This blog post was originally posted on June 23rd 2015. It was revised and expanded on August 30th 2019. Think of this as like the second edition of a book.
Over the last 50 years scientists have discovered that the laws and the constants of physics surprisingly conspire in a shocking manner to make the universe habitable for life. If the laws of physics were to be tweaked in just the slightest marginal way, the universe would not be capable of supporting life of any kind. This is why it’s called the “fine-tuning” of the universe. Just like on a radio, if you want a certain station to come in, you must tamper with the dial and tune it until the needle on the tuner is in the just right position. In the same way, the multiple different “dials” on multiple different “tuners” must be in very precise positions in order for life to be able to come into existence.
In this blog post, I will first list almost a dozen examples of this fine-tuning, then I will provide an argument for why Intelligent Design is the best explanation of that fine-tuning, and then I will examine 5 of the best objections atheists have lodged against The Fine-Tuning Argument over the years.
Examples Of Fine-Tuning
1: The Strong Nuclear Force — This force is one of the four fundamental forces of nature. It’s the force that binds protons and neutrons together inside the nucleus of all atoms. Just based on this alone, you can tell how important this force is for the existence of physical life. After all, everything is made up of atoms! My body, your body, and the body of every animal on this planet is made up of atoms. This computer I’m typing on is made up of atoms as is the desk its sitting on. So, if the Strong Nuclear Force were off by just a little bit, it would have a devastating consequence on life!
But just what specifically would go wrong? If the Strong Nuclear Force were slightly weaker, it would not be strong enough to bind together protons and neutrons inside the center of atoms. This means that hydrogen would be the only element in the entire universe! Why? Because the hydrogen atom has only one proton and no neutrons in its nucleus. It also has only a single electron orbiting its nucleus. If The Strong Nuclear Force were slightly weaker, it would be so weak that no protons would combine with any other protons and neutrons. Hence, single protein, single electron atoms would fill the cosmos (i.e the hydrogen atom). Obviously, no life can exist in a universe like this. On the other hand, if the Strong Nuclear Force were slightly stronger, it would be so efficient at binding together subatomic particles, that no hydrogen atoms could exist because for every proton, there would be other protons and neutrons sticking to it. In a universe like this, only heavy elements could exist. Hydrogen could not. Life chemistry is impossible if hydrogen either does not exist or is the only element in existence.
What are the odds that the strong nuclear force should be fine tuned for life? 1 part in 10^30 (a 1 followed by 30 zeroes)! One chance in a nonillion that the strong nuclear force would fall into the life-permitting range!1
2: The Weak Nuclear Force – This force is responsible for the radioactive decay of subatomic particles and it plays an essential role in nuclear fission. If this force were any stronger, matter would convert into heavy elements at a pace too rapid for life. Any weaker and matter would remain in the form of just the lightest elements. Either way, the elements crucial for life chemistry (such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorus) wouldn’t exist.
How finely tuned is the weak nuclear force? 1 part in 10^100! That’s a 1 followed by 100 zeroes, also known and a googol! One chance out of a googol that the weak nuclear force would fall within the extremely narrow range needed for life to be possible!2
3: The Force Of Gravity — The strength of the force of gravity determines how hot the nuclear furnaces in the cores of stars will burn. If this force were slightly stronger, stars would burn too rapidly and too erratically for life. This is bad because a planet capable of sustaining life must orbit a star that is both stable and long burning. On the other hand, if gravity were slightly weaker, stars would never become hot enough to ignite nuclear fusion, and therefore, many of the elements required for life chemistry would never form. Since these elements are essentially “cooked” inside the cores of stars, it’s necessary that the stars be able to reach a certain temperature in order to synthesize them. A universe in which gravity were slightly weaker would be a universe in which no elements heavier than hydrogen and helium exist.
What are the odds that gravity should fall within the very narrow range to prevent the above mentioned effects? 1 part in 10^36! Well, with a number as large as 10^36, (not to mention the previous numbers I threw out), it’s hard to visualize the improbability. I’ll need to give you an illustration to help you grasp these low odds. In his book The Case For A Creator, Lee Strobel interviews Robin Collins, a philosopher and currently chair of the Department of Philosophy at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. In The Case For A Creator, Collins says to imagine a ruler stretching from one end of the universe to the other (a length of about 93 billion light years), and the ruler is divided by one inch increments. Those inches represent the range of possible values or power strengths that gravity could have fallen into. In order for life to exist, gravity would have to fall on one specific inch on the ruler! One inch out of the 93 billion light years worth of inches! It is statistically impossible that out of 93 billion light years worth of inches, that’s the one inch it happened to fall on!3
4: The Electromagnetic Force — Astrophysicist Hugh Ross explains that “If the electromagnetic force were significantly larger, Atoms would hang on to electrons so tightly no sharing of electrons with other atoms would be possible. But if the electromagnetic force were significantly weaker, atoms would not hang on to electrons at all, and again, the sharing of electrons among atoms, which makes molecules possible, would not take place. If more than just a few molecules are to exist, the electromagnetic force must be…. delicately balanced.”4
The odds that the force of electromagnetism would be just right for life are 1 in 10^40
5: The Ratio Of The Number Of Electrons To The Number Of Protons – must be fine tuned. If we had too many electrons, electromagnetism would overpower gravity which would prohibit the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets. If we had too many protons, electromagnetism would also dominate gravity which would prohibit the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets. Either way, if we had too many electrons or if we had too many protons, celestial bodies would never have formed. This is obviously bad for life since if there are no galaxies, stars, or planets, then there’s no home for life to live on.
The odds of the universe producing the just right number of electrons to protons is 1 in 10^37 (that’s the number 1 followed by 37 zeroes). 1 chance in 10^37 is so improbable that it is hard to visualize. In his book The Creator and The Cosmos, astrophysicist Hugh Ross gives us an illustration to help us visualize this improbability. He writes “One part in 10^37 is such an incredibly sensitive balance that it is hard to visualize. The following analogy might help: Cover the entire North American continent in dimes all the way up to the moon, a height of about 239,000 miles (In comparison, the money to pay for the U.S. federal government debt would cover one square mile less than two feet deep with dimes.). 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 10^37.”5
That is a mind blowing improbability! If your friend found the red dime, what would your conclusion be? That he found the red dime by chance? Or would you conclude that he purposefully searched for it? I don’t know about you, but I would conclude that my friend purposefully looked for the red dime!
6: The Ratio Of Electron To Proton Mass must be finely tuned as well. It’s not enough just to have the just right number of electrons and protons, but their mass ratio must also be just right. If the mass of the electron or the mass of the proton were off by a little bit, then the bonding between chemicals would be insufficient for life chemistry. 6
How finely tuned is that? 1 chance in 10^37! Now, if you were gullible enough to believe that your blindfolded friend got the red dime by sheer chance on the first try, would you believe that he got the red dime twice in a row by chance? Of course not!
7: The Expansion Rate Of The Universe
If the universe expanded too quickly, all of the matter would fly apart too rapidly for gravity to take it and condense it into galaxies, stars, and planets. In such a universe, no life would be possible. The universe would consist of nothing but isolated pieces of matter and gas. There’d be no home for life to live on. On the other hand, if the universe expanded too slowly, then gravity would have such a powerful pull on all of the pieces of matter in the universe that it would collapse in on itself. Why? Because in physics the gravitational pull of two massive bodies attract one another, and the more massive those bodies are, the more powerfully they attract. And when the universe is young (and therefore small), all the pieces of matter in the universe will be tightly clustered together, and therefore gravity will cause the universe’s expansion to slow down. But as the universe gets older and older (and hence bigger and bigger), all of the matter will gradually grow farther and farther apart. As a result of the matter gradually growing farther apart, gravity will grow progressively insufficient in its ability to slow down the cosmic expansion, while dark energy grows progressively more efficient in its ability to expand the universe.7 We’ll talk about dark energy in a moment.
Anyway, if the universe expanded too quickly, no galaxies, stars, or planets would form, but if the universe expanded too slowly, the universe would collapse before galaxies, stars, and planets could form.
The late Stephen Hawking explains that “If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present size.”8
8: Dark Energy has to be finely tuned as well. Dark Energy is a type of energy that is embedded in the very fabric of space.9 The expansion rate of the universe is governed by two forces: gravity and dark energy. Gravity and dark energy serve as the equivalent of a break and gas pedal in a car. If you’ve got your foot more prominently on one pedal than the other, your car will either be going really fast, or will be going really slow. As explained above, the expansion rate of the universe is crucial to getting galaxies, stars, and planets. If the break and gas pedals of the cosmos weren’t finely tuned with respect to one another, either the universe would expand too quickly, and, therefore, all the matter in the universe would fly apart before gravity could make planets out of it, or the universe would expand so slowly that gravity would pull everything back, resulting in a “big crunch”. Dark Energy is the gas pedal of the universe. It is the reason why space expands.
How finely tuned is dark energy? 1 part in 10^120! That’s 120 zeroes after the number 1!
Lee Strobel, in The Case For A Creator movie, gives this example to help us grasp how improbable this is. He says that the odds of dark energy being just right are the same odds as if you were to fly thousands of miles out into space, and throw a dart at the Earth, and nail a target a trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in diameter!
The fine-tuning of dark energy, however, pales in comparison to this next parameter that I’m about to address.
9: The Entropy Level Of The Early Universe.
It’s finely tuned to 1 part out of 10^10(123)! That’s 10^123 zeros after the number 1!10 If you want to get an idea of how huge this number is, consider this. If you set a laptop computer in front of a two year old toddler with Microsoft Word open and you told him to put his finger on the 0 key until he had 10^123 zeroes typed after the number 1, how long would it take that child to type in 10^123 zeroes? He would die as an old man before he got finished typing all the zeroes! In fact, if you replaced the old man with another 2 year old toddler and told him to type in zeroes in order to finish the work of his predecessor, he too would die as an old man before he got finished! In fact, you could go through 10 generations of men spending their entire lives typing in zeroes and they still wouldn’t be able to type this number out in full!
That is an unbelievably gigantic number! When I first found this out in a physics textbook, my head nearly exploded! That’s not even counting the number of members in a collection of items that the written number is supposed to describe! The number of members in a collection of items always outnumbers the 0s in the numeral that’s describing the number of members in the collection. For example, the number 100 only has two zeros but there are far more members in a collection of 100 items than there are 0s in the numeral 100! If you had a stadium of 1,000 people, there would be far more people in the stadium than 0s in the numeral 1,000. There are only two zeroes in the numeral 100. There are three zeroes in the numeral 1,000, but in both cases, the number of members in the collection of items outnumbers the number of 0s in the numeral! So if there are 10^123 zeroes in the number, what would a collection of 10^10^123) items look like?
To return to Hugh Ross’ dime analogy, just how many piles of dimes would your friend have to search through to get the red dime? Well, remember how improbable it was for your friend to get the red dime out 10^37 coins? That was just 37 zeroes! This is 10^123 zeroes! The odds that your friend should find the red dime out of a pile this size is trillions upon trillions upon trillions of times more improbable than in the original dime analogy!
What would happen if the entropy were any more or less in the universe? Hugh Ross explains that “If the rate of decay were any lower, galactic systems would trap radiation in such a manner that stars could not form. Starless galaxies would fill the universe. On the other hand, if the decay rate were slightly higher, no galactic systems would form at all. In either case there would be no “terrestrial ball” to serve as a home for life.”11
10: The Big Bang Ripples. Jonathan McLatchie explains that “The ripples in the universe left over from the original ‘Big Bang’ singularity (often referred to as CMB, or cosmic background radiation) are detectable at one part in 10^5 (100,000). If this factor were even slightly smaller, the cosmos would exist exclusively as a collection of gas — stars, planets and galaxies would not exist. Conversely, if this factor were increased slightly, the universe would consist only of large black holes. Either way, the universe would be uninhabitable.”12
There are about 37 of these constants and quantities that must be precisely calibrated in order for life to exist in the universe, but for the sake of brevity, I’ve only mentioned 10 of them.
An Argument From Design
How is this extraordinary fine-tuning to be explained? I think the best explanation is that an Intelligent Designer purposefully tweaked nature’s constants and quantities so that they would take on the values needed to support life. To make this argument, I’ll employ a syllogism that philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig uses in his books On Guard13 and Reasonable Faith.14
1: The Fine-Tuning is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
2: It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3: Therefore, it is due to design.
This is a logically valid syllogism. The rule of logic this argument goes by is disjunctive syllogism. Therefore, if the premises are true, the conclusion follows logically and necessarily. So, are the premises true or are they false? Let’s look at them.
Premise 1 shouldn’t be debatable. After all, it’s simply a list of the possible explanations for the fine-tuning of the universe. How could anyone object to a list of potential explanations? Now, if the skeptic can think of a fourth alternative, he’s welcome to add it to the list, and then we’ll examine it when we come to premise 2, but in the 50 years since the fine-tuning was discovered, no one has offered any explanation other than the 3 listed here. So, since this premise is simply a list of possible explanations, it shouldn’t be controversial.
What about premise 2? Is premise 2 true? Premise 2 says that the fine-tuning is not due to either physical necessity or chance.
The first explanation we need to examine is physical necessity. People who argue for this option state that the universe has to, out of physical necessity, be life-permitting. This seems far-fetched to me. This alternative is an assertion that gravity couldn’t have been stronger or weaker than it is, or that the Strong Nuclear Force couldn’t have been more attractive or less attractive, or that the universe couldn’t have expanded any more rapidly or any slower than it actually did. All of these constants and quantities look as if like they could have been different, and any one of them, if they were different, would have disallowed the universe from containing life. Any objector seeking to undermine the inference to design by saying the laws of physics are physically necessary, bares the burden of proof. Unfortunately for our skeptical friend, it’s an extremely heavy burden.
Well, could it be the result of chance? I don’t think so. Lee Strobel, in the movie The Case For A Creator says that the odds of even getting the cosmological constant (another name for dark energy) and gravity to be just right are the same odds that a blindfolded person could pick one specific atom out of all the atoms in the universe! The odds of getting the just right number of electrons to protons is 1 in 10^37 which according to astrophysicist Hugh Ross is akin to a blindfolded person randomly picking a marked dime out of a pile that fills 1 billion continents the size of North America! The odds of the universe’s low entropy state coming about is 1 chance out of 10^10^123! This would be taking Hugh Ross’ dime analogy and magnifying it trillions and trillions and trillions of times! The scientist Roger Penrose says that the odds of our solar system’s forming out of a random collision of particles is 1 in 10^10^60. Penrose calls this number “utter chicken feed” in comparison to 1010(123)! 15
Each one of these constants and quantities is statistically impossible on their own but when you multiply them all together, improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers.
1: The Fine-Tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance or design.
2: It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3: Therefore, it is due to design.
Given the truth of the two premises, the conclusion logically and necessarily follows.
We need to look at objections that atheists have typically raised against The Fine-Tuning Argument to see whether or not it’s really as sound as it appears to be.
Objection 1: The Multiverse Argument
One of the most common responses to The Fine-Tuning Argument is an appeal to the multiverse. What is the multiverse? Skeptic Martin Rees, who became a professor of astronomy at Cambridge in his thirties illustrates it this way: “If there is a large stack of clothing, you’re not surprised to find a suit that fits. … If there are many universes, each governed by a different set of numbers, there will be one where there is a particular set of numbers suitable to life. We are in that one.”16 In other words, our universe is just one in an infinite number of universes, and given the laws of probability, life is guaranteed to exist in at least one, and we happen to be that one. So this theory gives chance a chance.
Does the multiple universe theory really undermine The Fine-Tuning Argument? No, I don’t think so. There are 4 reasons why the multiverse doesn’t make chance a viable explanation.
First, there’s no evidence whatsoever that a multiverse even exists!
No one knows if there are any other universes at all, much less an infinite number of them. There’s no scientific evidence for the multiverse whatsoever. In fact, I don’t think there even could be any evidence for a multiverse. It’s not like you can hop out of one universe and into another. You can’t see these others universes. You can’t see them. You can’t taste them. You can’t smell them. You can’t hear them. You can’t detect their radiation. You can’t verify their existence in any way. So if the atheist wants me to abandon design as the best explanation for the fine tuning, he’s going to need to provide some good evidence for a multiverse.
Secondly, The Multiverse Has Too Much Explanatory Scope.
I agree that if there is a multiverse, then it would certainly be able to explain the fine tuning as a result of chance. The problem though, is that it would enable you to explain away everything as a result of chance! You couldn’t even infer design on the human level, much less the divine level!
Imagine if you were playing a poker game with one of your buddies and he got a royal flush 7 times in a row. You would think he was cheating, right? Well, what if you accused him of cheating and he responded to you by saying “Well, I know it looks extremely suspicious that every time I deal, I get a royal flush. But you’ve got to remember that our universe is only one in an infinite number of universes. There’s an infinite number of poker games going on, so there’s bound to be at least one universe where every time I deal, I get a royal flush.” Would you take your friend’s explanation seriously? Of course not. You would probably respond “You think I’m an idiot, don’t you!? You are clearly cheating!”
You could explain the existence of a Boeing 747 as the result of the multiverse. Maybe a tornado struck a junkyard and tossed a bunch of mechanical parts together until they formed a fully functioning Boeing 747. Yes, the odds of that happening are astronomically low, but hey, if there are an infinite number of universes, it’s bound to happen in at least one of them, right? Oh well, no need to resort to an intelligent designer.
Just imagine a defense attorney arguing “Your honor, I know it’s highly improbable, but I say chance chemical formation is the reason my client’s fingerprints are on the weapon! That could be. After all, we live in an ensemble of infinite universes! It’s bound to happen in at least one universe!” If you were the judge, would you accept that explanation and acquit the defendant? I didn’t think so.
I could go on and on with examples of extremely improbable events you could explain by appealing to the multiverse. The problem with the multiverse is that if you’re going to consistently reject intelligent design on the basis of the multiverse, you would have to reject an inference to design in every other area of life. Yet, atheists don’t do that. They only appeal to the multiverse to explain fine-tuning as a result of chance. I wonder why.
Thirdly, Occam’s Razor Favors Design.
Occam’s Razor is the scientific principle that says that if two different hypotheses can both explain the data, you should prefer the one that has fewer explanatory agents. In this case we have one Intelligent Designer as opposed to an infinite number of universes. Occam’s Razor says we should prefer intelligent design over the multiverse theory.
Fourthly, If The Multiverse Theory Were Accepted, It Would Destroy All Grounds For Rationality.
As physicist John Kinson explains in his book “Does Mathematics Point To God?”, if an infinite number of universes exist, then every logical and physical possibility is actualized somewhere in the infinite ensemble. It is logically and physically impossible for a Boltzmann Brain to exist in at least one universe, so therefore, if an infinite number of universes exist, there also exist Boltzmann Brains. What is a Boltzmann Brain? Named after the physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, Kinson explains that a Boltzmann Brain “is a brain that is the only existing thing in a given universe. The brain then imagines everything else within that universe. However, nothing that the brain imagines is real. Everything is just an illusion, a dream. The only thing that really exists is that one brain. There are no planets, no stars, no galaxies, no other matter or energy in that world other than that the atoms that make up that single Boltzmann Brain.”17
Kinson went on to say that “It takes less resources (energy) for the multiverse to create a Boltzmann Brain than it does to create an entire 14 billion year old universe with 100 billion stars…”18
And then John Kinson said that the ratio of the atoms in a human brain to the atoms of the universe is about 10^26 /10^80. This is about 10^54. This means that the multiverse could create 10^54 Boltzmann Brains with the same amount of resources that it used instead to create our universe. John M. Kinson then went on to say that the number of Boltzmann Brains is likely to be 10^54 times more plenteous than universes like ours. Therefore, if you accept the infinite universes theory, you must concede that Boltzmann Brains exist. Moreover, there is a very good chance that you are a Boltzmann Brain and that the entire world around you, your room, this book, everything, is just a projection of your own imagination!
However, no sane person believes that they are a Boltzmann Brain. Therefore, no sane person should accept the infinite universe hypothesis. If one thinks it is absurd to suppose that they are a Boltzmann Brain, they ought to also think the multiverse is absurd as well.
Finally, to make a point similar to the last one, if the infinite universe theory were true, this mathematically entails that there would be billions of universes where statistically impossible (yet physically possible) things occur such as horses popping into and going out of being through a collision of random particles, or where people get killed due to tiny pockets of oxygen atoms clustering together and then speedily running into people at high pressure like bullets. William Lane Craig has pointed out that there would be many universes in the world ensemble that consist of only one solar system that formed due to a random collision of particles and all of the distant stars and galaxies that the astronomers observe would be illusions! In Craig’s words, “mere pictures on the heavens”!
There would be billions of universes where things like these occur given that all of them are vastly more probable than a finely tuned universe like ours. Indeed, we ought to find ourselves living in one of these bizarre universes. Given that we do not, that is strongly indicative that there is no infinite universe ensemble.
Objection 2: Well, We Really Shouldn’t Be Surprised That The Universe Is Finely Tuned. After All, If It Weren’t Finely Tuned, We Wouldn’t Be Here To Notice It. Given That We Are Here, We Should Expect The Universe To Be Finely Tuned.
This objector seeks to argue against The Fine-Tuning Argument by appealing to The Anthropic Principle. What is the Anthropic Principle? The Anthropic Principle states that humans can only observe phenomenon in the universe that are compatible with our existence. I think this principle is obviously true. If there were features incompatible with our existence in the universe, we wouldn’t exist to observe them. But I don’t think this principle succeeds in undermining The Fine-Tuning Argument. The fallacy of this argument is made evident by means of a parallel illustration. William Lane Craig gives this illustration;
“Imagine you’re traveling abroad and arrested on trumped up drug charges. You’re dragged in front of a firing squad of one hundred trained marksman standing at point blank rage. You hear the command given ‘Ready! Aim! Fire!’ You hear the deafening sound of the guns. And then you observe that you’re still alive! That all of the one hundred marksman missed! Now what would you conclude? ‘Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they all missed! After all, if they hadn’t all missed, I wouldn’t be here to be surprised about it! Nothing more to be explained here!’ Of course not! It’s true that you shouldn’t be surprised that you don’t observe that you’re dead, since if you were dead, you wouldn’t be able to observe it. But you should still be surprised that you do observe that you’re alive, in light of the enormous improbability that all the marksman would miss. Indeed, you’d probably conclude that they all missed on purpose, that the whole thing was a set up, engineered for some reason by someone.” 19
Do you get what Craig is saying? He’s saying that even though we shouldn’t be surprised that we don’t observe that we’re dead, we should be surprised that we do observe that we’re alive. We shouldn’t be surprised that we don’t observe a life prohibiting universe, but we should be surprised that we do observe a life permitting universe given the overwhelming probability that the universe would prohibit us from existing. The anthropic principle only means that it’s probable that we should observe a life permitting universe, not that it’s probable that a life-permitting universe would exist for us to observe in the first place.
Objection 3: Any Universe Is Equally As Improbable As Any Other.
This objection was brought up to me by someone I was talking to a few years ago. This person I was talking to said “The Fine Tuning is like a game in which a blindfolded friend randomly picks a grain of sand from a huge beach. In this game, your blindfolded friend picks out one grain of sand, and the odds are trillions and trillions to one, yet you wouldn’t be justified in concluding he cheated and picked that particular grain on purpose since any grain of sand is equally as improbable as any other grain of sand.” It’s clear that he has misunderstood the argument. Contrary to what a lot of people think, the fine-tuning argument is not trying to explain why this universe exists, or why this particular dial setting exists. Rather, it’s trying to explain why a life-permitting universe exists instead of a life prohibiting universe.
I think that a better analogy, and one that accurately represents the fine-tuning argument, would be to mix one grain of salt in with the trillions and trillions of grains of sand. Now, even though any particular grain is equally as improbable as any other, nevertheless it is overwhelmingly more probable that whichever grain my blindfolded friend picks…it will be a grain of sand rather than that single grain of salt. In the same way, whichever combination of power settings these various laws of physics took, it was overwhelmingly more probable that it would have been one of the numerous life-prohibiting settings rather than a life-permitting setting.
Objection 4: The Universe Isn’t Finely Tuned For Life. Life is Finely-Tuned To The Universe. If These Constants Were Different, Then Different Life Forms Would Have Arisen.
This argument says that if the laws of physics were to be stronger or weaker than what they are, then maybe we couldn’t exist, but different life forms may have evolved. Often, atheists I’ve talked to on social media have made use of an illustration by Douglas Adams, the well-known author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (although this quote is not from that book):
“Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact, it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’”20
Now, these atheists argue that just as that puddle is a fool, so we would be fools to believe the universe was designed so that we could exist.
The problem with this argument is that it radically misunderstands the consequences of what would happen if these constants and quantities were off by a little bit. For example, I said earlier in this chapter that if the universe expanded too rapidly, then gravity would not have had the opportunity to collect gas and condense it into galaxies, stars, and planets. The universe would forever exist as nothing but isolated pieces of matter, gas, and dust. Because if the universe expanded too quickly, then all of the stuff of the universe would fly apart too quickly for gravity to take them and to condense them into galaxies, stars, and planets. The universe would be completely devoid of these bodies.
If the ratio of the number of electrons to protons were off by a little bit, electromagnetism would dominate gravity, preventing galaxy, star, and planet formation. Again, the universe would be completely devoid of galaxies, stars, and planets. If you don’t have galaxies, if you don’t have stars, and if you don’t have planets, what kind of life could you possibly have? Floating space people? No galaxies, stars, and planets means no possible life site!
If the Strong Nuclear Force were slightly weaker, it would be too weak to bind together protons and neutrons inside the nucleus of the atom. Therefore, no atoms could exist in the universe except the hydrogen atom. What kind of life can evolve in a universe that only consists of hydrogen?
As you can see, the fine-tuning of the constants and quantities of physics greatly differs from the puddle in the hole. In other words, you could say that this objection….doesn’t hold water.
Objection 5: This Is A God Of The Gaps Argument
It is not. We had 3 options that could explain the fine-tuning of the laws of physics; physical necessity, chance, and design. We ruled two of those options out. Those options are unreasonable. This leaves design as the only explanation left. Not only is it the only explanation left, but it has the explanatory power and plausibility to explain the fine-tuning. This is not “God Of The Gaps” reasoning. This is inferring to the best explanation, also known as abductive reasoning.
When you have 3 options and you rule out option 1 and option 2, you are not committing Option-3-Of-The-Gaps reasoning by concluding that option 3 must be the right explanation.
In his book Cold Case Christianity,21 J. Warner Wallace gives a good illustration of abductive reasoning. He says to imagine that you’re a homicide detective called out to a scene of a dead body lying face down on the floor. Wallace says that deaths always fall into one of four categories; natural death, accidental death, suicide, and homicide. Your job as a detective would be to figure out whether this is a homicide so that you can begin your job of tracking down suspects. If it’s anything other than a homicide, you as homicide detective, would have nothing to do.
Based on the fact that the man is dead and lying face down, you couldn’t come to a conclusion on which of the 4 categories this death falls into. But suppose we add more information. This man is not only lying face down, but he has multiple stab wounds in his back, there’s a knife sticking out of his back, he’s lying in a pool of blood, and a set of footprints lead away from the corpse. Could you determine what type of death this is now? Of course! This is not a natural death. No natural event if going to cause stab wounds to appear in a persons back, leave a knife sticking out, and cause footprints to lead away from the corpse. This isn’t an accidental death either. What? Did the guy accidentally back into one of his kitchen knives over and over and over again? Why didn’t he learn from his mistake the first time? Moreover, what about the footprints? Did this man go outside to smoke a cigarette before coming back inside, lying down on the floor, and passing away? This is absurd. So far, we’ve ruled out natural and accidental deaths. Well, what about suicide? This isn’t likely either. If someone were going to stab themselves to death, they would most likely do it through their gut like dishonored samurais did in feudal times. Not to mention that suicide wouldn’t explain the bloody footprints. We can safely rule out suicide.
Since the cause of death was not natural, accidental, or a suicide, you conclude that this man must be the victim of homicide. Homicide is the only explanation left, so it must be the right answer. Not only that, but the homicide explanation has the power to explain every fact at the scene of the crime. Now, you, as a detective, would laugh at anyone who accused you committing the “homicide of the gaps” reasoning. This conclusion is not based on what you don’t know, but on what you do know.
I’ve been using The Fine Tuning Argument in my debates with atheists for as long as I’ve been a Christian Apologist, and I can honestly tell you that no one has been able to knock it down. All I keep hearing are the objections I’ve listed above over and over and over, and we’ve seen how they fail. These 8 objections seek to defend the alternative of chance over design, but none of them succeed. It seems to me that design is the best explanation.
I’ll end this lengthy blog post with a couple of passages from scripture.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”- Romans 1:18-20 (emphasis mine)
This passage in The Bible says that God’s handiwork (and consequently His existence) can be inferred from everything He has made. In fact, The Bible says that the evidence of God’s fingerprints in nature is so powerful, so compelling that men are without excuse in not believing in Him. The laws of physics certainly render the atheist devoid of an excuse for not acknowledging his Creator.
Science has shown us that “…he created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited.” – Isaiah 45:18 (emphasis mine)
1: Richard Swinburne, “Argument From The Fine-Tuning Of The Universe”, Physical Cosmology and Philosophy, ed. John Leslie (New York: Macmillian, 1991), page 160; Hugh Ross, The Fingerprint Of God, 2nd ed. Rev. (Orange, CA: Promise 1991), page 122
2: See Hugh Ross, “The Creator and The Cosmos: What The Latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal About God”, page 147, NAVPRESS; “Evidence For The Fine-Tuning Of The Universe”, online article by Richard Deem, May 17th 2011, http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/designun.html;
3: Lee Strobel, “The Case For A Creator”, Zondervan, Chapter 6, pages 131-132
4: Hugh Ross, “The Creator and The Cosmos: How The Latest Scientific
Discoveries Reveal God”, Page 146, NAVPRESS
5: ibid, page 115.
6: See “FINE-TUNING OF PARTICLES TO SUPPORT LIFE” by Allen Hainline
7: See Hugh Ross, “Why The Universe Is The Way It Is”, Chapter 2, page 34, Baker Books
8: Stephen Hawking, “A Brief History Of Time”, page 126,
9: See Hugh Ross, “Why The Universe Is The Way It Is”, Chapter 2, page 40, Baker Books
10: See Roger Penrose, The Road to Reality (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), pp. 762-5.
11: Hugh Ross, from the online article “Why A Decaying Universe?” /September 2008/ Reasons To Believe/ — http://www.reasons.org/articles/why-a-decaying-universe
12: Jonathan McLatchie, “The Argument From Cosmic Fine-Tuning”, March 21st 2012, https://crossexamined.org/the-argument-from-cosmic-fine-tuning/
13: “On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision” by William Lane Craig, David C. Cook / 2010 / chapter 5 “Why is the universe finely tuned?”, page 111
14: “Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, Third Edition”, by William Lane Craig, Crossway / 2008 /. Chapter 4 “The Existence Of God (2)”, page 161.
15: See Roger Penrose, The Road to Reality (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), pp. 762-5.
16: Martin Rees, “Just Six Numbers: The Forces That Shape Our Universe”.
17: John M. Kinson, “Does Mathematics Point To God? Vignettes By An Ex-Atheist Scientist”, August 1 2016, Amazon Digital Services LLC, page 292
19: From “Existence of God (part 17) Transcript of William Lane Craig’s Defenders 2 class. Excursus: Natural Theology § III. Teleological Argument Lecture 4”, transcription by John Mazzitelli
20: As cited in Allan Hainline’s article “Mistaken Objections That Seek To Trivialize Fine-Tuning” — https://crossexamined.org/mistaken-objections-seek-trivialize-fine-tuning/