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Creation 39(4):49–51, October 2017

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The universe of the lone brain

Semi-technical

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123rf.comlone-brain

Famous atheistic evolutionist Richard Dawkins has claimed:

“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”1

His remarks are no doubt provocative, but are they accurate? What would a universe of sheer randomness and chance really look like? Dawkins concedes elsewhere that biology gives at least the appearance of design.2 It is not only biology, though, that leads one to question Dawkins’ assessment. The cosmos itself provides a strong indication of intelligence—the universe, along with the physical laws and constants which govern its day-to-day operation, gives every indication of being finely tuned to allow complex life such as ourselves to exist and flourish.3 This is so well established that it has even been given its own title, the ‘anthropic principle’.4

The ‘multiverse’ escape hatch

The implications of a Designer are so strong, in fact, that atheists have been forced to come up with a mechanism to ‘explain away’ this extremely odd fact (odd only from the atheist perspective, of course). One of the ways this is done is by appealing to ‘multiverse theory’.5 In a reality in which only chance rules, the universe we observe is highly unlikely to occur. But, they reason, if our universe was only one of an infinite number of universes, then perhaps ours just happens to be the one that hit the lucky jackpot. It’s only natural that we should observe it, since if we were in any of the other ones, we wouldn’t be able to exist at all!6

As a response to cosmic fine tuning, this is hardly an acceptable scientific answer; rather, this is an ad hoc ‘way out’ of the fine tuning problem. There is no empirical evidence for the existence of other universes—all our data are, by definition, part of the universe in which we exist!

Evolutionary astrophysicist Paul Davies explains:

“How seriously can we take this explanation for the friendliness of nature? Not very, I think. For a start, how is the existence of the other universes to be tested? To be sure, all cosmologists accept that there are some regions of the universe that lie beyond the reach of our telescopes, but somewhere on the slippery slope between that and the idea that there are an infinite number of universes, credibility reaches a limit. As one slips down that slope, more and more must be accepted on faith, and less and less is open to scientific verification.

Extreme multiverse explanations are therefore reminiscent of theological discussions. Indeed, invoking an infinity of unseen universes to explain the unusual features of the one we do see is just as ad hoc as invoking an unseen Creator. The multiverse theory may be dressed up in scientific language, but in essence it requires the same leap of faith.

At the same time, the multiverse theory also explains too much. Appealing to everything in general to explain something in particular is really no explanation at all. To a scientist, it is just as unsatisfying as simply declaring, ‘God made it that way!’”7

The anthropic principle is much more elegantly and simply explained by the existence of a Designer (a concept for which there is ample scientific evidence coming from a myriad of other fields!). Thus, by applying the universally accepted principle of reasoning known as Ockham’s Razor, we can dismiss the multiverse hypothesis as unnecessary.8

Pockets of order?

Ludwig Boltzmann was the Austrian physicist who pioneered statistical thermodynamics, and was a contemporary of Darwin. He hypothesized that the overall universe is already in a state of equilibrium, but that there exist, scattered randomly throughout, little pockets of order which he called ‘worlds’, which spontaneously pop up as random fluctuations. Thus, he thought, our universe must be just such a random pocket of order in a much larger system.9 He was appealing to what has come to be called the ‘observer self-selection effect’ (we observe order because without it, there could be no observers!).

The modern scientific community has, however, rejected this hypothesis; if this universe were merely a random fluctuation of order in an overall system of disorder, then by the laws of probability we should not observe nearly the vastness that we do.10 It would be overwhelmingly more probable for us to observe a much smaller pocket, since there’s a lot more order in our universe than what is needed merely to allow observers like us. In fact, this can be carried to an extreme (i.e. reductio ad absurdum): the most probable randomly-generated ‘world’ in which an observer could exist would be a world just large enough to contain a single brain capable of observation! This is known as a ‘Boltzmann Brain’.11 Since we observe a great deal more order than that, it follows that we are very unlikely to exist in such a random pocket of order.

Paul Davies had previously pointed out something similar with multiverse theory:

“Problems also crop up in the small print. Among the myriad universes similar to ours will be some in which technological civilizations advance to the point of being able to simulate consciousness. Eventually, entire virtual worlds will be created inside computers, their conscious inhabitants unaware that they are the simulated products of somebody else’s technology. For every original world, there will be a stupendous number of available virtual worlds—some of which would even include machines simulating virtual worlds of their own, and so on ad infinitum.

Taking the multiverse theory at face value, therefore, means accepting that virtual worlds are more numerous than ‘real’ ones. There is no reason to expect our world—the one in which you are reading this right now—to be real as opposed to a simulation. And the simulated inhabitants of a virtual world stand in the same relationship to the simulating system as human beings stand in relation to the traditional Creator.”12

But while the scientific community has, in general, rejected Boltzmann’s version of the multiverse hypothesis, the multiverse theory continues to be invoked as an explanation for the stunning order and fine tuning of our cosmos, as does the so-called observer self-selection effect. Given that fact, it seems the force of the Boltzmann Brain problem has yet to be sufficiently felt by the secular academic community. Since their ultimate vision of our universe is, in Dawkins’ words, one of “no design, no purpose … nothing but blind, pitiless indifference,” it becomes extremely hard (read: impossible) to explain why we see as much order as we do.

God’s love and creativity

We may now return to Dawkins’ original statement that the universe we observe has exactly the properties we should expect, given nothing but pure randomness and no design. It should be obvious at this point just how completely wrong-headed, even absurd, this statement really is. The sheer amount of multi-layered complexity in our universe is staggering even to contemplate, and there are so many facets of our existence that go far beyond the ‘grunt work’ of mere survival and reproduction.

Our universe cries out that God exists and furthermore, He cares for us! He has given us many pleasures and abilities in this life—without which our existence would be much more tedious and miserable. At the same time, the faults we find in this world speak to the fallen state of creation after the original sin of mankind. We should make sure not to take for granted the many blessings God has bestowed, and remember, as always, what the Apostle Paul said about God on this topic:

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
cat-box

Multiverse vs many-worlds: not the same

The modern origin of many-worlds thinking in the scientific community may go back to the jocular proposal of Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961) of a ‘many-worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics.1

This was more seriously proposed by Hugh Everett III (1930–1982), who called it the ‘relative state’ interpretation. The normal interpretation is that the so-called wave function predicts the probabilities of certain events, e.g. the unpredictable random decay of an atomic particle (upon which, in Schrödinger’s famous cat-in-a-sealed-box thought experiment, the release of a poison and thus the life or death of the cat depends). When the event actually happens, this is now the reality, and the other possible events can no longer occur.

In the many-worlds interpretation, all the events occur in different universes. Note the important difference here with the normal multiverse theory: multiverse theory presupposes the appearance of multiple universes at the beginning, while many-worlds states that multiple realities are constantly being generated.

  1. Sarfati, J., Should creationists accept quantum mechanics? creation.com/creationists-quantum-mechanics, 2011.

References and notes

  1. Dawkins, R., River out of Eden, Basic Books, New York, USA, p. 133, 1995. Return to text.
  2. Dawkins, R., The Blind Watchmaker, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, USA, p. 1, 1986. See also:Catchpoole, D., Dawkins and design, creation.com/dawkins-and-design. Return to text.
  3. Sarfati, J., The universe is finely tuned for life, creation.com/tuned, updated 2015. Return to text.
  4. DeYoung, D., selected questions and answers excerpted from Astronomy and the Bible; creation.com/astronomy-and-the-bible. Return to text.
  5. Bates, G., Multiverse theory—unknown science or illogical raison d’être? creation.com/multiverse-theory, June 2009. Return to text.
  6. This pseudo-response to fine tuning is nothing more than a tautology. An explanation for the improbable fine tuning is still needed! See ref. 3. Return to text.
  7. Davies, P., A brief history of the multiverse, New York Times, 12 April 2003; nytimes.com. Return to text.
  8. Moreland, J. and Craig, W., Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, Inter Varsity Press, Downers Grove, USA, p. 487, 2003. See also Grigg, R., William of Ockham ‘The first Protestant’, Creation 39(2):52–55, April 2017. Return to text.
  9. Cited in Moreland and Craig, Ref. 8, p. 488. Return to text.
  10. Cited in Moreland and Craig, Ref. 8, pp. 488–489. Return to text.
  11. Craig, W.L. Invasion of the Boltzmann Brains, reasonablefaith.org, 30 September 2012. Return to text.
  12. Davies, Ref. 7. Return to text.