bookmark_borderSean Carroll’s 11 Lines of Evidence for Naturalism over Theism

This is my attempt to summarize the slides from Sean Carroll’s recent debate with WLC where he very quickly skimmed through eleven (11) lines of evidence which favor naturalism over theism. I don’t claim this is perfectly accurate; any corrections would be welcome and, in fact, appreciated!

Facet Theism (Theistic Prediction) Naturalism (Naturalistic Prediction) Lowder’s Comments
Amount of Tuning Just Enough Sometimes too much (e.g., entropy). A natural mechanism could incredibly over-tune in a way that has nothing to do with the existence of life. The entropy of the early universe is much, much, much, much lower than it needs to be to allow for life. New Argument
Parameters of Particle Physics Enough to allow life to exist and have some structure that was designed for some reason Random and a mess Not sure what this was about — I had a hard time transcribing this one
Role of Life Life to play a special role in the universe Life is very insignificant in the universe. Photo from Hubble Space Telescope of hundreds of galaxies.The theistic explanation for cosmological fine-tuning asks you to look at this picture and say, “I know why it’s like that. It’s because I was going to be here. Or we were going to be here.” But there is nothing in the universe that justifies the sort of flattering story we like to tell about ourselves. Very similar to arguments from scale.
Evidence God should be obvious. God hides from us. Nonculpable Nonbelief (aka Divine Hiddenness)
World Religions Religious beliefs universal Multiple competing religions Religious Confusion
Doctrinal stability Eternal, unchanging Affected by social progress New Argument (This is arguably a more specific fact about religious confusion.)
Moral teachings Transcendent, progressive Inconsistent, tribal Ethical Confusion
Sacred Texts Valuable information Mishmash of really good parts, boring parts, really bad parts New Argument (not sure I transcribed this accurately)
Design Biological forms designed Biological forms result from twists and turns of evolutionary history Evidential Argument from Biological Evolution
Minds Minds should be independent of bodies Personality should change if you’re injured, tired, or you haven’t had your cup of coffee yet Evidential Argument from Physical Minds
Problem of Evil No random suffering; life should be essentially just The universe is not just/perfect; it should be kind of a mess. Evidential Argument from Evil

bookmark_borderExtremely Low Entropy of the Early Universe as Evidence against Theism?

One of the topics from last Friday’s debate between William Lane Craig and Sean Carroll was the extremely low entropy of the early universe. As I type this blog post, the video of the debate isn’t available, so I’m going from memory. But I thought I heard Carroll argue that the extremely low entropy of the early universe is evidence favoring naturalism over theism.
In The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, Carroll seems to make a similar point:

An example of fine-tuning well beyond anthropic constraints is the initial state of the universe, often characterized in terms of its extremely low entropy (Penrose 1989). Roughly speaking, the large number of particles in the universe were arranged in an extraordinarily smooth configuration, which is highly unstable and unlikely given the enormous gravitational forces acting on such densely packed matter. While vacuum energy is tuned to 1 part in 10120, the entropy of the early universe is tuned to 1 part in 10 to the power of 10120, a preposterous number. 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.

If anything, the much-more-than-anthropic tuning that characterizes the entropy of the universe is a bigger problem for the God hypothesis than for the multiverse. If the point of arranging the universe was to set the stage for the eventual evolution of intelligent life, why all the grandiose excess represented by the needlessly low entropy at early times and the universe’s hundred billion galaxies? We might wonder whether those other galaxies are spandrels — not necessary for life here on earth, but nevertheless a side effect of the general Big Bang picture, which is the most straightforward way to make the earth and its biosphere. This turns out not to be true; quantitatively, it’s easy to show that almost all possible histories of the universe that involve earth as we know it don’t have any other galaxies at all. It’s unclear why God would do so much fine-tuning of the state of the universe than seems to have been necessary.
(Sean Carroll, “Does the Universe Need God?” The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity, Kindle location 6467 – 6493).

This passage from Carroll’s essay suggests yet another example of how cosmological fine-tuning arguments for God’s existence commit the fallacy of understated evidence: given that our universe is fine-tuned for life, the fact that the early universe had such extremely low entropy favors naturalism over theism.
See also:
Stenger on Zero Total Energy as Evidence for Atheism
The Evidential Argument from Scale (Index)
Paul Draper, The Fallacy of Understated Evidence, Theism, and Naturalism