|"This combination of coincidences…is indeed remarkable. There is no better evidence to support the argument that the Universe has been designed for our benefit -- tailor-made for man."
The Anthropic Principle
Do scientists think that the universe appears to have been designed?
The subject of the creation
of the universe
has been debated and
pondered by people for centuries.
Today, scientists continue
to move forward in their
quest to discover the true origin
of mankind. One discovery
that has intrigued many
for the last few decades is
something called the “anthropic
The anthropic principle
may be taken to mean that
scientists have discovered a
very large number of coincidences
in the universe that allow
life to exist on this planet.
In other words, the universe appears to have been created specifically for the existence of
life on earth. For a better idea of what this entails, consider
the following examples:
- If the earth was located only slightly farther away from
the sun, it would freeze like the planet Mars. If it was
only slightly closer, it would burn up in heat like the
860°F temperature on Venus.
- If the earth did not revolve regularly on its axis, half of
the planet would be in permanent darkness without vegetation.
Meanwhile, the other side of the planet would
be an uninhabitable desert, suffering from the overwhelming
heat of permanent exposure to the sun.
- If the Earth were not tilted at 23°, it would not have the
seasonal variation that produces the abundance of crops
that feed the planet’s huge population. Without this tilt,
less than half of the present land used for cultivation of
crops would grow vegetables.
- If the earth was only a small percentage smaller, the reduced
gravity would be incapable of holding the atmosphere
that is essential for breathing.
- If the planet Earth was twice as large, the effect of increased
gravity would make everything on the planet’s
surface weigh eight times what it weighs today. This increased
weight would destroy many forms of animal and
- A much thinner atmosphere would provide no protection
from the 25,000 meteors that burn up over the earth
every day. A thinner atmosphere would also be incapable
of retaining the higher temperatures required for the existence
of human and animal life.
- If the atmosphere were not 78 percent nitrogen and 22
percent oxygen and other gases, breathing would be impossible.
- If nuclear forces were decreased by only a few percent,
the particles of the universe could not have come together
in nuclear reactions to make the ingredients from which
life must be constructed (such as carbon atoms).
- If the combined masses of the proton and electron were
a little more rather than a little less than the mass of the
neutron, the effect would be devastating. The hydrogen
atom would become unstable. Throughout the universe,
all the hydrogen atoms would immediately break down
to form neutrons and neutrinos. Robbed of its nuclear
fuel, the sun would fade and collapse. Across the whole
of space, stars like the sun would contract in their billions,
releasing a deadly flood of x-rays as they burned
out. By that time, life on earth, needless to say, would
already have been extinguished.
The ultimate conclusion is that if the universe was
changed in the slightest way, no life could exist. (Although
the possibility remains that other forms of unknown life might
be able to exist, even the evolutionary cosmologist Stephen
Hawking stresses, “It seems clear that there are relatively few
ranges of values [for these coincidences] that would allow the
development of any form of intelligent life.”) Thus, more
than a few scientists think that this chain of “coincidences”
could at the very least suggest the work of a Creator or “creative
force.” Hawking, one of the world’s most respected cosmologists,
remarks, “I think there are clearly religious implications
whenever you start to discuss the origins of the universe.
There must be religious overtones. But I think most
scientists prefer to shy away from the religious side of it.”
The book Stephen Hawking’s Universe concludes that the
odds against the accidental formation of a universe such as
this would be comparable to shaking the parts of a watch in a
barrel and having them fall into place as a working timepiece. What implications could these incredible probabilities entail?
Well, if one can determine how unlikely it is that a given pattern
can arise by chance, one has his or her answer as to how
likely it is that the structure is deliberate. Here is a simplified
example for illustration:
Suppose you find a quarter lying on the street. Without
a moment’s thought, you assume that someone dropped it
accidentally — that it’s there “by chance.” You assume this
because it’s so commonplace an occurrence. After all, consider
the alternative: that someone placed it there deliberately.
Though it’s theoretically possible, your own personal experience
tells you that it’s pretty unlikely.
Now, what if you found three quarters, all close to one
another? Still, it seems more likely that someone dropped a
cluster of coins by accident, than that the person put them
there. (Maybe you feel it’s a close call.) Part of this calculation
(which is less certain than the prior one) involves something
else, too: a reasonable guess about people’s reasons for doing
things. It’s hard to think of a good reason for someone putting
three quarters on the ground deliberately.
Let’s take it one step further. Suppose you again find
three quarters, but this time they are all touching one another,
forming a triangular arrangement. Was this deliberate,
or by chance? Chance certainly can’t be ruled out, but it seems
“suspicious.” It’s now likely that you’ll change your mind and
think that someone did it “on purpose” — even though the
purpose is hard to imagine.
Finally, what if you find ten quarters stacked neatly one
on top of another? Though once again you can’t prove it didn’t
“just happen,” the odds against it will seem so great (It’s so odd, you’ll think) that you’ll be certain the stack was placed
there for some unknown reason.
And so it is with the properties of the universe. Rather
than an enormous accident, the hundreds of “coincidences”
observed throughout the universe may constitute a deliberate
pattern. Many scientists think that the best explanation is “intelligent
design.” The renowned science writers John Gribbin
and Martin Rees note, “This combination of coincidences . . .
is indeed remarkable. There is no better evidence to support
the argument that the universe has been designed for our benefit
— tailor-made for man.”
Nobel Prize winner Max Planck, whose research revolutionized
today’s understanding of atomic and subatomic processes,
just as Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity revolutionized
today’s understanding of space and time, concluded,
“According to everything taught by the exact sciences about
the immense realm of nature, a certain order prevails — one
independent of the human mind. . . . This order can be formulated
in terms of purposeful activity. There is evidence of
an intelligent order of the universe to which both man and
nature are subservient.”