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The universe is finely tuned for life

Jonathan Sarfati

1997, updated 2011

Strong evidence for a Designer comes from the fine-tuning of the universal constants and the solar system, e.g.

  • The electromagnetic coupling constant binds electrons to protons in atoms. If it was smaller, fewer electrons could be held. If it was larger, electrons would be held too tightly to bond with other atoms.
  • Ratio of electron to proton mass (1:1836). Again, if this was larger or smaller, molecules could not form.
  • Carbon and oxygen nuclei have finely tuned energy levels.
  • Electromagnetic and gravitational forces are finely tuned, so the right kind of star can be stable.
  • Our sun is the right colour. If it was redder or bluer, photosynthetic response would be weaker.
  • Our sun is also the right mass. If it was larger, its brightness would change too quickly and there would be too much high energy radiation. If it was smaller, the range of planetary distances able to support life would be too narrow; the right distance would be so close to the star that tidal forces would disrupt the planet’s rotational period. UV radiation would also be inadequate for photosynthesis.
  • The earth’s distance from the sun is crucial for a stable water cycle. Too far away, and most water would freeze; too close and most water would boil.
  • The earth’s gravity, axial tilt, rotation period, magnetic field, crust thickness, oxygen/nitrogen ratio, carbon dioxide, water vapour and ozone levels are just right.

Former atheist Sir Fred Hoyle states, ‘commonsense interpretation of the facts is that a super-intelligence has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces in nature.’

Objection 1: (Barrow & Tipler1) We should not be surprised that we do not observe features of the universe incompatible with our own existence, for if features were incompatible, we would not be here to notice it, so no explanation is needed.

However, as Craig pointed out, it does not follow that we should not be surprised that we do observe features compatible with our existence; we still need an explanation.2

If you were dragged before a trained firing squad, and they fired and missed:

  • it is true that you should not be surprised to observe that you are not dead, but
  • it is equally true that you should be surprised to observe that you are alive.

    If you were asked, ‘How did you survive?’, it would be inadequate to answer, ‘If I didn’t, I would not be here to answer you.’

    Objection 2: All states of affairs are highly improbable, therefore every individual state of affairs is a ‘miracle’.

    However, although all combinations on a combination lock are equally improbable to obtain randomly, a bank manager does not think that anyone could open the lock by chance. No-one would explain a Shakespearian sonnet by a chimp typing randomly, although any randomly typed letter sequence is equally improbable (‘I love you dearly’ surely requires more explanation than ‘asnhouyganpi;kvk klkjfl’). See also Cheating with chance

    Objection 3: There are infinitely many universes.

    But there is not the slightest evidence for them. In fact, no evidence is even possible, so proposal is unscientific. Better to believe in a supernatural designer, which has good analogical support. See also Stephen Hawking and multiverses.


    1. Barrow, John and Tipler, Frank, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Clarendon Press, 1986.
    2. William Lane Craig, Barrow and Tipler on the Anthropic Principle vs. Divine Design, 2005; Critical review of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, International Philosophical Ouarterly 27:437–47, 1987. Return to text.

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