Hostname: page-component-6b989bf9dc-pkhfk Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-13T00:12:22.156Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Fine-tuning arguments and biological design arguments: can the theist have both?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2019

University of Wisconsin, Madison, 600 North Park Street, Madison, WI53706, USA.


There are at least two kinds of design arguments for theism: fine-tuning arguments and biological design arguments. Dougherty and Poston (2008) have argued that the success of one requires the failure of the other, and vice versa. The reason is that the success of these arguments hinges on the following crucial probability: the probability that biological life exists somewhere in the universe given that (a) our universe is finely tuned and that (b) biological development is unguided by intelligence. According to Dougherty and Poston, fine-tuning arguments require that the crucial probability is high while biological design arguments require that the crucial probability is low. As a result, at most one of these design arguments can factor into a cumulative case argument for theism. I argue that this is mistaken. Specifically, I show that fine-tuning arguments can succeed even if the crucial probability is low.

Original Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Collins, R. (2009) ‘The teleological argument: an exploration of the fine-tuning of the universe’, in Craig, William Lane & Moreland, J. P. (eds) The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Oxford: Blackwell), 202281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dougherty, T. & Poston, T. (2008) ‘A user's guide to design arguments’, Religious Studies, 44, 99110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leslie, J. (1989) Universes (New York: Routledge).Google Scholar
McGrew, L. (2004) ‘Testability, likelihoods, and design’, Philo, 7, 521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McGrew, T. (2005) ‘Toward a rational reconstruction of design inferences’, Philosophia Christi, 7, 253298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Schroeder, M. (2007) Slaves of the Passions (Oxford: Oxford University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Swinburne, R. (2004) The Existence of God, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar