Extreme Fine Tuning - Dark Energy or the Cosmological Constant
by Rich Deem

Introduction

Fine Tuning?

Skeptics like to say that fine tuning cannot be proven by science, since we have only one universe to study. However, the discovery and quantification of dark energy has puzzled a number of scientists, who realize that its extremely small value requires that the initial conditions of the universe must have been extremely fine tuned in order that even matter would exist in our universe. By chance, our universe would have been expected to consist of merely some thermal radiation.

Rich Deem

The recent Nature study popularized in the press regarding the nature of the universe has confirmed some of the original studies involving supernovae type 1.1 The supernovae results suggested that there was a "springiness" to space, an energy density often referred to as "dark energy" or the "cosmological constant," that causes the universe to expand at a faster rate the more it expands. Often described as an "anti-gravity" force, it doesn't really oppose matter, but only affects matter as it is associated with the fabric of space.

Boomerang

The balloon-borne microwave telescope (called "Boomerang") examined the cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang.2 The angular power spectrum showed a peak value at exactly the value predicted by the inflationary hot Big Bang model dominated by cold dark matter. This model predicts a smaller second peak, which seems to be there, but cannot be fully resolved with the initial measurements. The presence of the second peak would all but seal the reliability of the Big Bang model as the mechanism by which the universe came into existence.

How does this study impact the Christian faith? The Bible says that the universe was created in finite time from that which is not visible.3 In addition, the Bible describes an expanding universe model.4 The Bible describes the Creator being personally involved in the design of the universe, so that we would expect to see this kind of design in His creation.5

How much fine tuning?

How does this discovery impact atheists? Those who favor naturalism had long sought to find the simplest explanation for the universe, hoping to avoid any evidence for design. A Big Bang model in which there was just enough matter to equal the critical density to account for a flat universe would have provided that. However, for many years, it has been evident that there is less than half of the amount of matter in the universe to account for a flat universe. A cosmological constant would provide an energy density to make up for the missing matter density, but would require an extreme amount of fine tuning. The supernovae studies demonstrated that there was an energy density to the universe (but did not define the size of this energy density), and the recent Boomerang study demonstrated that this energy density is exactly what one would expect to get a flat universe. How finely tuned must this energy density be to get a flat universe? One part in 10120,6 which is:

1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000

Atheists' reactions

What do atheists think about this level of design? Here is a quote from a recent article:

"This type of universe, however, seems to require a degree of fine tuning of the initial conditions that is in apparent conflict with 'common wisdom'."1

Atheists see a conflict because this level of design is something that one would not expect by chance from a universe that began through a purely naturalistic mechanism. "Common wisdom" is common only to those who must exclude a supernatural explanation for the creation of the universe.

Yet another study confirms the polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation, left over from the Big Bang. The standard inflationary model predicted that the background radiation should be polarized when it interacted with matter, nearly 14 billion years ago. John Carlstrom, the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, announced the discovery and made the following admission:

"Polarization is predicted. It's been detected and it's in line with theoretical predictions. We're stuck with this preposterous universe."7

Naturalism fails the test

In another article entitled, "Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant"8 researchers from Stanford and MIT examined some of the "problems" associated with a cosmological constant. In their paper, they stated that the implications of a cosmological constant "lead to very deep paradoxes, which seem to require major revisions of our usual assumptions." They admit that "there is no universally accepted explanation of how the universe got into such a special state" and that their study, "Far from providing a solution to the problem, we will be led to a disturbing crisis." They also admit, "Some unknown agent initially started the inflation high up on its potential, and the rest is history."

In examining problems with the cosmological constant, the authors are concerned that ultimate fate of the universe is complete entropy with all the matter and energy distributed over maximally expanded spacetime. They cite the ability of the universe to undergo "Poincare recurrences" as a possible "solution" to one of the "problems." There is a certain theoretical possibility that after the universe is maximally expanded that it would come back together again into one point. Think of it like this. Let's say you are in a room with air molecules randomly moving around in the room. There is a certain probability that the random motion of the molecules could cause all of them to travel to one corner of the room, leaving you in a complete vacuum. Obviously, this would not be a good thing to happen, but it is possible, with an interval on the order of once every 1060 years. Since we only live 102 years in a universe that has been around for only 1010 years, it is practically impossible. So, what is the time it would take for a fully expanded universe to come back into a single point? The authors calculate the value as e10120 years, which they comment "seems like an absurdly big time between interesting events, which, by comparison, last for a very short time." Recent evidence suggests that even this estimate is very optimistic. Some scientists believe that the universe will be permanently destroyed within 22 billion years, with no possibility of reassembly. Robert Caldwell of Dartmouth College says that the dark energy of the universe is increasing at a rate that will rip the universe apart and even the atoms themselves.9

However, it is the nature of inflation and the temperature of the universe that deeply concerns these cosmologists. This is what they have to say about the nature of our current universe, among all other possible universes:

"In all of these worlds statistically miraculous (but not impossible) events would be necessary to assemble and preserve the fragile nuclei that would ordinarily be destroyed by the higher temperatures. However, although each of the corresponding histories is extremely unlikely, there are so many more of them than those that evolve without "miracles," that they would vastly dominate the livable universes that would be created by Poincare recurrences. We are forced to conclude that in a recurrent world like de Sitter space our universe would be extraordinarily unlikely."

Appealing to possible alternative ways that the universe might have evolved do not make fine tuning untenable. In fact, the vast majority of possible universes would contain no matter at all - just energy! Here is what Dyson says about the probability that our universe would be the way it is:

"The vast majority of the space consists of states which are macroscopically "dead de Sitter;" that is, nearly empty de Sitter containing only some thermal radiation. A tiny subset of the states are anthropically acceptable, meaning that they contain complex structures such as stars and galaxies, and a very small subset of those are macroscopically indistinguishable from our universe (labeled MIFOU in the figure). Inflationary initial conditions occupy an even smaller fraction of the space. Trajectories which pass through the inflationary patch will almost always lead immediately to the MIFOU region, "mixing" into it in a "porous," phase-space-area-preserving manner. The vast majority of the points in the MIFOU region did not come from inflation, but rather from unstable trajectories originating in the dead region. Finally, any trajectory in the dead region will remain there almost all of the time, but will occasionally enter the anthropically acceptable region, and very much more rarely the MIFOU region, and almost never the inflationary region. Therefore, livable universes are almost always created by fluctuations into the "miraculous" states discussed above."

Conclusion Top of page

The nature of the universe reveals that a purely naturalistic cause for the universe is extremely unlikely and, therefore, illogical. One cannot say that a miraculous naturalistic event is a scientific explanation. Miracles are only possible when an immensely powerful Being intervenes to cause them. The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,10 and that He created the universe.11 When a model doesn't work, scientists must be willing to give up their model for a model that fits the facts better. In this case, the supernatural design model fits the data much better than the naturalistic random chance model.



References Top of page

  1. Zehavi, I, and A. Dekel. 1999. Evidence for a positive cosmological constant from flows of galaxies and distant supernovae Nature 401: 252-254 401: 252-254.
  2. de Bernardis, P., et al. 2000. A flat universe from high-resolution maps of the cosmic microwave background radiation. Nature 404:955-959.
  3. The universe was formed at God's command, so that what was seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)
  4. The following verses suggest that God created the universe through an expanding universe - what science has called the Big Bang. In many cases the Hebrew text indicates present tense - a process still continuing.
    • Who alone stretches out the heavens, And tramples down the waves of the sea; (Job 9:8)
    • Covering Thyself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain. (Psalm 104:2)
    • It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22)
    • Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk in it, (Isaiah 42:5)
    • Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, And spreading out the earth all alone" (Isaiah 44:24)
    • "It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands, And I ordained all their host." (Isaiah 45:12)
    • "Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together." (Isaiah 48:13)
    • That you have forgotten the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens, And laid the foundations of the earth; That you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, As he makes ready to destroy? But where is the fury of the oppressor? (Isaiah 51:13)
    • It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 10:12)
    • It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom, And by His understanding He stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 51:15)
    • The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, (Zechariah 12:1)
  5. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Psalm 19:1)
  6. Eli Michael. 1999. How physically plausible is the cosmological constant? from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
  7. Discovery Supports Astronomers' Paradoxical Views of the Universe from Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum
  8. Dyson, L., M. Kleban, and L. Susskind. 2002. Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant. Reprint from arXiv.
  9. 'Phantom menace' may rip up cosmos. 2003. New Scientist.
  10. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10)
  11. But God made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding. (Jeremiah 10:12)

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Last Modified May 16, 2006

 

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