Your Q & A

Response to Multiverse

In response to the Christian interpretation of the evidence that we live in a universe incredibly fine-tuned for life, many atheists reject God as the reason behind such precision in favour of a so-called multiverse. The claim is made that if there are enough universes being produced somewhere then such conditions are ‘bound’ to arise. How much does this challenge the Christian interpretation and how might Christians respond?

2 Responses

  1. /February 11, 2017/

    A lot of speculation has been going on about what happened before the initial starting point of the universe as we know it. A picture that is currently very popular is that of a sea of chaotic quantum fluctuations, one of which led to inflation and established our universe. Multiverse theory is based on that picture, it’s not something just made up by atheists to get rid of God. If one of those fluctuations could have established our universe, others could probably have triggered yet other universes with completely different laws of nature. For me, as a Christian, the response is rather straightforward. This picture does not render Creation as a whole less special or our own universe less important, in God’s eyes. On the contrary, that would make Creation even more awesome than in the case of a single universe!

    You can view this as an alternate version of the Copernican revolution in some way. We used to think that our planet was the center of the universe and attached theological importance to the idea that this made us “special”. But later on, we had to relinquish that idea. Something similar happens if our universe is not the only one (multiverse). But that does not matter. We are important because God intended to create us and cares about us. This cannot be overthrown by any type of Copernican revolution.

    What is left of the fine-tuning argument? Well, it is still an illustration of how fragile the beautiful complexity of Creation is.

    Casper Hesp
    [Casper Hesp is a master student of Astrophysics and Neuroscience at the University of Amsterdam. He is a recipient of the Amsterdam Science Talent Scholarship. Casper is also a blog author and contributes to the work of BioLogos, which is cooperating with Grasping the Nettle in responding to the big questions.]

  2. /February 23, 2017/

    First, let me give a background comment, namely, that I cannot prove that my theory of, for instance, solar flares is correct – but what I can do is ask whether the observations of flares are consistent or not with my theory.  In a similar way, there is no way I can prove or disprove the existence of God, but what I can do is ask whether or not my experience of God and my rational thought is consistent with the existence of God – and for me it is, so I am prepared for the time being to live my life under the assumption that God does exist.

    So what is the aim of GTN?  It is certainly not to follow the forlorn path of trying to use science to prove the existence of God – to do so would fall into the trap of old-fashioned natural theology due to William Paley, and it would alienate many scientists from involvement in GTN. Instead, the aim is to ask whether scientific evidence is consistent with the existence of God and, as it says on the front page of the GTN web site, to seek ways in which science and faith complement one another or are part of an integrated whole (see e.g. the recent SPCK book “Reason and Wonder: Why Science and Faith Need Each Other”).

    So, what about the amazing facts of fine tuning? If the fundamental constants of the Universe (such as the ratio of the strength of gravity to that of electromagnetism) were very slightly different, then life as we know it would not have evolved. To me, fine tuning is consistent with the presence of a caring God who created the Universe and saw that it was good.

    What about a multiverse, the suggestion that billions of universes exist with different values for the fundamental constants, and that we just happen to be in the one whose values do allow the evolution of life?
    First of all, the concept of a multiverse is not presently part of mainstream science as has been traditionally understood, since there is no clear way of proving or disproving it. Instead, it should be regarded as a hypothesis that is part not of science but of metaphysics, in which the God hypothesis is equally valid.
    Secondly, normally science favours elegance and simplicity, and for me the existence of a single Universe is much simpler and more elegant than a multiverse and it satisfies Occam’s razor. 
    Thirdly, even if a multiverse is in future shown to be correct, it is still consistent with the existence of God, in which his role could include, for instance, determining what spectrum of physical constants are present in a multiverse.  Indeed, a multiverse would just put the cause one step further back – namely, how was a multiverse created and what determined its properties. In some ways, creating a multiverse would be even more amazing than creating a single universe.

    Fine tuning is an intriguing curiosity, parts of which may well one day be explained by a deeper scientific theory than is presently available. It doesn’t strengthen my belief in God, but neither does the multiverse explanation challenge my belief in God. However, it does makes me realise that my belief in God comes from outside science.

    So my conclusion is that, as a Christian, I welcome the advances in science, which may in future show us more of the wonder of God’s creation, and also they may well help prune out elements of our theology that are too simplistic or misguided. In my view the sciences and faith are indeed part of an integrated whole.

    Professor Eric Priest
    [Professor Eric Priest held the Gregory chair of Mathematics at St Andrews University.  A Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh,  he is the holder of a Gold Medal awarded by the Royal Astronomical Society. Recognised as a world leader in the study of the sun’s magnetic field and atmosphere, he is the editor of the recently released book ‘Reason and Wonder – Why Science and Faith Need Each Other’.]