A “Fine-Tuned” Universe as Proof of a God?
A “Fine-Tuned” Universe as Proof of a God?
By August Berkshire [PDF Download]
There are many people who believe that if one or more physical constants of the Universe had varied only slightly, it would have produced a universe incapable of supporting any life. For example, if the gravitational constant had been slightly greater, the Universe would have collapsed back in upon itself before any planets (and thus any life) had a chance to form.
Some religious people look at this supposedly “fine-tuned” Universe and claim it is proof that a god exists who did the fine-tuning. Let us examine this claim.
At heart, this is a god-of-the-gaps argument. It says that if we can’t think of a possible natural way that conditions could have resulted in life in the Universe, then a supernatural “god” did it.
But this supposes that we know the future and that we know today that a natural answer will never be found.
Furthermore, “God” is not an answer because we don’t know what a god is, nor how a god accomplishes anything. “God” is not an answer because it provides us with no information. “God” is merely a more complex question.
Most of the Universe is decidedly inhospitable to life. Outer space is deadly to anything other than, perhaps, microbes – and the majority of planets, moons, and asteroids aren’t much better.
Judging by what we observe now, the Universe will continue expanding forever, creating a “big chill” effect. Heat energy will be so dissipated that no life will be possible. A person alive just before this happens won’t view things as so “miraculously fine-tuned” as some religious people do today.
While natural conditions are favorable for life on Earth now, this won’t be true in about five billion years. At that point the Sun’s supply of hydrogen will run out and the Sun will expand and engulf the Earth, wiping out all life. Even a billion years from now, all water will have boiled off the Earth, making life improbable, if not impossible. Again, a person alive just before either of these events occurs won’t view things as so “miraculously fine-tuned” as some religious people do today.
Apart from the Universe, some people claim the Earth itself is so fine-tuned for life (the proper distance from the Sun, the right kind of elements, etc.) that only a god could have established it. This, of course, is the same god-of-the-gaps argument that we encountered with the “fine-tuned” Universe.
But instead of asking about the odds of life as we know it arising through natural processes on this particular planet (Earth), we should instead ask about the odds of any kind of life arising naturally on any planet.
It is estimated that there are 100 billion galaxies in the Universe (containing a total of trillions of planets). If only one planet per galaxy had the right conditions to produce some kind of life, that would still amount to 100 billion planets and at least 100 billion different species.
The fined-tuned Universe argument for a god assumes that what we know about the Universe today is accurate. But this is cutting edge physics and what we believe to be true today is far from certain. Even now there is a dispute among physicists as to how much these constants of the Universe can vary and still produce a universe capable of leading to some kind of life.
Varieties of Variance
While the slight varying of one constant may be enough to make the Universe inhospitable to life, we don’t always know what would happen if we varied a number of constants greatly. We also don’t know if all the constants need to be present for there to be a universe.
For example, by analogy, we know that 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 = 21. And we can easily see that if we varied any one of these numbers slightly, we would get a different total. For example, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4.01 + 5 + 6 = 21.01.
But suppose we changed several of these number greatly – and for good measure even eliminated one of the numbers. For example, 1.37 + 3.63 + 4.32 + 5.43 + 6.25 = ? It is not immediately obvious that this equation still adds up to 21.
And so it may be with the constants of the Universe – that some could be eliminated and others allowed to vary greatly and they could still produce a universe capable of some type of life.
Extraordinary odds against life in one universe become a near certainty if there are many universes. If many universes exist (sometimes called a “multiverse”) and each universe has its own random set of constants, then life will almost certainly arise in at least one of these universes.
For example, put a dartboard on a wall in a room, close your eyes and spin around, and throw ten million darts out at random. There’s a very good chance that at least one of those darts will hit a bullseye.
While there is, as yet, no evidence for other universes, their existence is more plausible than the existence of a god. After all, we know it’s possible for universes to exist – we live in one. We have no evidence that it’s possible for a god to exist.
A Fine-Tuned God?
Those who believe a “fine-tuned” Universe proves the existence of a god admit that there is some slight margin for variance in these physical constants of the Universe.
But what about the god they believe exists? Could that god be anything other than exactly what it is? If not, then there is zero margin for variance for that god. So, as improbable as the existence of life in the Universe may seem, the existence of a god would be even more improbable. It also raises the question: “Who or what fine-tuned this god?”
The track record of naturalistic science for answering questions about the world far exceeds the track record of supernatural “revelation.” The existence of a god seems more improbable than a naturally occurring universe capable of supporting some type of life. “God” has not provided us with any answers and has instead raised more questions.
© 2010-2012 August Berkshire (09.02.2012)
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