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.
I consistently come across debates, books, and articles by Dr. William Lane Craig, where he make vain attempts at using science to prove God. I have no doubt that he is a very highly educated man, which can be deduced solely from his use of language, but he has the unfortunate bias of already being convinced of the existence of God before the science even comes along and so extrapolate out his bias for God and as such, does little more than shift around and use big words in eloquent sentences that sound logical, but which are anything but when critically explored. In every debate that I have watched of Craig, his logic and reasoning are almost fool-proof if no prior understanding of science is known, which luckily I have. Slightly off-topic but related. It seems to me, his language is far more linguistically robust (and dare I say, poetic) than that of the majority of the scientists that he debates against and I do believe that this use of language circumvents (at least partly) much of the intellect of the audience at times. When was the last time you heard of a scientist whip an audience into a fervor? I need not askwhen the last time you asked a preacher do the same thing, we’ve all seen on it, either on tv or in person.
Consider this example; really the only example that needs refuting and to which I will devote my time too, by Mr. Craig. His first, and singular point in regards to the existence of God in all of his debates is the scientific principle of causality; that this Universe has been caused i.e. it had a beginning at some distant point in the past, and that since causality cannot in essence cause an effect before it begins to exist, therefore there must be an external cause, by a transcendent being he calls God. However, in invoking that God created the Universe vis-a-vie cause and effect, he refuses to go one step further and ask ‘What caused God?’, and makes the assumption that God is timeless by way of a few logical and philosophical calculations. In doing this, he thinks that this notion explains the existence of God, and that it is more sound than not having a god.
My first thought when presented with this reasoning was, what is the difference between the Universe creating itself, as opposed to being created by an external personal entity? Well, for me, the answer is word magic. Especially when it is within the scientific laws of physics that a Universe can actually be spontaneously created from nothing according to Stephen Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design.
This theistic notion of beginning in itself doesn’t make much sense from a scientific perspective (no matter how much Craig wants it too). As anyone who studied high school physics will recall, time is relative, and not an absolute function of the Universe. That is, to different observers in different places around the Universe, time is a different and personal thing, much as our own thoughts are. There is also nothing in the laws of physics that expressly say time moves forward, it is free to move backwards as well and I’m sure there are Universes in which time does indeed move backwards. Therefore, the concept of time and events having a definite beginning and a definite end cannot be assumed to be valid, and Dr. Craig’s first assumption is that the Universe has a finite past. Although the Universe seems to have a beginning from our perspective, that does not mean that was the beginning, nor that there was nothing before it.
According to Stephen Hawking, the 4th dimension of time’s inception was as a spatial dimension, this occurred when the Big Bang was small enough to be governed by both the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Theory, which eventually morphed into what we know as time. So, this being the case, prior to the morphing of the 4th spatial dimension into a temporal dimension, how could one define a beginning? For all we know (and perhaps more likely), it could exist like that for infinity, putting into question the notion of a finite past. Time is in essence, the material rate of change. Without a temporal dimension, can something be said to begin, that is to change from nothing to something, and then change continuously?
Pursuant to this, many scientists today are moving on from the notion of the big bang being the beginning, and there is tantalizing physical, as well as lots of theoretical evidence to suggest that we live in a multiverse, and our Big Bang and Universe are just small events and places in this Multiverse. According to the theory, there may be upwards 10^500 Universe’s, and ours is but one among them. This is a number beyond any notion of imagination. As Stephen Hawking put it in The Grand Design, if you could count one integer per millisecond since the Big Bang, which is a thousand times a second for 13.72 billion years. By now, you would have only reached 10^20.
Since time is merely a dimension, and perhaps, not an intrinsic property of Multi-verse, than the issue of where did everything come from, or rather, what cause everything to spring forth, becomes in a sense, irrelevant. If time doesn’t exist outside of our Universe, than what can be said of existence? It has been found that the total energy of the Universe, when added all together, is exactly zero. No word magic or tricks, literally ZERO. Does Cause and Effect still hold sway in causing into existence that which cancels itself out mathematically. What is true is that there is a lot more to be learnt, and we are still a ways off from fully understanding the Universe, how it came to be, and the greater multi-verse. I have made a few assumptions in my reasoning, but those assumptions (I like to think) are logical and will be what comes to pass. If that is not the case, then I am content with changing my argument based upon the new evidence at hand if it ever shows up. Something those that argue for the existence of God never do.
Naturally, once this new theory, M-theory becomes verified, validated and accepted, Craig will simply re-arrange and re-purpose his argument and move his transcendent cause back a few steps to suit his already defined and unchangeable notion of God, and twist the science in trying to solidify his conclusion, and persuade others who aren’t very well-versed in scientific matters on the nature of existence.
According to this logic, merely extended a few extra steps (though he attempts to explain it away), God, the cause of our Universe, must Himself have a cause, and though he wishes it away with philosophical statements of grandeur, timelessness, and personality, doesn’t make it so. So with this in mind, perhaps, God, like a majority of people on this insignificant speck of dust flying through space, believes in a God to explain His own creation, and the conundrum ever spirals upwards, each God believing in an ever greater God.
How different is this analogy to that little old lady who stood up in Bertrand Russell’s lecture, after he had just finished explaining how the Earth revolves around the Sun, which in turn revolves around the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, and said that everything he just said was nonsense, that the Earth is flat and actually supported on the back of a turtle. To which he replied, “What is the turtle standing on?” too which she countered that it rests upon the back of another turtle which rests upon another turtle, and so on into infinity. I guess God is a turtle… She was just making stuff up that best agreed with her philosophical intuitions, much as Dr. Crag does at the intersection of theology, philosophy, and science where things get very, very murky.