The Fine-Tuning of the Universe

At the beginning of the 1900s, most scientists believed the universe had no beginning or end. But in 1929, Edwin Hubble turned cosmology on its head. He demonstrated that the universe was continually expanding. This led physicists and cosmologist to infer that the universe had a beginning, which they named the Big Bang.

Calculations suggest that this event took place some 14 billion years ago. A single point, which contained the mass and energy of the universe, exploded. Thus, this Big Bang formed the universe in which we live. 

Of course, many scientists resisted this conclusion because of its obvious metaphysical implications. John Lennox, the Oxford Mathematician writes,

Another well-known scientist who found the idea of a beginning repugnant is Sir John Maddox, a former editor of Nature. He pronounced the idea of a beginning ‘thoroughly unacceptable’, because it implied an ‘ultimate origin of our world’, and gave creationists ‘ample justification’ for their beliefs. It is rather ironical that in the sixteenth century some people resisted advances in science because they seemed to threaten belief in God; whereas in the twentieth century scientific ideas of a beginning have been resisted because they threatened to increase the plausibility of belief in God.[1]

But the overwhelming majority of scientists accept the Big Bang theory and the Fine Tuning of the Universe.

From this theory, scientists have identified dozens of physical constants whose values requires such precision that even the slightest change would create a world that couldn’t support life.[2] Here is a list of the significant constants that make the universe fine-tuned.

  1. strong nuclear force
  2. weak nuclear force
  3. gravitational force constant
  4. Electromagnetic force constant
  5. ratio of electromagnetic force constant to gravitational force constant
  6. ratio of electron to proton mass
  7. ratio of number of protons to electrons
  8. expansion rate of the universe
  9. entropy level of the universe
  10. mass density of the universe
  11. velocity of light
  12. age of the universe
  13. initial uniformity of radiation
  14. average distance between galaxies
  15. density of galaxy cluster
  16. average distance between stars
  17. fine structure constant
  18. decay rate of protons
  19. ground state energy level for 4He
  20. decay rate of 8Be
  21. ratio of neutron mass to proton mass
  22. initial excess of nucleons over anti-nucleons
  23. polarity of the water molecule
  24. supernovae eruptions
  25. white dwarf binaries
  26. ratio of exotic matter mass to ordinary matter mass
  27. number of effective dimensions in the early universe
  28. number of effective dimensions in the present universe
  29. mass of the neutrino
  30. big bang ripples
  31. size of the relativistic dilation factor
  32. uncertainty magnitude in the Heisenberg uncertainty principle
  33. cosmological constant
  34. 12 C to 16O nuclear energy level ratio

Take for example, the strong nuclear force. The strong nuclear force describes the force between the neutrons and protons inside the nucleus of an atom. It’s tuned to one part in 7,000 (0.007).[3]

If larger: no hydrogen would form; atomic nuclei for most life-essential elements would be unstable; thus, no life chemistry[4]

If smaller: no elements heavier than hydrogen would form: again, no life chemistry.[5]

Or take the weak nuclear force, which refers to the mechanism of interaction between subatomic particles. It’s responsible for the radioactive decay of atoms.

If different in one part in 104, no supernovae would exist, which create heavy elements.[6]

Or finally, let’s look at the ratio of number of protons to electrons in an atom.

If different in one part in 1036, no galaxies, stars, or planets would form –just extremely diffuse gas.[7]  

The famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking says this,

The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron…The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life… For example, if the electric charge of the electron had been only slightly different, stars either would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium, or else they would not have exploded…It seems clear that there are relatively few ranges of values for the numbers that would allow the development of any form of intelligent life…Most sets of values would give rise to universes that, although they might be very beautiful, would contain no one able to wonder at that beauty…[8]

This comes straight from the mouth of an agnostic scientist. Physicist Paul Davies says this about the constants necessary for the Big Bang to create the universe:

It is virtually impossible that the universe came to have these correct parameters for life by chance, because so many of these numbers must all lie in such a small range of values…If the initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as 1 part in 10^60, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded too rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible...

An accuracy of one part in 10^60 can be compared to firing a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and hitting the target…”[9]

You might say, “I’m a pretty good marksman.” But you would also have to do it blindfolded, since we’re talking about chance. If you aim and hit the target, you introduce intent, which implies design. 

Keep in mind, he’s talking about just one of the 34 constants. The odds of all of these constants, which appear finely tuned, are incredibly small.

Even the most outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins, admits that the earth seems finely tuned.

Physicists have calculated that, if the laws and constants of physics had been even slightly different, the universe would have developed in such a way that life would have been impossible. Different physicists put it in different ways, but the conclusion is always much the same… It is indeed perfectly plausible that there is only one way for a universe to be. But why did that one way have to be such a set-up for our eventual evolution?[10]

Some odds

By way of comparison, let's look at some odds. For example, the odds of:

  • getting a royal flush in poker on first five cards dealt: 649,740 to 1,

  • becoming president: 10,000,000 to 1

  • hitting the Powerball Jackpot: 1 in 300 million

  • chance of an American home having at least one container of ice cream in the freezer: 9 in 10

  • a meteor landing on your house: 1 in 182 trillion

  • striking it rich on Antiques Roadshow: 60,000 to 1

  • dying from your pajamas catching on fire: 1 in 30,589,556

Scientist Donald Page recently calculated the odds against the formation of our universe as 1/10,000,000,000124. A number so small that to call it infitesimal would be an understatement. That’s 1,240 zeros.

Even though scientists don't always agree about the constants, they agree that at least 34 of them are necessary for life. A couple years ago, William Lane Craig produced an excellent short video, which summarizes the argument.

When you put it all together, astronomer and NASA scientist, Robert Jastrow, concludes:

The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same...We scientists did not expect to find evidence for an abrupt beginning because we have had, until fairly recently, such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time...For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries…[11]

Although Robert Jastrow uses this religious language, he’s not a theist. He identifies himself as agnostic.

Naturalistic Responses

Now how would critics respond to this? The most common naturalistic response would be the Multiverse Theory.


Multiverse proposes that not one but many parallel universes exist. And they’re invisible to us except for our own. It’s not clear how many parallel universes exist. Some experts theorize trillions or nearly an infinite number. And since many other universes came into being, eventually one like ours would come about.


The whole notion of parallel, non-life supporting universes escapes scientific observation. And proponents of this view admit this as problem with the theory. For example, the leading expert on Multiverse Brian Greene illustrates,

It will be extremely hard, if not impossible, for us ever to know if the multiverse picture is true. Even if there are other universes, we can imagine that we will never come into contact with any of them.[12]

Aside from this, the fact that naturalistic scientists have invented such a theory only proves that these physical laws and constants demand an explanation —even a bad one.

Not to mention, if accept the multiverse theory as true, it would not only explain this improbability, it could explain every conceivable improbability. John Lennox quips,

I am tempted to add that belief in God seems an infinitely more rational option, if the alternative is to believe that every other universe that possibly can exist does exist, including one in which Richard Dawkins is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Christopher Hitchens the Pope, and Billy Graham has just been voted atheist of the year![13]

Rolling a Million-Sided Die

Some would say, “What if I had a 1,000,000-sided die, what’s the probability that I hit a 5?” It’s unlikely, but not impossible.


But that would not fit the probability of fine-tuning. For this to fit fine-tuning, you would need to roll a 10,000,000-sided die and hit “5” 124 times in a row. 


What are we to conclude? Imagine you committed a crime and the judge sentenced you to death by firing squad. 100-trained marksmen line up and take aim at you from ten paces away. You hear the blast from the guns. But when you open your eyes and look down at your body, you don’t see any bullet holes. What are you to conclude? One option would be that even the best marksman occasionally miss and on this occasion, all 100 marksmen happened to miss. The other option would be these expert marksmen intentionally missed you. In the same way, it stretches one’s credulity to suggest the fine tuning of the universe appeared by mere chance. It makes more sense that the a designer finely tuned the universe to make life possible.

[1] John Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2009), 66.

[2] Paul Davies, Goldilocks Enigma: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), 146.

[3] Martin J. Rees, Just Six Numbers (New York: Basic, 2000), 2.

[4] J D Barrow, and F J Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1986), 322.

[5] Ibid., 327.

[6] Martin J. Rees and Willian H. McCrea, “Large Numbers and Ratios in Astrophysics and Cosmology (and Discussion),” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 310 (December 20, 1983): 317.

[7] Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes, A Fortunate Universe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 196.

[8] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (Bantam: 1998) pp. 129-130.

[9] Paul Davies, The Accidental Universe (Cambridge, 1982), 90-91.

[10] Richard Dawkins

[11] Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978), 116.

[12] Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe. (W.W. Norton & Company, 2003), 368.

[13] John Lennox, God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway? (Oxford: Lion Books, 2011), 51.