I’m frequently asked to debate whether the universe exhibits extraordinary fine-tuning. On one recent podcast, what was proposed as a debate on cosmic fine-tuning turned into an affirmation that the universe is designed for observability.

Physics Podcast “Debate”
I was interviewed by Ukrainian physicist Mikhail Abukumov on the subject of the fine-tuning of the universe for the possible existence and benefit of human beings. (Abukumov has translated my debate with Oxford University chemist Peter Atkins on the British radio/podcast show Unbelievable? into Russian.) Abukumov paired me up with Russian physicist Alexey Burov, who is presently a staff scientist at Fermi Lab in Batavia, Illinois. Abukumov presumed that this podcast episode would be a debate about fine-tuning since he was aware that my books and articles on cosmic fine-tuning were different from the papers and articles written by Burov.

There was no debate. What I have written on cosmic fine-tuning complemented what Burov had written, and what Burov had written complemented what I had written. Anyone can watch or listen to the “debate” here.

Universe Designed for Observability
Both Alexey Burov and his son Lev Burov are theoretical physicists. Together, they wrote a paper titled Genesis of a Pythagorean Universe.1 The paper is equation-free and, for the most part, can be understood by readers without a degree in physics.

Genesis of a Pythagorean Universe complements what I wrote in my book, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, concerning how the universe is designed for observability. In my bookI explained how there’s a relatively narrow time window in the history of the universe during which astronomers can observe 100% of the universe’s past history. Humans are inside that time window now. I also demonstrated that we are living in the one location within this vast universe where intelligent physical life is possible, and where that intelligent life can observe 100% of the past history of the universe. I argued that perhaps our epoch in cosmic history or our location might be coincidental, but not both simultaneously. I concluded that the most rational reason for why we exist at both the ideal time epoch and location is that Someone wanted us to read the entirety of the universe’s “book” so that we can fully comprehend his glory, power, care, righteousness, and other attributes (Psalm 19:1–450:6, 97:6Romans 1:18–20).

Balance between Complexity and Simplicity
Alexey and Lev Burov made a similar argument based on the laws of physics. They explained how the laws of physics are complex enough to make our existence possible, yet simple enough to allow us to discover and understand those laws and their significance in allowing us to exist and fulfill the purposes for which the Creator created us. They pointed out that the minimum complexity of the laws of physics that would permit us to exist and thrive on one planet equals the maximum complexity of those laws that we could conceivably discover. They wrote, “Every little increase in complexity of the laws would create a tremendous jump in difficulty of their discovery, but if they were even a little simpler, the universe would have lacked the structural variety of life, not to mention human brains.”2 This equality, they argue, has no naturalistic explanation. The multiverse cannot account for it. Only a personal Creator who wanted us to exist and discover him explains such an extraordinary equality.

The Burovs demonstrate that what makes the equality a powerful testimony of God’s existence and the degree to which he has fine-tuned the universe for our benefit is that we can prove that the laws of physics are unchanged and noncontradictory throughout the entire space-time continuum of the universe, in some cases to eighteen places of the decimal! Additionally, we can show that the laws of physics apply over a size scale range of 1045, from the largest-sized structures in the universe, like the cosmic web, down to the smallest ones, such as the top quark and the Higgs boson. As the Burovs conclude, an Ultimate Mind is necessary not only to explain the mathematical nature of the laws of physics but also to continuously guarantee the noncontradiction of all the laws of physics.

Beauty Principle
Another testimony of God’s existence and his designs comes from the observation that the laws of physics are described by equations that are extraordinarily beautiful and elegant. For example, we see the principles of symmetry, conservation, and equivalence manifested in the physical laws. We note that the laws are designed to fulfill multiple purposes simultaneously. This beauty and elegance are evident throughout the entire size scale range of 1045. The beauty and elegance of the physical laws are so profound that it caused atheist theoretical physicist Eugene Wigner,3 a Nobel Laureate, to declare, “The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor desire. We should be grateful for it.”4 The Burovs point out that Wigner’s conclusion concerning this wonderful gift that we should be grateful for “can only have meaning if a mind to be grateful to is implied.”

The Burovs’ demonstrations remind me of the best advice I ever got from my undergraduate physics professors. That advice: the key to obtaining the correct answer on a physics problem assignment is to look for the solution that is described by the most beautiful and elegant equations.

The undeniable beauty and elegance of the mathematical equations that describe the laws of physics provide profound evidence for God and his attributes. Humans are the only species of life on Earth capable of discovering the laws of physics. We’re also uniquely endowed with the aesthetic sense to comprehend and value beauty and elegance. That capability has no survival advantage. In fact, it’s a survival disadvantage. It finds explanation only in the context of a Creator who values and enjoys beauty and elegance and who wants us, as beings created in his image, to also value and enjoy beauty and elegance.

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org


  1. Alexey Burov and Lev Burov, “Genesis of a Pythagorean Universe,” in Trick or TruthThe Mysterious Connection between Physics and Mathematics, edited by Anthony Aguirre, Brendan Foster, and Zeeya Merali (Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2016): 157–70, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-27495-9.
  2. Alexey Burov and Lev Burov, “Metaphysical Status of Physical Laws,” in Plato in Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages and Modern Times: Selected Papers from the Seventeenth Annual Conference of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies, held in Ottawa, Canada (2019), edited by John F. Finamore and Mark Nyvlt (Lydney, UK: The Prometheus Trust, 2020): 130. This paper is available free in its entirety at http://www.prometheustrust.co.uk/Metaphysical_Status_of_Physical_Laws.pdf.
  3. Andrew Szanton, The Recollections of Eugene P. Wigner: As Told to Andrew Szanton (New York: Plenum, 1992), 60–61.
  4. Eugene Wigner, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences. Richard Courant Lecture in Mathematical Sciences Delivered at New York University, May 11, 1959,” Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics 13, issue 1 (1960): 14, doi:10.1002/cpa.3160130102.
  5. Burov and Burov, “Genesis of a Pythagorean Universe,” p. 168.

About The Author

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. I also am eager to equip Christians to engage, rather than withdraw from or attack, educated non-Christians. One of the approaches I’ve developed, with the help of my RTB colleagues, is a biblical creation model that is testable, falsifiable, and predictive. I enjoy constructively integrating all 66 books of the Bible with all the science disciplines as a way to discover and apply deeper truths. 1 Peter 3:15–16 sets my ministry goal, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience." Hugh Ross launched his career at age seven when he went to the library to find out why stars are hot. Physics and astronomy captured his curiosity and never let go. At age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver's Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or "quasars," some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe. Not all of Hugh's discoveries involved astrophysics. Prompted by curiosity, he studied the world’s religions and "holy books" and found only one book that proved scientifically and historically accurate: the Bible. Hugh started at religious "ground zero" and through scientific and historical reality-testing became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God! When he went on to describe for others his journey to faith in Jesus Christ, he was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved without checking the evidence. Hugh's unshakable confidence that God's revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Wholeheartedly encouraged by family and friends, communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. Thus, in 1986, he founded science-faith think tank Reasons to Believe (RTB). He and his colleagues at RTB keep tabs on the frontiers of research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what's being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology. In this realm, he has written many books, including: The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, A Matter of Days, Creation as Science, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, and More Than a Theory. Between writing books and articles, recording podcasts, and taking interviews, Hugh travels the world challenging students and faculty, churches and professional groups, to consider what they believe and why. He presents a persuasive case for Christianity without applying pressure. Because he treats people's questions and comments with respect, he is in great demand as a speaker and as a talk-radio and television guest. Having grown up amid the splendor of Canada's mountains, wildlife, and waterways, Hugh loves the outdoors. Hiking, trail running, and photography are among his favorite recreational pursuits - in addition to stargazing. Hugh lives in Southern California with his wife, Kathy, and two sons.

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