This is part of a series of posts where I subscribe and respond to a widely advertised theistic educational course.

It’s Day Three, and we hit another classic debate point, “fine tuning“.  The argument, or at least the pertinent part.

If the universe had expanded a little faster, the matter would have sprayed out into space like fine mist from a water bottle – so fast that a gazillion particles of dust would speed into infinity and never even form a single star.

If the universe had expanded just a little slower, the material would have dribbled out like big drops of water, then collapsed back where it came from by the force of gravity.

A little too fast, and you get a meaningless spray of fine dust.  A little too slow, and the whole universe collapses back into one big black hole.

Much like many (some would say all) attempts by theists to prove something that isn’t true using science, it’s a rehash of a well explored and largely dismissed argument (read: God of the Gaps).  The argument here is generally referred to as “fine tuning”, the theory that the conditions we currently find ourselves in are so specific that they could only have come about as a result of considered, deliberate design.

Later on in the email you find the following.

The surprising thing is just how narrow the difference is.  To strike the perfect balance between too fast and too slow, the force, something that physicists call “the Dark Energy Term” had to be accurate to one part in ten with 120 zeros.

If you wrote this as a decimal, the number would look like this:


Wow, that’s a big number.  The universe must be really finely tuned.  Well, no.  The fundamental problem with this argument is one we come across regularly in theistic debates.  The selective application of rules and criteria.  Here we see that a small change in the strength of gravity would mean that the big bang would not have happened as it did.  Fine.  But that’s assuming you change one of the fundamental rules of the universe and leave the others in tact.  So yes, if you choose to arbitrarily change the laws of the universe so they fit your beliefs, you can make a strong argument.

This particular argument concentrates on one of the four forces (or “fundamental interactions”, the others being the strong force, the weak force and the electromagnetic force) and changing it.  This would seem to make a strong case for a finely tuned universe, but further examination reveals that this is not the case.  For example, Roni Harnik, Graham D. Kribs, Gilad Perez have examined the effect on the universe if there was no weak force at all.  The conclusion was that the universe wouldn’t be vastly different.  If the universe was fine tuned, one would reasonably expect the removal of one of the 4 fundamental interactions to have a catastrophic result.  It doesn’t.

In an attempt to proactively negate a common argument against “fine tuning” the author goes on to cover the concept of “infinite universes”.

To believe an infinite number of universes made life possible by random chance is to believe everything else I just said, too.

I’m afraid not, and this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the scientific method.  But hey, that’s not stopped them before.  These are theories, unconfirmed theories.  Scientists can speculate based on a limited amount of supporting information, but there’s no empirical evidence and testing the theory is incredibly difficult (if not impossible). No one is trying to pass this off as fact, unlike creationists who try to pass the Bible, which can be tested (to a certain degree, and fails many of those tests), as fact.