The “Fine-Tuning” Argument

The “fine-tuning” argument, also known as the Anthropic Principle, is a well-known principle used in the creation vs. evolution debate. The argument is used as evidence that there is a God, and that the universe couldn’t have come about by chance and natural processes. The universe, for example, is only habitable for life on earth due to the precise effects of gravity, nuclear forces, electromagnetic forces and the laws of physics. These forces hold together stars, planets, atoms, molecules and chemicals, and without them there would be no life.

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(Photo Credit: Jaime Olmo)

Here’s a list of such design features:

  • The electromagnetic coupling constant.
  • The ratio of electron to proton mass.
  • Carbon and oxygen nuclei energy levels.
  • Electromagnetic forces for stars.
  • Gravitational forces.
  • The sun is the right color.
  • The sun is the right mass.
  • The earth is the right distance from the sun.
  • The earth’s gravity.
  • The earth’s axial tilt.
  • The earth’s rotation period.
  • The earth’s magnetic field.
  • The earth’s crust thickness.
  • The earth’s oxygen/nitrogen ratio.
  • The earth’s carbon dioxide levels.
  • The earth’s water vapor levels.
  • The earth’s ozone levels.

Briefly, if the electromagnetic coupling constant were smaller or greater than what it is, fewer electrons could be held, or the electrons would be held too tightly to bond with other atoms. If the ratio of electron to proton mass isn’t what it is, then molecules couldn’t form. The electromagnetic and gravitational forces that exist are necessary for stars to be stable. If the sun was another color, plants wouldn’t be able to utilize photosynthesis. If the sun was larger, we’d receive too much radiation; the earth would need to be further away, and that would drastically affect the weather and cause many other problems. If the sun were smaller, the earth would need to be closer to it, and that would disrupt the earth’s rotation. The earth’s gravity is just right for the tidal forces exerted by the moon, etc.

These are just some of the problems we’d face if God hadn’t been there to adjust the “knobs” of the universe. He made sure the sun was the right size, color, mass and distance from the earth so that plant and animal life would not only exist, but flourish. The earth is also the right size, has the right rotation, axial tilt, magnetic field, protective atmosphere, and other factors for man to exist without being fried or crushed. Man shares a type of symbiotic relationship with animals and plants, and there’s an abundance of natural resources for us to harvest and use. The earth is robust and capable of cleaning itself with rain and water, ridding itself of pollution.

And if we leave the earth, we can see just how inhospitable the rest of the universe is. There’s a reason why astronauts have to wear protective spacesuits. Beyond earth, the universe is completely baron and lifeless.

Theistic evolutionist Karl Giberson considers the fine-tuning of the universe and marvels at how remarkably orderly it is. He likens the universe to a set of equations that had to be tuned in the right way as to create life. He says “knobs” had to be tuned for gravity, the conservation of energy, nuclear forces and repulsion, and without them we couldn’t have life. He says the universe doesn’t look like a random, disorganized explosion- it looks like a symphony. Atoms are endlessly recycled without deterioration, and we’re the right distance from the sun for the earth to have liquid water, which provides an environment for diverse life.

I’d further argue that natural processes couldn’t account for all these features. Perhaps it could account for two or three features being perfectly tuned by chance, but not dozens of features by a single Big Bang. The laws of probability defy such logic.

Even the former atheist Sir Fred Hoyle acknowledged the design of the universe, and this realization left him “greatly shaken.” He found that one particular nuclear reaction which generates carbon would require the carbon nucleus to have a very specific resonance energy, otherwise it wouldn’t work. And the energy levels were so unlikely that he wrote, “Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. 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.”

Hoyle, known for comparing the likelihood of the origin of life to a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard and assembling a Boeing 747 from the materials, also compared the chance of obtaining even a single functioning protein by chance combination of amino acids to a solar system full of blind men solving Rubik’s Cubes simultaneously.

I think the fine-tuning argument is evidence that the earth is perfectly suited to be our home, just as the Bible claims. Evolutionists must believe this is all an accident, regardless of how improbable.

However it shouldn’t come as a surprise that secular scientists reject the fine-tuning argument and offer other explanations without relying on the existence of God. Some claim that the universe could be tuned in any number of ways, as long as it was counter-balanced. Some find the coincidences unremarkable. Others claim that these principles are the case because the universe “compels” conscious life to eventually emerge. And still others claim that these principles are an illusional bias- only a universe where intelligent organisms existed would they be capable of observing this fine-tuning, while another universe without intelligent beings would be unaware. Or they claim that we shouldn’t be surprised that the universe isn’t incompatible with our existence, otherwise we wouldn’t be here to notice it. Other skeptics appeal to the laws of probability, especially if there are an infinite number of universes; if granted any level of probability at all, then given enough time, there’s a chance, and that’s good enough! (I couldn’t help attaching the following clip from the movie Dumb & Dumber to illustrate the absurdity)

Nonetheless, these responses aren’t very satisfying. If a creationist offered such philosophical rebuttals, evolutionists would soundly reject them as non-evidence. It’s as if they’d rather ignore the obvious conclusions based on the evidence- that the universe and earth were created and designed by God.

Lloyd: “What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me ending up together? What are my chances?”

Mary: “Not good.”

Lloyd: “Not good, like one in out of hundred?”

Mary: “I’d say more like one out of a million.”

Lloyd: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance… yeah!”

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4 thoughts on “The “Fine-Tuning” Argument

  1. I won’t bother debating probability here because frankly I think the math in literally incalculable. Instead, I’d like to explore a statement that you made early on: “And if we leave the earth, we can see just how inhospitable the rest of the universe is. There’s a reason why astronauts have to wear protective spacesuits. Beyond earth, the universe is completely baron and lifeless.”

    Firstly, given the breadth and scope of the universe and the utterly infinitesimally small chunk of the universe we humans can observe, to claim with certainly that ALL of space beyond earth is “barren and lifeless” is specious at best. There’s pretty compelling evidence that liquid water used to exist on Mars, and we know that ice still exists there. Is not water a necessary ingredient for life? There are moons of Saturn that also exhibit pretty compelling evidence that they contain liquid water. If we as a civilization ever get our act together and resume the exploration of space, all of these theories are completely testable and verifiable.

    But it’s the part about astronauts having to wear space suits that really struck me, particularly in relation to the idea of God. Space, as you claim, is inhospitable to life. Yet, there are astronauts in space. One would think that if the God of the Christian bible perfectly created earth for us, and the rest of the universe was totally inhospitable to life, that we would not possess the faculties to leave it. After all, if you and the bible are correct, there is literally zero reason for us to leave the planet: “The earth is also the right size, has the right rotation, axial tilt, magnetic field, protective atmosphere, and other factors for man to exist without being fried or crushed. Man shares a type of symbiotic relationship with animals and plants, and there’s an abundance of natural resources for us to harvest and use. The earth is robust and capable of cleaning itself with rain and water, ridding itself of pollution.”

    And yet we have the ability. And, if your assertions are correct, they are God-given abilities.

    The part I find confusing about this is that if God designed a universe with only a single inhabitable planet for a single species, why give us the ability to leave it? It would be a colossal waste of time if all of your assertions are correct. And yet, if the bible and everything in it is to be believed, one can only conclude that God bestowed man with an innate sense of curiosity. He bestowed him with the mental faculties to think logically and abstractly, and to understand the laws that govern the universe. He bestowed man with the physical form to manipulate the environment.

    Do not all of the gifts that God has given man speak to a reason for leaving our planet? It seems extremely bizarre to me that God would design a universe on such a gigantic scale, with trillions of stars and billions of galaxies, and give us the ability to leave our planet and explore that universe and those stars, if the universe was really just a barren, lifeless, wasteland. Life exists here because of a set of universal constants–the key being “universal,” as in they’re the same everywhere in the universe. And if that holds true, why could there not be other life elsewhere in the universe? It would seem to me that if God did in fact create man, and God is perfect, then we are the way we are, we have the abilities we have, for a reason. In other words, God would not give us abilities if He did not want us to utilize them, right? And to me, the idea of a barren, lifeless universe seems incompatible with our God given abilities to physically explore that universe.

    • I’ll agree with you that I shouldn’t have stated with “certainty” that all of space beyond earth is barren and lifeless. I think I had a disclaimer at one point and must have edited it out. But, from a completely objective perspective, we haven’t observed enough of the universe to make this statement with certainty. From what we do observe, however, there’s no evidence of life beyond earth.

      Yes, there’s definitely evidence that liquid water used to exist on Mars, and I’ve even written in favor of it previously (Tuesday at the ICC) when Ron Samec presented his Mars Desert Hypothesis. The Bible tells us in Genesis 1:3 that God separated water from water by placing a vault between the water below and the water above. Most creationists, therefore, believe that there’s more water in space than there is on earth, and that would allow for the existence of water on Mars. And while water is a necessary ingredient for life on earth, the existence of water isn’t an indication that life exists elsewhere in the universe. There’s no reason to expect to find life on other planets that contain water; that’s purely an evolutionary assumption.

      I don’t agree that humans shouldn’t possess the faculties to leave earth if God created a hospitable earth for us and an inhospitable universe. I don’t see the correlation. The way I see it, God created the earth to be man’s home, but that doesn’t mean that man is disobeying God by leaving the earth and exploring space. I don’t think we’re ever going to find another planet hospitable to life, but that doesn’t mean we can’t colonize the moon, Mars, or another planet. It just means that the rest of space will be inhospitable. Further, in Genesis 11:6, God even acknowledges that nothing man plans to do will be impossible for hm. So I’d reason that man would have the faculties to leave earth.

      God gave us the ability to leave earth because he made us in his image. He’s given us the ability to reason, think, and create, and we may act upon these attributes. I don’t think it would be a waste to leave earth and explore space, as long as our goal isn’t to seek out new civilizations; I think that would be a waste of time and money, just as I think SETI is a huge waste of time and money. I think there are other reasons to leave earth, and that’s to innovate new ideas and technology for practical uses.

      God never gave man a mandate to explore the universe, but neither did he prohibit man from doing so. God told us why he created the universe on such a gigantic scale: on Day Four (Genesis 11:14-19) God created the stars, moon and heavenly bodies to separate the day from night, to serve as signs to mark the sacred times, and the days and years. He created the sun to govern the day and the moon to govern the night. That’s it. There’s no indication that he created the rest of the universe for any other purpose except that which he stated, and I find no reason why we’d expect to find anything beyond earth except a lifeless and barren universe. Just because God has given us the abilities to explore the universe is not evidence that he created another part of the universe to be habitable by man or other sentient beings. It’s just evidence that man can accomplish whatever he sets his mind to.

  2. Thanks for stopping by. I do think you’re right that the fine tuning argument isn’t required for proving the existence of God. The fine tuning argument is merely the consequence of God’s creative process and the result of how he set up the universe. Even if God chose to create a universe with a different set of properties that didn’t appear to be finely tuned for our existence, God would still exist and be in control. I just happen to believe that it’s no coincidence that the universe appears to have been created for our existence, and, as such, is compelling evidence for the existence of God- even though it is not required.

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