Thursday, May 10, 2012

Is God Just a Human Invention - Chapter 7 Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life?

As mentioned previously, I am following a book club type format for this book over on another blog. I was going to just participate over there but I have a lot more to say than I want to shove into their comments, so I figured I'd do a normal long form post over here and then just talk about 1 or 2 main points over there. I'm sticking to my normal format of bold for section heading, regular text for summary, and italics for my commentary.


The laws of the universe are delicately balanced to support the emergence and sustenance of intelligent life. This raises the question for atheists: "Why is the universe habitable?"

Fair enough, this is an interesting question.

A Fine-Tuned Universe

There are many thing that had to be just right for us to have a habitable universe.

1. If the balance between gravity and expansion rate were altered by on part in one million billion billion billion billion billion billion there would be no galaxies, starts, planets or life. To put another way, if there was one more grain of salt the universe would not have expanded and one less and it would have expanded too quickly.

I am completely out of my element here, but I'm guessing the one in blah blah blah is a bit overstated. But who knows, maybe it is correct. Maybe it is impossible for there to be more because at this amount of matter it expands. Maybe it was collecting from a black hole and slowing increasing, so there was less matter there before and it didn't expand, as expected. I admittedly don't really know what I'm talking about here, but the point is, it is possible that what is being claimed is true and yet it just makes sense that we would at some point get to just the right amount of matter, but no more.

2. The four forces are perfectly balanced, the gravitational force must be delicately balanced to one part in 10 to the 40th power. If it was tipped either way we couldn't have the right kind of stars that we have for life to emerge.

This is interesting, but I'm not really sure how relevant it is. Perhaps it is true that it is that delicately balanced, but is it possible for other relations to these natural laws to even exist? Maybe our collection of laws is stable and others will naturally settle on ours. And maybe if there were other natural laws, the world could still support life, it would just be different from what we are. 

3. The earth has extremely rare conditions that allow life to exist here.

This we definitely can explain. There are stars and planets all over the place, some might be in uninhabitable places, maybe a rare one like earth exists somewhere. Whatever life emerges will necessarily be in one of those places. The existence of billions of potential places where life doesn't exist makes this rare occurrence reasonable.

Put another way, suppose any given planet has about a 1 in a billion chance of having life. If there are billions of planets it is not a surprise that at least one has life. And where will the life who examines this fact be? It will be on the planet where the life was able to occur.

Objections to an Intelligent Designer

Some argue that since we could not exist in a universe that was not fine-tuned, we should not be surprised to find that the universe is fine-tuned.

That is basically what I was trying to say in point 3 above.

Dawkins says that there is no current explanation for why the universe is fine-tuned, but that doesn't point to God. The problem with this is that it just asks for further explanation. How can you just object to any explanation by asking for further explanation. Is this how science works.

No, the problem is that God doesn't explain anything in the first place.


That's enough for this week. I am pretty out of my element here, but it looks like the rest of this chapter is looking at criticisms for fine tuning and poorly shooting them down. I know enough to see that it is clumsy but not enough to properly refute it.

Next week's chapter is "Has Science Shown There Is No Soul?". That sounds a bit more interesting to me.


  1. "If the balance between gravity and expansion rate were altered by on part in one million billion billion billion billion billion billion there would be no galaxies, starts, planets or life. To put another way, if there was one more grain of salt the universe would not have expanded and one less and it would have expanded too quickly."

    Is there a reference for this. I do this sort of calculation, and I have no idea what he is talking about.

    1. No reference needed. Scientists can't be trusted. /sarc

    2. Reference: Mark Whorton and Hill Roberts, Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Creation (Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2008), 308.

      I assume you are convinced now. I'm sure that reference is 100% reliable.

      It's funny, I just assumed that this book misquoted some scientists, but it looks like they referenced someone who misquoted some scientists. They put in that extra degree of separation and it is just that much harder to follow up on.

    3. I think they are referencing a citation to an erroneous calculation based on a misunderstanding of a cherry-picked quote of some scientist.

  2. If the universe was created for humans, it sure did take a lot of "space" to "evolve" a planet to evolve humans that cannot live on most parts of the planet let alone travel space.

    You would think if god created the universe for us, he would have made it a lot easier for us to traverse.

    Also, this quote from Douglas Adams:
    Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in'an interesting hole I find myself in'fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for. -Douglas Adams

    1. Thanks for the Adams quote. While I was reading this chapter I was vaguely remembering it although I couldn't quite recall the source.

  3. I'm always skeptical when people just throw out big numbers without justifying where they came from. Just because something is unlikely, does not mean it won't happen. I've used the analogy of cards before, but I think its applicable here as well. Based on my understanding of probability (I'm no mathematician), the odds of me drawing a royal flush in spades on the first draw are really, really low. I believe the odds of drawing any specific hand (ex.2 of hearts, 4 of spades, 7 of diamonds etc) would be just as low. It does not mean that it could not happen. As they say, it only needs to happen once. And if it were any other way, we wouldn't be here talking about it. That's just my two cents.


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