Dates: July 3-21, 2023
Seminar Directors: Dean Zimmerman (Rutgers), Elizabeth Miller (Brown), Yoaav Isaacs (Baylor).


Overview of Seminar:

Rutgers Center for Philosophy of Religion is hosting a three-week summer seminar, Fine-tuning Arguments and their Theological Presuppositions.  It will focus on three kinds of fine-tuning argument, featuring some of their primary advocates and best critics.  Thoughtful physicists find themselves astonished by the fact that the initial conditions, cosmological constant, and certain other features of our universe had to satisfy narrow constraints if anything interesting was to emerge from the big bang.  Some are led to posit a multiverse, and a few engage in theological speculation.  Here, philosophers and theologians can help, by introducing some sophistication in the use of Bayesian probabilistic reasoning and in the appeal to divine reasons and action.  To usefully contribute to such discussions, philosophers and theologians must have a basic understanding of the physical theories that drive such thinking — something this summer school will provide.  It will bring together some of the best scientists defending fine-tuning arguments — Luke Barnes (Western Sydney University), cosmologist and co-author of A Fortunate Universe (Cambridge, 2016), and Aron Wall (Cambridge), high-energy physicist — as well as philosophers of science critical of fine-tuning arguments, such as Barry Loewer (Rutgers), Neil Manson (U. of Miss.), and Hans Halvorson (Princeton).  The seminar will also feature numerous philosophers with expertise in the kind of Bayesian reasoning appealed to in fine-tuning arguments; and philosophers of religion prepared to reflect upon the kind of God posited by those who appeal to fine-tuning.

The three varieties of fine-tuning argument that will be represented are:  (i) Luke Barnes’s description of the way in which the tiniest differences in quark masses, basic forces, and the cosmological constant would have made a cosmos with large scale structure impossible; (ii) the joint work of Aron Wall, John Hawthorne, and Yoaav Isaacs (to appear in a forthcoming co-authored book) in which high-energy physics is used to look beneath the apparent fine-tuning pointed out by Barnes and other cosmologists; and (iii) Robin Collins’s appeal to fine-tuning for discoverability.

The seminar will conclude with presentations by participants.  They will receive helpful feedback from one another and from a panel of experts on philosophy of physics (Aron Wall, Luke Barnes, Hans Halvorson, Robin Collins, and Elizabeth Miller), formal/Bayesian epistemology (Lara Buchak, John Hawthorne, and Yoaav Isaacs), and philosophy of religion (Zimmerman, Collins, Buchak, and Hawthorne).

Topics and seminar leaders:

  • Cosmology and fine-tuning (Luke Barnes)
  • High-energy physics and fine-tuning (Aron Wall)
  • The physics at the root of fine tuning (Aron Wall)
  • Summing up the evidence (Luke Barnes and Aron Wall)
  • Updating with Indexical Evidence: The Multiverse as Case Study (John Hawthorne)
  • What’s wrong with fine-tuning arguments (Barry Loewer)
  • Fine-tuning for Discoverability (Robin Collins)
  • Fine-tuning is evidence against design; and more criticism of fine-tuning (Hans Halvorson and Neil Manson)
  • The impact of many-universes (Roger White)
  • Fine-tuning Arguments, Critiques, and Prospects (Elizabeth Miller, Hans Halvorson, Robin Collins, Lara Buchack, and John Hawthorne)