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Christian Apologetics Part 1: The Delicate Balance

Hugh Ross launched his career at age seven when he went to the library to find out why stars are hot. Physics and astronomy captured his curiosity and never let go. At age seventeen he was the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver’s Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or “quasars,” some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe.

Not all of Hugh’s discoveries had to do with astrophysics. He observed with amazement the impact of describing for people the process by which he came to personal faith in Jesus Christ. Some have expressed dismay but most have been overjoyed to meet someone who started at religious ground zero and through scientific and historical reality-testing, became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God. He was stunned to discover how many individuals believed or disbelieved without checking the evidence.

Hugh’s unshakable confidence that God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. He scouts the frontiers of origins research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what’s being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology.

Between writing books and articles and recording the weekly television program Reasons to Believe, he travels around the world challenging high school and university audiences, churches and professional groups to consider the evidence for what they believe. He presents a persuasive case for Christianity without applying pressure. Because he treats people’s questions and comments with respect, he is in great demand as a speaker and as a talk-radio and television guest.



The Delicate Balance

One of the most amazing things about our world is the delicate balance required to sustain it, that is, to have a universe capable of producing and sustaining life as we know it. In the book The Creator and the Cosmos, astrophysicist Hugh Ross points out twenty-five factors that must all exist within very narrowly defined ranges for life of any kind to exist. Just one of these is the number of electrons. Unless the number of electrons is equivalent to the number of protons to an accuracy of one part in 1037 (10 to the 37 power of dimes), or better, then galaxies, stars, and planets could never have formed. To get an idea of just how sensitive this is Ross asks us to imagine covering the entire continent of North America in dimes all the way up to the moon. Then do the same thing on a billion other continents the same size as North America. Now you have 10 to the 37 power of dimes. Now imagine that just one dime is painted red. You have mixed it in will all the others. Now take a friend a blindfold her and stand her in front of those billions upon billions of dimes covering a billion continents and piled to the moon and ask her to pick one out. Her chances of selecting the red one are one in 1037. These are the same odds as the ratio of electrons to protons being at the precise level required for life, and this is just one of many parameters that must be so finely tuned. Ross and many other scientists believe this points to a universe which has been carefully and skillfully designed by a Creator.


Source: information in Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos (Navpress, 1993)

No other generation has witnessed so many discoveries about the universe. No other generation has seen the measuring of the cosmos. For previous generations the universe remained a profound mystery. But we are alive to see several of its mysteries solved.

Not only can we measure certain aspects of the universe, but in these measurements we are discovering some of the characteristics of the One who fashioned it all. Astronomy has provided us with new tools to probe the Creator¹s personality.

Building Blocks Problem

Before the measuring of the cosmos, non-theists assumed the availability of the appropriate building blocks for life. They posited that, with enough time, the right natural processes, and enough building blocks, even systems as complex as organisms could be assembled without the help of a Supreme Being. In chapters 3, 7, 8, and 9, we have seen there is not sufficient time. In this chapter we¹ll consider just how amazing it is that the universe provides the right building blocks and the right natural processes for life.

To put this situation in perspective, imagine the possibility of a Boeing 747 aircraft being completely assembled as a result of a tornado striking a junkyard. Now imagine how much more unlikely that possibility would be if bauxite (aluminum ore) is substituted for the junk parts. Finally, imagine the possibility if instead of bauxite, river silt is substituted. So, too, as one examines the building blocks necessary for life to come into existence, the possibility of that happening without someone or something designing them stretches the imagination beyond the breaking point. Four major building blocks must be designed “just right” for life.

1. Getting the Right Molecules

For life to be possible, more than forty different elements must be able to bond together to form molecules. Molecular bonding depends on two factors, the strength of the force of electromagnetism and the ratio of the mass of the electron to the mass of the proton.

If the electromagnetic force were significantly larger, atoms would hang on to electrons so tightly no sharing of electrons with other atoms would be possible. But if the electromagnetic force were significantly weaker, atoms would not hang on to electrons at all, and again, the sharing of electrons among atoms, which makes molecules possible, would not take place. If more than just a few kinds of molecules are to exist, the electromagnetic force must be more delicately balanced yet.

The size and stability of electron orbits about the nuclei of atoms depends on the ratio of the electron mass to the proton mass. Unless this ratio is delicately balanced, the chemical bonding essential for life chemistry could never take place.

2. Getting the Right Atoms

Life molecules cannot be built unless sufficient quantities of the elements essential for life are available. This means atoms of various sizes must be able to form. For that to happen, a delicate balance must exist for each of the constants of physics governing the strong and weak nuclear forces, and gravity, also for the nuclear ground state energies (quantum energy levels important for the forming of elements from protons and neutrons) for several key elements.

In the case of the strong nuclear force‹the force governing the degree to which protons and neutrons stick together in atomic nuclei‹the balance is easy to see. If this force were too weak, protons and neutrons would not stick together. In that case, only one element would exist in the universe, hydrogen, because the hydrogen atom has only one proton and no neutrons in its nucleus. On the other hand, if the strong nuclear force were of slightly greater strength than what we observe in the cosmos, protons and neutrons would have such an affinity for one another that not one would remain alone. They would all find themselves attached to many other protons and neutrons. In such a universe there would be no hydrogen, only heavy elements. Life chemistry is impossible without hydrogen; it is also impossible if hydrogen is the only element.

How delicate is the balance for the strong nuclear force? If it were just 2% weaker or 0.3% stronger than it actually is, life would be impossible at any time and any place within the universe.1

Are we just considering life as we know it? No, we¹re talking about any conceivable kind of life chemistry throughout the cosmos. This delicate condition must be met universally.

In the case of the weak nuclear force‹the force that governs, among other things, the rates of radioactive decay‹if it were much stronger than what we observe the matter in the universe would quickly be converted into heavy elements. But if it were much weaker, the matter in the universe would remain in the form of just the lightest elements. Either way, the elements essential for life chemistry (such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus) either would not exist at all or would exist in amounts far too small for all the life-essential chemicals to be built. Further, unless the weak nuclear force were delicately balanced, those life-essential elements that are produced only in the cores of supergiant stars would never escape the boundaries of those cores (supernova explosions would become impossible).2

The strength of the force of gravity determines how hot the nuclear furnaces in the cores of stars will burn. If the gravitational force were any stronger, stars would be so hot they would burn up relatively quickly, too quickly and too erratically for life. Additionally, a planet capable of sustaining life must be supported by a star that is both stable and long burning. However, if the gravitational force were any weaker, stars never would become hot enough to ignite nuclear fusion. In such a universe no elements heavier than hydrogen and helium would be produced.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Fred Hoyle discovered that an incredible fine tuning of the nuclear ground state energies for helium, beryllium, carbon, and oxygen was necessary for any kind of life to exist. The ground state energies for these elements cannot be higher or lower with respect to each other by more than 4% without yielding a universe with insufficient oxygen or carbon for life.3 Hoyle, who has written extensively against theism4 and Christianity in particular,5 nevertheless concluded on the basis of this quadruple fine tuning that “a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.”6

3. Getting the Right Nucleons

One must monkey with the physics of the universe to get enough of the right elements for life, and further to get those elements to join together to form life molecules. One must also fine-tune the universe to get enough nucleons (protons and neutrons) to form the elements.

In the first moments after creation, the universe contained about ten billion and one nucleons for every ten billion anti-nucleons. The ten billion anti-nucleons annihilated the ten billion nucleons, generating an enormous amount of energy. All the galaxies and stars that make up the universe today were formed from the leftover nucleons. If the initial excess of nucleons over anti-nucleons were any smaller, there would not be enough matter for galaxies, stars, and heavy elements to form. If the excess were any greater, galaxies would form, but they would so efficiently condense and trap radiation that none of them would fragment to form stars and planets.

The neutron is 0.138% more massive than a proton. Because of this extra mass, neutrons require slightly more energy to make than protons. So as the universe cooled from the hot big bang creation event, it produced more protons than neutrons‹in fact, about seven times as many.

If the neutron were just another 0.1% more massive, so few neutrons would remain from the cooling off of the big bang that there would not be enough of them to make the nuclei of all the heavy elements essential for life. The extra mass of the neutron relative to the proton also determines the rate at which neutrons decay into protons and protons build into neutrons (one neutron = one proton + one electron + one neutrino). If the neutron were 0.1% less massive, so many protons would be built up to make neutrons that all the stars in the universe would have rapidly collapsed into either neutron stars or black holes.7 Thus for life to be possible in the universe, the neutron mass must be fine tuned to better than 0.1%.

Another decay process involving protons must also be fine-tuned for life to exist. Protons are believed to decay into mesons (a type of fundamental particle). I say “believed to” because the decay rate is so slow experimenters have yet to record a single decay event (average decay time for a single proton exceeds 4 x 1032 years). Nevertheless, theoreticians are convinced that protons must decay into mesons, and at a rate fairly close to the current experimental limits. If protons decay any slower into mesons, the universe of today would not have enough nucleons to make the necessary galaxies, stars, and planets.8 This is because the factors that determine this decay rate also determine the ratio of nucleons to antinucleons at the time of the creation event. Thus, if the decay rate were slower, the number of nucleons would have been too closely balanced by the number of antinucleons, which after annihilation would have left too few nucleons.

If, however, the decay rate of protons into mesons were faster, in addition to the problem of a too large ratio of nucleons to antinucleons, there would also be an additional problem from the standpoint of maintaining life. Because a tremendous amount of energy is released in this particular decay process, the rate of decay would destroy or harm life. Thus the decay rate cannot be any greater than it is.

4. Getting the Right Electrons

Not only must the universe be fine-tuned to get enough nucleons, but also a precise number of electrons must exist. Unless the number of electrons is equivalent to the number of protons to an accuracy of one part in 1037, or better, electromagnetic forces in the universe would have so overcome gravitational forces that galaxies, stars, and planets never would have formed.

One part in 1037 is such an incredibly sensitive balance that it is hard to visualize. The following analogy might help: Cover the entire North American continent in dimes all the way up to the moon, a height of about 239,000 miles. (In comparison, the money to pay for the U.S. federal government debt would cover one square mile less than two feet deep with dimes.) Next, pile dimes from here to the moon on a billion other continents the same size as North America. Paint one dime red and mix it into the billion piles of dimes. Blindfold a friend and ask him to pick out one dime. The odds that he will pick the red dime are one in 1037. And this is only one of the parameters that is so delicately balanced to allow life to form.

At whatever level we examine the building blocks of life‹electrons, nucleons, atoms, or molecules‹the physics of the universe must be very meticulously fine-tuned. The universe must be exactingly constructed to create the necessary electrons. It must be exquisitely crafted to produce the protons and neutrons required. It must be carefully fabricated to obtain the needed atoms. Unless it is skillfully fashioned, the atoms will not be able to assemble into complex enough molecules. Such precise balancing of all these factors is truly beyond our ability to comprehend. Yet with the measuring of the universe, even more astounding facts become apparent.

Cosmos¹ Expansion

The first parameter of the universe to be measured was the universe¹s expansion rate. In comparing this rate to the physics of galaxy and star formation, astrophysicists found something amazing. If the universe expanded too rapidly, matter would disperse so efficiently that none of it would clump enough to form galaxies. If no galaxies form, no stars will form. If no stars form, no planets will form. If no planets form, there¹s no place for life. On the other hand, if the universe expanded too slowly, matter would clump so effectively that all of it, the whole universe in fact, would collapse into a super-dense lump before any solar-type stars could form.

What¹s even more amazing is how delicately balanced that expansion rate must be for life to exist. It cannot differ by more than one part in 1055 from the actual rate.

An analogy that still does not come close to describing the precarious nature of this balance would be a million pencils all simultaneously positioned upright on their points on a smooth glass surface with no external supports.

The inflationary big bang model for the universe offers a physical explanation for why the universe is poised so delicately in its expansion rate. As the four fundamental forces of physics (the forces of gravity, strong nuclear, weak nuclear, and electromagnetic) separated from one another during the first split second after the creation event, it is possible to have a brief period of hyper-inflation (lasting only 10-34 seconds) that virtually guarantees the universe, later on, will expand at a rate that permits life to exist. Of course, what that does is trade one exquisite balance (the expansion rate of the cosmos) for another (the values of a set of several constants of physics).

In addition to requiring exquisite fine-tuning of the forces and constants of physics, the existence of life demands still more. It demands that the fundamental particles, the energy, and the space-time dimensions of the universe enable the principles of quantum tunneling and special relativity to operate exactly as they do. Quantum tunneling must function no more or less efficiently than what we observe for hemoglobin to transport the right amount of oxygen to the cells of all vertebrate and most invertebrate species.9 Likewise, relativistic corrections, not too great and not too small, are essential in order for copper and vanadium to fulfill their critical roles in the functioning of the nervous system and bone development of all the higher animals.10

Measuring the Universe¹s Age

The second parameter of the universe to be measured was its age. For many decades astronomers and others have wondered why, given God exists, He would wait so many billions of years to make life. Why did He not do it right away? The answer is that, given the laws and constants of physics God chose to create, it takes about ten to twelve billion years just to fuse enough heavy elements in the nuclear furnaces of several generations of giant stars to make life chemistry possible.

Life could not happen any earlier in the universe than it did on Earth. Nor could it happen much later. As the universe ages, stars like the sun‹located in the right part of the galaxy for life (see chapter 15) and in a stable nuclear burning phase‹become increasingly rare. If the universe were just a few billion years older, such stars would no longer exist.

A third parameter that I already discussed to some extent is entropy, or energy degradation. In chapter 3, I explained the evidence for the universe possessing an extreme amount of specific entropy. This high level of entropy is essential for life. Without it, systems as small as stars and planets would never form. But as extremely high as the entropy of the universe is, it could not be much higher. If it were higher, systems as large as galaxies would never form. Stars and planets cannot form without galaxies.

Star Masses

A fourth parameter, another very sensitive one, is the ratio of the electromagnetic force constant to the gravitational force constant. If the electromagnetic force relative to gravity were increased by just one part in 1040, only small stars would form. And, if it were decreased by just one part in 1040, only large stars would form. But for life to be possible in the universe, both large and small stars must exist. The large stars must exist because only in their thermonuclear furnaces are most of the life-essential elements produced. The small stars like the sun must exist because only small stars burn long enough and stably enough to sustain a planet with life.11

Considering again the piles of dimes, one part in 1040 is equivalent to a blindfolded person rummaging through a trillion piles of dimes the size of North America that reach to the moon and picking out, on the first try, the one red dime.

In the late ¹80s and early ¹90s, several other characteristics of the universe were measured successfully. Each of these, too, indicated a careful fine-tuning for the support of life. Currently, researchers have uncovered twenty-six characteristics that must take on narrowly defined values for life of any kind to possibly exist. A list of these characteristics and the reasons they must be so narrowly defined is given in table 14.1.

The list of finely tuned characteristics for the universe continues to grow. Parameters 24, 25, and 26, for example, were added just in the last several months.13 The more accurately and extensively astronomers measure the universe, the more finely tuned they discover it to be. Also, as we have seen for many of the already measured characteristics, the degree of fine-tuning is utterly amazing‹ far beyond what human endeavors can accomplish.

For example, arguably the best machine ever built by man is a brand new gravity wave detector engineered by California Institute of Technology physicists to make measurements accurate to one part in 1023. By comparison, three different characteristics of the universe must be fine-tuned to better than one part in 1037 for life of any kind to exist (for comment on why life must be carbon-based, see section entitled “Another Kind of Life” on pages 133­134). My point is that the Entity who brought the universe into existence must be a personal Being, for only a person can design with anywhere near this degree of precision. Consider, too, that this personal Entity must be at least a hundred trillion times more “capable” than are we human beings with all our resources.

Table 14.1: Evidence for the Fine-Tuning of the Universe12

More than two dozen parameters for the universe must have values falling within narrowly defined ranges for life of any kind to exist.

  1. strong nuclear force constant
    If larger: no hydrogen; nuclei essential for life would be unstable
    If smaller: no elements other than hydrogen
  2. Weak nuclear force constant
    If larger: too much hydrogen converted to helium in big bang, hence too much heavy element material made by star burning; no expulsion of heavy elements from stars
    If smaller: too little helium produced from big bang, hence too little heavy element material made by star burning; no expulsion of heavy elements from stars
  3. Gravitational force constant
    If larger: stars would be too hot and would burn up too quickly and too unevenly
    If smaller: stars would remain so cool that nuclear fusion would never ignite, hence no heavy element production
  4. Electromagnetic force constant
    If larger: insufficient chemical bonding; elements more massive than boron would be too unstable for fission
    If smaller: insufficient chemical bonding
  5. Ratio of electromagnetic force constant to gravitational force constant
    If larger: no stars less than 1.4 solar masses hence short stellar life spans and uneven stellar luminosities
    If smaller: no stars more than 0.8 solar masses, hence no heavy element production
  6. Ratio of electron to proton mass
    If larger: insufficient chemical bonding
    If smaller: insufficient chemical bonding
  7. Ratio of numbers of protons to electrons
    If larger: electromagnetism would dominate gravity, preventing galaxy, star, and planet formation
    If smaller: electromagnetism would dominate gravity, preventing galaxy, star, and planet formation
  8. Expansion rate of the universe
    If larger: no galaxy formation
    If smaller: universe would collapse prior to star formation
  9. Entropy level of the universe
    If smaller: no proto-galaxy formation
    If larger: no star condensation within the proto-galaxies
  10. Mass density of the universe
    If larger: too much deuterium from big bang hence stars burn too rapidly
    If smaller: insufficient helium from big bang, hence too few heavy elements forming
  11. Velocity of light
    If faster: stars would be too luminous
    If slower: stars would not be luminous enough
  12. Age of the universe
    If older: no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase in the right part of the galaxy
    If younger: solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would not yet have formed
  13. Initial uniformity of radiation
    If smoother: stars, star clusters, and galaxies would not have formed
    If coarser: universe by now would be mostly black holes and empty space
  14. Fine structure constant (a number used to describe the fine structure splitting of spectral lines)
    If larger: DNA would be unable to function; no stars more than 0.7 solar masses
    If smaller: DNA would be unable to function; no stars less than 1.8 solar masses
  15. average distance between galaxies
    if larger: insufficient gas would be infused into our galaxy to sustain star formation over an adequate time span
    if smaller: the sun¹s orbit would be too radically disturbed
  16. average distance between stars
    if larger: heavy element density too thin for rocky planets to form
    if smaller: planetary orbits would become destabilized
  17. decay rate of the proton
    if greater: life would be exterminated by the release of radiation
    if smaller: insufficient matter in the universe for life
  18. 12Carbon (12C) to 16Oxygen (16O) energy level ratio
    if larger: insufficient oxygen
    if smaller: insufficient carbon
  19. ground state energy level for 4Helium (4He)
    if larger: insufficient carbon and oxygen
    if smaller: insufficient carbon and oxygen
  20. decay rate of 8Beryllium (8Be)
    if slower: heavy element fusion would generate catastrophic explosions in all the stars
    if faster: no element production beyond beryllium and, hence, no life chemistry possible
  21. mass excess of the neutron over the proton
    if greater: neutron decay would leave too few neutrons to form the heavy elements essential for life
    if smaller: proton decay would cause all stars to collapse rapidly into neutron stars or black holes
  22. initial excess of nucleons over anti-nucleons
    if greater: too much radiation for planets to form
    if smaller: not enough matter for galaxies or stars to form
  23. polarity of the water molecule
    if greater: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too great for life to exist
    if smaller: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too small for life¹s existence; liquid water would become too inferior a solvent for life chemistry to proceed; ice would not float, leading to a runaway freeze-up
  24. supernovae eruptions
    if too close: radiation would exterminate life on the planet
    if too far: not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets
    if too frequent: life on the planet would be exterminated
    if too infrequent: not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets
    if too late: life on the planet would be exterminated by radiation
    if too soon: not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets
  25. white dwarf binaries
    if too few: insufficient fluorine produced for life chemistry to proceed
    if too many: disruption of planetary orbits from stellar density; life on the planet would be exterminated
    if too soon: not enough heavy elements made for efficient fluorine production
    if too late: fluorine made too late for incorporation in proto-planet
  26. ratio of exotic to ordinary matter
    if smaller: galaxies would not form
    if larger: universe would collapse before solar type stars could form

God and the Astronomers

The discovery of this degree of design in the universe is having a profound theological impact on astronomers. As we noted already, Hoyle concludes that “a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology,”14 and Davies has moved from promoting atheism15 to conceding that “the laws [of physics]… seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design.”16 He further testifies:

[There] is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it allŠ It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature¹s numbers to make the Universe…. The impression of design is overwhelming.17

Astronomer George Greenstein, in his book The Symbiotic Universe, expressed these thoughts:

As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency‹or, rather, Agency‹must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?18

Tony Rothman, a theoretical physicist, in a popular-level article on the anthropic principle (the idea that the universe possesses narrowly defined characteristics that permit the possibility of a habitat for humans) concluded his essay with these words:

The medieval theologian who gazed at the night sky through the eyes of Aristotle and saw angels moving the spheres in harmony has become the modern cosmologist who gazes at the same sky through the eyes of Einstein and sees the hand of God not in angels but in the constants of nature…. When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it¹s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.19

In a review article on the anthropic principle published in the journal Nature, cosmologists Bernard Carr and Martin Rees state in their summary: “Nature does exhibit remarkable coincidences and these do warrant some explanation.”20 Carr in a more recent article on the anthropic principle continues:

One would have to conclude either that the features of the universe invoked in support of the Anthropic Principle are only coincidences or that the universe was indeed tailor-made for life. I will leave it to the theologians to ascertain the identity of the tailor!21

Physicist Freeman Dyson concluded his treatment of the anthropic principle with, “The problem here is to try to formulate some statement of the ultimate purpose of the universe. In other words, the problem is to read the mind of God.”22 Vera Kistiakowsky, MIT physicist and past president of the Association of Women in Science, commented, “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.”23 Arno Penzias, who shared the Nobel Prize for physics for the discovery of the cosmic background radiation, remarked:

Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say “supernatural”) plan.24

Years before communism¹s fall, Alexander Polyakov, a theoretician and fellow at Moscow¹s Landau Institute, declared:

We know that nature is described by the best of all possible mathematics because God created it. So there is a chance that the best of all possible mathematics will be created out of physicists¹ attempts to describe nature.25

China¹s famed astrophysicist Fang Li Zhi and his co-author, physicist Li Shu Xian, recently wrote, “A question that has always been considered a topic of metaphysics or theology the creation of the universe has now become an area of active research in physics.”26

In the 1992 film about Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, Hawking¹s colleague, distinguished mathematician Roger Penrose, commented, “I would say the universe has a purpose. It¹s not there just somehow by chance.”27 Hawking and Penrose¹s colleague George Ellis made the following statement in a paper delivered at the Second Venice Conference on Cosmology and Philosophy:

Amazing fine-tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word “miraculous” without taking a stand as to the ontological status of that word.28

Cosmologist Edward Harrison makes this deduction:

Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God‹the design argument of Paley‹updated and refurbished. The fine-tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one…. Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.29

Allan Sandage, winner of the Crafoord prize in astronomy (equivalent to the Nobel prize), remarked, “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.”30 Robert Griffiths, who won the Heinemann prize in mathematical physics, observed, “If we need an atheist for a debate, I go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn¹t much use.”31 Perhaps astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-proclaimed agnostic,32 best described what has happened to his colleagues as they have measured the cosmos:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.33

In all my conversations with those who do research on the characteristics of the universe, and in all my readings of articles or books on the subject, not one person denies the conclusion that somehow the cosmos has been crafted to make it a fit habitat for life. Astronomers by nature tend to be independent and iconoclastic. If an opportunity for disagreement exists, they will seize it. But on the issue of the fine-tuning or careful crafting of the cosmos, the evidence is so compelling that I have yet to hear of any dissent.

The Creator¹s Personality

Does the fine-tuning imply purposeful design? So many parameters must be fine tuned and the degree of fine tuning is so high, no other conclusion seems possible.

As Harrison pointed out, the evidence permits only two options: divine design or blind chance. Blind chance, as we saw in chapter 12, is ruled out since conclusions based on chance must be derived from known, not hypothetical, sample sizes. The known sample size for the universe(s) is one and always will be only one since the space-time manifold for the universe is closed (meaning we humans cannot, even in principle, ever discover anything about others possibly existing).

Much more is going on, however, than mere talk by astronomers about the design of the cosmos for life support. Words such as somebody fine-tuned nature, superintellect, monkeyed, overwhelming design, miraculous, the hand of God, ultimate purpose, God¹s mind, exquisite order, very delicate balance, exceedingly ingenious, supernatural Agency, supernatural plan, tailor-made, Supreme Being, and providentially crafted obviously apply to a Person. Beyond just establishing that the Creator is a Person, the findings about design provide some evidence of what that Person is like.

One characteristic that stands out dramatically is His interest in and care for living things, particularly the human race. We see this care in the vastness and quality of the resources devoted to life support.

For example, the mass density of the universe, as huge as it is, focuses on the needs of humans. How? The mass density determines how efficiently nuclear fusion operates in the cosmos. The mass density we measure translates into about a hundred-billion-trillion stars for the presently observable universe. As table 14.1 indicates (page 118), if the mass density is too great, too much deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen with one proton and one neutron in the nucleus) is made in the first few minutes of the universe¹s existence. This extra deuterium will cause the stars to burn much too quickly and erratically for any of them to support a planet with life. On the other hand, if the mass density is too small, so little deuterium and helium are made in the first few minutes that the heavier elements necessary for life will never form in stars. What this means is that the approximately hundred-billion-trillion stars we observe in the universe‹no more and no less‹are needed for life to be possible in the universe. God invested heavily in living creatures. He constructed all these stars and carefully crafted them throughout the age of the universe so that at this brief moment in the history of the cosmos humans could exist and have a pleasant place to live.

Non-Theistic Responses

When it comes to the finely tuned characteristics of the universe, non-theists find themselves in a difficult spot. The evidence is too weighty and concrete to brush aside. The evidence is inanimate; so appeals to Darwinist hypotheses cannot be made. Appeals to near infinite time are thwarted by the proofs for time¹s creation only a few billion years ago. The following three arguments seem to cover the range of non-theistic replies to the evidence for cosmic design:

Argument 1: We would not be here to observe the universe unless the extremely unlikely did take place.

The evidence for design is merely coincidental. Our existence simply testifies that the extremely unlikely did, indeed, take place by chance. In other words, we would not be here to report on the characteristics of the universe unless chance produced these highly unlikely properties.

Rebuttal: This argument is fundamentally an appeal to infinite chances, which already has been answered (see chapter 12). Another response has been developed by philosopher Richard Swinburne34 and summarized by another philosopher, William Lane Craig:

Suppose a hundred sharpshooters are sent to execute a prisoner by firing squad, and the prisoner survives. The prisoner should not be surprised that he does not observe that he is dead. After all, if he were dead, he could not observe his death. Nonetheless, he should be surprised that he observes that he is alive.35

To extend Craig and Swinburne¹s argument, the prisoner could conclude, since he is alive, that all the sharpshooters missed by some extremely unlikely chance. He may wish to attribute his survival to an incredible bit of good luck, but he would be far more rational to conclude that the guns were loaded with blanks or that the sharpshooters all deliberately missed. Someone must have purposed he should live. Likewise, the rational conclusion to draw from the incredible fine tuning of the universe is that Someone purposed we should live.

Argument 2: The design of the universe is mere anthropomorphism.

American astrophysicist Joseph Silk in his latest effort to communicate the physics of big bang cosmology to lay people mocks the conclusion that the universe has been fine-tuned for the support of life. He compares the “silliness” of the design idea with the folly of a flea¹s assumption that the dog on which it feeds has been designed precisely for its benefit. The flea¹s error, he suggests, becomes all too apparent once the dog is outfitted with a flea collar.36

Silk¹s argument ignores some key issues. While the flea may be a little self-centered in assuming that the dog was designed exclusively for it, there¹s no reason to deny that the dog was designed for a purpose, or for several purposes. (The myth that life is strictly the product of accidental natural processes is addressed in chapter 16.) The flea collar may argue more strongly for design (e.g., population control) than for lack of it. More importantly, while we can imagine a wide range of hosts suitable for the support of the flea, each of them requires elements of design to facilitate the flea¹s survival. Though suitable hosts for the flea are relatively abundant, suitable universes for life are not. Astrophysicists have been unable to invent hypothetical universes significantly different from ours that could support human beings or for that matter any conceivable kind of physical, intelligent life.

Argument 3: Design arguments are outside the realm of science and, therefore, must be ignored.

The publications of the National Center for Science Education, among other anti-creationist groups, repeatedly assert that science is “empirically based and necessarily materialist; miracles cannot be allowed,” and that “any theory with a supernatural foundation is not scientific.”37 Since the design arguments imply supernatural intervention, they can be justifiably ignored because they “cannot be considered scientific.”38

Rebuttal: To affirm that science and theology are mutually exclusive may be convenient for materialists unwilling to defend their philosophy, but it is untenable. Science is rarely religiously neutral. Similarly, religious faith is rarely scientifically neutral. Both science and theology frequently address cause and effect and processes of development in the natural realm. Both science and theology deal with the origin of the universe, the solar system, life, and humankind.

When it comes to causes, developmental processes, and origins, two possibilities always exist: natural or supernatural. To dogmatically insist that supernatural answers must never be considered is equivalent to demanding that all human beings follow only one religion, the religion of atheistic materialism. I find it ironic that in the name of religious freedom certain science education proponents insist on ridding our teaching and research institutions of any faith that dares to compete with their own.

Argument 4: Order can come out of chaos.

The idea that under strictly natural conditions order can and will arise out of chaos was first proposed by David Hume nearly two hundred years ago. Recently it has been revived by chemist and Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine in his book Order Out of Chaos,39 and popularized by the blockbuster movie Jurassic Park. Hume made the claim without any evidential support. Prigogine pointed to several chemical reactions in which order appears to arise from chaotic systems. Jurassic Park actually addresses a different subject, namely chaos theory and fuzzy logic.

The principle behind chaos theory and fuzzy logic is that in trying to predict the outcome or future state of exceptionally complex systems, the investigator is better off settling for approximate answers or conclusions at each step in the solution of a problem rather than exact answers or conclusions. The presumption of a natural self-ordering principle in chaotic systems arises from the fact that the more complex a system, the greater the opportunity for departures from thermodynamic equilibrium in small portions of the system (and the greater the difficulty in determining what the thermodynamic equilibrium states actually are). According to the second law of thermodynamics, entropy increases in all systems, but entropy can decrease (i.e., order can increase) in part of a system, providing an extra increase of entropy (i.e., disorder) occurs in a different part of the system. Because human investigators may be prone to underestimate the complexity of some systems, they occasionally are surprised by how far from thermodynamic equilibrium a small portion of a system can stray. However, the thermodynamic laws predict that these departures are temporary, and the greater the departure, the more rapidly the departures are corrected.

Without departures from thermodynamic equilibrium, raindrops and snowflakes, for example, would not form. But, raindrop and snowflake formation comes close to the self-ordering limits of natural process. Though snowflake patterns exhibit a high degree of order, their information content or level of design remains quite low. The distinction is roughly like the difference between the New Testament and a book containing the sentence “God is good” repeated 90,000 times. The latter shows considerable order but not much information. The former contains both a high degree or order and a high degree of information (or design). Prigogine¹s examples exhibit increases in order but without significant increases in information content. Natural processes cannot explain the exceptionally high level of design and information content in living organisms or in the structure of the universe that makes life possible.

Argument 5: As we continue to evolve, we will become the Creator-Designer.

In their book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, astrophysicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler review many new evidences for the design of the universe.40 They go on to discuss versions of the anthropic principle like WAP (weak anthropic principle: conscious beings can only exist in an environment with characteristics that allow for their habitation), SAP (strong anthropic principle: nature must take on those characteristics to admit somewhere, sometime the existence of conscious beings), and more radical versions, including PAP (participatory anthropic principle: conscious observers are necessary to bring the universe into existence, and the universe is necessary to bring observers into existence). But what they favor is FAP (final anthropic principle).

With FAP, the life that exists (past, present, and future) will continue to evolve with the inanimate resources of the universe until it all reaches a state that Barrow and Tipler call the “Omega Point.”41 This Omega Point, they say, is an Entity that has the properties of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, with the capacity to create in the past.42 In other words, the Creator-God does not exist yet, but we (all life and all inanimate structures in the universe) are gradually evolving into God. When God is thus finally constructed, His power will be such that He can create the entire universe with all of its characteristics of design billions of years ago.

In his latest book, The Physics of Immortality,43 Tipler proposes that evolution toward the Omega Point will occur through advancing computer technology. By extrapolating computer capability doubling time (currently, about eighteen months) some millions of years into the future, Tipler predicts that a future generation of human beings will be able not only to alter the entire universe and all the laws of physics but also to create a God who does not yet exist. Furthermore, we will be able to resurrect every human being who has ever lived by recovering the memories that once resided in each person¹s brain.

Rebuttal: It is hard to treat these FAP and Omega Point hypotheses seriously. In the New York Review of Books, noted critic Martin Gardner offered this evaluation of Barrow and Tipler¹s work:

What should we make of this quartet of WAP, SAP, PAP, and FAP? In my not so humble opinion, I think the last principle is best-called CRAP, the Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle.44

In The Physics of Immortality Tipler grossly overestimates the role of human memory and the future capability of computers. Just as computers cannot function with memory banks only, so, too, the human mind and human consciousness do not operate by memory alone. While remarkable advances in computer technology are taking place now, the laws of physics impose predictable finite limits on future computer hardware. As Roger Penrose has documented rigorously in The Emperor¹s New Mind and Shadows of the Mind, these limits do not even permit the duplication of human consciousness let alone the fantastic capabilities Tipler suggests.45

But Tipler apparently wants to alter much more than just the universe and the laws of physics. He believes, for example, that future computers will be able to expose people to game theory principles so effectively that all destructive thoughts and actions will be purged and villainy no longer occur, even for the likes of Adolf Hitler and Mata Hari.46 In Tipler¹s religion, the redemptive work of a Savior becomes unnecessary. Consider, however, that if Tipler¹s proposal were true, the better people comprehend game theory, the less propensity they would exhibit to commit evil. Unfortunately for Tipler, no such correlation is in evidence.

Tipler not only banishes hell but also redesigns heaven. Tipler¹s “heaven” brings relational (more accurately, sexual) bliss to every man and woman. He produces an equation to “prove” that this computer-generated cosmic utopia will bring a woman to every man and a man to every woman capable of delivering 100,000 times the impact and satisfaction of the most fulfilling partner each can imagine in life as we know it.47 The popular appeal of such a notion document the spiritual bankruptcy of our times. Evidently, many people have never tasted any greater delight than what sexual experience can bring.

In an article for the Skeptical Inquirer, Gardner again brandished his satiric knives:

I leave it to the reader to decide whether they should opt for OPT (Omega Point Theology) as a new scientific religion superior to Scientology‹one destined to elevate Tipler to the rank of a prophet greater than L. Ron Hubbard‹or opt for the view that OPT is a wild fantasy generated by too much reading of science fiction.48

In their persistent rejection of an eternal, transcendent Creator, some cosmologists (and others) are resorting to increasingly irrational options. There is a certain logic to it, however. If for personal or moral reasons the God of the Bible is unacceptable, then given all the evidence for transcendence and design, the alternatives are limited to flights of fancy.

Through time, as we unlock more of the secrets of the vast cosmos, men and women will be even more awed about how exquisitely designed the universe is. But where will that awe be aimed‹at the created thing, or at the Creator? That is each person¹s choice.

Copyright Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 3d ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001). Used by permission.


  1. Richard Swinburne, “Argument from the Fine-Tuning of the Universe,” Physical Cosmology and Philosophy, ed. John Leslie (New York: Macmillan, 1991), page 160; Hugh Ross, The Fingerprint of God, 2nd ed. rev. (Orange, CA: Promise, 1991), page 122.
  2. Ross, pages 122-123.
  3. Fred Hoyle, Galaxies, Nuclei, and Quasars (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), pages 147-150; Fred Hoyle, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflection,” Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics 20 (1982), page 16; Ross, pages 126-127.
  4. Fred Hoyle, The Nature of the Universe, 2nd ed. rev. (Oxford, U.K.: Basil Blackwell, 1952), page 109; Fred Hoyle, Astronomy and Cosmology: A Modern Course (San Francisco, CA: W. H. Freeman, 1975), pages 684-685; Hoyle, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflection,” page 3; Hoyle, Astronomy and Cosmology, page 522.
  5. Hoyle, The Nature of the Universe, page 111.
  6. Hoyle, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflection,” page 16.
  7. John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), page 400.
  8. James S. Trefil, The Moment of Creation (New York: Collier Books, Macmillan, 1983), pages 127-134.
  9. George F.R. Ellis, “The Anthropic Principle: Laws and Environments,” in The Anthropic Principle, F. Bertola and U. Curi, ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), page 30; D. Allan Bromley, “Physics: Atomic and Molecular Physics,” Science 209 (1980), page 116.
  10. George F.R. Ellis, page 30; H.R. Marston, S.H. Allen, and S.L. Swaby, “Iron Metabolism in Copper-Deficient Rats,” British Journal of Nutrition 25 (1971), pages 15-30; K.W.J. Wahle and N.T. Davies, “Effect of Dietary Copper Deficiency in the Rat on Fatty Acid Compostion of Adipose Tissue and Desaturase Activity of Liver Microsomes,” British Journal of Nutrition 34 (1975), pages 105-112; Walter Mertz, “The Newer Essential Trace Elements, Chromium, Tin, Vanadium, Nickel, and Silicon,” Proceedings of the Nutrition society, 33 (1974), pages 307-313.
  11. John P. Cox and R. Thomas Giuli, Principles of Stellar Structure, Volume II: Applications to Stars (New York: Gordon and Breach, 1968), pages 944-1028.
  12. Ross, pages 120-128; Barrow and Tipler, pages 123-457; Bernard J. Carr and Martin J. Rees, “The Anthropic Principle and the Structure of the Physical World,” Nature 278 (1979), pages 605-612; John M. Templeton, “God Reveals Himself in the Astronomical and in the Infinitesimal,” Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (December 1984), pages 194-200; Jim W. Neidhardt, “The Anthropic Principle: A Religious Response,” Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (December 1984), pages 201-207; Brandon Carter, “Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology,” Proceedings of the International Astronomical Union Symposium No. 63: Confrontation of Cosmological Theories with Observational Data, ed. M. S. Longair (Boston, MA: Reidel Publishing, 1974), pages 291-298; John D. Barrow, “The Lore of Large Numbers: Some Historical Background to the Anthropic Principle,” Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 22 (1981), pages 404-420; Alan Lightman, “To the Dizzy Edge,” Science 82 (October 1982), pages 24-25; Thomas O¹Toole, “Will the Universe Die by Fire or Ice?” Science 81 (April 1981), pages 71-72; Hoyle, Galaxies, Nuclei, and Quasars, pages 147-150; Bernard J. Carr, “On the Origin, Evolution, and Purpose of the Physical Universe,” Physical Cosmology and Philosophy, ed. John Leslie (New York: Macmillan, 1990), pages 134-153; Swinburne, pages 154-173; R. E. Davies and R. H. Koch, “All the Observed Universe Has Contributed to Life,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, series B, 334 (1991), pages 391-403; George F.R. Ellis, pages 27-32; Hubert Reeves, “Growth of Complexity in an Expanding Universe,” in The Anthropic Principle, ed. F. Bertola and U. Curi (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pages 67-84.
  13. Davies and Koch, pages 391-403. See also chapters 3 and 4.
  14. Hoyle, “The Universe,” page 16.
  15. Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983), pages viii, 3-42, 142-143.
  16. Paul Davies, Superforce (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984), page 243.
  17. Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988), page 203; Paul Davies, “The Anthropic Principle,” Science Digest 191, no. 10 (October 1983), page 24.
  18. George Greenstein, The Symbiotic Universe (New York: William Morrow, 1988), page 27.
  19. Tony Rothman, “A ŒWhat You See Is What You Beget¹ Theory,” Discover (May 1987), page 99.
  20. Carr and Rees, page 612.
  21. Carr, page 153 (emphasis in the original).
  22. Freeman Dyson, Infinitein All Directions (New York: Harper and Row, 1988), page 298.
  23. Henry Margenau and Roy Abraham Varghese, ed., Cosmos, Bios, and Theos (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1992), page 52.
  24. Margenau and Varghese, ed., page 83.
  25. Stuart Gannes, Fortune, 13 October 1986, page 57.
  26. Fang Li Zhi and Li Shu Xian, Creation of the Universe, trans. T. Kiang (Singapore: World Scientific, 1989), page 173.
  27. Roger Penrose, in the movie A Brief History of Time (Burbank, CA: Paramount Pictures Incorporated, 1992).
  28. George F.R.Ellis, page 30.
  29. Edward Harrison, Masks of the Universe (New York: Collier Books, Macmillan, 1985), pages 252, 263.
  30. John Noble Wilford, “Sizing Up the Cosmos: An Astronomer¹s Quest,” New York Times, 12 March 1991, page B9.
  31. Tim Stafford, “Cease-fire in the Laboratory,” Christianity Today, 3 April 1987, page 18.
  32. Robert Jastrow, “The Secret of the Stars,” New York Times Magazine, 25 June 1978, page 7.
  33. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978), page 116.
  34. Swinburne, page 165.
  35. William Lane Craig, “Barrow and Tipler on the Anthropic Principle Versus Divine Design,” British Journal of Philosophy and Science 38 (1988), page 392.
  36. Joseph Silk, Cosmic Enigma (1993), pages 8-9.
  37. NCSE staff, Education and Creationism Don¹t Mix (Berkeley, CA: National Center for Science Education, 1985), page 3; Eugenie C. Scott, “Of Pandas and People,” National Center for Science Education Reports (January-February 1990), page 18; Paul Bartelt, “Patterson and Gish at Morningside College,” The Committees of Correspondence, Iowa Committee of Correspondence Newsletter, vol. 4, no. 4 (October 1989), page 1.
  38. Education and Creationism Don¹t Mix, page 3; Eugenie C. Scott and Henry P. Cole, “The Elusive Scientific Basis of Creation Science,” The Quarterly Review of Biology (March 1985), page 297.
  39. Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, Order Out Of Chaos: Man¹s New Dialogue With Nature (New York: Bantam Books, 1984).
  40. Barrow and Tipler.
  41. Barrow and Tipler, page 676-677.
  42. Barrow and Tipler, pages 676-677, 682; Martin Gardner, “Notes of a Fringe-Watcher: Tipler¹s Omega Point Theory,” Skeptical Inquirer 15, no. 2 (1991), pages 128-132.
  43. Frank J. Tipler, The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God, and the Resurrection of the Dead (New York: Doubleday, 1994).
  44. Martin Gardner, “WAP, SAP, PAP, and FAP,” The New York Review of Books, vol. 23, no. 8, 8 May 1986, pages 22-25.
  45. Roger Penrose, The Emperor¹s New Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), pages 3-145, 374-451; Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), pages 7-208.
  46. Frank J. Tipler, pages 253-255.
  47. Frank J. Tipler, pages 256-257.
  48. Gardner, “Notes of a Fringe-Watcher,” page 132.

Copyright © Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 3d ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001).