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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.)
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.”