In my first blog in this series, I wrote about how the beginning of the universe points to the existence of God. I’d like to now write about how another point of the universe points to the existence of God: The Fine-Tuning of the Universe. But before we can even begin to talk about the Fine-Tuning of the Universe, I need to list some information that I think helps put this in perspective. I think that this information is necessary to understand when you start talking about the fine-tuning of the universe.
Let’s start with something small. The generally accepted age of the universe is around 13.8 billion years. When you translate that into seconds, the number of seconds that have passed in the entire history of the universe is 10^17, also known as 10 to the power of 17. This is 1 followed by 17 zeroes. Or 100,000,000,000,000,000. When you start dealing with incredibly large numbers, it’s easier to write 10^17. This is called the scientific notation.
So the number of seconds that have passed in the universe is 10^17. Or 1 followed by 17 zeroes.
The number of estimated cells in the human body is 10^14. Or 1 followed by 14 zeroes.
The number of sub-atomic particles in the known universe is 10^80. Or 1 followed by 80 zeroes.
Hopefully, you’re still with me. These are really large numbers. So let’s now talk about the fine-tuning of the universe. Again, we’ll start with some small things, working in to the larger things.
J Warner Wallace covers some of this information here. (These are also covered in his book, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe)
Forces Governing the Atom Are Favorable to Life:
The constants and proportions of the strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, electromagnetic force and the force of gravity must exist within very narrow ranges in order for life to exist in the universe. The ratio of electrons to protons (both in their numbers and mass) must be precariously balanced. Stanford University physicist and cosmologist, Leonard Susskind, says, “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.
In comparison, these numbers are more than the number of seconds that have passed in the known universe, as well as more than the number of estimated cells in the human body, but less than the number of subatomic particles in the known universe.
From the same blog, he also says this:
Forces Governing the Matter of the Universe Are Favorable to Life:
On the macro-level, the size of the universe, its rate of growth, and the nature and existence of galaxies, stars, and planets depend largely on the force of gravity. 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.
Again, keeping this in perspective, these numbers are more than the number of seconds that have passed in the known universe, as well as more than the number of estimated cells in the human body, but less than the number of subatomic particles in the known universe. So let’s look at some larger numbers.
Dr. William Lane Craig, in his book, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, says this:
The so-called weak force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, which operates inside the nucleus of an atom, is so finely tuned that an alteration in it’s value by even one part out of 10^100 would have prevented a life-permitting universe! Similarly, a change in the value of the so-called cosmological constant, which drives the acceleration of the universe’s expansion, by as little as one part in 10^120 would have rendered the universe life-prohibiting.
In comparison, these numbers are now not just greater than the number of seconds in the known universe and greater than the number of estimated cells in the human body, they are now greater than the number of subatomic particles in the known universe!
Another factor is the low-entropy state in which the universe began to exist. On that, Dr. Craig says this:
Roger Penrose of Oxford University has calculated that the odds of that low-entropy state’s existing by chance alone is on the order of one chance out of 10^10^123, a number that is so inconceivable that to call it astronomical would be a wild understatement.
We have now gone beyond the number of 10 to the power of 123, we are now in the realm of 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 123! I’m a math guy, and that number is hard to conceive. The odds of this chance is so extreme, that as Dr. Craig put it in one of his debates, “if it did happen by chance, then it would have been a miracle, and thus proof for the existence of God.”
And here’s the rub: the odds of this chance is for just one of the factors of the fine-tuning of the universe. Canadian astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross has catalogued 140 factors for the fine-tuning of the universe alone! Each one has its own astronomically fine-tuned criteria. (There are further factors for the fine-tuning of a solar system and the fine-tuning of a planet for life to exist that I will cover in future blogs in this series.)
Finally, J Warner Wallace has some illustrations that can help you appreciate the level of fine-tuning that is required for life to exist in the universe. (These will help us not underestimate these numbers).
Astrophysicist Hugh Ross offers the following analogy: Imagine covering the entire North American continent in dimes and stacking them until they reached the moon. Now imagine stacking just as many dimes again on another billion continents the same size as North America. If you marked one of those dimes and hid it in the billions of piles you’ve assembled, the odds of a blindfolded friend picking out the correct dime is approximately 1 in 1037; the same level of precision required in the strong nuclear force and the expansion rate of the universe.
Philosopher Robin Collins describes it this way: Imagine stretching a measuring tape across the entire known universe. Now imagine one particular mark on the tape represents the correct degree of gravitational force required to create the universe we have. If this mark were moved more than an inch from where it is (on a measuring tape spanning the entire universe), the altered gravitational force would prevent our universe from coming into existence.
Paul Davies credits the following analogy to John Jefferson Davis: 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).
Hugh Ross also provides the following analogy: Imagine comparing the universe to an aircraft carrier like the USS John C Stennis (measuring 1,092 feet long with a displacement of 100,000 tons). If this carrier were as fine-tuned as the mass density of our universe, subtracting a billionth of a trillionth of the mass of an electron from the total mass of the aircraft carrier would sink the ship.