Arthur Asuncion


Articles -- Fine-Tuned For Life (Feb 2006)

Did the universe come about solely through chance and natural processes? Or was it designed to be hospitable to life?

One of the most compelling evidences for the idea of cosmological intelligent design is the fact that the universe is finely tuned. In other words, the universe's physical constants are precisely the right values that are needed in order to sustain life.

Consider the gravitational force constant, G. If you have taken a physics course, you may remember a familiar equation for gravitational force: F = G * m1 * m2 / r^2, where G = 6.67 * 10^-11. If G were slightly tweaked, complex life could not exist.

Other examples of finely tuned parameters are the strong nuclear force constant, weak nuclear force constant, electromagnetic force constant, and ratio of electron to proton mass. If these parameters were even slightly smaller or slightly larger, chemistry (as we know it) would not be possible, and molecules would probably not even exist. It would be almost impossible for life of any kind to be sustained in these conditions.

There are three possible explanations for this extraordinary universal fine-tuning: 1) there exists an underlying mechanism that correctly sets these parameters; 2) it happened by sheer luck; 3) it happened by intelligent design.

A January 2006 Nature article titled “Our Universe: Outrageous Fortune” highlights a shift in sentiment among scientists regarding the cause of this fine-tuning. According to the article, “[s]tring theorists and cosmologists are increasingly turning to dumb luck as an explanation” since the search for an underlying mechanism for fine-tuning has been unfruitful.

However, the probability of randomly selecting the correct values for these parameters is so infinitesimally small that it is unreasonable to think that sheer luck alone can be the explanation for cosmological fine-tuning.

In order to increase the probabilistic resources, some scientists have been driven to suggest that there exist millions of universes that are parallel to our own universe but have different laws and constants. Even though the probability of fine-tuning is astronomically low, a fine-tuned universe could hypothetical emerge if chance has an enormous ensemble of universes at its disposal.

In reality, this concept of a multiverse is a metaphysical postulate, since only one universe is scientifically observable, and that universe is our own. The hypothetical existence of millions of universes must be assumed by faith. Charles Townes, a Nobel Laureate in Physics, suggests that the entire postulate is fantastic:

“Some scientists argue that ‘well, there's an enormous number of universes and each one is a little different. This one just happened to turn out right.' Well, that's a postulate, and it's a pretty fantastic postulate — it assumes there really are an enormous number of universes and that the laws could be different for each of them. The other possibility is that ours was planned, and that's why it has come out so specially” (UCBerkeleyNews interview, June 2005).

Scientists have not found an underlying mechanism that can explain fine-tuning. Sheer luck cannot be invoked without assuming the metaphysical concept of the existence of millions of universes. The only other alternative is cosmological intelligent design, which is the idea that a Designer has intelligently calibrated the constants in order to sustain life.

A critic may ask, “Doesn't intelligent design appeal to a metaphysical cause?” Actually, the concept of intelligent design is no more metaphysical than the hypothetical concept that millions of universes exist. And Ockham's Razor would favor intelligent design over the concept of an elaborate multiverse, since intelligent design is more direct as an explanation.

If one accepts that this physical universe had a beginning, then one is forced to appeal to a metaphysical cause. For how can there be any physical explanation for the origin of the physical universe?

In addition to the fine-tuning of constants, another positive evidence for cosmological intelligent design is the simplicity and beauty of the physics equations themselves. Einstein once said:

"The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible."

This simplicity and comprehensibility of physical laws suggests that the universe is more than just a mere fluke of nature, since we would not expect sheer luck to produce mathematically elegant and simple laws.

From the current amount of scientific evidence, we can reliably infer that cosmological intelligent design is the most rational explanation for fine-tuning in the universe. Let's be grateful, for without fine-tuning, we would not exist.