Evidence for God: A Fine-Tuned Universe

Note: This article is inspired by a lecture given by Dr. John Bloom at the 2012 EPS Apologetics Conference. Dr. Bloom is a physics professor at Biola University. He holds a PhD in physics from Cornell University, a PhD in ancient near eastern studies from the Annenberg Research Institute, and a Masters of Divinity from Biblical Theological Seminary.

Dr. John Bloom

On my own “Evidence for Christianity” page, I mention that there are a number of physical parameters which appear “finely tuned” to produce a universe capable of harboring life. Described below are four examples of fine tuning…but there are many, many more.

Matter-Antimatter Asymmetry

Quarks and anti-quarks form via matter-antimatter pair production. Because of their nature, these particles instantly annihilate each other. However, during the Big Bang, a slight asymmetry in this pair production resulted in approximately 1 extra particle of matter for every 10 billion produced.

Matter-Antimatter Asymmetry

It turns out that this 1 in 10 billion ratio of “leftover particles” happens to be the exact amount of mass necessary for the formation of stars, galaxies, and planets. As much as 2 in 10 billion, and the universe would have just been filled with black holes. As little as 0.5 in 10 billion, and there wouldn’t have been enough density for galaxies to form.

Uneven Temperature Distribution in Space

The temperature of space is cold – REALLY cold – but it hovers slightly above absolute zero (approximately 2.73 K). It’s theorized that this is residual warmth from the Big Bang. What’s noteworthy is that this temperature isn’t evenly distributed throughout the universe. There is actually a “speckle pattern” consisting of variations on the order of 1/10,000th of a degree.

Temperature Variations Across Space

There is also a correlation between the temperature of a region of space and the amount of matter in that region of space. Colder regions have more matter; warmer regions have less matter. According to physicists, a 1 in 100,000 level of imperfection is needed in order to have properly-sized objects (stars, galaxies, etc.). Our universe once again stands on a razor’s edge. If there were a tiny variation one way or the other, the universe would be made up of either black holes or dispersed hydrogen.

The Universe is Electrically Neutral

Most people know that protons and electrons carry equal-and-opposite charges (+1 and -1, respectively). What many people DON’T know is that protons are composed of 3 quarks, with charges of +2/3, +2/3, and -1/3, adding up to a +1 elementary charge. Electrons are entirely different fundamental particles…that happen to EXACTLY cancel out the net charge of the proton.

Quark Structure of the Proton

Protons and electrons have completely different compositions, and were formed at different times during the Big Bang. As far as we can measure, there are equal numbers of protons and electrons in the universe. If these charges didn’t precisely balance out, then the force of gravity (which is vanishingly weak by comparison) would be inconsequential. We would once again be left with a universe devoid of stars, planets, and galaxies.

The Nuclear Binding Force

The nuclear binding force is essentially what counterbalances the electrical repulsion of protons within nuclei. It’s the “glue” that holds a nucleus together. If the value of this force were ~5% weaker, then every atom in the universe would be hydrogen. If the value of this force were ~2% stronger, then the presence of “mega-atoms” would result in a universe composed of neutron stars and black holes.

So where does this leave us?

Sir Fred Hoyle

The well-known English astronomer Fred Hoyle – a lifelong atheist – puts it this way:

“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.”

In order to escape the obvious Theistic implications of fine tuning, many physicists have proposed that we inhabit only a single universe in a much larger multiverse.

Aside from being entirely ad hoc, the multiverse hypothesis – by its very nature – cannot be evaluated empirically. One might label it a philosophy, but it certainly falls outside the realm of science. (There’s also the problem of the Boltzmann brain paradox, which I may discuss in a future post.)

Dr. Robert Jastrow

In conclusion, Dr. Bloom shared the following quote from NASA physicist Robert Jastrow:

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

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16 thoughts on “Evidence for God: A Fine-Tuned Universe

  1. Nice post! I have one planned a long time down the road on this same topic, also inspired by Bloom’s presentation. The teleological argument’s appeal is growing on me. His presentation really opened my eyes on it much more than a bunch of reading did.

    • I look forward to your post! And yeah, I really thought Bloom presented this material well. It seems way more useful to present 3 or 4 specific examples than to just say, “Hey, there are a bunch of parameters that are finely tuned to support life.”

  2. Great post. Brian Green’s “Elegant Universse uses different parameteers but makes the same assertion. That our world and our universe is simply impossible as an accident of matter.

    • I’ll have to check that out! I’ve actually read one of Greene’s other books (“The Fabric of the Cosmos”).

  3. I like the quote at the end of the article about the scientist’s bad dream. Anyway, reading your blog reminds me of The Feast of Christ the King which was celebrated in the RC church yesterday. We finite humans tend to compartamentalize our lives…politics, family life, education, arts and culture, science….. when in reality, Christ is the King of the Universe including all of the above. The beauty and genius of all creation testifies to His Kingship. The complexities of our DNA, the “miracle” of photosynthesis, even the rotation of planet Earth are a wonder, science and faith are not in opposition, many great scientists have been devout Christians….Louis Pasteur, Gregor Mendel come to mind. Check out Pelican connection if you are interested in reading about a book by Dr Chris Baglow or just check out website. God bless.

    • “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” -CS Lewis

  4. I don’t think the various fine-tuning arguments are that great, honestly – they get you to where it’s more probable (or rational) to posit a designer, but IMO that’s about it, and I’m not really that convinced they do that good of a job of that sometimes. Plantinga treats this subject pretty well in ‘Where the Conflict Really Lies’, and in other places. For my part I prefer a more Aristotelian telology than the more typical design arguments.

    • I think it depends a lot on where a person’s coming from. Fine tuning arguments probably aren’t that effective for an individual who doesn’t have a problem with the idea of God, but who struggles to accept Christianity specifically.

      I think they can be very effective, though, when talking with a staunch atheist who claims that the very idea of God is absurd (or who believes that science has eliminated mankind’s need for God).

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