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Not just aliens: The multiverse has gotta be out there too!

According to Tim Folger in Discover Magazine (November 10, 2008), “Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator:” is “the Multiverse Theory.”

The staggering challenge is to think of a way to confirm the existence of other universes when every conceivable experiment or observation must be confined to our own. Does it make sense to talk about other universes if they can never be detected?

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The credibility of string theory and the multiverse may get a boost within the next year or two, once physicists start analyzing results from the Large Hadron Collider, the new, $8 billion particle accelerator built on the Swiss-French border. If string theory is right, the collider should produce a host of new particles. There is even a small chance that it may find evidence for the mysterious extra dimensions of string theory. “If you measure something which confirms certain elaborations of string theory, then you’ve got indirect evidence for the multiverse,” says Bernard Carr, a cosmologist at Queen Mary University of London.

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When I ask Linde whether physicists will ever be able to prove that the multiverse is real, he has a simple answer. “Nothing else fits the data,” he tells me. “We don’t have any alternative explanation for the dark energy; we don’t have any alternative explanation for the smallness of the mass of the electron; we don’t have any alternative explanation for many properties of particles.

“What I am saying is, look at it with open eyes. These are experimental facts, and these facts fit one theory: the multiverse theory. They do not fit any other theory so far. I’m not saying these properties necessarily imply the multiverse theory is right, but you asked me if there is any experimental evidence, and the answer is yes. It was Arthur Conan Doyle who said, ‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

A story like this leaves me with three key questions:

1. What is the likelihood – given that the article makes clear that so much is speculative – that small amounts of ambiguous data will be over-interpreted and professions of faith in the multiverse demanded – the way Darwinian evolutionists must believe in the Peppered Myth. In that case, the data are ambiguous, but the call to conversion is not.

It is overwhelmingly clear is that most of the people interviewed have an emotional aversion to the idea of design in our universe, which would make them unreliable judges of ambiguous data from the Large Hadron Collider (which is currently out of commission for a couple of months due to a superconductor failure).

2. The mantra “we don’t have any alternative … ” is downright spooky. It sounds like these people are preparing themselves to interpret anything they do find as evidence for what they need to believe.

3. If they do not find anything that even they can interpret as evidence for a multiverse, does that count against the theory or must it be true anyway? (I fear I know the answer to that one. It likely means building an even bigger Collider … )
Note: If you like this and other related posts archived at Colliding Universes, you can vote for Colliding Unverses at the Canadian Blogger Awards, sci-tech division. Vote early, vote often, and vote for me, of course.
 
See also: No escape from philosophy through equations?
Now, remind me again why we need this multiverse theory in the first place …
Letter: Multiverses are nonsense but so is much contemporary physics, plus …

The universe has the hallmarks of design and what can anyone do about it?

Quantum mechanics and popular culture: Artist’s lot offers chance to produce trillions of universes

No escape from philosophy through equations?

Big physics could end up putting physicists out of a job?

Will it be a disaster for physics if the Higgs boson is the ONLY thing the Large Hadron Collider finds?
And
so forth (Other stuff I have written on the bleeping multiverse, for which It, (Inc.) is suing me … But the writ was sent to an infinite number of wrong universes, so … )

(Note: The image is from Taking a Closer Look at LHC, and it represents “time between bunches.”)

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22 Responses to Not just aliens: The multiverse has gotta be out there too!

  1. Look on the bright side. This means, that at least for many physicists, there is no scientific alternative to ID in the entire universe!

  2. First off you should change the link for that article to http://www.discovery.org/a/1263 so that a person can read the whole thing. I could go on for a while about why that paper is wrong but I’ll answer you instead since this is your blog.

    Answers to your questions.
    >>1. What is the likelihood – given that the article makes clear that so much is speculative – that small amounts of ambiguous data will be over-interpreted
    ::Pretty high. Whatever data they get needs to be used to build a theory of why something happened. It also needs to explain things that are already known as well as explain things that are not known yet. That leads to huge over-generalizations because those can be narrowed down as more data becomes available.
    >>and professions of faith in the multiverse demanded
    ::Scientists aren’t religious nuts. They don’t require professions of faith about anything. If they did then scientific discovery would stagnate like it did during the dark ages.
    >>- the way Darwinian evolutionists must believe in the Peppered Myth.
    ::Ummm… they believe because it’s true.
    >>In that case, the data are ambiguous, but the call to conversion is not.
    ::What?
    >>It is overwhelmingly clear is that most of the people interviewed have an emotional aversion to the idea of design in our universe,
    ::I see nowhere in the article where they are adversive to the idea of a creator. One says that if there isn;t a multiverse there could be a creator and that even if there is a multiverse it doesn’t rule out God. It is just one more argument for why God wasn’t needed to have a universe.
    >>which would make them unreliable judges of ambiguous data from the Large Hadron Collider
    ::Why? Emotions don’t change facts. Also, they won’t be the only ones looking at the data. Pretty much all scientists will.
    >>(which is currently out of commission for a couple of months due to a superconductor failure).
    ::I can;t believe the whole thing was brought down by a bad soldering job. That has to suck.
    >>2. The mantra “we don’t have any alternative … ” is downright spooky. It sounds like these people are preparing themselves to interpret anything they do find as evidence for what they need to believe.
    ::Nope. What it means is that right now we don’t have a better explanation for the data we have. If it turns out to be wrong then a new theory will need to be found.
    >>3. If they do not find anything that even they can interpret as evidence for a multiverse, does that count against the theory or must it be true anyway?
    ::Nope. It doesn’t count against it. What would count against it would be something that is found that violates the multiverse theory. Until that is found, the multiverse theory still works since it explains all of the data we have collected up till now. Of course, as they mention in the article, not all scientists even think it’s true or that if it is proven to be true, that it matters. As Polkinghorne says, “If a theory allows anything to be possible, it explains nothing; a theory of anything is not the same as a theory of everything.”
    >>(I fear I know the answer to that one. It likely means building an even bigger Collider … )
    ::I doubt it. There isn’t nearly as much funding available for something like that.

  3. qwerty017, if you’re going to make an argument, then please have a respectful demeanor, no snide or flippant attitude, please.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly that “much contemporary physics” is “nonsense.”

    I wonder, however, why you (and, it seems, the ID movement) are so bent on psychological interpretations and assertions regarding your opponents? Why make an unprovable ad hominem claim about the “emotional aversion” of other scientists? You are not after all counseling them.

    Lastly, we should encourage the prediction and study of experimental results given any theory. It seems that the Multiverse Theory has these. Does ID?

    http://sciencedefeated.wordpress.com/

  5. qwerty017,

    :Scientists aren’t religious nuts.

    Gee, I can think of many religious nuts passing as acclaimed scientists:
    Dawkins
    PZ Meyers
    Larry Moran
    Hitchens
    Dennet
    Provine

    Also suggest to seriously update your info on the status of peppered moths in bio.

    that violates the multiverse theory.

    You subsequently state it yourself but a theory that cannot be tested cannot be violated either.
    New particles = multiverse is a bogus presumption.

    What these people mean when they say no alternative theory explains it is no other theory that we like explains it, or no theory not based on pure materialism explains it.

  6. notedscholar:

    I wonder, however, why you …are so bent on psychological interpretations and assertions regarding your opponents? Why make an unprovable ad hominem claim about the “emotional aversion” of other scientists? You are not after all counseling them.

    No ad hominem – just observations over a long period of time that lead to a hypothesis that has been proven over and over in about 95% of cases.

    Does ID?

    Maybe you should start actually reading up on ID – maybe just start with this site, you might be surprised just how much ID predicts and sees confirmed over and over.

  7. Well, to be perfectly frank, I think both sides make claims about the emotional aversions of their opponents- and they’re generally correct. Most materialists don’t want a god to exist. Evidence to that end would be Dawkin’s “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.” bus campaign. It is implicit that if there was a god, Richard Dawkins would not enjoy life, and would indeed be worried.

    Conversely, many IDers have asserted time and time again that if Darwinism is right and life is inherently meaningless, there is little recourse but nihlism and (possibly) suicide.

    Futhermore, most people, scientists and laypeople alike, derive satisfacion from convicing others that one ideology is superior to another. Atheists like converting other people to atheism. Theists like converting other people to theism. And as an agnostic, I enjoy getting people to admit that they don’t really have the foggiest idea about the existance of god.

    Both sides are motivated in part by emotion. This shouldn’t matter. Only the data should. Unfortunately, we will never be able to truly detach ourselves from our emotions and rely solely on reason.

  8. As a Catholic TE with ID sympathies, I have to say – I like the way you think, Zakrzewski. There are few things as refreshing as a true and casual agnostic.

    I’ll be sticking with my theism, mind you, but the truly agnostic point of view is sadly under-represented nowadays.

  9. Borne:

    Gee, I can think of many religious nuts passing as acclaimed scientists:
    Dawkins
    PZ Meyers
    Larry Moran
    Hitchens
    Dennet
    Provine

    Christopher Hitchens is passing as a scientist?? LOL!

  10. Dennett is a philosopher of a number of things, including science, and Provine a historian of science. Moran and Myers are professors of science and have done science in their own right, I believe, although neither would probably qualify as acclaimed (as is the case for the majority of scientists.) Whether these guys qualify as “religious nuts” is a separate issue from whether they are or are not scientists, I think.

  11. 11

    What is being pictured in that picture?

  12. What is being pictured in that picture?

    What do you see in the picture?

  13. 13

    two rings and two little circles with dots in them.

  14. qwerty017 and notedscholar,

    You may like to peruse the following paper by Professor Paul Davies, entitled “Multiverse Cosmological Models.” Davies’ paper is a very fair-minded review of the scientific and philosophical arguments for and against the multiverse.

    http://arxiv.org/ftp/astro-ph/.....403047.pdf

  15. two rings and two little circles with dots in them.

    OK, you’re sane!

  16. I note the following statement from the Discover article :

    ———————
    Rees, an early supporter of Linde’s ideas, agrees that it may never be possible to observe other universes directly, but he argues that scientists may still be able to make a convincing case for their existence. To do that, he says, physicists will need a theory of the multiverse that makes new but testable predictions about properties of our own universe. If experiments confirmed such a theory’s predictions about the universe we can see, Rees believes, they would also make a strong case for the reality of those we cannot.
    ———————————–

    In respect to that, why is the above not an application of the scientific method ?

    Nothing unusual about that–that’s what science does.

  17. 17

    tribune7,

    well if i told you i saw something else that would be caraaaazy!

  18. SeekAndFind,

    That’s exactly right. There’s nothing unscientific about a multiverse theory as long as it makes testable predictions about our own universe.

    If science ever manages to come up with a single-universe theory that is equal in scope and predictive power to the best multiverse theory we have, then of course Occam’s Razor compels us to jettison the multiverse.

    It is a common misconception among ID supporters that scientists deliberately defy Occam’s Razor and pursue multiverse theories simply because they are uncomfortable with the idea of a designer. This is false. As Aurélien Barrau writes,

    …it is important to underline that the multiverse is not a hypothesis invented to answer a specific question. It is simply a consequence of a theory usually built for another purpose. Interestingly, this consequence also solves many complexity and naturalness problems. In most cases, it even seems that the existence of many worlds is closer to Ockham’s razor (the principle of simplicity) than the ad hoc assumptions that would have to be added to models to avoid the existence of other universes.

  19. “We don’t have any alternative..” or “we won’t consider any other alternative”?

  20. SeekAndFind, I agree with your skepticism of the statement… “multiverse that makes new but testable predictions”. I will share the same scepticism of any (currently)untestable hypothesis, but my scepticism will not prevent me from using the hypothesis, the way they propose. It certainly does not prevent multiverse theorists.

    ribczynski, I do not agree with your defense of the multiverse theorists. No serious scholar is claiming that they are not allowed to investigate their hypothesis, because it is the same kind of metaphysics than God talk. The claim is simply that they stretch the definition of methodological naturalism to its limits.

    I still contend that science ALWAYS goes beyond the limits of methodological naturalism because nature observes nature. This point is well supported by Andre Linde’s own insight.

    “As for Linde, he is especially interested in the mystery of consciousness and has speculated that consciousness may be a fundamental component of the universe, much like space and time. He wonders whether the physical universe, its laws, and conscious observers might form an integrated whole. A complete description of reality, he says, could require all three of those components, which he posits emerged simultaneously. “Without someone observing the universe,” he says, “the universe is actually dead.””

    There you have some useful insight from one of the mind of an outstanding physicist. This leaves me with the question of what is the real difference in claiming “consciousness” and claiming “intelligence”.

    I will therefore concur with Linde that “consciousness” is a very likely fundamental part of our universe, based on observation and repeated testing of design features observed in nature.

  21. I just have to point out this blatant “jump in reason”.

    Tim Folger wrote:
    “When I ask Linde whether physicists will ever be able to prove that the multiverse is real, he has a simple answer. “Nothing else fits the data,” he tells me. “We don’t have any alternative explanation for the dark energy; we don’t have any alternative explanation for the smallness of the mass of the electron; we don’t have any alternative explanation for many properties of particles.”

    Here Linde’s reference is clearly to the explaining power of String Theory, but Folger is directly applying it to multiverse theories. I call this a blatant bate and switch argument. Come on… First you need to use Linde’s words to proof (not just claim) the explaining power of string theory in relation to multiverse. It is just blatant to use string theory predictions as if it were data fitting the multiverse theory.

    This article is simply implying a fit of data to multiverse theories, there is no clear proof of any such a fit.

  22. It is a common misconception among ID supporters that scientists deliberately defy Occam’s Razor and pursue multiverse theories simply because they are uncomfortable with the idea of a designer.

    No, that is your strawman-ish oversimplification. Barrau is completely correct that the general concept of the multiverse emerges from theory. As do some specific models. But people pursue and push for certain scenarios based upon worldview.

    Barrau writes:

    When facing the question of the incredible fine-tuning required for the fundamental parameters of physics to allow the emergence of complexity, there are few possible ways of thinking. If one does not want to use God or rely on an unbelievable luck that led to extremely specific initial conditions, there are mainly two remaining possible hypotheses. The first would be to consider that since complexity – and in particular, life – is an adaptive process, it would have emerged in nearly any kind of universe. This is a tantalizing answer, but our own universe shows that life requires extremely specific conditions to exist. It is hard to imagine life in a universe without chemistry, maybe without bound states or with other numbers of dimensions. The second idea is to accept the existence of many universes with different laws where we naturally find ourselves in one of those compatible with complexity.

    Why prefer the second? Why must we accept it? Sure, if the evidence is overwhelming…but since it’s not why is Design ruled out instead of simply being listed as one of several alternatives?

    Physicist John Wheeler once offered a suggestion: maybe we should approach cosmic fine-tuning not as a problem but as a clue. Perhaps it is evidence that we somehow endow the universe with certain features by the mere act of observation. It’s an idea that Stephen Hawking has been thinking about. It goes like this:

    If we in some sense create the universe, it is not surprising that the universe is well suited to us. That’s speculative, but at least it’s science.

    Since we are only one (infinitesimal) part of the universe we have an element of a set creating the entire set which is part of (itself included) … and this is science, while ID is not.

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