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God and the Multiverse: “If you don’t want God …”

Posted on Feb 22, 2011 by Tom Gilson

Late in 2008 Discover Magazine published an article on God and the multiverse, which contains one of the clearest reasons any scientist has ever stated for favoring multiverse theory. I believe my blog entry on it is worth re-posting (with some edits/updates). Follow it to the end for the key statement, and then ask yourself: is he reasoning from science or from theology?

Discover Magazine tackles the fine-tuning problem in its December 2008 issue, in an article titled “A Universe Built For Us.” You might enjoy reading it to discover what they’ve wrapped around this enticing introductory material:

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…. 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 multiverse.

That’s remarkably well stated. It highlights how some physicists want to run as fast as they can from the idea of God, the possibility that “life is somehow central to the universe.”

And so, says the article, work is proceeding in the area of string theory to try to provide evidence for the vast multiverse. Discover is refreshingly honest about the current status of the work: “evidence … is still lacking;” “Linde’s ideas may make the notion of a multiverse more plausible;” “still very much a work in progress.”

This I find disingenuous, however:

When I ask Linde whether physicists will ever be able to prove that the multiverse is real, he has a simple answer. “Nothing else fits the data… we don’t have any alternative explanations…”

God and the Multiverse

There is an alternative explanation, one that can only be ruled out if you “like even less the notion that life is central to the universe.” The article makes a nod toward that other explanation, referring to John Polkinghorne’s objection to the multiverse. (Polkinghorne is an Anglican priest and philosopher, a theist. He was also at one time a theoretical particle physicist at Cambridge.) He says that the multiverse “can explain anything . . . If a theory allows anything to be possible, it explains nothing; a theory of anything is not the same as a theory of everything.”

Discover does not actually explain why that is a problem, but I suspect Polkinghorne was referring to a point that I have also made. It renders the multiverse theory trivial—or at least the infinite universes version of the theory does.

Discover also quotes Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, an atheist, on the matter of God.

“I don’t think that the multiverse idea destroys the possibility of an intelligent, benevolent creator. . . What it does is remove one of the arguments for it.”

Interesting how that works; and quite a nice example of circular argumentation:

  1. Evidence for the multiverse is completely lacking right now; its theoretical foundations are “still very much a work in progress,”
  2. But “nothing else fits the data.”
  3. Nothing else fits the data, that is, for those who dislike the theistic conception “that life is somehow central to the universe.”
  4. Having excluded that possibility, we infer a multiverse instead, and…
  5. What the multiverse does is remove one of the arguments for a creator.

It seems a waste of energy for Weinberg to think of removing arguments for a creator, since the whole thing seems rather handily to have assumed him right out of existence.

Motivation for the Multiverse

The psychology, the motivation for it all could hardly be clearer than it is in this from cosmologist Bernard Carr, quoted in the same Discover article: “If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”

“Don’t want God.” Indeed.

47 Responses to “ God and the Multiverse: “If you don’t want God …” ”

  1. Beez says:

    Of course, it would seem that if you’re going to hang your hat on the whole multiverse hypothesis, wouldn’t you have to allow for one of those multiverses to produce an omnipotent being capable of stepping outside of the whole multiverse conundrum? :)

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    Interesting question, Beez. It reminds me of Plantinga’s ontological argument (of which the best brief introduction I could find is here).

  3. JAD says:

    One of the big problems with multiverse cosmology is that it does not really explain the origin of our universe, even assuming the “big bang” (which I do) occurred. In other words, how does the mere existence of other universes cause our universe to come into existence? As far as I know there is no answer to this question.

    Even as an explanation for fine tuning the appeal to multiple universe is quite weak. For example, suppose I win big at a roulette table in Las Vegas. Was my dumb luck due to the fact that there are thousands of other roulette tables in the world?

    On the other hand, the multiverse may provide an explanation for the origin of life and intelligence. I started to explore this possibility with a thought experiment over at Telic Thoughts.
    http://telicthoughts.com/open-thread-fire-in-the-disco/#comment-265732

    Briefly, my argument is that for directed panspermia to be an explanation for the origin of life you need other universes and a way to travel between universes. My model, which I call ultimate panspermia or UPS, doesn’t really explain the origin of life but allows that life could be eternal, as the original 19th century version of panspermia assumed.

    To get from one universe to another requires what physicist Kip Thorne calls traversable worm holes (shortcuts through space-time, which are theoretically allowed by general relativity). The irony is that at least according to Thorne traversable worm holes are not naturally occurring but must be created be a super-advanced civilization. In other words, UPS also requires that an advanced intelligence (or intelligence that evolve can to an advanced intelligence) is also eternal. So UPS ends up being a non-theistic version of ID.

    Hmmmm… I wondering if multiverse enthusiasts would be interested in considering at my UPS model. The origin of life, after all, is as daunting as the fine tuning problem.

  4. woodchuck64 says:

    Tom,

    That’s remarkably well stated. It highlights how some physicists want to run as fast as they can from the idea of God, the possibility that “life is somehow central to the universe.”

    The problem with the idea of God is testability. A theory of God seems to be a dead-end in physics, and “running” from a dead-end seems like common sense.
    In contrast, the multiverse idea has at least some testable predictions, and proving or disproving them adds to our state of knowledge. Isn’t adding to our knowledge a good thing, and therefore isn’t “running from the idea of God” not necessarily a bad thing?

    The credibility of string theory and the multiverse may get a boost within the next year or two, once physicists start analyzing results from the Large Hadron Collider, the new, $8 billion particle accelerator built on the Swiss-French border. If string theory is right, the collider should produce a host of new particles. There is even a small chance that it may find evidence for the mysterious extra dimensions of string theory.

    Support for the multiverse might also come from some upcoming space missions. Susskind says there is a chance that the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite, scheduled for launch early next year, could lend a hand. Some multiverse models predict that our universe must have a specific geometry that would bend the path of light rays in specific ways that might be detectable by Planck, which will analyze radiation left from the Big Bang. If Planck’s observations match the predictions, it would suggest the existence of the multiverse.

  5. Crude says:

    “Some multiverse models predict…” is useless, because you can find a ‘multiverse model’ that predicts whatever you find. That’s the problem here – the sky really is the limit. You can even find a multiverse model which predicts that our universe is, in fact, created. Just ask yourself: What happens if ‘some multiverse models predict…’ you’ll find X, and X goes unfound? What do you know – other multiverse models predict X wouldn’t be found.

    In other words, the only way multiverse speculations can ‘add to our knowledge’ is if speculations about the most flagrant caricatures of some God creating our universe can ‘add to our knowledge’.

    In fact, re: 1, there’s another problem: Simulated universes, created universe, even within the multiverse model. Scientists have explicitly noted these possibilities explicitly (Paul Davies, Brian Greene, Martin Rees, etc.)

    The multiverse signals the end of science, and the triumph of metaphysics and philosophy. The fact that scientists are feeling forced to engage in this sort of speculation shows the state they’re in: They’re giving up.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    Woodchuck64, you write,

    The problem with the idea of God is testability. A theory of God seems to be a dead-end in physics, and “running” from a dead-end seems like common sense.

    1. By “testability,” surely you mean testability by physical means, which is a terribly limited sense of the term. A theory of God may be a dead-end in physics, but there is no reason to take it as a dead-end in knowledge; or does physics comprise all of knowledge?

    2. You seem to think that adding to our knowledge entails running from God. What possible basis could you have for thinking that?

    3. Do you think that theism is opposed to the possibility of learning what we might learn from the LHC?

    4. Planck’s observations matching predictions might “suggest the existence of the multiverse.” Does that constitute real testability? The historical evidence for the resurrection suggests the existence of God, after all. I suggest you do a compare and contrast concerning these suggestions, bearing in mind your answers to (1) through (3).

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    mattghg and Crude: good observations. JAD, your roulette-table question reminds me a little bit of one multiverse explanation for the origins of species.

  8. JAD says:

    Hugh Ross argues that “Anyone who appeals to infinite (or even just a very large number of) universes commits a form of the gambler’s fallacy.” For example, “a rational conclusion to draw from 10,000 consecutive coin flips yielding nothing but heads is that the coin has been purposed or designed to always produce a heads result.” Furthermore we are justified in reaching this conclusion even if we know there millions of other coins in the world.

    Ross goes on to argue that “In the case of the universe one can draw a stronger conclusion than one can for the coin. Whereas one knows that more than one coin exists, one does not know whether more than one universe exists.”

    At present we are dealing with one universe, a sample size of one. That’s all that can be explained at the present. Speculating about the existence of other universes is of no help explaining why this universe is the way it is.
    http://www.reasons.org/infinity-universes-0

  9. Viking says:

    multiverse math…

    infinite possibilities = kick the can on the idea of God
    no other explanation = the arrogance of feeling right
    smashing apart the physical world = looking in there instead of in here

    History is filled with science discoveries…meaning…just before that, they had it wrong, or at least incomplete. Enough years ago no one foresaw radio waves, and certainly not an energy capable of being generated with intent to carry information around the planet.

    “testabilitiy” – it always gets me there. If you don’t know what you don’t know, how can you possibly test for it with confidence? Couple hundred years ago no one could test the crazy idea of electromagnetic waves. Yet, believe it or not, they were there.

    This is beyond what I can explain in a short space, but to those of us who are faithful to God’s existence, there is a knowing that is beyond what we can test and explain in a mathematical form, rational enough for the language of science, and certain enough for the law.

    But I defy any man here to tell me that on the day his daughter was born, and he first held her, alone, with no one else around to impress or explain to, that you didn’t feel a connection beyond any testability that another person could demonstrate with certainty.

    Proof? Perhaps not enough. But I can tell you that on that day, I learned just how small a man I really was, and how big God wanted me to be.

    Particle physics never made me believe that way.

  10. woodchuck64 says:

    Tom and Crude,

    I think I can make my point a different way with a hypothetical about Linde.

    Suppose Linde is actually a secret Christian. He knows a theory of God is a dead-end in physics and he knows multiverse models are presenting a challenge to the conventional view of God. So he specifically develops and proposes the most elegant multiverse model so far but which makes specific predictions that he expects will be falsified. That failure, then, will likely cast doubt on all multiverse theories, weakening the challenge to the conventional view of God.

    Would this approach have any merit for a Christian? I think it would, and I think it could also be good science.

  11. Crude says:

    So he specifically develops and proposes the most elegant multiverse model so far but which makes specific predictions that he expects will be falsified. That failure, then, will likely cast doubt on all multiverse theories, weakening the challenge to the conventional view of God.

    The only relevant “predictions” any multiverse model could make would be predictions about a single universe – our own. His model would be a multiverse model insofar as he says “Well, this is a model I have for a universe, and there are – for whatever reasons I think – many of these universes.” The multiverse aspect would remain unverifiable, superfluous.

    Again, if you want to consider multiverses as science, fine. It shows just how far science has fallen, and just what wall it’s hit. But you’re opening the door to God and designers in general being considered scientific, since “But they’re unobservable! The basic concept is unfalsifiable!” has gone out the window.

  12. JAD says:

    I think we should make unicorns a subject of scientific study. After all there is nothing logically or biologically impossible about the actual existence of a unicorn. It’s just a cute little horse with a horn between it’s eyes. It’s entirely possible that unicorns really existed at one time. Who knows they still might exist in some isolated region of the world.

    I am not arguing that unicorns should be studied scientifically, if and only if, we happen to discover their fossilized remains. Rather, I think we should begin studying unicorns scientifically now simply because they could exist.

    What is the difference between the argument I am making here and the arguments that are being made by the proponents of the so called multiverse theory?

  13. woodchuck64 says:

    Crude,

    The only relevant “predictions” any multiverse model could make would be predictions about a single universe – our own. His model would be a multiverse model insofar as he says “Well, this is a model I have for a universe, and there are – for whatever reasons I think – many of these universes.” The multiverse aspect would remain unverifiable, superfluous.

    Guth here shows that inflationary models (which have successfully predicted quite a lot of observations) can theoretically lead to multiple universes. That’s the real attraction of chaotic inflation: it appears to be a natural consequence of a model that is already doing well scientifically. That also means the multiverse model can be disproven or significantly revised by any number of revisions to Big Bang Theory or to the inflationary model.

    Even when not proven, don’t underestimate the significance of a good theoretical model. The Theory of Relativity was just such a model until scientists came up with novel ways to prove it. I would love to see a Theory of God or Theory of Designer as substantial as Relativity in the early 1900s or Chaos Inflation today.

  14. Tom Gilson says:

    What kind of model are you looking for in a Theory of God? I trust you are not making Steven Schafersman’s error (scroll a bit down the page here).

  15. Crude says:

    That also means the multiverse model can be disproven or significantly revised by any number of revisions to Big Bang Theory or to the inflationary model.

    No, it means that a model which one can interpret within a multiverse framework can be falsified or revised – and it can be so only insofar as it makes predictions about our own singular universe. The ‘multiverse’ aspect – the important part – is beyond observation or testing. And it remains so by definition.

    If I argue that an advanced civilization could have started our universe with the Big Bang, do I then get to say that ID theory is falsifiable on the grounds that the Big Bang is falsifiable?

  16. Jason Taylor says:

    “Of course, it would seem that if you’re going to hang your hat on the whole multiverse hypothesis, wouldn’t you have to allow for one of those multiverses to produce an omnipotent being capable of stepping outside of the whole multiverse conundrum? ”

    That wouldn’t be God, that would be Q. God cannot be “produced”. To be God He would have to already be outside all the multi-verses and create them.

  17. Jason Taylor says:

    “The problem with the idea of God is testability.”

    Being untestable does not make an idea false it merely makes it untestable.

  18. Jason Taylor says:

    I think we should make unicorns a subject of scientific study. After all there is nothing logically or biologically impossible about the actual existence of a unicorn. It’s just a cute little horse with a horn between it’s eyes. It’s entirely possible that unicorns really existed at one time. Who knows they still might exist in some isolated region of the world.

    I am not arguing that unicorns should be studied scientifically, if and only if, we happen to discover their fossilized remains. “Rather, I think we should begin studying unicorns scientifically now simply because they could exist.

    What is the difference between the argument I am making here and the arguments that are being made by the proponents of the so called multiverse theory?”

    Fashion. Aliens have taken the place of fairies, unicorns, what not and curiously scientists do study aliens. Even though there is no real difference between unicorns and aliens.

  19. I think Crude is generally wrong, but I agree with him when he says that multiverse models have to make predictions about our singular universe in order to be explanatory. If they were predictive and explanatory, we would then have a theory that says that our universe behaves as if it was part of an ensemble of universes. Just like we have a predictive theory that says nucleons behave like bundles of quarks and gluons.

    This brings up two points. First, since when did you guys give two hoots about explanations and predictions?!

    If we had theory that explained all phenomena in the universe (i.e., assuming it was possible to know our theory was complete), we would be left with an unanswerable question: why is the universe described by this equation/theory and not another?

    Similarly, if you could eventually determine that God existed with a particular personality, we would be left with the same question. Why is God who he is and what he is?

    In both cases, the questions can never be answered, not even in principle. To answer them is to abandon the premise that each is a complete theory. Ultimate theories, whether they be theistic or physical, are inexplicable.

  20. Moreover, you can’t explain the fine-tuning with God. God is more fine-tuned than the universe! You find-tune God to get our fine-tuned universe, then fine-tune him to want us to skip bacon and homosexuality. It no workey.

    If it’s okay to consider all the possible physical universes there could have been, it’s just as acceptable to consider all the other theistic universes. Theistic universes don’t need fine-tuning, or physical stuff, or the illusion of naturalism, or evolution, etc. God could have done it another way, e.g., by having animals be manufactured by animal manufacturing units.

    Now, whenever I say this, Tom responds that I can’t consider the other ways things might have been under theism because I don’t know God. Well that’s utter hypocrisy. You don’t know physics, so you don’t know that the universe could really have been another way! By that reasoning, fine-tuning isn’t a problem either! If Tom’s answer satisfies, then so should mine.

  21. Tom Gilson says:

    doctor(logic),

    God is not “more fine-tuned than the universe;” he is maximally perfect; he holds his perfections in infinite degree. That’s not a matter of meeting some external standard to some accuracy 10^-x. Further, one reason the universe’s characteristics require explanation is because something (if not Someone) caused the universe to come into being with this fine tuning at some time T in the distant past. The universe had a cause. What kind of cause could that have been, to produce such fine tuning? is the question, and that’s an explanatory question. That’s not the case with God, an uncaused, necessary being.

    if you could eventually determine that God existed with a particular personality, we would be left with the same question. Why is God who he is and what he is?

    Surely this could not be the first time you’ve ever thought about the problem of infinite regress in explanations, and that explanations must terminate in some necessary being or existent that is itself unexplained.

    Sure, it’s logically possible God could have done it another way. What difference does that make to this discussion?

    Since when did we give “two hoots about explanations and predictions?” My, my. You must realize, doctor(logic), that you have an idiosyncratic view of explanations and predictions that few would agree with. (Long-time readers here will know what I am talking about.) Our disagreeing with you on that does not mean we toss out the whole thing. Explanations and predictions, and the connection they have with one another, certainly have their rightful place in science and other knowledge.

  22. Tom,

    Perhaps we’ll get further if we can agree on a definition of fine-tuning and why we think it is a problem.

    Here’s what fine-tuning means:

    We have a set of observations, O, that we are trying to explain with a theory. We propose a theory, T, that predicts O. T is described by a collection of parameters, and we fix these parameters based on our observations. T is “fine-tuned” for O if small changes in the parameters result in radically different predictions of T.

    In the case of our universe, very small changes in the parameters that describe our model cause radical shifts in predictions. That said, the hyperbole from creationists about the impossibility of life in other models or parameterizations is unjustified.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe

  23. The Standard Model of particle physics is simple, but not as simple as we would like. The SM has 19 parameters, IIRC. This is the number of parameters in the SM we can vary while it’s still the SM. By fixing the 19 parameters from observations, it predicts almost everything we observe in the lab.

    What physicists would really like to see is a very simple theory with only, say, 3 or 4 parameters. When this simple theory cools down, it would look to our primitive instruments like the SM. That is, much of the complexity we see is just a result of our lack of information. Fewer parameters = simpler.

    The SM is predictive. What it doesn’t explain is why the universe is what it is.

    However, God is not nearly as good as the SM. If you were to parameterize God to account for all of the things God could have done while still being God, how many parameters would you need?

    An infinite number. No matter how much information you collect, you’ll never be able to predict anything God does.

    God is not simple, and God doesn’t predict our universe over any other universe.

    So why do you think God is explanatory? What problem is God solving?

    You just replace one question (why is the universe the way it is?) with a similar question about an even more unknown entity (why is God the way he is, and why did he choose to create a universe like this one instead of any of the infinity of other universes that could have existed (including the infinity of universes that support life)?).

    If God is “simple” it’s not in the sense that theories are “simple”. There’s equivocation there.

  24. woodchuck64 says:

    Tom,

    What kind of model are you looking for in a Theory of God?

    I don’t think a Theory of God is possible as a mathematical or physical model; but that was my interpretation of Crude’s comment:

    if you want to consider multiverses as science … you’re opening the door to God and designers in general being considered scientific.

    Multiverse theory is a mathematical/physical model (with little evidential support as yet), and I think using and exploring such a model certainly qualifies as valid science (just don’t confuse a scientific model with a scientific fact). But I don’t see how a multiverse mathematical/physical model suddenly makes God and designers scientific. For the analogy to hold, there must also be a mathematical/physical model of God or Design.

    Crude,

    The ‘multiverse’ aspect – the important part – is beyond observation or testing. And it remains so by definition.

    It seems premature to say that no aspect of our universe is or can be best explained by the existence of multiverses (leaving out fine-tuning as controversial). Who’s to say what may be discovered in the next decade?

    If I argue that an advanced civilization could have started our universe with the Big Bang, do I then get to say that ID theory is falsifiable on the grounds that the Big Bang is falsifiable?

    If you have a physical/mathematical model of this scenario and it’s consistent with the best models we have so far, I think you can call it scientific hypothesis. But you can’t call it fact until you have some sort of empirical support. Chaotic inflation/multiverses is in the same boat.

  25. Holopupenko says:

    Woodchuck:

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. Consider this unsubstantiated assertion: “there must also be a mathematical/physical model of God or Design”. What is the scientific basis for this personal opinion? (Unfortunately, people like Dembski, Behe, and Meyer buy into it: they also want God and Design subject to a “mathematical/physical model”.) So God is now, to satisfy your personal desires, a “physical” being among other physical beings. We’ll wait patiently for some scientific evidence to support that.

    Tom:

    I turn to you regarding Woodchuck’s Guth reference because it touches upon a broader issue.

    Guth makes as unsubstantiated, unscientific statements as the next Platonic physicist, and it relates to your 13 February post “The Ph.D. Who Studied Nothing At All.” Speaking as a university physicist myself, you just can’t buy his interpretations and fantasies about “multiverses.” Consider the following:

    “The entire universe burst into something from absolutely nothing—zero, nada. And as it got bigger, it became filled with even more stuff that came from absolutely nowhere…” [Alan Guth, Discovery, April 2002]

    I can assure you, again as a physicist, that this is not what the physics says—it’s what he’s interpreting the physics to say because he wants (free will, get it?) it so say that. (Doesn’t this sound familiar to Dawkin’s not doing biology when he misappropriates and misinterprets Darwinian evolutionary theory to allegedly indicate there’s no God?) Guth does not understand the full import of what the concept of “nothingness” actually means. Why does he want it that way? Because he’s sneaking in presuppositions… which may include not wanting God in the picture. But that’s not how science should be done: follow the evidence, don’t impose your own personal desires. (Remember cold fusion?)

    Here’s some more unscientific, hyper-empiriometric nonsense:

    “Dr. Martin Rees, a University of Cambridge cosmologist and the Astronomer Royal of Great Britain noted that it is not necessary to observe other universes to gain some confidence that they may exist. He was referring to certain solutions of string theory equations that allegedly indicate a range of other universes actually exist.” [Dennis Overbye, “A New View of Our Universe: Only One of Many,” NY Times, 29 October 2002]

    Read: if an equation has a solution, Rees believes “it” [multiverses] exist. No need to check and confirm: we, the Gnostic brotherhood of secular scientists really know what’s going on (wink, wink). In other words, this Platonic whackiness (as part of an erroneous view of reality) sees mathematical formalisms actualizing reality. Really dumb. Mathematical formalisms don’t actualize anything: they are good predictive tools because they describe the reality being investigated, i.e., they quantify and correlate sensory-accessible properties of real objects. Guth wants us to believe in non-real objects: multiverses are his flying spaghetti monsters.

    Worse, think about this. If a so-called “other universe” could actually be detected, that would be the strongest demonstration against multiverses. Why? Because anything that is physically detectable to us is “in” our universe. This is such common sense that it takes a university professor chasing the skirts of the press to miss it.

    You think it stops there? We have a perfect example of DL and olegt telling us, in all seriousness, that the Principle of Sufficient Reason (which is not subject to MES testing because subject matter is causation itself) is invalid because… wait for it… the mathematical formalisms “say so.” They, quite literally, want you to believe quantum-level events have no explanation, no cause, no possibility of ever knowing why such phenomena exist in the first place… because they think the math “says so,” i.e., makes it that way. If that isn’t an anti-scientific research show-stopper, I don’t know what is. These guys can’t stand the fact that something must explain the overall existence of the universe, so they a priori discount God (with no basis), they manipulate metaphysics (to exclude the PSR), and they declare victory on what amounts to a lot of hot air. Then, when confronted, they respond quite ignorantly with, “well, something needs to explain God”… completely missing the boat headed toward the safe harbor of reason.

    A poor understanding of physics, an imposition upon physics of a priori presuppositions, and a hatred of faith. Atheism, ladies and gentlemen. It’s been a long time coming to expose it for the irrational meme it is.

  26. JAD says:

    An eternally existing transcendent intelligence or mind I would argue is something that is NOT empirically provable. The existence of an infinite number of universes is also something that is NOT empirically provable. Even if we someday detect the existence of another universe it does not necessarily follow that an infinite number of universes exist, and there is no way empirically to prove that an infinite set of other universes exist.

    Where does that leave us? With two diametrically opposed metaphysical view points. In my opinion, as thing stand now, the concept of an eternally existing transcendent intelligence is a better explanation for the fine tuning of our universe than any explanation based on the existence of other universes.

    The idea that the so called multiverse theory is scientific is pretense of the highest order.

  27. woodchuck64 says:

    Tom,

    1. By “testability,” surely you mean testability by physical means, which is a terribly limited sense of the term. A theory of God may be a dead-end in physics

    Yes, that’s all I meant.

  28. woodchuck64 says:

    Holopupenko,

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. Consider this unsubstantiated assertion: “there must also be a mathematical/physical model of God or Design”.

    Did not make that assertion, please read more carefully.

  29. Viking says:

    These are interesting points. Personally, I often get lost in details while my point is lost in my thinking. As I’ve taken the intent of the original post, there is a battle, perhaps not intentional, between the less-believing scientists and the faithful Christian community. There are many posts on this idea here at this blog, so no need to expand.

    But here, this is another attempt. Scientists, while fascinated with discovery, seem eager to explain the ‘how’ but not the ‘why’ of our existence.

    Personally, while fascinating for talk, and perhaps theoretical research, the multi-verse idea is dumb. Great talking points though. But really. How many multi-verses can fit on the head of a pin? It’s like that exercise.

    Scientists can examine the human body. We can pin point brain activity associated with thoughts. We can explain electro-chemical stimulus to explain actions and even reactions.

    But no scientific examination will prove ideas a like sacrifice, devotion, silent love with no return…ideals that fuel art and expressions through ideas and dreams. Ideas created a thousand years ago on a painting that generate emotions in us today. In these discussions we get lost in seeing the material universe(s), and the scientist ignore the spirit within us all. They would rather spend eons thinking of multiverse solutions only shown to be possible on a chalk board, and yet the very experiences we all have that suggest a creator and a soul are shoved aside like the idea of shamans and nature-spirits…laughable fairy tales by backward cultures.

    Until I see otherwise, I’m pretty happy with a faith in an unseen but knowable creator that has proven to move in all our lives in some manner beyond my understanding through science.

  30. As far as the multiverse is concerned, pursuing the possibility is all fine and good as is all scientific research. I think the problem comes into play when the possibility is the only means of escaping the fine-tuning conundrum (I may be oblivious to other arguments against it) and thereby insisting on a model that includes it, more out of escaping the implications of fine-tuning than as a hypothesis standing on its own two feet.

    Intent always precedes content. Thus, the motivation for selecting a multiverse model over the universe may have more to do with the heart before ever reaching the mind, and the article illustrates this perfectly.

  31. Holopupenko says:

    Woodchuck:

    You must take us for fools. Perhaps I should have included your sentence immediately preceding the one I focused on in my last message (I’ll take the hit for any lack of clarity that omission may have caused):

    But I don’t see how a multiverse mathematical/physical model suddenly makes God and designers scientific. For the analogy to hold, there must also be a mathematical/physical model of God or Design.

    I focused on the second sentence for the wider implications I expanded upon for Tom. You imply that the knowledge and methodology of the MESs is either the only valid form of knowledge or the most superior form of knowledge… both of which fall into the silliness of DL’s unscientific hyper-predictiveness hang-up. It is the view that motivates your comments here and animates your atheism… yet, it is most manifestly not a scientific position.

    However, in the interests of further clarity, I’ll withdraw the last statement until you clearly articulate your position regarding the modern empirical sciences. If you think the MESs are either the only or most superior form of gaining knowledge about the real world, then come clear and say so… and provide justification. (Hint: beware of the circular reasoning trap.) If not, on what basis do you reject the notion of a First Uncaused Cause and miss the boat so badly by demanding God needs an MES explanation (“The problem with the idea of God is testability”)… which was nicely nailed by Tom?

  32. BillT says:

    Holo,

    “You must take us for fools.”

    You’re beginning to sound like me! :) Don’t let that happen or you’ll get a *sigh* after your posts, too.

  33. Holopupenko says:

    BillT:

    Thanks. I’m relying on you to keep me in line! ;-)

  34. woodchuck64 says:

    Holopupenko,

    Since I have nothing else to do in this thread, I’ll reply. But note that I won’t usually reply to your attacks.

    You imply that the knowledge and methodology of the MESs is either the only valid form of knowledge or the most superior form of knowledge

    No, I didn’t.
    * The multiverse model is in the knowledge sphere of physics/mathematics.
    * I took an implication to be made by Tom that physicists are using physics/mathematics models to run from God.
    * I said, in affect, what else can physicists do except “run from God” if they want to do physics/mathematics? There is no testable theory of God in physics/mathematics.
    * I pointed out that proposing a physical/mathematical model that makes any testable predictions does open it up for disproof, and disproof of chaotic inflation could be considered a good thing for the traditional view of God. So couldn’t Linde’s efforts be a good thing for Christianity?
    * I agree that multiverses themselves are not testable, but not all aspects of chaotic inflation are untestable; it can be disproved.

    However, in the interests of further clarity, I’ll withdraw the last statement until you clearly articulate your position regarding the modern empirical sciences.

    My view is irrelevant since I haven’t asked anyone to adopt it or assume it in this thread. That said, my view is that MESs are the most reliable form of knowledge, but not the only source of knowledge. I believe that view is defensible, but am not interested in defending it at this time.

  35. Holopupenko says:

    MESs are the most reliable form of knowledge, but not the only source of knowledge. I believe that view is defensible, but am not interested in defending it at this time.

    Fair enough.

    But for the record, you’ve undermined yourself: to hold the MESs are “the most reliable form of knowledge” you cannot rely on the MESs to tell you that, for it would be circular reasoning. But if you must rely on something else outside of MES-knowledge, then you’re assuming a form of knowledge is at least as “reliable”–likely more “reliable” than MES knowledge… and hence you’ve undermined your own position.

    THAT is what you need to examine, and to do so honestly without bringing in an anti-God position. You ought to know you can’t disprove the existence of God (negative reasoning)… but you also ought to know that there may be knowledge whose data is beyond but dependent on our sensory (i.e., MES-accessible) knowledge. If you a priori reject anything that may lead to knowledge of God, you will never get out of the hole.

  36. woodchuck64 says:

    Holopupenko,

    But for the record, you’ve undermined yourself: to hold the MESs are “the most reliable form of knowledge” you cannot rely on the MESs to tell you that, for it would be circular reasoning. But if you must rely on something else outside of MES-knowledge, then you’re assuming a form of knowledge is at least as “reliable”–likely more “reliable” than MES knowledge… and hence you’ve undermined your own position.

    I lean towards pragmaticism/instrumentalism as mentioned, preferring usefulness to absolute definitions of truth. But I’m not relying on an authority for that definition, it’s more of a tautology: that which I find useful is useful. The notion of what works or what is useful is ultimately inseparable from who I am as a biological/social/language-speaking/information-processing organism, I don’t really get to choose that. Would a Christian worldview work better for me, be more useful? I’ve tried it but it did not.

  37. Holopupenko says:

    … that which I find useful is useful… Would a Christian worldview work better for me, be more useful? I’ve tried it but it did not.

    Just to make sure it’s understood, another way of saying this is: It’s not about truth, it’s about me.

    What amazes me is the unabashed and open honesty over embracing tautology as a basis for one’s world view.

    Tom:

    It’s exactly what I identified earlier about Woodchuck in particular and atheism in general: power… over things and people. Remember our old friend, Jacob?

    “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” (G.K. Chesterton)

  38. Tom Gilson says:

    Usefulness is such a self-referential matter. What if in my limited knowledge I don’t know what really counts as useful, or what if I pursue that which is useful toward the wrong end?

    I would urge you not to give in too quickly to your being an “organism.” You are that, yes, but you are also more than that, and you can reach higher.

    But I can relate to the idea of Christianity not working. It didn’t work for me, either, until I discovered more of what it was about.

  39. woodchuck64 says:

    Holopupenko,

    Just to make sure it’s understood, another way of saying this is: It’s not about truth, it’s about me.

    Yes, but even a Christian has to honestly admit the same. That is, ultimately, you can only evaluate the world through what you perceive through the senses, and you can only evaluate it’s truth or usefulness according to the being that you are.

    Also, “it’s about me” has a strong connotation of social selfishness which is absolutely not part of my explanation and is deeply misleading, so don’t use that phrase to characterize my view without explaining the nuances. In the view I’ve described, even Mother Theresa must rely on her own perceptions of truth and her own values first before she can work selflessly for the good of others.

    Tom,

    Usefulness is such a self-referential matter. What if in my limited knowledge I don’t know what really counts as useful, or what if I pursue that which is useful toward the wrong end?

    Exactly; the nature of reality that I perceive through the senses and the values I apply to the things I observe have no guarantee to be accurate or match reality. But this is the nature of things, as far as I can tell, and I don’t see that Christianity offers a better solution to this most basic problem.

    I would urge you not to give in too quickly to your being an “organism.” You are that, yes, but you are also more than that, and you can reach higher.

    But I can relate to the idea of Christianity not working. It didn’t work for me, either, until I discovered more of what it was about.

    Don’t worry, an “organism” in my view is certainly capable of reaching higher. But atheism in practice I find to be a world view with a huge number of questions constantly circling that force one to be constantly reading, studying, thinking and wondering about the ultimate nature of reality. Thanks again for your efforts on this blog as a useful source of information to me.

  40. Viking says:

    Hi Woodchuck…I’ve been watching these comments with interest.

    …’Yes, but even a Christian has to honestly admit the same. That is, ultimately, you can only evaluate the world through what you perceive through the senses, and you can only evaluate it’s truth or usefulness according to the being that you are…’

    My experience is not this way at all. I cannot admits those things. I believe, and have experienced, a perception beyond what we have as the classic 5 senses. Now, before we wonder if this is an irrational feeling or hope based on a hunch like a lottery ticket or something, work with me on this.

    How many of us have experienced a love, a longing, a sudden urge to communicate with someone? Coincidences, happenstance oddities in life that are amazing and fortunate…1 in a billion? Better explained by design and not chance (it could be IF you believe in a creator) How about the reactions of sacrifice and a pride in accomplishment that can only be seen from the inside? There are inputs from senses that I will (inaccurately) call soul-based inputs that come to us from another part of our existence that is near-impossible to define but totally possible to experience.

    I’m counting on the notion that we’ve all experienced the unexplained and sudden input from this realm, which I attribute to the work of our souls in connection with a spirit world, explained quite simply in the bible. I can’t explain it well, and neither can most, but if you’ve experienced it, we can both understand what it is we mean.

    Why do I go down this road of talk? Because it leads me to question what ‘useful’ is. Your notion of useful is based only on your personal senses, and is a selfish value system. I’m sure you’re a decent person, and I don’t mean to say that selfishness is dark. But it is a selfishness just the same. Whereas I’ve found that paying attention to what I believe we all see in us, the works of a force greater than ourselves, a connection to each other, and to something greater, a creator, gives us a greater sense of usefulness in terms of others…and it is THIS flow of consciousness that leads back to self. Not selfishness through self reference, but self, through others. Self, defined by the nature of a creator, and usefulness determined by the design of that creator. When we can perceive that design, then, and only then, can we truly know what is useful.

    While I don’t disagree with your point, I see it as only a part, and therefore incomplete, to the human existence.

    Bringing us back to the point of the post. You cannot determine the nature of the whole by only describing the parts that we like or want to believe in. Multi-verses…Ok. Fine. But if this is a model that edges out a creator, it’s as pointless as describing boats on the ocean and ignoring the captains in control of the boats.

    In my book, to dismiss the creator from any model because we are not yet wise enough or bold enough or brave enough (and even humble enough) to recognize Him as a force behind this all is a pointless exercise. Not because it’s a waste of time, but because it’s a waste of us, and what we mean to each other.

    If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. :)

  41. woodchuck64 says:

    Hi Viking,

    Your notion of useful is based only on your personal senses, and is a selfish value system. I’m sure you’re a decent person, and I don’t mean to say that selfishness is dark. But it is a selfishness just the same. Whereas I’ve found that paying attention to what I believe we all see in us, the works of a force greater than ourselves, a connection to each other, and to something greater, a creator, gives us a greater sense of usefulness in terms of others…and it is THIS flow of consciousness that leads back to self

    You first need a value to pay attention to the works of a force greater than yourself, before you can do so. That value must be instilled in your self, become you, be part of the being you are.

    So we’re talking about the same perspective actually. Your senses (and I’m not limiting those to 5 necessarily) bring to you the perception of a spiritual force, a connection to others, a creator. The person you are at the moment of perception is guided by the value you have in the understanding and implications of that perception. But, ultimately, we both have to take a leap of faith (although there really is no alternative) that our perceptions (5 or more, it doesn’t matter) and our values (as natural or spiritual beings, it doesn’t matter) are true or useful or should be an accurate guide to living one’s life. That leap of faith is what I made explicit in talking about my world view as a kind of pragmaticism/instrumentalism.

    I also don’t think there are significant differences of perception or values between us, though, since we’re both human beings. I think our differences of belief stem from different experiences and different information over time. For example, I have had religious experiences, and I have felt a connection to others in an almost mystical sense. However, I have come to value scientific interpretations of those experiences more so than religious explanations, and that is because over time I have come to value scientific methodology over religious methodology.

  42. Viking says:

    …”You first need a value to pay attention to the works of a force greater than yourself…”

    Exactly. I believe the difference here is in what we pay attention to for that value system. I consider the distance of a child’s perspective to his parents. Left to the kid’s ideas of usefulness, we know how that outcome turns out…no boundaries, candy for every meal, sleeping all day, and a charming attitude only a mother could love. It’s only the guidance, or definition of what is useful, that the parents instill that will guide the kid to a better way of living. And that’s battle for sure.

    Based on my less than award winning behavior in the past, I figure my ideas of useful are about as far from accurate compared to the one who created me. For my faith, since God created us, and since He tells us in the bible that we each have a purpose and a place in this world, His reasons of usefulness to the plan are far from known if I base them solely on my own wishes, like that of a child. I’m sure you would agree, that our own perceptions must be limited to that of a creator that can see and know more than we could ever hope to know. But, unless a person believe in that creator, there is no reason to look outside one’s self for that useful purpose.

    I must say in honesty, I am intrigued by your response, and I think it’s great. I don’t agree with it. But for how you lay it out here, I respect it very much. Thank you for the exchange.

    I look forward to more.

  43. Holopupenko says:

    I have come to value scientific interpretations of those experiences more so than religious explanations, and that is because over time I have come to value scientific methodology over religious methodology.

    But that’s

    (1) a dangerous copout
         because it’s a me-centered “pragmatism” with no possibility of fuller understanding, which inevitably brings one into conflict with the “pragmatic” opinions of other with no possible resolution other than force–hence the attraction to power over others;

    (2) epistemic hypocrisy
         because scientific methodology is anything but pragmatism: science is about seeking both certain and contingent truths about the physical world from which higher-order verities can be reasoned; and

    (3) self-serving nonsense
         because it artificially pits “scientific methodology over religious methodology” with no basis other than personal preference.

    Through his assertions, Woodchuck quite honestly reveals the nature of atheism: “that’s the way I want it, so there!” Doesn’t that reflect Lucifer’s approach?

  44. woodchuck64 says:

    Viking,

    Based on my less than award winning behavior in the past, I figure my ideas of useful are about as far from accurate compared to the one who created me.

    But your ideas of useful have led you to God, so at least you trust yourself in that important detail. That’s the only sense I’m saying I trust myself or am looking to myself for answers.

    We are born with needs and desires and learn ways of interacting with our surroundings, of modeling them, of predicting them so that those needs and desires can be met. Useful ways, ways that work, can be thought of those ways that are most successful at meeting our needs and desires. And I don’t just mean food and sex, but belonging to a greater cause, the need for meaning, the desire for purpose, the drive to understand, these are just some of the needs and desires we have that we seek to meet by developing complex, information-rich models of our surroundings, our world, our reality.

    At this stage, you and I believe our initial ideas of usefulness have led us to a better way of viewing reality, a better model, so we are now looking to that way of viewing reality for answers; your way is Christian theism, my way is an atheistic, mostly scientific view of reality, but with a good deal of question marks. At this stage, it no longer makes sense to say that we are looking to ourselves for answers, even though we did rely on intrinsic needs, desires, and ways to meet them, initially. We are both looking outside ourselves.

    Thank you for the exchange.

    And I thank you for your thoughtful remarks.

  45. Holopupenko says:

    This from George Weigel:

         As for the interesting, try the aggregate numbers. According to the report, there will be, by mid-2011, 2,306,609,000 Christians of all kinds in the world, representing 33 percent of world population – a slight percentage rise from mid-2000 (32.7 percent), but a slight percentage drop since 1900 (34.5 percent). Of those 2.3 billion Christians, some 1.5 billion are regular church attenders, who worship in 5,171,000 congregations or “worship centers,” up from 400,000 in 1900 and 3.5 million in 2000.
         These 2.3 billion Christians can be divided into six “ecclesiastical megablocks”: 1,160,880,000 Catholics; 426,450,000 Protestants; 271,316,000 Orthodox; 87,520,000 Anglicans; 378,281,000 “Independents” (i.e., those separated from or unaffiliated with historic denominational Christianity); and 35,539,000 “marginal Christians” (i.e., those professing off-brand Trinitarian theology, dubious Christology, or a supplementary written revelation beyond the Bible).
         Compared to the world’s 2.3 billion Christians, there are 1.6 billion Muslims, 951 million Hindus, 468 million Buddhists, 458 million Chinese folk-religionists, and 137 million atheists, whose numbers have actually dropped over the past decade, despite the caterwauling of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Co. One cluster of comparative growth statistics is striking: As of mid-2011, there will be an average of 80,000 new Christians per day (of whom 31,000 will be Catholics) and 79,000 new Muslims per day, but 300 fewer atheists every 24 hours.
    What’s the Darwinian term for that trend?

    Holopupenko: Survival of the fittest? Extinction? Ya gotta love science.

  46. Viking says:

    …”But your ideas of useful have led you to God, so at least you trust yourself in that important detail…”

    Well, not exactly. But I understand your point. It’s fair to say that many of us have different roads to faith. For some…it’s like you say. For me…

    Mine came more from surrender than from a conscious choice. Like the line from the movie Donny Brasco, ‘when you get sent for, you go’.

    I wanted a better direction in life, and at that same time, God began to work on my heart in ways that were beyond my will and understanding. In the end, I choose to lead a life based on a higher idea of usefulness. Most hear that as a list of ‘don’ts’ that we are forbidden to engage in. Ironically, that step opened up a list of greater possibilities of amazing things to DO in life.

    Much like the child I referenced that must finally surrender to a more knowing and more capable will, I recognized that a force greater than myself was at work, mostly within me, and I best follow it.

    Now, I suppose the point could be made that an act of surrender is that initial personal (selfish) choice where we decide for ourselves what is useful. I suppose. We are beings of free will. But I maintain it was no great insight as much as it was coincidence, and that perhaps I even began to see His planed usefulness for me rather than my own plan that just happened to work with His ideas. Like I say, I didn’t ask to join, I was sent for (thank God). At this point, the best of all ways to explain it would be to suggest the story of Jonah, keeping in mind that it is also a story of the endless patience God has for us, as much as it is a story of our discovery of usefulness…ours vs His.

    And so, physics and math…the debate…I have not forgotten. In fact, ultimately, the usefulness of these theories and models, for me at least, rests on the meaning of it all. And there can only be meaning worth pursuing if there is a creator with a useful set of morals and a plan. THAT right there can be the cornerstone for any argument of why there must be an infinite being with endless existence. Without it, there can be no meaning, and no usefulness, and no purpose.

    Any model that does not take this into account is incomplete, otherwise, it’s useless. Wouldn’t it therefore be better to assume a creator and fashion a model that includes a creator until you can prove it can’t be, instead of assuming there is none, not even look for Him, and declare there must not be any?

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