Teleology and the Multiverse, Part 1

Multiverse theory is quickly becoming a popularly accepted idea among many mainstream cosmologists. It is the hope of the naturalist that this theory will once and for all eradicate any vestige of design that may manifest itself in a standard universe model. Many teleologists and apologists are inclined to reject the multiverse theory all together due to the apparent devastating implications of a multiverse on design arguments. I, however, believe that there may be some scientific grounds for believing in a multiverse, and rejecting an idea because you dislike its implications is never an intellectually acceptable deed.

For an apologist, perhaps the most important question is not whether the multiverse actually exists, but rather what implications the multiverse has on one’s apologetic arguments. It is evident that the existence of a multiverse would drastically effect the validity of the common design arguments. In my next few posts, we will explore the implications of various multiverse models on our teleological arguments. Before I go any further, I should first elaborate on the various multiverse models that have been proposed.

Level 1 Multiverse- This multiverse theory simply states that there is a physical reality beyond our observable universe. While it is called a multiverse theory, this model argues that there is indeed only one universe, however it is much larger than our observable universe.

Level 2 Multiverse- This level of the multiverse asserts that there are actual, physical universes beyond our universe, presumably with different physical constants.

Level 3 Multiverse- The level 3 multiverse is derived from the idea that any possible quantum mechanical outcome exists in an actual universe. In this level of multiverse, every possible outcome of any probability actually exists somewhere in a universe that will never interact with our universe.

Level 4 Multiverse- This multiverse asserts that any conceivable universe exists. Any possible world exists as an actual world in a different universe.

For the remainder of this post, we will be dealing with only the implications of a level 1 multiverse.

Let me begin by saying that there seems to be sufficient reason for us to believe that a level 1 multiverse does indeed exist. If (most) big bang inflationary models are correct and our universe experienced a brief moment of extremely fast expansion, then it would almost certainly follow that a level 1 multiverse exists. Inflation would have caused the universe to expand far beyond the distance that light has been able to travel in the universe’s 13.7 billion year existence.

So what implications does a level 1 multiverse have on our teleological arguments? Traditionally, design arguments attempt to demonstrate the low probability of certain apparently finely tuned attributes of this universe when presented in a completely naturalistic framework. There are two types of fine tuning in teleological arguments: environmental fine tuning, meaning the specific finely tuned environmental aspects that cause earth to be a suitable home for intelligent life; and foundational fine tuning, meaning the finely tuned physical constants that permit our universe to be inhabitable for life as we know it. There are numerous examples of both types of fine tuning, and neither type is more or less convincing than the other. (Click here to see a list of  hundreds of apparently fine tuned parameters that are necessary for life to exist.1)

If a level 1 multiverse were to exist, depending on its size, it may be able to explain much of the environmental fine tuning that we observe. Because many teleological arguments attempt to demonstrate that our universe is unlikely given the sample size (our observable universe), if we were to increase our sample size by a factor of ten million, we would clearly have a much greater chance of coming across a planet similar to our own. Some scientists argue that our universe may even be spatially infinite, which could perhaps produce thousands of planets just like our own.2 (Granted, this idea is riddled with philosophical dilemmas.)

Regardless of how big the level 1 multiverse may be, it fails to address the improbability that all of the physical constants would be so apparently fine tuned to support life. Because the level 1 multiverse only asserts that the actual universe is much larger than what we can observe, it would follow that the rest of the universe would have the same physical constants as our observable universe. Thus, the level 1 multiverse has nothing to say about half of the common design argument.

The other half of the common teleological argument (environmental fine tuning) is, however, affected by a level 1 multiverse; the only question that remains is how well such a multiverse would be able to explain the apparent environmental fine tuning that we observe. Given the sheer quantity and microscopic probabilities of the environmental fine tuning we observe, the universe would have to be at least thousands (perhaps even millions or billions) of times larger than what we can observe.

So can the multiverse adequately explain all environmental fine tuning? The fact is that we simply do not yet know. Until scientists can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanism of rapid inflation, the exact size of a level 1 multiverse remains unknown.

In conclusion, despite the possibility that a level 1 multiverse may be able to explain environmental fine tuning, it fails to address the radical improbability that all of our finely tuned fundamental forces came about by purely natural processes. Thus, we are still left with a very strong teleological argument based on fundamental fine tuning alone. Next time, we will examine the implications of the existence of many universes with different fundamental forces (level 2+ multiverse models) and the effects that they have on our teleological arguments.

 

1.Ross, Hugh. “Fine Tuning for Life in the Universe.” Reasons to Believe. 2008.

2. Silk, J. “How Big Is the Universe.” Historical Development of Modern Cosmology, volume 252 (2001): p. 109.

2 comments

  • An impressive and informative first post Will! Well done. I look forward to more.

    I have a funny observation concerning a Level 4 Multiverse. This is precisely what David Lewis thought in his concrete conception of possible worlds. For him, every possible world obtained. It’s funny that some scientists are proposing precisely that (however evidentially impoverished that may be) .

  • PS: I’m not sure I like how a Level 1 Multiverse is even called a Multiverse! It seems like a Multiverse would be multiple universes whereas Level 1 just means more of the same ol’ universe.

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