I’ve been following the “intelligent design” discussions since I was a kid. But I’ve tried to stay away from such topics on this blog, mainly because the same ground has been covered very well by many others. I’m particularly a fan of Hugh Ross and John Clayton. But I’ve never seen this argument presented, and I think it’s an important one.
The multiverse theories (there are several) were created to explain the “problem” with the finetuning of the universe discovered by physicists. You see, there are scores of physical constants that, if they were just a little different, would make life impossible. It’s as though the universe were designed to accommodate life. Here’s a site where Hugh Ross makes the case very simply.
As you can see, Ross figures the odds of a randomly formed universe being able to support life as 10 followed by 282 zeros! That’s a big number. There are only about 10^80 (10 followed by 80 zeros) atoms in the whole universe! The odds aren’t 202x greater. They are 10^202 (10 followed by 202 zeros) greater. However, the odds aren’t zero.
Therefore, scientists seeking a non-God solution find themselves hypothesizing that ours is but one of an infinite number of universes, each formed randomly with different laws. Obviously, only the ones that have laws that permit intelligent life will ever be observed or written about. And with an infinite number of universes, the formation of this particular universe with its laws and constants is essentially certain.
You can prove a lot with an infinite or two. Nearly anything.
Now, here’s the disproof. (Warning. Mathematics to follow.)
If you have literally infinite chances to try any unlikely thing, it will happen — no matter how unlikely. This should be obvious, but I want you think hard about it. What are the odds of rolling a 12 a million times in a row? Well (1/36)^1,000,000. (^ means the next number is an exponent. I can’t do superscripts with this software.) That number is so tiny that I can’t get Excel to figure it. It would not happen in several universes of constant dice rolling. But give me an infinite number of chances, it’ll happen.
How many times?
With an infinite number of dice rolls, how many times will you roll 36 one million times in a row? Answer: infinity. Right?
How many times will it not happen? Well, infinity.
Strange? Yes. True. Very.
Now consider this. If the odds of this particular life-friendly universe are extremely unlikely, how likely is it to happen given infinite tries? 100%.
How many time? Infinity.
You see, the multiverse theory predicts not only that this universe will be created and that life will just happen to emerge, despite extraordinarily long odds, it predicts that it will happen an infinite number of times.
And what are the odds of Jay evolving in such a universe and typing this very post at this very time? Pretty small.
Given infinite tries, will it happen? Yes.
How many times? Infinity.
I personally have a lot of trouble putting faith in a hypothesis that makes it absolutely certain that I exist infinite times living the exact same life infinite times.
Now we introduce some physics into the discussion. You see, at the subatomic level, atoms and electrons, quarks and bosons, all behave randomly. Their behavior has no cause in this universe.
But the randomness is governed by strict laws of probability. While you don’t know what will happen in any one instance, you know very precisely how large numbers of atoms will act.
If light shines on a single atom of iron, it might reflect. It might be absorbed and become heat. It might pass right through. But given a shiny iron surface, I can predict with great precision what will happen. And I know for a fact that a flashlight cannot shine through a cast iron skillet. It’s impossible.
Well, not really. It’s just incredibly unlikely. You see, each and every iron atom could randomly allow the light to pass. All of it. It won’t happen in the history of this universe. But it could happen. And given infinite tries, it will. And it will happen infinite times.
In a multiverse, not only are there infinite Jays typing infinite blogs, there are infinite Jays typing infinite blogs where light shines all the way through cast iron skillets every time. Purely by crazy coincidence.
There are infinite universes where my keyboard spontaneously fuses into a pile of uranium. It’s not likely, but it could happen. And it would probably kill everyone in my city. Unless, improbably, every alpha particle and gamma and beta ray were to pass through everything and everyone without reacting. Which could happen. You can figure the odds. And therefore, that too will happen. Infinitely.
So what gives me the confidence that I live in the universe where none of these crazy things happen? Or do I live in one of the infinite universes where tomorrow everything starts going crazy with ridiculously improbable events happening all the time? You see, there are an infinite number of universes where tomorrow lots of wildly improbable things happen. Like light shining through a skillet. Like Dennis Kucinich being elected president.
What are the odds? Well, infinity divided by infinity. Which could be 100% or infinietely close to zero. Infinite numbers are strange and just don’t lend themselves to probability calculations.
So, as Immanuel Kant taught, that which proves too much proves nothing (Lectures on Logic). It’s a ridiculous theory, because it proves ridiculous things.
And I take great comfort in this — because I can’t imagine living in an existence with infinite Paris Hiltons.