2016-34 Science and faith

Tailor-made universe

Apr 23, 2016 Mirosław Rucki

Over a hundred years ago, the chemist Lawrence Joseph Henderson (1878–1942) observed that life on Earth was possible only because of the unique conditions on our planet. Since then, the progress in science has only intensified our amazement at how extraordinarily well-suited the world is to man’s needs.

Physical constants

In the 1960s, the British cosmologist and astrophysicist Martin John Rees, a future president of the Royal Society (2005–2010), drew attention to the inconceivable precision governing the rules of physics. He pinpointed six major physical constants constituting matter and enabling it to function. If they were slightly altered, the world would simply fall apart. For example, the amount of force that holds together nucleons (protons and neutrons) in an atomic nucleus is described by a dimensionless coefficient (epsilon) equal to 0.007. If its value was a little bit smaller, e.g. 0.006, only hydrogen atoms could exist in our universe, as the inner forces wouldn’t be able to hold together more neutrons and protons in the nuclei. On the other hand, if ε was bigger, with a value of 0.008, hydrogen atoms wouldn’t be able to preserve their distinctness, as there wouldn’t be any nuclei with only one proton; the universe would then be without hydrogen, which would rule out the existence of life.

The most interesting coefficient given by Rees is the cosmological constant λ (lambda). Its value is described by the ratio between the density of the universe’s dark energy to the critical density of Planck’s energy; it is unimaginably small, amounting to about 10-122. If it was different, none of the structures in the universe, such as stars, galaxies and planetary systems, could come into existence. The interested reader can find out more from his book Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe (London 1999).

Fortuitous precision?

It appears that even the most accidental occurrences in the universe are always subject to an extraordinarily accurate framework, which is not coincidental. Analysing the development of the universe, scientists have noticed that it did not occur “any old how”, but in a very specific, even oriented way. Professor Zbigniew Jacyna-Onyszkiewicz, from Poznań, says: “It turns out that the global properties of the universe are exactly the same as the ones which make our existence possible. Just a minimal change in those properties would have made life on Earth impossible” (Akosmizm, Poznań 2015). The eminent American physicist Freeman Dyson wrote: “The more research on the universe and its very structure I do, the more evidence I find, that, in some sense, the universe ‘had known’ that we humans were to arrive.” Of course, it was not the universe that had not known it, but its Creator, who acted according to His plan and who created a universe that was suitable for living in. In the words of Professor Penrose, it was a Big Bang that was absolutely unique and carried out especially for us. In his book The Road to Reality. A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe (London 2004), he gives the number which represents the precision with which the Big Bang occurred: 1:1010123

Without wishing to boast, I defended my doctoral and postdoctoral theses doing research on measuring apparatus which had a precision ratio of 1:102. None of the reviewers entertained the idea that this precision could be coincidental, as it was the result of laborious theoretical and empirical research. In this case, however, we are dealing with numbers which are beyond our comprehension; they don’t even have names, so we can be absolutely confident of the involvement of God the Creator, who is at least 1:1010123 times wiser than us.

“Science has to refer to a factor from outside the universe” (Prof. Stephen Hawking)

In science, of course, everyone can draw their own conclusions from well-known facts and construct alternative hypotheses. But there are few ideas for a naturalistic explanation of the creation of the universe and its observed order of things. One hypothesis suggests that universes evolve from themselves endlessly, in different forms, and that in this infinity, completely by chance, the universe which was suitable to life was formed; in fact, that in such conditions life had to develop. Leaving aside the question of the impossibility of the autogenic emergence of life (I discussed this in Love One Another! 4/2014), I just wish to point out that we have no evidence at all that some other universes formed somewhere or could even exist. Looking at it from a scientific point of view, we cannot even call such an assumption a hypothesis; it is just mere speculation.

A question for God

Trying to avoid the conclusion about the necessity of God’s existence, the physicist Robert L. Park said: “If the universe was designed to enable life, we have to admit that it has been a low-yield project. In the overwhelming majority the universe is not suitable for life as we know it. […] Perfectly adapted to life? The following question sounds more sensible: why did God create the universe that is so unsuitable for life?” (Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science, Princeton 2008, p. 11). Just so! Why? It’s a good question, which God will easily answer if we direct it to him with sincerity. But will we dare stand before God criticising Him in a way which resembles Park’s objections? After all, standing before the Creator of the universe, with all our reservations, we make an even bigger laughing stock of ourselves than a car mechanic criticising aviation construction engineers with these words: “that plane cannot drive very fast!” We all know that not every mechanic could build any mark of car out of the available parts, let alone design and construct a plane which could fly. As a matter of fact, in the Bible there is a man who expressed his reservations to God. He thought that he knew better how the world should work. Replying to Job’s invitation to join in the discussion, God said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man! I will question you, and you shall declare to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:1–4). It’s worth noting that Job didn’t answer the question. I wonder if any of today’s scientists who try to instruct God on what He did wrong and what He should improve could give an answer to God’s question to Job. Or do we, with all our knowledge about outer space, know the answers to cosmological questions that were put to Job over 2500 years ago: “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season?” (Job 38:31). Can we at least make a small primitive universe- like sandpit for our kids to play in? If we can’t, we should write down Job’s answer, highlight his words, and read them from time to time: “See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer” (Job 40:4–5).

“The global properties of the universe are exactly the same as the ones which make our existence possible” (Prof. Zbigniew Jacyna- Onyszkiewicz)

Scientific evidence

Luckily, such an approach is not alien to today’s scientists, who on the basis of research into matter conclude that its existence must be the result of the action of a Person who is extraordinarily intelligent and inconceivably powerful. The distinguished cosmologist Prof. Stephen Hawking considers that classic theory is at a loss to determine what developed from the universe in its early stage, when matter was infinitely dense, because in such conditions the laws of physics would not have applied. That means that science is incapable of telling us how the universe originated. Instead, science has to refer to a factor from outside the universe.

It appears that even the most accidental occurrences in the universe are always subject to an extraordinarily accurate framework, which is not coincidental

Prof. Jacyna-Onyszkiewicz writes: “The ens rationis which planned our coming into being cannot be subject to the laws of quantum physics; that is, it cannot be a physical object. Moreover, it must be able to control the laws of quantum physics.” (Akosmizm, Poznań 2015, p. 21). That doesn’t mean that we should stop exploring and trying to understand the world. The point is that we should stop pretending that our knowledge and understanding of the world give us the right to instruct the Creator, or to behave as if he didn’t exist.

The prominent Orthodox theologian Aleksander Mień emphasised: “By definition, all logical evidence takes on the nature of obligation. […] The evidence for the existence of God is not compulsory, […] because it is not a matter of ‘evidence’ in the narrow sense, but it is the matter of testimony, which is a different thing.” Even for an open-minded atheist, scientific knowledge can be the first step to believing: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). We have already become convinced that quantum physics and cosmology provide us with further corroborations for the truth of faith which preaches that the God who is revealed in the Bible and the Catholic Church is the same God who we get to know as the Creator when we study the world around us. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. […] So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19–21).