Re: [asa] Why it's not as simple as God vs the multiverse

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Thu Dec 04 2008 - 11:54:31 EST

Interesting article, Moorad. Of the idea that "we somehow endow the
universe with certain features by the mere act of observation," the author
says, "at least it's science." Um, yeah. And I have some new clothes to
sell her -- they only look invisible if you're too dumb or unworthy to see
them.

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology

On Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 11:44 AM, Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu>
wrote:
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http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026852.500-why-its-not-as-simple-as-god-vs-the-multiverse.html<
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026852.500-why-its-not-as-simple-as-god-vs-the-multiverse.html
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> Why it's not as simple as God vs the multiverse
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> 04 December 2008 by Amanda Gefter
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> WHAT would you rather believe in, God or the multiverse? It sounds like an
instance of cosmic apples and oranges, but increasingly we are being told
it's a choice we must make. Take the dialogue earlier this year between
Richard Dawkins and physicist Steven Weinberg in Austin, Texas. Discussing
the fact that the universe appears fine-tuned for our existence, Weinberg
told Dawkins: "If you discovered a really impressive fine-tuning... I think
you'd really be left with only two explanations: a benevolent designer or a
multiverse."
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> Weinberg went on to clarify that invoking a benevolent designer does not
count as a genuine explanation, but I was intrigued by his either/or
scenario. Is that really our only choice? Supernatural creator or parallel
worlds?
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> It is according to an article in this month's Discover magazine. "Short of
invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible
explanation," writes journalist Tim Folger. "Our universe may be but one of
perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse."
Folger quotes cosmologist Bernard Carr: "If you don't want God, you'd better
have a multiverse."
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> There are plenty of reasons to take the multiverse seriously. Three key
theories - quantum mechanics, cosmic inflation and string theory - all
converge on the idea. But the reason physicists talk about the multiverse as
an alternative to God is because it helps explain why the universe is so
bio-friendly. From the strength of gravity to the mass of a proton, it's as
if the universe were designed just for us. If, however, there are an
infinite number of universes - with physical constants that vary from one to
the next - our cosy neighbourhood isn't only possible, it's inevitable.
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> But to suggest that if this theory doesn't pan out our only other option
is a supernatural one is to abandon science itself. Not only is it an
unfounded leap of logic, it suggests intelligent design offers as valid an
explanation as a cosmological theory does, and lends credence to
creationists' mistaken claim that the multiverse was invented to serve as
science's get-out-of-God-free card. Indeed, Folger's article was immediately
referenced on creationist websites, including the Access Research Network,
an intelligent-design hub, and Uncommon Descent, the blog of the
Seattle-based Discovery Institute's William Dembski.
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> To make matters worse, physicists are also dragging morality into the
picture. In a recent show about the multiverse that aired on the History
Channel, physicist Michio Kaku asked: "Why should I obey the law knowing
that in some universe if I commit a crime I'm going to get away with it?"
The ID community has already tried to draw lines from Darwin to the
Holocaust in their attempt to paint rational people as Satan's minions. Are
physicists really suggesting that the multiverse gives us licence to commit
evil? It's an absurd notion, which moral philosophers have already killed
off in other guises.
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> Pitting the multiverse against religion presents a false dichotomy.
Science never boils down to a choice between two alternative explanations.
It is always plausible that both are wrong and a third or fourth or fifth
will turn out to be correct.
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> Science never boils down to a straight choice between two explanations
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> What might a third option look like here? Physicist John Wheeler once
offered a suggestion: maybe we should approach cosmic fine-tuning not as a
problem but as a clue. Perhaps it is evidence that we somehow endow the
universe with certain features by the mere act of observation. It's an idea
that Stephen Hawking has been thinking about, too. Hawking advocates what he
calls top-down cosmology, in which observers are creating the universe and
its entire history right now. If we in some sense create the universe, it is
not surprising that the universe is well suited to us.
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> That's speculative, but at least it's science.
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> Amanda Gefter is an editor for the Opinion section of New Scientist. She
studied the philosophy of physics at the London School of Economics and
writes about cosmology
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Received on Thu Dec 4 11:55:00 2008

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