Thursday, 2 August 2012

Fine tuning explained . . . or is it?

I have been saving a book for holiday reading, and looking forward to understanding all about "The Fallacy of Fine Tuning".  I have always admired Victor Stenger's explanations of scientific (mainly physical) concepts.  To me, he generally uses accessible words and methods that I can learn from.  And so, having thoroughly enjoyed reading God: The Failed Hypothesis a few months ago I approached this book with some enthusiasm.

Stenger Fallacy of Fine Tuning
The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning by Victor Stenger
What I found was not at all what I expected.

Of course the topic is going to be complicated.  The basis is the claim by many religious apologists that the universe is fine tuned for human life.  Great debaters such as William Lane Craig use this rhetorical device to convince believers that their beliefs are firmly based in science.

One of the web sites referenced in the book is Evidence for God by Rich Deem.  Stenger refers to Deem's claims quite often.  In particular, the page of Evidence for the Fine Tuning of the Universe contains some of the outrageously plausible sounding rationale for the argument for fine tuning.  Deem lists 34 physical quantities that he claims to be critically tuned to allow life to exist.  (Craig sometimes claims that there are 50, but since he fails to list them at all we can tell with greater certainty than usual that he is talking out of his a**e!) 

Victor Stenger's job in the book is to convince us that these claims are only rhetoric and that they have no foundation in science at all.  He uses a mixture of logical reasoning in words, and fairly complex mathematical physics

In a couple of posts over the next few days (probably tomorrow and Monday) you will have to draw your own conclusion about whether he succeeded.  What I will say just now is that this book is absolutely not for the faint hearted!  Even though I have a degree in physics I found some parts of it incredibly challenging.  That is probably because I never was a very good physicist, and my maths is not nearly good enough. The book definitely fails the 'two equation test'.

However, all is not lost.  All the equations are neatly surrounded by boxes which allow the non-mathematician to skip over the mathematical reasoning and move on to the explanations.

So don't let the appearance put you off.  Read on.

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