On the empirical inaccessibility of higher-level modality and its significance for cosmological fine-tuning

Synthese 196 (9):3697-3710 (2019)
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Abstract

In this paper we propose that cosmological fine-tuning arguments, when levied in support of the existence of Intelligent Designers or Multiverses, are much less interesting than they are thought to be. Our skepticism results from tracking the distinction between merely epistemic or logical possibilities on one hand and nonepistemic possibilities, such as either nomological or metaphysical possibilities, on the other. We find that fine-tuning arguments readily conflate epistemic or logical possibilities with nonepistemic possibilities and we think that this leads to treating the search for an explanation of fine-tuning as analogous to standard empirical theorizing about first-order nomological matters, when in fact the two investigational enterprises are profoundly different. Similar conflation occurs when fine-tuning arguments do not carefully distinguish between different interpretations of probabilities within the arguments. Finally, these arguments often rely on spatial analogies, which are often misleading precisely in that they encourage the conflation of epistemic and nonepistemic possibility. When we pay attention to the distinctions between merely epistemic versus nonepistemic modalities and probabilities, the extant arguments in favor of intelligent designers or multiverses, or even for the nonepistemic improbability of fine-tuning, consist of empirically unconstrained speculation concerning relevant nonepistemic modal facts.

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Cory Juhl
University of Texas at Austin

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References found in this work

The anthropic cosmological principle.John D. Barrow - 1986 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Frank J. Tipler.
Fine-tuning and multiple universes.Roger White - 2000 - Noûs 34 (2):260–276.
The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine‐Tuning of the Universe.Robin Collins - 2009 - In William Lane Craig & J. P. Moreland (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Oxford, UK: Wiley‐Blackwell. pp. 202–281.

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