Intelligent Design & Multiverse -- Equal Time?

I have been listening to a series of podcasts that are from a U.C. Berkley astronomy class. In the latest, the professor discussed the "fine tuning" (his words, not mine) of the universe. He was candid about how slim the chances are that the "arbitrary" values of so many variables in the universe tilt towards life. He then said that one "reasonable" answer is intelligent design. He was "fine" with that conclusion, but insisted that it was not science and so he would not talk about it anymore than he had. It belonged in a religious class, but that did not mean that it was an unreasonable answer, just an answer that was beyond the bounds of science to answer.

This is not an uncommon position among scientists I have heard discuss the subject, though I found his very genuine sounding position that it was a reasonable answer to the issue interesting.

What was more interesting, however, was the professor's discussion of the multiverse theory. He saw this as the flip side of the coin (my words, not his), explaining the fine tuning of our universe by imagining that there are an almost endless number of alternative universes out there, each with its own laws of physics (or values of those physical laws). This would explain why one (or a few more) universes appear fine tuned. After all, if you are playing poker you should not be surprised if you get a few straight flushs in a row if you have been playing for billions of years.

This was all very interesting and the professor took about 10 to 15 minutes of his lecture exploring the topic. I was somewhat surprised when he finished that segment with the admission that the multiverse was so speculative that it was no more scientific than intelligent design. But he had just spent about 10X the amount of time exploring the multiverse theory than he had the intelligent design theory. If both are equally unscientific in his mind, then why was he so much more comfortable talking about the multiverse than intelligent design?

One answer might be that there are greater career risks in being seen as an advocate of intelligent design. But I think it more likely that the professor was simply more comfortable speculating about "nonscientific" theories that exclude God than "nonscientific" theories that include God. Another answer might be that the multiverse theory has the potential to be scientific whereas the intelligent design theory does not. But this means that in this area science is not following the evidence, but certain a priori philosophical positions that exclude certain conclusions before weighing the evidence.

In any event, it is far from clear that the multiverse theory is an escape hatch from intelligent design. Philosopher Robin Collins, for example, believes hat "an inflationary many-universes scenario might be able to offer a viable explanation of the fine-tuning" but then goes on "to explain why there still remains a powerful case for design from physics and cosmology." Collins, "Design and the Many-Worlds Hypothesis," in Philosophy of Religion, at 132.


Leslie said…
I do think that's intriguing... I'm not really sure how the multiverse theory could ever be measureable by us, since it would literally be something outside of our universe.

But, of course, there will always be something out there to try to get God out of the picture. All the same, it's very interesting to hear a teacher talk about this. I wish someone in the class would've asked him about that.
emmzee said…
Could we get a link to the podcasts if possible?
Layman said…
Not very good with this tech. I subscribed to the show through itunes. Here is the show title:

Astro C10: Introduction to General Astronomy - Fall 2006

The episode in question is "Multiverse? The Search for Life." It was the most recent one when I downloaded it.
Jason Pratt said…
I'm not always impressed by the main ID advocates (sometimes, not always); but despite certain conceptual problems, I think it should be admitted that if forensic pathology (such as on CSI and NCIS) can be considered 'science', then ID can be, too. Did 'X' happen by accident?--or was 'X' designed to happen? Investigators scientifically study that question hundreds or even thousands of times a day; and their conclusions get used by courts, pro and con.

Steven Carr said…
Is there any evidence that anything other than our universe exists?

That is the question that scientists are afraid of answering because they know there is zero evidence of anything other than our universe existing.
Leslie said…
Actually, the fact that our universe exists is pretty good evidence that something other than our universe exists. Assuming, of course, you agree with science that the universe came into being.
Steven Carr said…
So there is good evidence that the universe is not the only thing existing?

So why did the scientist claim there was no evidence of an intelligent designer existing in another universe to ours?

I wonder who did design the Earth so that earthquakes only killed a fraction of life on earth, and not the entirety of life on earth.
Leslie said…
I didn't say there was evidence of an intelligent designer, although I think there is. I just meant, most scientists, to my knowledge, seem to accept that there has to be something out there that caused this universe to come into being. If nothing else, they recognize it as a problem.
Jason Pratt said…
{{So why did the scientist claim there was no evidence of an intelligent designer existing in another universe to ours?}}

Was that in the audio lecture Steven--if so, can you perhaps give better instructions than Layman about how to get there?

On the other hand, if you haven't listened to the lecture yet, then where did you get that statement from? Because Layman certainly didn't report the scientist saying that. (On the contrary, he clearly thinks fine tuning counts as evidence for something, one reasonable option being an intelligent designer. Though possibly he straight out says elsewhere in the lecture that there is no evidence at all, even fine tuning.)

{{Is there any evidence that anything other than our universe exists?}}

Personally, I consider you to be solid evidence that something other than our universe exists and that it is substantially different (though not utterly so) from our universe. Quite a lot follows from accepting your existence and some particular characteristics of yours, such as respecting your rationality.

Layman said…
Hopefully this works:

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