Scientists have come to understand the universe as having a great deal of precision. In fact, the degree of precision is so great that to alter many of the parameters even minutely would destroy life as we know it. This precision leads some scientists to make an argument based on order that the universe was actually designed to accommodate life. Also called “fine tuning,” the anthropic principle has two classes of parameters: one set for the features of the universe, another for the features of a sun-planet-moon system.
In his book The Creator and the Cosmos, astrophysicist Hugh Ross lists 35 parameters that must each fall within a very narrow range in order to make life possible. A partial list is noted below.
- Strong nuclear force constant
- Weak nuclear force constant
- Gravitational force constant
- Electromagnetic force constant
- Ratio of electromagnetic force constant to gravitational force constant
- Ratio of electron to proton mass
- Ratio of protons to electrons
- Expansion rate of the universe
- Entropy level of the universe
- Mass density of the universe
- Velocity of light
- Age of the universe
- Initial uniformity of radiation
- Fine structure constant
- Average distance between stars
What would happen if any one parameter fell outside its narrow, life-friendly range? Take the expansion rate of the universe as an example. If the expansion rate was faster than one part in 1055, galaxies could not have formed; if the expansion rate was slower than one part in 1055, the universe would collapse before galaxies had a chance to form. Without galaxies, stars could not form; without stars, planets could not form; and without planets, there could be no life. The extraordinary balance and precision exhibited by each of the above parameters demonstrates an order that points to an orderer, a being that designed the universe with a specific purpose.
The second set of 66 parameters has to do with our sun-planet-moon system. Some of these parameters include:
- If the axial tilt of the earth were greater or lesser, the surface temperatures would be too harsh to support life as we know it.
- If the distance of the earth from the sun were greater, the earth would be too cool for a stable water cycle. But if the distance were less, the earth would be too warm for a stable water cycle.
- If the earth’s crust were thicker, too much oxygen would be transferred from the atmosphere to the crust. But if the crust were thinner, there would be too much volcanic and tectonic activity.
- If the gravitational interaction with the moon were greater, the tidal effects on the oceans, atmosphere, and rotational period would be too severe. But if it were any less, the earth’s orbital obliquity would change too much, causing climatic instabilities.
- If the gravity on the surface of the earth were stronger, the atmosphere would retain too much ammonia and methane, which is poisonous. But if the gravity were less, the atmosphere would lose too much water.
- If the length of a day were greater, the temperature differences would be too great to sustain life. But if the day were shorter the atmospheric wind velocities would be too great to survive.
Again, according to Ross, “Each of these 32 parameters cannot exceed certain limits without disturbing a planet’s capacity to support life.”
But is this just an egocentric view of the universe? Just because we humans happen to require the universe to have these parameters in order to live does not mean it was made with us in mind, does it? This is a possibility, of course. However, we should be mindful of a couple of things: First, we have no evidence whatsoever of life of any kind anywhere else in the universe. Second, even if we did find life elsewhere in the universe, it wouldn’t necessarily change anything about the nature of human beings or the truthfulness of Christianity.
Let’s say we find some form of primitive life on Mars, and it resembles some form of life on Earth. What would that mean? That life on Earth somehow came from Mars? It’s possible. But where did the life on Mars come from? Ultimately, the discovery would answer nothing about man’s origin; it would simply take our knowledge one step back in a chain of regression that must have a beginning, as we showed in the cosmological argument. Also, would it not be more likely that the life on Mars came from Earth (where we know life to have been for quite awhile)? A meteor crashing into the Earth could have shot debris into space that eventually contaminated Mars, just as easily as the other way around.
Most importantly, discovery of life elsewhere would not take away our need for our salvation. The human condition would still be fallen, whether we are alone in the universe or not. Our having an ancestor or contemporary on some distant planet is irrelevant.
Parenthetically, this does not mean we should not continue space exploration or other scientific endeavors. The knowledge gained from these projects is extremely valuable. Even more, the technology developed to accommodate these missions contributes greatly to the quality of our everyday lives and to the economy. For example, the spin-off technology from the space shuttle contributed to the development of the artificial heart, the in-ear thermometer, prosthetic material, and auto tracking systems, among others. The technology of the Apollo missions contributed to CT scans and MRIs, kidney dialysis, cordless power tools, the insulation in cars and trucks, and the blow molding used to make space suits was adapted to make athletic shoes.
This post is an excerpt from the Holman QuicSource Guide to Christian Apologetics by Doug Powell. It is used with permission. You can purchase this resource in its entirety here.