My Purpose? Fine-Tuned Universe
Updated: Mar 22
Goldilocks is a picky customer – she is obsessed with “just right” porridge, chair comfort and bed height. If Goldilocks pursued a career in Astrophysics, what would she conclude about the universe she lives in when looking at the data? Is it a botched universe with wasted space and unnecessary 'junk', indicative of a cosmic accident with no purpose behind it? If the universe is finely-tuned for life to exist, why is it so massive – so old? Why would we be relegated to such a tiny part of it? Why would God waste huge amounts of space, time, matter and energy if His aim was to create an environment for humans to live in?
Dr Hugh Ross, the astronomer, documented all the variables that had to be “just right” in the universe for complex life forms to exist. It is known as the Goldilocks Phenomenon.
Why is the universe so massive?
The mass of the universe determines the make-up of its elements. The more massive the universe, the more hydrogen (the first element) is fused into helium during the first few minutes after the Big Bang. The Big Bang was infinitely hot and infinitesimally dense; as it expanded, it cooled down to pass through a temperature zone where nuclear fusion can take place (17 Billion°C – 100 Billion°C). The bigger the mass of the universe, the more slowly it goes through that temperature window (between 3--4 minutes after the Big Bang) which converts about 24% of all the hydrogen in the universe into helium.
This is the process required to form stars. All the other elements of the universe are made in the core of stars; when the star explodes it disperses these heavier elements across space which allows enriched planets to form. If the universe were smaller in mass by a tiny amount then you wouldn’t get enough helium produced in that 1-minute window of time to produce all the stars that you need to get the full range of chemical elements vital for life. The universe would be devoid of oxygen, carbon, phosphorous, nitrogen – thus no life. In fact, the stars would only produce more hydrogen and a little more helium. However, if the universe were greater in mass by a tiny amount, then the universe would make so much helium that it wouldn’t be long until the universe was full of elements heavier than iron. Once again this means that the elements needed for life could not be produced and there would be no possibility of atoms and molecules forming.
What is the “right amount” of mass?
Our universe contains two hundred billion medium and large-sized galaxies. Dwarf galaxies are about a hundred times as numerous again.
50 billion trillion stars exist within these galaxies (that number is equivalent to stacking piles of coins into towers that are twice as high as the tallest skyscraper in the world. Then stack the towers next to each other until the whole area of South America is covered). Amazingly, the mass from these stars and their orbiting planets only makes up 4% of the entire universe.
The remaining 96% mass of the universe consists of dark energy, ordinary dark matter and exotic dark matter.
How big are the stars? Our sun is an average size; you can squeeze over a million Earths into it; it is a million miles in diameter.
How far apart are the stars in a typical galaxy? If you shrunk the sun and another star to the size of grapefruits and placed one in Los Angeles, the other would be as far away as Peru!
The mass of the universe also plays an essential role in guiding the expansion rate of the universe – if it was smaller/larger then the speed would change and you’d either get nothing but gas because everything dispersed too quickly (so can’t clump together to form stars); or you would get nothing but black holes (everything expands too slowly and gets crushed under intense gravity). No life would be possible in either of these scenarios. In light of all this, Dr Hugh Ross paraphrases John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he made 50 billion trillion stars plus hundred times more stuff so that we could have one pale blue dot in which to live and enjoy life”. Not a single star has been a waste; it has contributed to the ideal mass of the universe to achieve the plan that God had in mind.
Why is our universe so old?
Our universe is 13.75 billion years old. We are living at a really special epoch of history that allows us to observe the universe’s past and the remnants of the Big Bang. If we were placed here any earlier, then the light and Cosmic Background Radiation from the event would not have had time to travel to Earth and reach our telescopes and measuring devices. We would only see about two thirds of the history of the universe. If we were put here too late, then dark energy, which is accelerating the expansion of the universe faster and faster (at the edge of the universe it is expanding at over twice the current speed of light), would prevent the light from the Big Bang reaching our telescopes. We are living in the one epoch when we get to see the whole story and the evidence for God’s direct hand at bringing it about.
It also takes time to build up the 98 elements that are needed to make an enriched planet upon which life can form:
Earth is unique with just the right ratio of surface water to continental land mass (29%). In order to drive the formation of plate tectonics, with sufficient energy to power it, this requires tremendous quantities of uranium and thorium in the core of our planet.
Earth has unprecedented levels of uranium and thorium: levels of uranium are 16,000x higher than predicted compared to other planetary bodies a similar size/mass to the earth and thorium is 23,000x greater than expected.
Only supergiant stars have the capacity to make uranium and thorium which are showered across galaxies via supernova explosions.
Aggressive star formation occurs during an early universe but as it gets older, star formation ceases as the available gas to form new stars is used up or expanded out of reach. When star formation subsides, less supernova explosions occur, which means less elements are made, effecting uranium and thorium production. But the production of uranium and thorium peaked when the universe was about 9.2 billion years old (4.5 billion years ago when the earth was formed!)
God made our planet form during the time of peak abundance of uranium and thorium. Dr Hugh Ross once again paraphrases John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he dedicated 13.75 billion years to meticulously planning the cosmos to design a planet fit for human habitation at just the right moment.”
What would Goldilocks conclude so far when looking at the evidence? Is the mass and age of the universe too high, too low or just right for life to exist? Is this unremarkable evidence or does it point in the direction of fine-tuning in order to guarantee the narrow parameters for life are met? Would this imply a designer or is random chance/luck a better fit explanation? If there is a designer, what is the plan or purpose for it all? On to Part Two…