What is the fine-tuning argument for God’s existence, and does the multiverse counter it?

Christianity and the progress of science
Christianity and the progress of science

One of the best arguments for the existence of a Creator and Designer of the universe is the cosmic fine-tuning argument. The argument argues that individual constants and quantities in nature cannot be much smaller or larger than they are, because it would remove the ability of the universe to support life of any kind. Dr. Michael Strauss, an experimental physicist, explains some examples of the fine-tuning in a recent post on his blog.

He writes:

I liken the finely-tuned universe to a panel that controls the parameters of the universe with about 100 knobs that can be set to certain values. If you turn any knob just a little to the right or to the left the result is either a universe that is inhospitable to life or no universe at all.

Consider the knob that controls the strength of the strong nuclear force that holds quarks inside the neutrons and protons and binds the nucleus of the atom together. If the strength were increased by 2%, the element hydrogen would be either non-existent or very rare. Without hydrogen there would be no water (H2O) or stars that burn hydrogen as their nuclear fuel like our sun.  Without hydrogen there would be no life. If the strength of the strong nuclear force were decreased by about 5%, then hydrogen would be the only element in the universe. That would simplify the periodic table and make Chemistry class very easy, but it would render life impossible.

All known life in this universe is based on the element carbon, which is formed in the final stages of a star’s life. The carbon you and I are made of is the result of the nuclear processes that occurred as previous stars ended their lives. One nice recent study showed that if the mass of the quarks that make up neutrons and protons were changed by just a few percent, then the process that makes carbon as stars die would be altered in such a way that there would not be sufficient carbon in the universe for life. The masses of the lightest sub-atomic quarks are the precise value that is required for carbon to form and for life to exist.

Regarding the multiverse, let me just quote from MIT physicist Alan Lightman, writing in Harper’s magazine about the multiverse:

The… conjecture that there are many other worlds… [T]here is no way they can prove this conjecture. That same uncertainty disturbs many physicists who are adjusting to the idea of the multiverse. Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove.

Sound familiar? Theologians are accustomed to taking some beliefs on faith. Scientists are not. All we can do is hope that the same theories that predict the multiverse also produce many other predictions that we can test here in our own universe. But the other universes themselves will almost certainly remain a conjecture.

The multiverse is not pure nonsense, it is theoretically possible.But even if there were a multiverse, the generator that makes the universes itself would require fine-tuning, so the multiverse doesn’t get rid of the problem. And, as Lightman indicates, we have no independent experimental evidence for the existence of the multiverse in any case. Atheists just have to take it on faith, and hope that their speculations will be proved right. Meanwhile, the fine-tuning is just as easily explained by postulating God, and we have independent evidence for God’s existence, like the the origin of biological information, the sudden appearance of animal body plans, the argument from consciousness, and so on. Even if the naturalists could explain the fine-tuning, they would still have a lot of explaining to do. Theism (intelligent causation) is the simplest explanation for all of the things we learn from the progress of science.

It’s very important to understand that if these values were any different, then it’s not like we would bridges on our foreheads, or have green skin, or have pointy ears, etc. That’s what science fiction teaches you. And many atheists form their view of science by watching science fiction entertainment. But the truth is that the consequences of changing these values are much more consequential: no stars, no planets, no hydrogen, no heavy elements, the universe re-collapses into a hot fireball. You’re not going to have complex, embodied intelligent agents running around making moral decisions and relating to God in a world like that.

Questions like the existence of God should be decided by feelings and faith and superstitious nonsense. They ought to be decided by evidence. Specifically, scientific evidence. Everyone has to account for this scientific evidence for fine-tuning within their worldview, and they have to account for it in a way that is responsible and rational. Punting to the multiverse, without any evidence for it, is neither rational nor responsible. Holding out hope that the evidence we have now will all go away is neither rational nor responsible.

8 thoughts on “What is the fine-tuning argument for God’s existence, and does the multiverse counter it?”

  1. From my standpoint as a Social Anthropologist, the multiverse “theory” is primarily ideological, an origins myth. Real science is supposed to be about OSBERVATION. You know stuff like gravity, chemical reactions and immune responses? So how many “alternative universes” have we actually OBSERVED?? In my view, the prime motivation for multiverse “theory” is ideological, that is providing an escape hatch to avoid the consequences of the empirical evidence for the fine tuning of the solar system and universe. Thus, as regards empirical science, which has to do with OBSERVATION, multiverse “theory” is on par with medieval theologians discussing how many angels could dance on a pin-head…


  2. Gee, using said example, how in the world would such fine-tuning take place? Almost as if someone carefully and intentionally planned out and created all that fine-tuning rather than it happening with a big bang. Weird, eh?


    1. No you don’t understand. The fine tuning argument is tied closely to the Big bang theory, because some of the quantities and constants are set up with that theory. It’s not compatible with young Earth creationism, though. The fine tuning argument is an old universe, old earth argument.


      1. Really, because it seems like that wouldn’t work. I mean, if we are talking about something so finitely tuned that minor deviation would mean certain things don’t exist in our universe I don’t see how someone could possibly think that these “tunings” came to be randomly. I mean, maybe one, but the millions upon billions needed to comprise our universe doesn’t make sense. Ill have to read up on it, because being tied to BBT seems very backwards.


        1. You should not get your understanding of science from young Earth sources, they don’t know what they are talking about. The Big Bang is a creation event that was fine tuned to an incredible degree to permit life. That is the reason why so many atheists fought so hard against it, until evidence piled up enough to make it undeniable. For example, the amount of matter that was created at the Big Bang event is fine tuned to 1 part in 10 to the 55.


          Although it’s fashionable in young Earth circles to imagine that the big bang theory is an atheist c theory, it is actually the theory that ends atheism, since it requires that all matter, energy and time itself begin from nothing. And that the constants and quantities present in the big bang are finely tuned to allow complex embodied life to survive.


  3. I believe some kind of multiverse may exist. Not with a necessary amount of infinite universes.

    I consider the realm God has always existed in must be real. Are the angels part of that or a different one. Those are all left unanswered by the Bible since it tends to focus on the parts that are relevant to humans and skipping over much of the prehuman history.

    God is eternal, our universe isn’t, and we have no idea if God made any other worlds and creations beyond earth


  4. As others observed, the Multiverse is pure conjecture. Not even an hypothesis because there is no way to make observations or experiments about it. It’s actually a religion in its own right. But let’s say for arguments sake that the multiverse was real. That still doesn’t help because now you have to explain the origins of the multiverse. “It just happened” doesn’t really cut it scientifically.


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