Laws of Physics, Jim

on January 22, 2011
Featured in News to Know

The laws of physics are fine-tuned for life, exactly what we would expect if the universe were intelligently designed. So what’s the latest atheistic rebuttal?

The “anthropic argument” or principle for God’s existence is based on the eerily perfect values taken on by certain constants in the world of physics. Were these constants to differ slightly in either direction, the universe—and life—as we know it wouldn’t exist. Thus, many take this as evidence that our universe was intelligently designed to support life.

To noncreationists, this fact is at once both unsurprising and puzzling. On the one hand, were the values any different, we wouldn’t be around to notice; so it’s no shock that, if we’re around to notice, the values have to be “just right.” On the other hand, those who believe the universe was an accident are still left wondering why we’re around to notice in the first place.

To date, the most widely adopted atheistic solution to the problem was to posit that our universe exists in a multiverse: a family of nearly infinite universes, each with different values for those fundamental constants. Voilà: no wonder there’s a universe with the conditions right for life. Two problems plague this explanation, however. First, there’s only scant scientific evidence compatible with multiple universes. Second, this explanation leaves open the question of how we ended up in the “right” universe—seemingly another infinitesimal chance.

Now, University of Alberta physicist Don Page has offered a new attack against the argument that physical constants prove intelligent design. Unlike previous attacks, however, Page focuses on the claim that the physical constants—and in particular, something known as the cosmological constant—are ideal for life.

According to Page, previous research has confirmed that if the cosmological constant were any larger, life couldn’t exist. But what if the cosmological constant were smaller? Page argues that were the cosmological constant slightly negative (rather than slightly positive), galaxies would be more likely to form, thereby providing more places for life to evolve. Ergo, a truly intelligent designer would have made the cosmological constant slightly negative, and the cosmological constant’s slightly positive value disproves the intelligent design hypothesis.

Game over? Far from it, of course, for several reasons. First, the question remains of how the cosmological constant, even if not “perfect” is within the tiny interval that would allow for life. Second (and related), Page imputes motivations to God; that is, he presumes to know all of the factors God would have considered in creating the universe, and therefore presumes to know what God would have considered an “ideal” value. Of course, God may have had other reasons for leaving the cosmological constant slightly higher. Third, Page does not address other physical constants that are also believed to be just right for life, and hence pointing to intelligent design.

If God created life on earth directly, and if humans are near the center of God’s creative goals, then the cosmological constant need not have taken on a particular value to somehow ensure life would appear on its own.

More potent rebuttals to Page are exclusive to biblical creationists. Fourth, we often point out that what looks to evolutionists like bad design (allegedly disproving intelligent design) may have been a consequence of the Fall. Thus, starting with Scripture, we know that the universe is not perfect as it once was. Fifth and finally, Page’s premise is that an intelligent designer would have set the cosmological constant to maximize the chance of life evolving. Yet if God created life on earth directly, and if humans are near the center of God’s creative goals, then the cosmological constant need not have taken on a particular value to somehow ensure life would appear on its own (as if it could!).

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