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Cosmic Fine Tuning or Materialist Multiverse? 

The Daily Telegraph of April 22nd 2014 carried an intriguing article entitled 'It's goodbye to the universe - hello to the multiverse'. Based on an interview with Max Tegmark, professor of physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Michael Hanlon explores the idea which has been around for decades that we inhabit only one universe among many. It seems that the mathematics of the inflation which is claimed to have occurred immediately after the Big Bang creating matter out of nothing, allows for the possibility that trillions of universes sprang into existence.

These universes, apparently, do not need to be governed by the same physical laws which operate in the one we inhabit, and so every possible combination of everything is bound to exist somewhere - as Hanlon puts it,

' … worlds where Elvis lives, where Hitler won the Second World War, and where strange creatures like unicorns graze on alien pastures'.  

So I suppose there must also be one where pigs fly, where Richard Dawkins is the Archbishop of Canterbury (I'm indebted to Rev David Robertson of SOLAS for that uplifting thought), and, to my personal delight, one where Aberdeen FC has just won the European cup!

Now if you think all this sounds more like science fiction than science fact, you're not wrong. However, scientists take the notion of the multiverse seriously, and for the very obvious reason that it provides an escape from the compelling argument that the universe we inhabit is 'finely tuned' by design. The forces and laws which govern our world and make life possible are known to be very finely set within extremely narrow limits, outside of which the world as we know it would not exist.

This 'fine tuning' of our universe calls for some explanation, the most obvious of which is that an intelligent cause set the parameters as they are. The possibility of all these arising by chance or co-incidence is so remote as to be negligible, leading to the more obvious conclusion that they have been deliberately set. As the late Prof Sir Fred Hoyle, the distinguished astronomer, once observed, it looks as though 'a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics as well as with chemistry and biology' [1].

Modern science, however, has been invaded by the philosophy of methodological naturalism and this does not permit explanations of origins which invoke an intelligent cause. So to escape the obvious inference from cosmic fine-tuning, the multiverse is invoked so that our universe becomes just one more coincidence in an endless array of mindless universes which sprung into existence from nothing. 

So what more is there to say? Well quite a lot actually. For one thing, there is not a shred of empirical evidence for the multiverse.  It is pure speculation from beginning to end, but as long as it conforms to materialist philosophy, it is acceptable because the much more sensible explanation of an intelligent cause for the universe is just simply ruled out by definition. This, I have to say, is not how I learned the methods of science. 

But there is another difficulty with the multiverse. If science wishes to avoid the implication that a finely tuned universe has an intelligent Creator and can't answer the question about where this universe came from, how does it solve the problem by postulating the existence of trillions of them? Does that not just multiply the problem? And even if there are all these universes, you still have to explain the precision and sophistication of this one which sustains life and consciousness as we experience them.  

In his book 'God's Undertaker', Prof John Lennox highlights the uncertainties for scientists like Lord Rees, a former Astronomer Royal, in espousing the multiverse theory thus:

'It is interesting that Martin Rees concedes that the fine-tuning of the universe is compatible with theism but says he prefers the multiverse theory: "If one does not believe in providential design, but still thinks the fine-tuning needs some explanation, there is another perspective - a highly speculative one, so I should reiterate my health warning at this stage.  It is the one I prefer, however, even though in our present stage of knowledge any such preference can be no more than a hunch." [2]  Now preference is a personal thing to which each of us is entitled, but it takes us beyond the boundary of what most of us would think of as science.' [3] 

However, one comment in the Telegraph article mentioned above gives pause for thought:

'(Tegmark's) Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH) states that not only does maths describe the world we live in, it is the world we live in.' 

Now if I understand that correctly, it seems highly suggestive that the universe is controlled by logical predetermined principles which our minds are capable of discerning. Sounds like 'intelligent design' to me!

Perhaps that's why Einstein concluded:

'Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything we can comprehend is my religion.  To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious.'[4] 

But few modern scientists are so honest. It seems that when, in science, intelligent design is ruled out, a priori, as an explanation, despite the obvious evidences for it, any sort of fantastic speculation becomes not only acceptable but fashionable.

And, by the way, if you think that I am on my own with this, read Denyse O'Leary's piece on the multiverse in 'Evolution News and Views' of December 9th, 2013. [5]

Further Reading

You may also be interested in the following publications:

1:  God and Stephen Hawking: In this short book published by Lion Hudson (2010) Prof John Lennox (Oxford) deals in a clear and engaging manner with some current cosmological controversies including the existence of the multiverse. It is available from Amazon and other major outlets.

2: My 32-page booklet  An Introduction to Intelligent Design is available for purchase on this website for £2 plus pp. Discounts of 50% can be obtained on orders of 10 or more.  

Dr Alastair Noble
Centre for Intelligent Design UK
First published 2014

[1] Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20, 1982, p16
[2] Our Cosmic Habitat, London: Phoenix, 2003, p164
[3] 'God's Undertaker - Has Science Buried God?, John C Lennox, Lion, 2009, p75
[4] Quoted from a 1954 letter by Einstein in Max Jammer, 'Einstein and Religion', Princeton University Press, 1999
[5] See 

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Alastair Noble, 17/07/2017