Posts tagged ‘many universes’

September 7th, 2011

The Theological Attraction of the Multiverse

by Max Andrews

I find the multiverse to be quite beautiful.  The multiverse doesn’t negate any cosmological or teleological argument and I believe that it may actually be used to strengthen the fine-tuning argument (my current area of research).  Most objections I hear in regards to whether or not it exists are usually scientific with a few philosophical reasons.  I’d argue that there are some good scientific reasons* for believing that we live in a multiverse but I’d like to provide some philosophical and theological reasons for why the multiverse is attractive to and compatible with Christianity.  (For a refresher in the types of multiverse models see Max Tegmark’s paper on the Multiverse Hierarchy).

My first point of attraction to the multiverse is that it expresses the infinite creativity of God. Some argue (i.e. Salem) that there is an infinite ensemble of universes (or what we know as our own Hubble volume) within the CDL (Coleman and De Luccia) landscape.  Others have argued (i.e. Linde and Vilenkin) that the multiverse is not infinite but finite.  Andrei Linde suggests that from what we know about slow-roll inflation there must be a number close to 10^10^10^7 (that’s three exponents) universes.  I tend to agree with Linde and Vilenkin for obvious philosophical reasons and the impossibility of an actual infinite (however, it is nice to have supporting scientific data). So, even with a finite set of universes that may currently exist there is still a possibility of a potential infinite, that is, more universes that will naturally come into existence in the future.  I don’t believe this would contradict Genesis 1 with God resting on the seventh day because I don’t believe he is still creating today, the continual process of universes coming into existence is by natural means (just as planet formation, star formation, and the creation of human beings today is natural).  I believe we are still in the seventh day of creation.  While reading through the Bible, especially Job, we see that God enjoys and delights in the very act of creating.  His creation varies in sizes, purposes, shapes, and other physical descriptions (God loves the platypus!). What else could be such a reflection of God’s love for creating other than the multiverse?  Imagine the joy and aesthetic beauty in the creating process!

My second point is that despite is prima facie complexity, the concept of the multiverse is quite simple.  Ockham’s razor isn’t a very good objection to the multiverse because certain facets are required of an explanation in order for it to be a good explanation. In this case, simplicity doesn’t necessitate a smaller number of universes.  In his book, Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics, Paul Davies has argued in his essay “Universe from Bit” that the concept of infinity is actually quite simple and may be just as preferable to one.

My third point is that the concept of and the models of the multiverse are simple and elegant.  What I mean by this is that the mathematics behind the multiverse correspond to the empirical evidence and that it neatly explains the known facts.  Not only is it mathematically and scientifically simple and elegant but, as I’ve already argued, the philosophical aesthetic of the multiverse is quite beautiful as well.

Finally, I want to provide a compatibility argument.  This isn’t really meant to support my position but to demonstrate that there aren’t any crucial Christological problems with the multiverse (problems of explanation may arise but there aren’t any heretical issues at hand).  No matter which level of the multiverse we want to consider, God’s sovereignty and providential role in the course of history is not compromised.  Let’s consider the most extreme cases such as the level three and level four multiverse models (especially in light of the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics).  Let’s say that everything that can happen does happen on the physical level.  Presupposing God’s sovereignty and providential action in the course of any history such a physical interpretation doesn’t mean that all states of affairs are actualized.  What I mean by this is that we don’t have a multiverse where physics are running amok and God is reacting to the physics.  For God to have a reaction to physical states of affairs would place the states of affairs logically prior to God’s knowledge of such states of affairs occurring (let’s disregard the multilayered middle knowledge hermeneutic for the moment).  So, if the purpose of creation is for God to glorify himself and to redeem a particular people, that doesn’t mean it still cannot be accomplished because what’s going to happen is going to happen according to God’s desires and plans, even if there are other me’s out there (now I’ll address such Christological questions in another post, but for this post I’ll provide my position that there aren’t any problems with it).

The early Church Father Origen provided some interesting insight on this very issue (I find it interesting I’m using Origen here…).  Here are a few sections from De Principiis:

Bk. 2, Ch. 3.

4.  And now I do not understand by what proofs they can maintain their position, who assert that worlds sometimes come into existence which are not dissimilar to each other, but in all respects equal.  For if there is said to be a world similar in all respects (to the present), then it will come to pass that Adam and Eve will do the same things which they did before:  there will be a second time the same deluge, and the same Moses will again lead a nation numbering nearly six hundred thousand out of Egypt; Judas will also a second time betray the Lord; Paul will a second time keep the garments of those who stoned Stephen; and everything which has been done in this life will be said to be repeated,—a state of things which I think cannot be established by any reasoning, if souls are actuated by freedom of will, and maintain either their advance or retrogression according to the power of their will.  For souls are 273not driven on in a cycle which returns after many ages to the same round, so as either to do or desire this or that; but at whatever point the freedom of their own will aims, thither do they direct the course of their actions.  For what these persons say is much the same as if one were to assert that if a medimnus of grain were to be poured out on the ground, the fall of the grain would be on the second occasion identically the same as on the first, so that every individual grain would lie for the second time close beside that grain where it had been thrown before, and so the medimnus would be scattered in the same order, and with the same marks as formerly; which certainly is an impossible result with the countless grains of a medimnus, even if they were to be poured out without ceasing for many ages.  So therefore it seems to me impossible for a world to be restored for the second time, with the same order and with the same amount of births, and deaths, and actions; but that a diversity of worlds may exist with changes of no unimportant kind, so that the state of another world may be for some unmistakeable reasons better (than this), and for others worse, and for others again intermediate.  But what may be the number or measure of this I confess myself ignorant, although, if any one can tell it, I would gladly learn.

5.  But this world, which is itself called an age, is said to be the conclusion of many ages.  Now the holy apostle teaches that in that age which preceded this, Christ did not suffer, nor even in the age which preceded that again; and I know not that I am able to enumerate the number of anterior ages in which He did not suffer.  I will show, however, from what statements of Paul I have arrived at this understanding.  He says, “But now once in the consummation of ages, He was manifested to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”20822082    Heb. ix. 26.  For He says that He was once made a victim, and in the consummation of ages was manifested to take away sin.  Now that after this age, which is said to be formed for the consummation of other ages, there will be other ages again to follow, we have clearly learned from Paul himself, who says, “That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us.”20832083    Eph. ii. 7.  He has not said, “in the age to come,” nor “in the two ages to come,” whence I infer that by his language many ages are indicated.  Now if there is something greater than ages, so that among created beings certain ages may be understood, but among other beings which exceed and surpass visible creatures, (ages still greater) (which perhaps will be the case at the restitution of all things, when the whole universe will come to a perfect termination), perhaps that period in which the consummation of all things will take place is to be understood as something more than an age.  But here the authority of holy Scripture moves me, which says, “For an age and more.”20842084    In sæculum et adhuc.  Now this word “more” undoubtedly means something greater than an age; and see if that expression of the Saviour, “I will that where I am, these also may be with Me; and as I and Thou are one, these also may be one in Us,”20852085    Cf. John xvii. 24, 21, 22. may not seem to convey something more than an age and ages, perhaps even more than ages of ages,—that period, viz., when all things are now no longer in an age, but when God is in all.

Bk.1, Ch.1, #7

Moreover, in confirmation and explanation of what we have already advanced regarding the mind or soul—to the effect that it is better than the whole bodily nature—the following remarks may be added.  There underlies every bodily sense a certain peculiar sensible substance,19481948    “Substantia quædam sensibilis propria.” on which the bodily sense exerts itself.  For example, colours, form, size, underlie vision; voices and sound, the sense of hearing; odours, good or bad, that of smell; savours, that of taste; heat or cold, hardness or softness, roughness or smoothness, that of touch.  Now, of those senses enumerated above, it is manifest to all that the sense of mind is much the best.  How, then, should it not appear absurd, that under 245those senses which are inferior, substances should have been placed on which to exert their powers, but that under this power, which is far better than any other, i.e., the sense of mind, nothing at all of the nature of a substance should be placed, but that a power of an intellectual nature should be an accident, or consequent upon bodies?  Those who assert this, doubtless do so to the disparagement of that better substance which is within them; nay, by so doing, they even do wrong to God Himself, when they imagine He may be understood by means of a bodily nature, so that according to their view He is a body, and that which may be understood or perceived by means of a body; and they are unwilling to have it understood that the mind bears a certain relationship to God, of whom the mind itself is an intellectual image, and that by means of this it may come to some knowledge of the nature of divinity, especially if it be purified and separated from bodily matter.

In conclusion, I find the multiverse to be scientifically warranted in light of certain measurements and empirical evidence. I also find the multiverse to be philosophically and theologically attractive and compatible with all Christian doctrines.  The multiverse may certainly raise metaphysical questions of personal identity, identity over spatiotemporal duration/transition, and Christology (if and only if other moral agents exist other than ourselves).  However, I don’t find the questions it raises to be incompatible or contradictory to the Christian faith.  The multiverse is a beautiful reflection of God’s love, power, intelligence, and character just as we find in the doctrine of natural revelation.

For more information on the Christian faith and the multiverse (concerning issues raised here) I would encourage you to read Don Page’s essay “Does God So Love the Multiverse?“.  Page is a notable physicist having worked under and with Stephen Hawking.

*Here are a few of my blog posts and scientific papers on the science behind the multiverse.

September 7th, 2011

Christological Implications of The Multiverse Theory

by Max Andrews

This is a guest blog post by JT Turner. JT holds an M.A. in Religious Studies (Philosophy of Religion) and is working on a Master of Theology (Historical Theology).  He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy with Liberty University Online.

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Disclaimer: I am not well-studied on the science behind the multiverse, nor have I done much research on the subject. I am simply putting forward what seem to be, at least prima facie, some possible difficulties with the prospect of a multiversed cosmos.

To begin, I suppose it’s only fair to say that this title needs a little tweaking.  First, it seems obvious to me that, if by ‘multiverse’ we only mean additional closed cosmic systems like the one in which we find ourselves, a multiverse doesn’t appear problematic for Christology, in particular, or Christianity in general. That is, if we are still housing these additional closed-systems under the heading of the one Creation (proper noun), then there isn’t, so far as my limited knowledge of the subject goes, any particular reason why a Christian ought to reject a reality that contains a multiverse.  I don’t see how a multiversed χοσμος negates anything in the creation account of Scripture, any prophecies concerning the eschaton or any other scriptural attestations.  This, however, is contingent upon these additional closed-systems not containing any moral beings.  If they do, it seems there could be acute christological and soteriological problems. Allow me to offer some explanations.

Christian theism takes it as a given that moral agents (i.e. creatures that can exercise a will for right and wrong actions) who perform wrong actions break their relationship with a perfectly holy and righteous God.  The God of Christian theism requires atonement for the breaking of His moral code (sin) in particular ways.  In this universe, at least, he requires blood atonement.  Without going too far afield, suffice it to say that God instituted the blood sacrifice (that is, the very life) of animals under an old covenant with His people as a type of coming archetype.  That archetype finds its fulfillment in the new covenant poured out through the blood of an individual, namely God the Son, Jesus Christ.  So, God the Father killed Jesus, His Son, on the behalf of morally debased human beings (moral agents) to bring humans back into His fellowship.  Christians take it that atonement is thus required to cover the sins of any wayward moral agent in order that she be brought back into the fold of God’s people.  I suppose the multiverse option raises this question: what do we say if moral agents exist in some other universe? Moral agency does not necessarily imply the existence of human beings; perhaps it is the case that some other alien life outside of our universe-system exercises a will and mind in a fashion morally equivalent to ours. That is to say, what if there are other creatures beyond our closed system that can do right and wrong actions, actions that a morally perfect and holy God finds either good or evil? How might God provide atonement, if, in fact, He does require it from them?

I think there may be a few answers to the last question that might provide answers for the former ones (answers that give us a reason to believe that there probably do not exist any moral agents outside of our universe).  The first answer might be something like “he doesn’t require atonement for their sins.” But this causes a weird set of theological problems.  The most important of which, it seems to me, is that God behaves a lot differently in Universe 2 than Universe 1 (Universe 1 is our universe).  If God behaves differently in Universe 2 than Universe 1, it follows that our beliefs about God’s nature (e.g. that He requires atonement for sin) in this universe are contingent aspects of God, at best, or false, at worst. God, in other words, isn’t necessarily opposed to living in fellowship with sinful moral agents for which no atonement has been provided.  But if that’s the case, then we don’t know much about God’s justice either.  After all, most Christians believe that God is going to assign some unrepentant unatoned for sinners to the confines of an eternal Hell (in whatever form that takes). Why throw unatoned for sinners from Universe 1 into an eternal Hell and not any of the ones in Universe 2? How does that demonstrate a recognizable form of justice?  If this first answer is how God interacts with the multiverse, then maybe Occam is right.  Eww…

The first option seems silly.  I think a stronger option, one that keeps God the same in all of Creation, is that God is still going to require atonement for sin in Universe 2. God, necessarily, requires atonement for sin.  There are, as I see it, two possibilities for sinful creatures in Universe 2. Either God requires atonement and doesn’t provide it, or God requires atonement and does provide it, just as he does in Universe 1.  The first possibility runs us into at least one aspect of the problem of evil.  If God can save at least some of these moral creatures in Universe 2, why doesn’t He?  I’m a Calvinist, so I think this objection really sides up next to the more common “if God can determine to save all people, why doesn’t He?” question to which I can respond “God will do what God will do” and the like.  However, while I can at least point to the eschaton and cry “O Felix Culpa!” in this universe, it strikes against my moral intuitions to posit another universe where God simply creates moral beings in order to throw all of them into Hell.  I might be wrong about this, and forgive me if I am, but I’m not sure how a God that does that demonstrates any recognizable good to his “other” creation (little ‘c’ here).  I say this knowing full well that my compatibilist Calvinistic theology does run me against similar questions in this universe.  So, I’m going to move on to the next possibility. God does, in fact, provide atonement for his sinful creatures in Universe 2.

How does he provide atonement in Universe 2? This is, I think, an important question.  Is it possible that God, instead of sending His Son, atones for sins by means of the offering of burnt grasses?  I suppose it’s possible in a broadly logical sense, but does it make sense given the extreme price God requires in Universe 1?  Perhaps this isn’t similar enough of a paradigm. After all, when I say “the offering of burnt grasses” I might mean a continuous offering or a numerous offering or the like.  God, in Universe 1, provides a once and for all offering.  I think something like this is also possible in Universe 2.  Suppose that, like the old covenant in Universe 1, Universe 2 foreshadows the coming of their “Christ” by offering their many grass sacrifices.  The archetype to this type is Messiah Plant, a very large and very green (does it matter?) plant that God has grown for the once and for all atonement of sin in Universe 2. Its sole purpose is to grow and be burned. This plant, just like a plant in Universe 1, does not feel pain, isn’t sentient, and is completely physical (i.e. lacks any metaphysical component, including a mind). To provide for atonement, it is burned as a final offering to God and appeases God’s wrath.  This, as I say, is broadly logically possible (as far as I know, anyway. Perhaps there is something intrinsic to God’s character that says that the blood of sentient beings is necessary).  But doesn’t this raise some interesting questions? For example, why doesn’t God require an extremely painful sacrifice in Universe 2? Doesn’t it seem that God is going the extra mile in Universe 1 to provide atonement? I mean, after all, God does sacrifice His own Son in this universe.  It seems, at least from my perspective, that the consequence of sin in Universe 2 isn’t all that severe.  Is there something about Universe 2 and the types of sin possible in Universe 2 that make God less angry with them? I’m with Augustine on this; the root of sin is undo exaltation—that is to say, idolatry. So, if idolatry is an essential component of sin, then there isn’t a possible world (modally, physically, or metaphysically) that includes idolatryless-sin.  God seems to hate idolatry. His hate sure looks a lot different in Universe 1 than in 2 in this picture.

For sake of space, let’s skip ahead. Let’s suppose that God does, just like in Universe 1, require the death of a living sentient creature to atone for sin.  So, God requires that blood (or whatever the life force of a sentient creature is in Universe 2) be shed to atone for the sins of his moral agents.  Further, let’s suppose that He provides another Messiah such that, in one heroic act, God saves His people.  Just here are the Christological implications.  Again, let’s suppose that in order to save His people, God must provide a moral agent who lives perfectly and is of such a magnitude that His death will cover all sin.  I take it that not just any perfect creature will do; God must again humble Himself and take on the form of His creation in order to die on their behalf (I’m supposing, for brevity’s sake, that it is impossible for an ordinary moral agent in Universe 2 to live a perfect life, just as in our universe).

This is where it gets really sticky in a multiverse with moral agents outside of our system.  Just who is their Messiah?  If it is God, Himself, and it seems that it must be, then the Messiah must be, again, God the Son.  Unless we’ve totally erred in our theological understanding of the Trinity, the self-revelation of the Father is the Son—He is the Word, the Λογος and all that it represents. So, it isn’t possible for God the Father to incarnate; that is only possible for the person of the Son. So, this means that the person of the Trinity that is, yet again, humbling himself to the stature of His creation is God the Son, who is Jesus Christ. Do you begin to see how this is getting muddy?  It was hard enough for the Cappidocian Fathers to figure out how it is metaphysically possible for God the Son to unite with a human nature, it would be something else entirely to figure out how he would unite with two creaturely natures.  Heck, if two is possible, why not three, or four, or five, ad infinitum? Let’s try a thought experiment.  Since, on the multiverse view, it might be possible for God the Son to be united to more than one creaturely nature (one in Universe 1 and so on), let’s suppose that, in Universe 2, God the Son is united to three creature-natures (I say ‘creature-nature’ in the event that the moral agents in Universe 2 aren’t human).  Let’s call these three creatures Jebus, Jefus, and Jenus.  God the Son is, of course, also Jesus in Universe 1 provided that Christianity is truthful in its claim that Jesus rose from the dead and is now, in human form, residing in Heaven (where might this be? Hmm… :) ). Let’s suppose that Peper and Mohn are disciples of Jebus, Jefus, and Jenus and they have come to believe that Jebus, Jefus, and Jenus are the Son of God.  Further, let’s suppose that Peper and Mohn are reclining at some version of a table eating (or whatever they do for sustenance in Universe 2) with Jebus, but Jefus and Jenus are off working miracles.  Doesn’t it follow that Peper and Mohn can, in a meaningful way, say: “God the Son is both here and not here”? Doesn’t that violate the law of non-contradiction? How can a person both be in location L and not be in a location L at the same time?

A further problem is God the Son’s conquering death in Universe 1.  If it is true that these moral agents in Universe 2 can both live and die, then their death is probably an identical thing to ours. That is to say, their death is the end of their life such that they are no longer alive in Universe 2 when they die. So, closed system or not, I take it that when we say that a sentient being must be killed to atone for the sins of moral creatures in Universe 2 that ‘death’ has the same meaning there as it does here.  But, doesn’t Scripture indicate that Jesus conquered death never to die again?  If Jesus is identical with God the Son, then it follows that God the Son, no matter what other nature He might add to Himself, can no longer die.  I suppose it’s possible that they might have experienced simultaneous deaths and simultaneous resurrections, but then we would have to suppose that their space-time continuum is exactly like ours.  I don’t know the science behind the multiverse, but that seems problematic if we’re going to insist that this universe is a “closed system.”

There are a host of other problems here, problems that would take a mountain of additional prose to explicate.  The foremost of these problems is trying to unite two (or more) creaturely natures to the one divine nature in one hypostasis and still call the combination “one person.”  Physically speaking, it seems to stretch credulity to think that Jebus, Jenus, Jefus, and Jesus aren’t different people.  If they are, then God the Son isn’t one person, but four (or more).  Here is where Occam is correct: let’s let the simplest hypothesis win the day. But, I digress…