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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More than one universe? Robert Mann's take.

As you may be aware, there are physicists who believe that there are multiple universes. They believe, for example, that the universe I am in somehow spawns two different ones, depending on whether or not I decide to pick up a pen or not -- it one, I did, in the other, I didn't. The Wikipedia article on the subject says that the concept goes back at least to the 19th century. Even though it is hard to imagine any possible experimental proof for this idea, it has a following. Some authors of fantastic literature have produced sub-creations, based on the concept. One such was Philip Pullman.

In the latest issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith -- which is not yet available on-line -- Robert B. Mann discusses "The Puzzle of Existence," considering the interesting question of why some things exist, and some things don't. It is hard, for example, to believe that there couldn't have been more species of butterflies than there are and have been, or that the only possible asteroids were those that we have known about, or that our parents could not have had other children than us.

One reason that some things don't exist is that the laws of physics, or the properties of chemistry and biology, don't allow it. Water, in its solid form, does not float in the air. Rose plants won't grow on the planet Mercury (or on a diet of only the element Mercury). But there must be other reasons for nonexistence, for entities like the possibilities mentioned in the previous paragraph. Either God wanted only some types of butterflies, or chance determined who got born, or God uses what we call chance to determine that certain things will exist, and some not.

Mann closes by challenging the multiple universe idea. He points out that, if all possible universes exist, that would seem to make it possible for a universe with a fallen earth, but no redemption, to exist, which seems totally incompatible with God's love, omnipresence, and omnipotence. Interesting ideas.

Thanks for reading.


George said...

This is a fascinating concept which stretches my faith and makes me think of God in less traditional ways. In my view, some scientific explanations of the origins (or the parameters) of alternate universes, as mentioned in your first paragraph, break down because of their theories as to how they are spawned.

Also, couldn't it be possible for one or more alternate universes to exist, but not all possible universes to exist?

For some reason, I have always felt a little self-centered at the thought that our universe is the only one in existence, although I can't prove that another one does.

ken said...

I agree with George in that just because I can imagine a universe does not necessarily mean that universe actually exists. (From what I know, which may not be much) it requires interaction with consciousness to spawn a new universe in Everett's Many Worlds Interpretation. So my deciding to pick up the pen or not does spawn two different universes -- in one I pick it up and in the other I don't. However, my imagining meeting Uma Thurman, falling in love, and fathering her children does not necessarily mean a universe exists in which that happens.

So, the problem of a fallen world in which there is no redemption seems to me to be trivially done away with. If you posit an all-loving, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipresent God, AND those attributes extend to ALL existing universes then simply posit that God's character would compel him to provide redemption in all existing universes. In other words, God ALWAYS chooses to provide redemption and so there is no universe in which he does not.

Daniel Smith said...

Personally, I think the multiverse hypothesis makes for good science fiction, but bad actual science. I think the ability to envision such concepts is that God simply designed us with an imagination. We were modeled after His image and He is the creator after all.

Since the evidence for a creator grows stronger with each passing month, the refusal to accept any such evidence means that scientists have to seek out and adopt ever more strange views. Enter the multiverse hypothesis, which can be neither proven nor disproven scientifically, but fails Occam's Razor. In my opinion, it is a more complicated solution to the problem of origins than belief in a supernatural creator.

I really thinks scientists who hold this view are scraping the absolute bottom of their test tubes. They're on the losing side to the origins debate and they are holding out an ever-weakening hope of being proven correct after all.

It's really sad that this stuff actually passes for science at all. It's more philosophy than science and it certainly shouldn't be in any science textbooks.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, gentlemen. I was afraid that I was in over my head on this topic, and I think George and Ken have demonstrated that I was.

I think that you are right, George, but I'm not very knowledgeable on the matter.

You are probably right about a conscious decision being required to produce an alternate universe, and, I believe, you are certainly right about God being omnipresent and omnipotent enough to redeem sinners (if there are any) even in all possible alternate universes, ken.

Daniel Smith, I'm sorry, but I don't believe that the multiverse hypothesis was developed to fight the idea that God created the universe. I believe that it was developed for entirely different reasons. As I indicated in my post, the term goes back at least to 1895, and most likely the idea goes back further than that. I don't know whether the idea is older than Darwin, or not, but Darwin didn't have anything at all to say about the origin of the earth, let alone the universe, so far as I know.

If the evidence that God created (and I believe that He did) is getting stronger all the time, I'm not aware of that. Sorry. Thanks for your comment.

Daniel Smith said...

My apologies. I must have missed the 1895 reference in your post though I do know that the creation-evolution debate more or less started around the 1850s or so with the release of Darwin's Origin of Species. Before then the general public had no particular opinion regarding origins though I believe scholars knew that incompatibilities and questions existed. That would mean the concept of a multiverse gained popularity after Darwin's time but it could still be older. And no Darwin really didn't say much if anything about origins. It was only later as other scientists applied his understand of speciation that the full blown theory of evolution developed that we have today.

Perhaps I should have said that the idea of the multiverse was adopted for the reason I gave but even then I am maybe putting words into the mouths of some. I'm sure some scientists do see it as an alternate to creation but you're right in that it was wrong of me to make that assumption about all who hold this view.

I still think it makes for some great science fiction.

And I knew I should have referenced the statement about the evidence for a creator getting stronger. For that I simply point to Reasons to Believe (RTB) at One of their messages of the month from last year made that claim and they really do continue to provide new scientific evidence in support of a creator on a monthly basis. The recent understanding by astronomers of the three types of dark energy in the universe and where they can be found is one recent discovery that comes to mind. Dr. Ross with RTB argues that this is referenced in Job 38:19 when God asks where the darkness dwells.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for the update, Daniel Smith.

The notion of multiple universes does make for some great science fiction. (And it also made for a great Nova program.)

The Reasons to Believe website is here.