Scientists have learned that only an exceptionally fine-tuned planet like Earth has the necessary ingredients to harbor life. Additionally, our solar system and galaxy, as well as our entire universe, appear designed to support intelligent life.
The odds that such fine-tuning could have occurred by chance is not just unlikely–scientists say it is virtually impossible.
They Don’t Call These Astronomical for Nothing
An article in U.S. News & World Report remarks, “So far no theory is even close to explaining why physical laws exist, much less why they take the form they do. Standard big bang theory, for example, essentially explains the propitious universe in this way: ‘Well, we got lucky.’”¹
On Christmas Day in 2002, Jack Whitaker, of Scott Depot, West Virginia, got lucky, becoming the largest single-ticket lottery jackpot winner until that time in North America. His prize? A Powerball jackpot of $314.9 million. Over a hundred million other tickets didn’t match. What are the odds of that? (And what are the odds that within two years he would be robbed twice, face charges for attacking a bar manager, be sued for making trouble at a nightclub and a racetrack, and be arrested twice for drunk driving? Not nearly as unlikely as his Powerball winning ticket, but still true.)
If someone won even two such lotteries consecutively, we would all assume the results were rigged. And yet, when it comes to life existing in our universe, the odds are far more remote than winning a hundred Powerball lotteries consecutively.
Physicist Paul Davies comments, “The conclusion must be that we live in a world of astronomical unlikelihood.”²
Donald Page of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study has calculated that the odds against our universe randomly taking a form suitable for life is one out of 10124, a number beyond imagination.³
To try and visualize the difficulty, imagine all the grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth. Then encrypt one grain with a special code known only to you, and randomly bury that grain on a beach somewhere on Earth. (Maybe enjoy a vacation in Maui while you’re at it).
The chance a blindfolded person would ever discover that one grain of sand on their first pick is one out of 1020 (one chance in 100 billion billion.)
Now offer a reward to anyone who can find it on one pick, even though they don’t know which beach to scour, or how deep it is buried. But what if they did? Would anyone believe they discovered it by accident? Yet, scientists tell us that the likelihood of a big bang explosion resulting in a universe able to support life like ours is many times more improbable.
As we consider the odds for the fine-tuning of our universe, galaxy, solar system, and planet, let’s keep in mind just how extreme these odds really are. Not just one, but all of them require unbelievably precise fine-tuning. Can such precision be a result of anything other than design? Let’s take a look at why many scientists are asking this question.
Dr. Robin Collins states in The Case for a Creator, “Over the past thirty years or so, scientists have discovered that just about everything about the basic structure of the universe is balanced on a razor’s edge.”4 Over 35 different characteristics of the universe and its physical laws must be precisely fine-tuned for physical life to be possible.5 Following are six of those characteristics:
1. A large enough expansion rate. The birth of the universe had to begin with enough force, or life couldn’t exist. Stephen Hawking states, “If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present size.”6
2. A controlled expansion rate. Although the expansion rate had to be great enough for the universe to avoid a big crunch, if its outward force had been even a fraction greater, that would have been too much for gravity to form stars and planets. Life could never have been possible.7
3. Force of gravity. If the gravitational force were altered by 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent, neither Earth nor our Sun would exist—and you would not be here reading this.8
4. The balance of matter and antimatter. In the formation of the universe, the balance between matter and antimatter, and the excess of matter over antimatter, needed to be accurate to one part in ten billion for the universe to arise.
5. The mass density of the universe. For physical life to exist, the mass density of the universe must be fine-tuned to better than one part in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion (1060).9 Thus, the mass contained in all dark and visible matter, including stars, is essential for the existence of our universe.
6. Space-energy density. The space-energy density of the universe requires much greater precision than the mass density. For physical life to be possible, it must be fine-tuned to one part in 10120.10
According to the big bang theory, all of this minute fine-tuning was programmed into the initial conditions of the first microsecond of the explosion that began our universe. At that instant the rate and ratios of expansion, mass, density, antimatter, matter, etc., were set in place, eventually leading to a habitable planet called Earth.
In addition to the 35 different characteristics of our universe that must be just right for life to exist, our galaxy, solar system, and planet also needed to be exceptionally fine-tuned or we would not be here.11
Gregg Easterbrook, “Before the Big Bang,” U.S. News & World Report, special edition, 2003, 16.
Paul Davies, Other Worlds (London: Penguin, 1990), 169.
Dietrick E. Thompsen, “The Quantum Universe: A Zero-Point Fluctuation?” Science News, August 3, 1985, 73.
Quoted in Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 131.
Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 3rd ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001), 224.
Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1990), 121–122.
John D. Barrow and George Silk, The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe (New York: Basic, 1983), 206.
Lawrence M. Krauss, “The End of the Age Problem and the Case for a Cosmological Constant Revisited,” Astrophysical Journal 501 (1998): 461–466.