If you enjoy following the field of theoretical physics, particularly the study of universal origins, then you have likely already heard terms such as ‘parallel universe’, ‘anthropic principle’, and ‘multiverse theory’ tossed about. As the chasm widens between those who argue for the incompatibility of faith and science, the need has arisen to uncover a seemingly plausible explanation for cosmological origins. After all, the heart of science is a causal principle, as science is the continuous quest for the causes of natural phenomena… a quest in which it has been very successful.
The very nature of this success, however, reaffirms a central point: the universe operates rationally. Proponents for Christianity will often respond to this list of discoveries by pointing out that the pervasive depth of explanation which science has uncovered points to the apparent fine-tuning of the universe. Opponents of Christianity respond to such claims by pointing to the anthropic principle and, by extension, the parallel universes espoused by multiverse theory. Many of us are likely unfamiliar with these terms, yet it is important that we have an understanding of the basics of the conversation, so that we can enter into it knowledgably. Logically speaking, the anthropic principle has substantial merit, but multiverse theory must fundamentally undermine the scientific worldview it is attempting to support.
Fine-tuning looks at the sheer confluence of life-sustaining factors with awe. For example:
- The tilt of the earth allows for the existence of seasons.
- The distance between the earth and the sun places us within a habitable zone allowing for the sustaining of life.
- The moon allows for a tidal system which empowers weather as well as the perpetual “cleaning” of the earth’s oceans.
- The mix of nitrogen and oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere is calibrated for carbon-based life forms, and the plant life maintains this delicate balance by recycling our wasteful carbon dioxide into usable oxygen.
Were we to take all these factors into account, and look at the probability that such a combination is present on our planet allowing for life to exist, the likelihood would be miniscule. For our purposes, let us say this likelihood is a trillion to one. At such odds, it is easy to stare at the night sky and revel in how our world was created just for us.
Of course, the anthropic principle suggests another perspective. If the odds are a trillion to one that a planet is capable of meeting the necessary qualities for the sustaining of life, even intelligent life, then what happens if there are 10 trillion planets in our universe? According to probability, we should then expect there to be ten planets in our universe bearing intelligent life, all who may be looking out at the night sky and reveling in the likelihood of their existence. Essentially, the anthropic principle suggests that life exists on this planet because the planet just happened to be fine-tuned for life, not that the planet was intentionally fine-tuned for life so that life might exist. The anthropic principle is based upon probability.
The anthropic principle actually holds merit when applied to our earth in lieu of the untold numbers of planets swirling around our universe. The problem comes, however, when such fine-tuning is applied to the universe itself.
- Were gravity to be slightly stronger, stars would ignite at much smaller densities, thus burning up far more quickly. Galaxies would be smaller and more crowded, and planetary orbits would become increasingly more unstable. Life would not be sustainable.
- Strong nuclear force is what overcomes electrostatic repulsion in allowing atoms to stay together. Were it to be weaker, it would not overcome this repulsion and all matter would fly apart on an atomic level. Were it to be stronger, all hydrogen would combust into helium during the early stages of the universe, destroying all hydrogen-dependent matter such as long-lived stars like our sun or even water. Life would not be sustainable.
We continue to find other examples of universal fine-tuning in dark energy, the rate of universal expansion, and even the simple existence of natural law. To take all of this into account, we once again run into the extremely improbable likelihood that such a confluence of factors exists. In terms of our earth, this improbability can be addressed by looking at the infinite number of other planets. That fails here, however, as we only have one universe.
Thus, we have the hypothetical multiverse theory. Multiverse theory suggests that we have an infinite number of parallel universes, all with their own set of natural laws, and this one happens to bear the right combination to make existence possible.
The Problem With Parallel Universes
Even within the scientific community, the proposed existence of a multiverse is heavily criticized for one key reason: it is an entirely untestable hypothesis. By definition, any parallel universe suggested by multiverse theory is beyond our capacity to interact with. We cannot gather data on it, we cannot observe it, we have absolutely no evidence for its existence, yet it remains the dominant theory among those espousing a reductive naturalistic worldview.
Ironically, it is these same factors which underlie their summary rejection of Christian theism as a valid worldview. Christianity has long claimed the existence of a world beyond the senses which is only accessible through logical inference or God’s self-initiated, self-revealing encounter with humanity – an experience we define as ‘revelation’. In order for multiverse theory to even be considered as valid, however, it first has to reject the principles of scientific inquiry which form the very foundation of the worldview which multiverse theory was created to defend.
- Blog Spotlight: Science and Christianity (with BioLogos) (ofdustandkings.com)
- The Problem With Evidence: 3 Worldviews and their Evidenciary Paradigms (ofdustandkings.com)
- 4 Ways Atheists Have Made Me A Better Christian (ofdustandkings.com)