If they can admit such a thing then go further, ask them if they can admit that the birth of the entire species known as Homo sapiens MIGHT be the result of impersonal probabilities.
If they can admit such a thing then go further, ask them if they can admit that the cosmos becoming this particular cosmos MIGHT be the result of probabilities that were impersonal. Perhaps this cosmos arose out of some great mystery, but what do we know about that great mystery? And what do we know about the limits of what the great mystery behind our cosmos can or canʼt produce in the way of cosmoses?
If God is the proposed answer to this and all other great mysteries, then can one be certain that God is a fine-tuner? The evidence of the frequency of extinctions (including five MASS extinction events) and the evidence that most offspring die before they reach the age of sexual reproduction, and the evidence that each evolutionary bush of species that blossoms forth gets countless branches snipped off, might all suggest that God was a tinkerer rather than a fine-tuner. Might not God also tinker with vast numbers of cosmoses before arriving at this one, leaving the rest to simply go extinct? Perhaps God even employed mass extinction events of multitudes of cosmoses at various times? We donʼt know, but if you accept what evidence we have gained concerning so many things from the deaths of countless sperm and eggs to produce a single individual, and the deaths of countless species for each one that thrives, and even mass extinction events, can we really say with assurance that such things can only be explained by a fine-tuning deity, rather than say, one that tinkers around? And lastly, how different is a tinkering God from say, a mysterious evolutionary cosmos?
But letʼs not speak merely in generalities, letʼs look more carefully at the evidence…
Letʼs start small with the question of how you in particular came to be born and became the person you are today. A study of nature tell us that men produce enough sperm on a daily basis to repopulate the earth in six months. However, many of those sperm are deformed, many have two heads, or two tails, or squiggly tails, or heads that are too large or two small, etc. Was that part of some design or fine-tuned plan to make you? And in the average human ejaculate there are two hundred million sperm. If God wanted specifically to make ‘you’ then only one sperm would have been required. Two to decide between a specific boy or girl. But two hundred million? Talk about a roll of the biological dice that made ‘you.’
Sperm are also subjected to physical stresses during ejaculation and contractions of the female tract, and may sustain oxidative damage, or even encounter the defenses of the female immune system meant for infectious organisms.
Also, in a 5 year study of 11 female volunteers Baker and Bellis (1993) examined the characteristics of sperm loss from the vagina following coitus (also called ‘flowback’). They found that flowback occurred in 94% of copulations with the median time to the emergence of ‘flowback’ of 30 min (range 5—120 min). Furthermore they estimated that a median of 35% of spermatozoa were lost through flowback but that in 12% of copulations almost 100% of the sperm inseminated were eliminated. Does the high flowback ratio sound like efficient design? This suggests that less than 1% of sperm might be retained in the female reproductive tract and this supports the notion that only a minority of sperm actually enter cervical mucus and ascend higher into the female reproductive tract.
Even being the first sperm to reach the egg assures nothing, since the eggʼs wall is too thick at that point and has to be weakened first by a couple thousand sperm attempting to breach it. And on occasion two or more sperm enter the egg before it begins to reharden, in which case the fertilized egg divides a few times then stops, or it may grow to the point of early implantation, implant on the uterine wall and then result in a miscarriage. Sometimes after the sperm enters the egg it triggers a second set of female chromosomes to be produced, and the fertilized egg dies. Sometimes the sperm enters the egg but does not go on to form a pronucleus, leaving only the eggʼs chromosomes functional, and again the process of development shuts down.
In short, your genetic compliment appears to be the result of trivial differences between hundreds of millions of dead sperm, i.e., purely statistical odds. SEE INFOGRAPHIC, “THE ODDS OF YOU BECOMING YOU”.
Now letʼs talk about eggs. During childhood a girlʼs ovaries absorb almost half of the million immature eggs with which she was born. Of the four hundred thousand eggs present during her first menstrual period, only 300 to 500 of them will develop into mature eggs across her reproductive life span. Her body reabsorbs the rest before they complete development. Again, does that sound like efficient design, or a case of the roll of the dice?
Even the circumstances by which oneʼs parents meet, and the time of year or day they make love, and the position they are in during coitus, along with a host of other circumstance, can affect which sperm reaches which egg. So it appears like a crap shoot. Also, what lessons can one be sure that God is teaching us when a baby dies in the womb, or dies during birth, or is born with defects? Up to the mid 1700s half of all children who were born died before reaching the age of eight (according to Buffonʼs estimate). So if we canʼt be sure of what God may be teaching us when lightning strikes one tree or power line rather than another, then what can one say with certainty concerning why one particular egg happened to become fertilized by one particular sperm, or why spontaneous abortions or birth defects occur?
Now letʼs take our discussion to a highest level. If the conception of each individual seems like a crap shoot or toss of the genetic dice due to a plethora of circumstances that do not seem personally planned, then what about the evolution of a species? What if God lets evolution be evolution just as He lets sperm be sperm and eggs be eggs, and lightning strikes be lightning strikes? The human species constitutes one of a small number of extremely large-brained species of mammals on earth, including cetacea (whales, dolphins), elephants, early apes and upright hominids. All with larger brains than average. However many species of cetacea, elephants, early apes, and upright hominids, became extinct, rather like the aforementioned hundreds of millions of eggs and sperm with different compliments of genes that naturally perish during coitus leaving either nothing behind or a single fertilized zygote.
Is our species the apex of creation, or a passing phase? Will future humans look back at our species like we look back at Homo habilis?
Paleontologists have discovered that before the earliest upright hominids arose, the world was covered with diverse ape species, the majority of which went extinct. That same was true in the case of other large-brained mammal species, like dolphins and whales, their ancestors also went extinct. And they appear to have passed through a tinkering period where their rear legs had yet to disappear and their blowholes moved from the nostrils at the ends of their noses to the middle of their noses before reaching their current position atop their heads. Same with the ancestors of birds that have gone extinct. They went through a tinkering period when their bones were still solid and heavy, their skulls still triangle shaped and thick-boned like reptiles, with teeth, and long bony tails that create drag, and a small keel bone in their chests that could not have anchored wide and thick muscles for flapping their wings. Modern birds have light bones, smooth thin helmet shaped skulls, no teeth, a super short bony tail that does not create drag, and a keel bone in their chests so wide and large it extends the entire length of their torso. I guess God spent some time tinkering dolphins, whales, and birds, etc. into existence.
And what of the future? Even if we suppose fine-tuning ended with humanity, that does not mean humanity has plans for its own evolution to end. Humans have learned ways to fiddle with genes, and augment their brains with machines, and it now seems within the realm of possibility that we could produce hybrid species of animals raised to human or greater levels of consciousness. In fact, some human embryonic brain cells were implanted in a rat embryo and thrived inside the ratʼs brain as it grew, but only a small number of such cells were inserted in that experiment. We donʼt know what might happen if the majority of an embryonic ratʼs brain cells were replaced with human cells. Or what would happen if we performed a similar experiment on a dolphin or elephant embryo whose brains naturally grow far larger than a ratʼs.
Or we might create quantum computers with artificial intelligence that wind up superseding humanity. In such a case a learning program might learn to upgrade itself faster than humans can upgrade it so it surpasses humanity—in that case carbon-based life forms will have been superseded by something we gave birth to, and humanity will simply have been a stepping stone in the process toward new entities. Will such new entities then claim the cosmos was fine-tuned so that they would be the premier product?
On the other hand if our species becomes extinct or civilization collapses and we devolve into less brainy animals, will it then be said that God fine-tuned or designed the cosmos such that things would turn out that way?
On the third hand, letʼs say humanity reaches livable planets throughout the cosmos and evolves in different directions on each of them with some or all of the results mentioned above occurring on different planets. Our species fills niches on different planets, evolving into multitudes of diverse species of humans, raising up animal consciousness on some, raising up artificial intelligences on others, and such diversification is followed by extinction events on some or all of those planets, again we would see a whittling process of trial and error, of probabilities. Who knows what future version of humanity (or humanityʼs creations) will be the last one standing?
Need I add that the cosmos still has billions of years ahead of it. New stars are still being churned out in stellar nurseries, and the stars that already exist have enough fuel to continue burning for billions of years via nuclear fusion. It takes even longer for black holes to dissipate, around 100 billion years to release their energy via Hawking Radiation (which is the only kind of energy known at present to escape from black holes). So the cosmos could easily outlive our species and in fact that outcome seems likely given all the objects and energies careening throughout the cosmos, and wild energies beneath the earth, all of which pose dangers for our speciesʼ continued existence. Itʼs only a matter of time before any of the hundreds of objects already known to cross earthʼs orbit collide with our planet again—as evidence of past collisions demonstrates.
Nor can we say with certainty how the cosmos will end, either with a Big Freeze, or Big Rip (if the cosmos continues to expand at the present rate of increasing acceleration then time and space could begin to tear apart at its furthest seams), or, Big Crunch (if the cosmos eventually slows down and begins to contract), or perhaps our cosmos will give birth to another cosmos or several, spontaneously via internal Big Bangs. Cosmologists donʼt know.
Now letʼs take the discussion to an even higher level. Was it Godʼs specific intention to bring this particular cosmos into being? Maybe God allows cosmoses to produce other cosmoses in endless cycles of change and experimentation? Maybe God is a tinkerer of cosmoses?
This cosmos is constantly mixing and swirling, statistically allowing for life to arise in very small regions of the cosmos, and probably only for limited amounts of time due to the explosive swirling nature of the cosmos. And life in this cosmos continues via cycles of reproduction and death. Life does not appear to be a particularly stable phenomena, though single-celled forms have demonstrated better chances of long-term survival than more complex multi-cellular forms.
So, the design in the above case might be a never ending process of change, including the possibility of extinction at every level of such changes. It looks like randomness or chance plays a role in each individualʼs origins, as well as the origin of each species. If one says it was fine-tuned or designed that way, then fine-tuning or design including trial and error or tinkering.Labels:fine-tuning, god, intelligent design
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