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Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenger

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How do you rate The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning by Victor J. Stenger?

1 star - poor, recommend against reading it
1
25%
2 stars - okay, fair
1
25%
3 stars - good, recommend it
2
50%
4 stars - excellent, amazing
0
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Total votes: 4

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Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenger

Post by Scott » October 31st, 2011, 11:04 pm

Please use this topic to discuss the November book of the month, The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning by Victor J. Stenger. If you have not read the book yet, I recommend you do read it before participating in this discussion.

What do you think of the book? Which ideas of Stenger's do find most agreeable? With which do you most disagree? Are there any quotes or short excerpts from the book you find especially noteworthy? How has reading the book affected your views regarding philosophy regarding the argument of 'fine-tuning' or cosmology in general?

I will be back later in the week to post my thoughts and join the discussion. I am still reading the book.
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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by pete1718 » November 3rd, 2011, 7:19 pm

I read extracts of Vic Stenger's book online but as I don't have a print copy could I make some brief intial comments on the treatment of the same argument in his earlier book 'Has Science Found God?' (see extract below). It seems a real transgression of the Occam's Razor rule to draw the conclusion that the link between the possibility of 'life' and the specific values of atomic and other constants implies the existence of some form of intelligent creator (whatever that might be). As Vic Stenger points out in the extract, 'it is pure speculation to suggest that no form of life other than our own is possible under all circumstances.' I find his final point very telling 'I do not dispute that life as we know it would not exist if any one of several of the constants of physics were just slightly different. Additionally, I cannot prove that some other form of life is feasible with a different set of constants. But anyone who insists that our form of life is the only one conceivable is making a claim based on no evidence and no theory.'

Extract from 'Has Science Found God?' by Vic Stenger

From what we now know, "life" is the label we assign to a material structure that
exhibits a certain set of qualities and characteristics when those structures have reached
a high level of complexity. With the physical laws and constants of our universe, heavy-12
element chemistry––not necessarily carbon-based––may be the only available platform
for life, although we can't be sure with only one form of life to study. In opening the
possibility of alternative universes with different laws and constants, we can hardly
even speculate on what other forms life might take. And, it is pure speculation to
suggest that no form of life other than our own is possible under all circumstances.
About the best we can do with existing knowledge is consider what the universe
might be like if it had the same basic physics equations but with different values of the
"constants" that go into those equations. We can use those same equations to calculate
various properties that the universe might have under those conditions.

If we limit ourselves to life based on chemistry, then one obvious property that a
universe with life must possess is a long lifetime for stars to allow life to evolve from
whatever elements may be present in the interstellar medium. In appendix B, I present
the equation for the minimum lifetime of the heavier class of stars that end their lives as
supernovae. (The Sun is not in this class, being less massive and longer-lived). Other
than arbitrary constants that simply define the units one is using, this minimum lifetime
depends on just three parameters: the strength of the electromagnetic force, a, the
mass of the proton, mp, and the mass of the electron, me. The relative strength of the
gravitational force is reflected in the mass of the proton.

I find that long lifetime stars that could make life more likely will occur over a
wide range of these parameters. For example, if we take the electron and proton
masses to be equal to their values in our universe, an electromagnetic force strength
having any value greater than its value in our universe will give a stellar lifetime of
more than 680 million years. The strong interaction strength does not enter into this
calculation. If we had an electron mass 100,000 time lower, the proton mass could be as
much as 1,000 times lower to achieve the same minimum stellar lifetime. This is hardly
fine tuning.

Of course, many more constants are needed to fill in the details of our universe.
And our universe might have had different physical laws. We have little idea what
those laws might be; all we know are the laws we have. Still, varying the constants that
go into our familiar equations will give many universes that do not look a bit like ours.
The gross properties of our universe are determined by these four constants, and we
can vary them to see what a universe might grossly look like with different values of
these constants.

I have examined the distribution of stellar lifetimes for 100 simulated universes in
which the values of the four parameters were generated randomly from a range five
orders of magnitude above to five orders of magnitude below their values in our
universe, that is, over a total range of ten orders of magnitude.While a few are low,
most are high enough to allow time for stellar evolution and heavy element
nucleosynthesis. Over half the universes have stars that live at least a billion years. Long
stellar lifetime is not the only requirement for life, but it certainly is not an unusual
property of universes.

I do not dispute that life as we know it would not exist if any one of several of the
constants of physics were just slightly different. Additionally, I cannot prove that some
other form of life is feasible with a different set of constants. But anyone who insists
that our form of life is the only one conceivable is making a claim based on no evidence
and no theory.

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by A Poster He or I » November 20th, 2011, 10:38 pm

Stenger's book introduces us to the claims of popular Christian writers--some of them also well-vetted scientists--that the mathematical parameters of the current theories of both particle physics and cosmology demonstrate values perfectly tuned for generating life and that if these values were even slightly different, life in our universe would not be possible. The point being, of course, that such an array of values for the most fundamental parameters of the physical universe cannot possibly be by sheer chance; they must be the handiwork of an intelligent designer who has "fine-tuned" these parameters expressly to support the rise of life.

The function of Stenger's book, then, is to demonstrate the complete fallacy of these writers' position. Rather than do this in a general way, he takes on every single one of the parameters appearing in these writers' arguments and systematically demonstrates--both verbally and via explicit mathematics--why each paramenter is NOT fine-tuned at all. As a secondary task, he demonstrates how these Christian writers have had to make their point by abusing science via their explicit misrepresentation of theory, selective picking of data completely out of context, and in some cases their absurdly poor reasoning.

In short, I cannot recommend the book. It is too technical for a reader not versed in the basics of both cosmology and quantum theory. And for a reader like myself who does have a strong layman's interest in these fields and knows some basics, it is somewhat ineffective in making its point in any manner that goes beyond "preaching to the choir." It is certain to have almost no impact on those who believe in fine-tuning and so-called strong anthropic reasoning.

That is my view of the book as a whole. However, there are some points that it makes that are quite memorable and these are worth discussing.

1. The main theme underlying Stenger's position, implicit in most of his arguments, is not given clear voice until Chapter 15, which is unfortunate because everything he's presented up to that point would make clearer sense if it was stated up front. It really hits the nail on the head for me and is something that everyone who respects science should take to heart. (I've paraphrased the first sentence a bit to give Stenger's statement its correct context rather than the narrower context in which it actually ends up being stated):

The arbitrary values of nature's fundamental constants and the inherent uncertainties and/or contradictions of its best theories become an ontological problem only if we regard these as aspects of objective reality. In my view, the only rational interpretation of the quantities and theories of physics is instrumental. Space, time, and the other quantities of physics are human inventions defined operationally, by how we measure them.

2. Working from this viewpoint, Stenger spends the bulk of the book demonstrating how the 30 or so mathematical constants of nature, as well as several specific conclusions by standing physics theories, are NOT fine-tuned at all because they are in fact mere artifacts of the mathematics that generate them, and as such they are arbitrary. In this effort, he is fairly effective when he can be understood, which was not often enough for a layman like me.

3. My favorite part of the book was where Stenger makes clear to the reader why scientific theories have to work the same from any point-of-view taken by observational or experimental approach (what in physics is most broadly known as "gauge symmetry"). Stenger then uses this "point-of-view invariance" as he names it, to derive all of the standard theories of physics, one by one, showing how they take their form specifically from having to uphold the principle of point-of-view invariance. I have never encountered this in any book on physics before. It was startling, easy to understand, and very illuminating of Stenger's primary point that the mathematics per se of physics is arbitrary. I'd be very interested to know what other physicists think of this tactic.

4. Stenger is less effective, however, in driving home the point that because the parameters of physics are arbitrary, the universe is not fine tuned for generating/supporting life; rather life is fine-tuned for our particular universe. Stenger doesn't seem to feel it is his responsibility to demonstrate how the view that "life is fine-tuned to our universe" follows from his disproof of the universe being fine-tuned for life. This is a shortfall in my opinion.

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by Xris » November 25th, 2011, 2:55 pm

I have not read it and I do not intend to. I am aware of the argument and the conclusions this writer has come to. To ignore the fact that certain laws are finely tuned is not only ignorant but simply untrue. The argument against fine tuning depends on producing creationists who take the argument beyond what we observe and what fundamentalists use to support their GOD.This is using a false conclusion to ignore the evidence we have available. Because I see fine tuning I should not be parceled up with cranks who invent god like engineers.

It also invents a theory of multi universes where we are supposed to believe the laws of nature have been altered to either engineer alternative life or where no life exists. As we have not one shred of evidence for even one other universe where we could observe the alternatives this argument becomes more bizarre than any religious explaination. We need to find and observe at least a million universes and find not one other identical universe such as ours to believe it was mere chance . Mere chance to find the laws of nature suitable to create and maintain life over billions of years. Why should we ignore what is obvious, just because it may support the concept of a god like engineer capable of manipulating matter. There is no god described that can explain the reasoning behind existance but that should not stop us honestly questioning the evidence we are presented with. Why should nature change the laws ? Why ignore that the laws created life? Why ignore that life was determined by this universe? We have only one example, invented science and faith in a god are no different in my opinion. I would no more read this than read a book on the merits of witch craft. Sorry but the title does not suggest he is open to persuasion or argument.

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by A Poster He or I » November 26th, 2011, 12:59 pm

To ignore the fact that certain laws are finely tuned is not only ignorant but simply untrue.
In my utter presumption, I actually thought to read the book before drawing conclusions, so for those of similar presumption, Stenger presents a responsible argument that the position of ignorance lies with a belief in fine-tuning, not in a mere declaration of the opposite.
The argument against fine tuning depends on producing creationists who take the argument beyond what we observe and what fundamentalists use to support their GOD.
Stenger doesn't take on any creationists or fundamentalists. On the contrary, he confines himself to the current slate of Christian appologists--some of them well-respected scientists. Hardly fundamentalism.
It also invents a theory of multi universes where we are supposed to believe the laws of nature have been altered to either engineer alternative life or where no life exists.
In the book's preface, Stenger expressly states that he will be avoiding the multiverse argument, as he considers it unscientific.
Why ignore that the laws created life? Why ignore that life was determined by this universe? We have only one example, invented science and faith in a god are no different in my opinion.
Apparently, Stenger takes these very questions quite seriously. He spends more time in the book demonstrating how said laws are a human creation then he does refuting fine-tuning. Much of his point is that science is invented--from that, it follows that the Christian appologists are foolish by their own criteria to rely on it for their arguments.

(personally, I find appologetics a bit silly--the argument from faith seems so much more plausible given what's being claimed).

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by Xris » November 27th, 2011, 9:23 am

Sorry but you appear to be contradicting your previous appraisal of the book. He is either admitting fine tuning , denying it or claiming it is only fine tuned for this particular universe. What is it? You can not dispute what you accept and then accept what you now dispute.

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by A Poster He or I » November 27th, 2011, 1:37 pm

...you appear to be contradicting your previous appraisal of the book.
Not at all. In my first post, I stated that I do not recommend the book because it is too technical for casual readers not versed in quantum theory and contemporary cosmology. I stand by that assessment. My follow-up post was to clarify to potential readers that the statements you made either (1) do not apply to Stenger's presentation, or (2) are addressed by Stenger as part of his argument.
You can not dispute what you accept and then accept what you now dispute.
Agreed. I accept that Stenger's book is too technical and will not convince believers in fine-tuning to change their beliefs, so I do not recommend it to readers. What I dispute is that the diatribe you made against Stenger is an appropriate reflection of Stenger's argument. Does that clarify the situation?

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by Xris » November 27th, 2011, 4:12 pm

A Poster He or I wrote:
...you appear to be contradicting your previous appraisal of the book.
Not at all. In my first post, I stated that I do not recommend the book because it is too technical for casual readers not versed in quantum theory and contemporary cosmology. I stand by that assessment. My follow-up post was to clarify to potential readers that the statements you made either (1) do not apply to Stenger's presentation, or (2) are addressed by Stenger as part of his argument.
You can not dispute what you accept and then accept what you now dispute.
Agreed. I accept that Stenger's book is too technical and will not convince believers in fine-tuning to change their beliefs, so I do not recommend it to readers. What I dispute is that the diatribe you made against Stenger is an appropriate reflection of Stenger's argument. Does that clarify the situation?
Not really but thanks. I can not understand how any amount of evidence can be rejected on a point of belief.

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by A Poster He or I » November 27th, 2011, 4:19 pm

The evidence, no. The presentation thereof, yes. The book doesn't fulfill its function of presenting the evidence persuasively to an average reader.

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by Xris » November 27th, 2011, 4:54 pm

A Poster He or I wrote:The evidence, no. The presentation thereof, yes. The book doesn't fulfill its function of presenting the evidence persuasively to an average reader.
If fine tuning is not considered as evidence then I am at a loss what evidence would be considered. Circumstantial evidence when overwhelming has to be considered as worthy of consideration. If we ignore the foot prints and classify them as chance then it is not scientific its dogmatic stupidity.

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by A Poster He or I » November 27th, 2011, 7:17 pm

If fine tuning is not considered as evidence then I am at a loss what evidence would be considered.
Since it is fine-tuning itself that is under consideration, your statement constitutes begging the question.
Circumstantial evidence when overwhelming has to be considered as worthy of consideration.
Circumstantial evidence once suggested the world was flat. Broader perspectives prevailed upon consideration of new evidence. Stenger presents evidence that fine-tuning is anything but. Rejection of the hypothesis should be based on consideration of the evidence, not how offensive the hypothesis is to entrenched sensibilities.
If we ignore the foot prints and classify them as chance then it is not scientific its dogmatic stupidity.
Unless, of course, one can empirically demonstrate, as Stenger attempts to do, that they aren't footprints at all but rather artifacts of the very methodology used to "determine" that they are footprints. If such a demonstration is done reponsibly, then the dogmatic stupidity lies not with the demonstrator but with the person who rejects the demonstration out-of-hand before he has seen it.

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by Xris » November 29th, 2011, 8:41 am

I have not judged him but questioned your assessment. If the proof of fine tuning was the only objection rather than what we concluded, then that would be about belief not evidence. I believe the evidence is correct not any conclusion.

If those who thought the Earth was flat believed the circumstantial evidence then they had no valid reason to have their belief. It was simple fear of the unknown not logic that made them refuse to believe the evidence. It appears the same now when fine tuning is considered. Because the faithful use it to support their religous beliefs many atheist condemn the evidence for fear rather than simple reasoning. I have found it every time, if I support fine tuning I am instantly considered a theist with faith driven motives.

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by A Poster He or I » December 15th, 2011, 12:56 am

I'm afraid I find your last response rather incoherent. If you wish to restate it with greater respect toward what was actually being discussed, perhaps I can respond.

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by Xris » December 15th, 2011, 12:15 pm

A Poster He or I wrote:I'm afraid I find your last response rather incoherent. If you wish to restate it with greater respect toward what was actually being discussed, perhaps I can respond.
Not really. My reply is adequate.

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Re: Discuss "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor J. Stenge

Post by Xris » December 30th, 2011, 9:32 am

Stevecosta wrote:Victor J. Stenger’s latest book title, ‘The Fallacy Of Fine-Tuning’, makes more sense from its sub-title, ‘Why The Universe Is Not Designed For Us’. What that means is that Adam and Eve didn’t walk out of the Garden of Eden into a waiting Earth filled with all the animals we currently have around us
You do not have to be creationist to believe the universe is finely tuned for the possibility of life.

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