The universe is incredibly finely-tuned, not only for its own existence, but for the existence of complex, intelligent life. This fact does not set well with naturalists and atheists. It is enormously difficult to explain the unfathomable specificity and precision of the cosmos on the basis of chance alone. Indeed, the value of some physical constants were initial conditions present at the universe’s origin, and thus cannot possibly be explained by random chance processes. So how do non-theists explain how our universe got so lucky?
While there are a few different approaches floating out there, the one garnering the most attention and support recently is the multiverse hypothesis (a.k.a the Landscape). Multiverse theory proposes the existence of a near-infinite number of universes. Given the multitude of universes–it is reasoned–there is bound to be at least one that is life-permitting. As David Berlinski writes, “[B]y multiplying universes, the Landscape dissolves improbabilities. To the question What are the odds? the Landscape provides the invigorating answer that it hardly matters.”
Scientist who subscribe to the multiverse view it as the only viable naturalistic alternative to a divine creator. As Tim Folger wrote:
Physicists don’t like coincidences. They like even less the notion that life is somehow central to the universe, and yet recent discoveries are forcing them to confront that very idea. Life, it seems, is not an incidental component of the universe, burped up out of a random chemical brew on a lonely planet to endure for a few fleeting ticks of the cosmic clock. In some strange sense, it appears that we are not adapted to the universe; the universe is adapted to us.
Call it a fluke, a mystery, a miracle. Or call it the biggest problem in physics. Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.
The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable nonreligious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”-the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life.
What I find particularly interesting is how fine-tuning is viewed as a problem in the first place. No theist would view it as a problem. It is only problematic to atheists and naturalists because it implies a designing intelligence, and such a being is anathema to them. In order to avoid the obvious conclusion that an intelligent being was responsible for fine-tuning the universe for existence and life, they propose a naturalistic theory that is, admittedly, not even scientific (because it is neither provable nor falsifiable). Proponents of the multiverse are honest about this fact. Consider Andre Linde. When asked if physicists will ever be able to prove the multiverse hypothesis, he responded:
“Nothing else fits the data. We don’t have any alternative explanation for the dark energy; we don’t have any alternative explanation for the smallness of the mass of the electron; we don’t have any alternative explanation for many properties of particles. What I am saying is, look at it with open eyes. These are experimental facts, and these facts fit one theory: the multiverse theory. They do not fit any other theory so far. I’m not saying these properties necessarily imply the multiverse theory is right, but you asked me if there is any experimental evidence, and the answer is yes. It was Arthur Conan Doyle who said, ‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’?”
In other words, it doesn’t need to be proven by evidence. It doesn’t even need to be probable. It only needs to be the last man standing. I’ll agree with Linde that no other naturalistic hypothesis has more explanatory power than the multiverse (even though it has no empirical support), but when the list of live options is expanded beyond naturalistic hypotheses, there is a better explanation of the data: theism. But Linde excludes theism a priori from the list of live options. Why do that? Theism has more explanatory plausibility and rational evidence in its favor than the multiverse, and thus should be preferred.
The reason those like Linde take the multiverse hypothesis seriously, is not because they are following the evidence where it leads, but because the evidence points to a designer of the universe, and they wish to avoid such a being at all costs, even if it means believing in an improbable, improvable theory. As Bernard Carr, a cosmologist at Queen Mary University of London said, “If there is only one universe you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.” Apparently “it is better to have many worlds than one God.” If ridding themselves of one supposed fairy tale (theism) requires belief in another, so be it.
The father of multiverse theory, Leonard Susskind, is very clear about the anti-theistic motivations of theories such as the multiverse. When asked if we are stuck with an intelligent designer if his Landscape theory doesn’t pan out, he responded:
I doubt that physicists will see it that way. If, for some unforeseen reason, the landscape turns out to be inconsistent – maybe for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation – I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature’s fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics. One might argue that the hope that a mathematically unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID.
His point could not be clearer. The desire of naturalists is to find a plausible naturalistic explanation on par with the design hypothesis is their driving motivation. Any theory will do, even if, according to Susskind, it is as faith-based as Intelligent Design. It appears that blind faith is acceptable in science, so long as its object is not God. They’ll blindly believe in the existence of universes they cannot see, but not in the existence of a God who has made Himself known in the very cosmos they study.
David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions(New York: Crown Forum, 2008), 124.Tim Folger, “Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator: the Multiverse Theory” in Discover magazine; available from http://discovermagazine.com/2008/dec/10-sciences-alternative-to-an-intelligent-creator; Internet; accessed 11 November 2008.
David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions (New York: Crown Forum, 2008), 135.Leonard Susskind, in an interview with Amanda Gefter of New Scientist, “Is String Theory in Trouble?”, December 17 2005 edition, p. 48; available from http://www.newscientist.com/channel/fundamentals/mg18825305.800.html; Internet; accessed 5 January 2006.