Why think there is a God? (2) Goldilocks Effect

Those unfamiliar with astrophysics might get the impression that the Big Bang was just a random explosion of energy that just happened to produce galaxies with stars and at least one planet capable of supporting intelligent life. But nothing could be further from the truth. The more physicists have learnt about the conditions for a stable universe, and in particular a universe capable of sustaining intelligent life, the more it seems that the Big Bang must have been very finely tuned. Like Goldilocks porridge, the universe had to be just right.

One example of this fine tuning is the strength of gravitational force. If gravitational force were too strong then matter would clump together, if gravitational force were too weak then bounds between particles would be too weak. In either case, stars like our Sun could not have formed and without the Sun, life on planet could not exist. But what is really surprising is just how particular fine tuning is. If the strength of gravitational force had differed by one part in 1040 then our Sun could not exist. (1040 is scientific notation for a 1 followed by 40 zeroes, or in other words, ten thousand billion billion billion billion).

And the strength of gravitational force is just one example of many conditions that are remarkably finely tuned. Other examples include the difference in mass between a proton and neutron, and the density of the universe.

The point about these examples is not simply that they are improbable, but that they are crying out for an explanation. Imagine if you replayed the Big Bang over and over again, billions upon billions of times. And imagine that each time there was a Big Bang, you changed one of starting conditions (say, gravitational force) by a small degree. In almost every case the universe that emerged would either quickly collapse in on itself or would be entirely made up of hydrogen and helium; the scenarios under which the Big Bang produced a universe capable of sustaining intelligent life would be a tiny tiny percentage. This specified complexity requires an explanation and for a lot of people that explanation is a Designer.

And these examples of fine-tuning are not controversial. The physicist Paul Davies has written, “everyone agrees that the universe looks as if it was designed for life”. Both believers and non-believers agree that these remarkable coincidences require an explanation. However, there have been some attempts to propose an explanation that doesn’t require a Designer. Perhaps the most common alternative is the multiverse explanation, whereby there just are billions upon billions of universes and eventually one of them would turn out to be like ours. It is questionable whether this is a better explanation. Firstly, the multiverse is entirely theoretical and it is not clear how one might go about trying to prove it. Secondly, it seems odd to choose to hypothesize billions upon billions of universes just to escape the existence of one God. Thirdly, the multiverse hypothesis seems to complicate, not simplify the fine-tuning, as now one has to explain the origin of billions upon billions of universes.

God is the most straightforward explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe.

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Preceding article: Why think there’s a God? (1): Something from Nothing

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WMAP image of the (extremely tiny) anisotropie...

WMAP image of the (extremely tiny) anisotropies in the cosmic background radiation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Dr. Robin Collins explains two kinds of cosmic fine-tuning (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    I was busy working my way through “Debating Christian Theism“, a book published by Oxford University Press in August 2013. It features about 20 different topics from science, to philosophy, to history. For each topic, there is an essay by a world-class scholar in favor, and one opposed. So you get both sides of many interesting issues, at a very advanced level. The section on cosmic fine-tuning features a chapter written by Dr. Robin Collins.
  • Evidence For Universe Inflation Theory May Lurk In New Data From Planck Space Probe (mukeshbalani.wordpress.com)
    At first, there was nothing — complete and utter emptiness. Zero energy and zero matter.

    And then, out of this nothingness, the universe was born. Tiny, but extremely dense and packed with energy. And then, within a miniscule fraction of a second, it rapidly grew in size — inflated — by at least a factor of 10raised to the 25th power.

    This theory, known as inflation, is currently the dominant explanation for what happened after the Big Bang and for how the universe came to be the way it is today. But although many scientists now believe that inflation did indeed take place, they still don’t know how or why it started, or how it stopped. And so far, there hasn’t been any solid experimental evidence for this accelerated expansion. [8 Baffling Astronomy Mysteries]

    Scientists hope that in just a few months they might start to unravel the riddle, when they examine the next set of data from the Planck satellite. Since 2009, this radio telescope, run by the European Space Agency (ESA), has been mapping the oldest light in the universe.

  • Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes: Can Infinite Universes Explain Fine-Tuning? (christianreasons.com)
    Barrow & Tipler, in their landmark book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, note that if Einstein’s cosmological constant varied in either direction by as little as 1 x 10120, (which is a fraction so small that it would take more zeros to write than there are atoms in the universe) If this were to be changed by even that amount, the universe would expand too fast for galaxies & stars to form.
  • Craig’s Five Ways, Part One [EvolutionBlog] (scienceblogs.com)
    Writing in the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas famously presented his “five ways” to prove that God exists. He relied largely on extrapolations from observable phenomena in our daily experience to grand claims about the origins of it all. Thus, he argued from the presence of motion in the natural world to an unmoved mover behind it all, or from the contingency of existence in the natural world to the presence of a necessary existent, and so on.

    These arguments have received detailed philosophical development over the years, from Aquinas and from many others, but they have not fared well. Few philosophers nowadays defend them, and for good reason. All of them rest on dubious premises, and their conclusions are generally underwhelming. (For example, there might be a necessary existent, but why should we equate a necessary existent with God?)

  • William Lane Craig debates Lawrence Krauss in North Carolina: Does God Exist? (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
    Would you like to hear a debate featuring the least intelligent atheist ever? Well, this is a good candidate.

    The full transcript of the debate is here at the Reasonable Faith web site.

    Audio of the William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss debate at North Carolina State University has now been posted at Apologetics 315. The people who recorded it did not do a good job, though.

    And I also posted some background information on Craig’s arguments.

  • Video, audio and summary of Wiliam Lane Craig vs Peter Millican debate (winteryknight.wordpress.com)

    This debate on “Does God Exist?” took place in front of a capacity audience at the Great Hall, University of Birmingham. It was recorded on Friday 21st October 2011 as part of the UK Reasonable Faith Tour with William Lane Craig.

    William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, California and a leading philosopher of religion. Peter Millican is Gilbert Ryle Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, University of Oxford and a noted scholar in studies of Hume.

    The debate was hosted by the University of Birmingham Student Philosophy Society, and the debate was moderated by Professor Carl Chinn.

  • Did Alien Life Evolve Just After the Big Bang? (lunaticoutpost.com)
    Traditionally, astrobiologists keen on solving the mystery of the origin of life in the universe look for planets in habitable zones around stars. Also known as Goldilocks zones, these regions are considered to be just the right distance away from stars for liquid water, a pre-requisite for life as we know it, to exist.

    But even exoplanets that orbit far beyond the habitable zone may have been able to support life in the distant past, warmed by the relic radiation left over from the Big Bang that created the universe 13.8 billion years ago, says Harvard astrophysicist Abraham Loeb.

  • Did Alien Life Evolve Just After the Big Bang? (space.com)
    “When the universe was 15 million years old, the cosmic microwave background had a temperature of a warm summer day on Earth,” he said. “If rocky planets existed at that epoch, then the CMB could have kept their surface warm even if they did not reside in the habitable zone around their parent star.” [Gallery: Planck Spacecraft Sees Big Bang Relics]

    But the question is whether planets — and especially rocky planets — could already have formed at that early epoch.

    According to the standard cosmological model, the very first stars started to form out of hydrogen and helium tens of millions of years after the Big Bang. No heavy elements, which are necessary for planet formation, were around yet.

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