by Hugh Ross, PhD
To read the full article and for more detailed information on r-process elements and the formation of black holes, visit https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/12/3/201/htm
To see reviewers’ critiques and Hugh’s responses, visit https://mdpi.com/2077-1444/12/3/201/review_report
Over the past fifteen years, I have written three books showing that the more we learn about the universe the more cosmic features we discover are fine-tuned for the specific benefit of humans. Here, I offer yet another extension of the cosmological anthropic principle, the manner in which black holes in the universe and the vicinity of Earth are fine-tuned so that we can live and thrive.
A black hole is anything but the void its name might suggest. By contrast, a black hole is a physical body of enormous mass and density. Its gravitational force wields so much power that nothing—not even light—can escape once caught in its grip. . . .
The existence of a large population of black holes in the universe raises a question to Christians about the existence and nature of the God of the Bible. A question I have been asked frequently at public events is this: if the biblical Creator is the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving Being the Scriptures portray, why would such a God design and create a universe in which life faces a pervasive risk from health-damaging, if not life-destroying, cosmic radiation produced by black holes?
This God certainly could have created and designed a universe without black holes. However, such a universe, as best we can model its properties and behavior, would be governed by totally different laws or constants of physics. It would be a universe with different values for one or more of the fundamental physical constants or possibly without the operation of gravity, electromagnetism, and the nuclear forces, or without thermodynamics characterized by high entropy (entropy is a measure of the decay or disorganization of a system as the system continuously moves from order to chaos). It would also be a universe of much smaller mass and mass density. Any substantially alternate universe we hypothesize and test would be a place in which physical life as we experience it would be impossible. . . .
A universe without black holes also would be a universe missing many of the heavier-than-iron elements that are essential for advanced life and advanced civilization. About half the elements heavier than iron are r-process elements (rapid neutron capture process elements). Observations of neutron star merging events, where two neutron stars merge to become a black hole, establish that most, if not nearly all, r-process elements that exist on Earth and elsewhere in the universe came from these. . . .
Supermassive black holes serve as an essential entropy repository of the universe. Therefore, supermassive black holes appear to be a constrained-optimization consequence of the fine-tuning that is required for the possibility of advanced life in the universe. Thus, the theist can argue that they make sense in a Creator’s plan. However, there is more.
Thanks to a host of features, including (but not limited to) the exceptionally low mass of our galaxy’s supermassive black hole and the unusually small mass and density of its surrounding asteroid-comet cloud, life has been able to survive and thrive on Earth, despite some setbacks, throughout the past 3.8 billion years. The limited activity level outside the supermassive black hole’s event horizon has been so stunningly quiet throughout the past 10,000 years that humans have been able to launch, develop, and sustain global civilization. . . .
Clearly, we humans appear to occupy a unique location at a unique time with respect to black holes. The extraordinary characteristics and distribution of black holes in our cosmic neighborhood are but one example of precise fine-tuning and intricate craftsmanship required for our existence. Another is the precise timing and placement of our existence within a hospitable neighborhood. . . .
I believe that these scientific findings provide one way Christians and other theists might reconcile their belief in a God who plans and cares for advanced life on Earth with the seemingly counterintuitive existence of destructive black holes. This reconciliation also supplies one example of why broad claims that science and faith are at war with each other, or must operate independently, should be subjected to critical scrutiny.
As both a scientist and a Christian, I believe not only that scientific evidence is reconcilable to theism, but that there is much scientific evidence that points to the existence of a powerful, purposeful Creator behind the universe. To this author, Earth’s capacity to host billions of people who can discern the existence and care of our Creator and, by grace, through faith, enter into an eternal, loving relationship with him inspires and, through ongoing discovery, continually amplifies my sense of awe and wonder. I hope you feel the same.
Excerpted from Hugh Ross, “Black Holes as Evidence of God’s Care,” Religions 12, no. 3 (March 2021): id. 201, doi:10.3390/rel12030201.