Robin Collins

A Scientific Argument for the Existence of God

(We’ll call it the “fine-tuning” argument)



2.       Mars fully functional biosphere example

          a.       Go to Mars and find domed structure with things set just right for life

                    i.        Temperature 70, humidity 50%, oxygen recycling system, energy gathering system and system for production of food

          b.       Conclude that it was designed by some intelligent being

                    i.        Only plausible explanation for its existence

          c.       Idea that structure formed by some natural process is possible, but extremely unlikely

                    i.        Volcanic eruption formed the metals and they somehow separated out in just the right way.

          d.       Problem with the Mars fully functional biosphere example

                    i.        The domed structure suggests an artifact (the kind of thing made by humans with their technology–buildings, chairs, watches)

                    ii.       It would be crazy to think that this structure existed as a result of the forces of nature

                    iii.      But if we found another planet in another solar system that had flourishing life on it (but no constructed artifacts)

                    iv.      It is not at all clear that it would be crazy to think that it was formed by natural processes

                    v.       This criticism is limited to this specific analogy and it is not clear how it affects the wider argument that there must have been a designer of the universe because the fundamental constants need to be what they are for life to exist

3.       Universe like such a biosphere according to recent findings in physics

4.       Almost everything about basic structure of universe balanced on razor’s edge for life to occur

          a.       Fundamental laws and parameters of physics

          b.       Initial distribution of matter/energy

5.       W/o lucky accidents in physics, life as we know it would be impossible

          a.       Water could not exist as liquid

          b.       Chains of carbon atoms could not form complex organic molecules

6.       “Fine tuning of cosmos”: Extra ordinary balancing of parameters of physics and initial conditions of universe:

7.       Collins thinks it is the most persuasive current argument for the existence of God


8.       Examples of fine tuning (p. 75)

          a.       If the initial explosion of big bang had been different by only 1 out of 10 to the 60th (10 with 60 zeros), the universe would either have quickly collapsed into itself or expanded too rapidly for stars to form (and life would be impossible)

                    i.        Probability here is like shooting a bullet at a one inch target on the other side of the universe 20 billion light years away

          b.       A 5% difference in nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons together in atom would make life impossible

                    i.        Slightly smaller nuclear force and no atoms could exist except hydrogen and intelligent life forms can’t be made merely of hydrogen gas, not enough stable complexity

          c.       If gravity had been stronger or weaker by one over 10 to 40th, life sustaining stars like sun could not exist.

          d.       If neutrons were not 1.001 times the mass of protons, all protons would have decayed into neutrons (or vice versa) and life would be impossible

          e.       If electromagnetic force was slightly stronger or weaker, life would not be possible.


9.       Radio dial analogy

          a.       Each instance of fine tuning is like a radio dial and unless all dials are set exactly right, life would be impossible

          b.       That dials are perfectly set suggests that someone set them

10.     Dart board analogy

          a.       Board as big as the galaxy, conditions of life are one foot target, highly unlikely to hit the target by chance


11.     Number of fine tuned factors strengthen’s the argument

          a.       Each individual calculation of fine tuning are approximate and might be in error

          b.       But large number of independent instances of apparent fine tuning (perhaps 100)

          c.       Makes the fact of universe as fine-tuned for life almost beyond question

          d.       “Clues heaped upon clues constitute weighty evidence despite doubts about each element of the pile”

12.     Possible criticisms (each of which Collins addresses)

          a.       Physical constants might be necessary

                    i.        If these fundamental constants are such that there is no physical opportunity for them to be otherwise, then the argument loses its power

                    ii.       If they easily could have been different and it is really flukey that they are what they are, then the argument has much more power

          b.       If there are many, many universes, argument loses its power

          c.       Consider that if there had not been universe fine tuned to life, there would not have been intelligent life (like ourselves) to notice it

                    i.        (“Anthropic principle?”)



14.     Prime principle of confirmation

          a.       Something counts as evidence for one hypothesis rather than another when it is more probably true under one hypothesis than the other

          b.       The greater the difference in probability, the more it counts as evidence

15.     Examples of prime principle of confirmation

          a.       Find rocks in mountains arranged “Welcome to mountains”: More probable it is your brother than by chance.

          b.       Defendant’s fingerprints on murder weapon suggest he is the murderer rather than not


16.     Application of principle of confirmation:

          a.       The fact that our universe has these fine-tuned for life factors is much more probable under theism hypothesis than under the belief that our universe (with these necessary life-factors) is just an inexplicable brute fact (atheism) (p. 77)

          b.       Unless there are (or have been) huge numbers of other universes

          c.       For then, one of them is likely to be so fine tuned and we just happen to be in it (we can’t be in the others, because they don’t support intelligent life)

17.     Collins has different arguments against single and many-universe atheists

          a.       To avoid this objection, Collins first argues against the atheist who thinks there is only one universe one universe (ours) and has separate arguments for the “many-universe atheist”

18.     Definition of universe: Collins defines a universe in footnote 15

          a.       Any region of space-time disconnected from other regions so that different fundamental laws/parameters of physics apply there

          b.       Seems like this allows two different universes to exist at the same time or next to each other in space....?


19.     Core version of fine tuning argument

          a.       One: Existence of fine-tuning is not improbable under theism

                    i.        God is all good, and it is good for intelligent conscious beings to exist, not improbable that God would have created a world to support intelligent life

          b.       Two: Existence of fine tuning is very improbable under atheist single-universe hypothesis

                    i.        Like hitting a one foot target on a dartboard as big as the galaxy

                    ii.       See Collin’s appendix p. 84 ff.

          c.       Therefore, fine tuning data provide strong evidence in favor of design hypothesis over atheist single universe hypothesis


20.     Core argument not conclude or prove that universe was designed--or even that it is likely it was designed, for there might be other countervailing evidence

          a.       It just concludes/proves that fine-tuning supports design/theism much more that the atheist brute fact position

                    i.        There might be other types of evidence that count against design or count in favor of brute fact position.

          b.       Before one can justify the conclusion that universe was designed one must look at full range of evidence both for and against

          c.       Evidence of fine-tuning argument is like fingerprints on gun

                    i.        They provide strong evidence defendant committed murder, but one can’t conclude from that alone defendant is guilty

                    ii.       What if 10 reliable witnesses saw defendant at a party at time of shooting?

                    iii.      Fingerprints would still constitute significant evidence of guilt, but could be counterbalanced by other evidence (testimony of witnesses)

          d.       Evidence of fine tuning argument strongly supports theism over atheism single universe view, but does not show that, all things considered, that given all types of evidence, theism is most plausible explanation of the world.

          e.       What other types of evidence might count against God-designed universe?


21.     Objections and replies to core argument

22.     More fundamental law objection:

          a.       Could be that there is a more fundamental law that requires all the parameters of physics to have the values they do have

          b.       So these life-permitting values not improbable but necessary given this law

          Collins reply:

          c.       Pure speculation

          d.       Moves the improbability up one level

                    i.        Why out of all the possible fundamental laws do we have the one that requires values necessary for life?

                    ii.       E.g., Why did earthquake leave the rocks that said “welcome to the mountains?” because the rocks were arranged on the cliff in just such a way that when earthquake happened they fell to spell the welcome

                              (1)     But now the improbability is in the arrangement of the rocks on the cliff before the earthquake.

                              (2)     Just moves the improbability up one level


23.     Anthropic principle objection

          a.       If laws of nature not fine tuned, we would not be here to comment on this, so fine tuning not surprising or improbably, but follows from fact we exist

          Collins reply:

          b.       Firing squad analogy

                    i.        If 50 sharp shooters pointing their rifles at me all missed, it would not make sense for me to conclude that it happened by chance (that it was not improbable), since I would not be commenting on this fact unless they had missed

                              (1)     Make more sense to suppose they were not trying to kill me or some other non-chance hypothesis.


24.     Who designed God objection?

          a.       Postulating the existence of God does not solve the problem of design, but merely transfers it up on level

                    i.        If universe is wonderfully designed, surely God is even more so. If so, he must have a designer even more wonderful than He is.

                    ii.       If God did not require a designer, then there is no reason why such a relatively less wonderful thing as the universe needed one.

          Collins reply:

          b.       Reject assumption that designer of artifact must be more complex

                    i.        But Collins thinks the assumption has some plausibility

                              (1)     “In our world of experience organized complexity seems only to be produced by systems that already posses it, such as human brain/mind, factory, or organism’s biological parent”

                    ii.       Biological evolution seems a clear case of the more complex coming from the less complex

          c.       Collin’s own response is that he’s not arguing that all organized complexity needs an explanation and that God is the best explanation for the organized complexity found in our universe

                              (1)     He seems to believe the above objection works against this

                    ii.       Rather he’s just arguing theism is more probable than atheism, given fine tuning.


25.     Many-universe hypotheses as response to fine-tune argument for theism

          a.       Large #, perhaps infinite, # of universes with differing fundamental physical parameters

          b.       In vast majority of these universes, life-permitting values don’t exist, but in a few they do

          c.       So no longer improbable that universes such as ours exist.


          d.       Oscillating big bang theory version

                    i.        10-15 B years ago universe came into existence in an explosion

                    ii.       Our universe eventually will collapse back onto itself (big crunch) and from it will arise another big bang, forming new universe and so on

                    iii.      Parameters of physics are reset at random at the beginning

                    iv.      Collapse and explosion gone on from eternity, eventually a fine-tuned universe will like ours will occur (in fact, infinitely many of them will occur)


26.     Collins arguments against atheist many-universes hypotheses


27.     One: Prefer natural extrapolations, and many -universes assumption not a natural extrapolation

          a.       We should prefer explanations that are natural extrapolations from what we already know

          b.       We have seen mind produce fine-tuned devices (watches); postulating a super mind (god) to explain fine tuning is a natural extrapolation from our common experience

          c.       Not clear how the many-universe hypothesis is a natural extrapolation

28.     Two: Many-universe hypothesis only moves the problem of design up one level

          a.       A many-universe generator (like the big bang) would seem to need itself to be designed

                    i.        It would be governed by set of physical laws that allow it to produce universes

                    ii.       If these laws slightly different it would probably not be able to produce any universes that could sustain life

                    iii.      So it has fine tuning and we need to explain that?

                    iv.      If we posit infinite regeneration of fundamental laws/constants, then why must such a process be designed? It would happen over time by chance.

29.     Three: Many universe generator would have to not only select physical parameters, but also physical laws and it is not clear what physical mechanism could do this

          a.       W/o law of inertia (which guarantees that particles don’t shoot off at high speeds) could be no life, or without gravity (masses attract each other) there would be no planets or stars and hence no life

30.     Four: Many universe hypothesis can’t explain other design features of universe, like the extraordinary beauty, elegance, and harmony of the physical laws.

          a.       Much better explained by a deity

31.     Final (five): 2nd law of thermodynamics says disorder increases so the universe must of started out in a relatively ordered state and theism best explains this

          a.       Counts against both many universe and single universe atheist account

          b.       Not likely a whole universe would be ordered, but patches of universes might be

          c.       Collins thinks many-universes can’t explain this, but if there are infinitely many universes, then some initially ordered ones will occur (and we are one of those)

32.     Conclusion: Because of these problems with many universe hypothesis of atheists, atheism has become less plausible


33.     Atheist argument from evil

                    i.        Probabilistic evidence against the theist hypothesis

          b.       An all good god would not permit the amount of evil in our world

          c.       Evil in our world is improbable under theism, but probable under atheism

          d.       Thus atheism is more probable than theism

34.     Collins response to the argument that the existence of evil makes it probable that theism is false and atheism is true

          a.       What if the evil was necessary for the greater good, then evil’s existence is not more likely under atheist hypothesis

          b.       Atheist might reply that no one has show what this greater good might be, and so it is unlikely that such a higher purpose exists

          c.       Collins says that all atheists can do is refute the higher purposes that have been proposed (like free will)

          d.       Even if they succeed, they have no way of knowing that they have refuted even half the possible reasons God might allow evil

          e.       So they have no reason to think evil is more probable in an atheist universe than a theist one?

          f.       So existence of evil gives us no reason to conclude atheism is more probable than theism