How the Evidence for God Screwed up My Paper
A colleague and I were writing a paper attempting to show than many formulations of the Fine-Tuning Argument (FTA) for the existence of God was seriously flawed. The idea was that biological design arguments (BDAs)--like Dembski's--needed the probability of life arising in this universe to be unimaginably small (which he admits) in order to infer God as cause. However, FTA advocates argue that the initial conditions and fundamental laws of the universe fall within a very narrow range to permit life--an improbability along the lines of the datum from which the BDA advocate begins. But far too few FTA advocates said whether they thought the fine-tuning was precise enough to make life a sure thing, or more probable than not, or not very unlikely, or what. The problem is that if the probability of life arising in this universe given its set up is as low as Dembski says, then there's no good reason to expect God to create a universe with that set-up, so no good reason to think theism has much explanatory power with respect to such a universe (why would God, wishing to make a universe with life, make a universe in which it's incredibly unlikely that that will occur?) You can jury-rig an ad hoc hypothesis about a "whimsical" God as Jay Richardson does (also of the Discovery Institute), but this complicates the hypothesis and lowers the prior probability and thus its posterioir probability. Our thesis was that any FTA compatible with the BDA would be so weak as to offer no significant support for theism. We stargted running the numbers using a Bayes's Theorem calculator I made and we were like, "Huh, the argument seems to work, maybe we made a mistake." So we messed with the numbers a little more and grew frustrated because it was almost impossible to find values of other variables for which the weak FTA or WFTA didn't work and work quite well. I literally wrote on one draft I sent to my colleague "Damn! This argument seems to work just fine! What are we going to do now?" I think I let Publish-or-Perish mania get the better of me. I mean, I'm glad there's better evidence for God than I thought there was, but it really screwed up my paper. Oh well, back to the drawing board.