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on May 16, 2011
Vic Stenger is an experimental physicist who, since retiring, has turned his attention to metaphysics. He has written eight books, six of which are on the general theme of the misuse of science to support religion, alternative medicine, and other superstitions. The "fine tuning" of the title refers to the idea that values of various physical quantities could not be even slightly different than they are in our universe and still permit life to exist. Some religionists have seized on this idea as evidence that a creator god "fine tuned" those values just for us. And even many agnostic and atheist scientists have been impressed by the fine tuning of some parameters like the cosmological constant.

Stenger examines each of the fine tuned parameters that have been touted as essential to a life-friendly universe. He brings to bear a sweeping knowledge of physics and explains why each claim of fine-tuning is either entirely misconceived or is not nearly so "fine" as claimed. You can learn quite of bit of physics reading this book and even better you can learn to think like a physicist. The presentation can be followed by anyone who took high-school physics, but Stenger also includes some mathematical exposition that requires calculus to fully appreciate. Here the reader needs to watch out for some typos in the equations. If they look wrong or confusing, check online. The physics and mathematics is all standard stuff and easily checked. If you have Stenger's purely physics book, "The Comprehensible Cosmos" take a look in it.

In looking over reviews of Stenger's other books, I see that he is criticized for not proving that God doesn't exist or that some fad or superstition is false. I expect this book will draw the same criticism. This is a misunderstanding of what he is doing. He doesn't propose to prove that a creator God doesn't exist. In fact he has said that the god of deism, a creator who doesn't meddle in his creation, is a possible god. What he does prove is there is no evidence for a creator god; and specifically in this book, no evidence of fine tuning. Everything about the universe looks as one might expect if the universe arose by natural processes out of nothing.

Stenger briefly considers the idea of a multiverse, the idea that any natural process producing our universe would, absent some special principle, also produce arbitrarily many other universes. This would answer the question as to why the universe is fine-tuned for life: the answer being that of course life occurs in those universes friendly to life. Although Stenger doesn't reject the multiverse idea, he considers it unnecessary for answering the fine-tuning argument because he has shown there is no fine-tuning. Furthermore, he notes that the Bayesian inference argument of Mike Ikeda and Bill Jeffery shows that any observation that the universe is fine-tuned could only count as evidence *against* a god.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that my name appears in the acknowledgements of this book.
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on June 5, 2011
The book itself is a five star effort. It is immensely informative and thought provoking. Stenger dissects the fine tuning arguments in direct terms without indulging in a lot of the personalities that these types of books sometimes descend into. I was somewhat disappointed that Stenger didn't comment on the first of these arguments I was exposed to many years ago; that if water didn't have the unusual property of being denser in its liquid versus its solid state life as we know it couldn't exist. No doubt that's an argument that doesn't get aired much these days.

The book does suffer from a lack of accessibility. It assumes an extensive mathematics and physics background on the part of the reader. This is not likely to be the case for the readers that this book could do the most good. Still, beyond writing a "Cosmology for Dummies" and "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Particle Physics" there's little else Stenger could have done. I can only encourage those interested to bring their comprehension of these subjects to the level required of this book. The effort will not be wasted.

I purchased the Kindle version of this book and while readable has one serious flaw. The equations, as they should be, are rendered as graphical objects so they can be enlarged as required. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases the text surrounding the equations, often to the extent of many pages, is also rendered as graphics as well. This means neither the text nor the equations can be enlarged. As these are often in very small font some readers will have problems with this. Additionally, some of the footnotes occur in these graphics so they are not clickable.

This is a major failing and is no doubt due to the Kindle version being converted by machine without proofing by human. No doubt this is due to the demand for Kindle content. I hope that this can be rectified in due course.

On the plus side the notes are (usually) linked and the index is linked as well. The table of contents also works well.

Highly recommended, but beware of the Kindle limitations.
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on May 23, 2011
In the Fallacy of fine tuning Dr Vic Stenger takes on the claims by religious apologists that the laws and constants of nature are fine tuned for life, hence evidence that the Universe is intelligently designed. This fine tuning claim is the latest version of the God of the gaps argument from religious apologists. With a deft hand using clear and easily understandable explanations, Dr Stenger takes the reader on a tour using our best current understanding in the physical sciences to demolish the fine tuning argument.This book accomplishes the difficult task of being both comprehensive and accessible to any intelligent reader. Some might question whether a book that pulls no punches in analyzing such a difficult topic could be a page turner, but in fact this book is hard to put down. For those familiar with other books by Dr Stenger this will come as no surprise. This book is a must have for the library of both scientists and any intelligent layperson interested in the nature of the Universe we inhabit.
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on August 24, 2011
This book refutes all of the ID (intelligent design) arguments presented by physicists. The author shows how the principles and theories of physics have been misapplied to suggest scientific "proof" of a creator. The first parts of the book are heavy with math, but the lay person can read through the arguments. The book ends with a very good summary chapter that will reward the patient reader. Very complex reading. Don't give up.
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on September 26, 2011
It is impossible to do what the author sets out to do in this book without using quite a bit of math. To those who have not taken an algebra class since college or high school some of it will look intimidating. Don't let it destroy the message, which is important.

All the sound bites you hear about how wildly improbable it is our universe just so happened to be able to support life are wrong. They are made typically by people who do not understand the subject matter and find the most compelling set of statistics available to confirm their hypothesis. What is presented in this book is the most likely scenarios and why those scenarios are not as wildly improbable as may think.

If you are going to argue either side of the "fine tuning" argument, this is the book to get in order to understand what the basic foundation of those arguments are.
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on August 4, 2011
Professor Stenger sharply criticizes the fine-tuning hypothesis (FTH) of universal physical constants (cosmological constant, speed of light, Plank's constant, etc), which posits that if these constants were just a tiny bit different, life as we know it could not exist in our universe. His objections are directed to two (mostly) distinct FTH groups: religious persons citing FTH as supporting evidence for a Designer God, and to a lesser degree, scientists whose analyses support FTH, but adopt scientific rather than Designer explanations, e.g., by employing quantum mechanics and the multiverse model. My comments here mainly concern the second group.

Stenger's book contains advanced mathematics nicely supplemented with well written discussions. But, since the mathematics and associated advanced physics are essential to any serious evaluation of many if not most of the arguments, it is difficult to see how any non-physicist reader can independently judge if Stenger's conclusions are correct. Readers familiar with the writings of respected physicists Paul Davies, Roger Penrose, Lee Smolin, Leonard Susskind, John Barrow, Frank Tipler, Martin Rees, and others (all proposing arguments in favor of scientific FTH) may be quite skeptical of Stenger's unequivocal (perhaps bombastic to some) rejection of FTH in the face of these widely read works. Stenger's various analyses may or may not be valid, but I am tempted to award five stars based only on his willingness to stick his neck out. His book can then serve as a strong catalyst for more in-depth studies from the physics community. See, for example, several on-line letters and an audio interview in 2010 (site Common Sense Atheism) by astronomer Luke Barnes. For general readers, I also recommend a nice on-line lecture by Leonard Susskind concerning fine tuning in the cosmic landscape and Wikipedia (Fine-tuned universe) for a broader view of this interesting topic.

*** New posts Dec 20, 2011 to Feb 18, 2011: As expected, the physics community has responded to Professor Stenger's analyses with critical review. See new counter arguments by Astronomer Luke Barnes and Stenger's reply to Barnes on-line. Stenger emphasizes that his book was intended to refute claims that our universe is fine tuned "for us." But, his book seems to make much stronger claims (implicitly omitting the "for us" caveat) that put him at odds with many cosmologists. In response to several comments, I add the following clarification to my original review:

It is useful to separate the FTH into two parts, call them the "easy" and "hard" problems. An analogy for the easy problem is thus: Suppose physics predicts that a certain set of parameters results in a universe consisting of nothing but neutrinos (Universe A) and a second set of parameters yields nothing but photons (Universe B) and so on for other possible universes. We then examine the parameter space (the cosmic landscape) and find that our estimate of the probability of A is more than 10 to the 100 times lower than the probabilities of B, C, etc. In this sense Universe A is "special," and this fact could have implications for further studies in cosmology. (It might be even more interesting if the landscape proved to be fractal.)

Similarly, if the parameter set leading to universes that are life-friendly is very small (compared to other possible outcomes), Susskind, Barnes, Davies, Penrose, etc. argue that this can have profound implications for cosmology; perhaps the most obvious is adding credence to the multiverse model.

If one accepts the FTH in this sense, then the next ("hard") question is how to interpret this result. Davies has listed about a dozen possible explanations. Some involve pure chance and/or the multiverse and others are consistent with god hypotheses. Not surprisingly, the latter are favored by religious advocates, but whether science can ever sort out all these options is an open question. Stenger departs from mainstream cosmology (as far as I can tell from the literature) by claiming that there is no FT to begin with so there is no "hard" question to answer. My criticism of his book has nothing directly to do with the hard problem itself, which my card deck analogy (below) addresses. I awarded three stars based on Stenger's raising provocative and interesting issues even if many of his conclusions turn out to be wrong. Those interested in this fascinating topic should check the other 2 and 3 star reviews and their criticisms.

***End of new posts

Rather than address technical issues, I propose here a simple metaphor to suggest that the hard problem is not easily settled even by employing our best science and statistics. Suppose a friend shuffles an ordinary card deck and deals all 52 cards to you face up, resulting in a remarkable sequence in which cards are perfectly bunched, AAAA, KKKK,...,2222. I have labeled this sequence "remarkable," but the probability of this or any other sequence of 52 cards occurring in the absence of non-random external influences is about 10 to the minus 68. Thus, one might argue that SOME sequence had to occur, and this one is just as likely as any other. But I, for one, claim that the (subjective) probability that this sequence was created by a human designer is very close to one; most likely your friend just introduced a "cold deck" while you were distracted.

Now suppose the deck is again shuffled and dealt, resulting is some more subtle pattern, say only the 2's, 3's, and 4's are bunched. At what level of bunching are we so surprised that we suspect "foul play" by some external influence, be it designer or physical mechanism? Our answer may depend critically on whether a substantial bet was involved; gambling has a rich history of ingenious cheating.

Suppose we choose some code such that each card designates a letter. Your friend deals again, and low and behold, a sub-sequence yields "jesuslovesyou" in the midst of an apparent random sequence. We can estimate the probability that a string of 13 letters will yield English words, but what about all the other Earth languages, or even alien languages. Furthermore, we can think of many kinds of patterns that seem very special to most of us that have nothing to do with any known language as in my first example of bunched number sequences.

Generally, there exist 10 to the 68th distinct card sequences, but how do we separate the subset of "special" sequences from "ordinary" sequences? Can some hot shot statistician answer this question? I don't think so because the "specialness" of any particular card sequence appears to be partly a matter of individual taste; it is observer driven. Perhaps special patterns are like pornography, we can't define them but each of us "knows" one when we see it (even though we don't agree on the more subtle cases). Just how special is intelligent life? While this card metaphor greatly oversimplifies the FTH issue, it perhaps suggests that the answer may not yield so easily to scientific or statistical study.

Readers interested in issues like brain complexity and human consciousness may check my new book (2010), which also touches on cosmology and the fine tuning issue.
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on November 16, 2011
I like this book, and would recommend it - but take the following on board... Firstly, be prepared for a LOT of maths and physics equations! Few pages pass without an equation sneaked in here or there - and don't expect to understand these if you're a layperson! I'm a Biology graduate, and I got interested in the "fine-tuning" issue thanks to debates with friends concerning creation/evolution. It seemed like one of the more valid arguments for a creator, so when I saw this book, I thought it would be worth a read.

Anyone (like myself) with no physics degree, is likely to struggle with the technicalities of the argument proposed in this book. In the end I read the book, largely ignoring the equations - it is not for me to shoot these down - the maths of the argument will either stand or fall under the scrutiny of peer review. Having said this, the logic and conclusions of the argument are wonderfully expressed, and can be followed even without a full understanding of the maths. Stenger has produced a much needed book that provides a confident rebuttal of the "fine-tuning" argument. He exposes the mistakes of William Craig, Dinesh D'Souza, Rich Deem, Hugh Ross, Francis Collins, Martin Rees and others. It becomes pretty clear that many of these people, are hopelessly outside their area of expertise, and do not understand the various theories and constructs of phsyics.

The pretty clear conclusion, is that there is no fine-tuning. I look forward to how creationists respond to the scientific arguments put forward by Stenger.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 1, 2011
The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is not Designed for Us by Victor J. Stenger

"The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" is the latest science-driven book by the great author and physicist Victor J. Stenger. In this book, Dr. Stenger tackles the controversial topic of fine-tuning in a thorough and compelling manner. This methodical 345-page book is composed of the following sixteen chapters: 1. Science and God, 2. The Anthropic Principles, 3. The Four Dimensions, 4. Point-of-View Invariance, 5. Cosmos, 6. The Eternal Universe, 7. Gravity is Fiction, 8. Chemistry, 9. The Hoyle Resonance, 10. Physics Parameters, 11. Cosmic Parameters, 12. The Cosmological Constant, 13. Monkeygod, 14. Probability, 15. Quantum and Consciousness, and 16. Summary and Review.

Positives:
1. An ambitious book that is well-written, and well-researched.
2. The scientifically minded and especially those who enjoy math will rejoice in this book as the author brings out the heavy mathematical artillery.
3. If you are looking for a book that scientifically addresses the issue of fine-tuning, this is it.
4. Directly addresses the issue, that the parameters of our universe are "fine-tuned" to produce life as we know it. Otherwise known as, the anthropic principle.
5. Great use of illustrations and diagrams.
6. Great use of science and math to provide compelling arguments for his points.
7. Consistent work throughout. Makes use of only well-established physics to base his arguments from.
8. Is the multiverse model unscientific?
9. What logic can and cannot do.
10. The anthropic principles in thorough detail.
11. Scientific wisdom, "Models that cannot be falsified, that explain everything, explain nothing".
12. The author meticulously goes over every major "fine-tuned" parameter and puts them in their proper perspective. Painstakingly using his prodigious physics knowledge to do so.
13. Physics lovers rejoice. The who's who of physics in historical context.
14. Classic physics and then some.
15. The importance of building models that accurately describes the world we live in.
16. The "stuff" the universe is made of.
17. What we do and not know about dark matter. Enlightening!
18. The Kalam cosmological argument debunked yet again.
19. Great explanation for what we mean by "infinity" in physics.
20. Thought-provoking quotes, "If humanity is so special in God's eye, doesn't it make you wonder why he waited 13.6998 billion years before creating us?"
21. The Large Hadron Collider and what we are hoping to get from it.
22. The most important element for our life is...
23. The common mistakes of fine tuners.
24. Parameter after parameter shown not to be fine-tuned, bravo!
25. Hubble's law.
26. Einstein's greatest blunder.
27. The probability of events.
28. Quantum consciousness??
29. Great final chapter that summarizes the book.
30. Links worked great!
31. Great notes and bibliography.

Negatives:
1. This book despite being simplified is not accessible to the masses. The math used is way beyond the comprehension of your average Joe and unfortunately there is a lot of it in this book.
2. Physics in many regards defies logic and as such makes the topic obscure at times.
3. The amount of mathematical equations did take away from the joy of this book for the laymen.
4. Somewhat repetitive.

In summary, this is a difficult read for the laymen. Dr. Stenger takes the calculated approach of thoroughly debunking the fine-tuning argument but relies heavily on mathematical equations and in doing so sacrifices accessibility. However, he accomplishes what he sought out to do, to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt through sound science that the fine-tuning argument is a fallacy. If you love science and in particular physics and have a good grasp for mathematics I highly recommend this book. Otherwise, I would have some minor reservations unless of course you are willing to jump over the mathematical equations and enjoy the rest of the book.

Recommendations: "God the Failed Hypothesis" and "The New Atheism" by Victor Stenger, "Physics of the Future" by Michio Kaku, Science Under Siegs" by Kendrick Frazier, "The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking and "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene.
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on May 3, 2015
In this book, Stenger takes each argument set forth by Christian apologists for the fine tuning of the Universe and handily knocks them down or shows that they are not needed to give the Universe that we observe. His refutation of these arguments is somewhat technical so that the mathematically shy reader may have difficulty following them. However, if one accepts that he gets the math right, his conclusions are easy enough to follow.
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Victor John Stenger (born 1935) is an American particle physicist, philosopher, author, and religious skeptic; he is also a regular featured science columnist for the Huffington Post. He has written many other books, such as God and the Multiverse: Humanity's Expanding View of the Cosmos,Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness,The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason,Not by Design,Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe,God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist,God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion, etc.

He wrote in the Preface of this 2011 book about Robert Jastrow's famous 1984 quote [from God and the Astronomers], "a lot of science has been done since 1984 and if Jastrow were still alive, I wonder if he would still feel this way. I hope that other physicists and astronomers who may have felt this way a generation ago will take a look at the arguments in this book, many of which have not appeared before... I will devote most of this book to showing why the evidence does not require the existence of a creator of the universe who has designed it specifically for humanity. I will show that the parameters of physics and cosmology are not particularly fine-tuned for life, especially human life. I will present detailed new information ... that demonstrates why the most commonly cited examples of apparent fine-tuning can be readily explained by the application of well-established laws of physics and cosmology... I will show that the universe looks just like it should if it were not fine-tuned for humanity.

"Cosmologists have proposed... that ours is not the only universe but part of a MULTIVERSE containing an unlimited number of individual universes extending an unlimited distance in all directions and for an unlimited time in the past and future. If that's the case, we just happen to live in that universe which is suited for our kind of life. The universe is not fine-tuned to us; we are fine-tuned to our particular universe. Now, theists and many nonbelieving scientists object to this solution as being `nonscientific' because we have no way of observing a universe outside our own... In fact, a multiverse is more scientific and parsimonious than hypothesizing an unobservable creating spirit and a single universe. I would argue that the multiverse is a legitimate scientific hypothesis, since it agrees with our best knowledge." #Pg. 22-23#

But he cautions, "Assuming a theory, such as inflationary cosmology in which universes are constantly generated by natural quantum processes and fall into a random valley, there is bound to be one universe that has parameters such as ours suitable for life. Now, I mention this only for completeness. Although, I believe it is adequate to refute fine-tuning, it remains an untested hypothesis. My case against fine-tuning will not rely on speculations beyond well-established physics nor on the existence of multiple universes. I will show that fine-tuning is a fallacy based on our knowledge of this universe alone." #Pg. 24#

He also asserts, "I do not have the burden of disproving that God fine-tuned physics and cosmology so that humans formed in his image would evolve. Anyone making such an awesome claim carries the burden of proof. I regard my task as a devil's advocate to simply find a plausible explanation within existing knowledge for the parameters having the values that they do... I will avoid speculating... For example, I do not use any arguments based on string theory." #Pg. 25#

In chapter 2, he says, "One possible natural explanation for the anthropic coincidences is that multiple universes exist with different physical constants and laws and our life-form evolved in the one suitable for us. Theists vehemently object that we have no evidence for multiple universes and, furthermore, we are violating Occam's razor by introducing multiple entities `beyond necessity.' ... Modern cosmological theories do indicate that ours is just one of an unlimited number of universes, and theists can give no reason for ruling them out." #Pg. 42#

He addresses the "everything that begins has a cause" argument of theists: "You can go ahead and call the quantum situation something like `indeterministic cause' if you want, but whether or not you call it `cause,' the fact does not change that... certain events cannot be explained as a predictable result of preceding events. What is important is the probabilistic aspect. I don't think that a god who throws dice is the God that [William Lane] Craig and his fellow monotheistic believers worship... Craig... cannot claim as a fact that everything that begins has a cause. Thus is follows that the Kalâm cosmological argument fails because its first premise fails." #Pg. 117-118#

He argues, "So the well-established equations of physics and cosmology allow for the existence of two mirror universes: ours that expands along the positive time axis and a prior universe that exists at negative times. From our point of view, our universe appears by quantum tunneling from the earlier universe... While I cannot prove that this is actually how our universe came to be, we can say that a complete scenario for the natural origin of the universe that is consistent with all known physics and cosmology can be written out mathematically. While each universe had a beginning, that beginning did not require a creator. These beginnings occurred by uncaused quantum tunneling from nothing. Or... just think of our universe as having tunneled from an earlier one..." #Pg. 143-146#

But he adds, "I need to make it clear that neither the biverse nor a multiverse is required to demonstrate the fallacy of fine-tuning. At the same time, I reject the charge that it is not scientific to consider them even if they are not observable." #Pg. 147# Later, he states, "Remember, to defeat the fine-tuning argument, I do not have to give a reason why each parameter has the value it does, I must only show that life could be plausible under a wide range of parameters." #Pg. 173#

About calculations of the cosmological constant, he observes, "This is still over 50 orders of magnitude higher than the observed limit! Nevertheless, this is no reason to rush out and claim fine-tuning to 50 orders of magnitude, by God or by nature. Any calculation that disagrees with the data by 50 or 120 orders of magnitude is simply wrong and should not be taken seriously. We just have to wait the correct calculation. Let me mention several possibilities... including one ... called `holographic cosmology' that... is not limited by the cosmological constant problem." #Pg. 219-220#

He summarizes, "Modern cosmology strongly suggests, although it does not prove, the existence of multiple universes in a greater system called the multiverse. If they exist, multiple universes provide a no-brainer solution to the fine-tuning problem by way of the weak anthropic principle. There are many universes out there with different parameters, and we just happen to be in the one with those parameters that allowed our kind of life to evolve. Our universe is not fine-tuned for life. Life is fine-tuned to our universe." #Pg. 227#

He contends, "many people, scientists as well as educated laypeople, have objected to even discussing multiple universes in a scientific context because they probably can never be detected. However, science talks all the time about undetected, or even undetectable, objects. According to the standard model, individual quarks and gluons are undetectable. Yet they are part of a model that has worked well for three decades. So nothing stops us from considering undetectable universes, as long as they remain consistent with and are suggested by well-established theories." #Pg. 228#

He also insists, "If scientists can imagine other worlds, why can't believers? The difference is that the scientific belief... is based on well-established physics and cosmology. The religious belief rests on no comparable scientific ground but just the fantasies of the prescientific age. The scenario of the natural origin of the universe that I described above predicts inflation in its equations. It also allows for what I called a `biverse': our universe along with a mirror universe expanding in the opposite time direction to ours, but with an arrow of time in that direction. If a process such as this were responsible for our universe, there is no reason it wouldn't produce many others. In an eternal multiverse with an unlimited number of baby universes, one just like ours is likely to occur... even in the unlikely case that only a single universe exists... fine-tuning is a fallacy from all angles." #Pg. 230-231)

Stenger's book is perhaps the most sustained attack on the notion of "fine-tuning"; whether one agrees with all of his ideas or not, this book will be "must reading" for anyone concerned with such cosmological and theological arguments and discussion.
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