If the Universe Is Fine-Tuned, Why Is It Mostly Inhospitable for Life?
by Tim Barnett
I’m continuing a series on responding to the most common challenges to the fine-tuning of the universe for life. You can read my response to the first challenge here. This week I want to look at a challenge that is summarized beautifully in the comments sections of my last post.
Commenter Angry Grasshopper writes,
Ah the Teleological Argument. Anyone who claims the universe is “finely tuned for the existence of life” has not thought enough about the > 99.9999% of the universe where the existence of life is impossible. It’s kind of silly to call that finely tuned.
This response is confused for three reasons. First, this challenge fails to understand what scientists actually mean when they call a universe finely-tuned for life. When scientists speak of fine-tuned universes, they are referring to universes that are life-permitting. By life-permitting, they do not mean that life can exist wherever. By life-permitting, they do not mean that life can exist whenever. Furthermore, they do not even guarantee that life will exist. It’s a much more modest claim. It only holds that the fine-tuning will permit the existence of life. That’s it.
When scientists consider the landscape of possible universes, they have determined that they would be absolutely dominated by a wasteland of dead, boring, simple, lifeless universes. In my original article, I looked at what would happen if we changed the masses of the fundamental particles that make up everything made of matter: the up quark, the down quark, and the electron. Even minor changes to these values destroy the possibility of chemistry. Life has no chance in a universe with no chemistry, no galaxies, no stars, and no planets.
On the other hand, a fine-tuned universe, like ours, allows for the possibility of life. The fact that there can be life somewhere in a universe is precisely because the fundamental physics is finely tuned. Without this fine-tuning, there would be no life, anywhere, period.
So, to complain about a finely tuned universe not having more locations for life misses the point completely…
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