If you gaze at the universe with a curious eye, you would find wonder on every level, our universe is a true masterpiece! This, when viewed through the eyes of faith, we see a personal God crafting a complex universe that includes our life-giving home, the Earth. But does science see the same thing? To answer this question, we shall discuss the concept of the fine tuning of the universe.
What does “fine tuning” mean?
Fine tuning in itself does not mean that there is a designer behind the creation of the universe. However, what it does scientifically mean is that the universe is held by physical constants within a very narrow range that permits life to exist. One clear example of this is the gravitational force constant (G), which is the large scale attraction force that holds people on earth, and holds planets, stars, and galaxies together. If these gravitational constants varied by just 1 part in 10^60 (one in ten to the sixtieth parts) none of us would exist.
The odds that all the physical constants that hold the universe exist as we have them now is 1 to 10^120 (that is one in ten to the one hundred and twentieth). To put that into perspective, the number of atoms in the universe is 1 to 10^80.
Given the extremely low probability that these physical constants were randomly orchestrated and calibrated to permit life to exist, there is a case to be made that there must be an intelligent mind that deliberately fine tuned the universe to enable life to exist.
There are a few objections to this argument though that we will discuss here.
First objection: The term “fine tuning” means that there is a designer behind the formation of the universe.
Reply: According to the book “A Fortunate Universe” by Geraint Lewis and Luke Barnes, fine tuning is defined as a technical term borrowed from physics and refers to the contrast between a wide range of possibilities and a narrow range of a particular outcome or phenomenon. So, by “fine-tuning” one does not mean “designed” and the term itself has nothing to do with intentional planning or intelligence, but it simply means that the physical constants of the universe fall into an exquisitely narrow range of values which make our universe life-permitting.
Second objection: The physical constants are not fine-tuned, so this whole fine-tuning theory isn’t real.
Reply: When scientists quantify their observations, they notice that the laws of nature follow a certain set of numerical values that are consistent across space and time. These values are known as physical constants and they appear to provide symmetry across the universe. If there is a slight change in any of the many constants, life wouldn’t exist.
One clear example of this is the gravitational force constant (G), which is large scale attractive force, holds people on planets, and holds planets, stars, and galaxies together, if this constant varied by just 1 part in 1060 (one in ten to the sixtieth parts) none of us would exist.
Another example is the Cosmological constant, which controls the expansion speed of the universe, the cosmological constant must be fine-tuned to something like 1 part in 10^120. So, a change in its value by mere one part in ten to the one hundred twentieth parts would cause the universe to expand too rapidly or too slowly which would make the universe life-prohibiting.
In addition to these two constants, there are many other constants that must be fine-tuned and any slight change in the value of one of them would result in a lifeless universe. Some of these physical constants include: the velocity of light, the mass of the electron, electromagnetism coupling constant, and many others.
Aside from the physical constants, there are many well-established examples of fine-tuning which are widely accepted even by scientists who are generally hostile to theism and design. For instance, Stephen Hawking, in the book “A Brief History of Time” has admitted: “The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers [the constants of physics] seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.”
So, the fact that the universe is able to support life depending on various of its fundamental characteristics, notably on the form of the laws of nature, on the values of some constants of nature, and on aspects of the universe’s conditions in its very early stages, is what science and renowned scientists agree on.
Third objection: God isn’t the one who fine-tuned the universe and designed it to host life. Fine tuning could be due to necessity or chance.
Reply: First, let’s talk about physical necessity. According to this alternative, the universe has to be life-permitting. The constants and the quantities had to have the values that they do. It is literally physically impossible for the universe to be life-prohibiting. It is physically necessary that the universe be a life-permitting universe. Truth is, there is no reason or evidence to suggest that fine-tuning is necessary! In the book “God and Design,” Paul Davies states that “There is not a shred of evidence that the Universe is logically necessary. Indeed, as a theoretical physicist I find it rather easy to imagine alternative universes that are logically consistent, and therefore equal contenders of reality”. So, blind necessity isn’t something to consider behind fine-tuning.
Secondly comes the chance or in other words coincidence. Supporters of this fallacy claim that constants of nature and initial conditions have arbitrary values, and it is just a matter of coincidence that all their actual values turn out to enable life. The idea of “lucky accidents” or chance is simply absurd. Why? Think about this: If you found an aquarium in your house, with water and plants and food in the right combination required to keep goldfish alive, wouldn’t you reasonably infer that someone put it there because they wanted to pet goldfish, rather than the possibility that all of this occurred by accident? Similarly, the universe has ended up with a “little aquarium” for humans namely, our earth. So it is much more reasonable to suppose that, rather than being an accident, things were set up deliberately to allow for this development.
As astronomer Fred Hoyle wrote: “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.” And the physicist Freeman Dyson wrote: “The more I examine the universe, and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the Universe in some sense must have known we were coming.” Then, do we really need to consider chance as a cause for fine-tuning?
Fourth objection: Perhaps we live in a multiverse where there are a set of parallel universes with differing laws, constants, and initial conditions and that one universe happened to permit life and that we just happened to exist in that very universe.
Reply: The biggest question for the multiverse is, “Is this science?” It is highly improbable that we could ever do any measurements of another universe, at least at the moment, as it is inaccessible to us. Cosmologists themselves debate whether the multiverse is in the realm of science. Even if the multiverse theories are right, they still wouldn’t eliminate fine-tuning.
At last, only a morally perfect God would value life! This God, who especially created human beings with free will and ensured that the universe’s physical laws, constants and initial conditions allowed for their existence, is the one who carefully fine-tuned our universe.