My wife recently planted a garden. She had not done so in many years so she had to till the ground before she could plant her vegetables. As a result, I came home from work one day to find the ground freshly tilled. Imagine if I would have looked at my wife after observing the ground and said, “Well, why bother? You still don’t have a garden!” Surely, she would have thought my comment strange because the tiller isn’t meant to plant a garden by itself. It is meant to prepare the soil so one can plant seed in it. Or, in other words, the tiller lays the foundation the gardener builds upon.
This is precisely how the classical apologist wields the fine-tuning argument in a cumulative case for the Christian faith. The fine-tuning isn’t meant to do all the work, but in offering an argument for God’s existence, a foundation is laid that the Christian can build upon. This is why I found Richard Dawkins’ objection to the fine-tuning argument during his recent appearance on Unbelievable? so strange.
Dawkins appeared opposite Francis Collins to discuss all things science, faith and Covid-19. The conversation was cordial, informative and enjoyable. Dawkins seems to have mellowed with age1 and was even winsome at times. But during their discussion of the fine-tuning argument for God’s existence, Dawkins made the point that while he found the argument worthy of consideration, he seemed to somewhat discount it because it “does not get one to Jesus Christ.” Needless to say, Christians thinkers of every stripe would fully agree with him! I am not aware of any Christian who argues as follows:
1. God (or design) is the best explanation of the cosmic fine-tuning.
2. Therefore, Jesus is Lord!
Obviously, as Collins pointed out, more work needs to be done to reach that conclusion. But like the tiller prepares the foundation of the garden, the fine-tuning argument provides part of the foundation a Christian can build upon to make a cumulative case for the faith. I have attempted to do something like this here.
So, Professor Dawkins is quite right. The fine-tuning argument does not get one to Jesus Christ2 by itself. But it can be a powerful tool to aid the Christian thinker in making a cumulative case for the faith.
Courage and Godspeed,
1. Or perhaps I have!
2. Although it seems worth noting that theologians such as Douglas Moo make the scriptural argument (Colossians 1:17) that it is the resurrected Jesus that is responsible for holding the universe together (which would include the finely-tuned constants and quantities). He writes:
"What holds the universe together is not an idea or a virtue [as in Platonic and Stoic philosophy], but a person: the resurrected Christ. Without him, electrons would not continue to circle nuclei, gravity would cease to work, the planets would not stay in their obits."
Douglas Moo, "The Letter to the Colossians and Philemon," [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 125-126.