Physicist Paul Davies, reviewing, for the Guardian, Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design (Bantam 2010), says this:
The laws of physics can explain, he says, how a universe of space, time and matter could emerge spontaneously, without the need for God. And most cosmologists agree: we don’t need a god-of-the-gaps to make the big bang go bang. It can happen as part of a natural process. A much tougher problem now looms, however. What is the source of those ingenious laws that enable a universe to pop into being from nothing?
And here we get into trouble, for Stephen Hawking favors the multiverse hypothesis, in which perhaps infinite universes, each with different physical constants, make different worlds, and spawn (maybe via black holes) new ones, one of which just happens to be ours. But, as Paul Davies notes, the multiverse has its own problems:
The multiverse comes with a lot of baggage, such as an overarching space and time to host all those bangs, a universe-generating mechanism to trigger them, physical fields to populate the universes with material stuff, and a selection of forces to make things happen. Cosmologists embrace these features by envisaging sweeping “meta-laws” that pervade the multiverse and spawn specific bylaws on a universe-by-universe basis. The meta-laws themselves remain unexplained – eternal, immutable transcendent entities that just happen to exist and must simply be accepted as given. In that respect the meta-laws have a similar status to an unexplained transcendent god.
In other words, on the multiverse hypothesis, behind the laws of physics that we experience there must be still more fundamental meta-laws, but then where did they come from? If you are going to be an atheist, these meta-laws, as Davies emphasizes, must be:
. . . eternal, immutable transcendent entities that just happen to exist and must simply be accepted as given.
That is, “given” in the same sense that those who believe in God treat the mind of God as stopping the chain of causation, and thus as being “given.”
Paul Davies concludes his review this way:
According to folklore the French physicist Pierre Laplace, when asked by Napoleon where God fitted into his mathematical account of the universe, replied: “I had no need of that hypothesis.” Although cosmology has advanced enormously since the time of Laplace, the situation remains the same: there is no compelling need for a supernatural being or prime mover to start the universe off. But when it comes to the laws that explain the big bang, we are in murkier waters.
And those “murkier waters” leave room for God, don’t they?
Maybe, just maybe, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2, KJV). And maybe the wisdom of God, personified in Proverbs 8:22-31, reflects a correct intuition about physical law:
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was with him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.
In other words, before there was a universe, maybe there was a principle in the mind of God, and maybe that principle has attended the creation from toe (the first matter) to tip (the first human being).
As an agnostic, I’m not saying it happened this way; I’m just saying it might have happened this way. Based on the “murky waters” attending the origin of the laws of nature, it’s not a ridiculous alternative surmise to the atheist multiverse.