As an example, consider a meteor falling straight towards the surface of the earth. If a person on earth observes the meteor, she will conclude that it is moving at a certain velocity towards earth. If, on the other hand, this person happens to be sky-diving in the same direction and with the same speed as the meteor, the meteor will appear to be motionless. To describe the motion of the meteor relative to the observer is not useful for describing the true nature of the situation. It is far better to describe the meteor using a model that is PoVI.
Dr. Stenger states that the necessity of the models of physics being PoVI allows us to derive “all of classical physics, including classical mechanics, Newton’s law of gravity, and Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism” (Fallacy 88). Dr. Stenger uses this statement to argue that PoVI is fundamental to certain parameters, making it impossible for them to be FT. These parameters quite simply could not be anything other than what they are, otherwise they would cease to be PoVI.
S2: The Nature of Gravity
According to Dr. Stenger, the force of gravity is a fictitious force, just like centrifugal and Coriolis forces. This is because gravity will ‘disappear’ depending on the frame of reference of the observer. Consider an astronaut inside of a shuttle orbiting earth. From the point of view of the astronaut, there is no gravity, and there is no way to know what point of view is the correct one to have. Further, according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, there is no gravitational force. The planets orbiting the sun, for example, are not attracted to the sun ‘pulling’ them—instead masses distort the shape of space and orbiting planets are actually moving straight in a curved space. Stenger’s final argument is that “[P]hysicists have to put gravity into any model of the universe that contains separate masses. A universe with separated masses and no gravity would violate point-of-view invariance” (Fallacy 80).
S3: Entropy
The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system never decreases. If we take the entire universe to be an isolated system, then our universe will always be traveling in the direction of thermodynamic equilibrium, or heat death. Dr. Stenger brings up a potential exception to this rule by pointing out that “black holes have an entropy equal to a quarter of their event horizons” (Fallacy 111). In the case of black holes, the gravitational force allows for a volume of space to have “maximal entropy and still contain very low entropy as compared to the visible universe” (Defending Fallacy 7).  The implication of this argument is that the entire universe, which started out as a singularity, could begin with maximal entropy and contain low entropy arrangements.
S4: Stellar Nucleosynthesis
One characteristic of any universe that has the ability to allow for origin events to take place is the existence of heavy elements. In our physics, heavy element formation takes place via fusion in the super-hot furnaces of supernovas. The extreme pressure and heat levels inside of stars ignite fusion reactions with hydrogen and helium atoms, causing them to join together in various combinations to form the elements making up our periodic table. Dr. Stenger and Dr. Barnes are primarily concerned with carbon and oxygen, elements which are especially conducive to the evolution of life.
According to Dr. Stenger, “[A] good case can be made that no fine-tuning was necessary to produce sufficient carbon for life by way of stellar nucleosynthesis… [C]osmologies are possible in which all the elements are produced primordially in a cold big bang with no need for the Hoyle resonance or any stellar nucleosynthesis” (Fallacy 172-173). Basically, Dr. Stenger is attempting to show that there are multiple regions of parameter space which will allow for heavily elements to be generated, even if the process differs from the stellar fusion that takes place in our universe.
S5: Expansion Rate of the Universe
The expansion rate of the universe is often claimed to be FT for origin events. Dr. Stenger quotes a passage from Dr. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time to propose an alternate solution: “The rate of expansion of the universe would automatically become very close to the critical rate determined by the energy density of the universe. This could then explain why the rate of expansion is still so close to the critical rate, without having to assume that the initial rate of expansion of the universe was very carefully chosen” (Defending Fallacy 8). In other words, the expansion rate of the universe could not have been anything other than what it is because of limitations imposed by inflationary theory.
Dr. Barnes’ Arguments
B1: Point-of-View Invariance
Dr. Barnes responds to Dr. Stenger’s contentions concerning PoVI by reformulating Dr. Stenger’s argument:
LN1. If our formulation of the laws of nature is to be objective, it must be PoVI.
LN2. Invariance implies conserved quantities (Noether’s theorem).
LN3. Thus, ‘when our models do not depend on a particular point or direction in space or a particular moment in time, then those models must necessarily contain the quantities linear momentum, angular momentum, and energy, all of which are conserved. Physicists have no choice in the matter, or else their models will be subjective, that is, will give uselessly different results for every different point of view. And so the conservation principles are not laws built into the universe or handed down by deity to govern the behavior of matter. They are principles governing the behavior of physicists’” (Fallacy 82).
Dr. Barnes then points out that the meaning of the word “invariant” has changed within Dr. Stenger’s line of reasoning, resulting in an error of equivocation. While physicists certainly need to formulate models that exhibit PoVI, they also need to use scientific equipment to take measurements and develop physics. It takes more than the knowledge that physics must appear the same from every point of view to determine the strength of gravity or the rate of expansion of the universe.
B2: The Nature of Gravity
Dr. Barnes responds to Dr. Stenger’s argument that gravity is fictitious by first pointing out that universes with separate masses can exist without a gravitational force: “Special relativity is perfectly able to preserve invariance between reference frames accelerating with respect to one another. Physicists clearly don’t have to put gravity into any model of the universe that contains separate masses” (12). The easiest way to demonstrate this point is to set G = 0 for our universe. Dr. Barnes points out that if we set the gravitational force equal to zero, while this would radically change our universe, we would still have a universe.
Although gravity as a phenomenon may not be what we typically consider it to be on a day-to-day basis, the quality of attractiveness between masses exists in some way in our universe. The explanation for this—either that masses attract one another or that masses curve space—does not change the fact that ‘gravity’ exists and could have been something other than what it is. More specifically, in the case that gravity is just an extension of space being warped, then the degree to which space is warped by a certain amount of mass displays FT.
B3: Entropy
Dr. Barnes responds to Dr. Stenger’s argument concerning the entropy of the universe by pointing out that there is no reason to apply reasoning which is valid concerning black holes and apply it to the entirety of our universe: “Applying the Bekenstein limit to a cosmological spacetime is not nearly as straightforward as Stenger implies. The Bekenstein limit applies to the event horizon of a black hole. The Hubble radius… is not any kind of horizon… There is no causal limit associated with the Hubble radius as information and particles can pass both ways” (24). Without a logical connection between the event horizon of black holes and the radius of the universe, there is no reason to assume that the universe could have simultaneously maximal and low entropy.
B4: Stellar Nucleosynthesis
Dr. Barnes counters by pointing out that stellar fusion is absolutely necessary for the generation of carbon and oxygen, and that it is particularly notable that stars in our universe can produce both, as opposed to just one or the other. Dr. Stenger notes that other parameters could be adjusted to allow for additional scenarios in which heavy elements could be synthesized. In response to this Dr. Barnes points out that any value for G that is equal to or below zero cannot result in a universe which is FT: “A logarithmic axis, by placing G = 0 at negative infinity, puts an infinitely large region of parameter space outside of the life-permitting region. Stable stars would then require infinite fine-tuning” (40). By opening up more parameter space to allow for more life-permitting regions, Dr. Stenger has inadvertently opened up even more parameter space which does not allow for origin events to take place.
B5: Expansion Rate of the Universe
In response to Dr. Stenger’s argument that the expansion rate of the universe is not FT because it is caused by inflation, Dr. Barnes points out that the physics underlying inflation becomes the target of FT. If inflation took place during the early stages of our universe, Barnes points out that an inflation field must exist, start to expand, last a sufficient length of time, come to an end in the correct way, and set up the right density perturbations. If the expansion rate is not FT because inflation dictates the expansion rate, then inflation itself if FT. Explaining away one parameter by introducing another does not change the proportion of parameter space which will allow for origin events to take place.
Chapter 2: Counter to The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning
In this section, I will respond to Stenger at a popular level, the level that Fallacy was intended for. Because Stenger has emphasized that critics of his work misrepresent and misunderstand his arguments, I will quote heavily from his work to ensure accurate representation. 
In the final conclusion of Fallacy, Stenger lists ten errors made by proponents of FT. I have included the entire list for the sake of accuracy (Table 2). Each point represents a possible way in which FT could be called into question.

I will categorize Stenger’s contentions into the following categories: A) arguments which increase the area of parameter space that allows for life, B) arguments which decrease the total area of parameter space, and C) arguments which decrease the number of dimensions in parameter space. It is important to classify the arguments in this way, because each class will be responded to with specific types of arguments.
            Recall the analogy of winning the lottery. For the purposes of ensuring accurate communication, I will now meticulously expand upon this analogy so that it may be used as a platform from which to examine every category of argument Stenger presents.

In our discussion of FT, the thought process used in my analogy applies, not the specific numbers. In addition, in FT it is possible for the rules of the game to change. In order for the apparent FT of our universe to be refuted by Stenger, he must demonstrate one of the following things: there are more universes (additional ticket purchases), there is greater flexibility concerning which parameter values will allow for origin events than is currently accepted (allowing a range of winning numbers for each slot instead of allowing only one), there is a smaller area of total parameter space (playing games of ‘5-from-49’ or ‘4-from-49’), or there are fewer parameters which must be FT (decreasing the number of games that Georges plays).
Keep in mind that in reality, there is a range of values for parameters within our universe (the analogy breaks down when Georges picks a single number for a slot- the analogy would be improved by allowing Georges to select a range of numbers). FT proponents simply claim that this area within parameter space is extremely small compared to the entirety of parameter space.
In Fallacy, Stenger touches upon each of these possibilities, except for increasing the number of universes.
Section 1: Arguments which increase the area of parameter space that allows for life (Stenger’s 1, 5, and 8)
            According to Stenger, proponents of FT “make fine-tuning claims based on the parameters of our universe and our form of life, ignoring the possibility of other life-forms” (Fallacy 293). While this may have been the case forty years ago, no serious proponent of FT will attempt to defend such a view today. If any do, I disagree with them as much as Stenger. Because of the plasticity of life, especially in light of evolutionary processes, it is far better to examine the FT of the universe for origin events.
            Targeting origin events, as opposed to our earthly form of life, certainly does increase the parameter space that allows for life. In this respect, I am in agreement with Dr. Stenger. However, as Professor Richard Dawkins has stated, “however many ways there may be of being alive, it is certain that there are vastly more ways of being dead, or rather not alive” (Blind Watchmaker 9). Origin events require heavy elements, the most important of which is carbon. While silicon certainly is another possibility, it is not nearly as suitable for the requirements of life as carbon is. Additionally, silicon has more than twice the number of protons than carbon does, making it far more unlikely to be generated from solar fusion in any universe. A third possibility would be germanium, but because germanium has more protons than does Iron, we would be even less likely to suspect that germanium could be used as a backbone for organic molecules.
            Even if we allow for origin events which utilize silicon and germanium, there will be far more origin events that occur via carbon based molecules. This is not because of anthropic bias. It is simply because carbon is a far superior element when it comes to making stable chains with multiple locations for the attachment and interaction of secondary elements.
            Because the relevant parameters of FT target properties of the universe that are “all or nothing,” allowing for any type of origin event makes almost no difference in our overall probability. If a universe is made of only hydrogen and helium, no origin events can take place. Additionally, it would be impossible for an origin event to take place inside of a black hole. While there may be numerous other forms of life that are possible, acknowledging these possibilities are so negligible as to be irrelevant for the FT discussion.
            One of Stenger’s viable arguments comes from his fifth Final Conclusion. He states that there is a wide range of values for the energy level of an excited nucleus of carbon. This is an excellent argument against FT because it contains every requirement. He targets a property of the universe that is essential for the origin of any form of life (the generation of carbon via solar fusion), and sufficiently demonstrates that the area of parameter space for the energy level of an excited nucleus of carbon could take on many vales, as opposed to a few. This effectively increases the ratio of life permitting area to the total area of parameter space, making it solidly reasonable to assume that carbon could be found in a sufficiently large number of universes in which stars can form.
            Keep in mind that while Stenger has decreased the overall strength of FT with this information, it by no means refutes the entire argument. He has reduced the surprise that a reasonable observer would have at the generation of carbon within our universe within the set of possible universes, nothing more.
            One of the most serious mistakes Stenger makes is the following statement: “They make a serious analytical mistake in always taking all the parameters in the universe to be fixed and varying only one at a time. This fails to account for the fact that a change in one parameter can be compensated for by a change in another, opening up more parameter space for a viable universe” (Fallacy 294). Stenger’s argument at this point is multiply errant.
            First, it is quite simply not a serious analytical mistake to always take every parameter to be fixed and vary one at a time. To the contrary, until we have the ability to generate or observe other universes, one of the best ways to get a picture of what alternate universes are like is to hold everything else constant and vary one parameter at a time. This is the approach taken in every field of science when accurate information is being gathered with regards to nature. Multiple parameters certainly should be taken into account at the same time whenever possible, but we can and do gain meaningful information by varying one at a time on a regular basis.
In an experiment of mine done in 2013, I examined the effects of pH and hypoxia on a species of fish, Atlantic croaker.  Note that in my experiment, two parameters were being examined, as opposed to one. Instead of utilizing just two groups—a single control group and a single treatment group (in which both pH and dissolved oxygen concentration would be lowered), we utilized three treatment groups in addition to a control. The three treatment groups were aligned as follows: Group A with lowered pH only, Group B with lowered dO only, and Group C with both parameters only.
The degree of acidity (pH) and dissolved oxygen concentration certainly do have an effect on one another, but examining one at a time is not only helpful for running the experiment, but essential for conducting good science. In most experiments, a single variable is changed, data are collected, and conclusions are drawn. This is one of the most fundamental assumptions made by scientists.
Keep in mind that both ocean acidity and hypoxia separately have a negative effect on the well-being of Atlantic croaker. If both separately have a negative effect, we would not think that placing Atlantic croaker in an environment that is both acidic and hypoxic would somehow have the opposite effect. While it certainly is important to examine parameters in concert, it is safe to say that in general, when one parameter moves quickly away from a life permitting zone, it is better to assume that the entirety of parameter space does not reverse directions just outside of the reach of our scientific instruments. Even if it did, what we would say right now is that FT appears to be valid based off of our best current understanding of the universe. Setting an organism on fire and throwing it off a cliff, as opposed to setting it on fire alone or throwing it off a cliff alone, will rarely have a positive influence on the life expectancy of the organism.
The second problem with Stenger’s statement is that it directly works against him. Can certain parameters vary to make up for others? Absolutely! But if we allow for the addition of an entirely new parameter, the odds against FT due to chance are greatly magnified. Remember the analogy of 15 lotteries. Adding an extra parameter to compensate for the non-life-permitting range of another is the same as saying that Georges must now play two games of the lottery in which he has a slightly better chance of winning each, as opposed to playing a single game of the lottery. Even if George’s odds within the two lotteries is decent, his overall odds of winning both at the same time by buying a single ticket for each becomes drastically more unlikely than buying a single ticket for a single game.
When Stenger says, “the fact that a change in one parameter can be compensated for by a change in another, opening up more parameter space for a viable universe,” he is also opening up even more parameter space for non-viable universes. Stenger has made a completely accurate statement, which proves exactly the opposite of what he intended to demonstrate.
Section 2: Arguments which decrease the total area of parameter space (Stenger’s 3, 6, and 7)
            Stenger presents another valid argument with a fallacious interpretation by pointing out that “the ratio of electrons to protons, the expansion rate of the universe, and the mass density of the universe, [are] precisely set by cosmological physics” (Fallacy 293). In effect, Stenger is attempting to reduce the total area of parameter space with reference to the three parameters he lists.
            Consider the example of the ratio of electrons to protons. Within this example, if the ratio of electrons to protons had been even slightly increased or decreased, there would be catastrophic consequences for any universe. However, as physicists such as Lawrence Krauss have pointed out, if a universe were to be spontaneously generated out of nothing (and by nothing, he means a quantum vacuum), then one would expect for the overall charge to be zero. Just as particles and anti-particles would serve as positive and negative forms of matter, thereby allowing for the existence of matter without matter existing beforehand (5 plus -5 equals 0), so too would electrons and protons serve as a perfect counter to one another adding up to zero. This hypothesis creates a viable reason for the overall charge of the universe to be neutral.
            Even if the idea that entire universes could be generated from a quantum vacuum were to be theoretically accepted by physicists, or had at least been observed to take place, the assumption of FT remains that the ratio of electrons to protons could have been different. If universes with alternate ratios are instantaneously annihilated, or fail to emerge from the quantum vacuum, this simply makes them even less viable for origin events.
In addition, assuming that universes can come from nothing is the same as assuming the multiverse hypothesis, which Stenger claims to be expelling from the current conversation.
The sixth Final Conclusion of Stenger makes a similar mistake: “they claim fine-tuning for the masses of elementary particles, when the ranges of these masses are set by well-established physics and are sufficiently constrained to give some form of life” (Fallacy 293).
Stenger’s misconception is that parameters set by well-established physics are allowed to vary within parameter space. We are simply asking the question, if the ranges of the masses of elementary particles were something other than what we observe, would the universe allow for origin events? It is quite obvious that the values for the mass of elementary particles, as well as a good number of other things such as the speed of light, Planck’s constant, and the cosmological constant, all have values which we can expect based off of the physics of our universe.
Stenger again attempts to decrease the total area of parameter space by pointing out that constants vary with energy, rather than varying independently from universe to universe. This even more fundamental characteristic of our physics, the way in which parameters change at varying energy levels, is merely a parameter itself within our physics. Any time a parameter is ‘explained away’ by a more fundamental principle which dictates its characteristics, it is the more fundamental principle which becomes the subject of FT. If every parameter in our physics was due to a single fundamental entity, such as strings (from String Theory), then each parameter would still be inherent within the fundamental entity. Thus, providing explanations for the origins of parameters does not decrease the total area of parameter space.
Section 3: Arguments which decrease the number of dimensions in parameter space (Stenger’s 2, 3, 6, and 7)
            Stenger’s second Final Conclusion states: “They claim fine-tuning for physics constants, such as c, h, and G, whose values are arbitrary” (Fallacy 293). Because Stenger spends the most time explaining why the speed of light, c, is arbitrary, and refers back to his reasoning concerning the speed of light when claiming that h and G are arbitrary, I will respond at length to his argument concerning c.
Because Stenger does not truly make an argument, I cannot summarize his claims with regards to c. Instead, I will quote extensively from Fallacy so that readers can try to spot Stenger’s argument.
How do we measure space and time? Well, we try to measure them as accurately as possible. For example, according to Dr. Stenger, "In 1960, the meter was defined as 1,650,763.73 wavelengths in a vacuum of the electromagnetic radiation that results from the transition between the 2p10 and 5d5 energy levels of the Krypton-86 atom," and "In 1967, the second was defined as 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the Cesium-133 atom” (Fallacy 55). For anyone who is not familiar with the physics involved in these statements, these are extremely accurate methods for measuring distance and time.
Now then, remember the "c" from E=mc^2 (Einstein's equation)? This "c" represents the speed of light in a vacuum. In his special theory of relativity, Einstein makes the claim that c is a universal constant. This claim has been overwhelmingly supported.
In the Standard (SI) system of units, the distance between two points in space is measured in meters. Until 1983, the meter was defined independently of the second. In that year, by international agreement, it was mandated that the meter would be defined as the distance between two points when the time it takes light to go between the points in a vacuum is 1/299,792,458 second. That is, the speed of light in a vacuum is c = 299,792,458 meters per second by definition. (Fallacy 55-58) (italics Stenger's, underlining mine)
Stenger’s definition of light, which is certainly an excellent one, has several interesting implications. By this definition, we measure not only time on clocks, but distance as well. A meter is the distance traveled by light in a given amount of time. According to Dr. Stenger, this means that "The quantity c cannot be fine-tuned. It is fixed by definition" (Fallacy 56).
In the case of light (which has no mass), "no matter how fast you are moving with respect to the source of the light you are measuring, you will get exactly 299,792,458 meters per second" (Fallacy 56). Thanks to Einstein, we now know that space and time are not independent of one another. We don't just have three dimensions of space with time as a separate, independent entity- we have four dimensions (three of space and one of time).
Finally, Stenger points out that it is possible to set the speed of light to 1 so that the units for distance will be the same as the units for time. Changing the units to make c equal 1 is extremely useful for physicists, because "Setting c = 1 gets rid of a lot of c's in equations, not only making them simpler but helping to emphasize that the value of c has no fundamental role in physics" (Fallacy 57).
Dr. Stenger’s final word on the speed of light, which is fundamental to his arguments pertaining to the gravitational constant and Planck’s constant concerns the definition of the speed of light.
As we have seen above, c is by definition 299,792,458 meters per second or one light-year per year. While light moves at this speed in a vacuum, c is fundamentally the speed beyond which a physical body cannot be accelerated according to Einstein's theory of special relativity. But its value is arbitrary. As we have seen, according to the current operational definitions of time and distance, the meter is defined as the distance light goes between two points in space in 1/299,792,458 second (Fallacy 59-60).
The failure of Dr. Stenger’s argument at this point is that it proves too much. Consider what happens if I argue that a door is FT for a person to walk under without bumper his head, and then apply Dr. Stenger’s argument. Let’s say a man that is one meter tall attempts to walk through a door that is two meters high—he won’t bump his head. If the same one meter tall man attempts to walk through a door that is half a meter high, he will bump his head. According to Dr. Stenger’s reasoning, the height of the door is arbitrary, because “according to the current operational definitions of time and distance, the meter is defined as the distance light goes between two points in space in 1/299,792,458 second” (Fallacy 60). However, the height of the door clearly is FT, because if the door is too short, the man simply will run into a physical barrier. What matters is not the units by which the speed of light is defined, but the dimensionless ratio between the height of the door and the height of the man. So too, in the case of the speed of light, what matters is not the units utilized, but the dimensionless ratio between the values in question. Simply put, holding everything else in the universe constant, the “speed beyond which a physical body cannot be accelerated” (Fallacy 59) could be different. Even if c could not change, the distances between stars and planets could.
Even if it were impossible for the speed of light to be anything other than what it is in our universe in a way meaningful for the FT discussion, then space could be stretched or the rate at which times flows could be altered. In this way, even if light obtains its value from some other, more fundamental property of our physics, it is simply this new property as opposed to the speed of light which is FT.
The same reasoning holds true for G and h (which is why I respond to Dr. Stenger’s reasoning regarding c, even though I do not think that c is FT—see explanation below). These parameters which have been measured by physicists may not be exactly what we think them to be, but they are nonetheless properties of our universe which can be measured and have significance for whether or not life can exist. Stenger claims that gravity is a fictitious force due to reference frames, and can vanish just like the centripetal force. Gravity has been described through relativity as distortions in space-time that are generated by mass. In this view, objects such as planets orbiting a star are not pulled off of the course by a force, but travel in a straight line along a geodesic through a curved space.
Even this explanation, however, is not sufficient to truly understand gravity. This fact is irrelevant for FT, because what we experience with regards to the expansion of the universe and the way in which we orbit the sun are properties of gravity, whatever gravity actually is. Gravity could be stronger, and it could be weaker, and if it were either our universe would not be one that would allow for origin events. To conclude, Stenger has failed to reduce the number of dimensions in parameter space by labeling c, G, and h as arbitrary.
It is important to note that c is not actually FT, but for reasons not mentioned by Stenger. I chose to refute his reasoning concerning c because he utilizes it to refute G and h. Now, I will demonstrate why c actually does not display FT.
C is a solar system level parameter. Historically, it was considered to be FT because if c were faster, earth would be too hot for our form of life. If c were slower, earth would be too cold for our form of life. Because there are many solar systems throughout the universe, however, it is quite possible for there to be planets which are the correct distance from the stars they orbit for, say, water to be in its liquid form. Additionally, origin events could take place at temperatures significantly hotter and colder than the specific temperature present for our origin event. In short, the scenario with c is analogous to buying billions of lottery tickets—no one is surprised that the player won the jackpot. I defended the FT of c so that G and h could be demonstrated to be relevant, as opposed to arbitrary.
Chapter 3: Counter to Objections to Fine-Tuning from Tyson, Greene, and Krauss
In this section three common objections to FT found in the popular realm will be addressed, for while these arguments may not be as reasonably sound as the arguments of Dr. Stenger and Dr. Barnes, they are widespread and commonly used. Because one of the primary goals of this thesis is to inform educated laypeople on FT, popular-level arguments are within the scope of this document.
Fine Tuning vs. Intelligent Design
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is an award winning astrophysicist with a PhD from Columbia University. He is currently the director of the Hayden Planetarium. In 2008 he gave a short presentation on the science network entitled “STUPID Design,” in which he advocates a common, popular-level response to FT.
Dr. Tyson’s primary argument is that our universe is not ideal for life. In support of this claim, Dr. Tyson states, “Most planet orbits are unstable, star formation is completely inefficient. Most places in the universe will kill life instantly—instantly. People say oh the forces of nature are just right for life—just look at the volume of the universe where you can’t live. [Almost anywhere in the universe] you will die instantly! That’s not what I call the garden of Eden” (Tyson). Even within the small percentage of the universe in which life can survive, Dr. Tyson argues, there are a plethora of hazards and dangers which result in regular mortality. Dr. Tyson illustrates his point with the following list of threats to life:
·         Earth will inevitably come close enough to a supernova for it to wipe out our ozone layer to be wiped out, killing everyone on the surface.
·         Our universe is on a one-way track to heat death (thermodynamic equilibrium).
·         Earth is subject to natural disasters such as tsunamis and volcanoes.
·         A huge amount of time is necessary for multicellular life (as it exists on earth) to develop (in the way that it developed on earth).
·         Carbon monoxide gas is dangerous, and we cannot see or smell it, resulting in a certain number of people dying each year.
To summarize, Dr. Tyson argues that because the majority of our universe is not habitable for life, and that the habitable regions of our universe are often tedious for survival, that therefore the universe is not FT.
I contend that Dr. Tyson’s objection is invalid because he confuses two distinct subjects, FT and Intelligent Design (ID). Dr. Tyson’s argument relies on evidence which can appropriately be applied to ID against FT, which is a separate topic. Had Dr. Tyson limited his presentation to ID alone, his argument would have been sound.
            The most appropriate definition of FT, as stated before, is that out of the possible physics, the subset of physics that allows for origin events to take place is small. ID, on the other hand, is commonly thought of using the watchmaker principle. If someone were to find a watch on the side of the road, they would notice the intricacies of the watch and deduce that an intelligent entity had made the watch for a specific purpose, as opposed to the pieces of the watch happening to fall together by chance. A final topic which Dr. Tyson brings up is the idea of ‘Ideal Design,’ meaning that the universe is ideal for life.
            Tyson argues against ID by pointing out the lack of intelligence present in the ‘design’, and does so robustly with his examples of ‘unintelligent design.’ These examples, however, have nothing to do with whether or not our universe is FT. Compare a universe made up of only hydrogen and helium to our universe, complete with natural disasters on earth and rare-but-inevitable supernovas which will affect earth. Examined from this point of view, problems such as volcanoes and the length of time it can take for life to evolve are seen as slight inconveniences as opposed to insurmountable problems. Keep in mind that without supernovas, the heavy elements which make up life would not exist. A tsunami-ridden planet in a universe containing carbon and oxygen is far more habitable than a universe comprised entirely of a black hole. Taken from this perspective, one could even argue based off of FT that our universe actually is ID, flawed as our planet may be.
            The numerous ‘imperfections’ found on earth and in our universe with regards to the existence of life leads us to our next subject—ideal design. While our universe does allow for the existence of life, Dr. Tyson argues, it certainly could be improved upon. A higher percentage of planets could maintain conditions conducive for evolution, fewer asteroids could hit our planet causing mass extinctions, more oxygen could exist on earth before cyanobacteria generated it over millions of years allowing for a swifter development of eukaryotic life forms. Basically, because our universe is far less than ideal for our kind of life in particular, it is not FT.
            This argument simply misrepresents FT. While it is certainly interesting that life cannot survive in the vast majority of our universe, matters of ideal proportion of viable living space at any particular point in history and the length of time required for humans to evolve are subjective and anthropically biased. Cyanobacteria were quite happy living for millions of years in their hypoxic environments, and FT targets cyanobacteria just as much as it targets humans, fungus, and completely different forms of life which could have evolved in radically different environments (as in, completely different planets).
            Star formation in our universe may very well be inefficient, as Dr. Tyson points out, but this is quite irrelevant. What matters is that stars in our universe produce heavy elements (carbon and oxygen in particular), and that in most physics this is not the case. Dr. Tyson succeeds in pointing out that natural disasters, earthly and cosmic, cause problems for life. All life carries anatomical baggage from an evolutionarily imperfect past. Our universe certainly is not ideal for life. As to whether or not our universe is ID is outside the scope of this document, and is irrelevant to the FT. Even with hurricanes, tornadoes, the inevitable explosion of our sun, and the fact that a vanishingly small percentage of our universe is habitable, when compared to most universes, ours truly is a veritable Eden.
The Multiverse
While Dr. Stenger rightly excludes the existence of the multiverse from his attack on FT due to a current lack of empirical evidence, his is one of the few who rightly does so. However, the idea of a multiverse has entrenched itself so broadly and completely in the public impression of science by masquerading as a theory on par with gravity or the big bang, that it simply must be addressed.
            In February of 2012, Dr. Brian Greene, a professor at Columbia University and a proponent of superstring theory, gave a TED Talk entitled “Brian Greene: Is our universe the only universe?” Dr. Greene’s talk covers the scientific history behind string theory, the mystery of why our universe has the amount of dark energy that is has (if the amount changed slightly life could not exist), the multiverse as a solution to the mystery, and one potential way in which other universes could be observed.
            String theory is a potential candidate for the holy grail of modern science: a unified theory of physics. If string theory is an accurate description of our universe, then all particles are made up of strings vibrating at various frequencies. The characteristics of the particles are dictated by the frequencies at which the strings vibrate. Dr. Greene notes one potential problem with string theory—in order for the math to work out additional dimensions are required. These dimensions are unobservable to us because they are folded down on a miniscule level. String theory would be extremely informative because “particle masses, the strengths of forces, and most importantly, the amount of dark energy would be determined by the shape of the extra dimensions” (Greene).
            Unfortunately, there is another serious problem for string theory. As Dr. Greene points out, we don’t know the shape of the extra dimensions. Because we cannot observe strings, we must rely on mathematical possibility to determine the shape of the dimensions. Thus far, there are 10 to the 500 candidates for the shapes of the dimensions. “[In the face of these numbers] some researchers lost heart, concluding that with so many candidate shapes for the extra dimensions, each giving rise to different physical features, string theory would never make definitive, testable predictions” (Greene). However, scientists such as Dr. Greene decided to make an attempt at saving the theory by rephrasing the question.
[I]f there are other universes, and if those universes each have, say, a different shape for the extra dimensions, then the physical features of each universe will be different, and in particular, the amount of dark energy in each universe will be different. Which means that the mystery of explaining the amount of dark energy we've now measured would take on a wholly different character. In this context, the laws of physics can't explain one number for the dark energy because there isn't just one number, there are many numbers. Which means we have been asking the wrong question. It's that the right question to ask is, why do we humans find ourselves in a universe with a particular amount of dark energy we've measured instead of any of the other possibilities that are out there? (Greene)
Instead of wondering why the amount of dark energy is FT for life, we ought to take a different perspective. Life evolved in this universe because it was the one out of the many that happened to have the right physics to allow for at least one origin event to take place. In the lottery analogy referred to earlier in this work, utilizing the multiverse as an explanation is equivalent to buying a huge number of lottery tickets. Further, if there exists a universe with strings corresponding to every potential shape for the extra dimensions, then a lottery ticket has been bought for every possible combination of numbers.
At this point, Dr. Greene begins to point out some of the problems with utilizing the multiverse as an explanation, “so far I've only speculated on the possibility that there might be other universes. So to pull it all together, we need a mechanism that can actually generate other universes... [and] such a mechanism has been found by cosmologists trying to understand the Big Bang” (Greene). Dr. Greene then explains that physicists have discovered a fuel related to quantum fields which is “so efficient that it's virtually impossible to use it all up, which means in the inflationary theory, the Big Bang giving rise to our universe is likely not a one-time event” (Greene). According to Dr. Greene, the inexhaustible nature of this fuel implies that multiple universes would be generated—possibly a number with a magnitude sufficient to erase the probability against a universe having just the right physics for life.
I will respond to Dr. Greene’s arguments concerning the multiverse by sharing a few additional quotes from the end of Dr. Greene’s presentation.
·         “And this is the compelling but highly controversial picture of the wider cosmos that cutting-edge observation and theory have now led us to seriously consider” (Greene).
·         “One big remaining question, of course, is, could we ever confirm the existence of other universes? Well let me describe one way that might one day happen” (Greene).
·         “And so exotic as this picture is, it may one day be grounded in observations, establishing the existence of other universes” (Greene).
Note that Dr. Greene does not say “cutting-edge observation and theory have now led us to accept,” “Let me describe one way that this has already happened,” or “[string theory and the multiverse] is currently grounded in observations. According to one of the most eminent proponents of string theory, the best we can do right now is hope to test string theory in the future. The ‘just so explanations’ concerning the fundamental building blocks of our universe and potential implications for other universes are fine, but they don’t mean anything unless we have testable hypotheses. Possible explanations are not empirical data.
            One day evidence for the multiverse may exist, and when that time comes it must be incorporated into the conversation on FT. If that time comes, however, the multiverse is not a home-run argument against FT. In order for the multiverse to provide a viable counter to FT, it must at least meet the following requirements:
·         The multiverse needs to be comprised of an immense number of universes.
·         Physics must differ from universe to universe.
·         Physics within the multiverse must account for all regions of parameter space.
·         The multiverse itself must not be FT.
If we currently knew something about the multiverse, answers to these questions could potentially be formulated. There is a reason that Dr. Stenger chose not to utilize the multiverse as a counter to FT. Because we currently do not know if a multiverse exists, nor do we know whether or not the multiverse itself would need to be FT, no conclusions should be drawn concerning FT with reference to the multiverse at this point.
Cosmic Natural Selection
A final popular argument against FT is advocated by Dr. Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and director of Arizona State University's Origins Project. Dr. Krauss argues that any argument in favor of FT falls subject to the error of Anthropic Mania. “IF there are many different universes, and the energy of empty space can vary in each one, then only those in which it is not much greater than what we measure will galaxies form… and only then will stars and planets for, and only then astronomers… So, the universe is the way it is because astronomers are here to measure it” (Krauss). The idea is that astronomers will only exist in universes in which astronomers could exist.
            I will respond to this in two ways. The first is to point out that Dr. Krauss was right to capitalize the “IF” at the beginning of the quote. The argument assumes a multiverse, which was responded to in the previous section. The second is to quote Dr. Krauss’ colleague, Dr. Richard Dawkins: “The philosopher John Leslie expresses his dissatisfaction with it by imagining a man facing a firing squad—there are 10 men in the firing squad, they all aim their rifles at him, the rifles go off and he finds himself still alive, and so he says to himself ‘well, obviously the rifles all missed because otherwise I wouldn’t be here,’ but that leaves unexplained why the rifles all missed. We need an explanation for why they all missed” (Applying Evolution). In the absence of a multiverse, in particular, a scientific mind would want to search for an answer to the mystery of FT.
The Normalization Problem
            The most basic assumption of the FT argument is that parameters could take on values other than what they have in our universe. Basically, physics could be different. The primary question raised by this assumption is “how much can the parameters change?” If there is a limit on the range, determining the degree of FT is a simple matter of calculating the percentage of parameter space that allows for life. It is here that the assumption that parameters can change backfires on the FT argument. Once the parameters are allowed to change at all, there is no physical reason to set a limit on the range. For example, the range of parameter space for G would be (-∞, ∞). Nothing stops G from being infinitely attractive or infinitely repulsive in the set of possible physics. Because of this, it is impossible to calculate the percentage of parameter space that allows for life. Infinite parameter spaces by their nature defy Bayesian statistics, which is what all probability arguments are based on. Because of this, it is impossible to determine (using traditional methods) the degree to which our universe is FT.
However, philosopher Alvin Plantinga of the University of Notre Dame points out the shortcomings of the normalization problem in his book “Where the Conflict Really Lies,” utilizing a simple thought experiment. To explain his argument, I will utilize a similar, although not identical, thought experiment.
Consider a massive constellation in the night sky that spelled: “Hello, humans, a super-intellect engineered your universe.” This message, written in the stars, would need to be a specific distance away from earth in order for humans to read it. If it were too close, the angle would change, making it difficult to impossible to read the message. If it were too far, the stars would be too dim, making it impossible for us to see the message. In this hypothetical situation, the range of distance from earth to the constellation extends from zero to infinity, in the same way that parameter space extends infinitely for G, h, or c. But does this mean that the distance from us to the hypothetical constellation is not suspiciously accurate? Clearly it does not. While it is mathematically impossible to describe the degree to which the distance from earth to the constellation is FT, it nonetheless seems to be the case that if such a constellation were to exist in the night sky, a reasonable individual would have difficulty arguing that the constellation is meaningless.
It is important to note that the specific words, language, and anthropic bias of the constellation in this hypothetical scenario are irrelevant to the argument. What matters is that the distance from earth to the constellation needs to be within a specific range in order for the message to be readable.
Conclusions
            Stenger’s attempts to refute FT through increasing the area of parameter space that allows for life fail, because the area of parameter space that does not allow for life is much larger. Stenger’s arguments which decrease the total area of parameter space fail, because the base-line assumption of FT is that physics could be different than it is in our universe. Stenger’s attempts to refute FT by decreasing the number of dimensions in parameter space fail, because G, h, and c are not arbitrary. However, c is not a parameter which is capable of being FT because it is a solar system level parameter.
            Tyson’s argument that the universe is not FT because the vast majority of the universe is inhabitable simply confused FT with Ideal Design. The FT argument states that is the physics in our universe were slightly altered, no origin events could take place. In our universe, origin events are possible. Therefore, whether or not a high percentage of our planet, the solar system, or the entire universe is habitable is simply irrelevant.
            Appeals to the multiverse to refute FT are not currently valid, because we simply do not have empirical evidence for the existence of a multiverse at the present time. If evidence supporting the existence of a multiverse is found, it would still be necessary to establish that parameters varied from universe to universe, a large number of universes exist, and the multiverse itself cannot be FT.
            The assentation of Krauss that FT is reduced to nothing but “Anthropic Mania” dodges the question of FT without addressing the argument. FT addresses the possibility for any type of abiogenesis, which includes life forms vastly different than humans. Krauss also assumes the multiverse exists in order to make his argument, something that Stenger rightly avoids (and which has already been addressed in this document).
            The normalization problem is the only true counter to FT at the present time. The normalization problem can be illustrated in terms of the lottery analogy is as follows:
The Normalization Problem is such a powerful counter, that it refutes any argument in favor of FT based on statistics or proportions. Because infinite parameter space defies statistical analysis, and the sample size N=1, we cannot utilize traditional scientific methods to examine FT. Due to the Normalization Problem, it is impossible to assign a degree of FT. However, Plantinga’s example shows that this is a limitation with Bayesian statistics; it does not necessarily mean that the universe is not FT. At this point, the subject of the FT of our universe for abiogenesis requires further study. It will require a creative approach to examine the evidence in order for quantitative conclusions to be reached. Based on Plantinga’s approach, we can, however, conclude that our universe is qualitatively FT. Because of the Normalization Problem, there is no lottery—there is only a message written in the stars.




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Greene, Brian R. "Is Our Universe the Only Universe?" TED2012. Terrace Theater, Long Beach. 28 Feb. 2012. Speech.
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