God of the Details

I found this abstract in the Astrophysics section of arXiv, Cornell University’s archive of science articles published in academic periodicals. It reads, in it’s entirety, “This brief note, written for non-specialists, aims at drawing an introductive overview of the multiverse issue.”

That has to be the record for the shortest, least informative abstract ever. Well, maybe not. Some of them are pretty uninformative.

Rare is the article in any academic journal written for the layperson, so I just had to read this one. The abstract links to a pdf, which is fully downloadable for you to enjoy (and what a resource aiXiv is!).

The article itself tries to explain the concept of “the Multiverse” – the universe of universes amongst which we inhabit one specific instance. Got that? It tries to explain that the question “Why is the universe the way it is?” can be answered with “Because it is. We find ourselves in this particular universe because we find ourselves in this particular universe.”

It goes on to explain (using a surprising amount of academic and physics jargon for an article meant for the layperson) that we can’t be in just any universe, characterized by just any set of physical laws and constants. So it stands to reason that we find ourselves in a rather improbable place, where we can exist.

My first reaction to this argument is “Please tell something I don’t know”. But really, that’s the wrong reaction to have. The concept of the multiverse may be a desperate attempt to explain what we can see (as limited as it is) about the cosmos, and to avoid circular reasoning. But actually does have the capability of saying something that wasn’t known earlier. It’s a subtle thing, but when we talk about collections like this, we can say something verifiable about the statistics of the collection, which always gets reflected in the real universe we live in. Right now there’s no clear way of getting statistics – real numbers – that we can match to our observations, but in theory it can be done. So the idea deserves some respect as science.

What I can’t buy (and really, the article to which I linked avoids this like the plague) is the idea that the concept of the multiverse and the statistical nature of the physics it produces in any way removes the concept of God. Does this go back to Newton? “I have no need of God, only reason”? This particular model of the universe, indeed much of physics today, looks to me like the the explanation of what’s holding up the world in the middle ages. Atlas is standing on the back of an elephant. The elephant is on the back of a turtle. What’s the turtle stand on?

“It’s turtles, all the way down.”

God isn’t hiding in the details any more, in physics. He’s everywhere, and science now has a universe of universes to search through to find him. Too bad it’s the wrong place to look – physicists should try looking within.

Explore posts in the same categories: Astronomy, Catholism

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