Anthropic Coincidences: Evidence of an Intelligent Creator?

Anthropic coincidences are coincidences in space that set the ratio of fundamental forces in the universe with great precision upon its creation to ensure that it is habitable; for example:

  • If the universe’s weak nuclear force was significantly stronger, it would be star-free, as fusion at the big bang would have “proceeded directly to iron” (Koons). If it was significantly weaker, the universe would be completely made of helium. This weak nuclear force must be extremely weak in relation to other forces, but just strong enough to make the occurrence of supernovas possible.
  • If the strong nuclear force was two percent stronger, it would not allow for the formation of protons. If it was one percent stronger, all carbon would have been formed as oxygen, and if it was one percent weaker, no carbon would have been formed from beryllium.
  • If electromagnetism was even slightly stronger, there would be no red stars; only supernovas. If it was slightly weaker, all of the universe’s stars would be blue dwarves.

According to Robert C. Koons, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin, “anthropic coincidences are themselves excellent evidence that the laws of nature can and should be explained. If the laws really were absolute rock bottom, inexplicable brute facts, then we would be faced with a set of inexplicable coincidences.” Being able to explain these coincidences and the purpose behind them, if any, would allow us to rethink prior opinions of the inexplicability of the universe. 

Koons summarizes philosopher and mathematician William Dembski’s argument that highly unlikely and specified patterns should be explained, whereas when a result is highly likely and unspecified, it doesn’t necessarily have to be explained. For example, if you are playing a game of cards and happen to randomly draw a single queen of hearts from the deck, this completely random result is both likely and unspecified, and therefore does not have to be explained. Contrastingly, if you are playing poker and are “dealt the very best hand seven times in a row,” this is a very unlikely and highly specified result, and therefore demands to be explained. Anthropic coincidences follow similarly unlikely and complex patterns in order to ensure “the existence of complex, molecular chemistry” in the universe, thus urging us to find an explanation for them. This is where the Argument from Design comes into play in order to explain the precision behind the creation of the universe.

Acknowledging the modern rift between Darwinists such as Richard Dawkins and creationists, Koons underscores the reliability of hypothesizing theism to be an explanation for anthropic coincidences. His argument is as follows:

The physical constants of the cosmos take anthropic values.

  1. This coincidence must have a causal explanation.
  2. Therefore, the constants take the values that they do because these values are anthropic (i.e., because they cause the conditions needed for life).
  3. Therefore, the purpose of the values of these constants is to permit the development of life (using the aetiological definition of purpose).
  4. Therefore, the values of these constants are the purposive effects of an intelligent agent (using the minimalist conception of agency).
  5. Therefore, the cosmos has been created.

Explaining these coincidences with the presence of an intelligent creator, according to Koons, is more viable than supposing the opposite because contrasting views only lead into further inexplicability of the coincidences and a greater need for an explanation. The coincidence would become even larger as the formation of an “elegant system” with precisely determined ratios of forces is less likely than the occurrence of this system simply by chance. Thus, theism seems to be the most applicable explanation for the creation of such a fine-tuned, balanced universe.


Sources Cited:

Koons, Robert C. “Post-Agnostic Science: How Physics Is Reviving The Argument From Design.” Post-Agnostic Science: How Physics Is Reviving The Argument From Design. University of Texas, n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2017.


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