Archive for January, 2016

Continuing my response to Carrier.

Part Three

Barnes claims to have hundreds of science papers that refute what I say about the possibility space of universe construction, and Lowder thinks this is devastating, but Barnes does not cite a single paper that answers my point.

My comment was in response to the claim that the statement “the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range” has been “refuted by scientists”, not about what Carrier has to say about “universe construction”. The references are in my review paper.


Because we don’t know how many variables there are.

Carrier doesn’t – he still thinks that there are 6 fundamental constants of nature, but can’t say what they are. Actual physicists have no problem counting the free parameters of fundamental physics as we know it, which is what fine-tuning is all about.


We don’t know all the outcomes of varying them against each other.

We know enough, thanks to a few decades of scientific research. It is not an argument from ignorance – extensive calculations have been performed, which overwhelmingly support fine-tuning.


And, ironically for Barnes, we don’t have the transfinite mathematics to solve the problem.

This is probably a reference to “transfinite frequentism”, a term that, as we saw last time, Carrier invented.

In any case, we don’t need transfinite arithmetic here. Bayesian probability deals with free parameters with infinite ranges in physics all the time; fine-tuning is not a unique case. Many of the technical probability objections aimed at fine-tuning, such as those of the McGrews, would preclude a very wide range of applications of probability in physics.


I am not aware of any paper in cosmology that addresses these issues.

It’s called the “measure problem”. There are literally hundreds of papers on it, too. For example, here’s a relevant paper with over 100 citations: “Measure problem in cosmology“. Aguirre (2005), Tegmark (2005), Vilenkin (2006) and Olum (2012) are good places to start. The problem of infinities in cosmology (including in fine-tuning and the multiverse) is tricky, but few cosmologists believe that it is unsolvable.


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In January 2014, I finished a series of four posts (one, two, three, four) critiquing some articles on fine-tuning by Richard Carrier, including one titled “Neither Life nor the Universe Appear Intelligently Designed” in The End of Christianity (following Carrier, I’ll refer to it as TEC). In May 2014, Jeffery Jay Lowder of The Secular Outpost reviewed these posts and Carrier’s responses, concluding that my posts were “a prima facie devastating critique”. Carrier recently responded to my posts on his blog (“On the Bayesian Reversal …“, hereafter OBR.)

(I don’t mind the delay. We’re all busy. I’ve still got posts I began in 2014 that I haven’t finished.)

First, a few short replies. I’ll skim through Carrier’s comments and provide a few one(-ish)-line responses. I’m assuming you’ve read Carriers’s post, so the quotes below (from OBR unless otherwise noted) are meant to point to (rather than reproduce) the relevant section. My discussion here is incomplete; later posts will go into more detail.

Part 1

Carrier notes that his argument is a popularisation of other works, saying later that “Barnes … ignores the original papers I’m summarizing.”

I’ve responded to Ikeda and Jeffrey’s article here and here. Their reasoning is valid, but is not about fine-tuning. I show how the fine-tuning argument, properly formulated, avoids their critique. My response to Sober would be similar.


Lowder agrees with Barnes on a few things, but only by trusting that Barnes actually correctly described my argument. He didn’t.

The first of umpteen “Barnes just does understand me” complaints. The reader will have to decide for themselves. Note both the numerous lengthy quotes I typed out in my posts, and my many attempts to formulate Carrier’s arguments in precise, mathematical notation.


On the general problem of deriving frequencies from reference classes, Bayesians have written extensively.

Deriving frequencies from reference classes is trivial – you just count members and divide. The problem that references classes create for finite frequentism is their definition, not how one counts their members. So, Carrier doesn’t understand the reference class problem.


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