1) The climate-change deniers, though typically not scientists themselves, show utter disregard for the scientific consensus.
2) The climate-change deniers are ideologically motivated, by politics, economics or both.
3) The “science” of the climate-change deniers often is not science at all, but trivial and anecdotal. (Gee it’s cold out, I could sure use a bit of that global warming! Ha ha!)
4) The references provided by climate-change deniers, if any, are often not to scholarly peer-reviewed literature but to unpublished work of fringe scientists or popularizations.
Or, to summarize it concisely: Our universe appears to be fine-tuned for making rocks.
• It has nothing to do with probability. It has to do with sensitivity. There is nothing in the definition that relies on any assumption of the a priori probability of the constants. They could be random draws (extremely low probability) or unit probability (from some unknown theory of everything). It only matters that the creation of the elements necessary for life is sensitive to the values.
• It is a consensus viewpoint, especially among “in-field” scientific disciplines, such as cosmology, astronomy, particle and nuclear physics.
• It has nothing to do, per se, with religion or “intelligent design”. Sure, it has been co-opted by some, and very stupidly by the ID crowd 2 who, without reason (and ultimately to their disadvantage) hitched their wagon to a “low-probability therefore god” argument. But ideas can always be co-opted 3, such as evolution and genetics being co-opted for eugenics. You have to evaluate the scientific idea on its scientific merits, not on its potential for use by people you don’t like.
• It is considered a serious scientific problem/puzzle (and therefore quite interesting) by scientists of all religious stripes. Some of them quite famous for their atheism as well as their science, such as Weinberg, Susskind, Krauss, Smolin, etc.
• They will disregard the scientific consensus. It suddenly won’t matter that a majority of in-field scientists think fine-tuning is a serious problem. In fact, pointing out that many scientists think so will often be “refuted” by charges that one is “arguing from authority.” But pointing out that most in-field scientists acknowledge global warming and pointing out that most in-field scientists acknowledge the fine-tuning problem is not an irrational appeal to authority.
• Like climate-change deniers, many of the fine-tuning deniers appear to be motivated not by science, but by ideology. The reasoning, sometimes behind the scenes and sometimes front and center, is “fine-tuning→intelligent design→religion→bad→therefore it must be wrong (at all costs). It connects the evaluation of science (the reality of the fine-tuning problem) with something not scientific (it gives the “bad guys” an advantage)—and that reasoning is always wrong.
• Most frustrating to me is that the “rebuttal” of fine-tuning is often trivial. I cannot count how many times someone has given me, in gotcha tones, the Douglas Adams puddle argument, which has no application whatsoever to the cosmic fine-tuning problem. 5 Another kind of trivial response is the “how do we know there couldn’t be life with only hydrogen and helium?” rebuttal. This ignores the fact that you can’t make anything out of those elements, and that any life, using a non-controversial assertion, needs large molecules to store information. And, by the way, the (effectively) “I saw a creature on Star-Trek who was made of pure energy so who knows?” stated with an assumption of moral superiority overs us matter-chauvinists, is not a scientific response. Another trivial dismissal of the fine-tuning problem is to project one’s own disinterest onto the human population at large. This is the “I just don’t see it as a big deal, we are here and that’s that, just move on” argument. This implies that scientists should just shut up and listen and not consider “how is it that we are here?” to be a question of interest. Finally, some will irrationally attack it because of its name. But “fine-tuning” does not imply a tuner—it’s used a metaphor. Get over it.
The fine-tuning deniers have their authorities that they believe should end the argument. First and foremost is the late Victor Stenger. Because Stenger (who, to be fair, had a good idea, to show that the fine-tuning is an illusion) published a popularization—well that settles it, doesn’t it? But the fact is that Stenger, in attempting to show fine-tuning is an illusion, did sloppy work, work not published in peer-reviewed journals, and you do not find those scientists who consider fine-tuning a serious problem (like the atheists I mentioned) now saying: “OMG, we were worried about nothing! Stenger solved it for us!” Because Stenger did nothing more than a few back-of-the-envelope calculations and then wrote a popularization in which he claims to have solved a serious problem. He didn’t. He had a good idea that he failed to run with scientifically—he has, instead, marketed it adroitly. (For a competent takedown of Victor Stenger, read Luke Barnes.)
As an example of someone who is willing to look stupid to deny science just because it bothers him ideologically, consider P. Z. Myers. He was aflutter over a piece in the New York Times that was concerned, in part, with fine-tuning. (And its close cousin, the weak Anthropic Principle, which is essentially what the multiverse proponents, in lieu of any experimental data, are invoking to explain the fine-tuning.) Myers wrote:
Alas, Davies also brings up the anthropic principle, that tiresome exercise in metaphysical masturbation that always flounders somewhere in the repellent ditch between narcissism and solipsism. When someone says that life would not exist if the laws of physics were just a little bit different, I have to wonder…how do they know? Just as there are many different combinations of amino acids that can make any particular enzyme, why can't there be many different combinations of physical laws that can yield life?
I'm also always a bit disappointed with the statements of anthropic principle proponents for another reason. If these are the best and only laws that can give rise to intelligent life in the universe, why do they do such a lousy job of it?
1 My own position on climate change is this: I am a nuclear physicist. I have no expertise in the field of climate change. So just like any other scientific argument that is out of my field, and for which I have no time or interest to ramp up, I accept the scientific consensus. I have confidence that the checks and balances inherent in science mean that, when you don’t know and can’t evaluate on your own, it’s a good bet to accept the consensus view of in-field scientists. Or stay quiet.
5 The puddle argument (a sentient puddle observing just how perfect the universe (a pot hole) is for its existence, ergo god) is perhaps relevant for privileged planet debates (isn’t our planet just perfect for human life?) but not for cosmic fine-tuning which addresses the very building blocks (heavy elements) for any kind of life.