By Matt Lefebvre

This post is a continuation of the teleological argument. Please see Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5 if you have not read them yet.

To read along with audio for this article, click here Teleo-Part6

Objections to the Second Premise

What seems to be the most popular way to explain the fine-tuning of the universe, without reference to design, is to postulate a multi-verse, or world ensemble, in which there are an innumerable number of universes with different values and constants.  This is offered as an explanation of the fine-tuning, because if there are an extreme amount of possibilities, the thought is that there is bound to be at least one universe with the right attributes to support life.  First of all, it should be pointed out that this alternate explanation indirectly attests to the strength of the evidence for fine-tuning.  William Lane Craig articulates this well.

“The very fact that detractors of design have to resort to such a remarkable hypothesis underlines the point that cosmic fine-tuning is not explicable in terms of physical necessity alone or in terms of sheer chance in the absence of a World Ensemble.” (In God and Design, p.171).

That being said, the reason for this theory arising does not make it incorrect.  However, it should be pointed out that there are reasons both to doubt its explanatory power and even to think that it would not be detrimental to the design hypothesis.  First, the Many-Worlds Hypothesis, as it is also called, is no less metaphysical and no more scientific than the hypothesis of a cosmic designer.  “People try to trick out a ‘many universe’ account in sort of pseudo-scientific terms, but that is pseudo-science.  It is a metaphysical guess that there might be many universes with different laws and circumstances.” (John Polkinghorne, Serious Talk: Science and Religion in Dialogue, p.6).  If you think about it, both explanations are outside of our universe, and are thus unobservable directly.  Being unobservable does not make something unscientific or unsatisfactory as an explanation, but it must be understood that these two explanations are on the same level in this respect.  Fine-tuning could be cited as evidence for multiple universes, but the same goes for the design hypothesis.  The difference is that with design, there are also other arguments for God’s existence, who could certainly be the designer, as this series of articles is intending to represent by way of the cumulative case method.

Second, according to the principle of Ockham’s razor, causes should not be multiplied beyond what is necessary to explain the effect (William Lane Craig, in God and Design, p.171).  Whereas the design hypothesis postulates one cosmic designer, the many-worlds hypothesis postulates an infinite (in the sense of a very large number) amount of universes.  All things being equal, which they would be in the absence of independent evidence of the existence of other universes, the simplest explanation is to be preferred.

Third, the world ensemble still needs explanation in terms of its beginning.  Just as one universe needs to be explained through the framework of current cosmology as shown in the cosmological argument, many universes would also have to be explained.  For instance, how would the multiverse come to be in the first place?  Instead of solving the problem, it multiplies it!

Fourth, the hope of the multiverse in explaining fine-tuning is that there are many universes, so innumerable that at least one of them would have to be able to support life, if not more.  However, what basis do we have for suggesting that a multiverse would include so many worlds?  There could be an infinite (very big) number, but there could also be two, more like a bi-verse, or maybe even a tri-verse.  This would not help much in terms of multiplying the probabilistic resources to make chance an adequate explanation.  So, this reveals that the multiverse can be seen as an attempt to avoid fine-tuning and the apparent theistic implications.

Fifth, as Norman Geisler and Frank Turek observe, “…the Multiple Universe Theory is so broad that any event can be explained away by it.” (I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, p.107).  This was also what Dembski was getting at in terms of eliminating chance as a plausible explanation.  He rightly brings attention to the fact that the multiverse is an attempt to multiply probabilistic resources to make chance more plausible, but in the process, they lose sight of what constitutes the best explanation in any given situation.

“Now the problem with unlimited probabilistic resources is that they allow us to explain absolutely everything by reference to chance – not just natural objects that actually did result by chance and not just natural objects that look designed, but also all artificial objects that are in fact designed.”

“Unlimited probabilistic resources ensure not only that we will never know, but also that we have no rational basis for preferring one to the other.” (In God and Design, p.263).

In multiplying probabilistic resources, you could postulate that I am not really designing this article, but that by chance, I am randomly hitting keys, and because you and I happen to be in the right universe where this happens, my chance writing is actually intelligible (or at least I hope so).  To bring back the firing squad, your survival of the shots fired could be explained by the fact that in some universe, it was bound to happen, but this would not be an intellectually satisfying answer in this case.

Sixth, the argument against the theory of everything and physical necessity as an explanation for the fine-tuning applies also against the multiverse as well.  The world ensemble would require initial conditions by which to make these different universes, ours included.  Far from taking away the possibility of a designer, it multiplies the need for a designer, powerful enough to create multitudes of universes and not just one!

Seventh, though some might want to position the design hypothesis as the opposition to the multiverse hypothesis, what would stop God from creating by way of a multiverse instead of merely a universe?  If the amount of space humans occupy in the vast cosmos is any indication, it seems as though God could be well within His creative rights to create a multitude of universes, including the one we happen to inhabit.  Alister McGrath, though considering the multiverse hypothesis currently speculative, has this to say about its theistic implications:

“…it seems that substantially the same arguments can be brought to bear for the existence of God in the case of a multiverse as in the case of a universe, with the multiverse hypothesis being consistent with, not the intellectual defeater of, a theistic understanding of God.” (A Fine-Tuned Universe, p.124).

Having looked at alternate explanations for the fine-tuning of the universe, I find them inadequate to explain such a momentous occasion as the existence of life such as ourselves in this little place called Earth.  As I am sure you have already understood, I personally think that the design hypothesis offers the best explanation, so it is to this that I will turn.  To make the transition, I would like to quote from one of my major sources for examples of fine-tuning, The Privileged Planet.  Most of the book was devoted to questions of how our place in the universe is designed for life and discovery, but design was really not a main theme in the book and theology was not even a theme at all.  However, near the end of the book, there is one page entitled “Moving From Design To Theology” and after presenting their view of the most likely designer being God, they had this to add:

“We mention this not because of some irrepressible compulsion to inject theology into science but merely to point out that those who oppose design have already done so, and done so rather poorly at that.” (The Privileged Planet, p.330).

Click here to see part 7 of the article

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