Copyright 2005 Rick Harrison
Multiverse & M-Theory
At a Harvard symposium as recent as 2003 our leading scientists were still asking the same basic questions man has always asked, the same questions we all (rightly) asked in the 2nd grade: “Did God make this? Is this the only world? Does the world have to be this way? How many worlds are there? Why is there something instead of nothing? Who made God?” As Art Linkletter used to say, kids say the ‘darndest’ things.
Those basic philosophical questions that kids have always asked remain valid even today. Now in 2017 science and philosophy still have more questions than answers. The new theory of multiverse, for example, endorsed here by noted cosmologist Paul Davies, doesn’t really close out those questions for science as some would have us believe. This is true because the “theory” of multiverse is not testable in most of the forms relevant to the big cosmological questions of God, accident, and intelligent design.
So what is multiverse theory? Some physicists assert that there could be many universes, perhaps even an infinite number, or one or more that had infinite or nearly infinite time to play around with accidental explorations of alternative physical systems. Such nearly infinite resources are required to explore the vast number of random alternatives required to finally stumble upon a physical system that could create and evolve life by accident. An infinite multiverse that randomly searches through all possible combinatorial physical systems would make the accidental origin and evolution of life both possible and an eventual certainty, given only the (unprovable) assumption that there is no spiritual life force that has to be added to a creature’s body to bring it to life.
The problem with making the multiverse theory work as support for the theory of accidental evolution is that accidental evolution would not be remotely probable until science could show that the enormous number of failed attempts to create life by accident that are requisite to increasing the probability of success had actually occurred in other universes. As a matter of the practical limits of science, this can never be done. Unless the other universes are very similar to our own we cannot collect data from them because our science won’t work there.
To probe vastly dissimilar universes having different laws, or chaotic conditions with no laws, would seem to be impossible for Earth science, which depends on our natural laws and physical constants. Thus, science can only confirm the internal characteristics of universes sufficiently similar to our own to permit our scientific methods and instruments to be applied. Confirmation of the existence of these kinds of universes cannot be used to support the theory of an accidental creation of life because they are no more accidental than our own world. They therefore can’t be used to prove that the beginning of things was purely accidental, which in physical terms means chaotic.
All multiverse really does is open up reams of new questions for science, some of which can never be answered:
Davies said the universe is perfect for life to flourish. Every little thing — from the chemical composition of the atmosphere to the existence of gravity — fits together….
….Other universes, if they exist, could work according to different rules.
In my opinion, Davies, Hawking, and others too casually dismiss the anthropic principle. The anthropic principle says that the universe is so precisely tuned for life, so biofriendly, that it seems to have been intentionally constructed for the purpose of making life possible. To refute the anthropic principle neo-Darwinists and their occasional intellectual allies from other disciplines say, much as Davies has said, that we could imagine a person waking up in an accidental universe where it must appear designed whether it is designed or not. Otherwise the person could not exist at all.
But pure imagination (which need conform to neither the laws of science, logic, empiric evidence, probability, or common sense) has no evidential value in science. We have every reason to believe that no complex lifeforms ever wake up in accidental universes. If they could exist in accidental universes, yes, it would look designed to them, but they can’t.
Challenges to the anthropic principle amount to question-begging and circular hypotheticals: “If a universe compossible with life could come about by accident, then the mere existence of intelligent beings would be insufficient to establish that the universe was designed by an intelligence for the purpose of supporting life.” This hypothetical proposition is useless to the ID debate because it fails to answer the core question: “Given the astronomical complexities of life and the precise fine tuning of physical parameters necessary to support life, could a universe compossible with life be achieved by accident in the first place?” The answer to that question is “No, not to scientific standards of probability.”
The IF, THEN form of argument that is implicit in the story of someone waking up in an accidental world that appeared designed is merely a sneaky way to beg the question. We first have to assume that it is possible to accidentally make such a world (including the life forms it contains) or we can’t proceed with the story—it’s a loaded counterexample, invalid for that reason.
Even if we grant for the sake of argument the most materialistic renderings of quantum physics and multiverse theory such as Stephen Hawking’s version of M-theory, the door is still wide open for God. Such theories start with multiple universes being created out of nothing. Hawking says M-theory does not require God because those universes arise from natural law and are a “prediction of science.” But M-theory leaves the entire initial creation unexplained. It is the same old trick used by the neo-Darwinists in evolutionary theory: begin the explanation after the hard parts are all done.
Sure, once you have the mass and energy of the multiverse in a given and very much preinformed state, natural law can take it the rest of the way, but there is no explanation of the origin of the physical mass and energy; there is no explanation of the preinformed state of that mass and energy in its initial appearance; and there is no explanation for the origin of natural law itself. Hawking’s multiple universes don’t seem to be chaotic and accidental; they seem to comport with our existing natural laws. Thus, they don’t argue for the accidental worldview.
The existence of chaotic, truly accidental universes cannot be tested because the instruments of our Earth science can’t be used there. The existence of such universes will never be a “prediction of science” because all scientific predictions must be testable in order to be scientific. Furthermore, our scientific laws will never predict the existence of prior chaotic and accidental universes that functioned as the source of our world because our thermodynamic laws stipulate that no ordered systems ever arise from physical chaos (the definition of entropy).
For purposes of the ID debate the multiverse theory is not feasibly testable, and it certainly has not been tested. It therefore cannot be posed as a defense of the accidental theory of evolution or an accidental worldview of physics and cosmology. So, when you here neo-Darwinists allude to multiverse theory as a rebuttal of the probability and resource exhaustion arguments for ID theory, you will know that they are reaching for your trouser legs once again, engaged in yet another attempt to get a free lunch.
At best/worst with multiverse and M-theory we still have an arbitrary philosophical choice of whether we wish to view the universe as accidental or designed. As Hawking says, God is not required, but at the same time we are not obligated to dismiss the possibility of God either.
Within the context of multiverse or M-theory, how we answer these questions about accident and intelligent design depends on how many and what kinds of other universes science can actually prove to exist. If all possibilities are realized, as Hawking claims, in an infinite series of member universes, then God could actually create a highly complex design structure by way of a fully accidental process. In this situation we would encounter the irony of being able to say both that God made the universe and that life evolved by accident—right back to Charles Darwin’s funny idea!
How does one confirm a multiverse? Supposing for the sake of argument we could discover a method that offered a plausible chance to do this, how could we be certain (without ever having been there) which type of world-universe-dimension we had discovered, or the extent of its resources? We would have to “break into it” with a probe. But the only kinds of worlds that it would be safe or even possible for us to interact with would be those with natural laws and physical constants very much like our own. But if all possibilities are realized how do we know we are not breaking into a world constructed in such a way as to rush destructive energy across the bridge or portal we have created with the probe? Many of these additional universes would be unstable land mines of physics, portending the very death knell of our life-friendly world should we be foolish enough to open a bridge into that world.
Even if physicists can cleverly devise some thought-to-be-safe preliminary probes that yield hints of what kind of world we would be forcing a bridge into, how do we know it is not the kind of world that is built such that it looks “normal” to our probes and computations, but isn’t. It could still be a world that bursts out across any inter-world bridge with massive unstable destructive forces. Remember, all possibilities are realized in M-theory. Deceptive configurations are one of the possibilities.
Our very delicately balanced and fine-tuned for life universe rests, in a sense, precariously upon the consistent group behavior of quantum particles. That group behavior remains consistent enough to serve as the foundation for the orderly events required to support life in our world. However, the interactive quantum force field dynamics that all of the order and structure of our world (and thus life itself) depends upon could be thrown catastrophically out of balance by an uncontrolled/unpredictable influx of (by definition) unknown energies from another world. Such an exchange could, in theory (since science still does not know why individual quantum particles behave the way they do in the absence of controlling forces from other particle/wave fields) reconstruct the underlying physical fabric of our world, throwing the field equations of subatomic particles out of balance permanently or long enough that the disruptions would effectively end life on Earth.
Do we want to look so hard to prove the devil’s lie that there is no God that we accomplish the devil’s larger goal of destroying humanity and God’s creation for him? I doubt that even the hard core atheists in science are willing to take such risks. Thus, multiverse is not likely a theory that will ever be tested, even if it could be in theory. It is therefore hard to see how a multiverse can be proved and charted sufficiently to demonstrate the existence of sufficient resources and trial and error biological form design explorations to make the accidental theory of evolution scientifically tenable in terms of probability.
M-theory is, in fact, not even a single theory, but a collection of partial theories that are used to separately address different segments or ranges of physical phenomena. How any of those component theories, or all of them taken together, could entail that all the unrealized possibilities of our world are being separately realized elsewhere is unclear. Multiverse theory is not a magical unproblematic answer to anything, let alone the ultimate question of origins.
With infinite universes expressing all possibilities one seems to get a 100% probability for accidental life. But one also gets a 100%, probability for purposive life, and a 100% probability for absolutely everything else. What one actually gets is a contradiction, so the concept of multiverse needs to be scaled down from all possibilities to a selected set of some possibilities before it has anything coherent to offer to the intelligent design debate. Many radically different worlds could not interact with each other at all, and contradictory dynamics could not coexist in the same world. To say that an intelligent designer of life definitely exists somewhere in multiverse as does an accidental creation of life, does not answer the question of which of the two categories our world falls into.
In purely imaginary physical theory that is unrestricted by what we actually know of our own world, there could be a world where God created some of life and accident also created some of it. Now, if that could be proved, it would be very explanatory! (especially of inane human behavior)
The bottom line for our purposes is that until we can show that there exists either an enormous number of other randomly created universes or at least one other enormously large and enormously old random mixing bowl type universe with trillions upon trillions upon trillions…the time and resource of our own world that has dumped its biological design information output into our world, the resource exhaustion and probability arguments remain fatal objections against accidental evolution.
For intelligent design theory to be defeated by M-theory or multiverse theory we have to have actually demonstrated that this hypothetical enormous new resource base truly exists. We have not done this, and it would seem unlikely that we would ever have sufficient resources to do it, or that we would have sufficient desperation to take the world-ending risks of doing it. One Big Bang is enough!
By constructing bridges into other worlds we could actually invoke the melting of the elements described in the Bible as ushering in the end of the world as we know it. (2 Peter 3:10-12 RSV) Curiosity killed the cat!
Ignoring for the sake of momentary argument that multiverse theory is not practicably testable, there is another major problem in using multiverse to support the theory of the accidental creation of life. Although an infinite accidental multiverse makes it certain that all possibilities will be found in at least one instance somewhere in an infinite or nearly infinite creation, it doesn’t make all those possibilities equally probable. Simpler creations are still much easier for accident to create, and therefore more frequently created, than highly complex creations. M-theory doesn’t alter the standard frequency of expectation of how often we will find one kind of event compared to the frequency of occurrence of another kind of event.
In other words, in an infinite or nearly infinite multiverse there would be many more worlds where life was created by intelligent design than worlds where life was created by accident because it is so exorbitantly hard for an accident to do such a thing. For every world where life had begun by accident there would be many trillions where it had been created on purpose. This is borne out both by standard probability calculations from the complexity of life and by direct empiric observations of our world, which inductively show that the probability of finding complex machines (biological or otherwise) made by accident is very near 0.
Every world where life had been created by accident would also be so cluttered with flawed designs and bio-refuse that life would probably never have a chance to thrive. While a scientifically testable, and actually tested and confirmed, theory of an infinite multiverse (a theory which we will never have), would support belief in the accidental origin of life on at least one of its infinite worlds, the origin of life on any given world by intelligent design would remain vastly more probable than the origin of life by accident. Science must therefore always affirm intelligent design as more probable than accident in any given world that contains astronomically complex systems, and especially irreducibly complex ones, particularly where independent evidence exists for an intelligent designer being involved, such as in Earth’s religions. The exception would be where the world does show the exorbitant waste byproducts of accidental design, and reflects the prior existence of untold millions of disabled and dysfunctional species.
Until science can create complex life artificially in the laboratory (don’t hold your breath), we are not even obligated to grant that a purely physical, albeit infinite, multiverse would have at least one world where life was created by accident. This is because it has not been demonstrated that spirit is not required for life in addition to physical matter and energy.
Statements about the probability implications of theoretical models positing the existence of infinite universes can be very misleading in the context of the intelligent design/accidental world debate. Even in a multiverse, life created on purpose by intelligent design remains much more probable than life created by accident. Because science must always affirm the more probable over the less probable, intelligent design theory remains a much stronger scientific theory than accidental evolution even when multiverse theory is added to science.
 “Scientists at Harvard fail to reach consensus on why we are here,” Science & Theology News.
 See Lee Smolin, Three Roads to Quantum Gravity (New York: Basic Books, 2001), chap. 14; Larry Witham, By Design: Science and the Search for God (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003), ch. 3, for good discussions of the anthropic principle.
 Hawking, Stephen and Leonard Mlodinow. The Grand Design. New York: Bantam, 2010.