Does it take more faith to be an atheist?

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According to the quantum physicist John Polkinghorne, former professor of Mathematical physics at Cambridge, writer of “The Quantum World”, a book hailed by the Physics Bulletin as one of the finest in its genre, it does.

“In the early expansion of the universe there has to be a close balance between the expansive energy (driving things apart) and the force of gravity (pulling things together). If expansion dominated then matter would fly apart too rapidly for condensation into galaxies and stars to take place. Nothing interesting could happen in so thinly spread a world. On the other hand if gravity dominated, the world would collapse in on itself again before there was time for the process of life to get going.

For us to be possible requires a balance between the effects of expansion and contraction which at the very early epoch in the universe’s history (the Planck time) has to differ from equality by not more than 1 in 10 raised to the power of 60. The numerate will marvel at such a degree of accuracy. For the non-numerate I will borrow an illustration from Paul Davies of what that accuracy means. He points out that it is the same as aiming at a target an inch wide on the other side of the observable universe, 20 000 million light years away, and hitting the mark!” Dr. John Polkinghorne. “The Quantum World”.


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