[asa] Multiverse

From: wjp <wjp@swcp.com>
Date: Sat Aug 29 2009 - 13:13:33 EDT

In the latest edition of PSCF, Robert Mann in
his article on the Puzzle of Existence, speaks of the
possibility of a multiverse.

He says, "Biophillic selection and cosmic fine-tuning
are coming to be regarded as indirect evidence that we
live in such a multiverse."

He does not describe in any detail the reasoning or
intuition that supports this conclusion.
So I attempt to do so crudely here in an attempt to
lay bare the force of the conclusion.

1) Our universe can be characterized by a finite set of
independent parameters.
2) If any of these parameters are altered, a vastly different
universe exists.
3) Since it is possible that these parameters can take on
other values, they will.
4) Therefore, there are multiverses (either in the past, present,
or future, if such temporal indices make any sense at all)

It seems to me that there are reasons to be suspicious about
all of these premises. For example, I have no reason to believe
that the parameters are independent. How would I know if by
changing the mass of a neutron, I would also change the speed of
light, or that perhaps all masses would scale accordingly.
However, I will concentrate my attention on the third.

Notice that I have wholly neglected any mention of an anthropic
principle. I think it irrelevant to the argument. All the
anthropic principle suggests is that there are some universes where
people are aware of the apparent "fine tuning" of their universe.

Mann spends considerable time speaking of possibility, but he never
clearly defines it. The question begins to sound like the endless
debates over the ontological status of possible worlds. We must
even begin to wonder what a "world" is.

It seems that we must first get straight what kind of possibility
we are speaking of. At least two kinds come immediately to mind:
conceptual possibility and physical possibility.

So in (3) if we are speaking of conceptual possibility, we mean that we
know of no logical reason that universes cannot logically take on
different parametric values, which is only to say that we can conceive
of different universes. We didn't need science or universal parameters
to argue that. I would say that it is certain that we can.
If so, then the antecedent of (3) is true, but does the consequent follow
from that. No. Since we have suddenly shifted from conceptual reality
to physical reality.

The only way that (3) can be true is if you adopt some form of Idealism
or Platonism. That Mann, or certainly others, have adopted such a
metaphysical stance is indicated by Mann's introduction:

"We now have enough knowledge about our universe, at both macroscopic
and microscopic scales, to ask whether it as typical specimen out of all
possible kinds of universes one might imagine. What has emerged from the
scientific body of knowledge is that the answer appears to be negative: our
universe is atypical in a number of respects that are connected in
unexpected and perhaps profound ways with our own existence."

It seems that he too easily proceeds from what we can imagine to what is,
from what is conceptually possible to what is physically possible.

I don't believe we have any idea of what is physically necessary, and
we certainly have no idea of what is physically possible in worlds other
than our own.

I will not comment on what appear to me to rather questionable theological
conclusions regarding the impact of a multiverse, but I do wonder whether
you all have a clearer understanding of the "compulsion" to a multiverse
(other than perhaps escaping the force of the anthropic principle).



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Received on Sat Aug 29 13:14:42 2009

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