Challenge Response: There Would Be More Life if the Universe Were Fine-Tuned for Life

Here's my response to this week's challenge:

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This week’s challenge: You theists have the fine-tuning stuff all wrong. Your God is incompetent if it takes this volume of universe to create an insignificant volume of life.

The objection this week suggests that the vastness, or the size, of the universe somehow counts against the fine-tuning of the universe. I’ll do a quick summary of the fine-tuning argument, and then I’ll provide five quick responses.

The fine-tuning argument looks at the initial conditions of the universe, the fundamental constants, and qualities of the universe, which are all finely tuned. There’s a very small range of life-permitting conditions. The question is, what is this fine-tuning best explained by? The fine-tuning argument infers that the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe is a fine-tuner or a designer. Those are the basics of the argument.

Number one, fine-tuning is not controversial. Whether you’re a theist or not, physicists and cosmologists will all tell you the universe does seem to be finely tuned. The controversy isn’t whether or not it’s finely tuned, the controversy is on what best explains that. So, to say the universe is not finely tuned for life is to go against the consensus on this.

Secondly, the vastness and size of the universe is actually evidence for fine-tuning. The size of the universe, the mass of the universe, and the dark energy in the universe are all evidence. If you didn’t have the vastness, the mass, and constants at the beginning, you would get a universe that either expanded too fast or too slowly. In either case, you wouldn’t have a life-permitting universe. Therefore, the vastness of the universe points to fine-tuning.

Number three, my question would be: What follows from this objection? Let’s say the creator could have monkeyed with physics, could have monkeyed with the cosmological constants, could have made a universe where it was just our sun and our planets and somehow that permitted life. He could have done it that way, but he didn’t, so what follows from that? Does it follow that a creator doesn’t exist? Of course not.

Let me give you an illustration. Let’s say we look at a painting on a huge vast canvas. I look at that painting, and I think to myself, “Why couldn’t the painter have used a much smaller canvas?” He could have fit that same picture on a much smaller canvas. Does it follow that the painter doesn’t exist? No, of course not.

This leads me to my fourth response. This objection isn’t a scientific objection. It’s theological reflection. With science, we’re looking at data and drawing inferences. We have to use the resources of philosophy, clear-thinking, and theology when we’re talking about the nature and purposes of the designer.

Here’s my question for the objector: What was God’s purpose in designing the universe? I’m guessing they’d say they don’t know because they’re not God. In order to draw this inference, you have to know something about the nature of God, His character, and His purposes.

There are a lot of times when someone’s reasoning for doing something is not clear. You then have to ask what their reasoning might be. If you ask a painter why he used such a vast canvas, you then have to wait for him to give you his explanation. You then gain knowledge and clarity you didn’t have before.

If the vastness of the universe doesn’t make sense, then the Creator has reasoning that you don’t see. Again, we’ve moved away from the scientific, and we’re moving into theology. This is where the theist says,  “I have an upper hand. I actually have information from this Being.” He’s told us some of His purposes in creating. That helps inform how I look at something like the vastness of the universe.

Number five, I would say the vastness of the universe can be interpreted not as, “Oh this guy doesn’t have is act together. He wastes all this space.” That’s one inference that could be drawn, and there would have to be an argument for that.

There’s another inference that’s better supported: The Creator thinks we’re special. This Fine-Tuner uses this vast universe and amount of resources on us because we are special and made in His image.

He lavishes His resources on us. Of course, given the nature of the Fine-Tuner, who is the Creator God, resources are no problem for Him. Sometimes we think of God simply as an engineer when it comes to science and design arguments, but we also need to think of God as artist.

Think about the fact that God lavishes on us and lavishes His resource on the universe. He’s not a painter with a limited amount of paint and a small canvas. This Painter has unlimited resources. He can create either a huge or small universe and use whatever resources He wants. Given the vastness of the universe, we can conclude that he’s spent a ton of resources on us so we can have a universe that is life-permitting. I think that communicates how special He thinks we are. That’s what He says in His Word.

Brett Kunkle (@brettkunkle) is the founder and president of MAVEN, a movement to equip the next generation to know truth, pursue goodness, and create beauty. He has more than 25 years of experience working with youth and parents. Brett has a master’s degree in philosophy of religion and ethics from Talbot School of Theology and co-authored the book A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.

Brett Kunkle

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