I seem to be getting into quite a few discussions about universal fine-tuning lately. Only recently I discussed the argument for the existence of God based on the science of fine-tuning, and before that I discussed the science.
Here, I want to give some quotes and references to cosmologists who have written on this topic.
Cosmologists and fine-tuning
I am not a scientist, and certainly not a cosmologist. But I have been interested in astronomy and cosmology since I was a teen, and I have read a little on the subject.
All of the scientists I reference here are some of the most respected scientists in their field. None of them is a christian or theist, as far as I can find out – all are fairly agnostic about God.
“These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life.”
“If we modify the value of one of the fundamental constants, something invariably goes wrong, leading to a universe that is inhospitable to life as we know it …The conditions in our universe really do seem to be uniquely suitable for life forms like ourselves.”
Cosmic Coincidences, Martin Rees and John Gribbin
“can science explain the extraordinary fact that the universe appears to be uncannily, nay, spectacularly well-designed for our own existence? ….. to make the first 119 decimal places of the vacuum energy zero is almost certainly no accident.”
The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design. Leonard Susskind is Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford, and an expert on string theory. He too believes the multiverse is the best scientific explanation of fine-tuning.
“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all….It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe….The impression of design is overwhelming”
The Mind of God. Paul Davies is an English physicist and prolific writer who later wrote The Goldilocks Enigma. He seems to lean towards the multiverse as a scientific explanation, but says “it falls short of a complete explanation of existence…. The problem has simply been shifted up a level from the laws of the universe to the meta-laws of the multiverse.”
“There is now broad agreement among physicists and cosmologists that the universe is in several respects ‘fine-tuned’ for life … the conclusion is not so much that the universe is fine-tuned for life; rather it is fine-tuned for the building blocks and environments that life requires”
“This now tells us how precise the Creator’s aim must have been: namely to an accuracy of one part in 10^10^123. This is an extraordinary figure…. But why was the big bang so precisely organised ….. ?”
“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so over-whelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
The Universe: Past and Present Reflections. Fred Hoyle was Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge, the originator of the term “big bang” and the discoverer of carbon resonance in supernova, a key example of fine-tuning.
“Perhaps before going further we should ask just how probable is it that a universe created by randomly choosing the parameters will contain stars. Given what we have already said, it is simple to estimate this probability. For those readers who are interested, the arithmetic is in the notes. The answer, in round numbers, comes to about one chance in 10229.”
“a number of authors have noticed that very small changes in the laws, parameters and initial conditions of physics would result in a universe unable to evolve and support intelligent life…. In the set of possible physics, the subset that permit the evolution of life is very small.”
The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life. Luke Barnes is a postdoctoral researcher at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy, University of Sydney. This paper is the most up-to-date review I can find of the scientific literature on this topic.
In this paper Barnes references about 200 scientific papers and lists more than 20 of the most eminent cosmologists and theoretical physicists who support his conclusions on fine-tuning. In In Defence of The Fine-Tuning of the Universe for Intelligent Life, Barnes provides quotes from 7 eminent cosmologists (including Rees, Susskind and Smolin quoted here, plus Wilczek, Hawking, Guth and Linde) in support.
The majority of cosmologists believe the physics (the laws and numbers) behind our universe is amazingly unusual, and this is immensely improbable if this was left to chance and this was the only universe.
Most believe that the only viable scientific explanation is the multiverse – the hypothesis that there are or have been zillions of universes, most of them sterile and short-lived, and ours is an extremely rare occurrence. But many admit that the multiverse cannot be demonstrated or observed, and may never be more than a hypothesis, and Barnes sets out a series of problems facing those who wish to develop the hypothesis.
Davies and others point out that if we explain the fine-tuning of our universe in this way, we then have to explain how the multiverse is so fine-tuned that it can produce zillions of universes with different properties. This ‘higher level’ fine-tuning is more difficult to analyse because we cannot observe the multiverse or even know for sure if we are part of one.
All these conclusions are scientific, and don’t necessarily point to God. Several of these writers discuss the possibility of God being the cause of the fine-tuning, but as this isn’t a scientific question, none of them (that I am aware) draw strong conclusions about God’s existence or non-existence.
But any discussion of fine-tuning and God should start with these scientific conclusions.
- Science and the design of the universe
- Was the universe designed for us?
- The science of universal fine-tuning
- The Teleological argument