Sunday, 29 January 2017

Unicorn multiverse, a more rational multiverse and Ockham's razor (updated 2017)

I grew up in a rational world of cause and effect in which the only supernatural events were those attributable to our Creator, e.g. the Resurrection of Christ and the creation by God of the universe from existential nothingness.

Also, everyone I knew  adhered to the Oxford English dictionary definition of the universe:
All existing things; the whole creation; the cosmos 

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Since the confirmation of the Big Bang model for the origin of the universe there have been attempts to skate around the conclusion that every single entity in creation, from a quark to a human being, ultimately originates with an uncaused first cause – God. In this sense everything is spiritual or supernatural. Nobody can pretend that anything is truly secular.  Moreover, this God has made us in God’s image,  having concepts of love, justice, truth and beauty regardless of gender, physical appearance, health, sexual preference, intelligence, race or creed. 

It has also become established that the probability of morally aware, truth seeking sentient beings like us emerging out of nothingness is zero without invoking a Creator with the properties of personhood. This follows from the unimaginable degree of fine tuning of the physical constants, initial entropy conditions and much else to allow life of any kind to exist anywhere in the universe.  For human civilisation to emerge there are innumerable extra conditions, such as protection from cosmic rays, the availability of the minerals for technology, visibility of an ordered firmament, fertile soil and a freely available abundance of water in liquid form. It all had to be done by an act of will which also imbued humans with the imago dei.

For some obscure reason (the italics are to vent my exasperation)  certain people, including some who purport to base their life on logic and reason, refuse to accept this state of affairs. Instead they have resorted to desperate hypotheses, the most well known of which is the multiverse.

 The implication is, if you can’t stomach living in one universe having a Creator who has made one universe tailored to  achieve the birth of humanity (it is now beyond reasonable doubt that our universe had to be precisely the size and structure it is for humanity, and any other sentient moral beings, to exist) then why not imagine there are an infinite number of eternal universes of which we happen to be one?  That removes the need for  a God since the whole ensemble of universes is eternal, i.e. self existing and having no beginning. And we don’t have to worry about relating to or praising or satisfying or understanding any deity.

Quite apart from the infinite multiverse concept being wholly against the foundation on which the exponential growth of peer reviewed science rests this leads to absurd conclusions, i.e it is invalidated  by reductio ad absurdum.

For example, the unicorn. 

It is necessary to be clear on just what infinity means. The OED defines ‘infinite’ as greater than any assignable quantity or countable number. This means greater than any number or quantity you can imagine. It means that you can multiply infinity by itself an infinite number of times and the result is still infinity, since both results fit the definition. It is also defined mathematically as any number divided by zero.Infinity divided by infinity is meaningless.

To dispense with God (again, why in the name of God would you want to dispense with God and reduce reality to a meaningless conglomerate of energy configurations with epiphenomena giving the illusion of consciousness and meaning?) you also have to invoke eternity, which is infinity applied to time.  An eternal infinite array of ‘universes’ would have to have existed forever, otherwise you would have to invoke a Creator to start the whole show and, heaven forbid, you would then have to try to understand this God.Even if it did last forever it would still be necessary to  explain why it existed at all.

It is not surprising that the use of the words ‘infinite’ and ‘eternal’ to describe reality is going to lead to bizarre and unscientific conclusions.  Applied to a hypothetical ‘multiverse’ it means that any conceivable event or being or set of laws can occur at any time in any place without anyone having to explain it. If one accepts the multiverse fantasy unicorns would be inevitable, along with anything you care to imagine, from Santa Claus to a flat earth.

 Every conceivable thing happens and it happens an infinite number of times. There are an infinite number of yous who have lived identical lives an infinite number of times in an infinite number of universes and this will continue for eternity. There are also an infinite number of yous with one extra atom, and an infinite number with two extra atoms, etc. etc. ad infinitum.

There are also an infinite number of different worlds in which the concept of an infinite multiverse does not exist. Since first publishing this post in August  2016 I have come across a paradox which someone on a computer forum said had been proposed by his nine-year old son immediately on having the idea explained to  him. The paradox took the following form. If there is a universe for every possibility, this would include  a universe for which there are no parallel universes. I thank the Lord that the rising generation loves truth enough to spot the absurdity of such concepts.

I was also reassured watching a YouTube video in which Philip Ball, ex editor of Nature, I think, was asked about the multiverse concept by a member of the audience. He said it was not even wrong! Hopefully the idea will be dropped from peer reviewed research along with papers proposing the earth is flat.

Even if we cheat and accept that our own universe started at the observed point 13.8 billion years ago, if we regard this as a purely random spontaneous irrational godless creation out of 'nothingness' (the term is sometimes incorrectly used to denote the vacuum filled quantum energy) then anything goes; there are no constraints. If a whole universe can come out of nothing, so can a unicorn. Even within our own universe the laws could break down at any point, say in the place you are now sitting, and so permit crazy things to happen without need of explanation - unicorns, vampires, tooth fairies  or anything you care to imagine can happen if you bring in infinity.

Not surprisingly, if the whole ensemble of universes is eternal it does not obey the second law of thermodynamics because it would by now have decayed into total disorder.

The whole idea is an offense against the cherished foundational principle of Ockham's Razor (after William of Ockham, a priest, philosopher and scientist, 1285-1349. It is also spelt 'Occam'.) . This states that 'entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity' (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy). In formulating a new scientific theory always look for the simplest explanation. Western science has advanced since the Christian universities were set up in medieval England and Europe by sticking to this principle. The infinite eternal multiverse violates this principle.


There  are more rational concepts of a 'multiverse' which really mean one universe with parts that are separated but which  interact in some way that enables us to detect them indirectly. They are finite in time and space and must have been created, being regimes of the same universe with the same laws as the one we know. They only need to be invoked if we find aspects of our observable universe which could be powerfully explained by assuming such additional regimes. For example, one could postulate that  the Big Bang singularity generated more than one expanding pocket of space-time during the initial inflation stage. It would necessitate invoking extra dimensions beyond the space-time realm in which we live our material lives and construct our scientific theories.

If we are to continue sticking to the Ockham's razor principle we should be looking at our universe as imaginatively and creatively as possible. There is plenty in the real universe to explore and stretch our minds: over 95% of it is either dark energy or dark matter, the Standard Model of elementary particles  is incomplete, quantum phenomena seem beyond reductionist physics, consciousness has been shown beyond reasonable doubt to exist beyond the body, no testable theory of biological evolution exists and life has not even been defined. No doubt some powerful theories will be revealed to us and these may allow undreamed of technology when applied.

If you want to believe in an eternal, infinite ensemble of universes (i.e. return to an ancient, pre-Christian view of reality) rather than a rational loving Creator and just the one magnificent tailor-made universe you live in, no one can stop you. But please do not claim it is rational.

 See also
Hold onto the truth

John Sears, author
2077: Knights of Peace.

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