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Faith and Philosophy

Volume 36, Issue 4, October 2019

Travis Dumsday
Pages 491-511

Is the Cosmos Fine-Tuned for Life, Or For the Possibility of Life? (And Why Patristic and Medieval Demonology Might Hold Part of the Answer)

Contemporary physics and cosmology have accumulated a great deal of empirical evidence for the claim that in order for our universe to contain life, an array of incredibly precise laws, constants, and specific initial conditions had to be in place. The minuscule odds of this happening purely by chance have prompted some Christian thinkers to suggest that this can be seen as novel evidence that the universe was fine-tuned specifically to give rise to biological life. And yet some Christian thinkers also wish to make the case that molecular biology provides new evidence to the effect that life could not have arisen naturally in our universe, but rather that the origin of life required additional special divine intervention. There is at least a prima facie tension between these two ideas. Relatedly, some have raised the question of why, if the universe were fine-tuned for life, it was also set up in such a way that the origin of life was preceded by more than 10 billion years of lifelessness. If life was the whole point, why the seeming delay? In this paper I suggest a way Christian thinkers might address both issues: namely, the cosmos was not fine-tuned for life, but merely for the possibility of life. Perhaps God wanted a universe in which biological organisms were possible (including intelligent organisms like us) but in which their non-existence was also a live possibility. I develop this solution in dialogue with related ideas arising from the demonologies of St. Augustine, Boethius, and St. Anselm.

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