Over at Jesus Creed, guest blogger RJS is diving into some heady mathematics and physics this morning with A Fine-Tuned Universe?
It has been noted by many scientist that the universe appears to be fine-tuned for the existence of life. Many of the fundamental constants appear unconstrained in their values, yet have values that, if they were even slightly different, would lead to a sterile universe unable to develop life. This leads to the so-called Anthropic Principle
RJS does a great job of making some difficult ideas fairly accessible. It reminds me of Brian Greene, actually. (Though I never could finish the Fabric of the Universe.) The post concludes with a question: Does the fine-tuning of the universe for our existence point to God?
I don’t think it does–any more so than all natural beauty does.
A beautiful patch of river with tall cypress trees teeming with life make me want to worship God. But it doesn’t offer much evidence that God exists. I’m not even sure I could say that it points toward God. (I would say it points toward my desire for there to be a God.) But the peaceful river itself is only the thinnest circumstantial evidence to suggest a creator and designer.
For me, the Anthropic Principle isn’t good evidence that God exists either. From an evidence perspective, it just suggests that we’re dealing with really big numbers which are likely to produce at least a few positive outcomes. RJS does a really good job explaining the Anthropic Principle, by the way! He also doesn’t raise the issue of evidence directly, but evidence is the only way I know of to evaluate whether something points toward God or not.
I’m remembering an interview we did with Francis Collins awhile back on TheHighCalling.org, Celebrating God through Science. Towards the end of the first part of the interview, Collins made a argument for God based on some unexplained biological phenomenon. In the first question of the second part of the interview, I called him on it. It sounded like “God of the gaps” logic.
His response was fantastic:
We have to be careful about trying to attach any kind of observation about the natural world as a definite proof of God’s existence, but these arguments can be an interesting way to help skeptical people begin to think about what it might look like if God were not part of our world.
Back to RJS’s question: Does the fine-tuning of the universe for our existence point to God? Based on my conversation with Collins, I’d say it’s the wrong question. A better approach might be these two questions–What does it mean for us if we assume the universe is randomly fine-tuned for life? And what does it mean for us if we assume the universe has been deliberately fine-tuned for life? Then we are at least beginning to acknowledge the results of our choosing faith in randomness versus faith in some kind of creator.
Disclaimer: I’m neither a mathematician nor a physicist, but I dabble. Someday it would be fun to learn the hard math. (Perhaps that is a project for eternity.) In the meantime, I stick with Brian Greene books, Radiolab, hard science fiction, and videos like this one (which should also be embedded in the top right of this page).
Related articles by Zemanta
- Francis Collins: A Scientific Basis for God (usnews.com)
- Alister McGrath’s 2009 Gifford Lectures: A Fine-Tuned Universe (faith-theology.blogspot.com)
- Manufacturing universes in a fractal multiverse (arstechnica.com)