The Fine-Tuning Argument

posted in: Apologetics | 0

knobs-2-1484316What if the universe could be explained through purely physical processes just so long as we were allowed to choose a very precise set of initial conditions? It would be somewhat like saying that I can get a coin to land on heads every time, so long as you allow me to set precisely the upward velocity, height, and speed of rotation for every toss. Would it be fair to ask if the necessity of these conditions aren’t themselves evidence of some “chooser” who picked out these conditions to be? If the coin always lands on heads or if you always roll sevens, it is reasonable to assume that the game is rigged. Likewise, we should look at the universe and wonder, to quote Sir Fred Hoyle, who has monkeyed with physics.

The power of this “fine-tuning” argument was recognized when the famous atheist, Antony Flew, cited it as one of the factors that converted him to theism late in life. The argument is also unique in that it is fueled by the acceptance of Big Band Cosmology. The more committed you are to a 13.8 billion-year-old, expanding universe, the more powerful this argument becomes.1

The argument recognizes the reliance of modern models of physics upon several very precise constants.

  • Speed of Light: c=299,792,458 m/s
  • Gravitational Constant: G=6.673 x 10-11 m3/kg s2
  • Planck’s Constant: 1.05457148 x 10-34m2 kg / s2
  • Planck Mass-Energy: 1.2209 x 1022MeV
  • Mass of Electron, Proton, Neutron: 0.511; 938.3; 939.6 MeV
  • Mass of Up, Down, Strange Quark: 2.4; 4.8; 104 MeV (Approx.)
  • Ratio of Electron to Proton Mass: (1836.15)-1
  • Gravitational Coupling Constant: 5.9 x 10-39
  • Cosmological Constant: (2.3 x 10-3eV)
  • Hubble Constant: 71 km/s/Mpc (today)
  • Higgs Vacuum Expectation Value: 246.2 GeV

The strange fact is that these numbers are not only constant, but if they were changed even a small amount, the universe would not exist. Let me state that carefully. We are not talking about the existence of life on Earth. We are talking about whether even matter itself can exist.

Gravity, as a relatively common and simple example, is regulated by G, the gravitational constant. According to Craig,

If this constant is varied by just one in 1060 parts, none of us would exist.

Let me interrupt Craig to explain that absurdly large number. Imagine a dial with evenly spaced numbers 1 through 10. Each is number selection option represents 1 in 10 parts of the whole. Now, subdivide each number into ten more dashes, giving you 1 in 100 (or 102) parts. Now, keep subdividing the dial over and over sixty times. The number of infinitesimally small dashes on your dial now equal 1060. Craig continues,

To understand how exceedingly narrow this life-permitting range is, imagine a dial divided into 1060 increments. To get a handle on how many tiny points on the dial this is, compare it to the number of cells in your body (1014) or the number of seconds that have ticked by since time began (1020). If the gravitational constant had been out of tune by just one of these infinitesimally small increments, the universe would either have expanded and thinned out so rapidly that no stars could form and life couldn’t exist, or it would have collapsed back on itself with the same result: no stars, no planets, no life.2

The more constants you consider, the stranger the situation becomes. The cosmological constant must be dialed into a precision of 1 part in 10120 parts. The mass and energy of the early universe must be distributed to a precision of 1 part in 1010^123. It is impossible to represent this kind of number meaningfully by analogy because nothing in the physical universe adds up to anything near 1010^123.

Given this type of precision, chance seems to be out of the question. The natural conclusion for many has been to see that a powerful and intelligent being selected the only possible values to create the universe of his desire.


  1. Probably the best and most succinct discussion of this argument is provided by a video published by William Lane Craig titled “The Fine-Tuning of the Universe.” It is available for free viewing online. Some of the information contained here comes from the transcript of that video.
  2. Ibid.
Follow Benjamin Williams:

Pulpit Minister for Glenpool Church of Christ (Glenpool, OK); BS in Astrophysics from University of Oklahoma; MDiv in Ministry from Oklahoma Christian Graduate School of Theology

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