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“The universe is too big, too old and too cruel”: three silly objections to cosmological fine-tuning (Part Two)


In my previous post, I highlighted three common atheistic objections to to the cosmological fine-tuning argument. In that post, I made no attempt to answer these objections. My aim was simply to show that the objections were weak and inconclusive.

Let’s go back to the original three objections:

1. If the universe was designed to support life, then why does it have to be so BIG, and why is it nearly everywhere hostile to life? Why are there so many stars, and why are so few orbited by life-bearing planets? (Let’s call this the size problem.)

2. If the universe was designed to support life, then why does it have to be so OLD, and why was it devoid of life throughout most of its history? For instance, why did life on Earth only appear after 70% of the cosmos’s 13.7-billion-year history had already elapsed? And Why did human beings (genus Homo) only appear after 99.98% of the cosmos’s 13.7-billion-year history had already elapsed? (Let’s call this the age problem.)

3. If the universe was designed to support life, then why does Nature have to be so CRUEL? Why did so many animals have to die – and why did so many species of animals have to go extinct (99% is the commonly quoted figure), in order to generate the world as we see it today? What a waste! And what about predation, parasitism, and animals that engage in practices such as serial murder and infant cannibalism? (Let’s call this the death and suffering problem.)

In today’s post, I’m going to try to provide some positive answers to the first two questions: the size problem and the age problem.

1. An answer to the size problem

(a) The main reason why the universe is as big as it currently is that in the first place, the universe had to contain sufficient matter to form galaxies and stars, without which life would not have appeared; and in the second place, the density of matter in the cosmos is incredibly fine-tuned, due to the fine-tuning of gravity. To appreciate this point, let’s go back to the earliest time in the history of the cosmos that we can meaningfully talk about: the Planck time, when the universe was 10^-43 seconds old. If the density of matter at the Planck time had differed from the critical density by as little as one part in 10^60, the universe would have either exploded so rapidly that galaxies wouldn’t have formed, or collapsed so quickly that life would never have appeared. In practical terms: if our universe, which contains 10^80 protons and neutrons, had even one more grain of sand in it – or one grain less – we wouldn’t be here.

Fine-tuning expert Dr. Robin Collins elucidates these points in an article entitled, The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe (in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, edited William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland. Copyright 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. ISBN: 978-1-405-17657-6). On page 215 he writes:

” There is … a fine-tuning of gravity … relative to the density of mass-energy in the early universe and other factors determining the expansion rate of the Big Bang – such as the value of the Hubble constant and the value of the cosmological constant. Holding these other parameters constant, if the strength of gravity were smaller or larger by an estimated one part in 10^60 of its current value, the universe would have either exploded too quickly for galaxies and stars to form, or collapsed back on itself too quickly for life to evolve.”[10]

In the footnote, Collins clarifies the connection between the fine-tuning of gravity and the density of matter in the cosmos:

Footnote 10. This latter fine-tuning of the strength of gravity is typically expressed as the claim that the density of matter at the Planck time (the time at which we have any confidence in the theory of Big Bang dynamics) must have been tuned to one part in 10^60 of the so-called critical density (e.g. Davies 1982, p. 89). Since the critical density is inversely proportional to the strength of gravity (Davies 1982, p. 88, eqn. 4.15), the fine-tuning of the matter density can easily be shown to be equivalent to the aforementioned claim about the tuning of the strength of gravity. (Bold emphases mine – VJT.)

(b) The theory of cosmic inflation doesn’t solve the problem of the fine-tuning of gravity either. Physicist Dr. Robert Sheldon succinctly exposed the shortcomings of cosmic inflation in a personal email communication to me:

Take inflation, which was supposed to make it as easy as falling off a log to get this precise balance between too much and too little mass. Forget the fact that the existence of the inflaton [the hypothetical field thought to be responsible for cosmic inflation – VJT] has never been observed, or even hinted at except for this Big Bang problem, making it an ad hoc theory par excellence, and forget the fact that we are now 3 or 4 versions later, after earlier versions proved to not work as advertised, the actual fact is that the fine tuning of inflation requires better than 10^80, which makes one wonder whether the cure is worse than the disease.

So no, the problem hasn’t been solved, if we interpret the problem as the fine-tuning necessary to get our particular universe. (Bold emphasis mine – VJT.)

(c) The fact that the universe is mostly inhospitable to life has a simple explanation: a universe that was life-friendly everywhere would actually be less elegant, mathematically speaking, and hence less likely to be made by an Intelligent Designer. As Dr. Robin Collins has argued, the laws of our universe are extremely elegant, from a mathematical perspective. (See also my post, Beauty and the multiverse.) If there is an Intelligent Designer, He presumably favors mathematical elegance. Accordingly, the most likely reason why most of the universe is inhospitable to life is the recipe for making a big universe with a few tiny islands of life is mathematically simpler and morer elegant than the the recipe for making a universe with life everywhere, given the laws of Nature as we know them.

(d) Atheists might object that a Cosmic Designer could make a universe which was small and everywhere life-friendly with a different set of laws. If they want to argue that way, that’s fine, but as I argued in my previous post, the onus is on atheists to show us exactly how these hypothetical laws would differ from those in our universe, and how these laws would produce a life-friendly universe.

2. An answer to the age problem

(a) One reason why we need an old universe is that billions of years were required for Population I stars (such as our sun) to evolve. These stars are more likely to harbor planets such as our Earth, because they contain lots of “metals” (astronomer-speak for elements heavier than helium), produced by the supernovae of the previous generation of Population II stars. According to currently accepted models of Big Bang nucleosynthesis, this whole process was absolutely vital, because the Big Bang doesn’t make enough “metals”, including those necessary for life: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and so on.

(b) Dr. Robert Sheldon, in a personal email communication, suggests another reason why the universe needs to be very old. According to Einstein, space and time are interchangeable. So by symmetry, a universe which is large enough to contain 100 billion galaxies (each having about 100 billion stars), in addition to lots of quasars, must have also had a long history.

In short, if you want a massive universe, with lots of galaxies and stars, then it has to be large, and if it’s large, then it has to be old.

I’ll address the death and suffering problem in a forthcoming post.

ScottAndrews at There are lots of ways of generating new universes without a god. Eternal inflation is probably the most likely. vjtorley at 12: I wonder if Caplan ever read "Caves of Steel" by Asimov. He envisions the entire land mass of the earth covered with a single multi-story building with everybody living inside, eating yeast. I think his population was about a trillion. At any rate, it's not a life I'd want to live. Since Caplan is an associate professor at George Mason and a member of the Cato institute, we shouldn't expect anything realistic from him. Dr. Globus says that space colonies are technically feasible. Note she says nothing about economics. I'm on vacation for the next two weeks, so probably won't be posting for a while. dmullenix
Even so, this particular argument that other variations of universes are possible depends on the existence of someone capable of creating them. I follow the reasoning that perhaps multiple types of universes were possible just as multiple configurations of life are possible. It's not logical to attribute all of it to a creator and then limit him by saying he had to do it within certain constraints. I can't profess ignorance of the methods and resources while claiming knowledge of what constrains them. That being said, drawing on imaginary universes doesn't help much. It's like claiming that a paragraph was typed by a monkey. Does it matter that there are many possible paragraphs in many languages? Does it help to reason that in some other universe "sdfsagfrsgaetg" could be a word? All it does it artificially increase the probability of something improbable, and probably not very much, although there's no way to tell because they're all hypothetical and unmeasurable. ScottAndrews
vjtorley, my point is that someone who allegedly makes universes and laws of physics to suit His fancy is not restricted to the laws of this universe. He can make any universe He desires and craft suitable laws for its operation. ID keeps getting stuck on the idea that the universe we observe is the only possible universe. dmullenix
I read the verse however its not about the original plan before the fall. The fall changed everything. Death and a new universe etc. This Caplan guy is surely wrong. Its unreasonable to say a trillion people could eat from this planet much less live comfortably. Thats why its a crazy number to make a point that the universe was simply made to be colonized by human beings. Anyways what would the population be after ten or one hundred million years. The bible says we were made for eternity in this universe and so it could only be that we would use very well the vastness of space.Plenty of parkland included. Why not just see a hugh place as there to be used?! not for making a point or looks but a practical reality of what the afterlife is thought to be. Massive and numerous beings endlessly alive and doing. The universe might just be a witness to a failed development project . it tells a tale of what might of been. Its just what it is. Room for rent for , say, trillions of folks. Robert Byers
Hi dmullenix: I suggest you have a look at this comment I wrote, on conservationism, concurrentism and occasionalism: https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/26292/comment-page-1/#comment-398007 By claiming that God doesn't need any laws of physics, you are essentially espousing an occasionalistic view of God's relationship to creatures. However, this view entails that creatures don't really act in their own right: God just acts when they happen to be around. That's a denial of the causal agency of things. If that's your only way of getting a small, cozy universe, then I say it's too high a price to pay. Creatures are creatures, and they must be capable of genuine agency. vjtorley
He loved his dog. Or any number of other possibilities. What if . . . ? So, let's get this straight. You are obviously holding out, in blind faith, that perhaps there may be something that would, to your mind, disprove God. But, you are resorting to what if. In other words, you don't know of any evidence against God, you're just hoping for some. So why are you an unbeliever again??? Brent
Distractive rather than responsive. kairosfocus
whooops. Poor analogy. Bantay
Kshroeder An interesting hypothesis....that I think is not exclusively true, but may have aspects that are true. I find it interesting none-the-less. Characterizing God as "big" seems to imply that God is somehow physical and measurable..but this is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is spirit, non-material, Spirit and eternal. These are not physically measurable qualities like "big" would be. But I agree with you by the spirit of what you are trying to convey, in that God is so awesome, beyond measurement, big from our perspective. True, we have the image of the character of God, but we do not share this trait of awesomeness without measure. You asked "why would a God create a universe that is unnecessarily big and unnecessarily old? " which is kinda like asking "How many times have you beaten your wife?" Have you first established beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe is unnecessarily big and unnecessarily old, and that God would not have had a good reason to allow it to grow to such size and age? Could not have God used the age of the universe to allow sufficient time and distance for sufficient star formation and death to occur to produce the just right amount of "metals" necessary for complex life on a planet (like earth?) in a just-right location for both intelligent life and scientific observability? That seems like a good reason to me. In any case, I liked your post. It's a different perspective, and interesting. Thanks. Bantay
Why would He, since this one has so much wasted time, space and matter that aren’t needed for humans.
Unless you have a full understanding of (1) the nature of god, (2) the parameters for the creation as per the final cause (purpose), and (3) how the parameters of the creation can be solved in accordance with the nature of god, then your assertions about what god "could have done" are groundless. For instance, if we assume god is good, that god is rational, and that god wanted to create a universe with free-will entities for a good purpose, then whatever god creates (1) must be rational, (2) must provide for free will, and (3) must ultimately serve the good, and the potential structures of the universe must flow down from the necessary interaction of those parameters. Saying god could have created a smaller, younger universe that would serve the same purpose if he wanted would be like saying god could create a 4-sided triangle if he wanted; god cannot create a 4-sided triangle any more than god can create a universe to serve an evil purpose, if god is premised as the innate source of reason and good. William J Murray
We’re not cattle – we weren’t put here, we’re just lucky to exist.
Thank you for admitting that your position is not scientific. As for Alphonso, I doubt he was wise and I doubt he had any useful hints. Joseph
And someday you may find some supporting evidence for your tripe. Until then it is only baseless assertions. Joseph
Except that the Designer also designs the physics. He don't need no steenkin' laws of physics! Stop trying to limit the Designer. Have you noticed that ALL fine tuning arguments depend on building a universe just like this one? That's not necessary. What do you need for intelligent life? An energy source and sink, some material objects like atoms that stick together, but not too hard, a design ... what else? According to dualist philosophy you don't even need a brain since intelligence is somehow offloaded to somewhere outside the universe. Any competent Designer should be able to whomp up a servicable universe in a trice. You don't need the huge cumbersome thing that we find ourselves in. dmullenix
Thanks dmullenix, I was out and about for a week or so didn't get a chance to respond immediately. Anyway, thanks for the response: I'll respond to your latest comment over on that thread asap (that conversation was far from over!) How can you, Alphonso the Wise or any other atheist (or indeed, any other human being) provide the Creator with "useful hints for the better ordering of the universe" when you have no idea about theology and certainly no idea about Divine purpose? Such sentiments are nonsensical. It's like computer illiterates moaning about User Account Control. Chris Doyle
What do you think C.S. Lewis would have thought of someone who built a castle for a dog house? Do you think he would have called the builder wise or wasteful? Here's another point. Maybe we're not the only "people" in the universe. Maybe the SETI people are right. How many people think we're the only intelligent beings in the universe? What if the universe is crawling with intelligence? Would that make the size of the universe more or less appropriate? And what would that do to our status? Would every inhabited planet have its own Jesus? What if many other inhabited worlds exist and we're the only one to have a Savior? dmullenix
Done. Sorry, after six days without anything from you I thought the discussion was over. We're not cattle - we weren't put here, we're just lucky to exist. But IF we were put here, I would have a few bones to pick with whatever's responsible. As Alphonso the Wise said back in the 1200's, "Had I been present at the creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better ordering of the universe." dmullenix
Robert Byers Thank you for your post. Re the population one million years from now: please see Matthew 22:30 . I do however think that we should be planning for a total human population of 1 trillion in the next few hundred years. See the following links: Dreaming the Simonian Dream by Bryan Caplan. Bryan Caplan is an Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute. He believes that the Earth can probably support more than a trillion people. Space Exploration - Basics by Dr. Ruth Globus of NASA. The human population in orbit could one day exceed ten trillion, living in millions of space colonies with a combined living space hundreds of times the surface of the Earth. No, the idea isn't science fiction. It's technically feasible. To those who say it's unsustainable, I say: stasis is unsustainable, given the laws of our cosmos. Nothing stays the same. The one thing I'm absolutely sure of is that a few hundred years from now, the population of the world will not be seven billion. It will either be a lot more - or a lot less. I regard the first option as preferable. See also: "Consumption Dwarfs Population as Main Environmental Threat" by Fred Pearce, at http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2140 . Summary: "It's overconsumption, not population growth, that is the fundamental problem: By almost any measure, a small portion of the world's people — those in the affluent, developed world — use up most of the Earth's resources and produce most of its greenhouse gas emissions." vjtorley
Hi djmullenix, Thank you for your post. You write that the Intelligent Designer "can build any universe He wants" and that He "could have built a universe the size of the solar system, with the sun, the earth, a few planets and a sprinkle of dots of light in the sky and we’d be perfectly happy." The Designer of the cosmos can indeed build any universe He wants, including a small one. However, my point is that size notwithstanding, making a small universe would actually be a harder job than making a big one - and the physics required to do it would be a lot more ad hoc, a lot messier and a lot less elegant than the physics of our universe. Since the Designer prizes mathematical elegance and simplicity, it's reasonable to believe He'd make a large, old cosmos. Of course, if you wish to claim on scientific grounds that the set of laws for constructing a small universe would be just as concise and elegant are those for constructing our large universe, then I'd be interested to listen to your argument. vjtorley
I agree Brent. It is a case of them presuming to know the mind of God who they claim does not exist. If they really want to know His mind, I know where they could get a good start. His Word. tjguy
Are this fine tuned universe arguments folling in the same error that materialist do when take the phisical laws as necessary and not contingent? Are not all this variables contingents then their values allows this universe with this life and other values will allow others universes with other life? Blas
Regarding the size problem, C.S. Lewis was right to say that it ultimately reduces to a size/importance equation where bigger is more important and smaller is less. But we clearly don't apply this idea anywhere in our daily experience. We don't think an elephant is more important than a man, and we don't think a man who is 6' tall is more valuable than a man of 5'10". So why is the vastness of the universe (which he points out was known long, long before most people think) in any way construed as evidence against a creator God? People who argue this way need to first make a rational argument why this would be. To know that the way the universe appears to us is evidence that there is no creator, we must be able to say with clarity and cogency what we would expect the universe to be like if there were a creator. This no one has done, nor can they do it. Brent
There is, I believe, another possibility as to why the universe is so big and why it's so old that we can approach from a theological perspective. Those of us interested in design have a tendency to think from a human-centric position. In other words, we look at the universe and see it wonderfully tuned for life, our life. But I think there's another perspective we can take that is complimentary to this. God is big. And man is created in the image of God. Therefore there are a several of man's characteristics that we can reasonably assume are mirrored from God's character. Man loves to work with his hands. Creativity spawns some very impressive outcomes, whether it's in the arts, technology and, indeed, heresies. :-) But we like to create things and pride in our work is something that is deeply important to most people. I think the same is true for God. I believe that God likes to be creative because man likes to be creative and we are made in the image of God. Regardless of the age of the universe, Genesis states that "It was good". In other words, God looked back at what he created and was happy with it. He was proud of it. In order for God, who is big, to be proud of what he created it needed to be big and complex. It needed to reflect God, just as my own work needs to reflect me in order for me to be satisfied by it. Therefore, the universe is "discovereable", but at the same time it is also impossible to grasp its magnitude. So why would a God create a universe that is unnecessarily big and unnecessarily old? Because God is creative and God's work needs to reflect himself, just like ours does. God created the universe FIRST for himself. Of course, this could all be conjecture. But starting with the Scriptures claim of man being made in the image of God I don't think that this is an unreasonable way of looking at it. kschroeder
I'm not an old earther so I can't comment on number two, but as far as the size of the universe, the Bible is quite clear that the heavens display the glory of God. An effect is always lesser than it's cause. We're told that God knows the stars by name. The more we learn about the universe and it's vastness and beauty, the more we learn about the glory and greatness of our Creator! His honor, wisdom, power, greatness, and glory are shown forth in creation and a large universe magnifies who our God is! Revelation 4:11 says this: "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." tjguy tjguy
Hi Dmullenix, I see you're very active today. I wonder if you would be so good as to respond to my comment on "The ID Hypothesis", I believe that thread is still open to comments: https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/the-id-hypothesis/comment-page-2/#comment-397132 Relating to this thread, what makes you think that we were put here to be "perfectly happy"? Chris Doyle
"a) The main reason why the universe is as big as it currently is that in the first place, the universe had to contain sufficient matter to form galaxies and stars, without which life would not have appeared; and in the second place, the density of matter in the cosmos is incredibly fine-tuned, due to the fine-tuning of gravity." Wait a minute!! We're talking about the Intelligent Designer here! He can build any universe He wants. He didn't have to duplicate this one. Why would He, since this one has so much wasted time, space and matter that aren't needed for humans. He could have built a universe the size of the solar system, with the sun, the earth, a few planets and a sprinkle of dots of light in the sky and we'd be perfectly happy. It worked for the ancients, after all. You don't read about Moses complaining. dmullenix
The 1 in 10^60 fine tuning for mass density of the universe has always struck me as a very astonishing fact, for it turns out that 1 in 10^60 is equal to about a single grain of sand out of all the matter in the entire universe.
Evidence for Belief in God – Rich Deem Excerpt: Isn’t the immense size of the universe evidence that humans are really insignificant, contradicting the idea that a God concerned with humanity created the universe? It turns out that the universe could not have been much smaller than it is in order for nuclear fusion to have occurred during the first 3 minutes after the Big Bang. Without this brief period of nucleosynthesis, the early universe would have consisted entirely of hydrogen. Likewise, the universe could not have been much larger than it is, or life would not have been possible. If the universe were just one part in 10^59 larger, the universe would have collapsed before life was possible. Since there are only 10^80 baryons in the universe, this means that an addition of just 10^21 baryons (about the mass of a grain of sand) would have made life impossible. The universe is exactly the size it must be for life to exist at all. http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/is_god_real.html Calculation for grain of sand from 1 in 10^60 fine-tuning of mass density; https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/this-might-make-you-feel-rather-small/#comment-394591 Fine Tuning Of Dark Energy and Mass of the Universe – Hugh Ross – video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4007682
Once a atheist came on UD, as we were discussing the 'single grain of sand' fine-tuning of the universe, and, as is typical for many atheists on UD, he said he was not impressed in the least that the universe would turn out to be fine-tuned to such an extraordinary degree for mass. Which I found to be a extremely odd reaction from a living, breathing, human being. Thus I invited him to get up from his computer, go out in his yard, pick up a grain of sand, look at the grain of sand, look up into the vast expanse of the heavens, look at the grain of sand again, look up at the heavens once again, repeat, and to do this all the while realizing that if that grain of sand he was holding did not exist he would exist. Then I invited him to bring that grain of sand back into his house, lay it down in front of his computer, and then to relate to us once again how meaningless that grain of sand is to him.
My Beloved One – Inspirational Christian Song – video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200171 Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
further note:
Anthropic Principle: A Precise Plan for Humanity By Hugh Ross Excerpt: Brandon Carter, the British mathematician who coined the term “anthropic principle” (1974), noted the strange inequity of a universe that spends about 15 billion years “preparing” for the existence of a creature that has the potential to survive no more than 10 million years (optimistically).,, Carter and (later) astrophysicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler demonstrated that the inequality exists for virtually any conceivable intelligent species under any conceivable life-support conditions. Roughly 15 billion years represents a minimum preparation time for advanced life: 11 billion toward formation of a stable planetary system, one with the right chemical and physical conditions for primitive life, and four billion more years toward preparation of a planet within that system, one richly layered with the biodeposits necessary for civilized intelligent life. Even this long time and convergence of “just right” conditions reflect miraculous efficiency. Moreover the physical and biological conditions necessary to support an intelligent civilized species do not last indefinitely. They are subject to continuous change: the Sun continues to brighten, Earth’s rotation period lengthens, Earth’s plate tectonic activity declines, and Earth’s atmospheric composition varies. In just 10 million years or less, Earth will lose its ability to sustain human life. In fact, this estimate of the human habitability time window may be grossly optimistic. In all likelihood, a nearby supernova eruption, a climatic perturbation, a social or environmental upheaval, or the genetic accumulation of negative mutations will doom the species to extinction sometime sooner than twenty thousand years from now. http://christiangodblog.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html ================= Breathtaking Performance Of Agnus Dei From Child Singer - Music Videos http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=K7WZYPNX
On the first question, I agree with Robert Byers. Why do humanist/atheists want us to believe that there most likely already is alien life 'out there' and we are the hicktown of the Milkyway? It is more likely that we are just that incredibly smart alien life that was put here to reach enlightenment, get our arses in gear, and start populating the stars? Imagine couples getting their own planet. We can do the fun stuff all eon with room (and energy) to spare. Enough with the 'we are just a cut above the apes' mentality. We are light years ahead of them but (keeping our humility close to the heart)are light years behind the Trinity. Better to get that ethereal phone bank back online so we can realign the tragectory of this human odyssey gone astray. Steve
I speculate on the size thing. YEC creationists would believe man was meant to live for eternity in this universe. So breeding from Adam and one million years hence would produce to large a poop for earth. Say half a trillion people. Why not, i say why not, simply see the universe as needing to be big to allow human colonization ?! Just like in science fiction. why not see it as a place for development! Yes we would by then of figured out how to make planets and bring air/life in jars etc. Is it possible the great space was after all needed for satisfy great numbers of human beings? Its thee for a simple reason. US. We are way behind! Robert Byers
The bottom line is that the universe must be precisely as it is in order for life to exist at all. Human notions about wasted time and size are irrelevant. One might as well ask why the Wright Brothers didn't just skip the Wright Flyer and proceed directly to the Boeing 747. The requisite engineering precursors had to be in place first. GilDodgen

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