Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Multiverse theory: Replacing the Big Fix with the Sure Thing?

In 1982, astronomer Fred Hoyle, an atheist, famously said
A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with the chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.
Beyond question? Perhaps, but not beyond imagination. What if there are many flopped universes? Or, whether there are or not, people are prepared to believe that they exist.

That may be true today, irrespective of evidence, mathematician David Berlinski suggests. In The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, Berlinski implies that one reason for the attraction of multiverse or many universes theory, sometimes called the "Landscape", as in his comments below, is that it suits a local, modern mindset so perfectly: The idea that everything is really true somewhere "has been current in every college classroom for at least fifty years. It arises spontaneously in discussion, like soap bubbles in water." (P. 123)

He goes on to say,
The Landscape ... is all-purpose in its intent. It works no matter the theory. And it works by means of the simple principle that by multiplying universes, the Landscape dissolves improbabilities. To the question What are the odds? the landscape provides the invigorating answer that it hardly matters. If the fine-structure constant has in our universe one value, in some other universe it has another value. Given sufficiently many universes, things improbable in one must from the perspective of them all appear certain.

The same reasoning applies to questions about the laws of nature. Why is Newton's universal law of gravitation true? No need to ask. In another universe, it is not.

The Big Fix has by this maneuver been supplanted by the Sure Thing. (p. 124)
Indeed, that's precisely the problem. Atheists wanted to eliminate God by implying that our universe is not special. But do they risk eliminating science instead? After all, science consists in saying what is specifically true and what is not. But if everything is true eventually somewhere, why do science? Certainly not to develop a final theory or anything like that.