Monday, April 20, 2009

The Multiverse Hypothesis

The weight of evidence for a divinely designed universe is now so overwhelming that it has forced astronomers and philosophers who reject the God of the Bible as the Author of the cosmos to propose the existence of an infinite number of universes. - Hugh Ross

Well, there goes parsimony!

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why must it be the God of the Bible and not Allah, Brahma, or perhaps the deist god?

Cultural bias, maybe?

Crude said...

First, who says arguments like these, and others, indicate it 'must be' the God of the Bible? Even dedicated and zealous apologists like William Lane Craig (hell, even Thomas Aquinas and others) will outright admit that these arguments get you to God or the Godlike, and that additional reasoning and argument is needed to bolster the case for the God they have in mind. Ross' site deals less with apologetics than with discussing science to people already in the faith, as near as I can tell.

Either way, I see this tact often, usually from atheists, in situations like these. One response comes to mind.

"Laugh about it, shout about it, when you have to choose. Any way you look at it, you lose."

Anonymous said...

First, who says arguments like these, and others, indicate it 'must be' the God of the Bible? -Crude

The weight of evidence for a divinely designed universe is now so overwhelming that it has forced astronomers and philosophers who reject the God of the Bible as the Author of the cosmos to propose the existence of an infinite number of universes. - Hugh Ross

The article itself seems to be setting up a false dichotomy between The Multiverse Hypothesis and the Christian god as the only two choices.

Andrew T. said...

I'm a pretty open-minded guy, but... citing Hugh Ross as an authority on anything except the stupidity of young-earthers strikes me as a tragic mistake.

There are plenty of Christian astronomers and legitimate scientists who could accurately describe the multiverse hypothesis. I am sure some of them would support the argument made in this post. I don't think one needs to resort to pseudoscience to argue against it.

Crude said...

I'm a pretty open-minded guy, but I'm not about to take an aggressive, argumentative atheist's take on Hugh Ross all that seriously. ;)

Anonymous, as I said, Hugh Ross' site deals less with apologetics and arguing to convince people. In large part the articles and commentary there explicitly with the assumption that their readers not only recognize design in nature, but accept those and other arguments that lead to a Christian faith. So I'm not that surprised that he approaches the question the way he does. (And for the record, I disagree with Ross and his ministry on a lot of things. I do find how they engage science interesting, and certainly animated.)

As I said, even among apologists this exact same topic and these questions are recognized as not establishing the God of the Bible on their own. Only in conjunction with other arguments.

Victor Reppert said...

Yes, I do have a problem with him saying that if there is an intelligent cause of the universe, it has to be the God of the Bible. I suppose the Allah of the Qu'ran would be equally unacceptable to philosophical naturalists, but would also be unacceptable to Christians like Ross.

But this is not the point I wanted to make. The point I wanted to make was to question whether someone could, at one and the same time, accept the multiverse hypothesis as a response to the fine-tuning argument, and at one and the same time think that atheism is to be preferred to theism on the basis of parsimony. That just seems really implausible to me.

unkle e said...

I believe the apparent fine-tuning of the universe is a strong argument for the existence of a creator/designer God, but we perhaps need to be wary of claiming too much.

Physicist Stephen Barr, in his excellent book Modern Physics and Ancient Faith argues that there are some reasonable mathematical reasons why a multiverse might turn out to be plausible, and that we christians should be wary of accusing scientists of only postulating the multiverse to avoid the God conclusion.

If you are interested, you can read a discussion between Barr and fellow scientist and christian Al Moritz on this blog.

My conclusion is that christian apologetics should address both options (universe and multiverse), because the fine-tuning argument can be applied to both. As both Paul Davies and Barr point out, for a multiverse to provide an enormous number of universes, or (the more popular formulation) an enormous numbers of different domains of the one universe, each with different values of the universal constants across the full possible range, seems to require even greater coincidence or greater design than "simply" fine-tuning our universe.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Big bang theory was influenced by Christian thought, but that doesn't mean it is false.

Icabod's Cranium said...

To the Why Must it Be the God of the Bible complaint.

It doesn't need to be the God of the Bible. But, it at least can serve as an indicator for the existence of the supernatural. Since the existence of God of the Bible assumes that supernatural entities do exist, if it can be shown that there is good reason to think that supernatural entities DO exist then that serves as support for a fundamental necessity for the existence of God of the Bible.

IlĂ­on said...

Isn't it amusing ... in the "if you don't laugh, you'll cry" sense ... how seldom so many manage to grasp what they wish to critique?

For instance, in that Hugh Ross quote, Mr Ross is assuredly *not* saying that The Creator *must* be the God of the Bible. It wasn't a long, or a particularly complex, quotation. And yet, most commentators decline to understand it.

Darrin said...

Victor,

Typically, the Teleological Argument proponents do not specify the type of designer until they reach the Resurrection Argument.

The Teleological Argument does one of two things:

(a) Begs the question;

(b) May lead to an absurdity if the "range can be tinkered"

Plausibility (a) comes from the notion that one assumes it is logically noncontradictory to design a Universe. Even if, say, Craig establishes a Creator via Kalam, this Creator may have simply had to keep flushing His universes until He got the right one.

Also, this one from Reasonable Faith p. 164: "the extraordinarily low entropy condition of the Universe would be a good example of an arbitrary quantity which seems to have just been put in at the initial condition. There is no reason to think that showing every constant and quantity to be physically necessary is anything more than a pipedream."

This means: the quantities are independent of the content of the Universe, leading to their metaphysical necessity in all possible universes, unless one enjoys begging the question (without first establishing a Creator via Kalam etc.). This would crush the Teleological Argument.

(b) is entailed by the fact that this would lead to an actual uncountable infinite amount of possible universes if we have a continuous "set of dials" to "tweak the constants" for our Creator. The range of life-giving values could still entail a nonzero probability of a life-giving universe, of course, but an uncountable amount of possible universes seems absurd to me, especially given that at least Craig argues from a discrete set of possible universes.

As a standalone, the introduction of a designer into the Teleological Argument is arbitrary without something like Kalam to back it up, unless it is absolutely established that the values of at least some of these constants are independent of the content of the Universe, which seems absurd but may be true.

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

"The weight of evidence for a divinely designed [designer] is now so overwhelming that it has forced astronomers and philosophers [...] to propose the existence of an infinite number of [gods]."

Where's your parsimony now? ;)

Ben

Blue Devil Knight said...

A different, but related idea, that of many worlds theory in quantum mechanics, came about for similar reasons to multiverse: to solve certain problems in quantum mechanics. Is it any weirder than the multiverse hypothesis? No. But there was no theistic outcry at the time.

Ross's overstatement in the antecedent to his claim is funny, and unsurprising.

Finally, in my response above I didn't mean to give them impression that I agree with him. I was saying even if multiverse was born in motivations different from pure science (to the extent that exists), it doesn't bear on its truth. It's like someone saying intelligent design theory is wrong because only Christians believe it. That is a stupid ad hominem.

I don't care about the fine tuning arguments. They are not compelling at all to me. More compelling are first cause type arguments, but the multiverse kills them (in the versions in which there are always lots of spacetime bubbles coming into existence as part of the theory).

Matthew said...

I believe when it comes to theories of anything, the multiverse is worse than theism. You can explain anything in a multiverse. I mean, it had to happen somewhere?

Icabod's Cranium said...

This is when the Thomistic/Leibniz argument from Contingency trumps the Kalaam Cosmological Argument...in my opinion.

Sure, maybe this universe spawned from the collapse of an earlier. Or maybe it's a bubble on a larger pre-existing mega universe. But these are still contingent entities, unable to account for their own existence.

Crude said...

As I mentioned in the other thread, choosing a multiverse in the hopes of avoiding first cause or fine-tuning scenarios not only fails to get rid of powerful arguments for God, but opens the door to some serious absurdities that whirl around on science itself. It's a great way to encourage people to be pragmatists rather than realists about science at large.

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Icabod,

And how does anything account for its own existence? It's logically impossible for anything to account for its own existence or even existence in general regardless of what worldview you embrace. Existence just is and there can't be an explanation for it. A "contigent" being is merely a perspective that is ontologically irrelevant to this question. Fundamentally, so called "contingent" things still exist (have we ever seen them not exist?) and anything you add to that equation to explain it will also be something that exists that can't account for its own existence.

Ben

Icabod's Cranium said...

Of course we have seen contingent things not exist. I haven't always existed.

Whether we are talking about contingent things while focusing on their extended nature or contingent things with respect to to causal influence they can play... you can't have an infinite chain of contingent entities. That chain must terminate in something that accounts for the chain and accounts for itself. Something that is necessary.

Also, how is it logically impossible for something to account for its own existence?

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Icabod,

One thing at a time. Your example of a contingent being presupposes the mind/body debate has been won (or some debate related to that category). From the standpoint of other options like physicalism, what you call "you" really isn't a unified time traveling you. A moment of you-ness is freely associated with previous you-nesses that can be drastically different from say childhood to adulthood (including the replacement of all your atoms and cells every seven years or so). All of your atoms from apparent start to finish of your life were always exactly as they "always" were from a 4D perspective. "Contingency" is an arbitrary frame of reference with no ontological significance(though entirely convenient frame of reference for us) and at the very least, dualists and people with other temporal superstitions can't prove otherwise. Therefore any point that tries to base itself off of this uncertain foundation won't have any force.

Ben

Theodore Warner said...

Dr. Reppert... I would like to put my hands on a source that actually argues for the multiverse hypothesis with some reference to the teleological argument.

The quote from Ross suggests that there is an argument for the multiverse hypothesis that belongs to philosophy of religion, while there may be such an argument else where, developed for other philosophical reasons.

Thanks!

Theo Warner