The fourth video in our series of BioLogos Basics is the first of several videos that will look at the evidence from the natural world for how God brought about the diversity of life we see on earth today. Before life could begin and develop, the planet had to be prepared in just the right way to sustain it. God could have done this miraculously in an instant, but when we look carefully at the physical evidence, it appears that the earth has a longer history as part of the universe. It is remarkable to see how the chemical elements we need for life can be generated through natural processes. We who look at these through eyes of faith cannot but see evidence of “fine tuning” and God’s providential hand.
We’ve developed a dedicated webpage to house these BioLogos Basics videos. There are several more to come in the series, and we hope you’re finding these helpful. Share them with your friends and family new to the BioLogos perspective. And don’t forget the further links to content on our site that digs deeper into the topic.
Script: Jim Stump
Video production: Andrew DeSelm
Next steps for exploring this topic:
- Fine tuning: A Deeper Story – A video interviewing several scholars on the strengths and limitations of the fine tuning argument.
- What is “fine-tuning”? – From our Common Questions page.
- The Modern Creation Story – An adaptation from Karl Giberson and Francis Collins, The Language of Science and Faith which gives more detail to the science of creation.
- Fine-tuning and the Fruitful Universe – Audio and transcript from part of a John Polkinghorne lecture on fine tuning. See also Ted Davis’s series on Polkinghorne.
- Science as an Instrument of Worship – In this blog series, astronomer Jennifer Wiseman explains why the study of the universe can lead Christ’s followers into meaningful worship.
- Deep Resonance – Philosopher Michael L. Peterson writes a 6-part series on the compatibility of Christian theology with the theory of evolution. Part 4 especially focuses on fine tuning and the “Anthropic potentiality” we find in the universe.
So how did God bring about the diversity of life we see on earth today? First he needed a place where life could survive—a planet that is just the right distance from the sun, and full of the right kinds of elements. God orchestrated this through physical processes that scientists have come to understand quite well. And many of these appear to have been fine-tuned so life could exist.
At the beginning of the universe, there were no galaxies or stars or planets, just hydrogen and helium atoms randomly distributed through space. But the gravity pulled big clumps of these atoms together to form stars. The strength of gravity had to be precisely tuned for that to happen. If it had been just a tiny bit stronger, it would have pulled all the matter in the universe back into one giant ball; if it had been just a tiny bit weaker, the atoms would have spread out so far from each other that stars could never have formed. As it is, God ensured that the strength of gravity is just right so that stars could form and provide the energy needed for life to exist.
So the first stars were composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium atoms, but other natural forces besides gravity cause them to fuse into the other elements we need for life. For example, all the life we know of is based on carbon. To get one atom of carbon, you need three atoms of helium. Under normal circumstances, it is extremely rare for three helium atoms to fuse into a carbon atom. But inside a star the forces are so precisely balanced that there is lots of carbon produced from helium collisions. When the first stars ran out of fuel, they spewed their elements back into space. And gravity brought the atoms together to begin the process again. But this time, there were lots of other elements too that could gather into planets around a star; and at least one of those—our Earth—was positioned perfectly so that life could develop.
There are many other laws and constants in nature that had to be precisely tuned for the universe to support life. God could have brought all this about in an instant if he had wanted to. But the evidence we find today in the things he created points to the conclusion that he did it through these natural processes over long stretches of time. In the next video we’ll see just how much time.