The Multiverse

Discover magazine has an article on the theory of the multiverse.  The multiverse hypothesis holds that our universe is only one of a possibly infinite number of miniverses each of which is governed by a different set of scientific laws.  

The multiverse hypothesis was developed in response to the so-called “fine tuning” of the universe for life.  Scientists have noted that the scientific laws governing our universe appear to be “fine tuned” so that it is possible for life to exist.  If the scientific laws were changed even a little bit then life would not be possible.

But everything here, right down to the photons lighting the scene after an eight-minute jaunt from the sun, bears witness to an extraordinary fact about the universe: Its basic properties are uncannily suited for life. Tweak the laws of physics in just about any way and—in this universe, anyway—life as we know it would not exist.

Consider just two possible changes. Atoms consist of protons, neutrons, and electrons. If those protons were just 0.2 percent more massive than they actually are, they would be unstable and would decay into simpler particles. Atoms wouldn’t exist; neither would we. If gravity were slightly more powerful, the consequences would be nearly as grave. A beefed-up gravitational force would compress stars more tightly, making them smaller, hotter, and denser. Rather than surviving for billions of years, stars would burn through their fuel in a few million years, sputtering out long before life had a chance to evolve. There are many such examples of the universe’s life-friendly properties—so many, in fact, that physicists can’t dismiss them all as mere accidents.

“We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible,” Linde says.

The “fine tuning” of the scientific laws governing our universe has encouraged some Christian philosophers to create an updated version of the teleological argument.  They argue that the “fine tuning” of the universe requires a rational explanation, and that the best such explanation is that the universe was created by God and designed by Him to permit the existence of life.

The multiverse hypothesis is designed to cut the ground out from under this new teleological argument.  It does so by suggesting that all possible universes governed by all possible sets of scientific laws exist, so it is not surprising that one such universe exists – ours – whose scientific laws are “fine tuned” for life. 

Physicists don’t like coincidences. They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea. Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.

Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics. Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multi verse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.    

The multiverse hypothesis is just a hypothesis.  There is no evidence to support the existence of a multiverse.  Moreover, it is not clear whether the multiverse hypothesis even if true would succeed in explaining away the “fine tuning” of the universe.  I said above that the multiverse hypothesis holds that that all possible universes governed by all possible sets of scientific laws exist.  But that was not exactly right.  Rather, the multiverse hypothesis holds that a multiverse exists and that out universe is only one of many small miniverses that exists within this larger multiverseverse.  As such, the creation of the miniverses and the specification of the different scientific laws which govern them is itself governed by a sort of scientific law.  It is possible that the “fine tuning” problem will simply re-emerge at a higher level.  In any case, the multiverse hypothesis is just that, an untested hypothesis.

It would be a good idea for all Christians to become more familiar with the “fine tuning” of scientific laws for the existence of life.  It provides a much better basis upon which to support a teleological argument than do the usual arguments from the complexity of life forms.  In the argument from “fine tuning,” Christians are supported by current scientific theories and fact, whereas basing a teleological argument on the basis of the complexity of life forms requires Christians to dispute the truth of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.


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