Victor Stenger, a retired physics prof from the University of Hawaii, has given us two books that explain both atheism and "multiverses", and behold, they are one. Few other proponents of multiverses are quite as forthcoming with their logic, but clearly something besides data must motivate the science of multiverses, because by definition multiverses are not observable. Stenger makes the connection explicit, whereas Hawking or Susskind is a little more coy with their metaphysics. Multiverse-theory is designed for one purpose, and one purpose only, and that is to defend atheism. It makes no predictions, it gives no insight, it provides no control, it produces no technology, it advances no mathematics, it is a science in name only, because it is really metaphysics.
In Stenger's first book, G-d: the failed hypothesis
, he argues that Science is an independent and
more reliable way to truth than metaphysics. And in his second book, The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning
argues that metaphysics (multiverse theory) is a more reliable guide than science (design-detection). With these two books then, we can get anything we want, except ethics. And metaphysics. And science.
Because I'm not advocating Stephen Jay Gould's non-overlapping magisteria. Nor do I say that metaphysics should not comment on science, I'm not a Russell devotee who abhors metaphysics and thinks that it corrupts physics, on the contrary I think metaphysics is essential for doing physics properly. And precisely because I think good physics requires good metaphysics, I believe in critiquing metaphysics to understand what it is saying about reality and our interaction with reality. For example, a Gnostic metaphysics that considers reality to be only spiritual will not endeavor to find the causes of disease or the medicines that cure it. This is why we didn't get our penicillin from Mary Baker Eddy, our Hippocratic oath from India, or our physiology from China. Am I saying that acupuncture doesn't work? No, I'm saying that focussing on the pain doesn't really solve the underlying cancer, so that there is a world of difference between defining disease as the perception of pain or the cause of pain. Likewise there is a world of difference between defining science as the perception of order or the cause of order. Multiverse-theory, like acupuncture, focuses on perception as reality, whereas theism focuses on perception as a result of reality. Acupuncture may feel good for a few minutes but ultimately fails to prevent death from a spreading cancer, whereas chemotherapy may feel bad for a few minutes but succeeds in permanent relief. Theism may be distasteful to the Enlightenment spirit of freedom, but succeeds in promoting the virtues of science, whereas multiverse-theory may give quick relief from the cognitive dissonance of Big Bang observations, but succumbs to the multiverse gods. And the multiverse gods, like the Hindu gods and the Chinese spirits, devour science and technology.
Therefore it is not a neutral matter whether multiverse-theory or theism provide the metaphysics behind our scientific endeavors. For if multiverse-theory succeeds, it destroys the very cause and creator of its existence--science. Now some will say that this is still a small price to pay for the freedom it provides from a creator-god. But I want to make it very clear what the terms of the exchange will be, because, to misquote Ben Franklin, those who exchange their security for freedom will get neither.
1) The History of the Contingency Conundrum
Let me begin with a little background for what motivates the multiverse endeavor. Going back to antiquity, there have been two answers to the questions "Where did the world come from?" or "Why is something rather than nothing?" or "Who is responsible for this mess?" The materialist, Epicurean, Democritean (and even Platonic) answer, is "Nowhere" "Nohow" and "No one". The world is here because it has always been here, it is eternal. And something exists just because it does. And there is no need to assign responsibility because the world has always been this way, get over it. The alternate answer to these questions, is "Creator" "Creator" and "Creator". The world was made for the pleasure of the creator who is also responsible for it--an answer which leads us into theism and various flavors thereof.
Let me be a bit more abstract and say that the first answer assigns eternality to impersonal stuff, whereas the second answer assigns eternality to personal being(s). There really aren't any other possibilities, either the universe is a result of a person, or it is self-generated without purpose and person. I flat-out reject dualist views which have some personal spiritual dimension alongside an impersonal material dimension, sort of like Plato's Demiurge shaping the eternal Matter. Which came first Plato, the Matter or the Demiurge? Because if we don't say which is most important, then we will spend the rest of our lives arguing over who is responsible for this mess. If we incorporate some ambiguity in our definitions, we will never achieve clarity in anything derived from them.
Both personal and impersonal answers are equally consistent (that is, if we grant the impersonalist a personal opinion), but both are not equally useful. The impersonal answer will have a great deal of difficulty explaining where persons came from or whether they even exist and can be held morally responsible etc. The personal answer will have difficulty with analyzing persons in an impersonally, whether it be physiology, medicine or psychology, there will be a tendency to personalize things that are entirely mechanical and determinative. Therefore the history of the rise of science in the West is perhaps one of tension between these two views, both contributing to what we presently call Science. We might even say that the current tension of post-modernism is the withdrawal of the personal exemption that had earlier been granted to the materialist.
For modern Science has not been kind to the impersonal view, because evidence for a beginning has continued to build in whatever paradigm he chose. When Newtonian physics (which was a triumph for materialist atomism) found the universe to be unstable to the attraction of gravity, Newton himself suggested that God tweaks the planets and stars back into line. Even this tweaking, however, could not resolve Olber's paradox in which an eternal heavens should fill the night sky with infinite stars, making not just the night sky white, but the Earth in temperature equilibrium with them. Einstein's equations resolved the difficulty by positing a beginning when space began in a cosmic explosion, but at the cost of also demanding a beginning to time. Thus the triumph of materialism in the physics of Newton was dashed by the defeat of eternity in the physics of Einstein. The final nail in Newton's eternal space was the discovery of the blackbody radiation left over from the Big Bang. And since there are only two answers to the fundamental metaphysical question, we must now all admit the materialist was wrong, there is a Creation.
But only with great reluctance will most physicists admit to a Creator.
How can one have a Creation without a Creator? With great difficulty, and multiverse-theory is merely the latest in a series of materialist proposals since 1961 that have attempted to undo the damage caused by the downfall of eternity. Their goal is to get back this impersonal universe by converting the creator into a force and abstracting it as an eternally existent impersonal thing. Thus for "eternal matter" they exchange "eternal force" in order to recover all the benefits of materialism, merely singed, as it were, by the fires of the Big Bang. I list these failed efforts here, not because they disprove multiverse-theory, but because they explain why multiverse-theory, despite its wild hair and even wilder eyes, has become the poster child for materialism.
First, the most obvious solution was to add some subtlety to the Big Bang observations that made it all a case of mistaken identity. Fred Hoyle and Tommy Gold proposed that the universe only appears to have a starting point, when it is in fact eternally expanding as hydrogen is created out of the vacuum continuously. This "steady-state" solution lost credence when cosmic background radiation was first discovered, and later when protons were found not to decay. Nor did Hubble photographs of distant galaxies look anything like ours as Hoyle's theory predicted, and finally, echoes of the Big Bang were found in the surveys of the background cosmic microwaves. No prediction of Hoyle's model worked, every prediction of the "creation" model was verified.
A second solution was to say that the creation may have occurred, but it was a "cyclic creation" that has been going on eternally. Everything is flying apart, but at some future point it will come back together and then fly apart again, and this cycle will continue forever. This view was popular until Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose showed that once the universe shrinks enough, it will collapse unavoidably into a black hole with no rebound. Thus the cycle will last only once, and time will end forever. Furthermore, the amount of matter needed to reverse the expansion of our present universe is not observed. Even more peculiarly, measurements of the universe to detect whether we have too much matter and collapse or too little and expand reveal we are on the knife edge of improbable "just right" between the two. Rather than discover how we can recover eternity, we now know it had not just a beginning, but a very, very special beginning. Hawking first tried to sidestep this problem in his Brief History of Time
by claiming that in imaginary time the beginning is also imaginary, but in more recent publications has abandonned this arcane logic and now claims that multiverses solve the problem. Other, less popular solutions, include a quantum-string theory that suggests super-duper-microscopic strings are more powerful than black holes and can cause the Big Crunch to become the Big Bounce, but even in such speculative theories there's no answer for the loss of entropy such a system would necessarily entail. (Stenger's entropy solution potentially only works for expanding universes, so it cannot explain cyclic universes. Further, I would argue, its a "formal" solution that is an artifact of his definitions for the metric, rather than an observed property of nature.)
But now materialists have an even bigger problem than losing eternity, they have a creation that shows the fingerprints of a creator, because it is a very special Big Bang that is neither too loud nor too soft--Hawking calculated the tuning as one part in 10^60, or a grain of salt more or less would have made our universe uninhabitable. Now remember, in an impersonal universe, explanations can have two causes and only two--law and chance. So either that fine tuning was a law, or it was chance. The sheer improbability of it seems to tell us it wasn't chance, and this left all materialists scrambling to find a law that would make it all necessary. The one thing they were sure it could not be is contingent, the product of purpose, designed, personal.
Now mind you, the materialist has lost the battle for eternity, he is grudgingly acknowledging a creation, so he is now fighting a rear guard action over the nature of the creator. Did the creator design this creation, or can a materialist claim a partial victory by showing the creator was stupid, clumsy, and maybe even impersonal? I call it a partial victory, because Stenger/Dawkins/Darwin give away the farm when they make a theological argument to deny theology--arguing that something in the universe is too stupid/evil/dumb to be the result of a wise and caring creator, and therefore the creator doesn't exist. But my goal in this post is not to point out the metaphysical inconsistencies of the materialist, which others have done so much better than I, but to elaborate the metaphysical consequences of the approach.
So the third solution was an attempt to show that the universe was not carefully tuned. There's more matter than can be seen with the telescope, so perhaps the Big Bang was indeed too loud or too soft to be well designed. However the more sophisticated these searches became, the more finely tuned the universe was found to be. Brandon Carter published a book about all these fine tunings, and called the near miraculous state of our universe the "Anthropic Principle", the universe had to be this way for us to discover it. Guillermo Gonzales "Privileged Planet" is one of many books that adds to the list. Not only was the Big Bang finely tuned, but so was the ratio of the proton mass to electron mass, the fine structure constant, the gravitational energy to the electrical energy, and so forth, all could not be adjusted much from their presently observed values without making life impossible. (Stenger's second book takes issue with several of these items, but we note that the burden of proof is on Stenger to explain all fine-tunings as chance and law, which he has not done, because it is he that is intolerable of design, not the design-finders who are intolerant of law and chance.)
This was making a bad situation worse, so a fourth solution was attempted to discover a law that explained the fine tuning, a law that removed the contingency, the design, the purpose from the creation. Alan Guth suggested that there is a mysterious particle called the "inflaton" which made the universe expand faster than the speed of light, and so "smoothed" the Big Bang into its present delicate balance between too loud and too soft. For such a speculative theory, it was amazing how quickly "inflation" models swept through the community. Soon every cosmologist was developing some aspect of inflation. Unfortunately, the initial predictions were falsified, and the theory went through several revisions. The present third or fourth generation inflation theories have "slow roll" inflaton whose properties must be specified more precisely than the 1:10^60 of the original Big Bang. That is to say, the cure is worse than the disease.
Furthermore, the inflaton does not explain any of the other contingencies discussed in the Anthropic Principle--the finely tuned physical constants that have no underlying law to explain their precision values. Not only have we lost Chance to contingency, but we have lost Law as well. To sum up, first the materialists lost Eternity, then they lost Chance, now Law and so they are left with a Creation having distinct fingerprints of a Creator. Everything they tried has only made things worse. What can be done to recover an impersonal universe? What does Stenger do? Awaken the chaos gods, the Frost Giants, the Titans whose sheer power could overwhelm the rational Olympians.
The Great Casino of Life--buy your multiverse chips here
If contingency implies design, then obviously one has to remove the contingency to remove the proof of design. The search for a Law revealed that any hypothetical Law would be as equally contingent as the one it replaced, possibly more so. (In hindsight, this is what every child discovers when he asks his mother "Why?" too many times and is told "Because I said so!") This is scary, and the community abandoned this approach in a big hurry. But an alternate approach to explaining why, say, the lottery was won three times in a row, is to demonstrate that the winner bought up 90% of all the lottery tickets. And if we could demonstrate that the winner purchased 99.9% of all the lottery tickets, that would be even better. So in order to make this highly contingent improbable creation completely understandable, we need only assume that there is a huge lottery of universes and we are the lucky winners.
Not that this is an easy thing to do, after all, we need at a minimum 10^60 tickets to resolve the Big Bang expansion lottery, not to mention 10^100 tickets to resolve the vacuum energy fine tuning, and on it goes
. If we toss the accidental origin of life into the lottery, we are in excess of 10^40,000 tickets that have to be bought. Such a number is getting too large for mere mortals to explain, so materialists resort to that last refuge of scoundrels and haven of mystics--infinity.
If there are an infinite number of lottery tickets sold, then we can all be winners!
Uh, or is that losers? It all depends on the way the lottery is run. If our chances are 1/(#-tickets-sold), then increasing the number of tickets assures us we will never win. On the other hand, if our luck is (#-tickets-sold) times (small-chance-of-winning) then increasing the number of tickets will make us certain winners. Which is it?
This "all winners" hypothesis obviously requires some ancillary assumptions, but for a materialist discovering more and more fingerprints of a creator, desperate straits require desperate actions. Throwing caution to the winds, then, materialists have thrown in their lot with a seedy lot of applied mathematicians who have been desperately trying to convince physicists that eleven dimensional space is somehow as real as the four spacetime dimensions we've grown to know and love. In this weird "landscape" stolen from Stanley Kubrick's 2001 movie, every possible universe of 4-D physics laws is erupting via quantum-mechanical fluctuations from the 11-D space, being tested by some divine Chaotic god for evolutionary fitness and discarded if found wanting. It is a giant lottery operating in an infinite space for infinite time, so it is certain to find our finite little universe and put us into it.
The assumptions are rather staggering, actually, but here are a few of them: (a) Our universe has zero energy, since matter and gravity have opposite sign; (b) QM fluctuations of zero energy can create new universes (out of nothing, but where is nothing?); (c) The creation of new universes produces a randomization of the physical constants, sort of like mutations on genes; (d) This has been happening eternally.
Once again, these assumptions are mostly metaphysical, and certainly not experimentally determined. Some physicists have argued that (a) is demonstrably false. Others have argued that (b) requires (a), which even if true, would diffuse distant starlight, which is not observed. Why (c) would be true is beyond my comprehension, since Stenger himself says that the "fine-tuning" is merely an artifact of units, so wouldn't randomization of these units be an artifact of an artifact? How do I know that every baby universe I spawn doesn't have exactly the same bad value for the fine-structure constant that prevents life? And (d) is merely contradicting everything we've learned from Big Bang theory without proof--it is merely the reintroduction of the materialism that we were supposed to be proving, making everything else mere distraction from this sleight-of-hand that replaces Creation with Eternity.
But again, my goal is not to critique the dubious metaphysical assumptions of the theory, but to draw out the metaphysical consequences of the theory. I can forgive the adoption of bad assumptions, all of us have done this one time or another, but I cannot forgive the Pandora's box of bad consequences released.
To be continued...