Our Finely Tuned Universe

A total solar eclipse occurs where the moon completely covers the sun's disk, as seen in this 1999 solar eclipse.Solar prominences can be seen along the limb (in red) as well as extensive coronal filaments.
A total solar eclipse occurs where the moon completely covers the sun’s disk, as seen in this 1999 solar eclipse.Solar prominences can be seen along the limb (in red) as well as extensive coronal filaments.

Look up at the sky. They are about 93 million miles apart. Yet the moon and the sun appear to be the same size. To make it even more obvious, look up at the sky during a solar eclipse. The moon completely hides its heavenly companion from view. Yet they are not the same size. They appear to be because their diameters are proportional to their distance from the Earth. The diameter of the sun is 400 times the diameter of the moon, and the sun is 400 times more distant from the earth. No other moon in our solar system or anywhere else has been found with this relationship between its planet and the sun.

The odds for this heavenly coincidence are very small.

There are other very improbable coincidences in our corner of the universe, many of which sustain our life on this planet.  As Stephen Hawking has noted, “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. … The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.”

An essential product of this fine tuning is chlorophyll, the magic green molecule that transforms sunlight into plant food. Photosynthesis through chlorophyll provides all of our food and most of our energy. Without it, there would not be life as we know it.

The many finely tuned coincidences necessary for life on Earth have been gathered together as the Anthropic Principle. The word comes from the Greek “anthropos” meaning human. In its broadest sense it would appear that the universe was made for us. We run into many complicated arguments about how these realities evolved. In considering the anthropic principle, Nick Bostrom, Professor of Philosophy, Oxford University wrote:

“Few fields are so rich in empirical implications, touch on so many important scientific questions, pose such intricate paradoxes, and contain such generous quantities of conceptual and methodological confusion that need to be sorted out.”

By just glancing up at the sky or noticing the green growing around us, we can wonder. Was all this an accident? Is there some divine intervention making it happen? Or do we have something to do with it?

This last possibility has some strong support. The key to this perspective comes from quantum physics where researchers have proven how the simple act of observation changes outcomes. In the case of light waves, observation “collapses the wave function” and creates a particle from the wave. According to this argument, multiple universes were possible but could not come into existence until one of them was observed. An observer must then come into existence to make the observation that transitions the potential universe to a real one. The observer appears to be necessary for the creation of our reality.

 



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