I am going to return to this subject again later as it has been discussed lately and does raise some interesting issues. But meanwhile here is something on the topic from last March.
More and more I hear the apparent “fine-tuning” of the universe being given as an argument to “prove” existence of a god. This goes along the lines that there are a number of critical physical constants underlying the nature of our universe. If either of these had even slightly different values our universe would be very different. Stars and galaxies would not form. Carbon would not be manufactured in the stars and hence life would not occur.
Proponents of this “proof” argue that the chance of our universe having physical constants with these values is impossibly small. Therefore there must have been a divine intelligence to ensure our universe has physical constants with the measured values.
A modern “proof”
This is a relatively recent argument (or “proof”) and has only arisen because modern science itself is asking this question: Why do the physical constants have the values they do? Is it by chance or does it arise out of the nature of matter itself?
These questions arise because of the progress humanity has made in understanding the fundamental nature of reality. This is an ongoing endeavour and the fact that these questions are being posed is an indication that humanity will set about trying to answer them. That is the nature of science. We are at the stage of saying “we don’t know the answers to these questions – but let’s find out!”
These answers will come out of work on unifying relativity and quantum theories, “string” theory and improving our understanding of the very early fractions of a second in the formation of the universe. Inflationary models of “big bang” theory, cycling universes, “big splat” theories, etc. come out of the speculation. We are at the stage of speculating what the answers might be but these are still speculations. We hope current and future scientific research will provide evidence supporting or disproving some of these speculations.
However, I think there are two aspects to the way the “fine-tuning” argument is being used.
Is this a “proof”
Aren’t those who resort to this argument just looking for support for a preconceived belief? A very human action, of course, but not a scientific proof for the belief. Would those people advancing this “proof” renounce their belief in a god if future science established that the “fine-tuned” physical constants was an inherent property of matter itself? That there was no way for the physical constant to be otherwise?
No, of course not!
Answers come from science, not religion
God is not a scientific explanation of phenomena like this. Humanity doesn’t stop and say “Yes, of course, the physical constants are the way they are because God ordained them to be so!”
No, we get to work. Come up with speculative ideas. Advance hypotheses. Test these through experiment and prediction. Advance explanatory theories and continue to refine them by mapping them against reality. Advancing a “god explanation” as an answer would be a science stopper – it would prevent us from ever understanding why things are the way they are.
Fine-tuned universe is still only a speculation
We don’t know if there was any “choice” in the way our universe has turned out. Maybe there was no “choice” – the specific fine-tuning arose inevitably as a result of the way matter is. Maybe conditions in the early formation of the universe did enable a “choice.” Maybe our universe is the only one that exists. Maybe there are multiple universes – each with different values of physical constants. Maybe new universes are being formed all the time.
At this stage these are all just speculations. Interesting speculations – but which ones are viable and which are to be discredited will be determined by future scientific investigation.
Intelligent design and depression
Intelligent design and scientific method
Can religion answer the questions science can’t?
Bringing the supernatural into science
Does science involve faith?
Isaac Newton and intelligent design