3) In this part I want to see if its possible to slide seemlessly from teleology to morality.
The second major facet of the debate concerned the phenomena of cosmic fine-tuning. This time Carroll began with a concession: “This is the best argument that the theists have when it comes to cosmology.” However, in the very next sentence he maintained: “It is still a terrible argument, that is not at all convincing.” So what are his main complaints about the argument, an argument which relies solely on the data that the vast majority of the scientific fraternity agree exists, and from which very reasonable philosophical and theological inferences can be drawn?
Well, his first objection is to dispute the very existence of fine-tuning, on the premise that it is still really only speculation as to what constitutes life and what doesn’t. He says: “I am by no means convinced that there is a fine-tuning problem… I do not grant that therefore life could not exist… What is the definition of life…? There’s a huge panoply of possibilities. They sound very science fiction-ee… the results are gonna sound like they come from a science fiction novel.” Well, firstly, I’ll return to science fiction in a little while. But, secondly, this complaint is not new and has been considered many times before. Which is why WLC could refer to an article by the Australian physicist Luke Barnes who cites a vast array of world class cosmologists who acknowledge the phenomena. Among them is Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees who has explained:
“Any universe hospitable to life – what we might call a biophilic universe – has to be ‘adjusted’ in a particular way. The prerequisites for any life of the kind we know about — long-lived stable stars, stable atoms such as carbon, oxygen and silicon, able to combine into complex molecules, etc — are sensitive to the physical laws and to the size, expansion rate and contents of the universe. Indeed, even for the most open-minded science ﬁction writer, ‘life’ or ‘intelligence’ requires the emergence of some generic complex structures: It cant exist in a homogeneous universe, Not in a universe containing only a few dozen particles. Many recipes would lead to stillborn universes with no atoms, no chemistry, and no planets; or to universes too short-lived or too empty to allow anything to evolve beyond sterile uniformity.”
Goodness, even Richard Dawkins, in the God Delusion, accepted the reality of cosmic fine-tuning and the late Christopher Hitchens, like Carroll, believed it to be the best argument for theism. As WLC himself has previously noted:
“If these constants or quantities are altered even a little, what happens is you wouldn’t even have chemistry or matter, much less planets and stars that could serve as places for life to evolve. That kind of response (we don’t know what other forms of life might have evolved) simply doesn’t understand the catastrophic consequences of altering these constants and quantities… By life, scientists just mean something like this: the ability of an organism to take in energy, metabolize it, and reproduce after its own kind. Anything that can do that is called life. It doesn’t have to be anything of a form familiar to us. It just has to fill that very generic definition of being able to do something of that sort.” (Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s4-14#ixzz2uiV9mnxQ)
Carroll’s other major complaint is that he doesn’t believe that an initial low entropy condition is necessary for our existence and he questioned why God would make the entropy of the universe so unnecessarily low in order to create us. In response, Craig made 3 very reasonable philosophical reflections to this qualm, but before referring to them we should first pause and reflect on the science itself. Carroll’s argument here is an extension of the one he made in ‘The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity’, where he wrote:
“The entropy didn’t need to be nearly that low in order for life to come into existence. One way of thinking about this is to note that we certainly don’t need a hundred billion other galaxies in the universe in order for life to arise here on earth; our single galaxy would have been fine, or for that matter a single solar system.”
With this in mind we can see that, again, Carroll was in fact making a highly contentious scientific claim, while espousing his own authority to ram it home as if it were recognized science fact. It’s not! Renowned Cosmologists, John Barrow, John Wheeler and Martin Rees all independently contradict Carroll’s view, as a great many other cosmologists similarly would:- (My thanks to ‘Philosophical Theist’ for the references)
“Chemical complexity requires basic atomic building blocks which are heavier than the elements of hydrogen and helium which emerge from the hot early stages of the universe. Heavier elements, like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, are made in the stars, as a result of nuclear reactions that take billions of years to complete. Then, they are dispersed through space by supernovae after which they find their way into grains, planets, and ultimately, into people. This process takes billions of years to complete and allows the expansion to produce a universe that is billions of light years in size. Thus we see why it is inevitable that the universe is seen to be so large. A universe that is billions of years old and hence billions of light years in size is a necessary pre-requisite for observers based upon chemical complexity.” (John D. Barrow, Cosmology and The Origin of Life)
“A Universe that contained just one galaxy like our own Milky Way, with its 100 billion stars, each perhaps surrounded by planetary systems, might seem a reasonable economy if one were in the universal construction business. But such a universe, with more than a 100 billion fewer galaxies than our own, could have expanded for little more than a few months. It could have produced neither stars nor biological elements. It could contain no astronomers.” (John Wheeler, The World Within The World)
“The very hugeness of our universe, which seems at first to signify how unimportant we are in the cosmic scheme, is actually entailed by our existence! This is not to say that there couldn’t have been a smaller universe, only that we could not have existed in it.” (Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers)
Moreover, Craig is quite right to point out that the fine-tuning argument is based on empirical observations alone. The relevance of these observations is not dependent on postulating, a priori, that the purpose of the universe is ‘us.’ He remarked, on the one hand, that there may well be other intelligent life scattered about our universe. (As an aside, if this were the case does it not present another intriguing interpretation of John 10:16..?) While on the other, as Robin Collins would later expound in his paper, it could be that the initial low entropy conditions were necessary to facilitate the ‘discoverability’ of our universe. As Craig himself put it:
“God has given us a world that is susceptible to rational exploration and discovery. If God wanted to make a universe discoverable by embodied, conscious agents he might well make it in such a low entropy condition.”
And this brings me back to Carroll’s reference to science fiction and what I see as the second potential dichotomy for the naturalist :-
At the conclusion of his opening speech Carroll showed a photograph of several hundred galaxies apparently taken from the Hubble telescope, before imposing the idea that theists believe the universe “is like that because we were going to be here.” He continued, “but there’s nothing in our experience of the universe that justifies the kind of flattering story we like to tell about ourselves.”
Now either Carroll is right, in which case he should find the Craig response that we may not be alone in the universe as perfectly acceptable; or he is wrong. If so, and we are alone, then the Craig/Collins point about the ‘discoverability’ of the universe becomes more potent: because we would be left with some justification into thinking, as the apex of all creation, we are of central significance.
But this is not the potential dichotomy. This comes once we bring morality into the equation. If we recall, Carroll himself mentioned the possibility of other life forms being possible under different fine-tuning conditions. And he appealed to science fiction. So let’s run with this:-
Did you ever see that dreadful movie, ‘Flash Gordon’? Max Von Sydow is its only saving grace. Anyhow, Ming (Sydow) is about to destroy the Earth & Dr. Hans Zarkov implores him “But why, why…??” Ming merely replies, “why not?” Or did you ever read, ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’? At the beginning the ‘Vogons’ (I think!) are going to destroy the Earth for the ‘good’ of the rest of the universe as they want to place an intergalactic ‘by-pass’ straight through us.
The question is, in both of the above examples how can any ‘human social contract’ of morality be objectively binding? The point is that if we are not alone in the universe how does our system of morality and ethics impose itself as ontologically objective to anyone else? After all, we already know that our system of moral values and duties do not impose themselves upon any other species within just our own planet. So, if we are not alone in the universe on just what basis can we claim that our moral values and duties are any more ontologically objective than anyone else’s? Therefore, in the search for a foundation for objective morality we would need to look for something that is transcendent of this universe, would we not? So if the naturalist wants to affirm (as I believe Carroll and certainly his cohort Tim Mauldlin do) any ontologically objective truth about moral values and duties then, if we are not alone, that must surely either entail a transcendent grounding for them, or if we are alone, at the very least provide us with the justification that affords us believing, “the kind of flattering story we like to tell about ourselves.”
(When time permits!) In the concluding part I’d just like to make some final general remarks as well as referring to some things that Carroll has now himself said in his own now uploaded post debate reflections.
Postscript:- When Ming or the ‘Vogons’ do turn up on Tim Maudlin’s doorstep, does he really think that his personal exposition of Moral Platonism will save him… ;-)
God Bless :-)
link to the debate – http://www.tacticalfaith.com/media/greer-heard-forum-2014/