The first challenge I want to look at goes like this: “Yes, the fine-tuning of the universe for life is highly unlikely, but unlikely things happen all the time.”
For a standard example of a highly unlikely event, look no further than your own existence. For you to exist, your mom and dad had to meet, fall in love, and have sex at just the right time. Not only that, but you are the result of a particular sperm—one in 300,000,000—and a particular egg—one in 2,000,000. We can multiply the improbability of your existence by looking at the likelihood of your grandparents meeting and conceiving your parents. You get the point. You are highly unlikely, but here you are.
In the same way, it is argued, the universe is highly unlikely, but here it is. Unlikely things happen, and we don’t need to appeal to a designer to explain it.
This response may have some rhetorical force, but it makes a fundamental mistake. To expose the error, let me give you another illustration.
[…snipped the first great explanation…]
Let me give you one more illustration to help make my point. Imagine we sit down to play poker. Every time you deal, I get a random assortment of cards (e.g., King high, pair of eights, Jack high, pair of tens, Ace high). However, every time I deal, I get a royal flush (e.g., royal flush, royal flush, royal flush, royal flush, royal flush). The probability of getting a single royal flush is one in 649,739.
After the fifth royal flush, you insist that I’m cheating. That is, I’m designing the outcome. But what if I responded, “Yes, five consecutive royal flushes is highly unlikely, but unlikely things happen all the time. In fact, for you to exist your mom and dad had to meet, fall in love, and have sex. . . .
How do we really know that design is the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe for life? In the same way we know that I designed the outcome to get five royal flushes in a row. A royal flush is highly improbable, but it is just as improbable as any other hand in poker. What makes a royal flush so special is that this sequence of cards matches a pattern that corresponds to a winning hand in poker. Therefore, it’s the high improbability plus the specified pattern that tips us off to design.
Consequently, the fine-tuning of the universe for life is not merely highly improbable. It’s highly improbable plus an independently specified outcome. It’s finely tuned for the existence of life. Therefore, the fine-tuning of the universe for life is best explained by a cosmic Designer.
With the power of random chance being curb-stomped as a explanation for the current, actually-existing, life-bearing universe, it is understandable why the retreat into impossible-to-verify alternate universes has begun.
Christians would be wise to leave the retreat into fantasy for the Darwinians.