Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Unknowing: Naturalism, Supernaturalism, and the Multiverse

Where did the Universe come from?
Whereas in the past many believed that she was eternal, recent advances in cosmology suggest that the Universe expanded from a singularity, a point at which matter was infinitely compressed to an infinitesimal volume. This shift in understanding seems to have rendered previous views regarding the Universe's eternality implausible. Theists have capitalized on this shift by pointing to the necessity of a cause outside of the Universe (as they believe it is nonsensical to think she could be causeless without being eternal). Further, they have argued that God is the most reasonable explanation for her origination and that only a creative mind which transcends both space and time can adequately account for her complexity, order, and evolution.

Against this perspective is the mainstream secular justification for the apparent finiteness of the Universe. Eminent scholars, like Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku, espouse what some have termed Multiverse Theory which asserts there is not one but rather numerous (possibly infinite) Universes. The explanation of the Universe's origins is therefore attributed to other Universes, the existence of which is potentially eternal. Naturalistic conceptualizations of the Universe are thus legitimized through this account of her origination and the problem of finiteness is deconstructed. 

But in considering both perspectives it seems to me that no matter how eloquent, interesting, and complex these conceptions of the Universe are, both require a great deal of faith. (While some would argue otherwise, neither explanation of the Universe can (yet) be verified scientifically.) And while my own understanding is theistic (while seeing no contradiction between Multiverse Theory and my faith) I recognize the need to distinguish between knowing and believing. Moreover, it is a mistake, I think, to equate the admission of the unknown with weakness. In reality admitting a deficit of knowledge is not a shortcoming but rather a strength as it both humbles and humanizes us; a practice which has the undeniable ability to promote empathy, peace, and (foremost) love between those of starkly contrasting ideologies.

I have watched and listened to many debates between atheists, agnostics, and theists in the past few years. Many atheists  have, with virulent fervor, attacked the "implausibility" of theism while those of religious inclinations have become equally impassioned in defending their beliefs. Too often, however, the debate has become a match of disparagement in which combatants depreciate each other's intelligence and intellectual credibility. Such insults are unnecessary and promote factionalism rather than transparent discussion. Further, while these debates are important I say let love, the one thing which makes the Universe meaningful, be preeminent. An honest admission of the limitations of human knowledge and an effort to empathize with one's ideological adversaries will do no one any harm.

1 comment:

  1. If total energy of the universe is zero, as claimed by some scientists, then based on this data it can be shown that multiverse theory is probably not true. This is because total energy being zero, total mass will also be zero due to mass-energy equivalence. Scientists have shown that anything having mass will always occupy some space. So anything that fails to occupy any space for some reason or other cannot have any mass. Our universe perhaps fails to occupy any space, and that is why its mass is zero. It will fail to occupy any space if our universe is the only universe, and if there is nothing outside it, no space, no time and no matter. But if multiverse theory is true, then our universe will definitely occupy some space within the multiverse, and thus in that case its mass cannot be zero. But as this mass is zero, therefore multiverse theory cannot be true.

    Here it may be argued that radiation occupies space but its mass is zero. So here is an example that something occupying space can still be without mass. So our universe can also be without mass even if it occupies some space within the multiverse. In reply we will say that the example cited here is a bad example, because our universe is not any kind of radiation. So if it is without mass, then that can only be due to its not occupying any space, and not due to its being some sort of radiation.

    However, if total energy of the universe cannot be taken to be zero, then the conclusion drawn here will not stand. In that case multiverse theory may be true, but we cannot say whether it will be necessarily true.