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No coincidence

Secularists rail at the evidence for a designer

Wikimedia.org, Luc Viatour total-solar-eclipse
A total solar eclipse


Published: 10 March 2016 (GMT+10)
First appeared in a CMI (UK/Europe) Prayer News, July 2015.

Many in the United Kingdom will have watched the partial solar eclipse visible throughout the country on 20th March 2015. Sixteen years previously, in August 1999, I was in northern France where I was able to enjoy, for over a minute, a total solar eclipse. Around twenty minutes before totality, the clouds cleared and we were treated to the full works: views of the sun’s corona (its luminous ‘crown’), Baily’s beads (‘pearls of sunlight’ seeping through valleys on the moon’s surface) and the beautiful red ‘prominences’ (eruptions of gas emanating from the sun’s surface). All this was possible, of course, because the moon is just the right size and at just the right distance from the earth, resulting in it just, and only just, covering the sun. Commenting on this, physics Professor Brian Cox1 remarked on behalf of the BBC, “There’s that coincidence so the moon happens to be 400 times smaller in diameter than the sun, but it also happens to be 400 times closer to the earth. Absolute coincidence … ” (emphasis his).2 One might ask, however, what ‘science’ he has to support this statement.

Too many ‘coincidences’

Unfortunately for Professor Cox and his atheistic worldview, there appear to be many other such ‘coincidences’. Earth’s position in the solar system, for example, ensures that our planet never gets too hot or too cold, enabling water to exist in liquid form. If our orbit took us just a bit closer to the sun, all water would evaporate; if just a bit further away, it would all freeze. In both cases life could not exist. Our atmosphere is just right too, being made up mainly of nitrogen and oxygen, with small amounts of argon, carbon dioxide and other trace gases. This ensures a temperate climate, the combination of gases needed for complex life and a transparent sky that enables us to observe the rest of the universe. Earth is part of a planetary system that protects us from comet impacts; it has a suitable magnetic field that shields us from harmful solar radiation; it is ideally placed in the galaxy for astronomical research; and there’s much more. This ‘fine-tuning’ for life is also seen at the atomic level. For example, if the ratio of the electron mass to the proton mass wasn’t just right, molecules essential for life such as DNA couldn’t form; unless carbon and oxygen nuclei had just the right energy levels we could not exist. As admitted by another (non-Christian) Professor of physics, Paul Davies, “The impression of design is overwhelming.”3

The reaction of secularists to all this is as revealing as it is shocking. When Dr Guillermo Gonzalez produced the documentary film, The Privileged Planet,4 in which he argued that coincidence was an inadequate explanation for so many observations pointing to design, there was uproar.5 The Smithsonian Institute in the United States had initially agreed to provide a private screening, but then attempted to cancel it following widespread protests. Atheist groups organised campaigns, encouraging people to send e-mails, write letters and make phone calls opposing its showing. An e-mail was sent to the entire department of anthropology at George Washington University warning everyone not to watch it. Money was even offered to the Smithsonian if they agreed not to show it. Dr Gonzalez himself received much criticism, leading to his promising career at Iowa State University coming to an abrupt end and his being denied tenure—a situation which can have grave implications for a person’s future in academia.

The real battle

In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul warned about those who “suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18). There is abundant, overwhelming evidence pointing to a supernatural act of creation and there being a creator God; many, however, simply refuse to believe it. Worse still, some appear determined to prevent others considering the evidence. The British Humanist Association, for example, has been very successful in persuading the Government to impose censorship in respect of what information can be presented to youngsters in schools. Teachers in state-funded schools must now be very careful not to be seen to be suggesting that belief in ‘intelligent design’ might be evidence based—even in Religious Education classes.6 Such draconian measures, however, do not protect science as they actually discourage critical thinking, a skill which plays a vital role in good science. Rather, such censorship reflects what the founder of the modern creationist movement, Henry Morris, described as “the long war against God”.

At CMI we realise that we are involved primarily in a spiritual rather than intellectual battle. We know that “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8). Only when God works in the hearts of people through His Holy Spirit will minds be changed. For this reason we are acutely conscious of our need of the prayers of our supporters—and for which we are very grateful.

References and notes

  1. Cox is a particle physicist at Manchester University, UK, and a BBC presenter. Return to text
  2. Stargazing Live, BBC 1, 20 March 2015. Return to text
  3. Davies, P., The Cosmic Blueprint, Simon and Schuster, p. 203, 1988. Return to text
  4. While not produced by biblical creationists, much of the content is supportive of a biblical, ‘young-earth’ framework. Return to text
  5. Bergman, J., Slaughter of the Dissidents, vol. 1, Leafcutter Press, ch. 13, 2008. Available from creation.com store. Return to text
  6. Statham, D.R., Evidence for Creation now banned from UK religious education classes; creation.com/creation-religious-education. Return to text

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Mike S.
Thank you, Dominic, and all the brothers and sisters at CMI. Truly you constantly stock the armoury of witnessing Christians. We realise it is only by the working of the Holy Spirit that unbelievers can 'see' the truth, but it is so helpful to have the science correctly interpreted as you do for us. When engaging people with the gospel we find the creation account vital as the basis for all further discussion. You know this already, but for those of us perhaps less educated but nonetheless dedicated gospel proclaimers, we would not have the effective arguments without all your hard work.

What bothers me most in all this is the thought of the reckoning that the militant atheists have in store. Every day, it seems, their arguments are exposed for the folly they are, yet they vehemently continue in their opposition to the truth. And the influence they exert is immense. I truly tremble to think of their state of mind when they stand before our Lord on that great day. The penalty for causing little ones to stumble comes to mind. So we continue in prayer for you and the ministry. A truly God honouring work you do, helping us to be ready to give reasons for the hope we hold. Thanks yet again.
Robert W.
Wake up atheist. God built all these coincidences in for the absolute proving points that He Is! He didn't HAVE to make it so complicated. (And it wasn't for Him). But for our benefit He proved in every detail how awesome He truly is. Why, the greatest coincidence of all is that He gave us the ability and tallent to break everything down, to analyze and to marvel, seeing His majesty in everything made and in all the ways each relates to the other.
Do not be afraid of The God who loves and cares for you. Rather embrace Him. Believe! And then He will really show you some stuff.
Michael S.
Jack said: "It's no coincidence that there's life on Earth, rather than on Venus or Mars because, as you say Venus and Mars are not in orbits suitable for life."

The fallacy with this type of reasoning is that you are conflating the habitable zone with the cause of the inhabitants. "If it is habitable, therefore we should expect inhabitants". But for all you know there are a billion, billion habitable places in the universe, without inhabitants. Therefore habitable zones do not cause inhabitants. If we built roads on Mars are you saying we would expect to see traffic on those roads because roads are good for vehicles? No, because you would still need to design the vehicles.

Earth might be habitable for life but we can't just assume that this is the cause of life, that is what you have to prove. The cause of designed things, is an intelligent designer. So I think this type of rhetorical argument is begging-the-question as it ASSUMES that a habitable zone CAUSES inhabitants to show up.
Errol B.
Regarding Jack M’s comments, consider what Professor George F. R. Ellis has to say about the multiverse. Ellis accepts a multiverse idea, nevertheless he is a hostile witness against multiverse models. No stranger to cosmological models, Ellis has co-authored with Stephen Hawking, including ‘The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time’.

I recently read an article in Scientific American, special edition ‘Physics at the Limits’ (Winter 2015) titled ‘Does the Multiverse Really Exist?’
One thing I learnt from this article is that there are 2 levels (types) of multiverses proposed. The 1st, according to Ellis, is the most widely accepted by cosmologists including Ellis & Max Tegmark. It proposes ‘each [universe] has a different initial distribution of matter, but the same laws of physics operate in all’. Level 2 model proposes ‘completely different kinds of universes, with different physics, different histories, maybe different numbers of special dimensions…’

Each model solves one problem but creates another, Ellis’s refreshingly honest admissions are hard to miss, unless you really want Star Trek & Dr Who to be true. Scientific American summarises Ellis:

‘The notion of parallel universes leapt out of the pages of fiction into scientific journals in the 1990’s…’

‘The trouble is that no possible astronomical observation can ever see those other universes. The arguments are indirect at best. And even if the multiverse exists, it leaves the deep mysteries of nature unexplained.’

Philosophy is certainly NOT dead.
John M.
I think it's amazing how compartmentalized some materialist's views are when regarding life. This isn't just about how even if every particle did nothing but react since the beginning of time we couldn't get the right material for life, or a universe full of blind people solving a rubik's cube simultaneously not getting what we need. Those are just odds for specific event occurring. A materialist has to accept that the probabilities for everything involved in their view of what allowed for first life coming about correctly are acceptable, from the microscopically scaled particle and energy properties to the cosmically scaled properties of the earth forming in right place with all of it's properties and the supporting cast of its solar system. All of these events aren't links in a chain that necessarily lead from one to another. For a materialist, having a proper electron/proton mass ratio only means that it contributes to the possibility of life, and not that life was guaranteed to happen. The number of items required to link up in the proper order for life to even be possible is probably almost as mind boggling of a number as the odds they had to be generated in their proper state to begin with.
Joe F.
Coincidence? No, thanks. Coincidence is one of the gods of this world, and of the religion of scientism. I refuse to worship it. There are no coincidences in God's creation, just the willfully blind who bow to that god.
I. F.
You should read Big Bang, Big God: A Universe Designed for Life? Written by Reverend Rodney Holder, who was also the course director at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, great book, with some genuine insights into the overlaps between science and theology, without being hung up on any ideology, including literal interpretations of the bible, which is not helpful, because the bible is not a science book. I know you will disagree about that, but if you choose to limit your horizons and cripple your intellect, and deny that which is of God, then that is your problem. Another superb source of understanding is Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, it was truly a soaring spiritual experience, each episode.
Dominic Statham
You are correct that the Bible is not a science book; however, it is a history book. Just because a narrative doesn't provide scientific explanations doesn't mean that it is inaccurate.

'Big bang' theory not only contradicts the Bible (for example denying that God made the earth before the stars), but also has many serious scientific problems as many articles on creation.com make clear. For example, see 'Secular scientists blast the big bang'.
Michael S.
If we ever needed proof that the anti-God lobby is actually pro-satan, this is it.
I thank my heavenly Father for the valuable work of CMI and similar organisations as they help to bring light into a spiritually dark world.
Thank you, Dominic, for your part in this.
Peter H.
Thank you. Very good.
Jack M.
While you may not agree with the point Cox is making, you should at least try to understand it (though he himself makes little attempt at explanation).

It's down to the Anthropic Principle.

It's no coincidence that there's life on Earth, rather than on Venus or Mars because, as you say Venus and Mars are not in orbits suitable for life. It is no coincidence that there is life in this solar system rather than another solar system because, as you say, that other solar system is not suitable for life.

It's no coincidence that the masses of the proton and the electron are suitable for a universe that supports life because otherwise we wouldn't be here to make the observation that the universe was incapable of supporting life.

When Cox says the moon's position is an ABSOLUTE coincidence it is because no such known mechanism applies. The moon's exact matching of the sun's apparent size offers no (known) advantage to the existence of life on Earth. Therefore it can only be coincidence.
Dominic Statham
I would respond that your application of the ‘anthropic principle’ amounts to no more than a truism rather than an explanation. Of course we wouldn’t be here if the universe wasn’t finely tuned for life. However, this hardly explains why the universe is fine tuned or how this came about.

Oxford mathematician and philosopher of science, Professor John Lennox makes this point in his book, God’s Undertaker. He refers to Canadian philosopher, Professor John Leslie, who argues that using the anthropic principle in the way you do makes no sense because it

“sounds like arguing that if you faced a firing squad with fifty guns trained on you, you should not be surprised to find that you were alive after they had fired. After all, that is the only outcome you could possibly have observed – if one bullet had hit you, you would be dead. However, you might still feel that there is something which very much needs explanation: namely why did they all miss? Was it by deliberate design? For there is no inconsistency in not being surprised that you do not observe that you are dead, and being surprised to observe that you are still alive.”

The view that the fine tuning of the universe does not require an explanation is clearly not shared by cosmologists generally—or by Professor Cox. For example, along with some others, he advocates the ‘multiverse theory’, arguing that, if there are an enormous number of universes (perhaps an infinite number) it’s all bound to have come out ‘right’ in at least one of them. However, if there was no need for an explanation, they wouldn’t be putting one forward. Needless to say, such an argument is unscientific because we don’t (and can’t) observe other universes. In fact, in reaching outside of science in this way they are making a tacit admission that, when tested against known science, atheism cannot provide an answer.

Also, given that the “moon's exact matching of the sun's apparent size offers no (known) advantage to the existence of life on Earth”, how do you propose to explain this? Simply asserting, “It can only be a coincidence” is, again, hardly an explanation. Rather this kind of thinking is no more than a conclusion drawn from a naturalistic worldivew which is held by faith—and it is a blind faith too, because it’s maintained, not because of the evidence, but despite it.
Matthew P.
Great article. When I was reading that the earth is just the right distance it reminded me of missions I have heard of that go to Mars. It's not possible to live on Mars is it? Do you have articles that explain supposed life on Mars. thanks again.
Philip Bell
You'll find the search engine very useful. Here's just one article: Mission to Mars.
Joseph M.
The book of Revelation suggests that even when they die as unbeliever's and are resurrected to be judged they will still reject God. So even the 100% proof of reality of God they will reject.

I thank God, that He has opened my eyes and heart to repentance and the path He has offered me through Jesus Christ His Son to the truth of His being.
Philip B.
You guys are a massive encouragement and a huge source of factual and credible information for people like me who meet colleagues and friends every day on the front-line and who so very often will not even consider another possible answer to their 'life' questions other than evolution. Thank you for all you do, for your research, passion and commitment to telling the truth. I know that in the end we win but it's great to have your resources and support along the way. I am equipped to stand my ground so much more effectively with CMI resources . Thank you.
Hans G.
My wife and I we don't watch this Cox programs. Whether he is a professor or not, it is what comes out of his mouth counts. And when other people mention 'has evolved' or 'millions of years', our chest tightens up and the mind is full on at rejection to further listening.
Mr Cox are we at the peak of a highly evolved coincident?

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