Science and Religion

Complex Life on a Knife’s Edge

Salman Ahmed Shaikh

In his book, ‘A Brief History of Time’, Stephen Hawking writes: “If the rate of expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, it would have recollapsed before it reached its present size. On the other hand, if it had been greater by a part in a million, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for stars and planets to form.”[i]

We also know now that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Scientific estimates suggest that the age of the universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years. As per scientific estimates, from Big Bang to origin of life, the numerous variables had to be accurately fine-tuned. By chance, it would take 10 [to the power] 243 [billion years] to obtain even one protein molecule on earth!

Steven Weinberg argued that the cosmological constant must be zero to within one part in roughly 10120 (and yet be nonzero), or else the universe either would have dispersed too fast for stars and galaxies to have formed, or else would have recollapsed upon itself before the emergence of complex life-forms. Thus, life exists on a knife’s edge on this tiny planet in Cosmos.

Add to that the variety, design and sustenance of millions of different forms of life. The advancements in modern science have revealed how immaculately complex the material things and processes are in the universe. Allan Sandage finds it quite improbable that such order can come out of chaos. He asks the question which Leibniz posed earlier: “Why there is something rather than nothing”.[ii]

Nobel Laureate William D. Phillips shares his view as follows: “The observations about the orderliness of the physical universe and the apparently exceptional fine-tuning of the conditions of the universe for the development of life suggest that an intelligent Creator is responsible.”

Furthermore, Albert Einstein shares this view in one of his statements: “Everyone who is seriously committed to the cultivation of science becomes convinced that in all the laws of the universe, is manifest a spirit vastly superior to man, and to which we with our powers must feel humble.”

Prof. Krauss attempts to answer existence alternatively by redefining his notion of something as ‘nothing’ through the use of quantum mechanics. David Albert rightly contests this position. He writes:

“Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of simple physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-­theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangement of the fields —it is just the absence of the fields!”[iii]

Our Sun could hold 1.3 million earths. There are around 200 billion suns in a galaxy like our own Milky Way. Now, scientists can see a great number of galaxies through powerful telescopes. We know from astrophysics that one light year equals roughly 10 trillion kilometres. The diameter of the observable universe is around 150 billion light-years. To explain this fine-tuning, a group of scientists also suggest that we might be living in just one of the infinite universes where life-supporting conditions just happen to be there in their most precise form for life to exist and evolve. In this context, Edward Robert Harrison presents a choice: “Chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one”.[iv] One of the seminal contributors to String Theory, Michio Kaku recently stated “We exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.

It is pertinent to ask what Stephen Hawking also finds perplexing:

“We find ourselves in a bewildering world. We want to make sense of what we see around us and to ask: What is the nature of the universe? What is our place in it and where did it and we come from? Why is it the way it is?”


[i] Hawking, S. W. (1996). “The Illustrated: A Brief History of Time”. London: Bantam.

[ii] Wilford, J. N. (1991). “Sizing Up the Cosmos: An Astronomer’s Quest”, New York Times, March 12, 1991.

[iii] Albert, David (2012): “Book Review: On the Origin of Everything ‘A Universe from Nothing’” by Prof. Lawrence Krauss, New York Times, March 23.

[iv] Harrison, V. E. (2003). “Masks of the Universe: Changing Ideas on the Nature of the Cosmos”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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