If you’re the kind of person who reads articles or watches TV shows that deal with cosmology (the study of the universe), you may have encountered this term. It’s the notion that the universe that we know of is just one of a very large number (an infinity?) of parallel universes that exist in complete isolation. It’s a fun idea that science fiction writers and folks like those on TV’s Big Bang Theory like to kick around — and it’s not theoretically impossible! But the truly fascinating question is: why do so many intelligent people take this unprovable speculation more seriously than say, the existence of unicorns in another dimension? Well, a major motivation is that it is the best current candidate for postulating a universe that doesn’t require a creator! Let’s explain.
Only a few decades ago, cosmologists didn’t spend much time wondering about where the universe came from — it was just a fact of reality, without beginning or end. In such a ‘steady state’ universe there was neither need nor room for a creator. But that simple picture began to unravel in the 1960’s when new scientific evidence led to general acceptance of the present theory that the universe began in a ‘big bang’ – an incomprehensibly violent instant of creation in which all of our physical reality originated. The implications are vividly expressed in a quote by famous astrophysicist Robert Jastrow (a self-described agnostic):
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” (The Enchanted Loom: Mind in the Universe, 1981).
About this same time, cosmologists began to grapple with another disconcerting fact — the physical constants of our universe appear to be finely tuned so as to permit the existence of life! It has been noted, for example that if the force of gravity was a tiny fraction larger, the universe would have collapsed upon itself, and if a tiny fraction smaller, stars and planets could not have formed. The same kind of fine tuning has been found to apply to a whole gamut of physical constants whose precise values are essential to the existence of a life-supporting universe. In other words, the fine-tuning of the laws of our universe are such that the probability that they could have occurred in one random attempt is ‘vanishingly small.’ This was articulated at an astronomy conference in 1973 by theoretical astrophysicist Brandon Carter as the Anthropic Principle according to which: “Although [man’s presence in the universe] is not necessarily central, it is inevitably privileged to some extent.” Or to put it in laymen’s words: it sure looks like we were intended to be!
Though this is necessarily a very simplified account (and aren’t you glad for that!) it today represents the consensus belief of modern science that our universe is so finely-tuned to support life that it could not reasonably have resulted from a one-time random event. Now the obvious conclusion would seem to be that stated by Robert Jastrow in a 1982 interview: “That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.” But of course, that conclusion is not acceptable to those whose belief-system does not permit of the ‘supernatural.’ And that’s why we today have serious speculation about The Multiverse. Since it’s absurd to think that a single random ‘big bang’ could have produced a universe that could sustain life as our does, and if it is unacceptable to think that there was a creative mind at work, then the only remaining possibility is that blind forces spit out an infinite variety of random universes, and ours is just an unlikely ‘winning combination.’ (If you pull the lever often enough, pure chance will eventually deliver the jackpot of a life-sustaining universe.)
What should we make of this? As numerous scientists have pointed out, there is no way to test this concept, and an idea that can be neither proved nor disproved is not even a scientific ‘theory’ but a matter of pure faith. Thus, even though there is a lot of effort being devoted to postulating exotic mechanisms that would account for a multiverse (e.g.: ‘vacuum fluctuations’ that spontaneously burst into life as universes), these sure look like desperate measures to avoid the reality that is so clearly expressed in God’s revealed Word:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)