The Fine-Tuning of the Universe: What Does It Mean?

When the famous atheist Christopher Hitchens was once asked what the strongest argument was against his atheistic belief, he responded:

“I think every one of us picks the “fine-tuning” one as the most intriguing . . . it is not a trivial argument. We (atheists) all say that.”

Fine-tuning, as it applies to the universe, is the idea that the conditions that allow life to exist in the universe can occur only when certain universal constants lie within a very narrow range of values. If any of several constants were only slightly different, the universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment of life.

All modern scientists agree that the universe seems to be fine-tuned for life. There are so many features in our universe that, if they were slightly different, life could not exist. The universe in which we live gives the appearance of having been designed with incredible precision.

For instance, there are 31 constants in physics that seem to be set just right, and these fundamental constants are set just right for life to exist. Furthermore, these constants are completely unrelated. Douglas Ell uses the analogy of walking into a control room for the universe and finding 31 separate dials that have been set with great precision for the existence of life.

Sir Fred Hoyle, the British astronomer and one of the twentieth century’s most significant scientific thinkers, said:

“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with 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.”

According to Vince Vitale, Hoyle was an atheist but that the fine-tuning of the universe left him “greatly shaken.”

Paul Davies, an agnostic physicist says:

“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all … it seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the universe. The impression of design is overwhelming.”

Even the noted physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking was impressed with the fine-tuning he saw in the universe.

“The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron … The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.”

So what does all this mean? Well there certainly is disagreement, but no scientists disagree with the existence of fine-tuning. In fact in the field of physics it is considered a scientific fact.

So how do scientists who do not believe in the existence of God account for this type of design on such a grand scale? Some of their beliefs are quite incredible.

Andrei Linde, a physicist at Stanford University has thrown out the possibility that the universe has been designed and produced by some super-technological alien culture.

Astrophysicist John Gribbin sides with Linde believing it is possible that “our universe is an artificial construct, manufactured deliberately by intelligent beings in another universe.”

Even the world’s most prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins, believes this to be a possibility. When asked in an interview,

“What do you think is the possibility that intelligent design might turn out to be the answer to some issues in genetics or in evolution?” And Dawkins responded,

“Well, it could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved . . . to a very, very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto, perhaps, this planet. Now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry and molecular biology; you might find the signature of some sort of designer.”

I was shocked when I read this. In one sense all of these men acknowledge some form of intelligent design from super intelligent aliens from a far off universe. However you have to wonder what type of alien being could fulfill the role of fine-tuner of the universe.

It seems they do not have a problem believing some form of intelligent design and designer, they just refuse to believe in God, the divine intelligent designer.

I sometimes wonder if the problem of the modern skeptic is not that he does not believe in God, but that in his heart of hearts does not want there to be a God. As the noted philosopher Thomas Nagel of New York University put it:

“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and naturally. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

This is what the brilliant philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal observed, “that people almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”

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Reflections on the Existence of God


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