HOYLE AND FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE

In chapter seven of “Return of the God Hypothesis”, Stephen Meyer begins to consider the fascinating subject of the fine-tuning of the universe in his chapter titled, “The Goldilocks Universe”.

Sir Fred Hoyle

Astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle began his career as a staunch atheist. He saw religion as being no more than a tool to provide escapism from the meaninglessness of life. He resented the idea of the big bang because it required a beginning and therefore implied the existence of a Beginner, and consequently developed his “steady state” model of the universe. However, the findings of CMBR drew most scientists to belief in the big bang, and the diminishing of Hoyle’s theory. But what he himself came to see during his own research served to convince him, eventually, that evidence of intentional design in the universe is inescapable.

Fine tuning, in physics, refers to the now well-known (but little discussed) fact that a multitude of properties of the universe fall within extremely narrow and improbable ranges, being dynamically inter-related, that turn out to be absolutely necessary for complex forms of life, or even complex chemistry, to exist. These fine tuning parameters are sometimes referred to as “anthropic coincidences”, and to the incredible convergence of all these coincidences as the “anthropic fine-tuning” of the universe.

It became clear from the 1950s onwards that the precise strengths of fundamental forces within the physical realm, the arrangement of matter and laws of nature and energy at the calculated beginning of the universe, and many other features of our cosmos, are and were clearly delicately balanced to allow for the possibility of life. If any one of these properties were altered by a tiny fraction, complex chemistry and life would not exist at all. The fact that the fine tuning of these parameters and properties has no apparent logical or even necessary reason to be as it is, is a giant puzzle to physicists and philosophers.

Meyer goes into some detail on Hoyle’s discovery and study of these parameters, and Hoyle’s efforts to construct a naturalistic theory to explain how heavy elements may have developed from Hydrogen and Helium. Of particular interest to Hoyle was the origin of Carbon, since all known forms of life are dependent on Carbon. In demonstration of its uniqueness, Meyer explains that Carbon is essential for forming sufficiently stable, long-chain molecules capable of storing and processing genetic information.

Hoyle’s efforts to show that other elements could also be a basis for life-forms proved fruitless. But of greater significance was the failure of his, and others’ determination to show that Carbon could easily form within stars, in which elements would be converted into successively heavier elements. Instead, his discovery was that a very specific set of incredible circumstances was necessary to produce Carbon. Also at play were the four fundamental forces of nature, which have to be precisely fine-tuned to the exactly appropriate and relative degrees, to allow for the formation of Carbon. Meyer outlines these and the nature of other vital conditions and properties of quarks, neutrons and protons, and the necessity of certain exact reactions in the early universe.

Meyer writes that Hoyle was “stunned” by results of this research, and that he began to see fine-tuning as obvious evidence of intelligent design. In 1981, Hoyle stated:

A common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question” (reference listed in Meyer’s book).

I see from other sources that Hoyle is held at arm’s length by naturalists in general-likely a reaction against his conversion to the idea of intelligent design. Whoever wrote the Wiki article on him dismisses some of his views and portrays him as having “contempt for orthodoxy”. Anyone who has contempt for, or at least questions orthodoxy, is alright in my view. The article also claims that Hoyle supported the idea of “panspermia”: the theory that life must have evolved somewhere else in the universe and was transmitted to the earth. Hoyle rejected the purported evidence of Archaeopteryx, which the article claims is solidly proven, but which others, including some evolutionists, have also rejected as being a man-made fraud.

Whether or not he believed in panspermia, the point is that Hoyle, a one-time staunch atheist, and a brilliant scientist, on discovering and studying the fine-tuning of the universe, came to see intelligent design as being the obvious conclusion to draw from the facts.

Again, I want to state that in distinction to Meyer’s view, I believe that God can and did create the universe relatively recently, and more or less complete, in one go, but probably from a single point in what became space.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be continuing Meyer’s discussion on fine-tuning, and I’ll include comments and information on the subject from other sources, both evolutionary and creationist.

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