This is the last in a series of 3 posts, and a long one. All posts were taken from an essay I wrote in 2009. You can read the previous posts on my homepage, or just read on!
I said that the reason the multiverse hypothesis arose has more to do with metaphysics than the data. Why do I say this? Because it is a commitment to materialism and a defense of the “Anthropic Principle” that underlies the theory. Examine this statement from Max Teggmark:
Cosmologists infer the presence of Level II parallel universes by scrutinizing the properties of our universe. These properties, including the strength of the forces of nature and the number of observable space and time dimensions, were established by random processes during the birth of our universe. Yet they have exactly the values that sustain life. That suggests the existence of other universes with other values (1)
So, first, Tegmark (and many others) assumes that the birth of the universe is a random occurrence (“established by random processes”), this automatically excludes the possibility that there was a Creator with a purpose for creating it. Then, he infers the presence of other universes to circumvent the implications of design in our universe with zero evidence. I realize the quote above is not an exposition of his research method, but it is a pretty straightforward summary, and this criticism stands no matter what data is collected. This is why Van Inwagen writes that the choices between whether the origin of the universe is “Chaos”, or a “Mind” (interpreted, to me, as a creator), “can be emotionally attractive to certain people” (2)
Is not the most natural explanation for the apparent fine-tuning of the universe that it has actually been fine-tuned? I’ll address two concerns that may provoke knee-jerk reactions against this conclusion. One is that we cannot “scientifically” verify the existence of a Creator, the other is that belief in a Creator is somehow irrational.
In addressing the first concern, can we “scientifically” verify the existence of a multi-verse? No, but nonetheless many physicists are bent on validating it. Leonard Susskind has stated “It would be very foolish to throw away the right answer on the basis that it doesn’t conform to some criteria for what is or isn’t science” (3). I agree with Susskind but wonder why this truth is not also applied to the answer that the universe is in fact the product of a Mind, a Creator? Perhaps because of the second concern, that belief in the existence of a Creator is somehow irrational. This is a hard concern to address in a short post, because I don’t expect a majority of people to be able to give an air-tight definition of what makes a belief “rational”, but I’ll take it to mean that someone is “warranted in their belief about something”.
I will borrow an argument from Plantinga and apply it to this problem. The argument is essentially this “…the existence of other minds is, for each of us, a sort of scientific hypothesis” and if we believe that there is enough evidence for us to believe in other minds, there is enough evidence for us to believe in a Designer. I cannot deal with all the details of this argument, but will give a general sketch. “Minds” here means something like a conscious, emotive, thinking individual.
We believe there are other minds (other people who think and feel) because it is “more probable than not on my total evidence”(4). What is our total evidence? Plantinga calls it “analogical evidence”. We can use any emotion as an example. Take pain, when I do anything in a set actions “x” (say scream and hold my arm, or moan and hold my stomach) it is usually because I feel pain in that part of my body. Other human bodies do the same things I do when I feel pain. Therefore, when other human bodies do those things it is probably because they also have minds and feel pain as well.
But, how do we confirm that other human bodies’ actions actually have a mind behind them and not just rest on “probably”? We never directly experience others’ emotions or mental life. The only emotions and mental life we experience are our own. If we base our conclusion solely on what we absolutely know, we would have to conclude that “I am the only mind in existence”. Because of this, the existence of other minds is doubtful on strict logical necessity. But does this make it irrational for us to believe that there are other minds? No, because we may rationally hold beliefs without absolutely certain modes of gaining evidence for them.
The argument further states that the proposition “The author of the universe is an intelligent being” has support on “teleological evidence”. This evidence would be all the values that we referred to in the first post. The fine-tuning is there, and we can infer the existence of a Creator from observing that the universe resembles other things that are created by intelligent beings. There’s no undisputed evidence for the existence for a Creator (in the same way that one could dispute the existence of other minds). Plantinga thus argues that the existence of a Creator is as probable on the relevant evidence of the teleological argument, as the proposition “There are other minds” is probable on the evidence relevant to the analogical argument. Though this does not show that “the two are on a par…there is nothing to choose from between them so far as evidence or reasons go; the teleological evidence is the evidence appropriate to the teleological argument”(4).
The final move is to ask: If we took analogical evidence from our first-person experience, like the argument for other minds, how probable is the existence of a Creator? Well, just about the same. On analogical evidence, one can say: “The things I create are the product of an intelligent being, me. The universe resembles these things in that they are suited to produce specific results. I did not produce the universe. Therefore probably the universe is the product of another intelligent being.”
So, it seems that this hypothesis is as probable on the teleological evidence as it is on analogical evidence. This is now the conclusion: If the existence of a Creator (call this “p”)is as probable on the teleological evidence as the existence of other minds (call this “m”) is on the analogical evidence, and (p) is just as probable on the analogical evidence as it is on the teleological evidence, then p is just as probable as m is on the analogical evidence. To end this, Plantinga states that
…there may be other reasons for supposing that although rational belief in other minds does not require an answer to the epistemological question, rational belief in the existence of God [the presumed creator here] does. But it is certainly hard to see what these reasons might be. Hence my tentative conclusion: if my belief in other minds is rational, so is my belief in God. But obviously the former is rational; so, therefore, is the latter
Now let’s tie this all together.
The universe seems to be fine-tuned in so many ways that it compels us to explain why it is the way it is. The answer that “we shouldn’t be surprised by how the universe is because it’s as improbable as any other possible universe”, as we have seen, does not stand up to scrutiny. The answer that the universe could not have been any other way seems very unlikely, and the possibility of an infinite among of universes leads to absurdities. Even if the multiverse was a verifiable hypothesis, the question could be raised “Why does this ‘field’ have the properties that fit it for generating random cosmoi?” One may just ask the questions further “Why is it there”, “Where did it come from?” The possibility of a Creator seems to actually have more weight because, as Plantinga pointed out, if we already believe in other minds, the belief in a mind responsible for fine-tuning is just as rational. So, I end with my belief that the universe is actually the product of a Designer, and this is more probable than any alternative explanation of the facts.
(1) Tegmark, Max. Parallel Universes. Scientific American. May 2003. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=parallel‐universes>.
(2) Van Inwagen, Peter. METAPHYSICS. Westview Press. 2009
(3) Brumfiel, Geoff. Our Universe: Outrageous fortune. Nature. January 05 2006. <http://creationism.org.pl/groups/ptkrmember/filozofia‐ przyrody/2006/document.2006‐01‐30.0746182444>.
(4) Plantinga, God and Other Minds