Is Our Universe “the Ultimate Artifact”?

A science-fact article in the April 1987 ANALOG impacted my thinking and led (almost 25 years later) to my just-released book, GOD AND SOUL.

I first encountered the scientific case for the existence of God in the April 1987 issue of Analog Science Fiction / Science Fact. Sandwiched among the science fiction stories was a fact article by Richard D. Meisner with the intriguing title “Universe—the Ultimate Artifact?” I began reading—and what I read was startling. Meisner gave a guided tour of some of the cosmic coincidences that I have recently explored in my new book God and Soul.

Meisner’s conclusion: The universe appears to be an artifact—an object designed by an intelligent entity for a specific purpose. Meisner went on to quote cosmologist Paul Davies: “It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in the numbers, has been rather carefully thought out.” Then Meisner offered his own impression:

One may feel inclined to apply the word “God” in this context. This is justifiable, although I tend to avoid the word simply because I’ve found almost without exception that it triggers an immediate positive or negative emotional response in the listener—most inconducive to good scientific thinking. Naturally, the artifact hypothesis is most attractive when stripped of its unfortunate historical trappings of superstition and dogma. . . . Personally, if the artifact inference proved true, I would be most interested not in how the universe was fabricated, but why.

A year after I encountered Meisner’s article in Analog, I discovered a book by Dr. George Greenstein with the intriguing title The Symbiotic Universe. It’s a book-length treatment of the cosmological case for God. It explores the body of evidence Meisner wrote about, but in much greater depth and detail.

Dr. Greenstein is a Yale-educated astrophysicist who currently teaches at Amherst College in Massachusetts. In the early 1980s, Greenstein became fascinated by the scientific case for God, and he began examining the list of “cosmic coincidences” purely as a matter of personal amusement. As the list of “coincidences” kept growing, Greenstein found the results disturbing.

“The more I read,” Greenstein wrote, “the more I became convinced that such ‘coincidences’ could hardly have happened by chance.” Why did he find the “cosmic coincidences” disturbing? Because they appeared to be evidence for a Cosmic Designer—that is, evidence for God—and Greenstein was a confirmed atheist.

The possibility that God or a Godlike super-intelligence might have actually designed the universe made Greenstein almost physically sick. He recalls experiencing “an intense revulsion, and at times it was almost physical in nature. I would positively squirm with discomfort. … I found it difficult to entertain the notion without grimacing in disgust, and well-nigh impossible to mention it to friends without apology.”

In my next post, I’ll explore some of the evidence that caused Dr. Greenstein to “squirm with discomfort.”

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  1. Given that this universe is exactly as we’d expect it to be if it were not designed, and not really what we’d expect if it were, the design conclusion is unwarranted.

    • Exactly how is an exquisitely fine-tuned universe “exactly what we’d expect” to arise by sheer random chance? That makes absolutely zero sense. Did you read what Greenstein and Meisner said above? Are you acquainted with the vast body of evidence for cosmic fine-tuning? Greenstein, an atheist, ultimately rejected the design inference in favor of his own “symbiotic universe” concept, but he makes it absolutely clear that, based on the cosmic coincidences he cited, the universe has every appearance of being deliberately and purposefully designed. (See also: As physicist Paul Davies observed, “There is now broad agreement among physicists and cosmologists that the Universe is fine-tuned for life.” That evidence for fine-tuning builds a powerful case for the existence of a Cosmic Fine-Tuner (aka God). J.D.

  1. Lament for an Atheist (Part I) « godandsoul
  2. Lament for an Atheist (Part II) « godandsoul
  3. Lament for an Atheist (Part I) « The Truth Will Make You Mad
  4. Lament for an Atheist (Part II) — or How Christopher Hitchens Got It Wrong About God « The Truth Will Make You Mad

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