Fine-Tuning 12: God-of-the-Gaps

“Doesn’t the fine-tuning argument commit the God-of-the-Gaps fallacy!?” some would object. “Once upon a time, people didn’t understand things like lightning, earthquakes, or droughts, so they attributed them to deities. With our modern, scientific understanding, we know better. Perhaps someday science will improve, and we won’t need God to explain the fine-tuning of our universe.”

First off, the “God-of-the-Gaps fallacy” is not actually a fallacy. As Aron Wall argues compellingly here:

“Any time we ever believe in anything rationally, we do so because there is some kind of ‘gap’ in our understanding of how the universe works, which is filled by postulating the existence of that thing.” -Aron Wall

The problem of fine-tuning represents a gap in our knowledge about the universe. A cosmic designer would fill that gap. And if such designer is the best way to fill it, then so be it: we shouldn’t reject the best plug for a hole in our knowledge just because it has the word “God” in it. That would be a fallacy.

There is a big difference between the challenge of explaining fine-tuning and the challenge of explaining lightning, earthquakes, or droughts. Fine-tuning is not just a statement about our universe: it is a statement about our universe in relation to all possible universes. Even if science progressed to the point that the known laws of nature could explain literally every phenomenon in our universe, the question of why these laws and not some other ones would likely still be open. And if life-permitting laws like the ones that describe our universe appear to be rare (in some suitable sense) amongst all the ways the universe could have been, then fine-tuning would remain a problem.

Next time, we’ll look at another objection: if our universe has been designed for life, why is so much of it inhospitable to life? This will be my last blog post in this series on fine-tuning. Finally, if you haven’t already done so, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Aron’s nice post cited above.

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