Teleological Argument

The Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson noted that the properties of the universe appear to be on a knife edge and if any of the physical constants were any different (even ever so slightly) there would be no life at all.

“Reasons to Believe” lists hundreds of these constants and qualities:

Fred Hoyle – An English astronomer wrote:

Would you not say to yourself, “Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect 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. 1

This has become well known as the fine tuning argument, with the conclusion being that the best explanation of the fine tuning is that of a creator. Even though the conclusion of the argument to design is not universally shared, most agree that:

  • The constants and qualities of the universe are such that they fall within a very small life-permitting range
  • Life-prohibiting universes are much more probable than life-permitting universes.

The argument to design can be formulated as follows:

P1. The constants and qualities of the universe are such that they fall within a very small life-permitting range

P2. This is due to necessity, chance or design

P3. Design is the most probable explanation

C. Therefore the universe was designed

This of course does not conclude that God exists or has the traditional qualities of God but it is a starting point for understanding the order of the universe.

Exploration of the options – Necessity, chance and design

Based on what we know, what is the most probable reason for why our particular universe is fine tuned for life?

1. Necessity

The first explanation is that the universe must be life permitting, however we are yet to find any reason to believe this. Reasonable Faith notes that:

According to this alternative (physical necessity), the universe must be life-permitting. The precise values of these constants and quantities could not be otherwise. But is this plausible? Is a life-prohibiting universe impossible? Far from it! It’s not only possible; it’s far more likely than a life-permitting universe. The constants and quantities are not determined by the laws of nature. There’s no reason or evidence to suggest that fine-tuning is necessary. 2

2. Chance

The second option is that the life permitting range is simply a matter of chance. Although this is possible, it seems that the probability is extremely low. One of the constants in question is the ratio of electrons is to protons which needs to be within an accuracy of one part in 1037

Hugh Ross has explained how we can understand one in 1037:

One part in 1037 is such an incredibly sensitive balance that it is hard to visualize. The following analogy might help: Cover the entire North American continent in dimes all the way up to the moon, a height of about 239,000 miles (In comparison, the money to pay for the U.S. federal government debt would cover one square mile less than two feet deep with dimes.). Next, pile dimes from here to the moon on a billion other continents the same size as North America. Paint one dime red and mix it into the billions of piles of dimes. Blindfold a friend and ask him to pick out one dime. The odds that he will pick the red dime are one in 1037 3)

Of course, a multiverse questions the probability of chance being the best explanation, however the chances of a life-permitting universe still remain extremely low.

3. Design

The third option is that the universe has been designed (i.e. on purpose). In 2003 Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom proposed the simulation argument which argues that one of the following three is true:

(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage;

(2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof);

(3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. 4

Nick Bostrom has said the probability of us being in a computer simulation (i.e. there is a designer) could be around 20%. Elon Musk has said the chance we are not in a simulated world is “billions to one”. The probability that we are in a created world increases over time.

Even though it may be difficult to determine the actual probabilities that we are in a simulation (there is a designer), the probability appears to be certainly much higher than the probability of the universe being the product of chance.

Type of Design

The simulation argument is not limited to just simulations but can be applied more generally. As per the New God Argument, “superhumanity probably created our world”.

Why believe in creation rather than simulation? Jonathan Cannon has said:

I suspect that advanced civilizations aren’t going to run lots of detailed, ancestor simulations. While I believe they will be interested in renewing ties with their previously dead ancestors, I think they will be much more interested in creating new futures and raising new children than in trying to recreate the past…Created beings in created universes seem more like equals with their creators. 5

Conclusion

We can reasonably conclude that the probability of design is much higher than the probability of chance or necessity. Therefore the conclusion of the teleological argument (argument to design) is that the universe was designed.

The teleological argument will likely not convince anyone that God exists and as Mark S. Gustavson has said:

…perhaps only personal interplay with God which includes direct tangible interaction but which does not exclude revelatory experience will satisfy the inquisitive mind. The Old Testament and Joseph Smith models of direct experience with deity have a lot of appeal and appear to be the best avenue available in the Mormon tradition to prove and enjoy the existence of God. 6

  1. Fred Hoyle, “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections.” Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12[]
  2. Reasonable Faith. 2016. Transcript: Fine Tuning Argument. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/transcript-fine-tuning-argument. [Accessed 7 February 2017].[]
  3.  The Creator and the Cosmos, 3d ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001[]
  4. Nick Bostrom. 2003. Are you living in a computer simulation?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html. [Accessed 20 February 2017].[]
  5. Jonathan Cannon. 2014. The Creation Argument. [ONLINE] Available at: http://rationalfaiths.com/creation-argument/. [Accessed 7 February 2017].[]
  6. Mark S. Gustavson. 2001. The Anthropic Argument, Mormon Finitism, and the Argument from Design: A Re-examination.. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/the-anthropic-argument-mormon-finitism-and-the-argument-from-design-a-re-examination/. [Accessed 7 February 2017].[]