The Fine Tuning Argument
This time around, we will be looking at a more modern argument for the existence of God. This one is very heavy on science and math, but I'll try to avoid the numerical details and just give a basic understanding. If you actually want all of the math, I'll provide some and I'm sure you can find more with a good google search! Today's argument revolves around the way a great number of conditions in the universe and world come together to create a relatively wonderful environment for us to live in. It can be considered a part of the Design Argument that we looked at last week.
A piano requires all of its many strings to be just the right thickness and length and for each of them to be held in just the right tension for the instrument to be in tune and sound harmonious. And that's not even to mention the hammering mechanism, foot pedals, and other parts to a piano. If too many of these things were not adjusted properly, the piano would produce noise, but not music. In the same way, the world itself seems to be "finely tuned" to provide a place for us to live. There are many aspects to the universe, our solar system, and our planet that are adjusted just right to allow us to live here. In fact, changing just one piece by a small bit would cause life as we know it to be impossible. Just as the piano takes intentional guidance to be so harmonious, the world and universe must have been intentionally guided by a Creator to have turned out just right for us. This argument is called The Fine Tuning Argument.
Lets look at some of the many pieces of our planet and the universe itself which show just how finely tuned this place is for life.
The first basic example I'll give you is the earth's distance from the sun. Mercury and Venus are the two planets in our solar system that are closer to the sun than earth. Because Mercury is closer to the sun, its surface reaches temperatures as hot as 800 degrees Fahrenheit! It is a bit obvious, but if the earth was closer to the sun, it would be hotter here. As you move the earth closer and closer to the sun, bad things happen. Humans and large animals would be unable to live in the heat, plants would dry up and burn, the oceans would boil up, and eventually not even bacteria would survive. On the other hand, Pluto is the farthest planet (I call it a planet still for nostalgia reasons just like I still say Sears Tower) from the sun. Pluto's surface is on average a chilling -380 degrees Fahrenheit! Once again, if you move the earth too far from the sun, there is no chance for life. Basically, changing the earth's distance from the sun by just a few percent would begin to cause problems. Isn't it nice that we are where we are?
Did you know that water expands when it freezes? This is why the winter can cause so many potholes in the streets and why mom yells at you when you put a water bottle or soda can in the freezer. Ice takes up more space than water. Did you know that is a rare quality? Most liquids shrink when they are frozen into solids. Water is pretty special in this regard. Why does this matter? Well, if this didn't happen, then ice would sink in water. That would be a bummer for more than just ice fishers! If ice didn't float in water, then in the winter the lakes and the oceans would freeze rapidly and in the summers they would thaw out very slowly. Eventually, all water on the planet would be frozen and life as we know it would be impossible. Isn't it cool that water does what most other liquids don't do?
Take a deep breath. You know what you just breathed in? Not just oxygen. It was a mixture of mostly nitrogen and oxygen and other stuff like argon, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. The earth's atmosphere is only made up of about 21% oxygen. The rest is other gases. If there was just a few percent less oxygen in the atmosphere, then we would suffocate for lack of breathable air. If there was just a few percent more oxygen in the atmosphere, then the whole atmosphere would combust and go up in flames! Isn't it neat how there is just the right amount for us to breathe well and not explode?
Really Nerdy Examples (Feel free to skip... You've been warned!)
For those of you really into physics, the argument really gets even more amazing at this point. There are a number of forces, constants, and ratios in the universe that are extremely critical to the existence of life. If any of the strong force, weak force, gravity, the ratio of electron to proton mass, the ratio of the number of protons to the number of electrons, or even the speed of light were changed to the tiniest degree then life would not be possible!
Let's look at the ratio of protons to electrons. If this ratio was larger or smaller by just 1 part in 10^37, then the electromagnetic force would dominate gravity and prevent the formation of planets, stars, and even galaxies! That's just from a change this big --> 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000001 That is tiny! Isn't it great that the ratio isn't even a tiny bit different?
Its hard to visualize a balance that small. Picture this: Cover the face of the entire continent of North America in dimes. Instead of being buried in two feet of dimes, imagine there were so many dimes that you buried the continent all the way up to the moon. Next, do the same thing with one billion other North American continents. That would be 10^37 dimes. Now, pick one of those dimes and paint it red. Toss it into the huge piles and stir it up. Now blindfold your friend and tell him he has one shot to pick the red dime. That is the kind of fractions we are dealing with. Except in this case, choosing the wrong dime means life goes bye bye!
And finally, string theory predicts that there are 10^500 possible universes that are allowed by the laws of physics. These are theoretical universes that could exist with various changes to universal constants and tweaks to science as we know it. However, string theory also predicts that only a teeny tiny 10^-180 percent of those universes are life permitting! That's 0.000000000....180 zeros....1%! If the universe was truly random, then the odds are mathematically negligible for a life permitting universe to have developed.
Check out THIS LINK for more nerdness on this topic!
Enough Nerdy Stuff
Here is the bottom line. The universe and the earth are full of conditions and circumstances that are just right for us to live here. Any number of changes could literally wipe out our chances of survival. Changing things even by just a few percent or tiny fractions of a percent would cause the earth to be unlivable.
As we grow in our understanding of science and the world around us, we find more and more of these amazing "coincidences". We can choose to say as an atheist must, "Well isn't it great that it just somehow worked out that way!" But we would be foolish to do so. No one would walk up to a piano and be happy that the strings were magically the right size and leaped into place on their own in the right places and with just the right amount of tension. We intuitively know the piano was tuned to sound good. As we look at the exact distance of the earth from the sun, the special attributes of water, the make-up of our atmosphere, and all of the insane math of quantum physics, we should say, "Praise God that He finely tuned this place for us to live in it!"
The Creator and the Cosmos by Dr. Hugh Ross
Many works of Dr. Lane Craig