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Feedback archive Feedback 2009

Multiverse theory—unknown science or illogical raison d’être?1

New Scientist columnist falls on her own sword over multiverse theory

by

Published: 30 June 2009(GMT+10)

Image NASA

One of the first photos of the earth in space as shot by the Apollo 8 astronauts.

One of the first photos of the earth in space as shot by the Apollo 8 astronauts. In a live broadcast to the whole world they were moved to read Genesis 1, realizing how special the earth appeared in the dark vastness of space. Attempts to explain this uniqueness without a Creator have led to the multiverse theory.

New Scientist magazine is generally regarded by the secular community as one of the top-ranked popular science magazines in the world. However, a published opinion by a regular columnist demonstrated how “unscientific” and anti-God some of their articles have become—something we have documented before (see Refutation of New Scientist’s Evolution: 24 myths and misconceptions).

Amanda Gefter wrote an article discussing multiverse theory, or the idea that our universe may be only one of many that currently exist. Such speculations attempt to explain away the appearance of design in the universe, because of, as we shall see, the spiritual implications. In an article called What’s God got to do with it she wrote:

“WHAT would you rather believe in, God or the multiverse? It sounds like an instance of cosmic apples and oranges, but increasingly we are being told it’s a choice we must make. Take the dialogue earlier this year between Richard Dawkins and physicist Steven Weinberg in Austin, Texas. Discussing the fact that the universe appears fine-tuned for our existence, Weinberg told Dawkins: ‘If you discovered a really impressive fine-tuning … I think you’d really be left with only two explanations: a benevolent designer or a multiverse.’” (Emphasis in original).2

Although she may not have realized her opening faux pas right off the bat, Gefter inadvertently states that it is a choice of belief systems. But in the very next sentence she belies the former by writing:

“Weinberg went on to clarify that invoking a benevolent designer does not count as a genuine explanation, but I was intrigued by his either/or scenario. Is that really our only choice? Supernatural creator or parallel worlds?”2

Multiverse: ignoring the evidence

Why doesn’t it count as a genuine explanation? If the Ockham’s Razor3 principle is followed, then the most straightforward explanation would be that there had to be a designer. Weinberg rightly noted that if one was to see a finely-tuned universe then it would imply design, but then effectively ruled out that designer. God is excluded from the question on philosophical grounds. Why philosophical grounds? Well, the universe does look as if it is designed and very finely-tuned for life, so if it’s not God then what’s left? Quoting an article in Discover magazine, Gefter wrote:

“‘Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation,’ writes journalist Tim Folger. ‘Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse.’ Folger quotes cosmologist Bernard Carr: ‘If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.’”2

Of course it’s nothing new to realize that people don’t want there to be a God to be accountable to. Both creation and evolution are belief systems about past events, and “evidence” or facts are generally interpreted within the framework of that belief system. So if the evidence for multiverse theory could be interpreted with the framework for cosmic evolution I could then understand where they are coming from. Gefter attempts to roll out the ammunition for multiverse theory but it’s really no evidence at all:

“There are plenty of reasons to take the multiverse seriously. Three key theories—quantum mechanics, cosmic inflation and string theory—all converge on the idea.”2

Resorting to unsubstantiated theories to support unsubstantiated theories!

These three key theories are just thrown into the mix as if they are substantiated science fact, but they are not. Multiverse is a completely hypothetical construct, but what makes Gefter’s explanations even worse is that she attempts to use even more speculation in an attempt to shore up the former.

Gefter attempts to roll out the ammunition for multiverse theory but it’s really no evidence at all.

Firstly, quantum mechanics (see A new age of quantum madness) deals mainly with the nature and behaviour of subatomic particles. Quantum mechanics is fine in itself (see for example Should creationists accept quantum mechanics?), but she is talking about a highly dubious understanding of it, called the “many worlds” interpretation. Quantum theory predicts certain probabilities of various events happening, e.g. the decay of a radioactive atom. But the many worlds view asserts that there are parallel universes, one for each possibility.

The multi-universe (multiverse) idea is a subset of this idea. But it goes further. Let’s explain how it works. If there were lots of other universes, with the laws of physics a little bit different in each one, then it would become probable that at least one would happen to have the properties required for intelligent observers to exist. If it didn’t, you and I would not be here to ask the question of “Why does our universe look special?”, in the first place (as the anthropic principle indicates). This is really a non-answer—imagine someone taking a lethal dose of poison, surviving, and then being asked, “how did you survive?” It would be crass to answer, “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here talking to you.”

It is a nonsensical attempt to explain away design, because even if there were other universes, the laws of physics that dictate our own mean that it would be impossible for us to detect them anyway. This is science fiction!

Second, why cosmic inflation is used to support the multiverse notion is not understood by the writer of this article (me). Inflation is yet another hypothesis to rescue a hypothesis—the big bang. The big bang hypothesis results in a number of problems, one of which is the uniformity of temperature to within 1 part in 100,000. According to big bang time scales, there has not been even a tenth of the amount of time necessary for heat to have travelled from the hot parts to the cold parts to equalize the temperature. This is a light-travel problem suffered by big-bangers, called the horizon problem. The inflation theory is a mathematical model to try to explain this. See the discussion in How can distant starlight reach us in just 6,000 years?

Thirdly, string theory, or the theory that the universe might exist in multiple branes or dimensions, is presently completely unobservable and untestable. However, its advocates would also claim that it is not falsifiable, and therefore, it might be correct. To use this argument is completely circular in its reasoning and short on substance. Once again, it borders on the realm of science fiction. String theory is nothing more than elegant philosophical mathematics attempting, once again, to solve some of the observation evidence that is not consistent with a big bang model.

The circular arguments continue

After using unscientific ideas to support an unscientific multiverse idea, Gefter then said:

“But the reason physicists talk about the multiverse as an alternative to God is because it helps explain why the universe is so bio-friendly. From the strength of gravity to the mass of a proton, it’s as if the universe were designed just for us. If, however, there are an infinite number of universes—with physical constants that vary from one to the next—our cosy neighbourhood isn’t only possible, it’s inevitable.”2

Surely it is logical to deduce that the reason the universe is so ‘bio-friendly’ is that it was made to be that way (Isaiah 45:18).

This statement borders on the bizarre! Surely it is logical to deduce that the reason the universe is so “bio-friendly” is that it was made to be that way (Isaiah 45:18). There cannot be a stronger argument for design from experimental science—i.e. evidence that is observable, repeatable and testable. However, note how she resorts to unknowns to claim a certainty (“If there are an infinite number of universes”) it’s “inevitable” (emphasis mine). She then had the temerity to say that:

“ … if this theory doesn’t pan out our only other option is a supernatural one is to abandon science itself.”

This she then described as an “unfounded leap of logic.” How is invoking a designer to account for design features illogical? Actually, it is her statement in this regard that is illogical. This is indescribable elephant-hurling in the extreme, particularly as she went on to say that creationists are mistaken in their claim that mulitverse theory was invented to serve as science’s get-out-of-God-free card. Well, given her best efforts to provide evidence for a multiverse theory she is playing that card very well without any help from creationists. Gefter is invoking pure philosophy in an attempt to derail the very logical arguments that creationists have been using. She fails to satisfactorily answer them, because she merely appeals to unsubstantiated and speculative theories. Her motivation to avoid a Creator at all costs is revealed later in the article when she quotes renowned evolutionary cosmologist Michio Kaku:

“To make matters worse, physicists are also dragging morality into the picture. In a recent show about the multiverse that aired on the History Channel, physicist Michio Kaku asked: ‘Why should I obey the law knowing that in some universe if I commit a crime I’m going to get away with it?’ The ID [intelligent design] community has already tried to draw lines from Darwin to the Holocaust in their attempt to paint rational people as Satan’s minions. Are physicists really suggesting that the multiverse gives us licence to commit evil? It’s an absurd notion, which moral philosophers have already killed off in other guises.”2

Indeed, how can she even define what ‘evil’ is unless there is a lawgiver; an ultimate authority who defines what is wrong and right?

Note how Gefter chides him for pointing out something that Bible-believers (and Kaku) have long pointed out. Her appeal to unspecified “moral philosphers” did not point out how this logical deduction has been answered. No one from this camp has ever suggested that rational people are Satan’s minions (Hitler maybe, but that’s just a nice bit of hyperbole she threw in for dramatic effect), and we have never claimed that non-believers or evolutionists cannot be moral. What we have consistently pointed out is that they have no logical basis for being moral (see for example Bomb-building vs. the biblical foundation). Indeed, how can she even define what “evil” is unless there is a law giver; an ultimate authority who defines what is wrong and right? With the moral goalposts being shifted so rapidly today one man’s “evil” can quickly become another’s “If it feels good, do it!” This is what Michio Kaku was logically deducing out, but in her eagerness to build straw man arguments and discredit those who advocate design, she missed it.

Gefter goes on to say:

“Pitting the multiverse against religion presents a false dichotomy. Science never boils down to a choice between two alternative explanations. It is always plausible that both are wrong and a third or fourth or fifth will turn out to be correct.”2

This is true to some extent. One can never know everything there is to know because tomorrow we might discover or learn something that we didn’t know today. But here she is once again playing her own aptly named “get-out-of-God-free card”. When trying to make sense of one’s world, one can only reliably use what we understand and know to be true. Gefter irrationally resorts to unknowns (what we cannot observe and test) to explain what we can observe and test. She then hurls some more elephants by resorting to yet another “unknown, untestable piece of philosophy.

“What might a third option look like here? Physicist John Wheeler once offered a suggestion: maybe we should approach cosmic fine-tuning not as a problem but as a clue. Perhaps it is evidence that we somehow endow the universe with certain features by the mere act of observation. It’s an idea that Stephen Hawking has been thinking about, too. Hawking advocates what he calls top-down cosmology, in which observers are creating the universe and its entire history right now. If we in some sense create the universe, it is not surprising that the universe is well suited to us.”2

(Once again refer to A new age of quantum madness for an answer to Hawking’s theory.) Hopefully, by now you can see that Gefter and her colleagues have really resorted to religious ideas, which is ironic because the whole point of her article was to somehow state that resorting to a Creator God who made the universe is unscientific and religious. Her final effort sounded more like a New Age idea, which is wholly religious. And lastly, Gefter says:

“That’s speculative, but at least it’s science.”2

We set the rules and God’s not allowed!

Our aim is always to write objectively, but it’s hard to keep a straight face when trying to write a response to this last sentence. Indeed, was she being serious? So let’s just answer it by recapping in point form.

  • The universe looks designed, but a designer is not allowed.
  • So there must be some other explanation.
  • Let’s resort to some other religious ideas to explain the appearance of design (the multiverse).
  • Then let’s use even more religious ideas to support our religious idea.
  • And then let’s claim it is science to show no designer was necessary.
  • We win!

This is another case of whoever defines the terms wins the debate (cf. The rules of the game: As the ‘rules’ of science are now defined, creation is forbidden as a conclusion—even if true). Our aim here is to show that one should not be intimidated by the speculative claims of evolutionists. When hearing such grand claims it might be prudent to ask “What is the evidence?” and hopefully you’ll realize, as this article demonstrably shows, that people (and yes, scientists are just ordinary people) will resort to anything to deny God. At the end of the day Ms Gefter falls on her own sword of (il)logic anyway. Multiverse theory involves complex mathematical extrapolation. Indeed, multiverse hypothesis would be more appropriate than multiverse theory. If it were somehow true, one would still be left with the problem of who wrote the complex equations for the multiverse. As physicist Paul Davies has said “There is no known law of physics able to create information from nothing.”4 That, Ms Gefter, is science fact.

Recommended Resources





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References

  1. A reason for being or an explanation to justify a person or a thing’s existence. Return to text.
  2. Why it’s not as simple as God vs the multiverse, New Scientist, 2685, page 48, 6 December 2008. Return to text.
  3. Entities [of explanation] should not be multiplied beyond necessity. Put a little more plainly this maxim says that with any problem: “All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one.” Return to text.
  4. Davies, P., Life force, New Scientist 163(2204):27–30, 18 September 1999; see also Williams, A., Quantum leap of faith, Creation 22(2):42–43, 2000. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Jerome D., United States, 4 August 2012

This is so misleading that its disgusting. Fine tuned for life? Seriously? We are on the only planet we know of to have any life at all, I certainly wouldn't call that fine tuned. Also do not try to compare believing in god to the multiverse. One is simply man made based off of irrational faith (right in the definition of religion) and the other has been derived using facts and extreme logic.

Gary Bates responds

it's a shame that you used such emotive language in your response, which is also sadly lacking of any facts, but full of baseless assertions. If you carefully reread the article you will see that the reason a multiverse is invoked by secularists is as an attempt to get away from the fact the universe looks like it is specifically designed for human life on Earth. The author inasmuch admits this. If you Google the words 'anthropic principle', you will see that this is a term not invented by Christians. And indeed the universe is finely tuned for life. If you are able to put your angst to one side for a moment and read The universe is finely tuned for life, you will see why.

You even stated in your response that the earth is the only place where we find life but say that does not imply fine tuning. This is an illogical statement. In a 14 billion year old universe as believed as part of the grand theory of evolution, there should be a myriad of worlds that have similarly evolved by chance. However, the further we look into space the more it appears that the universe has been designed (the anthropic principle).

Multiverse theory does not have a shred of scientific evidence to support it. As such, it is not science fact. It is purely a philosophical or religious idea.

Aaron H., United States, 14 November 2012

I sort of stumbled upon this article, and I found it interesting, but slightly offensive. I understand that this is a faith-based organization, but I feel as though articles like this one cross the line between personal belief and forcing beliefs upon others. This article is no different than Copernicus being accused of heresy for stating that the Earth orbits the Sun, and not vice-verse. Just because certain groups oppose it does not mean they should slow scientific progress. On a similar note, scientific theory DOES have facts on it's side, such as measurable and observable results. Citing ancient books as evidence is no different than if I went around citing a comic book as proof of Spider-man's existence. On a final note, I completely respect your beliefs, and I hope this was taken the right way.

Gary Bates responds

I'm not sure how you could be personally offended by such an article as it was not addressed to you. But I wonder if you actually read and understood the article properly, and I mean this as respectfully as I can. This is because you make the claim that we are forcing our beliefs upon others, and that somehow our objection to multiverse theory is unscientific. Yet the article clearly showed, and even Geftner herself commented, that the reason they resort to such speculative and even unscientific ideas, is because the notion of a creator God was unpalatable and allegedly unscientific! Your simply wrong when you say the theory has facts on its side. What facts? There is not a shred of observable evidence to support the idea of multiple universes. It is merely conjecture and wishful thinking to avoid the implications of design. It would be helpful if you perhaps read and understood how observational science (what one might call 'real science') is actually limited to dealing with such alleged events that occurred in the past. May I suggest you read It's not science as it will be very helpful for you to understand that creationists do not reject real science at all. However, ideas like String Theory are nothing but elegant mathematical hypotheses designed to prop up an ailing secular big bang construct of how the universe began. In other words, if the amount of observable evidence doesn't fit the the theory, then they can resort to even more unobservable (i.e. unscientific) theoretical ideas to support the primary presupposition (i.e. 'everything made itself'). With regard to the Bible's account of origins. If God is outside of the space time universe He created, then it is perfectly reasonable to expect that He was capable of transmitting information to mankind to help us understand how it happened and who He is. Read If God created the universe, then who created God?). And indeed, and increasingly so, observational science increasingly demonstrates that the universe looks exquisitely designed. May I suggest further reading on this site such as The universe is finely tuned for life, or How big bang advocates have their own light travel problem? BTW some more understanding about Copernicus would be useful too. You can read more at The Galileo Twist.

Jason Y., United States, 31 December 2012

Get God, or get multiverse. That's funny because either way you will get God. Kaku points out that dark matter is merely the gravitational shadow of an invisible universe directly over ours. The gravity from that universe is accounting for the missing mass that holds the galaxies together in our universe. That sounds like what the bible has said from day one...wouldn't you agree? If multiverse turned out to be true, the universe above ours will almost certainly turn out to be the 'Heaven' that they used to claim doesn't exist.

Gary Bates responds

Dear Jason, thanks for your email but may I caution about accepting too much of their secular cosmological interpretations, Kaku included? Like the article showed, their starting assumption is that the big bang is true and thus, all the fudge factors like dark matter are added ad hoc in an attempt to prop up said big bang. You wrote: "... that dark matter is merely the gravitational shadow of an invisible universe directly over ours." This is not logical and not scientific (again like the multiverse article demonstrated). How can one appeal to something invisible as proof? If you type 'dark matter' into the search engine on this site you will find a number of articles that deal with it (or, in reality, the lack of it).

Simillarly, I would be very careful about even thinking that some sort of secular multiverse idea would be a validation of heaven. I saw many Christians also latch onto ideas like 'string theory' as a seeming validation of the Bible's spiritual dimension(s). Again, the theory resorted to unknown and untestable 'science' in an attempt to prop up big bang theory. See Is string the next big thing? One needs to be careful about using flaky secular ideas that are used to prop up an initial flaky secular idea (big bang) and then suggest it as a support of Scripture.

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