Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Universe by Design: God and Cosmological Constants

Perhaps the most compelling arguments for design in the universe are found in what are known as cosmological constants. These facts are commonly referred to as arguments from the fine-tuning of the universe.

When scientists speak of the fine-tuning of the universe, they are generally referring to the extraordinary balancing of the fundamental laws and parameters of physics and the initial conditions of the universe. The result of these constants is that the universe has just the right conditions to sustain life. The coincidence of all of these constants being so life permitting are too amazing to have been the result of happenstance. These cosmological constants all work together to keep the universe perfectly dialed in order to make life possible. In his article titled God, Design, and Fine-Tuning, physicist Robin Collins gave the following illustration to help explain these constants:

"I like to use the analogy of astronauts landing on Mars and finding an enclosed biosphere, sort of like the domed structure that was built in Arizona a few years ago. At the control panel they find that all the dials for its environment are set just right for life. The oxygen ratio is perfect; the temperature is seventy degrees; the humidity is fifty percent; theres a system for replenishing the air; there are systems for producing food, generating energy, and disposing of wastes. Each dial has a huge range of possible settings, and you can see if you were to adjust one or more of them just a little bit, the environment would go out of whack and life would be impossible. What conclusion would we draw from finding this structure? Would we draw the conclusion that it just happened to form by chance? Certainly not. Instead, we would unanimously conclude that it was designed by some intelligent being. Why would we draw this conclusion? Because an intelligent designer appears to be the only plausible explanation for the existence of the structure."

According to recent findings in physics, the universe is analogous to this "biosphere" that Collins illustrates. Over the past thirty years or so, scientists have discovered that just about everything about the basic structure of the universe is balanced on a razors edge for life to exist. The coincidences are far too fantastic to attribute this to mere chance or to claim that it needs no explanation. The dials are set too precisely to have been a random accident. Somebody, as Fred Hoyle quipped, "has been monkeying with the physics." The point is that when scientists look at the universe from an objective perspective, every knob in the discipline of physics seems to be intelligently dialed to a perfect degree in order to permit life in our universe. It is this evidence that leads to the conclusion that there is an Intelligent Designer behind these harmonious scientific facts. The following are some amazing examples of the finely tuned cosmological constants that balance the universe:

1. If the initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as 1 part in 1060, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded too rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible. (An accuracy of one part in 10-60 can be compared to firing a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and hitting the target.)

2. Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5% life would be impossible.

3. Calculations show that if gravity had been stronger or weaker by 1 part in 10-40, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible.

4. Further calculations show that if the neutron were not about 1.001 times the mass of the proton, all protons would have decayed into neutrons or all neutrons would have decayed into protons, and thus life would not be possible.

5. In the formation of the universe, the balance of matter to antimatter had to be accurate to one part in ten billion for the universe to arise.
6. Any of the laws of physics can be described as a function of the velocity of light (now defined to be 186,282 miles per second). Even a slight variation in the speed of light would alter the other constants and preclude the possibility of life on earth.

7. For the universe to exist as it does requires that hydrogen be converted to helium in a precise but comparatively stately mannerspecifically, in a way that converts seven one thousandths of its mass to energy. Lower that value very slightlyfrom 0.007 percent to 0.006 percent, sayand no transformation could take place: the universe would consist of hydrogen and nothing else. Raise the value very slightlyto 0.008 percentand bonding would be so widely prolific that the hydrogen would long since have been exhausted. In either case, with the slightest tweaking of the numbers the universe as we know and need it would not be here.

These examples are just some of the many amazing constants that are present in the universe in which we live. The astronomical amount of fine-tuning that we see in these constants weighs heavily in favor of a Great Designer of the universe. There must have been a Super Intelligence who set the dials perfectly in order for galaxies, stars, and planets to be positioned just right in order for life to be possible here on earth. To put it in terms harmonious with William Paleys argument, the incredible amount of design in the universe leads to the conclusion that there is an incredible Designer of the universe.

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