Archive for the 'fundamentalism' category

The Conservative Rewrite of the Bible

Oct 08 2009 Published by under Chatter, fundamentalism

This is really off-topic for GM/BM, but I just can't resist
mocking the astonishing stupidity of the Conservapedia folks.

I'm sure you've heard by now that Andy Schafly and his pals are
working on a "new translation" of the bible. They say that they need to do this
in order to remove liberal bias, which is "the single biggest distortion in modern
Bible translations". You see, "translation bias in converting the original language
to the modern one" is the largest source of what they call translation errors, and it
"requires conservative principles to reduce and eliminate".

Plenty of people have mocked the foolishness of this. So many, in fact, that
I can't decide which one to link to! But what's been left out of all of the mockings
that I've seen so far is one incredibly important point.

What the "Conservative Bible Project" is doing is not translating
the bible. It is rewriting the bible to make it say what they want it to
say, without regard for what it actually says. These people, who insist
that every word of their holy texts must be taken as absolute literal truth
without interpretation -- are rewriting their bibles to make it say
what they want it to say.

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I am the antichrist. No, really!

Aug 03 2009 Published by under Bad Probability, fundamentalism

I normally try to ignore things like this, but this is just too funny.

In general, I find arguments like this to be extremely silly. This is, basically, like
playing with gematria - only instead of doing real gematria (which can be quite silly enough),
it's like our friend "Gotcha" - mixing systems and screwing things up until you get the results
you want.

Lots of the particularly crazy strain of Christians really, desperately want to believe
that Barack Obama is the antichrist. They want an explanation for how this black man with
a muslim name could possible have actually been elected - they don't believe it could possibly
have happened honestly. And their doctrine requires the antichrist to come soon. Combine
those two, and you've got what, for them, is a sort of perfect storm.

Which gives us things like this. For more mockery, see beneath the fold.

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94 responses so far

The Invisible Link Between Bad Math and Bad Theology

Jan 17 2007 Published by under fundamentalism

Another piece of junk that I received: "The Invisible Link
Between Mathematics and Theology"
, by a guy named "Ladislav Kvasz",
published in a rag called "Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith". (I'm
not going to quote much from this, because the way that the PDF is formatted,
it requires a huge amount of manually editing.) This is a virtual masterwork of
goofy clueless Christian arrogance - everything truly good must be Christian, so
the author had to find some way of saying that mathematics is intrinsically tied to Christianity.

This article actually reminds me rather a lot of George
. His arguments are similar to George's: that there's some
intrinsic connection between the concept of infinity and the Christian god.
But Kvasz goes further: it's the nature of monotheism in general, and
Christianity in particular, which gave us the idea of using
quantifiers in predicate logic. Because, you see, the idea of
quantifiers comes from the idea that existence is not a predicate, and the
idea that existence is not a predicate comes from a debate over an invalid
proof for the existence of god.

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32 responses so far

Creationists on Gene Variation

Nov 28 2006 Published by under Debunking Creationism, fundamentalism

Fellow [SBer Tara from Aetiology][tara] pointed me at [this bit of inanity][loonytune], which I can't resist mocking:
>The mystery of the human genome has come into clearer focus as scientists have discovered that each
>individual person is at least ten times more different than another person than scientists
>previously thought, discounting even further the theory of evolution so widely taught around the
>world. A group of scientists from 13 different research centers in the United States and Britain
>published their findings in scientific journals earlier this week. The results: previous concepts
>that all humans were 99.9% alike were blown apart by the research conducted on 270 people of various
>races that confirmed that 2,900 genes could vary within people, making over a million combinations
>This discovery means that of the nearly 30,000 genes in the human genome that can consist of nearly
>three billion genetic "letters," 10 percent of those genes can be multiplied in each different
>individual. Instead of being 99.9% alike, humans are more than ten times different from one another
>genetically. Instead of having two copies of each gene--one from each parent--humans have some genes
>that are multiplied several times. Scientists are excited about this discovery, which they say is
>the most revealing since Gregor Mendel's initial work with the genetic code in the 1860's.
>Scientists believe it will help them bring about curing individuals who have devastating diseases by
>using their own genetics.
Now, I admittedly have a bit of a hard time parsing this (I guess these creationists are illiterate as well as innumerate). But after correcting for grammar as well as I can, what I end up with is,
to put it mildly, pathetically stupid. Alas, they don't provide *any* link to a *source* for this, so I can't be sure of just what the heck they're talking about, so I can't completely correct their math. (You need *data* to do accurate math!) But I'll do what I can. Read on, beneath the fold.

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Shrinking Sun (Part 2)

Nov 20 2006 Published by under Bad Physics, Debunking Creationism, fundamentalism

So, as promised, it's time for part two of "The Creationists and the Shrinking Sun".
The second main tack of the creationists and the shrinking sun is to *not* use the bare
measurements of an allegedly shrinking sun as their evidence. Instead, they use it as
evidence for a very peculiar theory. It's an interesting approach for a couple of reasons: it
actually *proposes a theory* (a bad theory, but hey, at least it's a theory!); it uses some recent theories and observations as evidence; and it casts the whole concept of how the sun works as part of an elaborate conspiracy to prop up evolution.

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Shrinking Sun (Part 1)

Nov 19 2006 Published by under Bad Physics, Debunking Creationism, fundamentalism

One of the more pathetic examples of bad math from the creationist camp is an argument based on the
claim that the sun is shrinking. This argument has been [thoroughly
debunked]( by other folks, so I haven't bothered to
add my two cents here at GM/BM. I hadn't heard anyone mention this old canard until
recently, when a reader wrote to me to ask if I could comment on it. I *hate* to disappoint
my readers, and this is *such* a great example of flaming bad math, so I figured what the heck. So hang on to your hats, here it comes!
There are a lot of [different]( [variants]( of [this]( [argument]( out there. There are two main forms of this argument; there's one version that focuses on extrapolating measurements of
the sun, and the more complicated one that adds in an explanation of the shrinkage and tries
to use neutrino measurements as a support. I was going to cover both in this post, but it was getting way two long, so in this post, I'm going to stick to the first naive argument, and then in my next post, I'll cover the second.

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Innumerate Fundamentalists and π

Aug 13 2006 Published by under Debunking Creationism, fundamentalism

The stupidity and innumeracy of Americans, and in particular American fundamentalists, never ceases to astound me.
Recently on Yahoo, some bozo posted [something claiming that the bible was all correct][yahoo], and that genetics would show that bats were actually birds. But that's not the real prize. The *real* prize of the discussion was in the ensuing thread.
A doubter posted the following question:
>please explain 1 kings 7.23 and how a circle can have a circumference of 30 of
>a unit and a radiius of 10 of a unit and i will become a christian
>23 And he made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits from one brim to the other;
>it was completely round. Its height was five cubits, and a line of thirty
>cubits measured its circumference. (1 Kings 7:23, NKJV)
And the answer is one of the all-time greats of moronic innumeracy:
>Very easy. You are talking about the value of Pi.
>That is actually 3 not 3.14.......
>The digits after the decimal forms a geometric series and
>it will converge to the value zero. So, 3.14.....=3.00=3.
>Nobody still calculated the precise value of Pi. In future
>they will and apply advenced Mathematics to prove the value of Pi=3.

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Debunking "A Mathematicians View of Evolution"

Jul 24 2006 Published by under Debunking Creationism, fundamentalism

This weekend, I came across Granville Sewell's article "[A Mathematicians View of Evolution][sewell]". My goodness, but what a wretched piece of dreck! I thought I'd take a moment to point out just how bad it is. This article, as described by the [Discovery Institute][diref], purportedly shows:
>... that Michael Behe's arguments against neo-Darwinism from irreducible
>complexity are supported by mathematics and the quantitative sciences,
>especially when applied to the problem of the origin of new genetic
I have, in the past, commented that the *worst* math is no math. This article contains *no math*. It's supposedly arguing that mathematics supports the idea of irreducible complexity. Only there's no math - none!
The article claims that there are *two* arguments from mathematics that disprove evolution. Both are cheap rehashes of old creationist canards, so I won't go into much depth. But it's particularly appalling to see someone using trash like this with the claim that it's a valid *mathematical* argument.
The First Argument: You can't make big changes by adding up small ones.
>The cornerstone of Darwinism is the idea that major (complex) improvements can
>be built up through many minor improvements; that the new organs and new
>systems of organs which gave rise to new orders, classes and phyla developed
>gradually, through many very minor improvements.
This is only the first sentence of the argument, but it's a good summary of what follows. There are, of course, several problems with this, but the biggest one coming from a mathematician is that this asserts that it's impossible to move a large finite distance by taking small finite steps. This is allegedly a mathematician making this argument - but that's what he's claiming: that it's impossible for any large change to occur as a result of a large number of small changes.
It also incorrectly assumes a *directionality* to evolution. This is one of the requirements of Behe's idea: that evolution can only *add*. So if we see a complex system, the only way it could have been produced by an evolutionary process is by *adding* parts to an earlier system. That's obviously not true - and it's not even consistent with the other creationist arguments that he uses. And again, as a mathematician, he *should* be able to see the problem with that quite easily. In mathematical terms, this is the assertion that evolution is monotonically increasing in complexity over time. But neither he nor Behe makes any argument for *why* evolution would be monotonically increasing with respect to complexity.
So there's the first basic claim, and my summary of what's wrong with it. How does he support this claim?
Quite badly:
>Behe's book is primarily a challenge to this cornerstone of Darwinism at the
>microscopic level. Although we may not be familiar with the complex biochemical
>systems discussed in this book, I believe mathematicians are well qualified to
>appreciate the general ideas involved. And although an analogy is only an
>analogy, perhaps the best way to understand Behe's argument is by comparing the
>development of the genetic code of life with the development of a computer
>program. Suppose an engineer attempts to design a structural analysis computer
>program, writing it in a machine language that is totally unknown to him. He
>simply types out random characters at his keyboard, and periodically runs tests
>on the program to recognize and select out chance improvements when they occur.
>The improvements are permanently incorporated into the program while the other
>changes are discarded. If our engineer continues this process of random changes
>and testing for a long enough time, could he eventually develop a sophisticated
>structural analysis program? (Of course, when intelligent humans decide what
>constitutes an "improvement", this is really artificial selection, so the
>analogy is far too generous.)
Same old nonsense. This is a *bad* analogy. A *very* bad analogy.
First of all, in evolution, *we start with a self-reproducing system*. We don't start with completely non-functional noise. Second of all, evolution *does not have a specific goal*. The only "goal" is continued reproduction.
But most importantly for an argument coming from a supposed mathematician: he deliberately discards what is arguably *the* most important property of evolution. In computer science terms (since he's using a programming argument, it seems reasonable to use a programming-based response): parallelism.
In evolution, you don't try *one* change, test it to see if it's good and keep it if it is, then go on and try another change. In evolution, you have millions of individuals *all reproducing at the same time*. You're trying *millions* of paths at the same time.
In real evolutionary algorithms, we start with some kind of working program. We then copy it, *Many* times; as many as we can given the computational resources available to us. While copying, we randomly "mutate" each of the copies. Then we run them, and see what does best. The best ones, we keep for the next generation.
What kind of impact does parallelism have?
As an experiment, I grabbed a rather nifty piece of software for my mac called [Breve Creatures][breve]. Breve is an evolutionary algorithms toolkit; BC uses it to build moving machines. The way it works is that it produces a set of random assemblies of blocks, interconnected by hinges, based on an internal "genetic code". For each one, it flexes the hinges. Each generation, it picks the assemblies that managed to move the farthest, and mutates it 20 times. Then it tries each of those. And so on. So Breve gives us just 20 paths per generation.
Often, in the first generation, you see virtually no motion. The assemblies are just random noise; one or two just happen to wiggle in a way that makes them fall over, which gives that a tiny bit of distance.
Typically within 20 generations, you get something that moves well; within 50, you get something that looks amazingly close to the way that some living creature moves. Just playing with this a little bit, I've watched it evolve things that move like inchworms, like snakes, like tripeds (two legs in front, one pusher leg in back), and quadrapeds (moving like a running dog).
In 20 generations of Breve, we've basically picked a path to successful motion from a tree of 2020 possible paths. Each generation, we've pruned off the ones that weren't likely to lead us to faster motion, and focused on the subtrees that showed potential in the tests.
Breve isn't a perfect analogy for biological evolution either; but it's better than Sewell's. There's two important things to take from this Breve example:
1. Evolution doesn't have a specific goal. In the case of Breve Creations, we didn't say "I want to evolve something that walks like a dog." The selection criteria was nothing more than "the ones that moved the furthest". Different runs of BC create very different results; similarly, if you were to take a given species, and put isolated two populations of it in similar conditions, you'd likely see them evolve in *different* ways.
2. Evolution is a process that is massively parallel. If you want to model it as a search, it's a massively parallel search that prunes the search space as it goes. Each selection step doesn't just select one "outcome"; it prunes off huge areas of the search space.
So comparing the process to *one* guy randomly typing, trying *each* change to see how it works - it's a totally ridiculous analogy. It deliberately omits the property of the process that allows it to work.
The Second Argument: Thermodynamics
>The other point is very simple, but also seems to be appreciated only by more
>mathematically-oriented people. It is that to attribute the development of life
>on Earth to natural selection is to assign to it--and to it alone, of all known
>natural "forces"--the ability to violate the second law of thermodynamics and
>to cause order to arise from disorder.
Yes, it's the old argument from thermodynamics.
I want to focus on one aspect of this which I think has been very under-discussed in refutations of the thermodynamic argument. Mostly, we tend to focus on the closed-system aspect: that is, the second law of thermodynamics says that in a *closed system*, entropy increases monotonically. Since the earth is manifestly *not* a closed system, there's nothing about seeing a local decrease in entropy that would be a problem from a thermodynamic point of view.
But there's another very important point. Entropy is *not* chaos. An system that seems ordered is *not* necessarily lower entropy than a system that seems chaotic. With respect to thermodynamics, the real question about biology is: do the chemical processes of life result in a net increase in entropy? The answer? *I don't know*. But neither does Sewell or the other creationists who make this argument. Certainly, watching the action of life: the quantity of energy we consume, and the quantity of waste we produce, it doesn't seem *at all* obvious that overall, life represents a net decrease in entropy. Sewell and folks like him make the argument from thermodynamics *never even try* to actually *do the math* and figure out if if the overall effect of any biological system represents a net increase or decrease in entropy.
For someone purportedly writing a *mathematicians* critique of evolution, to argue about thermodynamic entropy *without bothering to do the math necessary to make the argument* is a disgrace.

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Restudying Math in light of The First Scientific Proof of God?

Jul 20 2006 Published by under Debunking Creationism, fundamentalism

A reader sent me a link to [this amusing blog][blog]. It's by a guy named George Shollenberger, who claims to have devised The First scientific Proof of God (and yes, he always capitalizes it like that).
George suffers from some rather serious delusions of grandeur. Here's a quote from his "About Me" bio on his blog:
>I retired in 1994 and applyied my hard and soft research experience to today's
>world social problems. After retirement, my dual research career led to my
>discovery of the first scientific proof of God. This proof unifies the fields
>of science and theology. As a result of my book, major changes can be expected
>throughout the world.
>I expect these blogs and the related blogs of other people to be detected by
>Jesus Christ and those higher intelligent humans who already live on other
So far, he has articles on his blog about how his wonderful proof should cause us to start over again in the fields of science, mathematics, theology, education, medical care, economics, and religion.
Alas, the actual First Scientific Proof of God is [only available in his book][buymybook]. But we can at least look at why he thinks we need to [restudy the field of mathematics][restudy].
>The field of mathematics is divided into pure and applied mathematics. Pure
>mathematicians use mathematics to express their own thoughts and thus express
>the maximum degree of freedom found in the field of mathematics. On the other
>hand, applied mathematicians lose a degree of their freedom because they use
>mathematics to express the thoughts of people in the fields they serve. Most
>mathematicians are applied mathematicians and serve either counters (e.g.,
>accountants, pollsters, etc.) or sciences (e.g., physicists, sociologists,
That's a pretty insulting characterization of mathematicians, but since George is an engineer by training, it's not too surprising - that's a fairly common attitude about mathematicians among engineers.
>The field of physics is served by applied mathematicians who are called
>mathematical physicists. These physicists are the cause of the separation of
>theologians and scientists in the 17th century, after Aristotle's science was
>being challenged and the scientific method was beginning to be applied to all
>sciences. But, these mathematical physicists did not challenge Aristotle's
>meaning of infinity. Instead, they accepted Aristotle's infinity, which is
>indeterminate and expressed by infinite series such as the series of integers (
>1, 2, 3, ....etc.). Thus, to the mathematical physicist, a determinate infinity
>does not exist. This is why many of today's physicists reject the idea of an
>infinite God who creates the universe. I argue that this is a major error in
>the field of mathematics and explain this error in the first chapter of The
>First Scientific Proof of God.
So, quick aside? What was Aristotle's infinity? The best article I could find quickly is [here][aristotle-infinity]. The short version? Aristotle believed that infinity doesn't really *exist*. After all, there's no number you can point to and say "That's infinity". You can never assemble a quantity of apples where you can say "There's infinity apples in there". Aristotle's idea about infinity was that it's a term that describes a *potential*, but not an *actual* number. He also went on the describe two different kinds of infinity - infinity by division (which describes zero, which he wasn't sure should really be considered a *number*); and infinity by addition (which corresponds to what we normally think of as infinity).
So. George's argument comes down to: mathematics, and in particular, mathematical physics, needs to be rebooted, because it uses the idea of infinity as potential - that is, there is no specific *number* that we can call infinity. So since our math says that there isn't, well, that means we should throw it all away. Because, you see, according to George, there *is* a number infinity. It's spelled G O D.
Except, of course, George is wrong. George needs to be introduced to John Conway, who devised the surreal numbers, which *do* contain infinity as a number. Oh, well.
Even if you were to accept his proposition, what difference would it make?
Well - there's two ways it could go.
We could go the [surreal][onag] [numbers][surreal] route. In the surreal numbers (or several similar alternatives), infinity *does* exist as a number; but despite that, it has the properties that we expect of infinity; e.g., dividing it by two doesn't change it. If we did that, it would have no real effect on science: surreal numbers are the same as normal reals in most ways; they differ when you hit infinitesimals and infinities.
If we didn't go the surreal-ish route, then we're screwed. If infinity is a *real* real number, then the entire number system collapses. What's 1/0? If infinity is *real*, then 1/0 = infinity. What about 2/0? Is that 2*infinity? If it is, it makes no sense; if it isn't, it makes no sense.
>I believe that the field of mathematics must restudy their work by giving ample
>consideration to the nature of man's symbolic languages, the nature of the
>human mind, Plato's negative, and the nature of dialectical thinking.
Plato's negative is, pretty much, the negative of intuitionistic logic. Plato claimed that there's a difference between X, not-X, and the opposite of X. His notion of the opposite of X is the intuitionistic logic notion of not-X; his notion of not-X is the intuitionistic notion of "I don't have a proof of X".
In other words, George is hopelessly ignorant of real mathematics; and his reasoning about what needs to be changed about math makes no sense at all.

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Why I Hate Religious Bayesians

Jul 13 2006 Published by under Debunking Creationism, fundamentalism, statistics

Last night, a reader sent me a link to *yet another* wretched attempt to argue for the existence of God using Bayesian probability. I *really* hate that. Over the years, I've learned to dread Bayesian arguments, because *so many* of them are things like this, where someone cobbles together a pile of nonsense, dressing it up with a gloss of mathematics by using Bayesian methods. Of course, it's always based on nonsense data; but even in the face of a lack of data, you can cobble together a Bayesian argument by *pretending* to analyze things in order to come up with estimates.
You know, if you want to believe in God, go ahead. Religion is ultimately a matter of personal faith and spirituality. Arguments about the existence of God *always* ultimately come down to that. Why is there this obsessive need to justify your beliefs? Why must science and mathematics be continually misused in order to prop up your belief?
Anyway... Enough of my whining. Let's get to the article. It's by a guy named Robin Collins, and it's called "[God, Design, and Fine-Tuning][collins]".
Let's start right with the beginning.
>Suppose we went on a mission to Mars, and found a domed structure in which
>everything was set up just right for life to exist. The temperature, for
>example, was set around 70o F and the humidity was at 50%; moreover, there was
>an oxygen recycling system, an energy gathering system, and a whole system for
>the production of food. Put simply, the domed structure appeared to be a fully
>functioning biosphere. What conclusion would we draw from finding this
>structure? Would we draw the conclusion that it just happened to form by
>chance? Certainly not. Instead, we would unanimously conclude that it was
>designed by some intelligent being. Why would we draw this conclusion? Because
>an intelligent designer appears to be the only plausible explanation for the
>existence of the structure. That is, the only alternative explanation we can
>think of--that the structure was formed by some natural process--seems
>extremely unlikely. Of course, it is possible that, for example, through some
>volcanic eruption various metals and other compounds could have formed, and
>then separated out in just the right way to produce the "biosphere," but such a
>scenario strikes us as extraordinarily unlikely, thus making this alternative
>explanation unbelievable.
>The universe is analogous to such a "biosphere," according to recent findings
>in physics. Almost everything about the basic structure of the universe--for
>example, the fundamental laws and parameters of physics and the initial
>distribution of matter and energy--is balanced on a razor's edge for life to
>occur. As eminent Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson notes, "There are many . . .
>lucky accidents in physics. Without such accidents, water could not exist as
>liquid, chains of carbon atoms could not form complex organic molecules, and
>hydrogen atoms could not form breakable bridges between molecules" (1979, p.
>251)--in short, life as we know it would be impossible.
Yes, it's the good old ID argument about "It looks designed, so it must be". That's the basic argument all the way through; they just dress it up later. And as usual, it's wrapped up in one incredibly important assumption, which they *cannot* and *do not* address: that *we understand what it would mean to change
the fundamental structure of the universe*.
What would it mean to change, say, the ratio of the strengths of the electromagnetic force and gravity? What would matter look like if we did? Would stars be able to exist? Would matter be able to form itself into the kinds of complex structures necessary for life?
We don't know. In fact, we don't even really have a clue. And not knowing that, we cannot meaningfully make *any* argument about how likely it is for the universe to support life.
They do pretend to address this:
>Various calculations show that the strength of each of the forces of nature
>must fall into a very small life-permitting region for intelligent life to
>exist. As our first example, consider gravity. If we increased the strength of
>gravity on earth a billionfold, for instance, the force of gravity would be so
>great that any land-based organism anywhere near the size of human beings would
>be crushed. (The strength of materials depends on the electromagnetic force via
>the fine-structure constant, which would not be affected by a change in
>gravity.) As astrophysicist Martin Rees notes, "In an imaginary strong gravity
>world, even insects would need thick legs to support them, and no animals could
>get much larger." (Rees, 2000, p. 30). Now, the above argument assumes that the
>size of the planet on which life formed would be an earth-sized planet. Could
>life forms of comparable intelligence to ourselves develop on a much smaller
>planet in such a strong-gravity world? The answer is no. A planet with a
>gravitational pull of a thousand times that of earth -- which would make the
>existence of organisms of our size very improbable-- would have a diameter of
>about 40 feet or 12 meters, once again not large enough to sustain the sort of
>large-scale ecosystem necessary for organisms like us to evolve. Of course, a
>billion-fold increase in the strength of gravity is a lot, but compared to the
>total range of strengths of the forces in nature (which span a range of 1040 as
>we saw above), this still amounts to a fine-tuning of one part in 1031.
>(Indeed,other calculations show that stars with life-times of more than a
>billion years, as compared to our sun's life-time of ten billion years, could
>not exist if gravity were increased by more than a factor of 3000. This would
>have significant intelligent life-inhibiting consequences.) (3)
Does this really address the problem? No. How would matter be different if gravity were a billion times stronger, and EM didn't change? We don't know. For the sake of *this* argument, they pretend that mucking about with those ratios *wouldn't alter the nature of matter at all*. That's what they're going to build their argument on: the universe *must* support life *exactly* like us: it's got to be carbon-based life on a planetary surface that behaves exactly like matter does in our universe. In other words: if you assume that everything has to be exactly as it is in our universe, then only our universe is suitable.
They babble on about this for quite some time; let's skip forwards a bit, to where they actually get to the Bayesian stuff. What they want to do is use the *likelihood principle* to argue for design. (Of course, they need to obfuscate, so they cite it under three different names, and finally use the term "the prime principle of confirmation" - after all, it sounds much more *convincing* than "the likelihood principle"!)
The likelihood principle is a variant of Bayes' theorem, applied to experimental systems. The basic idea of it is to take the Bayesian principle of modifying an event probability based on a prior observation, and to apply it backwards to allow you to reason about the probability of two possible priors given a final observation. In other words, take the usual Bayesian approach of asking: "Given that Y has already occurred, what's the probability of X occurring?"; turn it around, and say "X occurred. For it to have occurred, either Y or Z must have occurred as a prior. Given X, what are the relative probabilities for Y and Z as priors?"
There is some controversy over when the likelihood principle is applicable. But let's ignore that for now.
>To further develop the core version of the fine-tuning argument, we will
>summarize the argument by explicitly listing its two premises and its
>*Premise 1.* The existence of the fine-tuning is not improbable under theism.
>*Premise 2.* The existence of the fine-tuning is very improbable under the
>atheistic single-universe hypothesis. (8)
>*Conclusion:* From premises (1) and (2) and the prime principle of
>confirmation, it follows that the fine-tuning data provides strong evidence to
>favor of the design hypothesis over the atheistic single-universe hypothesis.
>At this point, we should pause to note two features of this argument. First,
>the argument does not say that the fine-tuning evidence proves that the
>universe was designed, or even that it is likely that the universe was
>designed. Indeed, of itself it does not even show that we are epistemically
>warranted in believing in theism over the atheistic single-universe hypothesis.
>In order to justify these sorts of claims, we would have to look at the full
>range of evidence both for and against the design hypothesis, something we are
>not doing in this paper. Rather, the argument merely concludes that the
>fine-tuning strongly supports theism over the atheistic single-universe
That's pretty much their entire argument. That's as mathematical as it gets. Doesn't stop them from arguing that they've mathematically demonstrated that theism is a better hypothesis than atheism, but that's really their *whole* argument.
Here's how they argue for their premises:
>Support for Premise (1).
>Premise (1) is easy to support and fairly uncontroversial. The argument in
>support of it can be simply stated as follows: *since God is an all good being,
>and it is good for intelligent, conscious beings to exist, it not surprising or
>improbable that God would create a world that could support intelligent life.*
>Thus, the fine-tuning is not improbable under theism, as premise (1) asserts.
Classic creationist gibberish: pretty much the same stunt that Swinburne pulled. They pretend that there are *only* two possibilities. Either (a) there's exactly one God which has exactly the properties that Christianity attributes to it; or (b) there are no gods of any kind.
They've *got* to stick to that - because if they admitted more than two possibilities, they'd have to actually consider why *their* deity is more likely that any of the other possibilities. They can't come up with an argument that Christianity is better than atheism if they acknowledge that there are thousands of possibilities as likely as *theirs*.
>Support for Premise (2).
>Upon looking at the data, many people find it very obvious that the fine-tuning
>is highly improbable under the atheistic single-universe hypothesis. And it is
>easy to see why when we think of the fine-tuning in terms of the analogies
>offered earlier. In the dart-board analogy, for example, the initial conditions
>of the universe and the fundamental constants of physics can be thought of as a
>dart- board that fills the whole galaxy, and the conditions necessary for life
>to exist as a small one-foot wide target. Accordingly, from this analogy it
>seems obvious that it would be highly improbable for the fine-tuning to occur
>under the atheistic single-universe hypothesis--that is, for the dart to hit
>the board by chance.
Yeah, that's pretty much it. The whole argument for why fine-tuning is less probably in a universe without a deity than in a universe with one. Because "many people find it obvious", and because they've got a clever dartboard analogy.
They make a sort of token effort to address the obvious problems with this, but they're really all nothing but more empty hand-waving. I'll just quote one of them as an example; you can follow the link to the article to see the others if you feel like giving yourself a headache.
>Another objection people commonly raise against the fine-tuning argument is
>that as far as we know, other forms of life could exist even if the constants
>of physics were different. So, it is claimed, the fine-tuning argument ends up
>presupposing that all forms of intelligent life must be like us. One answer to
>this objection is that many cases of fine-tuning do not make this
>presupposition. Consider, for instance, the cosmological constant. If the
>cosmological constant were much larger than it is, matter would disperse so
>rapidly that no planets, and indeed no stars could exist. Without stars,
>however, there would exist no stable energy sources for complex material
>systems of any sort to evolve. So, all the fine-tuning argument presupposes in
>this case is that the evolution of life forms of comparable intelligence to
>ourselves requires some stable energy source. This is certainly a very
>reasonable assumption.
>Of course, if the laws and constants of nature were changed enough, other forms
>of embodied intelligent life might be able to exist of which we cannot even
>conceive. But this is irrelevant to the fine-tuning argument since the
>judgement of improbability of fine-tuning under the atheistic single-universe
>hypothesis only requires that, given our current laws of nature, the
>life-permitting range for the values of the constants of physics (such as
>gravity) is small compared to the surrounding range of non-life-permitting
Like I said at the beginning: the argument comes down to a hand-wave that if the universe didn't turn out exactly like ours, it must be no good. Why does a lack of hydrogen fusion stars like we have in our universe imply that there can be no other stable energy source? Why is it reasonable to constrain the life-permitting properties of the universe to be narrow based on the observed properties of the laws of nature as observed in *our* universe?
Their argument? Just *because*.

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