Multiverse theory—unknown science or illogical raison d’être?1
New Scientist columnist falls on her own sword over multiverse theory
Published: 30 June 2009 (GMT+10)
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.
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
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
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.
- A reason for being or an explanation to justify a person or a thing’s existence. Return to text.
- Why it’s not as simple as God vs the multiverse, New Scientist, 2685, page 48, 6 December 2008. Return to text.
- 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.
- 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.