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Our planet teems with life, and yet we now know scientifically that the conditions which make life possible represent only a very narrow, highly limited band on the spectrum of possibilities.
In other words, the prerequisites in our universe that permit life to flourish can only occur when certain physical constants – the proportions of the components of atoms, the ratio of water to air, the ratio of gravity to electromagnetism, etc., etc. – exist within a very small window, a range that many scientists agree must be consciously formulated to result in living things.
Recently the New York Times interviewed the prominent theologian Alvin Plantinga — an emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, a former president of the American Philosophical Association, and the author of the book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. The interviewer asked Dr. Plantinga to give an example of an excellent argument for theism, the existence of God. Here’s what Dr. Plantinga said:
One presently rather popular argument: fine-tuning. Scientists tell us that there are many properties our universe displays such that if they were even slightly different from what they are in fact, life, or at least our kind of life, would not be possible. The universe seems to be fine-tuned for life. For example, if the force of the Big Bang had been different by one part in 10 to the 60th, life of our sort would not have been possible. The same goes for the ratio of the gravitational force to the force driving the expansion of the universe: If it had been even slightly different, our kind of life would not have been possible. In fact the universe seems to be fine-tuned, not just for life, but for intelligent life. This fine-tuning is vastly more likely given theism than given atheism.
This particular line of reasoning – “the universe seems to be fine-tuned for life” – strikes many people as one of the best and most conclusive pieces of evidence for the existence of a Creator.
The renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, in his book A Brief History of Time, gives his perspective on this finely-tuned universe theory:
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.
Of course, science – which studies, measures and quantifies the physical world – cannot by its very definition conclusively prove or disprove that God exists. But many scientists and theologians have begun to conclude that the conditions which allow the presence of life in the universe cannot be coincidental:
It’s as if there are a large number of dials that have to be tuned to within extremely narrow limits for life to be possible in our Universe. It is extremely unlikely that this should happen by chance, but much more likely that this should happen, if there is such a person as God. – Plantinga, The Dawkins Confusion.
This particular argument for the existence of a Creator, first put forth by the chemist Lawrence Joseph Henderson in 1913, was actually preceded by the very similar Baha’i view, explained here by Abdu’l-Baha:
This composition and arrangement through the wisdom of God and His pre-existent might, were produced from one natural organization, which was composed and combined with the greatest strength, conformably to wisdom, and according to a universal law. From this it is evident that it is the creation of God, and is not a fortuitous composition and arrangement. This is why from every natural composition a being can come into existence, but from an accidental composition no being can come into existence. – Baha’i World Faith, p. 297.
The Baha’i teachings rely on the fundamental principle of the agreement of science and religion, so this remarkable coherence between the Baha’i view and the current science shouldn’t be surprising. But does it mean that Baha’is rule out other, non-carbon-based life forms? No, it doesn’t – in fact, the Baha’i teachings anticipated, as long ago as the 19th Century, the most prevalent of the arguments against the “finely-tuned universe” theory.