Scientific Discovery and God: The Solar System, Part 2
In part 1 of this series, I discussed how scientific evidence demonstrates that the universe had a beginning and that such a notion best comports with the expectations of theism over atheistic naturalism. Yet that conspicuous beginning took secular scientists by complete surprise. In this article I will briefly discuss what the expectations of secular scientists concerning our solar system were, and what science has revealed. The results will also show which worldview— naturalism or theism—is preferred.1
Our Solar System
The consensus of secular scientists a quarter century ago when it came to our part of the galaxy was that the solar system was garden-variety typical. The thought was that our solar system was no different from any number of other systems throughout our galaxy or even throughout the expansive universe. Scientists viewed the Sun, Earth, and Moon in our system as being in no particular way uncommon or special. This was a broader implication of the Copernican principle (the idea that the earth does not rest in a privileged or special physical position in the universe).
However, this initial expectation has proved to be untrue. Astrophysicists now know that our solar system exhibits an exquisite fine-tuning that allows for the emergence of complex, intelligent life. Specifically, the relationship of the Sun, Earth, and Moon provide a rare, if not unique, habitable zone for life to thrive on planet Earth. These “just right” conditions of the bodies in our part of the galaxy seem to be unmatched from what scientists know about other systems. In fact, the number and exquisite combination of factors (at least 150) that require fine-tuning to allow for life are so exceedingly improbable, through purely natural means, that the intuition of cosmic design is utterly probative.2
While scientists who embrace a purely naturalistic worldview expected the solar system to prove to be commonplace, instead they discovered a seemingly unique system. Along with the universe overall, the solar system exhibits all the narrowly drawn parameters, characteristics, and content to allow for intelligent life to emerge and thrive. This discovery has led some members of the scientific community to conclude that divine design seems intuitively obvious.
This extraordinary fine-tuning comports well with a theistic worldview, but seems out of place and unexpected from an atheistic, naturalistic perspective.3 So what would our solar system look like if theism were true? Apparently, very much like it appears right now.
In part three I’ll discuss some of Earth’s features and what scientists both anticipated and have discovered about it.
Reflections: Your Turn
For Christians, what does living in an exquisitely fine-tuned world that allows human life to flourish invoke? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.
- For a discussion of naturalism and theism as worldviews, see Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012), chapters 12 and 16 respectively.
- For more on the fine-tuning of the universe and the solar system, see Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2018), 243–66.
- For more on the argument for God from fine-tuning, see Kenneth Richard Samples, 7 Truths That Changed the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012), 113–15.