Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Quote: John Polkinghorne on Fine-Tuning

“When you realize that the laws of nature must be incredibly finely tuned to produce the universe we see, that conspires to plant the idea that the universe did not just happen, but that there must be a purpose behind it.”1

– John Polkinghorne

1. (John Polkinghorne, Cambridge University physicist, "Science Finds God," Newsweek, 20 July, 1998)


mmcelhaney said...

All my research and education has lead me to the same conclusion.

Roberto G said...

My favorite is Gordon H. Clark. Glad to see he made the list.
Good apologetic material in his A Christian Philosophy of Education and Religion, Reason, and Revelation.
(I think those are the titles).

Brian said...

Roberto -

I think you meant to comment on the other post - but I understand what you mean.

Lee said...

I could talk all day about why the fine tuning argument is flawed.

Poor old John... he cannot understand how the constants are what they are, so to him, there must be a purpose, and it must be God.


Marcus McElhaney All my research and education has lead me to the same conclusion.

So you claim to know all the answers, amazing. Care to share how you know this?


Brian said...

I could talk all day about why the fine tuning argument is flawed.

Sounds like a good post for your blog, Lee.

bossmanham said...


Are you still of the mindset that the cell is just a glob of protoplasm? Do you know what goes on inside the cell? Do you realize it is more complicated than any man made factory?

Evan T. Burchfield said...

This is misleadingly labelled "intelligent design." John Polkinghorne is a theistic evolutionist, theoretical physicist, and Anglican priest. His work argues within the framework of an evolutionary model, but in a way I guarantee you've never heard of before (see: Belief in God in an Age of Science). John is highly critical of Natural Theology in the William Paley mode, but endorses his own natural theology which he is referring to (and is misleadingly blurbed) here.

Brian said...

Thanks for stopping by!

Sorry that the label misled you. It was only meant as a broad category label. The argument from the fine-tuning of the universe for life is a design argument. That is why it has been classified under intelligent design.

The label "intelligent design" is not meant to label Polkinghorn's position, nor is it meant to say that this quote represents a movement of any sort.

Evan T. Burchfield said...

Thanks for the response, Brian, and thanks for the resources you've indexed on your site.

An unfortunate side effect of the flexibility of the English language is that words seem to float in and out of meanings, even as we are using them. It is true that the phrase "intelligent design" does sometimes refer to, especially in the past and occasionally now in casual conversation, the conviction that there is an intelligent designer behind creation, no matter which method s/he/it has used to create. However, we don't live in a perfect world, and I'm sure you know that the Intelligent Design/Creationist movement, which is very adept at labeling, has co-opted the phrase to mean exclusively "abrupt appearance theory."

Truly, a theistic evolutionist believes in an intelligent designer, and in some form believes there is such a thing as identifiable on-this-Earth design of an intelligent sort that can be understood by creatures endowed with intelligence. This is clear in reading Denis Lamoureux, who defends evolution against critics like Phillip Johnson, while quietly (and inadequately) conceding that intelligent design is real and defendable; of course he doesn't mean Johnson's capital letters Intelligent Design, nor does Polkinghorne, even though the arguments of all three on the subject of teleology (or as you put it, "design arguments") might sound the same.

Therefore, it is useful to distinguish between "design" and "Intelligent Design." From my vantage point, and I could be wrong since the discussion here is sparse, it seems that the commenters above have quickly equated Polkinghorne's quote with a specific movement, not just a "design argument" as you put it. Perhaps this is because upon glancing at the label "intelligent design" on your blog, one sees predominantly thinkers who are in favor of either evolution or "design" and, to my knowledge, few or none who are in favor of both. I didn't look very far, though, and I certainly acknowledge that the focus of your site is apologetics and not biology. Those points acknowledged, given the context of the label on your site, and the phrase in larger biological discussions, the question arises: does making a "design argument" necessarily intend or imply an argument for or against Intelligent Design, or for that matter, for or against evolution?

At the very least, on the part of Polkinghorne, the answer is no, so I respectfully resubmit my original complaint: Intelligent Design is an inaccurate label for this quote.

Thanks, best.

Brian said...

Thanks again for your feedback.
I have changed the tag from "Intelligent Design" to "Design Arguments" as I think it is more accurate and may avoid the confusion.

Anonymous said...

The atheists are willing to imagine anything, create all kinds of complex unobservable chemistry, improbable, ridiculous chemically absurd scenarios and explanations, as long as they can always rule out God! Einstein - "The fanatical atheists are like slaves"

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