William Lane Craig Takes another Stab at Intelligent Design

I recently commented on William Lane Craig’s attempt to rebut my article on the illusion of fine-tuning which showed Craig’s response lacking in any substantive content while heavy on invective. He now takes another swing at fine-tuning in support of intelligent design in which he repeats many of the same fallacies and false statements here:

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/multiverse-and-the-design-argument

We will work our way through his various claims and arguments, starting with the very first sentence:

“The idea that our universe is just a part of a wider multiverse is an expression of what I call the Many Worlds Hypothesis (MWH).”

Perhaps Craig calls it that, but the rest of the world doesn’t. I often have difficulty deciding if Craig is simply ignorant of physics in general or if he is engaged in willful deception. Here he reveals apparent confusion about two very different theories. Many Worlds Theory concerns quantum events where superposition causes all possible event outcomes to actualize into separate worlds, only one of which we perceive due to our involvement in the collapse to eigenstate. It has nothing at all to do with multiverse theory, which is the actual issue at hand in his discussion. This is an unfortunate beginning which doesn’t build confidence in anything that follows. Dr. Craig might find the remedial information in this short summary of benefit:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm-manyworlds/#:~:text=The%20Many%2DWorlds%20Interpretation%20(MWI,1.

He follows this with a brief account of the anthropic principle, which is fairly straightforward and an improvement over his apparent misunderstanding presented in his response to my article where he failed to grasp the meaning of my lottery analogy. Perhaps he learned something. But he immediately follows in the next paragraph with a gross misstatement:

“Theorists now recognize that the Anthropic Principle can only legitimately be employed to explain away our observation of fine-tuning when it is conjoined to MWH, according to which an ensemble of concrete universes exists, actualizing a wide range of possibilities.  MWH is essentially an effort on the part of partisans of chance to multiply their probabilistic resources in order to reduce the improbability of the occurrence of fine-tuning.”

He falsely claims that the Anthropic Principle can only explain fine tuning through Multiverse Theory, proving he either learned nothing from my rebuttal or he is once again engaging in deception. Multiverse Theory is one possible explanation, but far from the only one. Einstein’s deterministic theory of block time posits zero degrees of freedom in the universe, which means the universe could not possibly have developed in any other way. This eliminates the issue of probability because the certainty that the universe would develop in this precise way was 1. Roger Penrose’s theory of infinite cyclical universe posits many degrees of freedom, but the eternal existence of the universe guarantees that our particular state would appear at some point. Again, the probability of our universe is 1.

What Craig claims as a recognition among theorists is either a result of his lack of familiarity with the divergent theories of leading cosmologists, or it is playing games with the word “theorists”. He seems to imply that all physicists are in agreement, which is opposite of the truth; or by theorists he means Christian apologists rather than theoretical physicists.

He continues his false account by claiming that MWH (I assume he means Multiverse Theory) came about as an attempt to blunt the claim of a finite tuner of the universe (Intelligent Design). Again, he either is ignorant of this bit of history of science or he is once again deceiving. Multiverse Theory predates this controversy of intelligent designer. Rather it is the earlier outcome of the mathematics underlying string theory. Very few leading physicists consider Craig’s interpretation of fine tuning to be worth questioning and definitely did not develop Multiverse Theory in response.

In the next paragraph he pivots from claiming that only Multiverse Theory can legitimately explain fine tuning other than by intelligent design to claiming only a plausible mechanism can do so:

“If MWH is to commend itself as a plausible hypothesis, then some plausible mechanism for generating the many worlds needs to be to be explained.  The best shot at providing a plausible mechanism comes from inflationary cosmology, which is often employed to defend the view that our universe is but one domain (or “pocket universe”) within a vastly larger universe, or multiverse.” 

He states inflationary cosmology is the best possible shot at a physical explanation of fine tuning, but with no justification. There are other plausible explanations, including quantum field theory and Penrose’s theory of eternal rebirth. To this point, Craig’s argument has rested on

1. Fallacy of bifurcation: That intelligent design can only be explained away through MWI (actually Multiverse Theory).

2. False claim of question-worthiness of intelligent designer: Multiverse Theory was developed to answer the question of fine-tuning.

But even worse, he presents a strawman by distorting the theory of Alex Vilenkin, and not for the first time. One would think Craig would have learned not to do this when he tried the same trick in a debate with Sean Carroll, who embarrassed Craig in his rebuttal by playing a video of Vilenkin directly contradicting what Craig had claimed was his position. The difference here is that, rather than claiming Vilenkin supports Craig’s claim, he accuses him of “legerdemain”. Using a naïve understanding of time:

“For if temporal becoming is an objective feature of reality, as I have argued in my Time and Eternity (Crossway, 2001), then the global future is potentially infinite only, and future Big Bangs do not in any sense exist.”

Craig attempts to argue against an Einsteinian block theory of time Vilenkin doesn’t actually hold and further obscures the issue through a twisting of the Boltzman observation problem. Rather than repeat all the details here, I refer you to Sean Carroll’s correction of Craig’s “legerdemain” in his debate with Craig. In the video below, Penrose explains both the oscillation theory of time central to inflationary theory, which shows oscillation of particles as equal to mass, and thereby removes time as a feature of the universe at the very inception before the appearance of the Higgs field and at the very end; and a theory contrary to inflationary theory. He presents a strong case for an eternal universe both forwards and backwards.

Craig also reverts to his customary practice of strawmanning through his insistence that Vilenkin has “proven” a finite starting point to the universe. Vilenkin’s mathematical proof relies on very generalized assumptions and is far from universally accepted by physicists. Vilenkin also explicitly denies his theory supports the argument for design:

“I don’t think it proves anything one way or another.

I went to a meeting of some theologians and cosmologists. Basically, I realized these theologians have the same problem with God. What was He doing before He created the universe? Why did He suddenly decide to create the universe?

For many physicists, the beginning of the universe is uncomfortable, because it suggests that something must have caused the beginning, that there should be some cause outside the universe. In fact, we now have models where that’s not necessary—the universe spontaneously appears, quantum mechanically.

In quantum physics, events do not necessarily have a cause, just some probability.

As such, there is some probability for the universe to pop out of “nothing.” You can find the relative probability for it to be this size or that size and have various properties, but there will not be a particular cause for any of it, just probabilities.

I say “nothing” in quotations because the nothing that we were referring to here is the absence of matter, space and time. That is as close to nothing as you can get, but what is still required here is the laws of physics. So the laws of physics should still be there, and they are definitely not nothing.”

https://now.tufts.edu/articles/beginning-was-beginning

At this point we have the fallacy of bifurcation, a false claim, and a strawman. As Vilenkin notes, even if we do posit a finite beginning of the universe, the most likely cause would be a quantum fluctuation which we know to be possible.

Craig ends his piece by transitioning from a misuse of physics to a misuse of probability and a distortion of Penrose this time.

“Now a similar problem afflicts the contemporary appeal to the multiverse to explain away fine-tuning.  Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of our universe’s low entropy condition obtaining by chance alone are on the order of 1:1010(123), an inconceivable number.  If our universe were but one member of a multiverse of randomly ordered worlds, then it is vastly more probable that we should be observing a much smaller universe.”

There are three errors in the above:

1. There exists a wide range of theoretical probabilities for the universal constants, ranging from Einstein’s deterministic theory that there are no other possible outcomes, giving us zero degrees of freedom, to multiverse estimates of thousands of possible outcomes, to some string theory estimates approaching infinite degrees of freedom. The sad fact is it is impossible to know what the probability is for our current state. Craig’s argument rests entirely on his assertion of unreasonably low probability for our current universe – an assertion that rests on the flimsiest of assumptions.

2, Since our universe does exist in this exact state for the present, but not past and future, and we have scientific theories that show how this is possible to come about through natural occurrence, Craig relies on the fallacy of rarity. He is required now to show how it would be impossible for our present universe to occur any other way but intelligent design. Short of that, he is simply presenting an argument both fallacious and lacking proper premise.

3. His reference to Penrose is deeply dishonest. In Penrose’s discussion with Craig, he followed his claim of improbability by pointing out that it was also irrelevant since in his theory of eternal rebirth it is also certain that our universe would come about, again putting our probability at 1. This once again brings into play the anthropic principle that this is the universe we observe because it is the one in which we were possible. I again refer you to my lottery analogy which illustrates the illusion of design that this creates.

I readily concede that all of the scientific theories above contain a great degree of speculation. Nobody asserts any one of them is certain truth, and if we ever do resolve this mystery, it is likely none of the above theories is exactly right. But the important point is that science asserts no more than it knows, and the theories are based on processes and principles of observable science. Intelligent design, in contrast, is no explanation at all but merely god of the gaps – an attempt to explain what isn’t knowable at present through mere speculation.

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