In a 2005 New York Times op-ed, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, accused scientists of concocting the idea of a multiverse specifically “to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science.” Since then, a handful of other prominent Christian thinkers have also argued that multiverse theory is motivated by a refusal to accept evidence of god’s handiwork in the cosmos. Evangelical philosopher and Discovery Institute fellow William Lane Craig has called the idea an act of “desperation” on the part of atheist scientists. And Canadian journalist Denyse O’Leary, an ally of the intelligent design movement who is writing a book about cosmology, also asserts that “religious or anti-religious motives dominate the discussion” among scientists developing multiverse models.Yes. Now I remember why we had to pledge allegiance to the devil in every cosmology course in grad school. Fortunately, the article includes some reasonable views on the matter:
Don Page, an evangelical and theoretical physicist at the University of Alberta, gave a presentation entitled “Does God Love the Multiverse?” (mp3 | PDF), explaining to a mostly religious audience how multiverse models arose out of key questions in particle physics, string theory, and cosmic inflation — not in order to avoid evidence of design in the cosmos. Page insists that undercutting one argument for god does not defeat the whole case for divine creation. “The multiverse is not an alternative to design by god,” he says. “God could have designed the whole thing.”Don Page's presentation and his last point seems quite reasonable - even though the title of his talk is quite unfortunate. I know Page was not making this point, but I certainly started thinking, what about God's love for thermodynamics? Plate tectonics? Formation of the Moon by an impact from a Mars-sized body? Electronic Degeneracy in white dwarfs? The spin-flip transition in hydrogen (oh God gotta love that)? Aether (oh - wait. God loved it only for a limited period of time)? The point is that these are scientific questions decided by science. And it is not just a matter of scale and importance. After all, the debate over Big Bang model and Steady State cosmology was more or less settled by observational evidence (cosmic microwave background radiation) - not from any religious input.
In fact, if we look back to mid-twentieth century, perhaps, the best perspective on this issues is provided by the Belgian Catholic priest and cosmologist Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966) - also one of the founders of the idea of the Big Bang cosmology. Here is a bit from American Museum of Natural History:
A year later, Lemaître explored the logical consequences of an expanding universe and boldly proposed that it must have originated at a finite point in time. If the universe is expanding, he reasoned, it was smaller in the past, and extrapolation back in time should lead to an epoch when all the matter in the universe was packed together in an extremely dense state. Appealing to the new quantum theory of matter, Lemaître argued that the physical universe was initially a single particle—the “primeval atom” as he called it—which disintegrated in an explosion, giving rise to space and time and the expansion of the universe that continues to this day. This idea marked the birth of what we now know as Big Bang cosmology.
It is tempting to think that Lemaître’s deeply-held religious beliefs might have led him to the notion of a beginning of time. After all, the Judeo-Christian tradition had propagated a similar idea for millennia. Yet Lemaître clearly insisted that there was neither a connection nor a conflict between his religion and his science. Rather he kept them entirely separate, treating them as different, parallel interpretations of the world, both of which he believed with personal conviction. Indeed, when Pope Pius XII referred to the new theory of the origin of the universe as a scientific validation of the Catholic faith, Lemaître was rather alarmed. Delicately, for that was his way, he tried to separate the two:
“As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being… For the believer, it removes any attempt at familiarity with God… It is consonant with Isaiah speaking of the hidden God, hidden even in the beginning of the universe.”
The same is now true for the Multiverse theory. Some (justifiably) point to its highly speculative nature. But this is precisely why it is not yet considered an accepted idea of science, unlike the Big Bang cosmology, formation of the solar system, etc. By the way, there is no shortage of highly speculative ideas. For example, Variable Speed of Light (VSL) theory, the Brane cosmology, Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) - just to name a few in cosmology. But acceptance or rejection of these ideas will only come from science. What about Multiverse theory being untestable? Well...that is one of the major reasons it is not completely accepted and cosmologists are trying to come up with testable predictions.
Read the full article by Nathan Schneider here.