In a previous post I described how a diagnosis of metastatic cancer inexplicitly sparked curiosity, wonder and questions about the cosmos. I started listening to podcasts and reading interviews with prominent scientists describing the physics of the universe and the surprises from new discoveries about how the cosmos works.
I am not alone in my interest. Conferences, books, and on-line debates indicate a surge of fascination with cosmology – particularly new observations, theories, and philosophies – among average intellect people like me as well as the scientific heavyweights. And popular culture is on to the cosmos. Sci-fi movies and books paint stories of quantum field irregularities creating portals and wormholes through time or into multiple universes filled with doppelgängers and other mind-bending craziness.
One dominate serious discussion across cosmology, physics and theology over the last 20 years is the fine-tuning of the universe. In the late 20th century scientists started to describe how the universe is extremely sensitive to changes in physical constants. If one of the constants is changed even by a tiny bit, the world will look vastly different – it will generally have no suns, no chemistry, and – therefore – no life. This is known as “fine tuning.” It is as if there are a large number of dials that have to be tuned to within extremely narrow limits for life to be possible in our universe.
If you are looking for examples of esoterica, you have found them in these ‘dials’ – physical constants. Allow me to state two of many which, because they are almost incomprehensible to me, I copied nearly verbatim:
- Omega (Ω), commonly known as the density parameter, is the relative importance of gravity and expansion energy in the universe. It is the ratio of the mass density of the universe to the “critical density” and is approximately 1. If gravity were too strong compared with dark energy and the initial metric expansion, the universe would have collapsed before life could have evolved. If gravity were too weak, no stars would have formed.
- Lambda (Λ), commonly known as the cosmological constant, describes the ratio of the density of dark energy to the critical energy density of the universe. Λ is on the order of 10−122. This is so small that it has no significant effect on cosmic structures that are smaller than a billion light-years across. A slightly larger value of the cosmological constant would have caused space to expand rapidly enough that stars and other astronomical structures would not be able to form.
And the list of physical constants that must be fine-tuned goes on and on. From constants, like above, required for stars to exist to those tuned for intelligent life. I do not understand any of these ‘dials’ except that it is extremely unlikely that all of them are tuned precisely to create the conditions for intelligent life. Interestingly, that is a point on which most secular scientists, theologians and philosophers agree. Of course, their explanations differ. Currently, the four main theories are:
- Fine-tuning is an illusion: Once we discover more fundamental physics an explanation will present itself.
- Multiverses: Our universe is just one of many, maybe billions. If each have different physical constants, we should not be surprised to find our universe hospitable to intelligent life. (This is also a theory for creation. If the universe just popped into being – something out of nothing – then other universes have an equal chance of appearing.)
- Alien simulation (my personal favorite): Aliens developed a simulation fine-tuned for us to exist. Earth and all that effects earth is a laboratory and we are the rats within it.
- And, of course, God created the universe and fine-tuned it for intelligent life.
It is odd that there are brilliant physicists who would rather think up farfetched theories to explain fine-tuning rather than be in awe of the FINE-TUNER that created the universe’s inherent physics that allow us to exist. Occam’s razor indicates that the simplest explanation, the answer that requires the fewest assumptions, is preferable. Which theory requires the fewest assumptions for fine-tuning? Billions of other universes coexisting with us? Alien simulation? Or, a creator-God? Theologians and some astrophysicists and cosmologists have no problem with divine fine-tuning and in fact are delighted by its implications. There is a God.
As a serious illness looms over my life, as metastatic cancers find a way to mutate and work around tumor-killing drugs, I am tempted to despair. Cancer acts and feels frighteningly powerful and almost god-like with attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. At times like this I need something MORE powerful that happens to be benevolent, merciful, transcendent, and eminent. Thinking of bigger realities works to belittle the cancer bully and grow the great hope that the Fine-Tuner of the universe has no rivals, not even the great fearsome cancers of this world. There is hope and reassurance that the great Fine-Tuner of the cosmos loves me and purposes me to further his love in this world and the next. Cancer is no rival to this fact alone! Hallelujah.