Intelligent Design v. The Multiverse?: Discover Magazine Has a Fascinating Article on the Fine Tuning of the Universe—and Its Implication for God-Belief

Money quote:

If the multiverse is the final stage of the Copernican revolution, with our universe but a speck in an infinite megacosmos, where does humanity fit in? If the life-friendly fine-tuning of our universe is just a chance occurrence, something that inevitably arises in an endless array of universes, is there any need for a fine-tuner—for a god?

“I don’t think that the multiverse idea destroys the possibility of an intelligent, benevolent creator,” [physicist and Nobel laureate Steven] Weinberg says. “What it does is remove one of the arguments for it, just as Darwin’s theory of evolution made it unnecessary to appeal to a benevolent designer to understand how life developed with such remarkable abilities to survive and breed.”

On the other hand, if there is no multiverse, where does that leave physicists? “If there is only one universe,” [cosmologist Bernard] Carr says, “you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”

As for [multiverse supporting physicist Andrei] Linde, he is especially interested in the mystery of consciousness and has speculated that consciousness may be a fundamental component of the universe, much like space and time. He wonders whether the physical universe, its laws, and conscious observers might form an integrated whole. A complete description of reality, he says, could require all three of those components, which he posits emerged simultaneously. “Without someone observing the universe,” he says, “the universe is actually dead.”

Yet for all of his boldness, Linde hesitates when I ask whether he truly believes that the multiverse idea will one day be as well established as Newton’s law of gravity and the Big Bang. “I do not want to predict the future,” he answers. “I once predicted my own future. I had a very firm prediction. I knew that I was going to die in the hospital at the Academy of Sciences in Moscow near where I worked. I would go there for all my physical examinations. Once, when I had an ulcer, I was lying there in bed, thinking I knew this was the place where I was going to die. Why? Because I knew I would always be living in Russia. Moscow was the only place in Russia where I could do physics. This was the only hospital for the Academy of Sciences, and so on. It was quite completely predictable.

“Then I ended up in the United States. On one of my returns to Moscow, I looked at this hospital at the Academy of Sciences, and it was in ruins. There was a tree growing from the roof. And I looked at it and I thought, What can you predict? What can you know about the future?”

I especially like Andrei Lind’s anecdote about modesty with regard to what the future might hold.

I think that it is suggestive of the idea that agnosticism is the most reasonable way to approach questions concerning multiverses and the existence of gods (or God).

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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12 Responses to Intelligent Design v. The Multiverse?: Discover Magazine Has a Fascinating Article on the Fine Tuning of the Universe—and Its Implication for God-Belief

  1. So, why cling to the Multiverse Theory? Because, you can argue that God does not exist? How frail and pathetic it is for man to look up at a measureless creation and say “God, we don’t need you on this one. We’ve got Multiverse, which cannot be observed, measured, or quantified.” Hypothesis after hypothesis and conflicting accounts of what might have happened to bring life and consciousness into being purposefully create a highly confused perception of our universe, keeping students from understanding anything, and qeustioning everything (including empirical evidence).

    I’m reminded of the Primordial Ooze experiment where scientists in their vast intellect were able to, in a precisely controlled setting, “create” two amino acids, proving that life was a chance event. Remind me, great mentors, how many amino acids make up each protein strand… Then, enlighten me about how those amino acids must be sequenced precisely to build each kind of protein. Then, work out for me how all of those precisely built proteins came together to make one organism by chance.

    Again, very intelligent and learned men built an extremely controlled environment, bombarding very specific material needed to make amino acids, and only came up with two random amino acids. But, students MUST accept that life, composed of infinitely complex nucleotide sequences, flashed into existence not in a highly controlled environment, but in a volatile and chaotic mess.

    Sounds intelligent to me.

  2. santitafarella says:

    david,

    you sound like you’re doing a dr. evil mock-monologue, and thus engaging in a premature boast.

    i think that the human mind is a lot more potent than you give it credit for, and i think that humans will, over time, solve some of the riddles that you think are not solvable.

    i don’t see how a god adds to our understanding. if god made the universe—well, where did god come from?

    it seems that the theist, in affirming god’s existence as a solution to the mystery of existence, only imagines that she has solved the mystery—when really all she has done is compounded it—and set it back a step.

    —santi

    • Peter Smith says:

      Santi,
      if god made the universe—well, where did god come from?

      This is a familiar objection but atheism is just as vulnerable to this kind of objection.
      Both the theist and the atheist hypotheses require a starting premise from which all else is derived.
      1) The theist’s starting premise is that God exists and has certain properties.
      2) The atheist’s starting premise is that the laws of nature ‘just are’ (according atheist physicist Sean Carroll) and they also have certain properties (mathematical, time and space invariance, for example).

      The same objection, ‘where do they come from’, can be made to both premises so the objection is not useful. Ultimately we are forced to rest our chain of reasoning on certain ground beliefs and this is true for both theism as well as atheism.

      From these starting premises (ground beliefs) we can build best case hypotheses for both atheism and theism. Having done this one can look at the supporting evidence for both hypotheses and ask, on balance of probabilities, which hypothesis is more likely to be true. Neither hypothesis is provable so we are left with a balance of probabilities approach.

      Note that this is actually what we do in real life all the time.

      Of course some atheists claim their case is the ‘null’ hypothesis and does not need proving, that the burden of proof lies with the theists. That is just a verbal game made for the purpose of gaining a debating advantage. That might work in the university debating club but in real life any person who makes an assertion incurs the obligation to provide supporting arguments and evidence.

      • Peter Smith says:

        The atheist philosopher, Anthony Flew, was the most vigorous exponent of the ‘null hypothesis’ case for atheism, which he later repudiated. The underlying reason for the dependence on the ‘null hypothesis’ argument is that the atheist case has almost no affirmative arguments, it has only arguments in rebuttal of the theist case. For example, there are several, well developed philosophical arguments for God’s existence but there are no philosophical arguments for God’s non-existence. Atheists instead try to show that theist arguments are weak or false(arguments in rebuttal). A case which has few to no affirmative arguments and depends almost entirely on rebuttal arguments is always going to seem weak. Anthony Flew, very cleverly, tried to sidestep this by claiming the ‘null hypothesis’ position which therefore required no affirmative arguments.

        Unfortunately, this is not logic but is merely a student debating trick. The correct answer is that these are two equal hypotheses, each carrying the same burden to demonstrate its case and that a balance of probabilities test is the most useful way of resolving the issue.

  3. David Dujardin says:

    Santi,

    Sorry for not responding sooner. I was looking back at old posts and saw your response just today.

    The error of logic presupposes that all things have a beginning, including an eternal God. If creation had a beginning, and life had a beginning, and man had a begiinning, then God must have had a beginning. This logic is finite and temporal in nature.

    How could man conceive such an existence from our finite platform? We were all born, and one day we will all taste death. In the time we live, though standing on the shoulders of great thinkers, we will still stand only a few stories off the ground, still observing a measureless sky. Our vantage point is still earth-bound. Just because you can observe a thing, doesn’t mean you cand define it. Similarly, just because you cannot observe a thing, doesn’t mean it does not exist. Is that air you’re breathing now? How do you know?

    Just as you know that air is filling your lungs and watch your chest rise as you inhale, I know (not just theorize) that God exists because I see his image in me. I hear His Spirit speak to me, and I know that He is right here with me. The undeniable evidence for me personally would only provide anecdotal evidence for you. Because I choose to seek God, He reveals Himself to me.

    It’s an oxymoron to suggest that someone who does believe in God is a better authority on the existence of God. I believe that you are here for a reason, and not an accident. I encourage you to look in God’s direction instead of trying to avoid Him.

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