This post is in response to the “‘Multiverse’ Theory Fails to Explain Away God” article on the Institute for Creation Research website, posted on Dec. 3, 2008.
There is a current hypothesis (not theory) in theoretical physics/cosmology which posits that our Universe is not alone in the … whatever … but rather it is one of many different universes (universae?). One reason that this has come about is that it is a natural conclusion from String Theory (which is another thing that I think is more of a hypothesis than theory). Another reason, and more the subject of this post, is that our universe seems to be “fine-tuned” for life in the sense that if the fundamental forces, subatomic particles, or other things had seemingly slightly different properties that the Universe would be inhospitable to life. In order to resolve part of this apparent “cosmic lottery” win without invoking a creator, the multiverse idea works rather well.
Because of this, creationists like to attack it, such as Brian Thomas who wrote the article I refer to, and to which this post is a response.
The First Fallacy
The first real fallacy of this article is a subtle one, I think informally known as the Gambler’s Fallacy. This fallacy can be realized in flipping a coin. The first time, you have a 50/50 chance of it coming up heads or tails. The second time, you have a 50/50 chance of it coming up heads or tails. The third time, you have a 50/50 chance of it coming up heads or tails. And so on.
Now let’s say that you have flipped it 10 times, and EVERY time it has come up heads. The fallacy would then be to say that, “It’s come up heads 10 times in a row, the next time it almost MUST come up tails! 11 heads in a row is too improbable.” But, the chances of it coming up heads the 11th time is, again, just 50%. The coin “doesn’t know” about the previous flips.
Brian invokes this fallacy in the statement, “All conceivable fundamental construction parameters could exist in a vast array of alternate realities. Most of these imaginary universes would not have the right conditions for life to exist, but by a cosmic coincidence, all the life-friendly forces of our universe happened to line up correctly.” This over-states the significance (if the multiverse is true) of having all of these properties lining “up correctly” for our Universe to have life, simply based on invoking this fallacy.
The Pot Calling the Kettle Black
Next, Brian says something that I agree with: “There is no evidence for the existence of alternate universes, and if a concept cannot be proved or disproved, it is not open to scientific investigation.”
Yes! Thank you! Very true! So keep your religion out of science class!
Brian then goes through some exaggeration. He states, “Even tiny variations in planetary distances, any more or less gravity, or any other difference in the current structure of the universe would make it hostile to life.”
This is not true. Earth could be between about 0.9-1.3 times its current distance from the Sun and still be perfectly hospitable for life, according to many of the latest studies on the solar system’s Habitability Zone. In addition, our position in the Galaxy could similarly vary by quite a bit and still have no impact on life, as could our distance to or from other galaxies, despite his statement, “the distance of the earth from other galaxies and from the sun are all essential for the delicate balance needed to sustain life.”
Let’s Go Back to the Pot and Kettle – Invoking God of the Gaps Fallacy
Sigh. Just a paragraph and a half later, Brian states, “The one model that explains this data without inventing fictional, unprovable multiverses is the creation model, which presents the planned, purposeful origin of space, time, matter, and life by a Creator.”
I thought we had actually made a breakthrough on what was science here. The creation model is not a scientific model since it cannot be tested. There is no way to prove nor disprove the existence of a creator, nor of their intent in creating a universe. This is simply a God of the Gaps logical fallacy where he effectively states, “Science doesn’t have an answer, but it can all be easily explained by ‘God.'”
Wrapping Up Their Argument
Brian writes in his last paragraph, “University of Texas theoretical physicist Stephen Weinberg told Discover, ‘I don’t think that the multiverse idea destroys the possibility of an intelligent, benevolent creator. What it does is remove one of the arguments for it.’ But it does not do that. Rather, the multiverse hypothesis is a conclusion based on the assumption that there is no Creator.”
This is again a misuse of scientific language as well as a lack of understanding of the origin of the multiverse hypothesis. The latter I addressed in my Introduction. The former is that he says the multiverse is a “conclusion.” It is not. It is a hypothesis (as he coincidentally states 3 words earlier). A hypothesis is a premise – an idea – that can then be used to make predictions that can be tested. A conclusion really isn’t even used in scientific language, but the closest equivalent is probably “Theory,” which is completely inappropriate to describe the multiverse idea at this time.
My Final Thoughts
The multiverse hypothesis is an interesting one, but one that, at present has no practical way of being tested. As a result, it is just a “hypothesis” and cannot be called a “theory.” Despite this, creationists unsurprisingly view it as yet another scientific challenge to their dogmatic views of a young universe created by a loving god for them to live happily in and convince everyone of that “fact.” Hence the present attack on it by the ICR in Brian Thomas’ article.
But, besides all the reasons I presented above as to why his arguments are fallacious, there’s an additional, interesting, but subtle one: “Life” in their meaning is “human life as it is now.” “Life,” however, is VERY poorly defined, and it could (even with its current “definition”) exist in other forms that are nothing like our own (think the Star Trek energy beings from various episodes in all the series) that could perhaps easily exist with the fundamental forces, constants, and particles being very different than they are here.