CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

I am a huge fan of the Teleological Argument because it is intuitively obvious that there is something special about out universe. For those that have never explored the Teleological Argument, it basically is the argument that notes how the basic conditions of the universe appears to be finely-tuned to support life. Moreover, contrary to the hopes and expectations of our atheist friend, as science has advanced, the appearance of fine-tuning in the universe has become more pronounced. Individual factors such as the expansion rate of the universe following the Big Bang and the ratio of protons to electrons appear (for no apparent natural reason) to be finely-tuned to allow life to arise. And these are not the only two factors. Rather, after noting that if "the initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as one part in [10 to the 60th power], the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded too rapidly for stars to form" and that "if gravity had been stronger or weaker by one part in [10 to the 40th power], then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist",the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the Teleological Argument continues,

There is some disagreement over just how many such independent factors there are, but by some counts there are over 100.... But the apparent probability of all the necessary conditions sufficient to allow just the formation of planets (let alone life) coming together just by chance is utterly outrageously tiny—by Roger Penrose's calculation, the probability of chance alone producing cosmoi capable of producing planets is 1 in 10 raised in turn to the 10123 (Penrose 1990, 343–4). With respect to key enzymes occurring by chance, astrophysicist Fred Hoyle throws around numbers like 10-40000 (Hoyle 1982, 4–5). (Although there is no consensus, some, following e.g., Emile Borel, suggest that a probability of occurrence of less than 10-50 can be taken as equivalent to practical impossibility.)

The minuscule nature of the odds that a universe with the factors that science observes could have arisen by chance form a very impressive case for the necessity of a creator being behind the creation of the universe as we see it. Certainly, the teleological argument was the primary argument that converted former atheist hero, Antony Flew, into a theist -- a deist, actually, but that's a huge step from his former atheistic worldview.

In response, some have posited the idea of the multiverse as a totally naturalistic alternative to the need for a creator seemingly required by the incredible odds behind sheer chance. Not that I blame scientists for creating this alternative; after all, their job is to try to come up with natural explanations for what we see in nature. They very much want to discover natural explanations for natural phenomena rather than give up and say, "God did it." Seriously, that is something that we ought to strive to do -- as long as it is reasonable.

The multiverse is such a theory. Unprovable on its own merits, the multiverse theory is, according to Discovery Magazine, science's alternative to an intelligent creator.

Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. 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 multi?verse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.

The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable non?religious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”—the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life.

The multiverse theory holds that our universe is one of many universes that exist. In one variation of the multiverse theory, our universe was created in some infinitely large cosmic pool which bubbles out universes like a Coca-Cola bubbles out carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubble-universes produced by the infinite pool ripple through the eleventh dimension and are themselves infinite in number. The logic goes that since there are an infinite number of these universes in existence, that by sheer chance one of them must have arisen with the conditions necessary to support life, i.e., one of them would by sheer chance have the conditions that appear in our life-abundant universe.

As I mused about this argument, a couple of problems occurred to me. The first is fairly well known: there is little chance that the existence of any of these other universes could ever be proven. Thus, the multiverse theories, generally, and the bubble multiverse theory specifically, could not be proven to exist. Certainly, there is an argument for the existence of the multiverse in the fact that it might be said to explain Schrodinger's cat. But to say that it may solve a problem in quantum mechanics is a far cry from saying that it has been proven or even shown to be likely.

But it seems to me that there is a second problem with the multiverse theory which I have never seen discussed previously and that relates to the nature of the infinity. But let me lay a little mathematical groundwork, first. Let's suppose that we have 10,000 cars, and we discover that 1 in 5 of the cars have leather interiors. Basic math says that 20% of the cars will have leather interiors (1 divided by 5), and therefore 2,000 of the cars will have leather interiors (1 divided by 5 multiplied by 10,000 equals 2,000). Pretty basic, but I want to make certain that the readers understand the basic mathematical principle that gives rise to the problem.

According to the multiverse theory, there are an infinite number of universes. Each of these infinite number of universes has, by random chance, certain attributes. Under the theory, statistics say that some of these universes should have the attributes necessary to support life (else wise, the multiverse theory could not explain the existence of the universe that we observe). So, let's suppose that the odds of a universe arising that could support life would be 1 in 10 to the 2,000,000,000th power -- extremely low odds by any measurement. Following our leather interior in cars example, we can calculate that there are ... uh, an infinite number of universes that could support life. (1 divided by 10 to the 2,000,000,000th power multiplied by infinity = infinity.)

So, how many of these universes will give rise to human life? Well, according to the naturalistic view, everything that has happened in this universe is the result of an endless string of cause and effect within a closed system, so if the initial conditions are able to support life, it is merely a matter of the right causes and effect combining to create human life, too. Thus, it is a mere matter of chance that humanity arose, and the arising of human life is merely a matter of chance. Supposing that from the infinite number of universes that can support life, 1 in 10 to the 3,000,000,000th power of them will give rise to human life. Using the same calculation we find that there are ... uh, well ... an infinite number of universes that can support human life.

And since the fact is that in an purely closed-system, naturalistic universe where humanity arose, it was merely a confluence of cause and effect that gave rise to ... well, you. Now, the odds of that happening are phenomenally small. Let's suppose it is only 1 in 10 to the 400,000,000,000,000,000,000th power. (But, of course, it has to be possible to happen since it obviously happened.) So, using the same math as before we discover that there are ... I don't know how to say this without possibly hurting your self-esteem, but there must be an infinite number of you's. There are also an infinite number of me's.

If you find that hard to believe, I don't blame you (or any of the infinite other you's that exist that also would find this difficult to believe). However, that is a consequence of the existence of an infinite number of other universes -- especially if you and I are only the result of cause and effect in a closed system.

Of course, it may be that the number of universes is not really infinite -- only enough to result in one universe exactly like ours. But, of course, one would have to ask how it is that the number of universes would be exactly as needed to create our universe. Is this only fine-tuning once removed?

6 comments:

Hello what are some good resources on this argument

Actually, I don't see any problem with there being infinitely many universes. I am even of the opinion that it is the most reasonable solution for a non-believer. This may seem to violate the principle of parsimony, but in fact it seems much harder (for a naturalist) to explain why some possible universes come into existence (ours) and others don't.

Of course, it may be that the number of universes is not really infinite -- only enough to result in one universe exactly like ours. But, of course, one would have to ask how it is that the number of universes would be exactly as needed to create our universe. Is this only fine-tuning once removed?

I don't understand this objection. Assuming that it is impossible that there be infinitely many universes, there is still no "magic" number of universes that must exist in order for one of them to contain intelligent life. It is just that the occurrence of intelligent life becomes less surprising the more universes there are.

Hello Kris,

If you are speaking about the argument that I raised, I wasn't aware of any until Tom Gilson of the ever-intriguing Thinking Christian posted a comment linking his own thoughts on this very same subject. You can find that link here: http://www.thinkingchristian.net/C228303755/E20070910203353/index.html

Mostly, it just follows because of the problem of needing "infinite" numbers of universes.

Peter,

Thanks for your comment. I agree that the Multiverse theory helps the non-believer because it helps explain the obvious fine-tuning of the universe. If this is only one of an infinite number of universes, then it becomes much more possible.

But I don't see your problem with my final paragraph. I agree that there doesn't have to be an infinite number of universes, but the number that seems to be required must approach infinity for the math to work. Of course, it could be just two universes, but the odds of one of them being our universe are extremely small. There could be 1,000,000,000 universes, but again, that is too small statistically for our universe to have arisen by chance. So, if it is less than infinity, what number is needed to make it beliveable and how is it that that number turned out to be the right one? That's the problem.

But I don't see your problem with my final paragraph. I agree that there doesn't have to be an infinite number of universes, but the number that seems to be required must approach infinity for the math to work.

If by "must approach infinity" you mean "must be very large", then I agree.

Of course, it could be just two universes, but the odds of one of them being our universe are extremely small. There could be 1,000,000,000 universes, but again, that is too small statistically for our universe to have arisen by chance. So, if it is less than infinity, what number is needed to make it beliveable and how is it that that number turned out to be the right one? That's the problem.

I would maintain that if N among all imaginable universes actually come into existence, then the probability that a "friendly" universe such as ours comes in existence is multiplied by N compared to the probability in the situation where only one universe comes into existence, no matter whether N is large or small. (Actually, the right thing to do is a bit more complicated than to multiply by N, but this is hardly relevant. Also, the question should be asked whether this probability even has meaning, but let's ignore that for now.)

In other words, the "problem" with your last paragraph is that the possibility of many universes does make the naturalist's position more likely by the unknown factor N, whatever N is. This has very little to do with scientific theories, it is more a sort of philosophical observation, an attempt to formalise a thought like "given the fact that our universe exists, it wouldn't be surprising if there were other universes, even though we can't know anything about them".

It seems to me, though, that if a mega-large number of alternate universes is being sheerly posited to meet objections, then at best this is an ad hoc move comparable to raw fideism.

I don't accept "God of the gap" ad hoc moves of that sort, and I'm a theist! So why would I accept an atheistic multiverse of the gap?--especially if this is presented as an assertion that (by terms of the assertion) cannot possibly ever have evidence in favor of it?

Heck, in that regard, the multiverse theory turns out to fail Hume's anti-miracle protocols even worse than miracles do! I don't recall Hume denying that it was even possible to have evidence for the miraculous; he only denied that miracles could ever be more probable than any natural explanation. The whole point was to take evidence apparently in favor of a miracle having occurred and treat that evidence as being probably in favor of some natural behavior instead in all cases. But in the case of the kind of multiverse being proposed here, there could never even in principle be evidence for it.

This is supposed to count more than actual positive evidence in favor of design?!

JRP

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