One Reason I’m an Agnostic: Intelligent Design and the Multiverse Hypothesis Mirror One Another

Jim Manzi, at the excellent blog site, the American Scene, points out something quite profound and interesting: Whether one believes that something conscious and intelligent (“a god”) created the universe, or one believes that we live in a multiverse in which the cosmos that we live in just so happens to be one of those that has generated life and consciousness, both “theories” are trying to explain a fact: the universe that we actually perceive seems fine tuned for our existence:

It’s tempting to see ID and multiverse theory as mirror images – one looking desperately to prove scientifically that humans are special, and the other desperately seeking to avoid this conclusion. This is almost, but not quite, appropriate in my view. The proper question to ask about both multiverse theory and ID is whether they are fruitful. Ultimately, either each framework will help scientists develop physical theories in the form of predictive rules that can be tested through observation, or it will not. It’s very hard to see how ID can do this, but I guess that anything’s possible. Multiverse theory is more likely to do so, if only because it is a point of view that embeds a metaphysic that is far more congenial to so many more smart scientists.

I still think that the God hypothesis has two almost overwhelming hurdles to overcome (“Where did God’s intelligence come from, and if God is so smart and good, why are there such gross forms of suffering and evil in the world?”). And, of course, the multi-universe hypothesis also has its own two equally perplexing questions to answer: Why is there something when there might have been nothing, and why would the first something that existed have acted like an ostrich hatching from its first “body” new baby universes that vary in their properties from their “mother”?

Whatever the correct hypothesis proves to be—the “intelligent design” one or the “multi-verse” one—the implications are mind-boggling and stupifying—and the proper response to them seems to be a Kierkegaardian fear and trembling.

In short, is there a mind and heart at the beginning of the universe, or is there a mechanical and unconscious spider unspooling a contingent eternal web? The committed theist and the committed atheist should forgive me if I remain on the fence with regards to their more strident expressions of certainty about what is actually going on here.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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