Precis: The precise values of the physical constants of nature and the serendipitous state (initial conditions) of the beginning of the universe all point to a cosmic designer who has fine-tuned the universe. The evidence available from contemporary science suggests that theism provides a more plausible explanation for the emergence of life in the universe than naturalism or atheism.
The Apostle Paul declares that nature displays clearly the existence of God and his divine power (Romans 1:19-20). The atheist may retort that this is just an assertion and demand for evidence. He would be surprised to be told that the evidence is available from recent advance in science, as the investigations of the intricate mechanism of the universe uncovered by modern cosmology rule out the suggestion that the universe is a product of chance. Indeed, a more plausible conclusion would be to view the universe as designed by a supremely intelligent and vastly powerful designer whom men of faith call the Creator God.
It is arguable that the first theologian to use the knowledge of modern science to support the case for the existence of God was William Paley who formulated the ‘watch-maker’ argument in his book Natural Theology (1802). Paley wrote, “suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; … There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.”
The logic of the watchmaker argument may be outlined as follows:
1. A watch shows that it was assembled for an intelligent purpose (to keep time)
a. The spring provides energy to keep the parts moving
b. The gears ensure the motion is regular and transmitted to the watch-hand
c. The glass cover protects the moving hand and allows easy reading of time
2. The world shows far greater evidence of design than a watch
a. The world displays greater complexity that a watch
b. The world shows endless variety of means adapted to ends.
3. Therefore, if a watch points to a clever watchmaker, then the world demands an even greater intelligent Designer.
We can frame the argument more succinctly:
1. All design implies a designer
2. Great design implies a great designer
3. There is evidence of complex design in the universe
4. Therefore, there must be a great Designer of the universe.
1. The material universe resembles the intelligent products designed by human beings
2. Like effects have like causes
3. Therefore the design quality of the universe is the effect of an intelligent designer (creator)
How persuasive or sound the argument is depends on the veracity of the first premise, that is, that the universe does exhibit marks of design. In this respect, the breathtaking advances and new discoveries of science since 1802 cumulatively provide compelling evidence of a designed universe. Scientists are increasingly aware that life emerged on earth under the most improbable (or miraculous) circumstances. Further reflection on recent scientific discoveries seems to suggest that the discovered pattern and regularities of nature must be fine-tuned to make life possible.
The world famous physicist-writer, Paul Davis observes that there is now broad agreement among astro-physicists and cosmologists that the Universe is in several respects ‘fine-tuned’ for life. He adds that the universe is not only ‘biophilic’ [friendly towards life] to make life marginally possible, but the universe is optimized to ensure the flourishing of life.
Indeed, scientists are beginning to appreciate the great precision of optimization or fine-tuning parameters that must be in place before life can emerge. These parameters must be exact to great order of magnitude.
Martin Rees in his book, Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe, highlights 6 numbers or dimensionless constants needed to be fine-tuned in order to have a life-permitting universe. These values control the interrelationship between space, time and energy.
N = ratio of the strengths of gravity to that of electromagnetism; if the ratio were smaller, there would have been only a short-lived miniature universe; no creatures would grow larger than insects, much less would there be time for biological evolution.
Epsilon (ε) = strength of the force binding nucleons into nuclei and controls the power of the Sun. It has a value of 0.007. If the number deviates say either to 0.006 or 0.008 we could not exist.
Omega (ω) = relative importance of gravity and expansion energy in the Universe; if the ratio were too high the universe would have collapsed long ago; if it were too low, no stars would have formed. In other words, the present universe exists because the value of Omega is just right.
Lambda (λ) = cosmological constant; the biggest scientific news in 1998. It is a cosmic ‘antigravity’ that controls the expansion of the universe. Fortunately, it is surprisingly very small to allow formation of stars and galaxies.
Q = ratio of the gravitational energy required to pull a large galaxy apart to the energy equivalent of its mass; If Q were smaller, the universe would be inert and structureless; if Q were larger it would be a violent place with no stars and dominated by vast black holes.
D = number of spatial dimensions in space-time. String theory for all its worth suggests that the 10 or 11 original dimensions at the origins of the universe were compactified into 3 (Time, the fourth dimension is different as it has a built-in arrow: we ‘move’ only towards the future). Rees observes that if D were two or four life could not exist.
Dr. Hugh Ross spells out more concretely why the precise balance of physical constants is absolutely necessary for the emergence of life (Hugh Ross gave 25 such parameters in his book The Creator and the Cosmos).
1. Strong nuclear force constant
if larger: no hydrogen would form; atomic nuclei for most life-essential elements would be unstable; thus, no life chemistry
if smaller: no elements heavier than hydrogen would form: again, no life chemistry
2. Weak nuclear force constant
if larger: too much hydrogen would convert to helium in big bang; hence, stars would convert too much matter into heavy elements
if smaller: too little helium would be produced from big bang; hence, stars would convert too little matter into heavy elements
3. Ratio of electromagnetic force constant to gravitational force constant
if larger: all stars would be at least 1.4 solar masses; hence, stellar burning would be too brief and too uneven for life support
if smaller: all stars would be no bigger than 0.8 times solar masses, thus incapable of producing heavy elements
4. Expansion rate of the universe
if larger: no galaxies would form
if smaller: universe would collapse, even before stars formed
5. Mass density of the universe
if larger: too much deuterium from big bang would cause stars to burn too rapidly for life to form
if smaller: insufficient helium from big bang would result in too few heavy elements
6. Initial uniformity of radiation
if more uniform: stars, star clusters, and galaxies would not have formed
if less uniform: universe by now would be mostly black holes and empty space
7. Ratio of neutron mass to proton mass
if higher: neutron decay would yield too few neutrons for the formation of heavy elements essential for life
if lower: proton decay would cause all stars to collapse into neutron stars or black holes
Indeed the ratio between the physical forces (physical constants) must be fine-tuned to amazing order of accuracy given below.
Fine Tuning of the Physical Constants of the Universe
|Ratio of Electrons: Protons||1:1037|
|Ratio of Electromagnetic Force: Gravity||1:1040|
|Expansion Rate of Universe||1:1055|
|Mass Density of Universe||1:1059|
These numbers represent the maximum deviation from the accepted values, that would either prevent the universe from existing now, not having matter, or be unsuitable for any form of life. The order of accuracy would probably remain an abstract number for most lay readers. Dr. Hugh Ross in his book The Creator and the Cosmos (p. 108) gives a graphic illustration to help the reader grasp the well-nigh impossibility of the universe achieving the required ration based on random occurrence or chance.
“Cover the entire North American continent in dimes all the way up to the moon, a height of about 239,000 miles…Next, pile dimes from here to the moon on a billion other continents the same size as North America. Paint one dime red and mix it into the billions of piles of dimes. Blindfold a friend and ask him to pick out one dime. The odds that he will pick the red dime are one in 1037. And this is only one of the parameters that is so delicately balanced to allow life to form.”
The necessity of precise physical constants must be maintained not only in the realm of physics but also in the realm of biology. The physical constants give a distinctive chemical quality to the Carbon atom which is foundational for formation of all life-forms as we know.
Alister McGrath elaborates,
“The entire [biological] evolutionary process depends upon the unusual chemistry of carbon, which allows it to bond to itself, as well as other elements, creating highly complex molecules that are stable over prevailing terrestrial temperatures, and are capable of conveying genetic information (especially DNA)…Although one might be argued that nature creates its own fine-tuning, this can only be done if the primordial constituents of the universe are such that an evolutionary process can be initiated. The unique chemistry of carbon is the ultimate foundation of the capacity of nature to tune itself.” (A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology, pp. 138-139).
Life emerged only as a result of an exact and unlikely combination of physical conditions pertaining to the strength of gravity and electromagnetic forces, and the precise density of the beginning state of the universe. The slightest departure from their actual values in an early universe would make life impossible.
Going by the immense odds, life could not have emerged through a random process of nature or by chance. But life has emerged from such improbabilities and this suggests some intervention from an agency outside the processes of nature. As one scientist surmises, it seems that some higher intelligence has cooked the physical constants under just the right condition at the beginning of the universe to make life possible.
We can formulate an argument for the existence of God based on the fine-tuning characteristics of the universe as follows:
- The fine-tuning of the universe to support life is either due to chance or design
- It is not due to chance
- Therefore, the fine-tuning is due to design
To conclude, the precise values of the physical constants of nature and the serendipitous state (initial conditions) of the beginning of the universe all point to a cosmic designer who has fine-tuned the universe. The evidence available from contemporary science suggests that theism provides a more plausible explanation for the emergence of life in the universe than naturalism or atheism.
Alister E. McGrath. A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology. WJK 2009.
Hugh Ross. The Creator and the Cosmos. NavPress 1993.
Ropert Spitzer. New Proofs for the Existence of God. Eerdmans 2010.