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Scientists have discovered numerous features in the universe which are so exquisitely finely-tuned and balanced, that even a slightest change would make the universe and/or life in the universe impossible.
As discussed in this article, the fact that these fine-tuned features exist is not disputed — they are well-documented in the scientific literature. In fact, because of all of the just-right design features which scientists have discovered throughout the universe which permit life to exist on Planet Earth, even secular scientists refer to Earth as the “Goldilocks Planet” — it is just-right to support life.
Do the finely-tuned features of the universe point to the existence God or are the finely-tuned features more reasonably attributed to mere chance illusion as proposed by naturalists?
This article explores the reasons Christian apologists maintain the finely-tuned features cannot reasonably be explained by “chance”; instead the exquisitely designed features are most reasonably explained by the existence of an intelligent, transcendent designer (like the God described in the Bible).
Introduction — The “Goldilocks” Planet
Scientists have discovered numerous finely-tuned features throughout the universe that make life possible on Planet Earth. Indeed, because of all of the just-right design features in the universe, even secular scientists refer to Earth as the “Goldilocks Planet”. Just like in the old tale of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” (where Goldilocks finds Baby Bears’ porridge, chair and bed just-right for her), Planet Earth is just-right to support life.
Naturalists propose that Earth’s just-right planet in a just-right universe is explained by random chance. In the naturalists’ view, an infinite number (or almost infinite number) of universes exist which randomly exhibit various levels of so-called design such that the chances are there will be at least one universe with a planet like Earth capable of supporting life. Consequently, naturalists propose that the so-called finely-tuned design features observed in our universe are nothing but an illusion attributed to chance. In other words, because we cannot see the countless number of other universes which exhibit a myriad of characteristics different than our universe, we don’t realize that our universe just happens by chance to exhibit all the characteristics necessary to support life.
Contrarily, Christian apologists maintain it is statistically impossible for all of the just-right features that scientists have discovered throughout the universe to be explained by mere chance. Instead, they contend the most reasonable conclusion is that all the finely-tuned design features in the universe point to the existence of an intelligent and purposeful Designer, like the self-existent, transcendent, eternal, omniscient and omnipotent God described in the Bible.
To explore the reasons Christian apologists maintain that the naturalist’s appeal to an infinite number of universes is both speculative and counter intuitive, see the following articles:
Scientific Confirmation of
Just-Right Design Features in the Universe
The fact that the universe contains numerous exquisitely fine-tuned features has been confirmed by many world-renown secular scientists:
“A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as 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.“ (Emphasis added.) [Fred Hoyle, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections,” Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics 20, pg. 16 (1982)]
“[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.“ (Emphasis added.) [Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature’s Creative Ability to Order the Universe, pg. 203 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988)]
• Robert Jastrow (head of NASA’s Institute of Space Studies)
“…the design of the universe is the most powerful evidence for the existence of God to ever come out of science.” [Robert Jastrow, “The Astronomer and God”, in The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, ed. Roy Abraham Varghese (Chicago: Regenery Gateway, pg/ 22 (1984)]
“The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous…. I think clearly there are religious implications whenever you start to discuss the origins of the universe.“ [Stephen Hawking, quoted by Fred Hereen in “Show Me God: What the Message from Space is Telling Us About God; Wonders That Witness”, vol. 1, pg. 186 (Wheeling, Ill.: Searchlight Publications, 1995)]
Even the popular atheist Richard Dawkins admits he is intrigued as to how the universe came into existence with the laws of nature already written into it. [Alister McGrath, RZIM, Foundations of Apologetics, “The Existence of God” (2007), aired on NRB, 2/24/10]
Christian apologists maintain the exquisitely fine-tuned design features that scientists have detected throughout the universe point to the existence of an intelligent designer — a Designer like the self-existent, transcendent, eternal, omniscient and omnipotent God described in the Bible. Dr. Robin Collins expresses it this way:
“Over the past thirty years or so, scientists have discovered that just about everything about the basic structure of the universe is balanced on a razor’s edge for life to exist. The coincidences are far too fantastic to attribute this to mere chance or to claim that it needs no explanation.” The most logical conclusion is that “‘[s]ome intelligent being had intentionally and carefully and prepared it to support living creatures.“ (Emphasis added.) [Lee Strobel, Case for a Creator, pgs. 130-131 (2004) citing to discussions with Robin Collins, Ph.D.]
Examples of Just-Right Features
Scientists Have Observed in the Universe
Scientists have identified hundreds of finely-tuned features in the universe, all of which are necessary for the universe to exist and/or for life to exist in the universe. [Hugh Ross, Creator and the Cosmos, chapters 14 and 16 (2001); Hugh Ross, Why the Universe is the Way It Is, pgs. 121-124 (2008)]
These design features are located throughout the universe – in the laws of physics, the expansion rate of the universe, the Milky Way Galaxy, the solar system, the sun, the earth, the moon and life systems. As far back as 2006, scientists had already identified 500 finely-tuned features which must exist and operate in a just-right way for even simple, briefly existing bacteria to exist. Over 800 finely-tuned features have been discovered which are necessary for human life to exist. The list of these necessary features continues to grow as technological advances are made and scientists able to conduct more in depth research. [Hugh Ross, Why the Universe is the Way It Is, pgs. 121-124 (2008)]
The statistical probability of just 200 finely-tuned features coming together by chance is about one chance in 10215 – a 10 followed by 215 zeros. The incredible enormity of this improbability is evident when one considers that the total estimated number of grains of sand on all the beaches of planet earth is about 1025 and all the sub atomic particles in the entire known universe is only about 1080. Because of the enormous improbabilities involved, Christian apologists maintain that the most reasonable explanation for all the exquisitely fine-tuned characteristics in the universe is not mere chance illusion (as proposed by naturalists) but, rather, because the universe was designed with all the just-right features necessary to support life. If the universe was designed, then an intelligent designer (like the God described in the Bible) must exist because there can be no design without a designer.
“When scientists talk about the fine-tuning of the universe, . . . they’re generally referring to the extraordinary balancing of the fundamental laws and parameters of physics and the initial conditions of the universe. Our minds can’t comprehend the precision of some of them. The result is a universe that has just the right conditions to sustain life. The coincidences are simply too amazing to have been the result of happenstance – as Paul Davies [a well-known secular physicist] said, ‘the impression of design is overwhelming.” (Emphasis added.) [Lee Strobel, Case for a Creator, pg. 130 (2004), citing to discussions with Robin Collins, Ph.D.]
There are four fundamental forces of physics: 1) gravity, 2) electromagnetism, 3) the strong nuclear force and 4) the weak nuclear force. Each of these four fundamental forces must operate within just-right parameters in order for life to be possible:
All the Forces of Physics Must Work Together
Not only must the four fundamental forces exist and exert the just-right amount of force, but all four forces must work perfectly together for life to be possible. In Lee Strobel’s book, Case for a Creator, he provides the following illustration developed by Dr. Robin Collins to demonstrate the delicate balance that exists between just two of the fundamental forces — gravity and the strong nuclear force:
“Imagine a ruler that reaches across the entire universe. Such an imaginary ruler would literally have billions upon billions of inch markers, more than all the grains of sand on Earth. Also imagine that gravity, the weakest of the four fundamental forces, is placed on one end of the ruler, and the strong nuclear force, the strongest force, is placed on the other end of the ruler. If you moved the gravity setting by even one inch on that immensely long ruler, “the impact on life in the universe would be catastrophic…. [because] [t]hat small adjustment of the dial would increase gravity by a billion fold.“ [Lee Strobel, Case for a Creator, pgs.130-133 (2004), discussions with Robin Collins, Ph.D.]
Even this extremely small change (i.e., a change in 1 part in ten thousand billion billion billion) would increase the force of gravity so significantly that Earth would be condensed to a ball with a diameter of about 40 feet. All humans would be crushed and no animal could grow much larger than a fly. [Lee Strobel, Case for a Creator, pgs.130-133 (2004) citing to discussions with Robin Collins, Ph.D.]
As summed up by Dr. Collins, “[c]ompared to the total range of force strengths in nature, gravity has an incomprehensibly narrow range for life to exist. Of all the possible settings on the dial, from one side of the universe to the other, it happens to be situated in the exact right fraction of an inch to make our universe capable of sustaining life.” (Emphasis added). [Lee Strobel, Case for a Creator, pgs.130-133 (2004) citing to discussions with Robin Collins, Ph.D.]
Just-Right Design Features in the Development of the Universe
In the 2001 book entitled The Creator and the Cosmos, Christian astronomer and astrophysicist, Hugh Ross, cites to numerous secular scientific research papers which identify 35 parameters of the universe which must fall within “narrowly defined ranges for physical life of any conceivable kind to exist. [Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, Chapter 14 (2001)]
For example, the expansion rate of the universe (which is governed by its mass density and space-energy density) is so exquisitely fine-tuned that if the mass density of the universe varied by even one factor in 1060 or the space energy density varied by one factor in 10120, no life would be possible at any time or any place in the entire universe. more >> [Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, pgs. 53-54, 150-151 (2001)]
Ross provides the following illustration of how precisely fine-tuned these two features of the universe really are:
One factor out of 1060 is like having one penny buried in a pile of dimes covering the entire United States and extending up to the moon – not only once, but 250,000 million times. 1060 is such a huge number that the chance of randomly picking a single penny out of such a large pile of dimes is statistically zero. 10120 is a much larger number and, in fact, greatly exceeds the estimated total number of atoms in the entire universe which is only 1080.
Given the incomprehensibly of the universe expanding at the just-right rate so that life could exist anywhere in the universe, Christian apologists maintain the explanation that an intelligent designer designed the universe so it would expand within the extremely narrow range is a much more intellectually satisfying explanation than to speculate that the just-right expansion rate of the universe is a mere chance illusion.
Our galaxy, the Milky Way galaxy, is a just-right spiral galaxy able to provide the just-right environment for a just-right parent star like our star (the sun) so that Planet Earth has been provided with the elements required to support life.
In order for a planet to be capable of supporting life, it must reside in a just-right solar system with all of the just-right features including, among many others, a just-right parent star like the sun, a just-right sister star like Jupiter and a just-right moon like our moon.
In order for a planet to be capable of supporting life, it must orbit a star (referred to as its parent star) with all of the finely-tuned features needed to support life on a nearby planet. [Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, pgs. 179-180, 189-190 (2001)] As of about 2006, scientists had already identified 140 such characteristics. [Hugh Ross, Why the Universe is the Way It Is, pgs. 121-124 (2008)] Our star, the sun, has all of the necessary characteristics, including the following two examples:
➣ A Just-Right Sister Planet
Jupiter is the just-right size, the just-right distance from Earth, the just-right mass and is in the just-right location to shield Earth from being regularly bombarded with comets and asteroids catastrophic and deadly to life. more>>
Without the moon, or if the moon was not the just-right mass or was not the just-right distance from Earth, the earth would rotate too quickly for advanced life to survive and Earth would not have a steady climate or regularly occurring seasons. Additionally, Earth’s oceans would become stagnate and polluted and, consequently, unable to provide people, animals and plants living on Earth’s continents with the vital nutrients they need to survive. more>>
Just-Right Design Features of Planet Earth
As of 2001 scientists had identified 66 characteristics a planet must possess to be capable of supporting life. For example, the planet must have a just-right atmosphere, contain just-right forms of water, have a just-right surface temperature and have a just-right rotation period. [Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, pg. 193 (2001)]
Earth has a very unique atmosphere for its mass. For example, Venus, which is only about 85% the mass of the earth, holds onto an atmosphere that is 40 times more dense than Earth’s atmosphere. Given Earth’s mass, scientists calculate it should have an atmosphere 100 times more dense than it does, but such a thick atmosphere would not be able to support life.
➣ Earth Has the Just-Right Forms of Water
Scientists have discovered that in order to support life, a planet must have a just-right supply of the following three forms of water: 1) water vapor (found in the clouds), 2) liquid water (found in rivers, lakes and oceans) and 3) frozen water (found in snow and the polar icecaps). Earth has been able to maintain an abundant supply of all three life-essential forms of water because it is located a just-right distance from its parent star, the sun. more>>
➣ Earth Has a Just-Right Surface Temperature
In order for life to be sustained on Planet Earth, the planet cannot get too hot or too cold. If the planet were to get too hot, all of Earth’s sources of water would evaporate and the planet would not be able to support life. If the planet were to get too cold, all living things on the planet would freeze. The surface temperature on earth must remain within just-right habitable parameters for life to survive on the planet. more>>
➣ Earth Has a Just-Right Rotation Period
Planet Earth rotates at a just-right rate (i.e., within parameters of a few percent) so that people, animals and plants living on the planet are not subjected to deadly high velocity winds or temperature variations. more>>
Just-Right Design of a Life-Sustaining Universe and Life Itself
In order for life to exist in a universe two things must occur: 1) the universe must be capable of supporting life and 2) life itself must exist. However, as demonstrated below, the calculations involved in both of these things occurring as a matter of blind, random chance are so overwhelmingly minuscule that the chances of one, much less both, of them occurring is statistically zero.
As set forth above, hundreds of things must be exquisitely fine-tuned in order for life to exist and be sustained in the universe. Only a handful of examples were summarized above.
Taking into consideration all of the fine-tuning that must exist in a life-permitting universe, Donald Page of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Science has calculated the odds of the universe developing by blind, random chance into a form suitable to sustain life as one chance in 10,000,000,000124, a number so large that it exceeds all imagination. [Ravi Zacharias, The End of Reason, pg. 35 (2008)]
Well-known scientists, Fred Hoyle and N.C. Wickramasinghe, have calculated the odds of a single enzyme randomly forming from amino acids anywhere on Earth’s surface as one chance in 1020. They further observe, that there are about ‘two thousand enzymes and the chance of obtaining them all in a random trial is only one part in (1020)20,000 = 1040,000, an outrageously small probability that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup.’ And this is just one step in the formation of life [in evolutionary theory]. Nothing has yet been said about DNA and where it came from, or of the transcription of DNA to RNA, which scientists admit cannot even be numerically computed. Nor has anything been said of mitosis or meiosis. One would have to conclude that the chance of the random ordering of organic molecules is not essentially different from a big fat zero.” (Emphasis added.) [Ravi Zacharias, The End of Reason, pg. 35 (2008)]
Intelligent Design or Random Chance?
In a debate with Christian philosopher, William Lane Craig, Dr. Peter Atkins of Oxford (an atheist) readily conceded that if anything in the universe was designed then the atheist argument fails because if anything in the universe was, in fact, designed then there had to be a designer:
“The atheist argument fails if, in the end, it turns out the universe had to be designed. It fails if any aspect of it had to be made. It fails, if it turns out, there had to be a seed the size of a pea or even the size of a proton...”
Dr. Robin Collins provides the following illustration to demonstrate why Christian apologists believe the atheist argument fails because the existence of all of the finely-tuned design features found in the universe rationally point to the existence of an intelligent, purposeful designer rather than blind random chance:
“I like to use the analogy of astronauts landing on Mars and finding an enclosed biosphere, sort of like the domed structure that was built in Arizona a few years ago. At the control panel they find that all the dials for its environment are set just right for life. The oxygen ratio is perfect, the temperature is seventy degrees, the humidity is fifty percent, there’s a system for replenishing the air; there are systems for producing food, generating energy, and disposing of wastes. Each dial has a huge range of possible settings, and you can see if you were to adjust one or more of them just a little bit, the environment would go out of whack and life would be impossible. What conclusion would you draw from that?“
As argued by Collins, the most rational conclusion is that the biosphere (with all of its dials set at all the just-right settings) was designed by a being with intelligence who designed the biosphere to operate in a just-right way for the purpose of supporting life in the biosphere.
Biosphere 2 in Arizona (>>)
Likewise, as maintained by Christian apologists, there is simply no compelling reason why belief in an intelligent, purposeful designer is not a rational, if not the most rational explanation, for all the exquisitely fine-tuned design features scientists have discovered in every aspect of the universe which are necessary for life to exist. In fact, many Christian apologists maintain only a pre-existing bias against the existence of an intelligent designer would cause someone to conclude all of the exquisitely designed life-essential features in the universe and life itself came together as a matter of blind, random chance which has no beingness or causal power. more >>
Christian apologists further point out that not only do the finely-tuned design features in the universe point to the existence of an intelligent and purposeful designer (like the self-existing, eternal, transcendent, omniscient and omnipotent God described in the Bible), but God’s existence is supported by several independent lines of argumentation including:
- God’s existence best explains why anything exists rather than nothing (an argument for the existence of a “first uncaused cause”) >>
- God’s existence best explains the cause of the universe coming into existence (the Kalam Cosmological Argument) >>
- God’s existence best explains all the mind-boggling, just-right design features scientists have discovered throughout the universe which make it possible for life to exist in the universe (the Intelligent Design aka Teleological Argument) (discussed above)
- God’s existence best explains the existence of objective morality
- God’s existence best explains man’s search for, and innate belief in, meaning, purpose and significance
The God of the Bible is described as a self-existent, eternal, transcendent, omnipotent and omniscient Creator who designed the universe to operate in a just-right way for the purpose of permitting life to exist on planet Earth. If there is no God, then the existence of all of the exquisitely fine-tuned characteristics of the universe and life within the universe must be attributed to mere chance. In addition to pointing out the incomprehensible improbabilities of the universe having all of the just-right design features without any input from an intelligent designer (numbers like 1060, 10120, 10215, 1040,000 and 10,000,000,000124) Christian apologists also contend the atheist’s appeal to chance is not only speculative (more >>) but counter intuitive (more >>).
According to the Christian worldview, the universe and everything in the universe, points to the existence of an intelligent designer like the self-existent, eternal, transcendent, omniscient and omnipotent God described in the Bible. Psalm19:1-4 (NIV) states:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
According to Romans 1:18-20, God will not excuse men’s unbelief “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.”
In the Christian worldview, man is confronted with a choice: 1) A person can choose to put their faith (not blind faith but well-reasoned faith) in the existence of a self-existent, eternal, transcendent, omniscient and omnipotent Designer as the most reasonable explanation for the existence of the universe and all the exquisitely fined-tuned design features discovered throughout the universe or 2) A person can put their faith in the existence of an unknown natural mechanism outside of the space-time envelope of this universe which operates in violation of the laws of physics and, by mere chance, has given the illusion that the universe was designed.
Given the phenomenal improbabilities involved with the proposition that all the finely-tuned design features in the universe came together by blind, random chance as well as the other independent lines of argumentation for God’s existence, Christian apologists maintain there is no compelling reason why belief in an intelligent designer is not a rational, if not the most rational, explanation for the existence of the universe.
© 2012 by Andrina G. Hanson
Published: July 17, 2012 / Last Updated: August 3, 2017
QUICK LINKS TO SOURCES REFERENCED OR RELIED ON IN THIS ARTICLE
Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman, 20 Compelling Evidences That God Exists: Discover Why Believing In God Makes so Much Sense(River Oak Publishing, 2002)
William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision(Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook; New Edition, 2010)
Alister McGrath, Foundations of Apologetics, “The Existence of God” (RZIM, 2007) DVDs available at http://rzim.christianbook.com/foundations-of-apologetics-all-digital-version/9781612562124/pd/1314BD
J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview(IVP Academic, 2003)
Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God(Navpress; 2 edition, 1995)
R.C. Sproul, Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology(Baker Books, 1999)
IMAGE CREDITS & LICENSING
Slideshow Photo: A photograph of a dual processor PC motherboard by “Quique251”. The image was downloaded from www.wikimedia.org, which states the image is licensed under the the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license (CC-BY-SA-3.0) back>>
Illustration of Gravity: Created by “Johnstone” using a 3D CAD software package and an image of planet earth taken from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. The image was downloaded from www.wikipedia.org which states the image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license (CC-BY-SA-3.0) back>>
Illustration of the Sun’s Location in the Milky Way Galaxy: The grid superimposed by the author, “Brews”, using a NASA image of the Milky Way galaxy. The image was downloaded from www.wikipedia.org which states the image is in the public domain because it was solely created by NASA and NASA’s copyright policy states that “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted“. (See Template:PD-USGov, NASA copyright policy page or JPL Image Use Policy.) back>>
Illustration of the Relative Sizes of the Sun and Planets: The planets in this image are shown to scale but the distances of the objects are highly compressed. The image was downloaded from www.wikipedia.org which states the image is in the public domain because it was solely created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted“. (See Template:PD-USGov, NASA copyright policy page or JPL Image Use Policy.) back>>
Photo of Earth’s Atmosphere: This composite image of Earth’s atmosphere with the moon in the background was taken from the International Space Station and involved a number of orbits by the orbital outpostion. The image was downloaded from www.NASA.gov. back>>
Photo of Biosphere 2 in Arizona: This photograph of Biosphere 2 in Arizona was taken by “Daderot” and downloaded from wikimedia.org which states the image was released into the Public Domain (worldwide) by the author. back>>