It almost seems like an anti-Christian conspiracy! Just when God’s existence seems to be proved by the fine-tuning of the universe, someone ‘invents’ the multiverse – a hypothesis that appears to make this finding irrelevant. It reminds me of when the Big Bang was discovered and suddenly cosmology confirmed the biblical teaching that the universe had a beginning. Fred Hoyle (a campaigner for atheism) tried to counter this with the Steady State theory until it was eventually disproved. Now, supporters of atheism are using multiverse theories to support atheism.
OUR FINE-TUNED UNIVERSE
An increasing number of discoveries about fundamental physical constants show just how precisely this universe is suited for life. If gravity were a tiny bit stronger, for example, the universe would contain nothing but black holes, and if it were a tiny bit weaker, no stars or planets could hold together. The tuning is as fine as you can imagine; an extremely small difference (0.000000000000000000 000000000000000000001%) in the gravitational constant would make this universe lifeless. The chance of gravity being exactly right is roughly equal to someone accidentally picking out a particular grain of sand from the whole of our solar system – if every planet in it was made of nothing but sand. You would have to travel to the correct planet, pick the exact spot, and then drill down – perhaps thousands of miles – before selecting this one pre-determined grain.
And gravity isn’t the only constant that needs to be right to this level of accuracy. There is also Planck’s constant, the strong nuclear force, and up to 21 other independent variables (the exact number isn’t certain because some may turn out to be dependent on others).
Cosmologists have recognised the implications just as much as Christians have. Stephen Hawking said: ‘The values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.’ Martin Rees (the UK’s Astronomer Royal) said that the universe appears to be ‘tailor-made for man’. The finding is astounding, but it has not persuaded most cosmologists to acknowledge a creative genius behind the universe because, they argue, ours might be the perfect universe among a countless multitude.
INNUMERABLE PARALLEL UNIVERSES
Multiverse theories propose there are innumerable parallel universes. According to most theories, these are impossible to interact with, so their existence will never be provable or disprovable. But the very fact that they are possible makes our universe much less special. Since the other universes can each have different values for all of the physical constants, the only special thing about our universe is that we inhabit it. And, of course, this universe is where we would expect to be because life can only arise in these particular conditions.
OURS MIGHT BE THE PERFECT UNIVERSE AMONG A COUNTLESS MULTITUDE
Looking in the Bible for a multiverse is futile because ancient Hebrew and Greek had no word for it. If such a word existed, we’d expect to find it in Jeremiah 10:12, which lists God’s domain in increasingly larger terms: ‘God made the land by his power; he founded the planet by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding’ (adapted from the NIV). The largest unit, ‘heavens’, might possibly refer to all stars, including those beyond our vision, though the Hebrew word can’t be stretched to make it include other universes. However, we can’t definitely exclude multiverses from the Bible’s landscape. After all, when we read ‘God created the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1), we normally assume that this is shorthand for ‘everything’.
GOD CONVERSES WITH JOB
God also gives Job some wonderful insights into his creative work, in which he attempts to stretch Job’s understanding. God tells him: ‘I laid the earth’s foundation…marked off its dimensions…shut up the sea behind doors…I fixed limits for it…[gave] orders to the morning…[and showed] the dawn its place’ (Job 38:4-12). If Job had spoken modern English, God might have put it like this: ‘I fixed gravity to set the earth in orbit, measured the nuclear force to make a planet the right size, gave the moon enough mass to make tides, and set dawn’s light at the right speed and luminosity.’ This remarkable text gets very close to describing how God fine-tuned the universe.
So are supporters of atheism correct to conclude that multiverse theories exclude the existence of a creator? Surprisingly, it is the reverse: it turns out that a multiverse must contain a creator. Most multiverse theories entail an infinite or near-infinite number of possible types of universe, and in modern philosophy it is generally accepted that any infinite group must include every possible type of member of that group. So an infinite number of universes must contain, somewhere, every possible type of thing or being that can exist. This includes a super-being that is himself able to control the forces of physics so that he could create a universe with physical constants that conform to his own design. In other words, an infinite multiverse must contain a being capable of creating a universe that is home to creatures he could communicate with. This being is not precisely as described in traditional Christian theologies, but he does conform to the description of the almighty creator God in the Bible.
A BACKFIRED CONSPIRACY
So if the idea of a multiverse really is a conspiracy to get rid of God, it has backfired. Of course, most multiverse theories are based on serious mathematical possibilities in quantum physics or String Theory, and they don’t have any anti-theological agenda. However, some people do use them to counter the argument that the supreme fine-tuning of our universe necessitates the existence of a creative genius.
Atheists are now painted into one of two corners. If ours is the only universe, then its perfectly fine-tuned design is a huge coincidence that is very difficult to explain without a creative designer. On the other hand, if ours is one of an infinite multitude of universes, then a God who can design a universe like ours must exist somewhere within this multiverse. Either way, a being similar to the creator God who revealed himself in the Bible is now predicted by each of these mutually exclusive views of cosmology.
Just when everyone got fed up trying to prove God’s existence, cosmology has made atheism look illogical. But atheists don’t appear to be worried yet. Maybe they are hoping there’ll be another theory along in a decade or two.