Cosmological Coincidences & God

By | November 14, 2011

By Charles L. Rulon

Emeritus, Life Sciences

Long Beach City College

Our universe appears to be fine-tuned

Astronomer, Fred Hoyle, commented that, because of what appears to be a “monstrous series of accidents,” our universe is exquisite­ly fine-tuned for the evolution of life.  In fact, says Hoyle, our uni­verse looks just like a “put-up job,” as though some­body had been “monkeying” with the laws of physics.”[1]  What Hoyle meant was that only tiny shifts in the relative strengths of var­ious forces such as gravity and electromagnetism, or the mass of var­i­ous par­ticles, or the form taken by the various laws of physics would bring about changes so drastic that car­bon-based life of any imagin­able sort could have never evolved.  In fact, physicist Freeman Dyson famously observed that our universe seems almost as if it “must have known we were coming”.

As just one example, carbon chem­istry is enormously richer than the chem­istry of any other element.  In fact, of all the 92 naturally occur­ring atoms found in our uni­verse, bio­chemists are convinced that only the carbon atom has the many unique and essential pro­per­ties neces­­sary to form the back­bone structure of life, not only on Earth, but through­out our uni­verse.  But carbon is very tricky for stars to syn­the­size.  With just the slight­est changes in the apparent fine-tuning of a few physical pa­rameters stars could never have made carbon in the first place.[2]

In 1999 Martin Rees, a leading figure in theoretical astrophysics and Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, in his book, Just Six Numbers, listed six fundamental physical constants, which are believed to hold throughout our universe.  Each of these six numbers is fine-tuned in the sense that, if it were slightly different, the universe would be completely different, making our form of life impossible.  Since then, other theorists have added several more numbers.  Currently there is no known law that requires these numbers to have the values that they do.  So how did we get so lucky with all these apparent cosmological coincidences?

Many theists see all of these “amazing cosmological coincidences”—all this “miraculous fine tuning”—as strong evidence for the existence of God.

Perhaps there are no knobs to tune in the first place? 

So how did we get so lucky with all this fine-tuning?  Physicist Tanner Edis (Ghost in the Universe, p. 88) agrees that the universe does look fine-tuned, but observes that future theories might reduce the number of dials to tweak, thus causing the apparent fine-tuning of these dials to disappear.  Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion – p. 144) also suggests that perhaps these six numbers of Martin Rees depend upon each other, or on some other unknown thing in ways that make them no freer to vary than the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. If this turns out to be true, then there could be only one way for a universe to be.  To quote Dawkins: “Far from God being needed to twiddle six knobs, there [would be] no knobs to twiddle.”  Yet, observes Dawkins, and this is the critical point, if there are no knobs to tune “then why did that one way [the only way to make a universe] have to be such a set-up job for our eventual evolution?”

Many theists would see such a discovery (no knobs to twiddle, thus a ready-made universe for the evolution of humans) as further proof that God not only exists, but that He also created our universe.

The multiverse can explain our universe’s apparent fine-tuning

Currently, the dominant naturalistic expla­nation for all this apparent fine-tuning is the existence of a multiverse, a huge number of universes each with differ­ent randomly appear­ing fundamental constants and, therefore, differ­ent proper­ties.  Our uni­­verse just happens to be one in which the evolution of carbon-based life was pos­sible.  No supernatural designer is now needed; no “amaz­ing coinci­­dences” need to be explained.


Many theists see a designer God as a much simpler explanation and that multiple universe believers are merely desperate atheists grasping at imaginary straws. 

But, according to astronomer William Jefferys, theists are mistaken to think that the motivation for the multiverse is to get around the fine-tuning problem. Instead, the proposed existence of a multiverse is a consequence of the leading theory of cosmology — the theory of chaotic inflation — which is the theory best supported by the evidence.  According to Jefferys, “Chaotic inflation was invented to explain certain observed facts about our universe, for example its flatness and homogeneity. One consequence of inflation is that the universe… contains infinitely many regions that have each inflated into expanding universes much like ours, but perhaps with physical constants different from ours.” [3]

According to one model of string theory, there could be 10500   possible universes, all with different self-consistent laws and constants.  When asked if scientists will ever be able to prove that the multiverse is real, physicist Andrei Linde responded that nothing else fits the data.  He explained that physicists don’t have any other explanation for the dark energy, or for the mass of the electron, or for the many properties of various particles.  Besides, if nature can produce one universe, why couldn’t it produce many universes? Indeed, it might even be expected.  Physicists know nothing in principle to prevent it.

Some theists actually hope that there is a multiverse because it would truly portray to them God’s power and inventiveness at being able to create all possible universes.  Also, the fact that it might take an entire multiverse to evolve us makes humans even more special and precious to God.


Maybe our universe is not fine-tuned or a set-up job after all? 

Physicist Victor Stenger takes a different route from the previous scientists mentioned.  He writes that our universe may not be that fine-tuned in the first place — that ‘artificial life’ computer simulations demonstrate that a wide range of physical parameters can lead to a life-friendly universe — that a number of such universes already have been found possible by twiddling with multiple knobs at the same time.  Stenger’s conclusion is that the fine-tuners have no basis in current knowledge for assuming that life is impossible except for a very narrow, improbable range of parameters. [4]  Furthermore, Stenger emphasizes, “the laws of physics are those that would be expected to exist if the universe arose from simpler systems mostly by chance — from… no matter , no energy, no structure and, most significantly, no information.”[5]

Many theists see the possi­bility of a uni­verse capable of creating “the miracle of life” under a whole variety of different physical constants as even more evidence for a mas­ter designer God.

Other tunings might lead to the evolution of other life forms

Neuroscientist Sam Harris writes that even if there are many other universes with different laws, different physi­cal constants and totally different atoms, we can’t rule out the evolution of life based on different chemistry.  Harris observes (Newsweek. -11/13/06): “To us carboniferous creatures, the dials may seem miraculously tweaked, but different physical laws might have led to universes harboring equally awe-filled forms of energy, cooking up [fine-tuned] arguments of their own.”

Scientific discoveries continue to challenge God beliefs

Rationalists ask: If humans really are central to some master plan, then why is our universe so unfathomably huge and old ….. and so violent?  Stars explode.  Black holes suck in entire star systems.  Gigantic explosions at the center of galaxies destroy millions of worlds.  Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize winner in physics, does not see any evidence for God in our universe.  He observes: “If we were to see the hand of a designer anywhere, it would be in the funda­mental principles, the laws of nature.  But contrary to some assertions they appear to be utterly impersonal and without any special role for life.” [6]

A Designer of the universe is a scientific useless hypothesis

Real scientific hypotheses have to be vulnerable to evidence.  Not so supernatural ones, since there is no conceivable evidence that can refute the claim that our universe was designed by God.  No matter what scientists discover, that’s the way God did it.  If there are “amazing cosmological coincidences,” this is strong evidence for the existence of God.  If there is a multiverse, this portrays God’s power and inventiveness to create all possible universes.  If it takes an entire multiverse just to produce humans, this makes us even more likely to be God’s special creation.  And if it turns out that there can only be one kind of universe (i.e. no knobs to fine-tune), this is proof that God had to have created this universe—a universe that was set up to evolve humans.  Evolutionary biology per se does not need God, but theologians interpret the evolutionary process as a manifestation of divine creativity.

Of course, if an all-powerful God really wanted us to know that He created us, it would have been relatively easy.  As just one example, He could have created a universe where the constants are not right for the production of carbon and oxygen in the interiors of stars.  The result would be no carbon or oxygen atoms in the universe . . .  except on Earth where God sprinkled them so that life would evolve.

Even if the universe was created by some “cosmic being”, what evidence is there that this “designer” was the God of Abraham?

There is a huge leap from believing that an “Intelligent Designer” created our universe and believing that this designer is actually the God of the Bible.  After all, why couldn’t this designer be:

a) An evil designer who delights in his creation of millions of hideous parasites and who has been gleefully enjoying our endless wars, genocides, hatreds, famines and plagues, not to mention the horrendous levels of death, pain and suffering on Earth for hundreds of millions of year

b) An incompetent designer who had hoped to create a being that would reflect his wisdom and divinity, but, having obvi­ously failed so miserably, abandoned his project long ago.

c) A Gremlin collective that de­cided long ago to evolve just bacteria, insects and dino­saurs on Earth.  But then an asteroid sent by an evil force destroyed the dino­saurs… and, well, you make up the rest.

Or perhaps humans and other “meat” were only created as “fast food” for this Master Designer’s truly chosen species who is now tour­ing our galaxy.  Or…Or…The point is that once we introduce non-testable, non-falsifiable super­natural answers, anything becomes possible. We’re now only limit­ed by our extremely fertile imaginations and our immense gullibility.

Christian apologists, of course, disagree and argue in “zillions” of books, articles and web sites that only their god can be the one true creator/designer God of the universe.

Is Earth also “fine-tuned”?

Many articles and books have been written, which document all of the “amazing coincidences” we find regarding Earth, itself, — coincidences that permit the existence or evolution of sentient beings like ourselves — coincidences which all but prove to the authors the likely existence of an Intelligent Designer.[7]  A quick web search reveals that these writings have been seriously criticized by many other scientists, including Stenger and astronomer William Jefferys.

But to the extent that Earth (and our solar system) might appear “fine-tuned” regarding some of its properties, are there natural explanations?  Sure.  Here’s one:  In 2010, Geoff March, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley estimated that, judging from his observations, our galaxy may contain tens of billions of planets roughly the size and mass of Earth.[8]   Thus, with so many planets it’s not surprising that a planet here or there would be friendly to life.

Besides, perhaps there are numerous planets much more suited for the evolution of advanced, space-age species than Earth is.  After all, it took over two billion years for even simple multi-cellular life to evolve on Earth.  Then it took another two billion years for humans to evolve, an event that included so many accidents and contingencies of history that, were evolution to start over, the big money is on humans never evolving again.  In addition, catastro­phic events such as meteor impacts, gigantic volcanic eruptions, ice sheets cover­ing much of Earth, and plate tectonic movements tearing apart entire continents have devastated Earth’s surface for eons, resulting in at least five major mass extinctions over the last 600 million years.  Then throw in all the earthquakes hurricanes, tsunamis and pandemics.  Surely God could come up with a better planet for the evolution of His favorite species.



[1] Hoyle, F., 1983, The Intelligent Universe, p. 218

[2] Google “anthropic universe”, “anthropic principal,” or “cosmological coincidences” for thousands of websites and dozens of fine-tuned examples.  Here are just a few:  If the proton-neutron mass dif­fer­ence were not about twice the mass of an electron, the atoms that are essential for life as we know it would never have formed.  If the explosive force of the “Big Bang” had been slightly weak­er, or the grav­itational attraction slightly stronger, the stars would have burned out much faster and the cosmos would have soon fallen back on itself in a big crunch prob­ably long before life could have evolved.  On the other hand, had the reverse been true, the cosmic material would have dis­persed so rapidly that gala­xies would never have formed.  If the weak force were slightly different, helium rather than hydrogen would have emerged as the domi­nant element in stars.  The result would have been much shorter lived stars and almost no water.  Without ade­quate time, could higher life forms have evolved?  If the strong nuclear force was only 2% stronger there would be virtually no hydro­gen left over after the Big Bang. Thus, stable stars like our sun which burn hydrogen couldn’t exist.  Also, neither could water, nor or­ganic chem­istry, nor life as we know it.


[4]Victor Stenger has written several books dealing with physics and God.  For example, see his best-seller, God: The Failed Hypothesis—How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist.  Stenger’s web site is: <>

[5] Free Inquiry, Aug. 2008.

[6]Weinberg, Steven, 2001, A Designer Universe?  Skeptical Inquirer, Sept./Oct. 2001.  This article is based on a talk given in 1999 at the Conference on Cosmic Design of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

[7]For example, see the 2000 book Rare Earth by Ward and Brownlee and the 2004 book The Privileged Planet by Gonzalez and Richards.

[8] Discover, Jan./Feb. 2011, p. 34

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