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The Fine Tuning Of The Universe


"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard."

Psalm 19:1-3 KJV

*I don't recommend William Lane Craigs work outside of his defense of theism.


Strong evidence for a Designer comes from the fine tuning of the universal constants and the solar system. Several examples of this fine tuning will serve to illustrate the enormity of the numbers being considered:

The number of subatomic particles in the entire known universe is about 10^80 or a 1 followed by 80 zeroes. Such numbers are so huge as to be incomprehensible.

To get an idea of the enormity of these numbers, consider the following;

  • Imagine covering the entire North American continent in dimes and stacking them until they reached the moon. Now imaging stacking just as many dimes again on another billion other continents the same size as North America. If you marked one of those dimes and hid it in the billions of piles you had assembled, the odds of a blindfolded individual picking out the correct dime is approximately 1 in 10^37 – the same level of precision required in the strong nuclear force and the expansion rate of the universe.

  • Consider stretching a measuring tape across the entire known universe. Now imagine one particular mark on the tape represents the correct degree of gravitational force required to create the universe we have. If this mark were moved more than one inch from the location (using a measuring tape spanning the entire universe), the altered gravitational force would prevent our universe from coming to be.

  • Compare the universe to an aircraft carrier like the USS John C. Stennis (measuring 1,092 feet long with a displacement of 100,000 tons). If this carrier were as fine-tuned as the mass density of our universe, subtracting a billionth of a trillionth of the mass of an electron from the total mass of the aircraft carrier would sink the ship.

  • Consider the probability of firing a bullet toward the other side of the observable universe 20 billion light-years away and hitting a once-inch target is approximately one part in 10^60, vastly smaller than the fine tuning of the cosmological constant.


The atheist astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle was “shaken” when he discovered evidence showing that the universe was so finely-tuned for life. He later came to recognize that some kind of intelligence must be behind the creation of the universe and wrote,

"A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."


Question to ask an atheist: Why is the universe inexplicably fine tuned so that life can exist?

Not only does our universe follow finely tuned physical laws, but laws which seem to be finely tuned to enable life to exist. The most common atheist answer is to assert that our universe is one of many others—the ‘multiverse’ speculation. It is interesting that atheists who refuse to believe in an unseen God, based supposedly on the lack of evidence for His existence, explain away the appearance of design by embracing the existence of an unknown number of other universes for which there is no evidence—or even any effect of their evidence. In any case, Flew argues that even if there were multiple universes, it would not solve the atheists’ dilemma; ‘multiverse or not, we still have to come to terms with the origin of the laws of nature. And the only viable explanation here is the divine Mind’ (p. 121).


Cosmologists Comment on Fine Tuning


Nobel laureate Arno Penzias, co-discoverer of the cosmic background radiation, put it this way,

"Astronomy leads us to an unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly-improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan."

Even more strong are the words of cosmologist Ed Harrison who uses the word “proof” when he considers the implications of fine-tuning on the question of God,

"Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God - the design argument of Paley - updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one.... Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument."

In his best-selling book, “A Brief History of Time”, Stephen Hawking (perhaps the world’s most famous cosmologist) refers to the phenomenon as “remarkable.”

"The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers (i.e. the constants of physics) seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life”. “For example,” Hawking writes, “if the electric charge of the electron had been only slightly different, stars would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium, or else they would not have exploded. It seems clear that there are relatively few ranges of values for the numbers (for the constants) that would allow for development of any form of intelligent life. Most sets of values would give rise to universes that, although they might be very beautiful, would contain no one able to wonder at that beauty."

Professor Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in high energy physics (a field of science that deals with the very early universe), writing in the journal “Scientific American”, reflects on

"how surprising it is that the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe should allow for the existence of beings who could observe it. Life as we know it would be impossible if any one of several physical quantities had slightly different values."

Although Weinberg is a self-described agnostic, he cannot but be astounded by the extent of the fine-tuning. He goes on to describe how a beryllium isotope having the minuscule half life of 0.0000000000000001 seconds must find and absorb a helium nucleus in that split of time before decaying. This occurs only because of a totally unexpected, exquisitely precise, energy match between the two nuclei. If this did not occur there would be none of the heavier elements. No carbon, no nitrogen, no life. Our universe would be composed of hydrogen and helium. But this is not the end of Professor Weinberg’s wonder at our well-tuned universe. He continues:

"One constant does seem to require an incredible fine-tuning — The existence of life of any kind seems to require a cancellation between different contributions to the vacuum energy, accurate to about 120 decimal places."

This means that if the energies of the Big Bang were, in arbitrary units, not:

100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 000000000000000000,

but instead:

100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 000000000000000001,

there would be no life of any sort in the entire universe because as Weinberg states:

"the universe either would go through a complete cycle of expansion and contraction before life could arise, or would expand so rapidly that no galaxies or stars could form."

Dr. Paul Davies, noted author and professor of theoretical physics at Adelaide University, also commented on the amazing precision of the fine tuning of the Universe:

“The really amazing thing is not that life on Earth is balanced on a knife-edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife-edge, and would be total chaos if any of the natural ‘constants’ were off even slightly. You see,” Davies adds, “even if you dismiss man as a chance happening, the fact remains that the universe seems unreasonably suited to the existence of life—almost contrived—you might say a ‘put-up job’.”

Perhaps Professor John Wheeler’s comments should end this section concerning fine-tuning and its importance,

"To my mind, there must be at the bottom of it all, not an utterly simple equation, but an utterly simple IDEA. And to me that idea, when we finally discover it, will be so compelling, and so inevitable, so beautiful, we will all say to each other, “How could it have ever been otherwise?”


More Resources:

Examples of Finely Tuned Physical Constants and Conditions

Weak Nuclear Force. This is one of the four fundamental forces of nature which operates within the nucleus of the atom, is so finely tuned that a change of only one part out of 10^100 at the time of the initial formation of the universe would have prevented a life-permitting universe from forming.

Cosmological Constant. A change in the value of the cosmological constant that provides a repulsive force which counteracts gravity and results in an expansion of the universe – needs a precision of one part in 10^120; otherwise, the universe would be rendered life-prohibiting.

Speed of Light.  The velocity of light in a vacuum is now defined to be 299,792,458 meters/second; even a slight variation in the speed of light would alter the other constants and preclude the possibility of life on earth; this because many of the other basic physics constants and relationships include the speed of light in their derivation.  For example, consider the relationship between energy and mass defined by Einstein in his famous equation E=mc^2 – the amount of energy produced by the conversion of matter into energy is related to the speed of light. This relationship is, of course, very important as it determines the amount of energy output from out sun.


Water Vapor in the Atmosphere.  If water vapor levels in the atmosphere were greater than they are now, a runaway greenhouse effect would cause temperatures to rise too high for human life; if they were less, an insufficient greenhouse effect would have made the earth too cold to support human life.


Large Planets in the Solar System.  If Jupiter were not in its current orbit, the earth would be bombarded with space material (such as comets and meteors).  Jupiter’s gravitational field acts as a “cosmic vacuum cleaner” to attract space debre away from the Earth

Earths Mantle.  If the thickness of the Earth’s crust were greater, too much oxygen would be transferred to the crust to support human life; if it were thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would make life impossible

Earths Rotation.  If the rotation of the earth took longer than twenty-four hours, then temperatures would become too extreme; alternatively, if the rotation period were shorter, atmospheric wind velocities would be too great.

Entropy and Thermodynamic Considerations.  Now consider the entire universe we now know – all the stars, planets, and galaxies – condensed into a tiny point called a Planck length of 10^-34 meters (the smallest distance possible).  When the universe is compressed into the tiniest point possible, it is immensely more organized (less chaotic or less entropic) than the current universe. Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the chance of this low-entropic state spontaneously coming into existence is one in approximately 10^10^123 – a number so vastly small as to be inconceivable. Penrose notes that if you tried to estimate this probability by writing out 1 followed by zeroes, you would have to write out many more zeroes than there are atomic particles in the universe – clearly an impossible task. To be fair, this degree of organization is not required for life – but nonetheless that is the situation during the very earliest moments of creation. Penrose makes this statement,

"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! Even if we were to write a `0’ on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe-and we could throw in all the other particles as well for good measure-we should fall far short of writing down the figure needed. The precision needed to set the universe on its course is seen to be in no way inferior to all that extraordinary precision that we have already become accustomed to in the superb dynamical equations (Newton’s, Maxwell’s, Einstein’s) which govern the behavior of things from moment to moment."

More Examples of Finely Tuned Physical Constants

Strong Nuclear Force Constant. If larger, no hydrogen would form; atomic nuclei for most life-essential elements would be unstable and no life chemistry would be possible; if smaller: no elements heavier than hydrogen would form: again, no life chemistry.

Weak Nuclear Force Constant.  If larger, too much hydrogen would convert to helium in a big bang scenario and stars would convert too much matter into heavy elements making life chemistry impossible; if smaller, too little helium would be produced from a big bang and stars would convert too little matter into heavy elements making life chemistry impossible.

Gravitational Force Constant.  If larger, stars would be too hot and would burn too quickly and unevenly for life chemistry to be possible; if smaller, stars would be too cool to ignite nuclear fusion and many of the elements for life chemistry would never form. Gravitational constant: 1 part in 10^34.

Electromagnetic Force Constant.  If greater, chemical bonding would be disrupted and elements more massive than boron would be unstable; if lesser, chemical bonding would be insufficient for life chemistry.

Ratio of Electromagnetic Force Constant to Gravitational Force Constant.  If larger, all stars would be at least 40% more massive than the sun and stellar burning would be too brief and too uneven for life support; if smaller, all stars would be at least 20% less massive than the sun and incapable of producing heavy elements. Electromagnetic force versus force of gravity: 1 part in 10^37.

Ratio of Electron to Proton Mass.  If larger, chemical bonding would be insufficient for life chemistry.

Expansion Rate of the Universe.  If larger, no galaxies would form; if smaller the Universe would collapse even before stars formed. Expansion rate of universe: 1 part in 10^55.

Entropy Level of the Universe.  If larger, stars would not form within proto-galaxies; if smaller, no proto-galaxies would form.

Mass Density of the Universe.  If larger, overabundance of deuterium from a big bang would cause stars to burn too rapidly for life to form; if smaller, there would be insufficient helium from a big bang resulting in a shortage of heavy elements. Mass density of universe: 1 part in 10^59.

Velocity of Light.  If faster, stars would be too luminous for life support; if slower, stars would be insufficiently luminous for life support.

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.

Average Distance Between Galaxies.  If larger, star formation late enough in the history of the Universe would be hampered by lack of material; if smaller, gravitational tug of war would destabilize the sun’s orbit.

Density of Galaxy Clusters.  If denser, galaxy collisions and mergers would disrupt the sun’s orbit; if less dense, star formation late enough in the history of the universe would be hampered by lack of material.

Average Distance between Stars.  If larger, heavy element density would be too sparse for rocky planets to form; if smaller, planetary orbits would be too unstable for life.

Decay Rate of Protons.  If greater, life would be exterminated by the release of radiation; if smaller, Universe would contain insufficient matter for life.

12C to 16O nuclear energy level ratio.  If larger, universe would contain insufficient oxygen for life; if smaller, universe would contain insufficient carbon for life.


Ground State Energy Level for 4He. If larger, Universe would contain insufficient carbon and oxygen for life; if smaller, same as above. 

Decay Rate of 8Be: If slower, heavy element fusion would generate catastrophic explosions in all the stars; if faster, no element heavier than beryllium would form and there would then be no life chemistry.

Ratio of Neutron Mass to Proton Mass.  If higher, neutron decay would yield too few neutrons for the formation of many life essential elements; if lower, neutron decay would produce so many neutrons as to collapse all stars into neutron stars or black holes depending upon the mass of the star.

Initial Excess of Nucleons over Anti-Nucleons:  If greater, radiation would prohibit planetary formation; if lesser, matter would be insufficient for galaxy or star formation.

White Dwarf Binaries.  If too few, insufficient fluorine would exist for life chemistry; if too many, planetary orbits would be too unstable for life; if formed too soon, insufficient fluorine production; if formed too late, fluorine would arrive too late for life chemistry.

Ratio of Exotic Matter Mass to Ordinary Matter Mass:  If larger,  the Universe would collapse before solar type stars could form; if smaller, no galaxies would form.

Number of Effective Dimensions in the Early Universe.  If larger, quantum mechanics, gravity, and relativity could not coexist; thus, life would not be possible; if smaller, same result.


Number of Effective Dimensions in the Present Universe.  If smaller, electron, planet, and star orbits would become unstable; if larger, same result.

Mass of the Neutrino.  If smaller, galaxy clusters, galaxies, and stars would not form; if larger, galaxy clusters, and galaxies would be too dense.

Size of the Relativistic Dilation Factor.  If smaller, certain life essential chemical reactions would not function properly.  If larger, same result.

Uncertainty Magnitude in the Heisenberg Uncertain Principle.  If smaller, oxygen transport to body cells would be too small and certain life essential elements would be unstable; if larger, oxygen transport to body cells would be too great and certain life essential elements would be unstable

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