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GOD: new evidence

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Is the Universe too big for us? Does the size of the universe prove it is not fine tuned for life?

One common objection to the argument that fine tuning points to a creator God is that the universe is too big for us - the size of the universe proves that it is not fine tuned by God.  Professor Stephen Hawking has been quoted as saying in a BBC interview:

‘We are such insignificant creatures on a minor planet of a very average star in the outer suburbs of one of a hundred billion galaxies. So it is difficult to believe in a God that would care about us or even notice our existence.’

On blogs, people can be more abrasive:

 ‘When you can look at a universe which is instantly lethal to humans over 99.999999999999% of its space, and the conditions on the one known habitable planet are still harsh to lethal for humans in 80 or 90% of the living space, and claim that universe is ‘finely tuned’ for humans, you’re at the point you can claim black is white if need be.’[1]

Does this objection have any weight? I don’t believe so. There are several ways to respond to it:

It is an emotional objection

We are small creatures on a small planet. We look at the scale of the universe and find it overwhelming. But this is just an emotional response. It is not a reasoned argument. 

When you look for a logical argument why the size of the universe contradicts fine tuning, it is not clear that there is one.

We do not know what God would do

In effect, the objection that the universe is too big says, ‘If I was God, I wouldn’t have done it that way.’

This is an incredibly arrogant claim. It says, ‘I’m smart enough – and I know enough - to tell God how he should have organised things.’

This is a bit like an ant looking at the Large Hadron Collider, and saying, ‘If I’d wanted to crash protons into each other, I wouldn’t have done it like that.’  The ant simply does not have either the information or the mental apparatus to grasp the reasons why the Large Hadron Collider is what it is.  What makes us think we have the information or the mental apparatus to understand why God would do things a particular way?

One of the most common misunderstandings by atheists is that when we talk about God, we mean someone who is like us, but bigger – more long-lived perhaps, more intelligent, more powerful – but basically, part of the physical universe. 

This is just a failure of imagination.  By definition, if God is there, he is not part of the physical universe - he made it. The Bible says that God is a spirit.[2]

Whatever else this means, it includes the idea that God exists on a completely different level from the physical.

This means that we can’t limit God to a particular place. God is equally present everywhere.  So God does not have to travel, and he is not limited by the speed of light.

Equally, we cannot limit God to a particular time. Time and space are properties of the physical universe. But God is ‘outside’ space and time. He does not experience the limitations of space and time that we do. He does not get older in the same way we do.[3]

What’s the point of this? If I was trying to create something like humanity, I’d be as economical as possible – because for me, resources are always limited.

But for God, resources are not limited. Making a universe that is billions of light-years across is no more difficult, and no more ‘expensive,’ than making a single planet.

Equally, I would do it as quickly as I could. I would not want to wait 14 billion years. But God is eternal: he does not ‘wait’ for anything. As far as God is concerned, those 14 billion years are just a brief and insignificant pause between setting off the whole universe at the Big Bang, and seeing human beings arrive on the scene.

The argument that the universe is too big is really an argument that God wouldn’t have done things like that. And the answer is: ‘how do you know this?’

The universe has to be as big as it is for life on Earth to be possible

The universe has to be as big as it is, and as old as it is, for intelligent life to be possible in even one place:

After the Big Bang, the universe only contained simple elements – mainly hydrogen and helium. The more complicated elements that are needed for life (carbon, oxygen, nitrogen etc), were made by the first generation of stars. It took a lot of time (billions of years) for the stars to make these elements, to die and explode, hurling the heavier elements out into space, and then for rocky planets like the Earth to form from the star dust, incorporating all these elements. 

So the universe has to be the sort of age it is for life like ours to be present. And given the way the universe expands in the Big Bang, this means that it has to be the size it is as well.

As the astronomers John Barrow and Joseph Silk point out:

‘No astronomer could exist in one [a universe] that was significantly smaller… The universe would have to be just as large as it is to support even one lonely outpost of life.’[4]

Or as Martin Rees puts it:

 ‘The very hugeness of our universe, which seems at first to signify how unimportant we are in the cosmic scheme, is actually entailed by our existence! This is not to say that there couldn’t have been a smaller universe, only that we could not have existed in it.’[5]

Conclusion

There are no good reasons for saying that the universe is too big. This is an emotional claim, rather than a logical argument. We simply cannot know in advance how God would do things. And there are good physical reasons why the universe has to be as big as it as and as old as it is for human life to be possible.

David Couchman MA, M.Sc, M.Min, July  2010


[1] Comment on the ‘Why Evolution is True’ blog http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/theists-on-the-run/

[2] The Bible: Gospel of John, chapter 4, verse 24

[3] See, for example, the Bible, 2 Peter chapter 3 verse 8

[4] Barrow, J D and Silk, J, 1983 ‘The Left Hand of Creation – the origin and evolution of the Expanding Universe’ New York, Basic Books, p. 205

[5] Rees, Martin, 1999: ‘Just Six Numbers: the deep forces that shape the universe’ London, Weidenfield & Nicolson p. 9-10

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‘Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan.’
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