Meet the Fine Tuned Universe

We don't generally think of the universe as a fine-tuned 'instrument'. We may think of it as big, beautiful, fascinating, interesting, mysterious, but not fine-tuned. Instruments are fine-tuned, machinery is fine-tuned, but not the universe. And yet for the last 30 years or so many leading scientists have been talking about how the universe seems fine-tuned for life. What do they mean?

The basic idea of a fine-tuned universe is that a variety of laws of physics, chemistry and biology have to both exist and exist in the right way for there to be an orderly, structured universe that can sustain intelligent life as we know it. Remove one of those laws or slightly change their properties and there is either no life at all or no complex, sophisticated life in the form that we are aware of.


For instance, take gravity – does gravity have to exist? That is to say, does matter and energy have to bend space (as seems to be the current understanding of what gravity is)? Conceivably no – there is no reason that we know of why gravity has to exist. Matter and energy could conceivably not bend space (or space-time to be more exact). At the same time, even with the existence of gravity there doesn't seem to be any reason why it has to exist in the form that it does. That is to say, conceivably it could be stronger or weaker? It doesn't have to have the exact 'value' that it does.

Where this becomes interesting is when we imagine what life would be like without gravity or with a different strength of gravity. With no gravity there are no planets or stars, no orbit and nothing to keep our atmosphere on the earth. With a slightly different strength of gravity (stronger or weaker) then life as we know it seems impossible. Either the force is so great that all complex life would get crushed or too weak to keep planets in orbit or allow for the formation or continued existence of stars (such as our sun).

This is but one example of how the universe seems to be fine-tuned for life. But it doesn't end with gravity. From the strong-nuclear force which allows for the formation and existence of atoms to the amount of mass in our universe to the speed of expansion of that universe, modern day scientists are finding out that our universe seems to be made just right. That is to say, that the forces and properties of the physical world are created, set and balanced in a way that 'just happens' to allow for complex, sophisticated, intelligent beings such as ourselves to exist.

A Bit of a Surprise

One final note, the fine-tuned-universe is, in part, a product of the naturalistic models that science has been discovering/positing for the workings and development of the universe. This theory came as a bit of a surprise – the notion of a self-running, naturally developing universe has led to the discovery that it is not so simple to create or operate a self-running, naturally developing universe. Even if one wonders about the long-term viability of all of these modern theories about how the universe runs and develops, it's worth noting what is required to make such a model work.

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