A somewhat amusing philosophical problem has popped into my brain, and I wish to explore it in this post. Amusing to me at least, whether it has occurred to others, I’m not sure because I haven’t finished reading the internet (one day, I might), but I’ll jump right into it. The physics of today points (not proves!) to a multi-verse. That is, if ever it is experimentally verified, our universe will not be the only universe that exists, but rather just one amongst an infinite number of universes. In essence, the copernican principle at its grandest scale. This theory, which goes by a few names; string theory and M-theory to name a few, is accounted for in some of our mathematical descriptions of the universe, and we maybe on the verge of paradigm-busting physical evidence to prove it. Now when I say accounted for, what I mean is that it is a logical extrapolation of theories that accurately describe the universe we are in. (The BBC’s “What Happened Before the Big Bang” is an easily digestible primer on this, or this TED talk by physicist Brian C. Greene). Again though, the multiverse is a logical extrapolation of these theories, so when you hear people saying scientists invented the multiverse theory to do away with God, they are mistaken. The multiverse is a prediction of a theory that set out to answer questions about our own universe.
The crux of the theory goes much like this. Our universe was born in a void from quantum fluctuations that unyieldingly create something out of nothing (redefined as a quantum field; actual nothing probably never having existed, instead being a fantasy created by our meaning-seeking, backwards-looking minds), and these somethings sometimes end up being universes, if their emergent properties happen to mesh and congeal, subsequently augmenting each other in a chaotic tug-of-war that once stabilized, grows into a universe, with time created inside the newly formed universe. Our universe, being one of these newly created-creations, also happened to be a bit luckier than normal, in that those contrasting, warring physical constants, happened to be amiable to life, intelligent life no less, which explains why we find ourselves in a universe like ours. This process of emergent properties arising from the combination of individual disparate constants; some conducive to life, others not, in a sea of an infinite amount of universes, still results in an infinite amount of universes that support life (infinities can be smaller and bigger than other infinities; yes very confusing, this will help), and thus other beings just like us, exist in these other life-supporting universes, down to the mannerisms we exhibit, personal and world events, though only slightly different.
To sum it all up, everything that could have ever happened, has happened, in one of these other universes. Another way to look at it, every life choice you have ever made, in some other universe, went the other way, and this goes for everyone (as well as everything) in our universe, and every other universe. Everything that could have existed, has existed; every variable that could have been slightly different, alongside every other variable has existed somewhere (though the variables are finite so they repeat an (almost) infinite amount of times). It’s hard to wrap our minds around, yet such is the power of infinity and the weirdness of the universe. An infinite amount of universes, an infinite amount of you, and an infinite number of possibilities. If I have described it inadequately, then it’s because I’m an idiot, and here’s a link where it is beautifully explained in less than 200 words. The multiverse is a natural (yet unproven) extension of some of the latest theories in cosmology.
Now, where does God come into all this? According to billions of people on this insignificant speck of dust orbiting another insignificant speck of dust, orbiting yet another insignificant speck of dust, and still orbiting…well you get the point, God created the Universe. And among those theists educated enough to understand the latest research in astrophysics and cosmology, many take the view that God instigated the Big Bang, and for those further up the science-to-justify-god ladder, claim that God created the Multiverse (there is a pattern here, God’s role in the cosmos is constantly being redefined, which may logically end in him being nowhere, but I digress). But here’s the kicker; if God created the Multiverse, then does not Einstein’s famous quip ring true? Did he have a choice in creating any individual world (or universe)? Or in influencing any worshipper that prayed to him? Not only may he not be a personal god, but does he keep his omnipotence after creating the multiverse?
“Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?” – Albert Einstein
If God exists, and as long as the multiverse theory not being disproved in the future, then the answer is no! He had no choice. A big statement, but lets explore further. From the perspective of this a God, He seemingly has only two options. The first of which, to not create the multiverse. The second of which, to create the multiverse; in which naturally, every possible universal state-of-being and arrangement eventually exists, with no options in-between: all or nothing…
As Neo so soddenly put it in The Matrix Reloaded, the problem is choice. He can choose the left door, or the right door. The choice is between Zero and Infinity, with no leeway in between. To follow it through to its logical conclusion, God is neither omnipotent, nor all-loving, and in actuality, is impotent after he creates the multiverse. (In an interesting side note, how many mythological gods gave up their immortality to be with those they loved? An interesting link perhaps.) Again, this is only a philosophical (or thought) problem as yet, and does not become a physical problem until and when the multiverse theory is proven to be true beyond any shadow of a doubt. But what then? Should that day come, and it will come, one way or the other. God will have to be redefined yet again…
There are only three conclusions one (or at least, I) can take from this:
1: God was lonely and omnipotent in the vastness of nothing, so he created the multiverse, in the process becoming impotent, having no longer the power to interfere anywhere and everywhere, but no longer lonely
2: God wasn’t lonely, but really loves to play whack-a-mole; constantly course-correcting every universe with god-fearers in it, creating yet more moles to whack in another universe as his interventions take every possible route to fruition (photon’s (light particles) actually do this by this way)
3: God does not exist. The multi-verse simply is, with no beginning, neither an end, just being
I take option 3. This reminds me of that old epicurean maxim on God and evil.
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” – Epicurus
Epicurus over 2,000 years ago, framed it perfectly. It’s a wonder we can’t today with the things we have discovered.
In light of the above options, what do you think?
Fourat Janabi is the author of Random Rationality: A Rational Guide to an Irrational World, available for $7.99 on Paperback.