Barnes Fine Tuning Talk

I was asked by Ratio Christi—a group at Rutgers that I've spoken to a couple times in the past—to advertise the talk above.  It will be on Feb 20th at 7pm, at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary.  See this post on their Facebook page for more details.

It will be by (St?) Luke Barnes, a cosmologist who recently coauthored a book with Geraint Lewis, about the Fine Tuning of the Laws of Nature to permit live.  I advertised their book on spec, before I read it, at the end of my own talk on Fine Tuning.  I knew it was going to be worth reading because of the high quality of commentary on Luke's blog, Letters to Nature.  Luke is not afraid to critique foolish comments made by people on both sides, and his honesty in presenting the data is impeccable.

Over the holidays I read his book and wrote extensive notes in it (I never write in books!) and I will be posting a review of the book when I get around to it.

If anyone here decides to go, I'm sure you won't regret it.  Unfortunately I won't be there since I have a prior commitment in India.

About Aron Wall

I am a Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. Before that, I read Great Books at St. John's College (Santa Fe), got my physics Ph.D. from U Maryland, and did my postdocs at UC Santa Barbara, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Stanford. The views expressed on this blog are my own, and should not be attributed to any of these fine institutions.
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17 Responses to Barnes Fine Tuning Talk

  1. Robert W. Childress says:

    I think Barnes was in a recent Unbelievable? episode on the matter of fine tuning... actually, that was on the first of October. Longer ago than I thought.

    I remember leaving the episode thinking he was a Christian so he might be a St., but on second thought I can't remember if he explicitly stated he was a Christian or not.

  2. howie says:

    Yes, he is Christian, it says so explicitly in the book.

  3. Aron Wall says:

    On which page?

  4. Luke Barnes says:

    Thanks for the plug. I'm looking forward to your review!

    I'll accept the St., though I'm still waiting for my halo. It doesn't say so in the book, incidentally. It was mentioned on Unbelievable.

  5. howie says:

    Aron sorry I didn't recall the page , but my recollection of the book is that it ends with the two authors arguing as to which is the bets explanation of fine tuning. Luke argues for God and his co author argues for the multiverse. And Luke doesnt just argue for any old theism but a God of love with moral agents , tips his hat to Richard Swinburne etc. Maybe it wasn't an explicit statement "I Am A christian " but it was damm close to that and it would be very silly for someone to take anything different away from that. I know a lot of people have described Luke as an agnostic, but that seems absurd to me, his views were pretty clear from day one.

  6. AleksyL says:

    Great talk, tipping my hats to both you and Luke, Aron.

    -Alex L

  7. AleksyL says:


    Careful about discussing Luke's beliefs here. There are some 'bloggers' who will go a long to try to locate any such information.


  8. howie says:

    Sorry AlekseyL, I am not understanding where you re going with your comment. Can you elaborate?

  9. Scott Church says:

    Hello Howie,

    I trust he'll correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe what AlexseyL is referring to is the sad fact that in the blogosphere in poisoning the well fallacies are a bread-and-butter form of argument for New Atheists. The usual approach is to interject seemingly innocuous inquiries about one's views regarding God into discussions of subjects like fine tuning, the intent being to bait one into acknowledging a belief in Him. The second one does so, virtually anything he/she says is then dismissed with no further consideration and all discussion stops. Unfortunately, Luke has a few such pests at his blog, two in particular who are regulars there and are notorious for trolling him is exactly this manner, and one of those has trolled Aron from time to time as well. To date Luke has done a fine job of keeping his combox discussions on topic by not taking their bait, and AlexseyL is simply suggesting that he probably wants to continue doing so. While discussions with Atheists in general can be, and generally are, quite productive, in the blogosphere one is wise to adopt tactics that avoid a swarm of New Atheist mosquitoes. :-)


  10. AleksyL says:


    These are my concerns, I consider Luke to be an outstanding friend (in fact as a student, I have suggested that he give his talk at my university if both he university and Luke agrees, although I have doubts that this will materialize [won't say anything more about this!])

  11. TY says:

    I am just thrilled to know there are physicists like Aron Wall, Luke Barnes, and David Kwon ( who take so much of their time to write excellent articles in rigorous defence of theism and Christianity in their websites. They are all saints, and we need more of them.

  12. Mactoul says:

    "prior commitment in India."

    How wonderful. Although I doubt it could be anywhere closer to five hundred miles from the town of Vizag where I live in.

  13. Aron Wall says:

    I also thought it was highly probably that he was a Christian, but I didn't want to commit to it without definitive evidence. If he chose to keep it coy, that was his own buisness.

    Thanks for confirming; I'll try to let you know when I've posted the review!

    AleksyL & Scott,
    I'm not sure there's any point in changing one's self-presentation to accommodate that kind of Bulverism. Are such people at all likely to believe if one doesn't self-present as a Christian? Our job is to confess Christ regardless of whether anyone listens:

    If we died with him, we will also live with him;
    If we endure, we will also reign with him.
    If we disown him, he will also disown us;
    If we are faithless, he remains faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself. (2 Tim 2:11-13)

    There are far worse forms of persecution than trolling on blogs, especially if you have the power to moderate away the worst abuses.

    Of course, there's a way in which Christians might actually be more likely to be objective about the Fine Tuning Argument---after all, you can be a Christian and still think that the fine tuning argument doesn't prove the existence of God, but you can't be an Atheist and think that it does prove the existence of God!

    But really, the correct response is to just reject Bulverism as an irrelevant ad hominem fallacy from the beginning. Noble people discuss ideas, rather than jumping directly to accusations about the other person's subconscious motivations, as if that were somehow a refutation of the argument.

    Nowhere close. I will be in Mumbai, Ghandinager, and Puri.

  14. Scott Church says:

    Aron, I agree completely. Certainly no one given to the usual New Atheist Bulverism is going to welcome the Holy Spirit if one never self-presents as a Christian. The point is more about practicality than accommodation.

    First, and sadly, these days the public face of the Gospel carries a lot of baggage, and for a great many folks that's a show-stopper long before any of the relevant foundations get laid. You probably know better than I how hard it can be to get some physicists, philosophers, and other secular folks to even engage in a discussion of Christ and Him crucified because of it. As such, there's something to be said for introducing those foundations in a manner that sweeps the trash first before self-presenting our faith... much as Paul did in Athens (Acts 17:23-28).

    Second, the sort of people Luke has to deal with are on New Atheist fishing expeditions. The second one self-identifies as a believer to such folks it's troll city. Everyone feels compelled to respond to them, before you know it everything is reduced to a high plains prairie fire and all productive discussion ceases.

    Some folks choose to deal with these problems by either not self-identifying as believers, or being extremely careful about doing so until after the foundations are laid. I believe this is Luke's approach. IMHO, it's best to self-identify as early, and truthfully and relevantly to those foundational principles as possible, and if trolls are encountered as a result, name ad-hominem and poisoning -the-well for exactly what they are, and just don't feed them. Anything else smacks of apologizing for a Gospel we are not ashamed of (Rom. 1:16). :-)

  15. Mactoul says:

    Puri? Are you visiting the Institute of Physics at Bhubaneswar?
    Puri is actually close to Vizag -only 300 miles but I guess at this stage you can't modify.
    Puri is a great holy town for hindus but I think Westerners are not allowed in the inner sanctum of the temple.

  16. Aron Wall says:

    The Institue of Physics at Bhubaneswar is sponsoring the event in Puri, but I won't be spending any time in Bhubaneswar itself except to fly in and out.

  17. Mactoul says:

    I hope to have your impressions of India esp from a Christian perspective.
    Vizag is one of the Christian towns of India, unlike what you find in North. Churches are very prominent everywhere and you find Jesus slogans and quotes on cars and buildings.

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