Alister E. McGrath in his book, “Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers & Skeptics Find Faith” wrote, “Reality is emblazoned with signs pointing to the greater reality of God. We need to connect the dots and see the overall picture.” It wasn’t that long ago when cosmologists discovered that our universe required very specific settings in order to support life. Just like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” our universe is “just right” in order that we may exist. This is often called the “Fine-Tuning Argument” and it’s an important concept to understand because it’s one of the strongest pieces of evidence in the cumulative case of Christianity.
The Heavens Declare
Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
My dad wasn’t always a Christian. In fact, as I explained in an earlier article, my dad was a militant atheist for many years after the death of my sister. However, after he became a Christian, he became fascinated with God’s creation. He specifically loved the majesty of space and the universe as a whole.
The “Argument from Fine-Tuning” is a topic that comes up a lot when you start to delve into the research surrounding the question of whether or not God exists. In fact, our own Nate Sala answered a question from one of A Clear Lens’s own readers in his piece “Is the Fine-Tuning Argument Mistaken?” (a piece I strongly suggest everyone takes a look at.)
The basic premise is, as J. Warner Wallace writes in his piece, “Four Ways the Earth is Fine-Tuned for Life”, “The foundational, regional and locational conditions of our universe, solar system and planet are delicately balanced and finely calibrated. The slightest modification of these conditions would be disastrous for life.”
McGrath explains it further, “Robert J. Spitzer…suggests we imagine all the parameters of the universe – such as the speed of light in a vacuum, the gravitational constant, electromagnetic coupling, and the masses of the elementary particles – are represented by the settings of the dials of some kind of ‘cosmic control panel’. The findings of modern cosmology imply that if the settings of these dials were to be nudged even very slightly, we would not be here to discuss their significance.”
The Strongest Argument for Evidential Apologetics
When I started my own journey, searching for the truth of God’s existence, it wasn’t long before I became acquainted with the notion of fine-tuning and that it tends to be a hot-button issue that is highly debated on skeptical websites like Patheos.
The idea that the universe is fine-tuned isn’t the topic of debate. What people debate is how to interpret the facts regarding the conditions that make life possible for our universe. As Alister McGrath points out, even atheist cosmologist Fred Hoyle acknowledges the very specific circumstances that gave us the universe in which we live. Hoyle wrote that it was as if,
“…a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and…there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”
Even the late Christopher Hitchens admitted that the Fine-Tuning Argument is the most “intriguing” argument in evidential apologetics. In fact, he said that skeptics should take time to think about it because it’s “…not a trivial (thing.)” :
Needless to say, it’s a powerful concept to understand in order to add it to the list of reasons for the hope within us as believers.
The following is not meant to be a dissertation on the fine-tuning argument, but only a crash-course.
Fine-Tuning’s Finer Points
J. Warner Wallace wrote another great piece regarding the fine-tuning of the universe. In it, he includes a couple of great quotes from physicist and cosmologist, Leonard Susskind in order for believers to wrap their minds around the idea of fine-tuning. Such as:
“The Laws of Physics begin with a list of elementary particles like electrons, quarks, and photons, each with special properties such as mass and electric charge. These are the objects that everything else is built out of. No one knows why the list is what it is or why the properties of these particles are exactly what they are. An infinite number of other lists are equally possible. But a universe filled with life is by no means a generic expectation…” If the value of this ratio deviated more than 1 in 1037, the universe, as we know it, would not exist today. If the ratio between the electromagnetic force and gravity was altered more than 1 in 1040, the universe would have suffered a similar fate. The nature of the universe (at the atomic level) could have been different, but even remarkably small differences would have been catastrophic to our existence.”
“…While we sometimes take gravity for granted, the precisely calibrated gravity in the universe is puzzling; Susskind describes it as an “unexplained miracle.” If the expansion rate of the universe deviated by more than 1 in 1037, or the mass density of universe varied more than 1 in 1059, there wouldn’t be a single habitable galaxy or planet in the universe.”
What does all of this mean? Well, in that same piece, J. Warner Wallace was kind enough to include an analogy credited to John Jefferson Davies to help us out:
“Imagine trying to fire a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe. The accuracy required to accomplish such a feat has been calculated at 1 in 1060. Compare this to the precision required in calibrating the mass density of the universe (fine-tuned to within 1 unit in 1059).”
As I stated earlier, there are objections to how apologists interpret the information regarding the fine-tuning of the universe. One objection is that apologists make a broad assumption regarding the fact that if the conditions for the universe were different, there’d be no life. However, by far the most popular skeptical answer for the fine-tuning argument is the idea of the multiverse.
This idea argues that our universe is just one of many possible universes. Our own universe may require specific settings on the cosmic dial in order for life to thrive, but not all universes may need that same specificity. We human beings were just lucky enough to land in the right universe.
Needless to say, the idea of the multiverse has a rebuttal. McGrath once again turns to Spitzer who writes, “First, the distinction between universe and multiverse is largely semantic. There is still just one true universe in this hypothesis if the term ‘universe’ means the entire domain of interconnected physical reality. If the hypothetical multiverse is not connected in any way to the particular universe that we actually observe, it is difficult to see how any laws of physics derived in our domain could possibly apply to the multiverse as a whole.”
McGrath goes on to say, “This means we cannot use observations of our own world to draw any conclusions about the multiverse at all. But if the multiverse is structurally interconnected, many problems encountered with the big bang theory are simply displaced, reappear in a modified form, or even become more difficult for atheists.”
The Fine-Tuning Argument is Highly Suggestive
McGrath writes, “So what is the apologetic significance of this? The observation of fine-tuning is consonant with Christian belief in a creator God…it resonates strongly with the Christian way of thinking, fitting easily and naturally into the map of reality that emerges from the Christian faith. The capacity of Christianity to map these phenomena is not conclusive proof of anything. It is, however, highly suggestive.”
The fine-tuning argument is just another key point in the cumulative case for the Christian faith. The truth of God’s existence is all around us. We just have to look for them and connect the dots.
J. Warner Wallace explains how Fine-Tuning points to God’s existence: