The argument from fine-tuning holds that it is remarkable that we have a universe fit for life. Given all of the possible ways that the universe might have been, it was vastly improbable that it would turn out to be habitable. Miraculously, though, the universe is capable of supporting life; this, according to the argument from fine-tuning, points towards an intelligent designer who created the universe with life in mind.

One simple objection to this argument is that sometimes improbable events do occur; there is no need to postulate design just because something odd happened.

In a lottery, for example, there are millions of possible combinations of balls that could be drawn. Each one of those combinations is equally likely (or unlikely). Yet one of them must be drawn.

The same is true of the conditions of the universe. There may be an infinite number of ways that the universe could have been, each of which is vastly improbable, but the universe had to be some way. Why, then, is it remarkable that the universe is this way? Why is it more remarkable that the universe is fit for life than it is that last week’s lottery numbers were drawn? Why should we think that the fine-tuning of the universe points to intelligent design, but not that the combination of lottery numbers points to a force that wanted those numbers to be drawn?

This objection rests on a caricature of the argument from fine-tuning. The argument doesn‘t hold simply that the unlikelihood of the universe being this way implies that it is this way for a reason. Rather, the argument holds that there is something remarkable about the way that the universe is that means that its being this way requires explanation.

If a used pack of cards is opened, then there are many different ways in which the cards might be ordered. They are no less likely to be ordered in ascending value suit-by-suit than they are to be ordered in any other way. If they are ordered in ascending value suit-by-suit, though, then we will infer that they were deliberately placed in that order. We do so because there’s something special about this order. It may be no less likely than any other order, but it suggests design where other arrangements of the cards would not.

Advocates of the argument from fine-tuning hold that a universe that is fit for life is ordered in a special way, just like such a pack of cards. It is not just that the universe is unlikely to be this way by chance that smacks of design, it is that it is significant that the universe is this way. The fact that the universe is in every way as it needs to be to support life is suggestive of design, just as a pack of cards arranged in ascending order suit-by-suit is suggestive of design.