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KeithWilson's avatar

Is a fine-tuned universe evidence of intelligent design and therefore proof of Gods existence?

Asked by KeithWilson (833 points ) May 3rd, 2010

There are a number of biological reasons to believe in intelligent design, but most can be explained in one way or the other. The most amazing arguement for intelligent design is the fine-tuned structure of the universe and its components and laws that suggest that these things happening by mere chance has infinitely low odds and therefore implies an intelligent designer. What are your opinions?

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65 Answers

Trillian's avatar

Not according to Stephen Hawking. It is a result if imperfections and randomness.

plethora's avatar

God’s existence can be neither proven nor disproven, but it is evidence of intelligent design. Along with other evidence, I find to be rather convincing.

marinelife's avatar

Some people see it as such.

gasman's avatar

The anthropic principle applies: The very fact that we humans exist to wonder about the universe’s design puts constraints on the physical constants. In a general universe operating with different physical constants, the question presumably never comes up in the first place.

Physical constants (including particle masses) might yet turn out to be constrained by a more fundamental future theory at a smaller scale, such as string theories.

In any case, a creator would have to be more complex than humans, which only begs the question of how the creator was created. Ockham’s razor cuts through to suggest that the simplest explanation more or less agrees with the Standard Model of cosmology.

Miracles not required.

Rarebear's avatar

Wow, I get to post this twice in one day!
http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4065

Rarebear's avatar

Oh, and the answer to your question is quite clearly and soundly “no.”

slick44's avatar

@KeithWilson… I think so. I am affraid you may have opened a can of worms here that you will soon wish you hadn’t. Religious ques. will take a beating. lol

RocketSquid's avatar

I’ve always thought that the creationist and intelligent design model was a bit backwards in stating that the universe is perfect for life. Shouldn’t it be the other way around with life being adapted the universe? I’d imagine if there were different rules life would adapt to that instead.

arpinum's avatar

You state there is a low chance for things to come together to form life, but forget that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the observable universe. multiply probability by observations, and you should expect one of them to sustain life.

Image this scenario: You see a car with a license plate Nevada 56k3d, and think “wow, of all the license plates what are the chances of seeing 56k3d, God must have meant me to see it.” Yes, the chance of seeing that plate is extremely small, but it is the same for any plate you would see. You observe a planet which sustains life, and while it is unique, it is probabilistically expected.

wenn's avatar

Earth occupies no special place in the universe, just like everything else.

And I don’t consider the universe to be finely tuned. It is infinitely vast, ever expanding and ever changing and evolving. Galaxies will collide and rip apart, stars will explode and destroy anything close enough, and will continue to change and expand and explode for a length of time probably incomprehensible to our minds and we don’t know what will happen in the future to the universe.

LuckyGuy's avatar

No.
And it should be ” ‘s” unless you are talking polytheism. Either way the answer is still “No”.

Silence04's avatar

No, the universe is in no way “fine tuned.”

Qingu's avatar

Fine tuned for what?

We’re arguably this god’s most prized creation and we can just barely scrape by on a thin layer of the “biosphere” on a tiny rock orbiting a random star.

Whatever it’s fine-tuned for, it’s certainly not for human life.

lilikoi's avatar

Perhaps infinitely low odds from your human perspective and time scale that maxes out at around 100 years, which is but a blip compared to the time scale of the planet and the universe. In billions of years, the odds of the right stuff coming together to form life is not unreasonable. You should read Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene.

KeithWilson's avatar

Its not really about the evolution of a perfect habitat and the amount of time it takes to reach that sort of homeostasis, but rather the intitial conditions that allowed for the evolution itself to occur that seems fantastic.

Coloma's avatar

I have always liked the mantra of ’ it is not SEE it and you will believe it’
it is…

’ BELIEVE it and you WILL see it!’

I am not fundementally religious, but..I have had some amazing and unexplainable events during some major awakenings over the years.

I truly think that it is all about receptivity…when one is fully open, surrendered to the magic, it appears undeniably.

We are conduits to universal truth.

Therefore, one who is in a state of resistance and muddied consciousness won’t experience the ‘truth’ of their being.

While these experiences are available to all, many will never tap into the mysteries without an open heart and mind, and hence, will not experience the power of universal law, the totality of the creative consciousness.

Rarebear's avatar

@Coloma You and I have had this debate before. I suggest you listen to this podcast—you probably won’t agree with it, but at least I’m trying!
http://www.forgoodreason.org/victor_stenger_the_search_for_cosmic_consciousness

ragingloli's avatar

Look at how very little of the universe is habitable, then come back and claim again that the universe is “fine tuned for life”. It is not.

Coloma's avatar

@Rarebear

I’m open…it’s all about openness..and hey dude…checking out the infinite varieties of Orions. ;-)

Rarebear's avatar

@Coloma Cool. By the way, this is a good time for a telescope. Skies are clear and Saturn is high in the sky.

plethora's avatar

mmmmm…..why do I get the feeling that the atheists are evangelizing on a thread like this? No offense, guys. Just the feeling I get.

Rarebear's avatar

@plethora You’re the only person on this thread to mention the word “atheist” or “atheism”. Well, now I guess I just did.

plethora's avatar

@Rarebear LOL….couldnt resist…:)

Rangie's avatar

I don’t believe that anything that is so much in harmony and balance, could possibly be an accidental happenstance.

Guy123123's avatar

But the thing is, the universe isnt in harmony and balance. The earth for example, is getting destroyed, i wouldnt call that harmony and balance

Rangie's avatar

@Guy123123 Please expand on that.

ragingloli's avatar

The problem is that the early universe was in no way harmonic nor balanced.
It was initially an immensely hot pocket of spacetime that then rapidly expanded, consisting of nearly equal amounts of matter and antimatter that then annihilated each other until only matter was left. From that cloud of gas, stars were born, producing heavier elements, then dying, some in massive explosions, some collapsing into destructive black holes. These deaths left behind dust clouds that again formed into stars and planets, which were plagued by constant asteroid bombardement, still incredibly hot, with molten surfaces. Even today, stars are born, planets form, and stars die in massive explosions.
The current state of subjective harmony and balance is the result of billions upon billions of years of turmoil.

plethora's avatar

@ragingloli I don’t pretend to be an expert on this, but TIME had an article on the Big Bang Theory a couple of years ago and it was pretty much at odds with your description. In a sentence, the big bang was exactly that, beginning in a single nanosecond and producing an expanding universe that has been expanding at increasing speed ever since. It did note that the earth is 14–17 billion years old.

Qingu's avatar

Harmonic and balanced compared to what?

That doesn’t even apply to Earth. Almost every species that has ever existed has gone extinct.

And Earth is the single place in the vast universe that we’ve seen so far that can even support life.

the100thmonkey's avatar

It would be extremely poor journalism for the writer to not check their cosmological facts., so I’m quite confident that the Time article did not say that the Earth is 14–17 billion years old. Best estimates of the age of the entire universe put it at around 13.7 billion years.

As far as balance and harmony go, those are human natural language concepts, derived from ancient Greek ontology and metaphysics. They are only really likely to confuse the issue and should be discarded in favour of more precise empirical or mathematical language.

Rangie's avatar

@Qingu and you think that is an accidental big bang? Without harmony and balance you wouldn’t be able to survive. This entire system is so much bigger than any of your brains can begin to fathom. Therefore it Is a fine-tuned universe evidence of intelligent design and therefore proof of Gods existence Can you really prove it isn’t? Really? Really?

Rarebear's avatar

@Rangie Can you prove that monkeys don’t fly out of my butt? Can you? Really? Really?

Rangie's avatar

@Rarebear I see you got my point.

plethora's avatar

@the100thmonkey Pardon…you are correct. The universe, not the earth. As for the rest of your comment, I’m still whipping thru my dictionary.

ragingloli's avatar

@Rangie
The universe is not finetuned to life. Life finetuned itself via evolution to survive in a universe that is by all measures hostile to life.
A puddle full of boiling acid is hostile to life, yet you can find microbial life in there. Not because the acid puddle is fine tuned to life, but because life adapted itself to survive in it.

Rangie's avatar

@the100thmonkey Okay wise old monkey you say As far as balance and harmony go, those are human natural language concepts, derived from ancient Greek ontology and metaphysics. They are only really likely to confuse the issue and should be discarded in favour of more precise empirical or mathematical language.
So give me your precise empirical or mathematical language.

Rarebear's avatar

@ragingloli The universe is trying to kill us in many ways.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0670019976

Rangie's avatar

@ragingloli If you believe in evolution, I would expect such an answer from you. However, I don’t believe in the theory of evolution. So what you say is totally backward from what I believe. If we didn’t have the right balance in nature, we could not survive.
And if what you say is true, then where were we surviving before we adapted ourselves to this environment?

jerv's avatar

“Highly improbable” =/= “Totally impossible”, therefore I don’t see it as proof.

Maybe I would if it were nto for the fact that I have seen to many strange things in my life.

ragingloli's avatar

@Rangie
“We” as we exist now, did simply not exist back then. Life developed gradually and slowly from simple self organising chemical constructs. There are several Hypotheses that are being considered. It is important to know that in the beginning, the environmental conditions were radically different from today. No complex organisms as we know them today could survive in these environments.
As these primitive organisms evolved, they not only became more adapted to the environment, they started to change the environment. Oxygen, on which almost all of today’s higher lifeforms depend on, was originally a waste product. This waste product opened up new territories and paths for evolution to take and for life to specialise on and adapt to.
Plants reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and increase the amount of O2 in return which enables other life form to thrive. Organisms in water, by simply living there, change the chemical makeup of the water, other organisms adapt to this changing environment.
When plants die, their remnants are decomposed by microorganisms, creating soil. By extracting nutrients from the soil, they change the chemical makeup of the soil.
Other organisms live in this soil, and by their metabolisms, they too change the soil.
The point is that the environment you live in, air, ground, water and their properties are not just things that are just there unchanged since the beginning that life simply adapted to. They were changed, shaped into what they are by billions of generations of billions of organisms.
If I plucked you from the timeline and reinserted you into the time of the primitve earth, you would be dead in a matter of seconds. The ground is lifeless, the water is by our standards a cesspool, undrinkeable, and the air is incredibly toxic.
And about “believing” in evolution. It is not about belief. It is about accepting that the theory of evolution is currently the only explanation that makes sense and fits the evidence and facts.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

No, it is not. The anthropic principle deals with this quite nicely. Many constants can be derived from underlying theories, so there is no reason why this cannot be so for other constants. I am confident that future theories will be able to show a derivation for these constants and why they are so.

Harold's avatar

It most definitely is. The odds of it evolving the way it is are so infinitessimal as to be impossible.

plethora's avatar

@ragingloli mmmm…...just curious. You start with “as these organisms evolved”. I’ve always wondered, how did the very first living organism come into being?

ragingloli's avatar

@plethora
If you cared to read what I wrote, you would have a nicely underlined, highlighted red hyperlink in my last post.
The answer is, we do not know yet, but there are several concurrent hypotheses on how it could have happened. In any case, the transition between a simple chemical system and actual life are fluid. At these stages it is impossible to tell whether something is alive or not alive. A sharp border like you want it to be simply does not exist.

Qingu's avatar

@plethora, we don’t know for sure, but we have some pretty good ideas. Basically, there are three broad stages to chemical evolution: (1) making simple organic compounds, (2) chaining these together to form the complex molecules, such as amino acids and nucleotides, and lipid membranes, and (3) replication.

1. Simple organic molecules came into existence on the early Earth via carbonaceous chondrite (meteorites), and/or underwater hydrothermal vents, or possibly lightning interacting with methane. We know this is likely because we can examine these things today.

2. Clays and other minerals can act like catalysts to create larger organic compounds. More interestingly, if you put lipids in water, they form little “bubbles” or “spheres” about the size of a cell. Spontaneously. These little bubbles even divide under certain conditions. All cells have lipid membranes.

3. The “RNA world” hypothesis is strongly favored nowadays. Basically, cells reproduce by DNA encoding proteins, but proteins are used to create DNA. So it seems like a chicken-and-egg. However, RNA can fulfill both roles. So most scientsts believe that the earliest cells (or proto-cells, or wahtever) were lipid bubbles with RNA that acted both like simple DNA and simple proteins.

None of these steps is remotely miraculous, or even unlikely. Like I said, we can observe some of these things today (such as lipids forming bubbles, the molecules created by hydrothermal vents, and the behavior or RNA).

the100thmonkey's avatar

@Rangie – I’m not proposing to tell anyone what is the right way to go about this. However, that does not mean that I can’t tell someone the wrong way to go about it.

That is one of the essential facets of an empirical approach – knowing what doesn’t work doesn’t mean that you know what does.

If I were to venture some alternatives, I’d suggest that we introduce terms like entropy, conservation of energy, complexity and chaos – those are more precise terms, I believe, although I shan’t pretend to understand the maths underpinning the concepts at this time.

Jabe73's avatar

Yes, i don’t think any of us would be discussing any of these topics because we are a freak of nature. There’s overwhelming evidence of an afterlife, how do hallucinations from a dying brain explain an OBE from a blind woman who never seen a thing in her whole life from birth describe the instruments used during her surgery accurately. I’m waiting for the dying brain hallucination skeptics to explain that one to me.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Jabe73 I know of no compelling evidence for an afterlife. Do you have a link for this example? There are a few potential reasons, but I cannot present a good explanation until I have read about the events from a reliable source.

wenn's avatar

@Jabe73 What? haha. There is no evidence of an afterlife. What could you possibly feel is compelling evidence?

ragingloli's avatar

how do hallucinations from a dying brain explain an OBE from a blind woman who never seen a thing in her whole life from birth describe the instruments used during her surgery accurately. I’m waiting for the dying brain hallucination skeptics to explain that one to me.

If Hell does not exist, how do you explain that Russians recorded screams from hell after they drilled a hole into the earth? Oh yeah, I remember now, that story was a hoax.

Aster's avatar

I never thought of it being fine tuned or even finely tuned. Just vast beyond comprehension.
I believe in a Supreme Being of some sort, yes. But I admit my reason may be self-serving. I like the comfort it brings during difficult times. Besides; I’ve had “experiences of visitation” and that makes it So much easier to believe in Something being “out there.” (and no; I’d rather not discuss them. I’ve been in that trap before and don’t wish to enter it again).

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Aster How is discussing your experiences a trap?

Aster's avatar

Its a major trap. People start in gently at first, inquiring as to what happened. Then gradually, the skeptics begin badgering me, asking lots of questions that I can’t answer. Most drop out but a couple will
keep hammering at me with questions and it just isn’t worth it. Some experiences are hard to explain, sound like lies and are not believed.
I have better things to do and questions to answer!

Jabe73's avatar

There is no physical evidence of the afterlife, god, etc. I am going by my own experiences when several people close to me died, i’m not going into details about that here, i guess in a sense there is no way to prove there is an intelligent creator, but at the same time there is no way to disprove it either.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Aster I’m one of those, because I cannot understand how someone can believe in something that they cannot explain well enough to satisfy me. If someone quizzed me about my beliefs, I would be able to give them pages and pages of reasoning and evidence, so I always find it quite surprising when someone believes in a concept but cannot justify that belief.

But you are entitled to choose which questions to answer, so thank you for contributing.

Rarebear's avatar

@Aster I’m one of those too. But I’ll take @FireMadeFlesh cue here.

Coloma's avatar

Some things just are unexplainable, which does not settle well with mankinds hardcore ego and the driving need to know.

What I see most behind those that have such a ‘need’ for ‘proof’ is fear.

I happily live with uncertainty and think it makes for an even more exciting mystery. ;-)

ETpro's avatar

I’ve just read a book by Dr. Hugh Ross, More that a Theory that makes the argument that the fine tuning of the universe, the Milky Way, our neck of the woods in a sparsely populated arm of our galaxy’s rather rare (as galaxies go) habitable zone and all the amazing features of our solar system, earth and moon make it so.

The book is disappointing on some of its science. Dr. Ross is a legitimate astrophysicists but has been more involved in theology and writing popular books than in science since 1977. But he presents a series of genuinely compelling arguments for fine tuning. He skirts the issue of whether the Earth is fine-tuned for us, or we are fine-tuned by the environment where we evolved. He also seems to steer clear of any possibility that highly organized, intelligent life might have evolved in very different circumstances than those here.

In the end, my impression is I still don’t know. Either the Universe is an incredible, unbelievable string of lucky rolls of the dice, rather like using a completely legitimate, non-loaded set of die and rolling snake eyes 1×10¹ººººº times in a row.—or it was designed by an equally incredible intelligence.

Where I fall completely out of lockstep with the old-earth intelligent design advocates is when they tell me that the intelligence is none other than the Abrahamic God of the Jewish and Christian Bible. I simply cannot conceive of a God with such awesome intelligence, omnipotence and perfection needing me to worship him, and being so obsessed with being worshiped with just the right words and incantations that He would condemn all who miss a prescribed word or phrase in that worship to eternal, unimaginable suffering.

All I can say for certain, given what I can observe of the Universe, is that whether by chance or design, I am in utter awe of what I behold.

ragingloli's avatar

@ETpro
99.999999999999999999999999999 percent of the universe will kill you instantly.
That is not fine tuned for life.
And then there is still M-Theory which predicts countless parallel universes, of which ours would just be one among trillions and more.

ETpro's avatar

@ragingloli Part of the fine tuning is the fact that a Universe with stars and galaxies even exists at all. Given what we’ve discovered about the laws and constants of physics, this alone is improbable enough to drive Douglas Adam’s infinite improbability drive engine. There are a mountain of physical constants such as C, and the Planck Constant, the Strong and Weak Nuclear Forces, The Electromagnetic Force and Gravity to name just a handful, any one of which being off of what it is by just a tiny fraction would have either resulted in a Universe which never coalesced into matter after the Big Bang, or one where everything collapsed under gravity into black holes.

One can view the fact that our neighborhood is ideally crafted for life in a Universe that is almost entirely inhospitable to it as proof of deliberate design or unbelievably great fortune. I don’t see any other alternatives.

ragingloli's avatar

One can view the fact that our neighborhood is idealy crafted for life in a nuiverse that is almost entirely inhospitable to it as proof of deliberate design or great fortune.
Great luck, yes. Deliberate design, certainly not. It is like saying that in a field full of trillion sided dice, you find one single die with the number you want on top, then saying this die was deliberately put there just for you.

ETpro's avatar

@ragingloli Actually, I find that a poor analogy. But to debate why would take a post far longer than what I am willing to write.

gasman's avatar

The apparent paradox of the fine-tuning of universal constants might be explained (other than by gigantic cosmic coincidence) if our observable universe is indeed just one of an infinitude of parallel universes budding off from a higher-dimensional fractal structure, each other universe with its own unique set of physical constants.

Then the anthropic principle is as easily explained on a cosmic scale for existence of neutral matter and chemistry, as it is on the local scale where the Earth & Sun are “just right” for liquid water and life. Mystery solved.

Questions of “origins” will always remain. Still, there is zero evidence for an intelligent designer.

ETpro's avatar

@gasman Agreed. If CERN can close in on the reality of parallel Universes and additional tightly coiled dimensions, things just got a whole lot weirder but in a strange way they make more sense.

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