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Chapter Three: God the Creator?
Section 2: The balanced universe
Our finely balanced universe is improbable but not impossible; it does not need God to explain its existence.
The previous section confirmed that not only that there is no philosophical proof of God's existence but abstract reasoning suggests that God does not exist. Is that conclusion confirmed by the evidence around us? Or does nature reveal the hand of God?
There are two arguments here:
the basic laws of the universe (gravity,
light etc) are so finally tuned that they
prove the existence of a creator
the existence of life and of complex
lifeforms can only beexplained by a
We will look at lifeforms in later sections. On this page we confine ourselves to the cosmological argument for God.
3.2a The balanced universe
Our universe is finely balanced. The natural laws that underlie it, such as gravity, the speed of light and E=mc2 (energy equals mass times the square of the speed of light), all combine to maintain the cosmos that we see around us.
The slightest change in some of these laws
Explaining the Universe
Jews, Christians and Muslims insist that God created the
universe. In both philosophical and practical terms, however,
that theory turns out to be unsustainable.
If God does not exist, why do so many people believe in him?
There are many reasons, from the strength of community to fear
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would mean that the universe could not exist. If gravitational pull were stronger, the Big Bang would never have happened; if it were weaker, the stars and planets coud not have formed.
A similar argument can be made for our planet and species. If average global temperatures were a few degrees higher or lower than they are, many plant and animal species could not exist. Primitive humanity could never have survived.
The delicate balance of the universe leads some people to conclude that the universe and the Earth were designed for humanity.
3.2b Potential universes
Others come to the same conclusion from a different perspective. Start with the hypothesis that there are billions, perhaps billions of billions, of potential universes. Each potential universe has different natural laws which would either allow it to develop very differently from our own or which were so contradictory that the universe could never develop.
The Big Bang is a like a lottery with only one winner; only one potential universe can exist. Surprise, surprise, it's our one. What are the chances of that happening - of our universe developing without the input of a creator? Vanishingly small.
The fact that natural laws hold the universe together and allow for the appearance of huamn life, and that the theoretical odds of such laws occuring by chance are infinitesimally small, leads to the idea that the universe and the Earth were designed for humanity. That idea encourages
millions of believers to jump to the conclusion that there is a Universal Designer - in other words, God.
For an introduction to the universe and the idea of multiverses, read this Wikipedia article.
3.2c Appearance is not proof
Unfortunately for believers, reason does not lead to the same conclusion. As soon as we start to think about it we see that appearance is not proof, the improbable is not impossible, and the universe does not need God to explain its existence.
Every day magicians - conjurers, prestidigitators, illusionists and others - perform tricks that appear real. Cards vanish, wild animals appear, men walk through walls and so on. We can
interpret what we see in different ways - (a) appearance is reality: cards really vanish and a man can walk through walls; or (b) appearance is not reality: the magician hides the cards and there are two men, not one, on either side of the impenetrable wall. We cannot accept (a) without examining (b) and other possibilities.
The same principle must be applied to the origin of the universe. If other explanations are possible, the fact that the universe appears to have been designed is not proof that it was designed. And because at least one other explanation is possible we cannot jump to the conclusion that there is a God.
3.2d Improbable is not impossible
The odds of winning the biggest lottery prizes are very small. You and I and our friends and family can all buy tickets but we are very unlikely to win. But that does not mean that no-one wins. For every 99,999,999 people who lose there is one winner - or whatever the odds are for each particular
It is highly improbable that you or I will win, but it is not impossible. Let us repeat: highly improbable is not the same as impossible. Highly improbable is the same as possible. That statement makes some people uncomfortable but it's true. If you are not happy with it, think about it a little before moving on. Then, once you have accepted that the improbable is possible, you can move on accept that it is possible that the universe exists by chance.
But - believers argue - if you claim that the universe came into existence by chance, you have to explain how that happened.
And what existed before the universe? Nothing? Something can't come out of nothing?
It's a good point - and it's why thousands of scientists are studying the origins of the universe to see if it did emerge out of nothing or whether the Big Bang was merely one event in an eternal expansion and contraction of the universe or whether the universe is merely one of many and so on. The fact that we don't have answers to a question is - as we repeatedly have to remind ourselves - not proof that God exists.
Besides, believers must be prepared to answer the same questions that they ask. If they insist that God created the universe, they have to describe how he did so and where he came from. As we saw in the previous section, if there is choice between the universe alone and the universe and God, the universe alone is a more likely description of reality.
In conclusion, our finely balanced universe is improbable but not impossible: it does not need God to explain its existence.
In other words, the physical nature of the universe is not proof of God.
So, we don't need God to explain the universe. But do we need him to explain life and lifeforms? It's time to move to the next section.
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If God existed, he would...
admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create
recognize that eternity is meaningless
deny both heaven and hell
disown all men and women who speak in his name
denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"
help the human race to thrive without him
If God existed, he would be an atheist.
What is the difference between science and faith?
science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything
faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing
Which do you trust?
"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"
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