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Adam Grise

I've had to give the rebuttal to this argument many times, as well. I like to use a hand of cards analogy, too.

The thing people mix up with probabilities is that people make the mistake of thinking that complex life couldn't have developed without all those premises falling perfectly into place (the variables that make Earth habitable, variables that influence abiogenesis and evolution). We apply significance to the hand of cards the universe has because we're in it.

But it's not significant. It's clear by the vastness of the universe. There are presumably hundreds of trillions of stars in the universe, each with their own solar system, each with a habitable zone for life.

Even if the universe had developed in a very different layout (gotten a different hand of cards, and equally as unlikely), the stars would still be there, and there'd likely be stars elsewhere that had planets orbiting in their habitable zone. It's plausible that Earth is not the only habitable planet out there.


I have always heard that "Perfect Cradle" argument and laughed.

Our little area is perfect for our type of life because we evolved to fit this environment.

When I was very young, I learned that the sun outputs its maximum energy exactly in the center of our visible spectrum. Before I was aware of any of this debate, I thought that there was no way it could be a coincidence. Over time I realized that we evolved under the sun, so of course, we would evolve to get the maximum use out of the maximum output wavelength of the nearest star.

That is why I sometimes get a bit frustrated by the scientists who are looking for the same conditions that would support our type of life elsewhere. They never seem to consider the possibility that we do not posses a unique model for life. It could take different and possibly almost unrecognizable forms, and we are not even considering that possibility.

Joseph P Garvin

It seems like this needs a version of Russell's Turkey -

A turkey looks around at the world he lives in. There is daily food, a fence to keep out predators, friends, and all seems well. The turkey concludes that the world must have been designed for turkey life. The turkey is then decapitated and served up for dinner.

Even if the universe were designed with humans in mind, does that mean that the thought was one we would appreciate?


Rex, that's a fair point about scientists looking for Earth-like life elsewhere... except, what else can they look for?

That is, I'm sure most prospective xenobiologists are aware that extraterrestrial life might not be Earth-like at all... but how can we search for something that has no properties we know about? In the meantime, what they can do is look for a known subset of life-enabling conditions.

Also: looking for Earth-like planets isn't just to find life elsewhere. It's also to find good places that we might be able to live ourselves, on some distant day in the future.

Alyson Miers

The sentient puddle analogy is arguably Douglas Adams's greatest gift to civilization. I think its importance ranks right up there with Russell's Teapot.


Well, actually a D&D freak - like many other gamers - would almost certainly call it a d6:

The idea of dice with other than six sides is very ancient. For example the ancient Romans had different ones - both six-sided and four sided (talus) examples are common, and we have an example of a Roman 20-sided die marked with greek numerals - roman numerals presumably being too cumbersome for the tiny faces:


I saw a picture of an old 8-sided die a year or two back (but I can't locate it now unfortunately), and 14-sided examples exist:

It's not just D&D players that use non-six-sided dice.

John B Hodges

I wonder if any philosophical argument can ever suffice to reach the desired conclusion.

Consider what is meant by "God", a minimal sort of definition.

One classic argument for the existence of God was the "first cause" argument of Aquinas. Every event/thing has a cause, and that cause in turn must have a prior cause, but an infinite regress is just unimaginable, so there must have been a First Cause, which we call God. The Marquis deSade replied in one of his books that if we toss a match into a basket of waste paper, and the flames leap up, we could say the match is the cause of the fire, could we not? Is the match Ommniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent? So... there may be a First Cause, but why does the First Cause have to be God? (There are other problems with the First Cause argument besides this.) My point is that to call something God, it must at least be intelligent, a "person" in the usual sense of the word.

Other arguments I've heard are similar to this. The Universe of time and space seems not to have existed eternally; it looks like it had a beginning, and by some arguments must have had a beginning. (Insert verbal hocus-pocus here.) Therefore there must have been an eternal Creator outside of time, who was capable of creating this Universe of time and space. Modern physicists (e.g. Stephen Hawking) have done mathematical hocus-pocus to conclude the Universe may have begun from the collapse of an unstable vacuum, or the collision of two Branes, or whatever. A pregnant vacuum, full of energy, capable of spawning virtual particles and other "real" things, may be the sort of thing that might exist eternally outside of time, but like the match, it may not be intelligent or a "person".

Another requirement: to be a "God" for a human religion, an intelligent creator must have US in mind. For the sake of argument, let us suppose that there is a grand, cosmic intelligence, a GOD, and this God created the Universe with a plan in mind. He carefully tuned the physical constants of this Universe so that it would develop stars with systems of planets, and planets hospitable for life; he then guided the evolution of life to produce intelligent, social creatures capable of awareness and choice. He watches the drama of their lives, sometimes intervening to move the story along a better path, favoring some individuals, peoples, and nations above others so as to carry out the drama and the story he wishes to see.

All of this is happening in a star cluster in the Andromeda Galaxy. That is where the central drama of the Universe is being played out, that is where God's attention is focused. Life on Earth is an accidental byproduct of the Universe being the kind of Universe where God's Plan can be enacted. He needed stars with planets hospitable for life, and made a Universe finely tuned to create them; he got enough for his purpose, and a few more scattered about in the hinterlands. We arose accidentally; God hasn't even noticed that we are here, and would not care about us if He did.

SO: There IS a meaning and a purpose for the Universe, but it's not about US.

Would that satisfy the folks who want to believe in a God? I think not. It just HAS to be all about US.

A "God" useful for a human religion must also, for some reason, choose to deliver messages to humankind by whispering to a selected few mortal men, and take action in response to obedience or disobedience, belief or nonbelief, or SOMETHING. It has to be an interventionist and a speaker to "prophets", unable or unwilling to speak to us all directly. ("If a god wishes me to do something, they should tell me, not you.") A Deist god who created the Universe and then let it run unhindered thereafter would not satisfy; it would make no sense to pray to such a god, or hope for an afterlife or any cosmic Justice. No priests or preachers could exhort their flocks to do this or that to please this god, if this god has given no indication that he/she/it wants our obedience or our worship. Some kind of "revelation", some promise of Divine response to human action, delivered through some specially-anointed human mouthpiece, is essential for any effective or satisfying theistic religion.

So, I ask you, could any philosophical argument, of any kind, ever hope to show the likelihood of an intelligent, interventionist God, who has human beings in mind?

Leigh Jack Son

When considering the question of whether the anthropic coincidences might not be something more than brute fluke I recall Einstein's similar thoughts regarding the identity of gravitational and inertial mass. Wondering if this identity might not be something deeper than mere accident led him on to the theory of general relativity.

A more interesting take on the extravagant unlikeliness of the "anthropic" constants fortuitously having just the right values for the formation of stuff sufficiently stable to form our universe (with or without life) is to interpret them as indirect evidence of the existence of a multiverse!

Spinoza and Einstein might perhaps have construed an infinity of universes to be as good a concept of God as any.


Minor correction, which actually makes your point stronger:

"Therefore, the current life span of humanity is a mere one 7,000th of the current lifespan of the Universe."

Should read "one 70,000th".

I noticed the mistake because I have created a set of atheist pamphlets, one of which deals with deep time compared to humanity's duration (see Cyberguy's Atheist Resources -

Wayne Dunlap

You bring up the argument of the puddle getting smaller with the sun. I submit to you that neither the puddle, sun nor life could exist if a number of constants were not within an extremely narrow range. For instance, if the gravitational constant were too weak, everything would have imploded shortly after the big bang. If it were too weak, everything would have spread apart not allowing the development of planets. Another constant, the Nuclear Force. Too strong and the atom would not be able to form compounds. Too weak, and the atom would fly apart. And there are a couple of other constants. This tends to indicate the strong possibility that the universe was indeed created for the existence of life. Still not convinced? How about this? Before the big bang, there was NOTHING, yet matter appeared and exploded. In order for this to happen you need to have a CAUSE, however, when there is NOTHING, there cannot be a CAUSE. Someone argued for quantum physics as this cause, but when you have nothing you cannot have quantum physics either. OK, now we have a problem. My suggestion is that, in order to have a cause when there is nothing, you would have to have a super natural force outside of space and time. Yeah, it could be possible that the universe came about with all the constants within the required ranges, but the odds are extremely against it which certainly makes a good argument for a creator.

Wayne Dunlap

I neglected to add that without a CAUSE, matter could not have appeared to explode,so whether or not all the constants came about by chance would be mute anyway.



I thought I'd respond to you here, since conducting our debate on Hemant's post seemed off-topic.

Are you sure you've read Greta's post thoroughly, though? For instance, you wrote this:

I submit to you that neither the puddle, sun nor life could exist if a number of constants were not within an extremely narrow range.

But Greta addressed that in her post, saying:

Yes, the hole fits us rather neatly. But that doesn't mean the hole was designed to have us in it. We evolved to fit in the hole that happened to be here. If the hole had been shaped differently, something else would have happened instead.

You wrote:

This tends to indicate the strong possibility that the universe was indeed created for the existence of life.

But Greta addressed that, too, in the section entitled "Bitter Expanses of Cold and Blasting Chaotic Heat -- The Perfect Vacation Spot!"

And, of course, you wrote:

...but the odds are extremely against it which certainly makes a good argument for a creator....

But as I said on Friendly Atheist before taking the comment down (I intend to put it up in the forums once my account registration is verified), and as Greta has also said, astronomical odds do not necessitate cosmological forces.


Wayne, I followed you here from Hemant's blog, since this would have been off-topic there.
You read the puddle analogy but you failed to see what it represents. The universe and all of its constants might as well be designed for that puddle as for life. It's a myopic view that overinflates our own value in the universe.

I also often wonder, if this universe is improbably designed for life, then whatever the creator proved by this argument is, it isn't alive, for that would completely negate your premise. By touting the improbability of life without a fine-tuner, you've left no place for him.


I started typing before you posted, or I would have acknowledged your points as well.


@Cafeeine- Not to worry!


I suppose the only real rebuttal to the "vacation spot" point is that no possible universe can be life-friendlier than ours. But that feels like a tall claim.

In any case, even if certain constants do indeed need to fall in narrow ranges for life to occur, and scientists are at a loss to explain why they are what they are, "God" doesn't explain it better than anything else.

Remember, the whole point of the argument is to provide evidence for God's existence, not evidence that the known scientific phenomenon called "God" is responsible for this state of affairs.

The difference is subtle but important; the first line of argument is like using the extinction of the dinosaurs to argue that "meteors" exist.

Well, what are meteors?

"A meteor is a physical entity capable of intentionally causing mass extinction."

See the problem? You have to be able to do at least a little better than that. (One example of doing a little better would be "dark matter", which is largely a speculated phenomenon, but nonetheless one with more predictive, and hence explanatory, value than the God hypothesis.)

Anyway, just as with the simpler version of the First Cause argument, you have to ask the next question. In this case, it is this: Out of all the possible gods, why were we lucky enough to get one who just so happened to desire the formation of life, and happened to have a capability of knowing and setting the correct constants? Is there some principle whereby the majority of possible gods (but not the majority of possible universes) are life-friendly?

I can already guess the theist's answer: Theirs is the only possible god, because their god is a necessary being. (It's directly equivalent to the response to "Who created God?" — God just happens to be something with no beginning and therefore no cause.)

John Conolley

This "improbability of the constants" argument bugs me. Before you can talk about probability--or improbability-- you have to have some idea what the possible range of outcomes is. For instance, I know that the probability of flipping heads with an honest coin is 1/2, because the coin has two sides. I know that the probability of shooting 7 with a pair of (d6) dice is 1/6, because 6 of the 36 possible combinations are 7s.

Before you can tell me the fine tuning constants are improbable, you have to be able to tell me what other sets of constants are possible. And you can't tell me, because you don't know. You don't know what forces created the constants we have, or what other ways the forces could have acted.

Indeed, I submit that, since the constants are within, not outside of the universe, and this is the universe with that set of constants, no other constants are possible. Improbability doesn't apply.


Good evening;
If I may? this whole argument sounds like fish in an aquarium arguing and debating whether or not an aquarium keeper exists.
Ever tried keeping an aquarium up and running? Try it. The fine tuning involved to keep those little guys alive is not easy and yet must be very precise.
Thank you.

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