INTRODUCTION TO Fine-Tuning ARGUMENTS

  • Evidence for God based on the Initial Conditions of the Universe
    Not only is a universe coming into existence out of absolutely nothing inexplicable under atheism but the universe’s initial conditions are inconceivably improbable. Atheism cannot provide any reason why the universe would necessarily start off in a state that permits intelligent life. Oxford physicist Roger Penrose has computed that the universe had to begin in an extremely special and unlikely state or it would have ended up being so dominated by black holes that there would be no possibility of life of any kind: "This now tells how precise the Creator's aim must have been, namely to an accuracy of one part in 10 to the 10123 power. This is an extraordinary figure. One could not possibly even write the number down in full in the ordinary denary notation: it would be 1 followed by 10123 successive 0's." The number of 0’s in that number exceeds the number of subatomic particles in the known universe.
    So either the Universe was created by some super-intelligence or the Universe originated through some type of natural and undirected process (if that is even possible). The universe, however, is ridiculously improbable based on the latter model - this evidence therefore favors theism over atheism. The only rational hope for the atheist is that this improbable state could result from some type of natural process in which conditions are not so improbable. However, these are initial conditions so this alternative doesn’t seem plausible. Note that this type of improbability of supporting life is exactly the type of evidence that evolutionists admit would point to creation if we had it.
    Evidence for God based on the Fine-Tuning of the Laws of the Universe
    Physics have discovered in the last few decades that in the set of possible physics only a tiny subset permits intelligent life. Let’s call this the fine-tuning (FT) claim to be consistent with how this is presented in the scientific and philosophical literature. Note that FT does not claim that this universe is optimal for life or is designed to maximize the amount of life. The vast majority of physicists who have researched this topic agree with this claim - even atheists who might have been surprised by this characteristic. The controversial aspect is primarily just how to interpret this evidence but first let’s consider the evidence itself.
    There are 3 categories to fine-tuning - the initial conditions of the universe, the laws of physics and the constants governing those laws. Since the initial conditions are documented elsewhere let’s focus on the other two claims. Many of the laws of physics are necessary to plausibly support intelligent life. Each of the 4 fundamental forces are necessary – gravity is necessary for star and planet formation, the strong nuclear force is necessary to form atoms other than hydrogen, the electromagnetic force is necessary for chemistry and light, and the weak force is necessary for radioactive decay (which is important in some of the nuclear reactions in stars and in keeping earth reasonably warm for long time-periods). The Pauli Exclusion Principle is necessary to keep electrons from all falling into the lowest energy level which would disrupt complex chemistry. Similarly, quantized energy levels for electrons is necessary for chemicals to have consistent properties. If electrons could orbit the nucleus at any distance such as planets orbit stars then chemical properties would be variable – the oxygen in a given breath might suddenly be poisonous.
    The most ubiquitous type of fine-tuning relates to the constants that govern the laws of physics: relative force strengths, particle masses, the speed of light, the expansion rate of the universe, etc. Tiny changes in any one of these results in universes which could not support life of any kind. For example, if the cosmological constant governing the expansion rate of the universe differed by more than 1 part in 10120 then the universe would have either recollapsed or expanded too quickly to support galaxy and star formation (depending on which direction it was off). We don’t need to run experiments in other universes to know that if the strong force were weaker or the electromagnetic force much stronger, that atoms would be unstable or that carbon and oxygen could not form in stars. Many of the parameters have to be finely-tuned in multiple, independent ways based on different types of life-permitting criteria. For example, consider gravity. It’s surprising to physicists that the strength of gravity is so weak relative to other forces since there is no underlying law predicting this. Stanford physicist Susskind comments that “it is an unexplained miracle that gravity is as weak as it is.”  If we assume that gravity can vary up to strength of the strongest force:

    • If stronger by 1 in 1034, stars burn out too fast to support life
    • If stronger or weaker by 1 in 1036, stars unstable
    • If stronger by 1 in 1040, universe dominated by black holes
    • If too weak, adversely affects star & planet formation

    While at popular levels some critics argue that the universe would have adapted to whatever the laws of physics were, physicists are looking at what conditions are necessary before evolution could even get started. For example, Craig Hogan writes that “changing the quark masses even a small amount has drastic consequences [for] which no amount of Darwinian selection can compensate.” Could all of this fine-tuning be explained as just being a consequence of some underlying law? Luke Barnes and Paul Davies think that this “is demonstrably wrong  -theoretical physicists find it rather easy to describe alternative universes that are free from logical contradiction.” Also, it should be noted that nearly every major university is pursuing research in multiple areas that assume that the laws can vary – for example String Theory. we already know that random symmetry-breaking resulted in the low energy relative strengths of the weak and electromagnetic forces. You’d be hard-pressed to find many if any physicists still holding out hope in this area.
    A common objection is that “we should not be surprised to find ourselves in a life-permitting universe because otherwise we would not be alive to observe.” While this statement is true, this “anthropic principle” does not provide an explanation. John Leslie provided a useful illustration to elucidate this fallacy. A man surviving a 100-man firing squad you wouldn’t just say “I am not surprised to find myself alive because it’s impossible to observe that I’m dead.”  He should be surprised to have survived such an unlikely event. He would be rational to suspect that the firing squad missed on purpose (design rather than chance). In an atheistic worldview, there is no reason to expect the physics of the universe to support intelligent life but it does and this is highly improbable. Thus, the fine-tuning is evidence against atheism for theism.
    In an amazing concession to the strength of the fine-tuning evidence, the current debate relates not to whether or not FT exists but as to whether or not there is a multiverse that could explain these remarkable coincidences. Susskind thinks that there are only 2 viable explanations: “the stakes are to accept the [string] landscape and the dilution in the scientific method it implies or .. [to] accept intelligent design (ID).” Faced with improbabilities it is natural to look for ways to increase the number of possible tries and therefore raise the probability of life. MIT philosopher of science Roger White has pointed out the fallacy of taking the fine-tuning itself as evidence of other universes: “postulate as many other universes as you wish, they do not make it any more likely that ours should be life-permitting.” For the multiverse to explain away fine-tuning would require the truth of a long series of speculations each of which is unsupported by empirical evidence:

    • Independent evidence for the existence of other universes
    • A universe-generating mechanism which itself does not require fine-tuning – the current leading theory (eternal inflation) itself requires extreme fine-tuning.
    • That our universe would be typical among those life-permitting universes created by the generator – this is an epic fail for the initial conditions and thus Penrose has criticized these multiverse theories as being “worse than useless” in this arena.
    • A mechanism for widely varying the laws in these different universes – String theory is the only theory expected to support a sufficiently wide range of laws, but it has been criticized for its lack of any unambiguous testable predictions.

    Also, even if the multiverse exists, it doesn’t explain all of the fine-tuning cases. For example, certain cases of fine-tuning greatly exceed what is strictly necessary for life and is therefore unexplained by simply positing other chances to get things right. One example commonly cited in the physics literature is the rate of proton decay being many orders of magnitude less than would be expected under theories entailing a multiverse (even after applying a selection effect based on the life-permitting region). Thus, the FT of the universe to support life should be taken as evidence for the existence of God – there is no plausible alternative.


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