Philosopher William Lane Craig, a Christian apologist, identifies the motivation behind the trend the multiverse has had within certain skeptical circles, “Indeed, I suspect,” explains Craig,
“[that] for many in our contemporary culture the multiverse serves as a sort of God surrogate. The multiverse serves the role of a creator and designer of the universe. It explains why the universe came into being and why the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life. It is thus a sort of substitute deity” (1).
Craig is referring specifically to a number of atheists who find the idea of a multiverse appealing. Notable atheist scientists such as Sean Carroll, Stephen Hawking, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, to name a few, have supported the multiverse hypothesis. Despite the reputation of these individuals a number of others remain skeptical that the multiverse explains God away or replaces God as an explanation for the existence of the universe.
Despite contemporary pop-science claims both online and in the media, the multiverse hypothesis, which posits that the universe human beings currently inhabit is possibly one of an infinite number, is far removed from consensus within contemporary cosmology (2). A reason for this is because of the difficulties a multiverse scenario is presented with. Professor George Ellis, a leading authority in cosmology, explains that there are level 1 and level 2 multiverse concepts. The Level 1 multiverse suggests that there are many more domains like ours within our universe where the same laws of physics apply. These other domains are thought to exist beyond our cosmic visual horizon which is at 42 billion light years away, and is thus a promising avenue of research for cosmologists. However, the Level 2 multiverse (L2) is far more speculative in that it says that there are actually many different types of universes (billions perhaps) that have different physics and histories, and that are possibly teeming with life. The problem is that a L2 concept of the multiverse is speculative which leads Ellis to argue that it should not be considered a scientific theory on the grounds that a theory implies something “being mathematically rigorous and experimentally testable” (3). He claims that not only has the existence of these other universes never been proven or demonstrated but they could never be. After all, how if these universes exist could they ever be experimentally testable? They are universes beyond our own. “None of the claims made by multiverse enthusiasts can be directly substantiated,” concludes Ellis. Paul Davies shares a similar view,
“For a start, how is the existence of the other universes to be tested? To be sure, all cosmologists accept that there are some regions of the universe that lie beyond the reach of our telescopes, but somewhere on the slippery slope between that and the idea that there are an infinite number of universes, credibility reaches a limit… Indeed, invoking an infinity of unseen universes to explain the unusual features of the one we do see is just as ad hoc as invoking an unseen Creator. The multiverse theory may be dressed up in scientific language, but in essence it requires the same leap of faith” (4).
But suppose that the L2 multiverse could be scientifically and empirically demonstrated, would it replace a God as a creator? It is difficult to see how this would be the case. A proponent of religion could argue that the multiverse is not inconsistent with theism or the belief in the existence of a creator God. There is nothing in the idea of the multiverse that says a God could not have made the universe that way. Moreover, the religious apologist would also likely point out that it leaves untouched the other arguments for the existence of God. There is nothing in the moral argument, for example, that is affected by the multiverse given that it cannot provide any basis for objective moral values. It says nothing about the four noble truths of the Buddha, Shamanic revelation, or the resurrection of Christ – all phenomenon which could point to the existence of a God, gods, or the truth of a religious tradition. Nor does the multiverse undercut the Kalam cosmological argument which argues that because all things that begin to exist have a cause (and that the universe begun to exist), then the universe must have a cause. Defenders of this argument contend that science supports the idea that the universe begun to exist. The Big Bang model is the consensus view despite that, prior to the 1920s, scientists assumed that the universe is eternal (5). This assumption was challenged by Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity which conflicted with a static and eternal model of the universe. The astronomer Georges Lemaître and mathematician Alexander Friedman worked with Einstein’s equations, and reasoned that given an expanding universe it must have expanded from a beginning point, and thus have a beginning. Lemaître’s views were initially met with skepticism given that he was himself a Christian theist, and that the idea that the universe had a beginning would lend support his theological view that God created the universe. However, Lemaître made it clear that he kept his theological and scientific views separate, especially after the Catholic church attempted to use his view as scientific validation for Catholicism.
The multiverse, argues Craig, would also require a cause: “Far from eliminating the need for a creator,” the multiverse actually “requires a creator to bring it into being” (6). The multiverse does not avoid a finite a beginning, and therefore cannot avoid creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing). Arvind Borde and Alexander Vilenkin (Vilenkin a chief proponent of the multiverse) show in their The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem that space-time must have existed at some point in the past at an initial singularity. The theorem shows that classical space-time, under a single, very general condition, cannot be extended to past infinity but must reach a boundary at some time in the finite past (7). In other words, the multiverse cannot be past eternal. Vilenkin, moreover, stated that the multiverse did not in fact avoid a finite beginning, and claimed that “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning,” and that,
“With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning” (8).
1. Craig, W. Has the Multiverse Replaced God? Available.
2. Kragh, H. 2009. Contemporary History of Cosmology and the Controversy over the Multiverse. Annals of Science, 66 (4): p. 529–551.
3. Ellis, G. 2011. Does the Multiverse Really Exist? Available.
4. Davies, P. 2003. A Brief History of the Multiverse. Available.
5. Overbye, D. 2017. Cosmos Controversy: The Universe Is Expanding, but How Fast?. Available.
6. Craig, W. Ibid.
7. Borde, A., & Vilenkin, A. 1994. Eternal Inflation and the Initial Singularity. Physical Review Letters.
8. Grossman, L. 2012. Why physicists can’t avoid a creation event. Available.