Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?
There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.
Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?
Of course this doesn’t prove that God exists, nor does it tell us anything about the nature of God (is He the god of the Jews? The Christians? The Muslims? The Hindus? Etc.). But it does tell us that all of this is extremely unlikely to have come into existence by chance. Some scientists posit the multiverse theory to account for our unlikely existence, but that cannot be tested, so we must move it into the category of a religious belief. Anyway, which hypothesis strikes you as more plausible: that a practically infinite number of universes exist, and we just happen to dwell in the one capable of supporting life; or that a superior intelligence caused the creation of our universe?
I would recommend a few books on this topic. First, theologian David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God is a highly readable introduction to theism and its plausibility. Hart is a Christian theologian, but he doesn’t write as any sort of sectarian. He writes in a philosophical mode, about the reasonability of the existence of a Higher Power, a Supreme Being. Second, the cosmologist Paul Davies, who is not a Christian, has a couple of books out for popular audiences, both on the questions raised by Metaxas in this essay: first, The Mind of God, and then its sequel, The Goldilocks Enigma. Finally, Eric Metaxas’s new book Miracles, which I have not yet read, but Eric is an old friend, and I believe in him and his work.
We must not make the mistake of confusing knowing about God with knowing God. To experience God in the realm of the ideal, of the intellect, is not the same things as experiencing him. In my case, my healing depended on getting out of my head to a significant degree, and learning how to feel God more than to think about God. Over the holiday weekend, I re-read The Manticore, the second book of Robertson Davies’s Deptford Trilogy. It is not Davies’s best novel, but it is still fascinating. Almost the entire narrative consists of the protagonist undergoing a Jungian analysis. I went back to it for the first time in 20 years to see what it looked like to me in middle age. I smiled a lot while reading it, recognizing a number of aspects of my own recent journey with Dante.
The analyst in the book, Dr. von Haller, loses patience at one point with the rationalism of her patient, David, a lawyer, when he denies that there is any such thing as the Unconscious. David is startled by the strength of her pushback. Dr. von Haller says:
“There comes a time when one must be strong with rationalists, for they can reduce anything whatever to dust, if they happen not to like the look of it, or if it threatens their deep-buried negativism. I mean of course rationalists like you, who take some little provincial world of their own as the whole of the universe and the seat of all knowledge.”
All of us do this, rationalist or not: mistake our own part for the whole of reality. But the rationalists hold a privileged position in our culture.