Logic & Philosophy of Science Colloquium


Chris Smeenk

"Fine Tuning Problems in Cosmology"

Abstract:   Recently philosophers of science have debated the legitimacy of attempts to "explain the initial conditions" of the universe.  Cosmologists frequently invoke the apparent fine-tuning of the initial state required by the standard cosmological models as the main motivation for new theories such as inflation. Without new dynamics such as inflation, the argument goes, the universe as we observe it would be incredibly improbable.  Callender has emphasized the similarity between such arguments and the traditional argument from design; in both cases, there are well-known problems with making this appeal to probability precise.  I will argue that this difficulty reflects a general feature of "fine-tuning problems":  they are defined by a contrast between speculative extrapolations of existing theory and current observational and experimental results.  The ability of a theory to solve a fine-tuning problem is only a significant success if the extrapolation of existing theory proves to be correct.  Although these remarks apply to fine-tuning problems quite generally, my talk will focus on early universe cosmology.               

Friday, December 3, 2004
SST 777
3 pm

Refreshments will be served