Has the Multiverse Killed Metaphysics (and God)?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

If you believe a handful of famous physicists (e.g., Hawking, Mlodinow, and Smolin), the answer is yes. Multiverse theorists, like the three aforementioned physicists, posit a multiverse which contains numerous universes with different physical laws. According to Austin L. Hughes, in his article “The Folly of Scientism,”  these theorists hold that “if there are enough universes, one or more whose laws are suitable for the evolution of intelligent life is more or less bound to occur.”

While any universe with a particular set of laws may be very improbable, with enough universes out there it becomes highly probable. This is the same principle behind the fact that, when I toss a coin, even though there is some probability that I will get heads and some probability that I will get tails, it is certain that I will get heads or tails. Similarly, modern theorists imply, the multiverse has necessary being even though any given universe does not.

Our contingent universe, a universe which did not have to necessarily exist, came into being because of the multiverse. But where did the multiverse come from? Hughes suggests that the

problem with this argument is that certainty in the sense of probability is not the same thing as necessary being: If I toss a coin, it is certain that I will get heads or tails, but that outcome depends on my tossing the coin, which I may not necessarily do. Likewise, any particular universe may follow from the existence of a multiverse, but the existence of the multiverse remains to be explained.

Not only the existence of the multiverse needs to be explained, but the universe-generating process. Hughes continues:

In particular, the universe-generating process assumed by some multiverse theories is itself contingent because it depends on the action of laws assumed by the theory. The latter might be called meta-laws, since they form the basis for the origin of the individual universes, each with its own individual set of laws.

So what determines the meta-laws? Either we must introduce meta-meta-laws, and so on in infinite regression, or we must hold that the meta-laws themselves are necessary — and so we have in effect just changed our understanding of what the fundamental universe is to one that contains many universes. In that case, we are still left without ultimate explanations as to why that universe exists or has the characteristics it does.

Put another way, multiverse theorists have merely backed the problem up one step. They have failed to answer the fundamental metaphysical question of why anything exists at all. What is the source of the multiverse, or is it self-existent, uncaused, and necessary? If it is self-existent, uncaused, and necessary, then it sounds a lot like the theistic God that they so like to ridicule.

  • Indeed it only backs up the question. But we have to keep in mind that multiverses are 100% conjecture. Just because something works mathematically, does not mean it matches the physical reality. The point of science is to be able to test theories and use them to predict. The multiverse is pure philosophy and has no basis for being called science until someone figures out a way to test the theory beyond the models themselves. (Hawking confuses reality with models. Penrose counters quite rightly. Models are only approximations and MUST be validated to have any real value beyond mere philosophy and conjecture.)

  • I agree completely, Walt. The multiverse is metaphysics, not physical science. Just because a scientist invents a concept does not make the concept scientific. Science is not about who makes the claim, but whether the claim is backed up by empirical observation.