To avoid the force of the finely tuned universe argument, many people have argued that there must be so many universes that, by sheer luck, eventually the dice must roll in a way that life could occur — and even more so — enough universes would be created capable of producing life that the extremely long odds in favor of life arising randomly would be inevitable.
And mathematically it’s true that, no matter how improbable an event is, if the odds of it happening are greater than zero, and if you roll the dice enough times, it will certainly happen.
But how many rolls of the dice would be required? Well, as you see in the prior post, the tolerances are so fine that there’d have to be many, many more universes than there are atoms in our universe. That wouldn’t be nearly enough, but it’s enough of an example to give you a sense of the absurdity of the claim.
Now, I should first note that the multiverse theory is not science because it’s not testable. There is no experiment possible to test whether there are universes outside of this one — science fiction and “Fringe” notwithstanding.
Here’s my argument against this speculation based on what I know as a mathematician.
You can prove a lot with an infinity 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 so I’m using the Excel/Lotus 1-2-3 symbol.) 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. And physicists can figure the odds of some very strange things happening.
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 a universe where none of these crazy things happen? Or do I live in one of the infinite number of 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 infinitely 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.
By the way, the first time I posted this, I followed the post with several dozen pictures of Paris Hilton — and the first comment was by … Paris Hilton.
I thought it was a hoax, but I checked the source of the email address, and it was an ISP near Beverly Hills, California. And, sorry, but blogger/reader confidentiality bars me from giving away her email address.