Is carbon production in stars fine-tuned for life?
For years theists have claimed that the constants of physics had to be finely tuned by God to the values that have for life in the universe to be possible. In my column of June, 2009 I showed that many of these claims are based on an improper analysis of the data. Even some of the competent scientists who write on this subject commit the fallacy of holding all the parameters constant and varying just one. When you allow all to vary, you find that changes to one parameter can be easily compensated for by changes to another, leaving the ingredients for life in place. This point is also made nicely in a recent Scientific American cover story by Alejandro Jenkins and Gilad Perez. In this column I will discuss perhaps the most cited example of claimed fine-tuning, the Hoyle resonance. In 1953 the famous astronomer Fred Hoyle calculated that the production of carbon would not occur with sufficient probability unless that probability was boosted by the presence of an excited nuclear state of C12 at a very specific energy. In what appeared to be a remarkable victory for anthropic reasoning, Hoyle proposed that this previously unknown state must exist at about 7.7 MeV.