There is an abundant wealth of evidence from the workings of physics, chemistry, and properties of the universe, our solar system, and earth which indicate that life on earth did not happen by accident--it was planned. These arguments are typically called "anthropic principles," where physical properties or parameters seem to be "just right" or "fine-tuned" to allow for life--and not necessarily just for life as we know it. The existence of these principles is well recognized in the scientific literature, and is discussed by many physicists, cosmologists, and even the occasional cosmetologist.
In the Beginning...
Before discussing Anthropic Principles, it is important to note that contrary to public opinion, most astrophysicists believe that the universe itself is not infinite, and that it had a beginning. Einstein's general theory of relativity predicts that the universe must expand or contract if it contains any matter (which of course it does)1, implying there was an "explosion" at the beginning of the universe.1, 3 This explosion, often called the "Big Bang", began as an infinitely dense infinitesimal singularity which blew up, sending matter and energy flying in all directions.
Many predictions made by Einstein's theory of relativity and "Big Bang" cosmology have been observed1--including relativity-related time-changes on satellite clocks, curvature of light around stars due to matter, predicted levels of background radiation in the universe, light elemental abundances, and observations that galaxies are receding from one another from some point of explosion.
Big Bang cosmology has been controversial from its beginning. Young-earth creationists have typically opposed the Big Bang theory as it implies the universe has an age on the order of billions of years. (Please note that ID and the IDEA Center do not take a stance on the age issue. There are Christians who strongly disagree with the Big Bang. Some object based on some curious observations of blue & red shifted objects gravitationally interacting with each other as well as how light waves are affected when traveling through ionized gases.) While the necessity of a young-universe interpretation of Genesis may be open to hermeneutical questioning, the options open to scientists are as follows: the universe was supernaturally created some 10 thousand years ago, or the universe was supernaturally created some 10 billion years ago. For this reason, many atheist cosmologists have also opposed Big Bang cosmology because, "[if there was] a beginning, then there must be a Beginner"3. Information theorist Hubert Yockey notes the results of these implications have been that, "[i]n spite of other successes of the general theory of relativity, the Big Bang, and in particular the idea that the universe had a beginning, was fought bitterly every step of the way"1.
Einstein himself had trouble accepting his own theories with his worldview as they showed "the necessity for a beginning,"4 and "the presence of a superior reasoning power."5 To avoid the consequences of his own theory, Einstein added a "cosmological constant" to the equations to change its philosophical implications and avoid the necessity of a "beginning" to the universe. Decades later, after the cosmological constant was disproved, Einstein called his addition of the constant, "the biggest blunder of his life."6 Sir Arthur Eddington, an astronomer contemporary with Einstein, wrote, "Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant . . . I should like to find a genuine loophole"7 and admitted that "unscientifically I feel ... unwilling to accept the implied discontinuity in the divine nature [caused by the Big Bang creation event]"8. But loophole's weren't to be found, and cosmologists who once strongly held to an infinite universe without a beginning (mostly for philosophical reasons) today are few in number. This led scientists of Einstein's day, such as Nobel Prize winner Arthur Compton, to say:
As seen in Compton's statement, many have explained the necessity for a beginning to the universe by the action of God. Objectors have said that, philosophically speaking, it isn't acceptable to invoke God as an explanation for the origin of the universe unless we can somehow explain where God came from. Of course for the Christian theist, this cannot be done10, for God is by definition a Being existing outside of space and time eternally in the past, present, and future11, from Whom all things which were created have come12, who has no origin13.
The problem for the person who uses this objection to belief in God is that in their own worldview they are also left with unknowns. When asked where God came from, the theist may answer, "I don't know", but when asked where the universe came from, the non-theist must also then answer, "I don't know".
Some non-theists may try to avoid this unknown through coming up with other theories. As evidence began to mount for the Big Bang beginning of the universe, other theories began to be suggested to avoid the implications. Some of these include the steady state model and the oscillating universe theory. The non-scientific motivation for the oscillating universe theory (not to mention the failure of the steady state model) is best captured by writings of John Gribbon:
There are three basic problems to speculating on the theory of a bouncing universe. First, the current state of expansion of the universe is such that the amount of mass (and, therefore gravity) is not sufficient to cause collapse.29 In other words, the universe is expanding too quickly for the effects of gravity to overcome and reverse the expansion. Furthermore, there is now evidence that the universe is actually accelerating in its expansion.30 The second reason why the oscillating universe is found wanting is based on entropy. With each bounce, the radius of the universe would increase because of energy loss with each bounce. An everyday example of this is a rubber ball (matter in the universe) on a rubber band (effect of gravity in universe supposedly causing the contraction) attached to a paddle. With each bounce, usable energy is "lost" (i.e. there's an increase in entropy) to the system as the rubber band heats up and the ball bounces further and further from the paddle. This leads into the third problem: the mechanical efficiency of the universe. When it comes to mechanical efficiency, the universe has been likened to a "wet lump of clay"29 rather than a pumped up basketball.31 Based on these reasons, the oscillating universe is not a likely candidate for valid consideration for the origin of the universe.
To the question, "what started the universe?", the non-theist must answer, "I don't know", but the theist has an explanation for one more thing than the non-theist: the origin of the universe. We may not be able to understand the "origin" of "God", but we know that space-time and energy-matter can come from a superpowerful Being. Using God as an explanation for the origin of the universe is thus an acceptable philosophical inference which actually has a larger explanatory power than a model which doesn't invoke God and leaves the origin of the universe unexplained.
...After the Beginning...
It may be incredible that the universe had a beginning, but if that was the end of the story, then we wouldn't be here to talk about it. The fact is that a large number of physical constants must be "fine-tuned" or "just right" in order to allow for life. Physicist and author Paul Davies has said that it is highly unlikely to get life as we know it given the possibilities for physical laws:
Chemical laws present from the beginning of the universe also show that water, the basic molecule of life on earth, has very unique properties which, if any different, wouldn't allow for life on earth. Liquid water is probably vital to any carbon-based life-form23 and carbon is a great element to allow for complex chemical bonding reactions inherent to life. Water is also vital due to its properties as a liquid solvent, and the protective medium it provides as an environment for habitation. However, if water was just a little different, it couldn't be this powerful liquid. Hugh Ross notes that the rules of water chemistry are also fine-tuned, noting that, "polarity of the water molecule if greater: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too great for life to exist; if smaller: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too small for life's existence; liquid water would become too inferior a solvent for life chemistry to proceed ... "17
The fact that solid water can float on liquid water is also an important property for life on earth. Intuitively, we would expect the solid form of a substance to be more dense than its liquid form. However, due to its pressure-temperature diagram, the solid crystalline form of water is actually less dense than its liquid phase. If this were not the case, polar ice caps would sink--not float--and would freeze the earth's oceans from the bottom up17. Astrophysicist John Barrow and Mathematician Frank Tipler explain that this property of water is highly uncommon:
More than Just a First Cause
The Greeks attributed the origin of the universe to a "Prime Mover", or "First Cause" who set things in motion. "Rational thinkers" of the enlightenment took this idea further and found it popular for them to believe in a watchmaker God, who "wound up" the universe and left it to run on its own. This deistic view of the world saw God as an absentee father, who got things going, and then went on about his more important business. Big Bang theory says that the universe exploded, and over billions of years it cooled, and matter condensed forming galaxies, nubulae, stars, and solar systems. Our solar system is thought to be a "third-generation" solar system, which contains the left over parts of two previous star systems which "went nova." The formation of the solar system, and the earth, allegedly occurred long after the beginning of the universe. Thus, while God could have initially set physical properties of the universe and then gone fishing, the presence of similar "anthropic principles" for the solar system, the moon, and the earth itself indicate that the Designer was involved long after the beginning of the universe and had something to do with life on earth. Put in simple theological terms, one might say, God cares about life on earth.
First of all, the very position of the solar system in our galaxy is unique among stars, and allows for the existence of life. Astronomers Hugh Ross and Guillermo Gonzalez explain:
Earth's single large satellite, the Moon, is unique among the planets and greatly affects the geography of the earth. Hoffman again notes that, "it has become clear that our Moon is a rare celestial object and that few Earth-like planets could have produced such a chance outcome during their assembly"26 and argues that without the moon, the earth most likely would have little to no exposure of continents24. Similarly, Ross and Gonzalez note that the moon is vital for earth's continental geography:
Winning the Cosmic Lottery
In light of this evidence for fine tuning, what are our options? So potent is the argument for design that one commentator stated that, “[t]his fine-tuning has two possible explanations. Either the Universe was designed specifically for us by a creator or there is a multitude of universes- a `multiverse'”32 This common objection to these arguments basically goes like this:
However, the anthropic argument for design has something else much more powerful going for it. According to intelligent design theory, the ways that intelligent agents act can be observed in the natural world and described. When intelligent agents act, it is observed that they produce high levels of "complex-specified information" (CSI). CSI is basically a scenario which is unlikely to happen (making it complex), and conforms to a pattern (making it specified). Language and machines are good examples of things with much CSI. From our understanding of the world, high levels of CSI are always the product of intelligent design. It may very well be that, through the fine-tuning of its laws, the universe contains this same CSI that we tend to find produced through intelligent design. The laws and properties of the universe are extremely complex, yet they are highly specified to match the very properties needed for life. Thus, we have a positive argument in favor of intelligent design of the universe. In essence, the universe has the same type of information we tend to find in intelligently designed machines. This strongly points to design.
The Meaning of it all
In contrast with strict intelligent design theory, Anthropic Principles reveal more about the Designer than simply the notion that it was, "intelligent." Anthropic Principles show that a Power outside of space and time (not extra-terrestrials) has had something do with life on earth. Anthropic Principles imply that there are Forces capable of providing all the energy for the universe, changing physical laws, manipulating a galaxy, precisely ordering a solar system, and controlling the geological history of Earth. The fact that anthropic principles are deduced all the way from the beginning of the universe to the last earthquake we had show that this Being must have had us in mind from the beginning, and that it is a single Power which did all this. To put it bluntly, the design of the universe imply there is a Creator God. The feelings provoked by these evidences is well typified by Professor of Astronomy George Greenstein:
1. Information Theory and Molecular Biology. Hubert P. Yockey, 1992, Cambridge University Press.
2. Davies, Paul C.W. [Physicist and Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Adelaide], "The Christian perspective of a scientist," Review of "The way the world is," by John Polkinghorne, New Scientist, Vol. 98, No. 1354, pp.638-639, 2 June 1983, p.638
3. New Astronomical Proofs for the Existence of God by astrophysicist Hugh Ross. Found at http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/newproofs.html
4. Douglas, A. Vihert, "Forty Minutes With Einstein," in Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, 50. (1956), p.100. -- Quoted as such in reference 3.
5. Barnett, Lincoln. The Universe and Dr. Einstein. (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1948), p.106. -- Quoted as such in reference 3.
6. Hawking, Stephen "The cosmological constant. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London A 310:303-310, 1983. -- Quoted as such in reference 1.
7. Astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington, Nature, 127 , p.450.
8. Gifford Lectures of 1927 where Sir Arthur Eddington said, "Scientists and theologians alike must regard as somewhat crude the naďve theological doctrine which (suitably disguised) is at present to be found in every textbook of thermodynamics, namely that some billions [in Eddington's time this meant 1012 years) of years ago God wound up the material universe and has left it to chance ever since. This should be regarded as the working-hypothesis of thermodynamics rather than its declaration of faith. It is one of those conclusions form which we can see no logical escape -- only it suffers from the drawback that it is incredible. As a scientist I simply do not believe that the present order of things started of with a bang; unscientifically I feel equally unwilling to accept the implied discontinuity in the divine nature. But I can make no suggestion to evade the deadlock." --quoted as such in reference 1.
9. Arthur Compton, 1927 Nobel Prize in Physics, (1936), Chicago Daily News.
10. Ecclesiasties 3:11: "He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
11. Psalm 93:2: "Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity."; Proverbs 8:23: "I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began."
12. John 1:3: "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."
13. Revelation 21:6 and Revelation 22:13: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End".
14. Davies, Paul, "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Science", in John Marks Templeton, Evidence of Purpose (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1996), p. 46.
15. Ross, Hugh, Beyond the Cosmos (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress Publishing Group, 1996), pg. 32
16. Hoyle F., 'The Universe: Some Past and Present Reflections," University of Cardiff, 1982, p16, in Davies P.C.W., "The Accidental Universe," , Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1983, reprint, p.118. Hoyle also said in this quote, "there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."
17. Ross, Hugh, "The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God," , NavPress: Colorado Springs CO, 1994, Third Printing, pp.112-113
18. Barrow J.D. & Tipler F.J., "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle," 1996, reprint.
19. John Polkinghorne, "A Potent Universe," in Templeton, pg. 111.
20. John Leslie, Universes (London: Rougledge, 1989), pg. 40, 64-65, 22
21. Comins N.E., "What If the Moon Didn't Exist?: Voyages to Earths That Might Have Been," HarperCollins: New York NY, 1993, p.48
22. Home Alone in the Universe by Guillermo Gonzalez and Hugh Ross, found at http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0005/opinion/gonzalez.html from First Things.
23. The Incredible Design of the Earth and Our Solar System by Richard Deem -- referenced to: Mishurov, Y.N. and L. A. Zenina. 1999. Yes, the Sun is Located Near the Corotation Circle. Astronomy & Astrophysics 341: 81-85.
24. Venus - What the Earth would have been like by Nick Hoffman (Senior Research Scientist at La Trobe University, Melbourne Australia), as found at http://www.spacedaily.com/news/life-01x2.html on the Space Daily website.
25. Greenstein, George [Professor of Astronomy, Amherst College, USA]., "The Symbiotic Universe: Life and Mind in the Cosmos", William Morrow & Co: New York NY, 1988, pp.25-26)
26. The Moon And Plate Tectonics: Why We Are Alone by Nick Hoffman (Senior Research Scientist at La Trobe University, Melbourne Australia), as found at http://www.spacedaily.com/news/life-01x1.html on the Space Daily website.
27. Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee such as referenced in reference 23.
28. Gribbon, John "Oscillating Universe Bounces Back," Nature, 259 pp 15-16, 1976, as seen in "The Fingerprint of God" by Hugh Ross, 2nd edition, pp.97-98, Promise Publishing Co., Orange, CA, 1991.
29. Reference 17, revised edition (1995), p 66.
30. Ball, Phillip "New Model of Expanding Universe" Nature, Feb. 2, 2001, writing on Parker, L. & Raval, A. "A new look at the accelerating universe." Physical Review Letters 86, 749 - 752 (2001), as seen at "http://www.nature.com/nsu/010208/010208-2.html"sited 1/19/03.
31. Guth, Alan H., Sher, Marc, "The Impossibility of a Bouncing Universe," Nature, 302 (1983), pp. 505-507; Bludman, Sidney A., "Thermodynamics and the End of a Closed Universe," Nature, 308 (1984), pp. 319-322 as seen in reference 29.
32. Chown, Marcus, "Anything Goes," New Scientist, 6 June 1998, Vol. 158, No. 2137, p.28
33. Physicist Paul Davies, The Guardian, January 23, 2003.