Mosaic of Deep Space (more >>)
One of the most spectacular design features scientists have discovered in the universe is the exquisitely precise rate at which the universe has expanded from its beginning (which scientists refer to as “the singularity”).
As discussed in this article, if the universe had expanded ever so slightly slower than it has or slightly faster than it has, no life would be possible anywhere in the universe.
As discussed in An Introduction and Summary of the Evidence for the Existence of God from Design (here >>), Christian apologists maintain that the hundreds of finely-tuned features scientists have discovered in the universe (all of which are necessary for life to exist) are most reasonably explained by the existence of an intelligent, transcendent Designer (like the God described in the Bible) rather than mere chance, as proposed by Naturalists.
This article examines the exquisitely fine-tuned features scientists have discovered in the expansion rate of the universe.
It is now known that two factors control how fast the universe has been expanding: 1) its mass density (which acts as a brake and has the effect of slowing expansion) and 2) its energy density (which acts as an accelerator and has the effect of expanding the universe). Unless these two factors are exquisitely fine-tuned so the universe expands at a very precise rate, no life would be possible anywhere in the universe.
If the universe had expanded even slightly faster than it has, gravity would not have been strong enough to permit galaxies to form and without galaxies (and specifically the just-right type of galaxy) no life would be possible (more >>).
On the other hand, if the universe had expanded even slightly slower than it has, the universe would have collapsed under the effects of gravity before any stars would have been able to form. Without a just-right star in a just-right solar system (more >>) located in a just-right galaxy (more >>), no life in the universe would be possible. [See, Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, pgs. 53-54, 150-151 (2001)]
In order for the universe to expand at the precise rate needed to permit life to exist in the universe, the mass density of the universe had to be just-right. If the total mass density of the universe (i.e., the total amount of matter in the universe in relation to the size of the universe) was even slightly less than it is, the universe would have expanded too quickly to allow stars to form, burn and produce the heat needed to support life. However, if the total mass density of the universe was slightly greater than it is, the universe would have expanded too slowly for planets to remain in stable orbits. Indeed, if the mass density of the universe varied by more than even one part in 1060, no life would be possible anywhere in the universe. [See, Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, pgs. 53-54 (2001); see also, William Lane Craig, On Guard, pg, 109 (2010)].
The preciseness of one part out of 1060 is like firing a bullet toward the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and nailing a one-inch target! — William Lane Craig [On Guard, pg. 109 (2010)]
Dark energy plays a very significant role in determining the rate that the universe expands. It has now been calculated that the level of dark energy density had to be fine-tuned to one part in 10120 for life to be possible anywhere in the expanding universe. “[I]f the universe expands either too rapidly or too slowly at different epochs throughout cosmic history, the stars and planets essential for life either will never form or will form at the wrong times.” [Hugh Ross, Accumulating Evidence for Dark Energy and Supernatural Design, (2011) (www.reasons.org)]
Illustration of the Expansion of the Universe (more >>)
In sum, without the expansion rate of the universe (which is governed by its mass density and space-energy density) being very precisely fine-tuned, no life would be possible at any time or any place in the universe. [See, Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, pgs. 53-54, 150-151 (2001)]
As referenced in this article and other articles on this website, the exquisite precision and chance calculations involved with all of the numerous finely-tuned design features necessary for life to exist in the universe are astronomical — numbers like 1060 (the mass density of the universe here >>), 10100 (the weak nuclear force here >>), and 10120 (the energy density of the universe here >>).
The incomprehensibility of this kind of fine-tuning is more fully appreciated when one considers that there are only about 1025 grains of sand on all the beaches on Planet Earth. This means that fine-tuning in the order of 1060 is like saying not a single grain of sand could be added to or removed from one beach on Planet Earth without causing the entire planet to be incapable of supporting life. Indeed, this illustration is tremendously understated because it assumes a change in one part in about 1025 (the estimated number of grains of sand on Earth) whereas the total mass density of the universe must be fined-tuned to within one part in 1060 and dark energy must be fined tuned to 10120, which are substantially greater numbers than 1025.
When one looks at the probability calculations for life to have developed by chance, the numbers are even more incomprehensible. For example, just the chance of amino acids randomly coming together to form the 2,000 enzymes which are essential for life to exist has been calculated as only one chance in 1040,000 here >>.
Taking all of the fine-tuned features that must exist in a life-permitting universe into consideration, Donald Page of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Science has calculated that the odds of the universe developing by blind, random chance into a form suitable for life as one chance in 10,000,000,000124here >>, which is a number so large that it exceeds all imagination. [Ravi Zacharias, The End of Reason, pg. 35 (2008)]
“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)]
Consequently, Christian apologists maintain there simply is no compelling reason why belief in an intelligent designer (rather than random chance) is not a rational explanation, if not the most rational explanation, for the existence of the universe and life in the universe. This is especially true when one considers the multiple independent lines of argumentation for God’s existence including:
- God’s existence best explains why anything exists rather than nothing (an argument for the existence of a “first uncaused cause”) here >>
- God’s existence best explains the cause of the universe coming into existence (the Kalam Cosmological Argument) here >>
- 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) here >>
- 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
Published: July 18, 2012 / Last Updated: July 24, 2017
QUICK LINKS TO SOURCES REFERENCED OR RELIED ON IN THIS ARTICLE
William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook; New Edition, 2010)
Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God (Navpress; 2 edition, 1995)
IMAGE CREDITS & LICENSING
Slideshow Photo: A 1998 mosaic photo of deep space taken and composed by NASA/ESA. The mosaic depicts the deepest visible/ultraviolet light image of the universe that has ever been captured and shows galaxies down to the 30th magnitude. The bright light in the mosaic is a beacon of a distant quasar. (Back to article >>)
Illustration of the Expansion of the Universe: The original illustration was made by Gnixon at the Wikimedia project and was later modified by Papa at Wikimedia. This illustration was released into the public domain by its author. (Back to article >>)