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Physicist: “The Multiverse Is a Lot Like God”

Photo: Perseid meteor, by NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Dartmouth College physicist Marcello Gleiser is always interesting to read. His latest at Big Think sounds strangely familiar. He dismisses a famous 17th-century “proof” of God’s existence:

The whole “if you don’t like God you’d better have the Multiverse” argument is very similar to [Gottfried] Leibniz’s, just carried out backwards. This may be surprising for Multiverse enthusiasts to hear. But it should be clear that the Multiverse, in a curious inversion, is playing the exact same role as the God-of-the-Gaps. God’s existence is not provable by observations. The Multiverse is not provable by observations. God explains the Universe. The Multiverse explains the Universe. The Multiverse, then, is a lot like God. Weird, right?

The false assumption is that something that exists requires an explanation, whatever the cost of this explanation. In the case of the Universe, this is the problem of the First Cause, the uncaused cause that causes the Universe to become. This transition from being (God or an uncaused Multiverse) to becoming has been twisting our logical arguments into knots for at least 3,000 years, and probably longer.

Gleiser advises against seeking ultimate explanations in some cases: “We should instead accept that not all questions need to be answered in order to be meaningful.” Fine. It caught my attention, though, that his critique of Multiverse thinking makes a point that proponents of intelligent design have made multiple times in the past, in nearly the same words:

Gleiser’s headline, August 17, 2022:

Headline at Evolution News, August 4, 2021: 

We wrote there:

The “God of the gaps” label is a favorite with critics of intelligent design. It’s a fallacy, of course, since ID theory appeals not to what we don’t know but to what we do know about how creative and intelligent agents operate. But it’s not the case that debates about ID are free of appeals to a “Gaps” deity. Philosopher and scientist Kirk Durston identifies “Science’s ‘god’ of the gaps.”

By “science” he means a rigid, question-begging notion of scientific thinking. As biologist Eugene Koonin put it, “By showing that highly complex systems, actually, can emerge by chance and, moreover are inevitable, if extremely rare, in the universe, the present model sidesteps the issues of irreducibility and leaves no room whatsoever for intelligent design.” This brand of scientific ideology requires a “God of the gaps” — Koonin’s “present model” — to explain away mysteries like the origin of life. And it finds its God, as Durston explains, in the form of the multiverse.

Or as Gleiser puts it, “The Multiverse explains the Universe. The Multiverse, then, is a lot like God. Weird, right?” Weird indeed. And the author of the above-quoted passage, from almost exactly a year ago? That would be me. I have to admit it makes me smile to think Professor Gleiser’s thoughts ahead of him. For more on the theme, watch Dr. Durston’s excellent video: