Saturday, January 12, 2013

Did God Create a Multiverse?

Are there other physical universes beyond our observable world? Many scientists believe so. It is speculated that there are infinitely many other universes parallel to ours. The entire complex of universes is called the multiverse. Some Christians have supported the theological viability of a multiverse. How compelling is their case?

Introducing the Multiverse

From a naturalist perspective, the notion of parallel universes has some plausibility. If our universe were indeed initiated by a quantum fluctuation that developed into a big bang, why should such a physical process not generate other universes?

Moreover, the multiverse hypothesis offers a simple naturalist explanation of the fact that our universe seems to be remarkably fine-tuned for the existence of life. If there were an infinite number of universes then, it us argued, life must evolve on some of these, no matter how small the probability. Clearly, humans will exist only in those universe that are just right for intelligent life. Hence we will naturally observe our particular universe to be fine-tuned.

Cosmologist Max Tegmark distinguishes four levels of parallel universes:

Level 1. Universes far away in space. This assumes there are infinitely many big-bangs. These universes have the same physical constants and laws of physics. Most universes will differ from ours. However, since there are infinitely many, a certain fraction of these will be identical to ours.  

Level 2. Universes with different physical constants.

Level 3. Parallel quantum worlds. This is based on the Many World Interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics. In a quantum event, we cannot predict the outcome but can only give a range of possibilities. MWI asserts that each possibility corresponds to a different universe. Thus, at each quantum event the universe splits into many worlds that cannot interact.

Level 4.  The Ultimate Ensemble. Universes with all possible mathematical structures.

Cosmologist George Ellis has given a useful critique of the scientific nature of the multiverse. Since parallel universes do not interact with our own, their existence cannot be proven. Levels 2 and 4 are extremely speculative. Level 3 depends on one particular interpretation of quantum mechanics. Most cosmologists do, however, believe in the existence of parallel universes of Level 1.

Although the multiverse hypothesis might seem to undercut the notion that our particular universe is designed, it still fails to resolve ultimate issues. We are still left with many profound questions, such as: did the multiverse always exist? why does it have the properties it has? is its existence due to necessity, chance, or purpose? The question of design has simply been shoved to a higher level.

Baptizing the Multiverse

Many Christians have responded favorably to the notion of the multiverse. Evangelical cosmologist Don Page goes so far as to offer a theological argument for the existence of a Level 3 (MWI) universe. Page assumes that God values elegant laws of physics and that He is loathe to violate these (even to reduce human suffering). Although our particular universe might seem to contain a large degree of unnecessary evil, Page believes that God has created the multiverse as the best possible total world.

In a Level 3 universe, with each quantum event (occurring everywhere, every second), the world splits into many worlds, one for each possible outcome. Each of these worlds is at that time identical, except for the one different outcome. Thereafter, they develop independently, continually splitting as more quantum events occur.

For example, there are numerous copies of myself, in other worlds, that have split off from me since my conception. Since no communication is possible between the various worlds, each copy of myself believes he is the real me.

Left to itself, everything that is possible in the multiverse will happen in some world. For example, there may be some worlds where Christ did not arise from the dead. To prevent this, Page suggests that on special occasions, such as the Resurrection of Jesus Christ--and perhaps other miracles--God intervenes so that there is only one outcome.

Problems with Page's Multiverse

What are we to make of Page's theistic multiverse? It suffers from a number of shortcomings.

1. First, it depends on a particular interpretation of quantum mechanics. There are other interpretations--equally well satisfying the observational data--that do not involve world splits.

2. Second, it assumes that everything in the universe is entirely material and, further, that all material properties can be completely expressed in terms of quantum mechanics. Such reductive materialism has no place for a conscious mind, or a human soul. Nor is there any room for angels or demons. This restricted view of reality contradicts both common sense and Scripture.

3. Third, it entails multiple human incarnations of Jesus Christ. It is already difficult for us to conceive of Christ having two natures--human and divine. Yet Christ must now encompass numerous human natures, each having a separate consciousness.

Heaven is surely not ruled by quantum mechanics. Hence it should experience no quantum splits. We can thus expect that there is only one heaven, with only one great white throne (Rev.20), and only one Lamb. Yet, if there are multiple Christs, with multiple incarnations, resurrections and ascensions, then there should be numerous resurrected bodies of Christ in heaven. Which of these corresponds to the Lamb?

It seems clear from the Bible that Christ's Incarnation was unique, having cosmic significance. For example, "For in him the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things to himself, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." (Col.1:19-20).

4. The Bible relates that God did not create all possible worlds, nor even a restricted number of multiple worlds. Rather, God created one world according to one particular comprehensive plan: "a plan for the fulness of time...predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.." (Eph.1:10-11).

In sum, from a Christian perspective, I see little merit in Dr. Page's theistic MWI (Level 3) multiverse proposal.


What about the other levels of multiverses? As I noted above, the naturalist may find these convenient to explain the origin and apparent design of our universe. Christians, however, believe that God created this universe through supernatural means, following a specific design. We therefore have rather less incentive for believing in the existence of a multiverse.

Did God create multiple universes? The Bible tells us of only one universe that God made. Thus, if God did create parallel universes (other than heaven), He did not deem it necessary to reveal that to us. Since parallel universes--even if they were to exist--cannot physically interact with ours, the question is largely academic.

The most interesting theological question pertains to the possibility of intelligent beings in other universes, and their possible salvation. That raises concerns similar to the possibility of intelligent life in our own universe, which I discussed in my post Aliens and Christians. There I concluded that our earth has a special relation to heaven, and that Christ's sacrifice provided for the salvation only of believing humans--not aliens.



Jim Pemberton said...

It's interesting that scientists make speculations with no evidence and people call it science who say there's not enough evidence to believe the Bible. And then we have theologians, for whatever reason, speculate against theological problems that these speculations of scientists might be compatible with the Bible. Are people insane?

c.t. said...

Well said, Jim Pemberton.

Mark ten Haaf said...

I think that these are more philosophical questions than scientific. The question of a multiverse arises when, in philosophical discussion, we consider predestination vs. foreknowledge. Free will, or divine orchestration. Does God control every outcome, our simply have a foreknowledge of every possible event in every possible world?
The only reason that this question exists in the scientific community is to offer a teleological argument that doesn't involve God.

john byl said...

Hi Mark

Many scientists claim the multiverse notion arises naturally from scientific considerations in string theory, inflation, quantum theory and the like. George Ellis, in the review I cited, concludes it is “scientifically based philosophical speculation”.

I don't believe that the motivation for the multiverse hypothesis can be attributed completely to a desire to avoid God. For example, the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics (Level 3 Multiverse) was advanced to avoid the problem of collapsing the wave function.

QuantumGreg said...

Dr. Byl, can the multiverse even get off the ground in the first place? I mean appealing to a quantum fluctuation as what created the universe falls short for a couple of really horrible flaws, doesn't it? One, it has to assume the energy of the entire universe is a net of zero and there is surely no way to know that. Two, a quantum fluctuation has to have space to work. Thus space would have to pop into existence first in order for a quantum fluctuation to happen. Isn't this true?

john byl said...

Hi Greg

You are quite correct--the multiverse hypothesis is based on a number of unverifiable speculations. The multiverse tries to account for the fine-tuning of our universe. But we are still left with the questions of the origin and design of the multiverse.

Unknown said...

I don't know that God just died for people's sins, but not aliens. I would have to disagree that alien subject.

mstair said...

“From the divine perspective, the entropic timeline of this reality is the experiential delay that our consciousness must pass through. But is it our exclusive reality? Of the two current lines of thought in quantum physics (reality as a single universe, or multiple realities in multiple universes) the Bible would seem to promote the second as much as the first.
The Bible is certainly replete with support for the single universe theory. Its treatment of historical stories and characters is a rich lesson in how the passage of time forms and alters the character and environment of humans. The theophanies, miracles, visions, fantastic descriptions and conflicting verb tenses, however, also support the existence of a universe very different from the one we easily observe.”

Excerpt From: Mike Stair. “On Earth As It Is In Heaven.” iBooks.

Seaearth pony said...

Heaven is another universe.

Anonymous said...

Scientists do have evidence - the existing observations of how the physical world actually works, and the maths derived from that. You are correct to say it is essentially a species of speculation, but its firmly based on extrapolation from hard evidence and is ultimately intended to produce experimentally verifiable results.

Anonymous said...

I believe we exist in the mind of God. I assume the mind of God is infinite, and in it there is a tiny, little, minute thought that we call the Universe, which is where we exist. God holds all existence together in His thoughts, in His imagination per se. I think it is hard for people to wrap their minds around the fact that our universe is not as solid, or "physical", as it seems to our senses. I am typing this comment on my iPhone right now, but scientific experiments have shown that 99.9999% of matter is comprised of empty space and the remainder is energy, which is invisible and structureless. Quite a solid universe we live in, isn't it? I remember studying quantum mechanics in college and learning that there is a minute probability that my hand will go through the keyboard every time I type in it. Thus, my iPhone does not really exist, neither does my body, or my brain, my car, my wife, my favorite food, the toilet seat I am using right now, or you (the reader), at least not physically, albeit as a mental construction somehow. This is a hard concept to wrap our minds around and some people just can't accept it, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence. This also questions our personal perspective on everything in life, regarding what is truly important as well as the purpose of our existence. Anyway, regardless of the scientific findings, my family was involved in witchcraft in Brazil for decades, so I've seen too much with my own eyes to not believe in God. Our life was a mess till we invited Jesus to clean it up. If you had seen what my family and I experienced first hand, you would believe in God too, hands down, and there would be no philosophical argument that would turn you into an atheist.

Anonymous said...

Hi... I have two points...
1- I think if we do accept that Multivers do exist, then we might be failing to accept that GOD has A global plan and '' sub plans '' for each of us that fit into thé global plan. Now if Multivers do exist it means thé plan of GOD is actually a very dynamic one in which everyone can décidé what his '' sub plan'' Will look like, making GOD'S global plan a disfigured one. Also that means Jeremiah 29v11 is going to be so fluctuating because if the person on whom GOD placed Mr X or Mr Y joy, décides to créat an alternative time Line obviously à new possible outcome then thé plan of GOD won't Côme to pass, but given that GODs plans must be fullfilled then thé Level 3 idea Will be very dangerous. Also It means Adam and Eve could décidé to créat an alternative time Line and thé course of humanity could just be différent in that alternative time Line... Making GOD not thé one with thé last Word but actually us thé humans by création of alternative possibilities... But I know GOD is the master of all, Hé who lives out of time, Hé has à unic plan in which we all fall in. 2-Its true sometimes I think actually GOD made à complexe Algorithme that we follow. Kind of if X does this or that this is the parallèle universe hé is gonna générate and because of that this is the future that Will be resulting from that and if Y does that or this ,this is the parallèle universe created and this is the outcome. And that thought usually made and makes me just Marvel at GODs mathematical power.

Unknown said...

I know like the theory of other life in the universe. The bible clearly states that there are only humans and angels. So the only thing that matters is in our solar system. How do they even know there is anything else besides our solar system?

Unknown said...

The only way God would know the outcome of every choice we make would be that God can see the out come of every choice we did make. In other words all has happened and all has been seen.

To put it simply, when God gave us choice it created a dual reality where at some point we would choose a way different then what God gave us there by creating a chain of events where multiple choices were made and continued to grow over time. However like fractured light, one incident remained constant in every alternate reality created and there by focused all paths into one ultimate outcome.
I am sure you can figure out what incident led to one final outcome.

Anonymous said...

I would think this is possible. there are obviously other dimensions, heaven and hell being some. parallel universes can exist, and i think they're generated as a way for God to show the possible outcomes of the decisions of man, as we have free will. I also think that all parallel universes will intersect at one point when the earth is destroyed and the tribulation is complete, and all the universes will have the same outcome of God's plan.

Unknown said...

John Lennox sums up the somewhat humorous situation this way:

“It is rather ironical that in the sixteenth century some people resisted advances in science because they seemed to threaten belief in God; whereas in the twentieth century scientific ideas of a beginning have been resisted because they threatened to increase the plausibility of belief in God.”

Why is our universe here and so fine tuned for life? Why does it look, as some scientists admit, like “a put up job”? St. Augustine gives us the answer: “Out of nothing didst Thou create heaven and earth--a great thing and a small--because Thou are Almighty and Good, to make all things good, even the great heaven and the small earth. Thou wast, and there was nought else from which Thou didst create heaven and earth.”2 --via Excellent article, and well stated. @anonymous, dimensionality is not what you may be thinking. This idea may be more convenient than true. Try to look up some writers on the idea of Christians holding to the multiverse, namely anything discussing the "Library of Babylon" problem. You might find it interesting and challenging. "It is time for Christians to speak. It has always been time." #christian #letstalktheology #theologymatters Critical Mass: Multiverse theory and the problem with philosophical deference.

mstair said...

“Redeemed members of the human species are creatures of multiple realities. In our humanity, like everyone else of the human race, we are (as Jesus put it) in the world. It is a reality of space and time. We interact with the people and events around about us. We read the news and receive media reports. We are pressured by the factors of this reality. But living also in Christ’s reality (in The Kingdom of Heaven) we are in contact with the reality that is invisible to this world – the reality which controls everything. We exist on the rim between the two. Jesus knew this and the necessity for daily withdrawal into prayer so that we may connect with The Father. For us then, with The Holy Spirit residing both in us and The Kingdom, prayer becomes the necessary connection to our home – the very source of our existence.

Excerpt From: Mike Stair. “On Earth As It Is In Heaven.” iBooks.

Anonymous said...

I would like to argue your points politely, please refer to the numbers you left above:

"1. First, it depends on a particular interpretation of quantum mechanics. There are other interpretations--equally well satisfying the observational data--that do not involve world splits." Each interpretation, then, is equally satisfying, if observational data cannot prove it or support it (and we do not have any observational data to support or deny parallel worlds, for lack of better terms.

"2. Second, it assumes that everything in the universe is entirely material and, further, that all material properties can be completely expressed in terms of quantum mechanics. Such reductive materialism has no place for a conscious mind, or a human soul. Nor is there any room for angels or demons. This restricted view of reality contradicts both common sense and Scripture." That is a simplification of what was said, in my humble opinion. God can do anything; it is possible that He made our soul to exist in all dimensions/worlds we are born in, and that we are not conscious of these other worlds, but at the resurrection of the body and the return of Christ, we will become conscious of them, and all our consciousnesses will come together, or possibly at our death.

"3. Third, it entails multiple human incarnations of Jesus Christ. It is already difficult for us to conceive of Christ having two natures--human and divine. Yet Christ must now encompass numerous human natures, each having a separate consciousness." This is again simplifying God and logic. God does not have to have a separate consciousness; He can do anything. He could have very well come down as Jesus in the same consciousness in each world, because He is well aware of everything happening in every world at every moment.

I don't mean to be disrespectful in any way, but I would just like to point out that if God can make something out of nothing, He can do other impossible things, too. God bless!

Anonymous said...

To the last question, because the "heavens" or space declare the birthing of new systems. EVERY star in the sky sheds off planets (for the most part) it's part of the birth of a star depending on it's size. Now whether there is life on said planets...that I cannot say, but there ARE other systems and other galaxy's out there. Astronomy has come a long way in proving that.

Anonymous said...

I would disagree. God did allow us to have free will, in a sense. Did Peter have free will to deny Jesus. Yes! But Jesus didn't tell Peter about his denial as if it were a POSSIBLE future. He prophesied his denial as an ENIVITABLE future. To say that we could make a choice that would throw God's plan off kilter would be to basically throw several books of the bible away. If there was anyone in this existence who would take advantage of being able to change the ultimate outcome it would be Satan. Although he has tried and continues to try, he has yet to succeed and my bible says he never will.

Unknown said...

"all parallel universes will intersect at one point when the earth is destroyed".. You are right about the first part,(the intersection of all possibilities), but I do believe that the time for that is not the issue, the time itself is an illusion in our minds that was created in our (universe) but in God realm there is no time, so life is about trying to get closer to our optimum existence scenario and by being existing (at the same time) in parallel universes with different life scenarios (all at the same time) we are transcending up to the intersection of all possibilities and towards God's scenario. (Finally I am not sure that I am right), good day to all of you