Why the Multiverse Theory is Wrong

multiverse.jpgI’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.

Scary, huh?

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.

Hmm …

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.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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21 Responses to Why the Multiverse Theory is Wrong

  1. paris hilton says:

    Maybe if you had a better picture of me you'd think differently.

  2. Alan says:

    I could have done without the mental picture of an infinite number of Paris Hilton's. ;-)

    I also find it a bit of a stretch to specify the odds of certain physical constants being as they are, compared to all the other values we imagine they might be. We really have no idea what the odds are for alternate values of those constants — or whether there are any possible alternate values (since we cannot point to any alternate universes where those constants have different values). And when we consider multiple constants, we have no idea whether or not they are independent variables, or whether instead there are only certain combinations that are possible… nor whether each of those combinations is equally probable. Bottom line it is an exercise in fantasy rather than science.

    But the sheer number of things that have to be precisely as they are is a powerful evidence for a designer.

  3. Tim Archer says:

    That was infinitely interesting…

    …and a very good point.

    Thanks Jay!

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  5. andy says:

    Interesting, and arguably an effective rebuttal of the full multiverse theory, but I don't find it much of an argument FOR intelligent design. The reason is that for all it's difficulty, I see no other model of time and space except as infinite. For all we know the big bang HAS happend millions and billions of time, and what do you know, the monkeys did finally pound out the entire works of Shakesphere.

    At best I think you're argument leaves us back at "I don't know."

  6. Jay Guin says:

    Andy,

    It is, of course, only piece of the argument, but a piece that I've not seen anyone else argue.

    Now, re an infinite universe, Einstein's General Theory of Relativity predicts a finite universe, and observation agrees. In fact, it's hard to see how it could be much bigger than about 2 x 13.8 billion light years, as that's as far as the Big Bang could have flung material in that period of time.

    The idea that the universe has expanded and contracted many times, once a popular theory, has been rejected by most cosmologists. There's no evidence of a succession of big bangs with intervening big crunches.

    In fact, Big Bang theory has the universe starting within the Heisenberg uncertainty of a singularity — about 10^(-32)cm (going from memory) — that is, much smaller than an atom or anything measurable. We just came into existence out of nothing.

    If the universe were to collapse back in on itself, it would surely reverse course and turn back into nothing. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/….

    In other words, if we alternate big bangs and big crunches, then we started with a big crunch, not from a singularity (or a near-singularity) and all Big Bang theory is wrong — which is possible but there's no evidence.

    Thus, the only way the "universe" could be infinite would be for some super-universe containing this universe to be infinite. Which is, of course, possible. It's just that there's no evidence for such a thing — other than our own very improbable reality.

    In the absence of evidence, belief in an infinite super-universe or multi-verse is sheer faith. It is, of course, the only real alternative to a theistic faith, but one's choice should be based on evidence, not presupposition. Hence, the question becomes whether there is more evidence for God or more evidence for a multiverse.

  7. Michael says:

    If you say there is an infinite number of times it will not happen you would be correct but you are wrong in the sense that it will never happen no matter the chances no matter how many zeros in that chance it is a chance and the chance will happen if given the odds no matter how small the odds are. Also there are more atoms in the universe than you think. There are millions of atoms in the head of a ball point pen. If you add all the atoms in the world you will find the number far greater than what you believe there to be in the universe.

  8. Jay Guin says:

    Michael,

    Actually, if you get infinite rolls of the dice, anything that is possible, no matter how remote, will happen — an infinite number of times.

    My count on the number of atoms in the universe is as accurate as can be figured. I think you underestimate how big 10^80 is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe

  9. Jay Guin says:

    Michael,

    Actually, if you get infinite rolls of the dice, anything that is possible, no matter how remote, will happen — an infinite number of times.

    My count on the number of atoms in the universe is as accurate as can be figured. I think you underestimate how big 10^80 is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe

  10. Jay Guin says:

    Michael,

    If you you have infinite rolls of the dice, then anything that's possible, no matter how remote, will happen — an infinite number of times.

    10^80 is a fair estimate for the number of atoms in the universe. That's 10 followed by 80 zeroes — a very large number. The proof is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observable_universe

  11. aVoN says:

    Just because you can't imagine this does not mean it's impossible.

    One principal in physics is: Everything which is not explicitly forbidden will happen. To avoid the issue for finding the "intelligence" who designed our universe is by simply following upper principal. This only inducts that we need a great (probably infinite but mainly great) amount of different constallations of universes.
    This is more satisfying than telling "someone made our universe but we don't know why,who,how and for what reason".

  12. Jay Guin says:

    aVoN wrote,

    One principal in physics is: Everything which is not explicitly forbidden will happen.

    Actually, that's not a physics principle, because it's not even true. It is true if there are infinite opportunities, but we live in a universe that is
    spatially and temporally finite. The best science out there tells us that there won't be infinite rolls of the dice in this universe. Entropy will shut it all down in finite time.

    To avoid the issue for finding the “intelligence” who designed our universe is by simply following upper principal. This only inducts that we need a great (probably infinite but mainly great) amount of different constallations of universes.

    But this requires an ad hoc assumption that there are infinite universes, an assumption for which there is no evidence.

    This is more satisfying than telling “someone made our universe but we don’t know why,who,how and for what reason”.

    You are making a strawman argument. I'm not arguing that we don't know who the Creator is or why he made the Creation. In fact, I believe the Creator has revealed himself — through his Creation, through his scriptures, and through his Messiah.

    Now, which is the more satisfying explanation is somewhat subjective, but I recommend the lesson of the brilliant Paul Dirac, who wrote,

    It is more important to have beauty in one’s equations than to have them fit experiment … . It seems that if one is working from the point of view of getting beauty in one’s equations, and if one has really a sound insight, one is on a sure line of progress.

    Now, this coming from a world-class physicist, tells us something about what qualifies as satisfying. Which is the more elegant, the more beautiful solution — a divine personality who ignited the Big Bang as an act of will — or infinite universes?

    As noted above, the inelegance of infinite universes is that all possible things will happen and will happen an infinite number of times — leading to truly ludicrous results. The argument thus proceeds by reductio ad absurdum.

    Or as Immanuel Kant wrote, that which proves too much proves nothing.

    Is the multiverse theory impossible? Well, strictly speaking, no. Is it good science? Not at all. Indeed, the natural conclusion from arguments made above is that it's entirely unfalsifiable. Anything that happens is, of course, possible, and if possible, inevitable in a multiverse. Therefore, nothing can happen or be discovered that would contradict the theory.

    Indeed, the multiverse theory would even posit that in an infinite universes, a man could rise from the dead — purely by random behavior of his molecules.

    Any theory that makes everything possible isn't science. Of course, anyone may choose to accept the theory on faith. I just don't think you can accept the theory on evidence.

  13. S says:

    I discovered this post while searching the web, and although I'm a little late, I have a couple comments.

    First of all, to me it seems a bit hypocritical to criticize invoking multiverse theory to explain this coincidence when you are doing the same by invoking God or intelligent design.

    More importantly, multiverse theory is not just invoked to explain this coincidence – there is actual physical evidence. There are laws of physics that suggest the existence of multiple universes – for example quantum physics and string theory. So the solution to this coincidence problem is a result of theory, not evidence for it.

    I think you are too quick to judge this as being "bad science" when you are not explaining the full story – especially a theory as complex as this one, which is impossible to explain without using calculus and physics.

    That is just my opinion on this very interesting problem, thanks for letting me post!

  14. Jay Guin says:

    S,

    There's nothing hypocritical about pointing out the mathematical — and logical — flaws of a theory. Indeed, the criticism of theories on such grounds in the essence of science.

    As to your second point, I'm more familiar than most with quantum theories and string theory. To my knowledge, neither provides any evidence at all of a multiverse. Manifestly, it's possible to hypothesize such a thing simply by imagining the presence of dimensions beyond the 4 we experience here, but that's mere hypothesis. It's not evidence.

    PS — I majored in mathematics and minored in physics, so it's fine to use those in your response. It'll be nice chatting with someone familiar with those disciplines.

  15. Ben says:

    Jay, why are you concerned with what the chances are that we wind up on this particular planet in this particular universe, that happens to be hospitable to our form of life. What are the chances that this coincidence will only happen once in our reality, one? infinity? Then you wouldn’t be living an infinite number of lives, and regardless of if you were, if your consciousness was in this life/reality what’s the problem? We’re here because our form of life cannot exist anywhere else; 2+2=4, 2+2 cannot equal five, no one could wind up anywhere else non-hospitable to our form of life because they would not be able to be born there, if birth was even a necessity. And who’s to say that there isn’t more forms of intelligent life out there that have yet to be found?

  16. Norton says:

    Jay
    Something I read here is somewhat disconcerting for me. I have been reading these blogs for a couple of years and asking myself why I agree with almost everything this guy Jay Guin writes. I was almost convinced that it was because we are both right about everything. Here, I read you majored in math and minored in physics the same as I did. I now have to adjust to the thought that we may not be right about everything, but maybe just think the same way. Kind of joking, but kind of serious.

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Norton,

    There are math majors who think I’m nuts — so it’s more than that.

  18. Norton says:

    There is some comfort to that as long as its not the same ones who think I’m nuts.

  19. Hamzah says:

    Good article Jay, it really points out how an infinite amount of Universes leads to contradictions. I would like to point out however that you cannot have an infinite amount of Universes for a philosophical reasons. There is a rule which is that you cannot have an infinite amount of finite things/events. If we apply this rule to matter and energy we find out that they are both finite as both matter and energy change forms and remain in each form for a finite amount of time. If matter didn’t change form we would still be in a singularity today. We can also observe matter changing form such as ice melting into water. We can also see this on the cosmic scale as we went from a singularity to a Universe with galaxies containing stars,planets,moons, asteroids and comets which are all different forms of matter. This all shows that matter is finite in its existence as you cannot have an infinite amount of finite things which means that even the singularity would have to have been created. The same applies for energy as you cannot have an infinite amount of finite changes in forms of energy. So energy is also created (although this goes against the law of conservation of energy as energy cannot be created nor destroyed). Since matter is finite then our Universe must be finite in its existence as the evidence agrees with. Since you have a finite Universe in the multiverse it is impossible to have an infinite amount of Unvierses as each Universe in the multiverse would have to have existed forever. Matter,as I have demonstrated does not show any properties of infinite existence. Also the other Universes would also be made up of matter but since matter is finite in its existence these other Universes would need to be finite in their existence. This article as well as my argument have logically ruled out an infinite amount of Unvierses in the multiverse. My argument has also logically ruled out infinitely existing Universes. However, both of our articles have not logically ruled out the possibility of other Universes.I can however say with confidence that each Universe would have to be finite in existence and that there would have to be a finite amount of Universes in the multiverse if it exists. Also I can go on further with my argument by saying that time is finite as time is the measure of change. If time is infinite then there would have to be an infinite amount of changes between two periods of time such as today and yesterday. However, if this is the case then we would never reach this point in time (today). Space is also finite as space is the distance between two pieces of matter. If matter didn’t exist there would be no space there would just be a vacuum or in other words nothing. So something that does not need matter,time,space or energy to exist created the Universe (or the mutlvierse). Therefore, it would need to be timeless,immaterial,infinitely existing,unchanging (in its structure),inspacial or in other words omnipresent and be extremely powerful as it created the Universe or multiverse with no energy or had created energy itself with no energy and then created the Universe or multiverse. This seems to point towards the God of religious scripture as we know something cannot come from nothing (in the sense of non being not a quantum vacuum as physicists such as Lawrance Krauss try to redefine the word “nothing”). Basic mathematics tells us when you have nothing (0) and nothing (0) no matter what you do (add,subtract,multiply or divide) you will always get nothing (0). We also know that mathematics works in reality so it is very reliable. Even the quantum vacuum must be finite in its existence as even Krauss says “nothing is unstable” (the “nothing” is the quantum vacuum). This means that the quantum vacuum must have been created a finite amount of time ago due to it being unstable. So Krauss has failed to answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing the only way seems to be a supernatural way. It is logical to think that if nature is finite in its existence it must have come from something supernatural. Other properties of God such as seeing the future and being loving and peaceful are demonstrated in Near Death experiences in which some patients are actually clinically dead as well as brain dead. All the top researches seem to conclude that these are real experiences and that the afterlife is real. People who have NDE’s also describe God being a sort of spirit not something physical like the image of a man which atheists mistake. A supernatural spirit fits the criteria for the creator of the Universe or multiverse. It is also described as loving and peaceful by many people who were clinically dead and brain dead who have had NDE’s. They even say the feel more alive than ever and lose fear of dying. The evidence as well as philosophical reasoning points to a God in my opinion however, near death experiences are a long topic to discuss as well as the existence of God. All the evidence as well as philosophical reasoning seem to suggest to me that a God exists. By the way this is only the begenning of what I would like to comment but I think I have said enough for a comment. I would also like you to know that I am 16, coming up 17 year old boy who has never taken a philosophy class. I just have a genuine interest in the big questions especially the question “Does God exist?”. To anyone who has read my entire comment I thank you.

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