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Does God Play Dice with the Universe?

The universe is seen to be highly structured, resting on precisely defined parameters such as age, mass, curvature, temperature, density, and rate of expansion (Adams, 2019). A fundamental physical parameter like the mass of the neutron, for instance, has an actual value of exactly 939.57 MeV, whilst the mass of the proton is 938.28 MeV (Saha, 1936). Both of which the universe relies on to exist and continue existing. With extremely precise values in mind, physicists have therefore asked what the universe would have looked like if the data was even slightly different. More specifically, they ask what the universe would have been like if just one numerical value varied with the remaining parameters staying fixed (Manson, 2009). As the article will investigate, the remarkable fact is that if even one value—such as the aforementioned masses of protons or neutrons—had varied, the universe would be life-prohibiting. This includes all forms of existence, meaning that the parameters of the universe are popularly described as ‘fine-tuned’ for life (Manson, 2009).

One can uncontroversially describe the existence of the universe—and its life forms—as a combination of lucky accidents since modern physics also shows that the fundamental parameters of the universe could have (very conceivably) been different. It is exceptionally improbable for these sorts of accidents to occur with such precisely defined parameters. With these unlikely occurrences governing the universe comes mystery, meaning that finely tuned structure becomes an argument for the existence of God since it is contended that divine creation and design is either the best or only explanation of the universe’s precise make-up (Hawthorne and Isaacs, 2018). The argument for God is therefore an instance of the Design Argument, as this article aims to explore and examine. Going from exact and precise data to the existence of a supernatural designer is of course a big and faithful leap to take. This feature will refer to the opposing Multiverse Theory as such, overall considering both sides of the complex debate around fine-tuning and the existence of a supernatural 'being'.

Figure 1. The particles of the standard model, with masses (in MeV) in the upper right (Siegel, 2016).


As mentioned, the fundamental laws governing the universe seem to be inordinately finely tuned (Manson, 2009). An analogy often used to illustrate this is the radio dial analogy, whereby the cosmic parameters are at just-right settings. If turned even very slightly on the dial, the clear signal would turn to static (Manson, 2009). Likewise, if any numerical value (i.e., a value making up a fundamental physical parameter of the universe) differed, life as we know it would cease to exist (Swinburne, 2003). For example, if the initial explosion of the Big Bang had differed in strength by as little as one part in 10 to the 60th power, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself or expanded too rapidly for stars to form (White, 2000). In either case, life would be impossible (White, 2000). Further, calculations by Brandon Carter (2007) show that if gravity had been stronger or weaker by one part in 10 to the 40th power, then life-sustaining stars like the Sun could not exist (Murray, 1999). Such precise life-permitting parameters then lead one to question how they come about when a mere chance is so extraordinarily unlikely. In fact, this is exactly why the fine-tuning of the universe results in an argument for the existence of God.

The Fine-tuning Argument

The fine-tuning argument is set out by professor of philosophy Neil Manson (2009) as follows:

  1. Fine-tuning is extremely unlikely if there is no designer (i.e. if the universe is simply as it is by chance).

  2. Fine-tuning is quite likely if a supernatural designer—like God—exists.

  3. It is more likely that a supernatural designer exists than that, by just chance, the universe is finely tuned.

  4. Conclusion: the existence of a supernatural designer is quite high given that the universe is fine-tuned.

The above is similar to the argument ‘from design’ (Murray, 1999). Popularised and argued by 18th century philosopher William Paley, the universe has an intelligent designer on this view, namely God, since the universe is like a complex machine which oftentimes require—and have—designers (Murray, 1999). The argument from fine-tuning is much like philosopher of science Robin Collins’ (2004) prime principle of confirmation too, claiming that fine-tuning is much more plausible under theism than under the atheistic single-universe hypothesis (Murray, 1999). Is this cogent, though?

Figure 2. William Paley posited the design argument for the existence of God using a watch design for analogy (Michl, 2006).

Is the Fine-tuning Argument Compelling?

If the finely tuned universe is not a result of supernatural creation and design, then it must have occurred by mere chance, according to the argument (Collins, 2004). This is a considerably low chance, however, making the fine-tuning argument somewhat plausible instead. Be that as it may, the argument's premises are not exactly ‘probable’ themselves in scientific terms at least, even if they supposedly provide some kind of explanation for the mystery of fine-tuning. The problem is that a divine creator as an explanation is rather mysterious too. In particular, the assumption that fine-tuning is exceptionally improbable if there is no designer (Manson, 2009) is especially questionable since one could say that the existence of a designer is equally, if not more, improbable. Not to mention that supernatural design is untestable and unfalsifiable. Put differently, the argument requires a big leap in faith. The argument is risky and potentially fallacious in this sense, assuming that a designer is the only (or most) intelligible ‘explanation’ for the precise makeup of the universe (Hawthorne and Isaacs, 2018) simply because chance is so unlikely otherwise. In this vein, the last proposition of the argument—that it is more likely that God exists—is disputable too. Indeed, one could say that it is the other way around and is more likely that the universe was fine-tuned by chance than the existence of a divine designer and creator. Who is to say? Does the improbability of an event even require an explanation? Further, is this all as unlikely and improbable as we think?

The universe is fine-tuned such that life is able to exist, perhaps even on a razor's edge (Manson, 2009). But does this mean that God exists? To reiterate, the serious improbability of fine-tuning arguably does mean that God exists, some argue. Even so, the article hereon considers the argument that (i) the ‘pure luck’, ‘randomness’, and exceptional low chance of fine-tuning may not even exist, so (ii) the fine-tuning argument for the existence of God is not so plausible anymore if fine-tuning is not as shockingly improbable after all (Colyvan, Garfield, and Priest, 2005). Point (i), opposing the fine-tuning argument specifically, is notably similar to the thesis that says the universe is not vague since vagueness is merely a linguistic phenomenon resulting from semantic indecision (Barker, 2002). For instance, no one has decided exactly where The Outback ends in Australia, but this does not mean that The Outback is a vague region with indeterminate boundaries (Markosian, 2008).

Figure 3. Albert Einstein famously held that God does not play dice with the universe (Kaku, 2023).

Likewise, though humans do not completely understand why the universe is fine-tuned, this is not to say that there isn’t a genuine reason for its occurrence (Manson, 2009). Perhaps it is presumptuous to say that the laws governing the universe are a combination of 'lucky accidents' thus, considering how much we still have to learn about the nature of the universe (Friederich, 2018). This is indeed especially the case if the very concept of 'probability' does not apply to the values of the fundamental cosmic parameters (Manson, 2009). Rather there might be a 'delicate balance' of values, and that’s all there is to it. Arguably, any sort of value is precise for its particular function. As opposed to what the fine-tuning argument says about the explanatory power of God, it could just be that we do not know everything there is to know about the universe yet, which may account for finely tuned values in the future. How much can we really know on which life depends, given such an absence of knowledge about the universe in general? A so-called Theory of Everything (i.e., Albert Einstein’s idea that the laws and constants of physics will turn out to be dictated completely by fundamental general principles) could indeed be on the cards, meaning that the fine-tuning argument for God’s existence is premature and not conclusive after all (Friederich, 2018).

Multiverse Theory

The very idea that God is the cause of fine-tuning appeals to the single-universe hypothesis (i.e., one single universe in existence). There is, however, such a hypothesis which suggests otherwise and thus resists the ‘God explanation’. According to the Multiverse Hypothesis, there are multiple universes, some of them entirely different from our own (Holder, 2006). Many of those who believe that fine-tuning for life requires some theoretical response indeed regard the multiverse as the main alternative besides the designer hypothesis (Holder, 2006). The idea is that, if there is a sufficiently diverse multiverse in which the conditions differ between universes, it is only to be expected that there is at least one where they are right for life, like our own (Friederich, 2018). It is neither surprising that there is at least one universe that is hospitable to life nor that we find ourselves in a life-friendly one as such (Holder, 2006). Many physicists and philosophers consider a multiverse as a rational explanation of the just-right conditions for life in our universe (Friederich, 2018). It is also an excellent—hypothetical—example of how much there is still to learn with so many potential hypotheses posed. In fact, theories of the universe are continually subject to change or debunking. What is interesting is that two completely contrasting hypotheses (i.e., the aforementioned single universe versus the multiverse) don’t exactly result in true knowledge, nor is either one more likely or accepted than the other (Friederich, 2018). There is still a lot to discover with regard to the nature of the universe and all its intricacies. This may be reflected by both the multiverse hypothesis and the fine-tuning argument for God, but the point is that the fine-tuning argument is not compelling with so little knowledge of the universe. Many scientists and philosophers agree that fine-tuning is special and stands in need of an explanation (Manson, 2009) nevertheless, but who is to say God is the best explanation available when there is so much yet to discover? Many questions, therefore, remain, opening up more questions in turn:

  1. Will we ever be able to explain or understand the fine-tuning of the universe?

  2. Is it dangerous to mix religion with science, using one to explain the other? Are the two even compatible in this sense?

  3. Are we asking the right questions in the first place?

Figure 4. The Theory of Everything (Singh, 2020).

Another Objection: Who Designed God?

As well as the Multiverse Hypothesis, yet another alternative to accepting the fine-tuning argument is possibly the most common objection that an atheist might raise, namely that postulating the existence of God does not solve the problem of design, but simply transfers it up one level (Murray, 1999). George Smith (1980), for example, claims that:

“If the universe is wonderfully designed, surely God is even more wonderfully designed. He must, therefore, have had a designer even more wonderful than He is. If God did not require a designer, then there is no reason why such a relatively less wonderful thing as the universe needed one” (p.56)

Collins (2004) calls this the Who designed God Objection. Such an objection is a good example of how belief in a supernatural designer (i) opens up too many questions compared to those which it answers, and (ii) doesn’t pair well with scientific (fine-tuning) data (Collins, 2004). Whether or not science can be explained by religion and vice versa is an important question here. Fundamental differences indeed include evidence-based hypotheses (such as the multiverse) versus pure belief respectively, but even this can be questioned. Fine-tuning appears undeniably extraordinary but remains constructed upon sets of data. Is this sufficient ‘evidence’ for or compatible with God's existence?

Concluding Statements

The claim that fine-tuning is exceptionally improbable if there is no designer becomes particularly questionable if the numerical values involved in fine-tuning are not as unlikely as one initially assumes (Manson, 2009). This is for a multitude of reasons, including mainly (i) a general lack of knowledge of the universe and (ii) a potential misconception of fine-tuning in the first place, arguably 'accidental' and 'lucky' but relative only to the human language (Barker, 2002). As the article has considered, the so-called Multiverse Hypothesis emphasises the little grasp we have of the universe, thus providing a good example of one—of many—other alternative explanations for life-friendly conditions (Holder, 2006). The Who designed God Objection is yet another instance showing the fine-tuning argument to be implausible, as is the worry that science and religion are incompatible. All in all, the fundamental nature of the universe remains unexplained and somewhat mysterious, at least to humankind. One must, however, decide whether it is explainable or not in the first place. God as a designer is a potential option, but to conclude, the explanatory power of the divine proves rather mysterious itself.

Bibliographical References

Adams, F. C. (2019). The degree of fine-tuning in our universe—and others. Physics Reports, 807, 1-111.

Barker, C. (2002). The dynamics of vagueness. Linguistics and Philosophy, 1-36.

Carter, B. (2007). The significance of numerical coincidences in nature. Cornell University.

Collins, R. (2004). The teleological argument. In The rationality of theism, 144-160. Routledge.

Colyvan, M., Garfield, J. L., & Priest, G. (2005). Problems with the argument from fine tuning. Synthese, 145, 325-338.

Friederich, S., (2018). Fine-Tuning (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy/Winter 2018 Edition). [online]

Hawthorne, J., & Isaacs, Y. (2018). Fine-tuning fine-tuning. Knowledge, belief, and god: New insights in religious epistemology, 136-168.

Holder, R. (2006). Fine tuning and the multiverse. Think, 4(12), 49-60.

Manson, N. A. (2009). The fine‐tuning argument. Philosophy Compass, 4(1), 271-286.

Markosian, N. (2008). Restricted composition. In Sider, Hawthorne and Zimmerman (Eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics (pp. 341-363). Blackwell, 341–363

Murray, M. (1999). Reason For The Hope Within. WM.B. Eerdmans.

Saha, M. N. (1936). On the origin of mass in neutrons and protons. Indian J. Phys, 10, 141.

Smith, G. H. (1980). Atheism: The case against god. Prometheus Books.

Swinburne, R. (2003). The argument to God from fine-tuning reassessed: Richard Swinburne. In God and Design (pp. 121-139). Routledge.

White, R. (2000). Fine-tuning and multiple universes. Noûs, 34(2), 260-276.

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Rebecca Ivory

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