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Universe, Planet, Proteins…It’s Fine-Tuning All the Way Down

David Klinghoffer

The beautiful side of IC 335.jpg

Don’t miss a nifty Wall Street Journal piece today, that’s important too, by our friend Eric Metaxas, concisely and amusingly explicating the cosmic and planetary fine-tuning problems. Subhead: "The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?"

Unfortunately, it’s behind a pay wall if you don’t subscribe, but here’s the kicker:

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life — every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing. 

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces — gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the "strong" and "weak" nuclear forces — were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction — by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000 — then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.

Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all "just happened" defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?

I might have added only that the fine-tuning extends all the way from the most massive scale (the universe) down to the very finest (the proteins that comprise the parts of molecular machines that operate in the cell and make life possible). For the latter, see Chapter 10 of Darwin’s Doubt, where Stephen Meyer draws on Doug Axe’s work.

Eric Metaxas frames the question well, "At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces?" Of course for committed partisans of materialism, the answer is: never. It’s never fair. It can never be admitted, no matter what.

It would be fair to dismiss those people, whose minds are so tightly sealed against the evidence, were it not for the fact that their influence in popular and scientific culture is so enormous. An article like this, even in the Wall Street Journal, that puts the question so plainly, is a triumph.

Image credit: "Hubble Sees the Beautiful Side of Galaxy IC 335," ESA/Hubble and NASA.

I’m on Twitter. Follow me @d_klinghoffer.