The short answer is not really, but of course I will need to qualify this and I will certainly aim to do so. But before I get to that…just what exactly is the ‘multiverse’ and what does it have to do with God?
Does the universe look like a put-up Job?
Within the last century – since Einstein’s theory of relativity – scientists have made a rather shocking discovery. To put it bluntly the universe looks as if it has been created by someone. In the words of physicists Paul Davies “The really amazing thing is not that life on Earth is balanced on a knife-edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife-edge. You see, even if you dismiss mankind as just a mere hiccup in the great scheme of things, the fact remains that the entire universe seems unreasonably suited to the existence of life — almost contrived — you might say a “put-up job. What Davies is talking about here has come to be termed the Fine Tuning of the universe, or the Anthropic Principle, the idea essentially that the universe looks like a “put-up job”.1 Now of course theists – such as myself – will be very at home with this news, but of course non-theists – such as Paul Davies or Richard Dawkins – will not and are not very comfortable with it; fine tuning seems to point too much towards a mind…it seems to point to much towards God.
Just to give one example of fine tuning so that we can get a flavor of the countless discoveries made over the last century – the second law of thermodynamics states that: entropy (i.e. disorder) increases over time (just think about how metal begins to rust the longer it interacts with air). Physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose discovered that in the early stages of the universe, the total phase space (the space of all possible options for the amount of entropy) that would permit intelligent life (such as ourselves) had to be vanishingly small compared to the total phase space in all. Just how vanishingly small? The total phase space in all was calculated to be 1010123 and the total phase space that would permit life was calculated by Penrose to be only 1 in 1010123, that is, if the phase space was shifted by just 1 part out of 1010123 intelligent life would not have been possible. To help better illustrate just how significant this is, image that the visible universe is a dart board, this would be like a subatomic dart being thrown at the universe and hitting the exact target it needs to, the target being the size of a proton.2
Naturally – as you might expect with finds as stated above – a giant debate has erupted over the last few decades. Theists continue to utilize the anthropic principle in order to provide evidence for God and non-theists attempt to find (naturalistic) explanations that can account for fine tuning without appealing to some sort of mind i.e. God.
One of the most popular naturalistic explanations to date is the multiverse hypothesis. A quick YouTube or Google search will reveal just how popular this hypothesis is. It has become the GO-TO explanation in the mainstream scientific community.
What exactly is the multiverse?
In its most simple terms the multiverse states that there isn’t just one universe, rather, there are an infinite array of universes out there. All these universes have slightly different configuration setting and our universe just happens to be the one with the perfect configuration setting that allow for intelligent life like ourselves. Since there is an infinite array of universes it is inevitable that one universe would feature just the correct setting that would allow for intelligent life…therefore there is no need for a creator God, the multiverse explains why life exists in our universe, and it explains how the configuration settings could seem so perfect for life.
What are the problems with the multiverse hypothesis?
- The first issue should be rather obvious to anyone…there is no observable evidence for a multiverse (we simply cannot see beyond our own universe) and all physicists are aware of this. Since observation is a key part of science (although not the only way of discovering knowledge within science) the multiverse hypothesis does not pass the test on these grounds. However, since I want to present a fair argument, I would like to state that this objection is slightly unfair and although valid, it should not be the only response towards the multiverse. This is because, the multiverse (in the sense we are talking about) is not a theory on its own, it is actually a consequence of another more grander theory called inflation. Since this is the case, it would be slightly unfair to simply critique the multiverse on observational grounds since it is perfectly fine to accept a sub-hypothesis (such as the multiverse) on the grounds that the grander hypothesis has some good evidence for it. With that being said let’s move on to some more pressing arguments against the multiverse.
- The multiverse idea that we are discussing stems from the inflation theory which suggests that early on in the universe when inflation (expansion) was taking place, sub-universes formed (as a consequence of this expansion) and these universes are what display the ranges of different setting within the entire ensemble of universes. The problem here is that this answer does not skirt around the need for an ultimate explanation. This is because our universe is based on the principle of universal laws that govern what take place. These laws are not self-existent and are in need of an explanation themselves. If you want to posit a multiverse, you will need a multiverse-generator; the issue is that this multiverse-generator will also be based on the same principle of laws, and these laws will in fact be much more complicated than the laws for just one universe, which means that the multiverse-generator itself needs an ultimate explanation, and that ultimate explanation needs to be even more intelligent in order to be able to create such a complex piece of matter that it can put out entire universes. We are right back to God.
- The final problem is that even if we accept a multiverse, we are still justified in asking why our universe seems to be so finely tuned for life. Let me explain why via a simple example. Let’s say that I want to do some target practice (for some strange reason), so I draw a relatively large circle on my wall at home. I have a dart and some blue-tack. I mark a tiny section of the wall with a small circular piece of blue-tack and then proceed to try and hit that mark with my dart. Now let’s say I want to change the rules a bit, I still intend to hit that same mark that I have chosen, but now I decide to cover the entire circle with similar tiny ball shaped blue tack pieces. Does my doing this increase the chances that I will hit my original mark? Of course not, I (more or less) have the same chances that I would if there was only the one blue tack mark as opposite to many. This can be likened to the multiverse idea: an array of multiverses does not increase the chances that our universe has the setting it does have, and it does not explain away that fact either. We still need to ask why our universe and why not another? This answer still requires an ultimate explanation…ultimately.3
So, the multiverse as an alternative explanation to God doesn’t seem to work very well, ironically as one theist has stated: if the fine tuning didn’t point so strongly to God, the multiverse explanation would never have arisen! Indeed, multiverse explanations attest directly to the power of the fine tuning arguments for the existence of God.
1) Paul Davies, 2012. Horizon – The Anthropic Principle – Part 2 of 4, BBC Horizon Documentary. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5aaBDbHl8I&t=51s>
2) Penrose, R.,1989. The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics. Oxford University Press. p339‐345
3) Alvin Plantinga proposes a similar scenario to show why we are still justified in asking the question of why? Plantinga, A., 2011. Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism. Oxford: OUP. p212‐219