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Multiverse in the Mind of God

Multiverse in the Mind of God

by Mike Duran · 35 comments

multiverseIt’s been suggested that theoretical physics could become the next battleground for believers. Most of the “battle” surrounds multiverse theory and whether or not the idea of untold possible realities undermines traditional biblical theology. Some have accused scientists of concocting the idea of a multiverse specifically “to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science.” Evangelical philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig has even called the idea an act of “desperation” on the part of atheist scientists.

In a recent article in Aeon magazine entitled Parallel Worlds, novelist Andrew Crumey explores the history of multiverse theory. The subtitle for his piece – If human history turns on the tilt of the multiverse, can we still trust our ideas of achievement, progress and morality? — reveals the implications such a theory would have upon a broad range of beliefs and advances. Theology is just one field forced to grapple with the possible ramifications of multiverse theory.

While some atheists have extrapolated mutiverse theory with the intent to undermine Christian cosmology, Crumey points out that not all believers saw the multiverse as antithetical to a biblical worldview

In the 17th century, the mathematician and philosopher Gottfried von Leibniz introduced a new kind of multiverse. He was intrigued by the way that so many natural processes appear ‘optimised’— soap bubbles minimise surface area by being spherical; light beams take the quickest route through space. Detecting the work of a divine hand, Leibniz proposed that the universe is optimised in every detail by God... that we live in the best of all possible worlds. Applying the theory to the problem of why evil exists, Leibniz gave it graphic form, as a pyramid, infinite and many-roomed, in each of which is a possible world. At the pyramid’s peak is the one true world we inhabit. Leibniz modelled the various possible lives of the notorious Sextus Tarquinius, speculating that in most rooms Sextus leads a virtuous life, but in the highest he rapes Lucretia and is banished. Why is that the best of possible worlds? Because his banishment leads to the founding of the Roman Republic: an evil act produces a greater good. Or, as optimists say nowadays when trying to come to terms with disaster, everything happens for a reason.

Unlike Democritus (who was an atheist), Leibniz insisted that the possible worlds exist purely in the mind of God, who selects one of them for true existence. Like a hologram, his universe is projected by God into every mind and made consistent by a ‘principle of harmony’. What makes it authentic is God’s benevolence: he wouldn’t play the nasty trick of making us believe in the reality of a false world. That scenario would be left for much later writers to contemplate, in darkly sinister films such as The Truman Show (1998) and The Matrix (1999). (bold mine)

If the human will is truly free, then the rape of Lucretia must be “possible.” As must the “possibility” that Sextus remains virtuous. Whether it is divine coercion or simply God’s foreknowledge of human events, the possibility for either must exist, if only in the mind of God.

So perhaps then multiverse theory is not as antithetical to theology as many suggest. Nathan Schneider, author of the recent release God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet, wrote in Seed magazine about “the growing credibility of multiverse theory” among Christian academies:

Among the scientists and theologians focused on the theological consequences of multiverse theory, many of them believe that it actually expands the job description for god. Last March, a conference on the theological implications of string theory and multiverse theory was held by the physics department of Wheaton, an evangelical Christian college in Illinois. 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.” (bold mine)

I read once about a church father who was asked, “Where was God before He created the universe?” to which the theologian replied, “He was in Himself.” As C.S. Lewis once suggested, rather than think of God as existing in the universe, it is more accurate to think of the universe as existing in God.

Thus, if there are other possible universes, they must exist in the mind of God.

It opens the door for fascinating philosophical and religious conjecture, and the idea that multiple possible universes may not be as hostile to traditional theology as once thought.

What do you think? How does multiverse theory mesh with biblical theology? Or can it?

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

billgncs September 3, 2013 at 6:55 AM

it seems to be the place that makes his existence more plausible, not up in the heavens, but in another dimension.

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Rick Barry September 3, 2013 at 7:20 AM

I once touched upon this line of thought in a series of short stories I wrote for Breakaway magazine and am now preparing a novel proposal based on the concept. If some day we learn that there is more than one facet of reality, then it will be there because our Lord created it. For the present, though, discussion concerning the possibility seems little more than an intellectual exercise, an elevated game of “What if…?”

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Luther September 3, 2013 at 7:47 AM

Contingencies, contingencies, contingencies. If I do this then this may happen and if I don’t then this may happen. Even viewing God’s foreknowledge as a ” looking down the corridors of time ” concept, God still knows perfectly and immutabily what will happen.

If there truly are multiple universes then they occur only in the mind of God as He created the one in which we now exist and history is unfolding according to His purpose in accordance with the counsel of his own will. Most acts in history, from the mundane to the extraordinary, are not necessary. That is they could just as well not have happened but nothing that does happen is outside the Providence of God.

I believe Tim Keller said, ” if there is a God big enoughto blame for evil, there is a God big enough to have a reason for it. “

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Shakim Allah December 4, 2013 at 1:14 PM

and WHAT would that reason BE, since nothing happens against HIS wishes, WHY did he need to create evil?

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Thea van Diepen December 4, 2013 at 1:23 PM

I wouldn’t agree with the claim that nothing happens against his wishes. While I understand that, from a Muslim point of view (which I gather you’re coming from), everything happens because God has willed it to happen. Some Christians would agree with you, but not all, including myself. God gave human beings free will, which means we have the ability to make our own choices, even choices that go against the desires of God. Evil, then, isn’t something that God created but, rather, a result of the decisions human beings have made that go against the desires of God.

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Shakim Allah December 4, 2013 at 1:35 PM

well first, this response wasnt for YOU, why defend a position YOU don’t hold? the wroter I responded to, clearly believes such. now, being said that, I find ur assumption funny, no, I’m no religious person, I question muslims as I question Jews n Christians, all u saw was my screen name n u jumped to a conclusion, great detective work. next u say God DIDNT create evil? what kind of Christian denies their own God’s words? ISAIAH 45:7 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”
besides scripture tho, its common sense if ur God created EVERYTHING, evil is included lol.. Meaning a human can’t perform an act of GOOD or EVIL, if the act wasn’t created by the human’s creator. OMNISCIENCE also proves your God is to blame, not his creations, if u knew FOR SURE, ur child was get by a car, would u send them to play in this street? even tho u warned them about traffic?
Hmmmmmmm

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D.M. Dutcher September 3, 2013 at 8:02 AM

Someone explained to me a while back that Christian multiverse theory isn’t about what we think of as a multiverse, the quantum mechanics “many worlds” theory. Instead, it’s what the wiki calls a level 1 multiverse; different areas of our own, single universe have different physical parameters. These explain why certain aspects of physics don’t mesh with the state of the universe, and still remain empirically testable. I’m not sure how it affects theology; it might make the idea of our universe being fine tuned for life a lot more plausible, but to understand it would require being familiar with string theory and other advanced forms of theoretical physics.

Most of that stuff is so theoretical and counter intuitive that I’m not sure it will ever break out beyond theoretical physicists and science groupies. If even that multiverse exists, it’s beyond the observable limit we can perceive, and wilder types of them would be undetectable with no chance of verification.

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Thea van Diepen September 3, 2013 at 8:14 AM

I think a multiverse is rather unnecessary, just like I think that multiple gods are unnecessary. If we apply Occam’s razor to the evidence, is the simplest explanation really a multiverse, or is this simply people trying to grapple with the question of good and evil, and why there would be suffering in a world created by a perfect God.

Granted, I don’t know the science that they’re extrapolating all of this from but, at the same time, if a theory can’t be falsified, then it is outside the realm of science. Can this multiverse theory be falsified? I highly doubt it.

This isn’t to say that the idea of a multiverse makes very interesting fiction. Because it really, really does. :D

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Janet September 3, 2013 at 8:44 AM

Dear Mike,
pretty challenging topic for the morning after a long weekend. :-D

The metaphysical question of Multiverses (it is not really a scientist question) are fun to think about and I have enjoyed seeing the concept enjoyed in a few movies – Sliding Doors comes to mind, an older movie, but there have been others. However, it seems that secular scientists use the question of multiverses to move away from the idea that human beings are the purpose of creation – again, more of a religious idea they are fighting against than a scientist one.

I think Christian Philosophers Alvin Plantinga’s and William Lane Craig’s questions have put things in perspective for me. Multiverse theory was predicated on the foundation of the secular scientific concept of random chance creation of the universe. But as even secular scientists have come to accept design, or ‘fine tuning’ in the universe, they are still against a God who designed the universe. Craig and Plantinga when asked about multiverses ask, why would God create this universe in such a rational manner and then another universe in a different way – irrational?
Would God do this?
If God is a rational person, then wouldn’t all His creations be rational? Would He have the sun come up every day in the West each day in our universe, but in the next universe in the East and in the next the South, or randomly through each month?
Would the laws in creation that allow for life to exist on earth, could they be different in another universe and still create life?
As Craig states, the probability of our planet and our universe existing is extremely low, so what is the probability of other multiverses where non carbon-based life is possible? Secular scientists suggest it is. I think it isn’t probable.

But the whole idea of a multiverse is interesting. But I like how it is applied in movies like Sliding Doors. It is our actions that create the multiverse. There are a multitude of ways our universe can exist in a given moment based on the actions of all people on earth, God’s actions and the changes in the earth and the universe. I could have lived a multitude of lives depending on my actions, but due to my choices, (and others’ choices in their lives), this is how the universe is today, at this moment.

It may be there are other universes in the mind of God. Because we are made in His image, perhaps this is why we can imagine other universes. But it may be that He only actualized this universe (spoke it into existence) and the others are only ideas.

Have a great day!

In Christ,
Janet

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Janet September 3, 2013 at 8:47 AM

edit: :-) enjoyed seeing the concept employed in a few movies

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Janet September 3, 2013 at 11:14 AM

ps. even in the newer movie Another Earth (2011) – it is an identical universe.

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E. September 3, 2013 at 10:27 AM

Great post!

If there is a multiverse, it was ordered by God to begin with. It makes for a great sci-fi book though.

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Rick Barry September 3, 2013 at 11:23 AM

I agree, E. Since I’ve recently finished revising such a tale, I hope to find an agent or editor who agrees. ;)

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Tim George September 3, 2013 at 12:10 PM

As a long-time fan of speculative shows and stories like X-Files and more recently, Fringe, I find great entertainment in the alternate universe genre. At the same, time I have read a good deal about String theory and quantum mechanics on which all serious acceptance of such things rest and find it all a bit pseudo-science. None of it can be replicated or proven with with any accepted scientific method. Therefore, it at best remains interesting and nothing more. Einstein was once asked to give a popular explanation of relativity to which he replied, “There are only three people on earth which can explain it of which I am not one of them.”

I do find this striving to prove ultimate unlimited human free will through multiple realities a bit of a stretch. If there are multiple realities of human free will then there must be at least one where prophecy went unfulfilled due to man’s control through that will.

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Tim George September 3, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Janet September 3, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Brooks’ book actually looks really interesting. thanks for posting.

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Jay DiNitto September 3, 2013 at 3:50 PM

The multiverse theory isn’t really scientific since it’s not observable or testable by its definition.

We could only really know of multiverses by revelation, and I think God chose to be silent on the issue but we could induce it from what we know already from revelatory knowledge.

I actually wrote a post on this a few years ago, coming at the idea from a moral depravity angle. I embedded some videos of philosopher Alvin Plantinga discussing the idea:
http://www.jaydinitto.com/the-problem-of-anvils/

But as always, God can override what we think we conclude.

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Robert H. Woodman September 3, 2013 at 7:04 PM

The multiverse hypothesis (IMHO “theory” offers more than the multiverse concept can deliver) doesn’t weaken any argument for the existence of God except the fine-tuning argument, and it weakens only portions of the fine-tuning argument, while strengthening others. For example, recent experimental data on the Higgs boson coming out of the Large Hadron Collider in Europe strengthen the argument that the universe is not natural, i.e., that it shouldn’t exist. Some physicists speculate that within the “foam” in which all bubble universes exist, our universe arose by chance; however, since the bubble universes in the foam, and, indeed, the foam itself are inaccessible and unobservable, one could speculate that a universe arose by chance in which the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox are the two best baseball teams in the world every year, and always battle in the World Series.

Dr. Jeff Zweerink, an astrophysicist who works for the Christian parachurch ministry “Reasons to Believe” has written an excellent series of articles on the multiverse, how it should be understood, and how Christians should respond to it. The link below will get you started, if you are interested:

http://www.reasons.org/rtb-101/multiverse

My problem with the multiverse is similar to one several have voiced: the multiverse is not observable or testable. (To be fair, the level 1 multiverse is observable and testable, just not with current technology, but levels 2-4 are absolutely not observable and testable by any technological means we can think or imagine.) I don’t find that the multiverse on its own contradicts the Bible or upsets my faith.

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Shakim Allah December 4, 2013 at 1:12 PM

how can a God (a being) create something that always existed?
if that’s in doubt, you would have to explain (1) How god created space, meaning WHERE was HE before space existed. and (2) How did he create time, which is only a measurement of movement and distance. Good luck with that :-)

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Robert H. Woodman December 4, 2013 at 7:17 PM

Did you read the link in my comment? If you didn’t, then you’re just trolling, whatever else you might intend.

Also, if you’ve studied the multiverse hypothesis, a few things should stand out:

a. Physicists (for example, Lawrence M. Krauss) postulate “creation out of nothing,” which is similar to the theology of the Abrahamic religions, except that physicists try to obviate the need for a Deity by postulating that all mass/matter/etc. popped spontaneously into existence from pure energy.

b. The multiverse is purely mathematical, so we have no way of knowing if it any way represents reality.

c. Since each of the separate divisions of multiverse cannot communicate with one another, for the hypothetical inhabitants of a given, specific hypothetical division of the hypothetical multiverse, that specific division is all the reality to which those hypothetical inhabitants have access; therefore, for those inhabitants, that division is their universe.

In other words, our human language really cannot fully grasp or comprehend the complexity of the multiverse, but the best approximation I can given is this: all the (again, hypothetical) divisions of reality beyond our 4 spacetime dimensions are a whole piece. If you want to, you can call it universe; however, these divisions are separate and unable to communicate with one another (hence, unable to be quantified in any way). The limits of each division constitute the boundaries of accessible reality for the inhabitants of that division, but not the limits of all reality. So “universe” consists of everything within the limits of our accessible reality. “Multiverse” consists of every different “universe.” And there is probably something that contains or bounds the “multiverse.”

We can (and I do) criticize the multiverse hypothesis for being not observable, testable, or falsifiable by any means known to us, hence, its scientific soundness is questionable. However, as an astrophysicist pointed out to me recently in an email, almost every reasonable model of creation (without resort to Deity) that physicists have constructed so far consistent with the physical evidence available to us about how this “universe” came into existence requires the formation of “multiple universes”, hence, the “multiverse.” You may not agree with it or like it, but please feel free to knock yourself out constructing a model of creation consistent with the evidence available to us that explains this universe and doesn’t require multiple universes.

I’ve worked 4 consecutive 16 hour days, so don’t hold your breath in anticipation of a response.

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Teddi Deppner September 3, 2013 at 8:43 PM

I’m with the folks that point out the multiverse concept isn’t science, since there’s no empirical evidence.

But if somebody suddenly proved it was true, it wouldn’t bother me. I don’t think the Bible specifically rules out the existence of the multiverse (or even of sentient alien beings, for that matter). I’d almost be surprised if all the potential variations of the universe didn’t exist, because of how awesome and infinite I consider God to be and because I expect He somehow knows all the variations that could exist. But maybe they only exist in His mind, maybe He never spoke them into existence like He did with our reality.

But He could have. The Bible doesn’t specifically say He didn’t. There are a TON of things that aren’t specifically addressed by the Bible that we’ve implied or assumed or extrapolated and then used as an excuse to get riled about. Which is one of the reasons I enjoy science fiction and write it and it doesn’t disturb my faith in the slightest to speculate about such things. However, I try not to spend too much time speculating and don’t place much stock in any of the speculations.

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H.G. Ferguson September 4, 2013 at 5:54 PM

All this discussion is admittedly, way outta my league both as a biblical theologian and a writer. I do recall however an episode of Star Trek TNG that took this concept to ludicrous lengths, i.e., a different universe for every conceivable difference in every single thing. Speculating about this nonsense is as helpful as the Buddhist notion of the Never-Ending Cycle of Samsara, all is illusion. This goes nowhere. The scripture warns us not to be taken captive by philosophies of men — this multiverse stuff smacks more of a philosophical view of things than demonstrable science. We can posit endless multiverses. I can also posit that cats have three legs and two heads. But they don’t. If other worlds do exist — and I personally see no reason why they cannot — they and whatever is in them was created by God, not god, and they exist to Him in a manner as unique to their world as we have in this one. Other worlds may exist, but there isn’t another version of H.G. Ferguson somewhere, because it is appointed to him once to die and after that the judgment. God says so. Parallel worlds where the same people exist side by side with another one is science fantasy. It makes for great fiction, as has been pointed out, but that’s precisely what it is: fiction.

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Andrew Crumey September 5, 2013 at 3:15 AM

Mike, thank you very much for responding to my piece in Aeon. As you say, Leibniz considered “possible worlds” from a specifically theological standpoint, the crucial thing for him being that only one world (ours) is real, being the “best of all possible”. The rest are in the mind of God, and not made actual. By contrast, in Democritus or Blanqui (“level 1″ multiverses in Tegmark’s typology) the standpoint is purely materialist – those people were both atheists.

I would say that some of the theological argument around the multiverse is simply the far older question of “cosmic pluralism”, i.e. the implications of there being other life-bearing worlds, and the question of where this leaves the significance of our own world. This has been widely discussed since the 17th century.

What the multiverse adds is the concept of “another you”, in fact infintely many of them. Leibniz was already thinking about this in his story of Sextus Tarquinius – the man is good in many worlds but in one he rapes Lucretia, and this is ultimately “for the best” because it leads to the founding of the Roman republic. But in Leibniz all those other versions of Sextus Tarquinius are not actual, whereas in a Level 1 multiverse they would be.

We must of course bear in mind that “multiverse” is a very loose term embracing lots of speculative philosophical or scientific ideas, none of which can be considered proved or perhaps even provable (though it cannot be assumed that any scientific multiverse theory is necessarily unprovable). Some would say that this makes all multiverse discussion “theological” to the extent that it is not (at least for the time being) a question of empirical evidence.

Some of my Aeon essay draws on work that I wrote about previously at greater length in a conference talk, “Quantum suicide: Walter Benjamin and the multiverse”, which is online here:

http://www.crumey.toucansurf.com/quantum_suicide.html

For me, the interesting question is not so much whether or not the multiverse is true, but rather what it says about the culture that produces it: how is the idea interpreted, and what does this imply about the values used in making that interpretation. The multiverse is then seen as an historical rather than scientific phenomenon. This question has been implicit in my series of novels which have many-words ideas running through them, the latest being The Secret Knowledge.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Knowledge-Dedalus-Original-Fiction-Paperback/dp/1909232459

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Shakim Allah December 4, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Can somebody please define UNIVERSE for me ???

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Thea van Diepen December 4, 2013 at 12:42 PM

If you’re looking for an actual definition of the word itself, here it is (definition courtesy of Google): “all existing matter and space considered as a whole; the cosmos.”

If you’re just trolling, pretend I didn’t say any of that. :P :)

(If you aren’t trolling, sorry. It was hard to tell.)

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Shakim Allah December 4, 2013 at 12:47 PM

so, if the universe is ALL EXISTING matter and space, how can more than ONE exist?

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Thea van Diepen December 4, 2013 at 12:57 PM

*shrugs* Ask the scientists that come up with the theories.

The word universe can also refer to all existing matter and space in this dimension (so, this plane of reality that we live in? I couldn’t find a clear definition for this use of the word), which would then allow for other universes to exist in different dimensions, all being part of one reality.

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Shakim Allah December 4, 2013 at 1:07 PM

that’s a contradiction of terms lol. pardon but, the full definition of universe is :EVERYTHING that exists, WHETHER OBSERVABLE OR PONDERABLE.
Your explanation falls flat there, ALL encompasses ALL, period. “Ponderable or observable” covers the full spectrum. adding “in THIS dimension” only creates more confusion, as u said Occam’s Razor, or are u supposing ideas you dont really stand behind? There cant be anything outside of everything. imagine trying to calculate beyond 100%, this isn’t trolling, its genuine “fact checking”…

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Thea van Diepen December 4, 2013 at 1:17 PM

I’m not defending the idea of a multiverse (although I do love the use of it in science fiction -it can make for some great stories! :) ).

The meanings of words change over time. This is an established fact. While the word “universe” is generally used to mean everything material and energetic (so, not necessarily spiritual), there is another use for it that has been emerging, and which means more along the lines of all of the stars, galaxies, etc, that we have been able to chart and see to the limits of. This was once considered to be the outer edges of all material and energetic reality, but now there are those who think that there are other universes somehow beyond this one that we could never travel to due to their arrangement along dimensions beyond the three that we experience within our universe.

This isn’t to say that reality is, indeed, organized in this manner, just that this is how these terms are being used.

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Shakim Allah December 4, 2013 at 1:24 PM

only thing that keeps changin is YOUR position, IF there was a NEW definition, WHY give me the OLD one, now claim there is a NEW one? that’s deceitful, sorry, where is your PROOF the definition has changed? please present the new, accepted definition u were asked for the first time lol. everything u iust named, falls under ALL MATTER AND SPACE, WHETHER OBSERVABLE OR PONDERABLE, so u proved nothing so farx other than that ur good at semantics. I guess OBSERVABLE and PONDERABLE have new definitioms too.. Strangely, I don’t see u providing evidence for any such claims. I mean seriously, what does observable or ponderable mean?

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Thea van Diepen December 4, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Sir, if I knew that you were asking about a definition for the purpose of later attacking me about a position which I am only explaining but don’t even hold myself, then I wouldn’t have answered. If you are interested in a discussion, then, by all means, let us discuss. But let us leave the verbal barbs out of it.

Also, please don’t use all caps like that. That translates as yelling, and is very rude. If you want to emphasize a word or phrase, a better way of doing it would be to encompass that word or phrase in asterisks *like so*, or to find another way to communicate your intended meaning without the use of emphasis. Either of those methods will be interpreted as far less hostile as what you’re currently doing.

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Shakim Allah December 4, 2013 at 1:48 PM

so now, u tell me what my purpose is, typical christian spin move. I asked for a definition, u gave me the real one, then later claimed there is a new, better one, that strangely u won’t produce the evidence for. If u didn’t pull that, my response would have been different, u can’t make claims without backing them up (the definition for Universe is obsolete, according to YOU), and expect people to take you serious. Far as MY caps, they are for ILLUMINATING key phrases ppl like to gloss over when tbey can’t defend a point, its not me yelling. please don’t attempt to lecture me on debate rules when u break them left and right yourself. How about you deal with my points and stop distracting ;-)

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Robert H. Woodman December 4, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Don’t be surprised if you’re ignored from here on out.

You’re coming across as a boor and a troll. You may be the nicest person in the world, but your online presentation and your subsequent defense of that presentation mark you as another troll.

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Shakim Allah December 4, 2013 at 7:32 PM

you come across rather presumptuous. I asked a question, I was given an answer, then that given answer was said to be outdated, I then requested evidence for the new answer then. I was asking of a “scientific” nature, and a specific question, don’t like being given the run around and called names, especially by those who have yet to emgage me themselves. My question was simple, changing the subject is dishonest. You can see from the first replybi got, she was assuming about my question, if it doesn’t make sense, why cannot I ask for claridication. if asking for evidence, makes me a “troll” in your mind, so be it. My skin is too thick, I care less. Unless you have anything concerning the topic, you can be excused
Your prejudiced opinion has spoken well for you. Shalom Alechum

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Shakim Allah December 4, 2013 at 1:53 PM

you said there is another use for Universe, everything you named, still falls under the original definition, is this not clear to you? I ask because I cannot fathom how people consistently see the “everything that exists” part and skip over “observable or postulated/pondered” its like sayin the universe “was” all that exists, then we found out there’s more stuff here, as if it isn’t already accounted for by the “original” defenition.

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