Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Carrier's Christmas Whoosh, Part 3

Today I once more hand the reins to Tekton ministry associate Nick Peters, who will have a look at Carrier's "fine gifting" argument from his parody (?) Christmas posting.


Once again, it is hard to tell if Carrier is being serious or not. Does he really think this is an effective parody of theistic arguments, or is he just trying to get a laugh and realizes there is no comparison? The sad reality is that it's hard to tell. The fine-tuning argument, for instance, says nothing about God fine-tuning the universe for his function, but rather for us to have a place to survive. Carrier has his parody of the fine-gifting argument.

Absent is any attempt to counter a fine-tuning argument here. Carrier is not a scientist, however. Neither am I. While I believe the argument works, I do not use it for that reason. I am not skilled in the background sciences to explain the parameters of the argument and I do not wish to use an argument that is outside my area of expertise.

I also note that again, Carrier ties this with the ontological argument when he expounds on premise three on his page. I do realize there are Christians who find that argument valid, which would in the past have included myself. I can no longer say that. Of course, this is likely an appeal to Craig and his five arguments, and Craig does believe the ontological argument is valid. Still, the kalam and fine-tuning arguments do not depend on the ontological argument.

There are a number of responses to fine-tuning I would like to comment on.

First, some would say it's chance. The problem is I don't think many scientists would take this seriously. I also think chance doesn't explain the existence of the factors that constitute the chance. You can say getting a perfect hand in Bridge is chance. That is accurate, and Bridge players know it is extremely extremely extremely rare. However, for that chance to even be, there has to be Bridge first. Something has to exist for there to be even chance involving the interaction of matter.

Second, some would say that of course it's fine-tuned. We're here after all and we couldn't realize that if it wasn't fine-tuned. The problem with this has been pointed out by John Leslie. Leslie asks us to imagine being held before a firing squad. If you survive, you are free to go. As you are held, 100 marksmen are before you with laser-focused rifles and you hear the command to fire. You close your eyes and hear the shots fire. You have no sensation of dying and open your eyes to find your are alive. Everyone missed.

When asked about how fortunate you are, you say "What's so amazing about that? Since I'm alive, they all obviously missed or I wouldn't be here to tell about it." The problem is such a statement would show a profound ignorance. The question is "Why are you alive?" The atheist with regards to the universe is saying "It just is." To us, that does seem ad hoc. It's more likely that someone wanted us here.

The third way is to say that this is one of many universes. I once gave an illustration of why this doesn't work at my church. Suppose you are in church and you look out in the parking lot and see a dead body. You tell people and many of you go over to see what has happened. A police officer comes and asks what you're doing. You say you want to know what happened to explain a corpse in the parking lot. Imagine the officer saying "Simple. There's 500 more corpses behind that building."

That would not help you. In fact, now you have 501 dead bodies to account for. If one universe is to be a problem, how does it help me to here that there are even more universes? It would seem that that would still require an explanation just as much and in fact more so. Having one mystery to explain does not help by multiplying mysteries.

Again, is Carrier serious? I do not know. The parallel is just silly but with Carrier, I am not too surprised.

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