Another epoch-making announcement by the New York Times: There is no God

Sage McLaughlin writes:

Once every few months there is a new book, written by a cosmologist and loudly trumpeted by the NYT and company, that purports to explain that the universe needs no God to be explained, that physics really is up to the job. And then it becomes clear that the whole thing is just another extravagant exercise in question-begging, confusion of categories, and stubborn refusal to get the point. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is not this new! exciting! book! on the cosmological question by yet another scientific atheist not just more of the same?

Recapping the article as I understand it, the author basically (1) expands the scale of the universe to include more (unexplained) universes, and (2) redefines terms like “nothing” so that they mean their opposite, allowing him to claim that they fall under the purview of observable science. Haven’t we seen this movie before, like, ten thousand times already? If somebody can’t identify fallacies so basic then I doubt whether they’re even very good at science either.

The only new twist I can see is that he puts forward the possibility that the “true eternal multiverse” actually has no laws, at which point the game is really up. This is scientific materialism turned in on itself. The Times sums it up thusly: “Nothing to nothing.” But my favorite bit is this, concerning that “nothing” which we commonly understand as the absence of matter, space, and time: “[T]heorists have proposed that whole universes, little bubbles of space-time, could pop into existence, like bubbles in boiling water, out of this nothing.” Oh, really? Well that dispenses with it then. Problem solved. And if you think I’m leaving something out, go look for yourself. This is like defending Christianity on the basis that, “Theorists have proposed that God could rise from the dead if he were to come to earth and die for our sins.”

Honestly, every book I’ve read on this subject by one of these people (for example, Chet Raymo’s ridiculous carnival of circular reasoning, Skeptics and True Believers) is the exact same. The assume materialism, they assert materialism, they insist on materialism, and they don’t take even a modest step towards actually proving it. Every time, though, they are met with a rush of excitement and fanfare by the press, which dies before the kilobits are dry on some Christian blogger’s definitive refutation of it. Seinfeld was right—modern life is like a squalid parking garage, repeating itself endlessly and leading us to nowhere, to nothingness.

LA replies:

This new book, by Lawrence Krauss, reminds me of Brian Greene of Columbia University and PBS, who used to push string theory and more recently has had a TV series pushing multiverses.

Basically science cannot explain a self-created material universe. So, at the end of its tether, it adopts the screamingly obvious escape hatch of multiverses—multiverses that we cannot see and cannot prove, but that keep the myth of a self-created, self-sufficient material universe alive. It’s on the same level as evolutionists admitting that they can’t explain the Darwinian evolution of life on earth, so, with straight face, they claim that life came from another planet.

If you watch ten minutes of Greene’s multiverse series, you get what it’s about. Through trick photography, Greene keeps walking through walls, popping into and out of existence, showing how nothing is determined, nothing is anything, anything can be anything. This “physics” has nothing to do with physics. It is a cultural expression, namely an expression and promotion of the liberal view of life, which is that there is no truth and therefore we can do and be whatever we like. Thus Krauss’s multiverse has no physical laws, reflecting a liberal society that has no moral laws.

Except for, of course, the absolute moral law that you must not discriminate against women, non-whites, non-Westerners, illegal alien criminals, and transgendered persons, and that you must strive to assure for all people equality of outcome with yourself. But now that I think of it, the demand for equality of outcome for all people is not an exception to the liberal belief that there is no truth and therefore we can do and be whatever we like; it is a further expression of it. Since there is no truth, but only our will and desire, we will that women be equal to men in combat; we will that people unable to pay off a mortgage be given a mortgage anyway; we will that hostile and unassimilable cultures be treated equally with and have the same “power” in our society as our own culture; we will that illegal alien criminals be given sex-change operations at the public expense. The free lifestyle agenda, and the equality of outcome agenda, are not different, but the same.

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

The NYT article observes,

The point of the book, Dr. Krauss, a self-described nonbeliever, writes at the outset, is not to try to make people lose their faith, but to illuminate how modern science has changed the meaning of nothingness from a vague philosophical concept to something we can almost put under a lab microscope.

Tragically, that pesky word “almost” turns his idea from something with a marginal claim to being science into total nonsense.

Dr. Krauss, unhappily in my view, resorts to the newest and most controversial toy in the cosmologist’s toolbox: the multiverse, a nearly infinite assemblage of universes, each with its own randomly determined rules, particles and forces, that represent solutions to the basic equations of string theory—the alleged theory of everything, or perhaps, as wags say, anything.

In order to account for a theory for which there is no observable evidence—the creation of a single universe with life on at least one planet from nothing—he posits something else for which there is no observable evidence—the multiverse! What a triumph of science and logic! Good thing a scientist countered the unfalsifiable, untestable theory of the existence of God with the clearly falsifiable and testable theory of an infinite assemblage of universes, each with its own randomly determined rules, particles and forces … oh wait, never mind.

If nothing is our past, it could also be our future. As the universe, driven by dark energy—that is to say, the negative pressure of nothing—expands faster and faster, the galaxies will become invisible, and all the energy and information will be sucked out of the cosmos. The universe will revert to nothingness.

And the materialist message of nihilist despair held sway over all.

Sage McLaughlin writes:

You wrote: “It is a cultural expression, namely an expression and promotion of the liberal view of life, which is that there is no truth and therefore we can do and be whatever we like.”

Just so. Which is why postmodern liberals have always had a special liking for Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle,” according to which we can never know multiple properties about a quantum particle at a given point in time. If matter is all there is, and material events can never be pinned down and described, then nothing is really true (or at least all truths are partial and ephemeral). And if nothing is really true, then not only can we invent our own truth, we must do so, and so on and so forth. All of which ends by merely trivializing the objects of our own little self-constructed realities—nothing to nothing, the ultimate pyrrhic victory. We waltz right into the maw of Hell with Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” as the background score.

Have a nice day, Larry. :-)

Jake F. writes:

I agree with Sage’s comments wholeheartedly. One observation he did not make is that the multiverse theory does precisely what atheists claim the God theory does: it explains everything, and therefore nothing.

Most behaviors are reliable in “our” universe, because quantum theory is based on probabilities. In the multiverse interpretation of quantum theory, anything that can happen, does. Things that are very probable happen in more universes, while things that are improbable happen in fewer universes.

In most universes, then, when you drop a ball, it will fall down. In some, however, it will fall up.

An object’s position isn’t perfectly determinate, according to quantum theory. The theory uses a probability function, called the Schrodinger equation, that describes where the ball is. At any given moment, the Schrodinger equation for the ball has a small but finite probability of the ball being slightly higher rather than slightly lower (and slightly to the left or slightly to the right, etc.).

Suppose you release the ball at moment T. There’s a tiny but finite probability that it will move slightly up at moment T+1. The Schrodinger equation measured at T+1 would also have a small but finite probability of being slightly higher, so it could again be slightly higher at moment T+2. Similarly with T+3, ad infinitum.

So if you drop a ball, there’s an infinitesimally small probability that the ball will fall up instead of down. It’s infinitesimally small, but since anything that could happen does happen, there will be an infinitesimally small—but non-zero—number of universes in which the ball falls up.

In such a multiverse, even the most incredibly unlikely occurrences, such as the evolution of life on this earth, are necessary (in the philosophical sense). Even if the evolution of life is so unlikely as to happen in only a tiny percentage of universes, it’s still physically possible, so it’s inevitable. Thus it’s not weird for us to be in such an improbable universe: It had to exist, and so did we.

In such a multiverse, you can have “Harry Potter Universes” in which—accidentally, and not because of the laws of physics—every time some erstwhile Harry reaches for his broom, it leaps into his hands. In the blindingly large majority of these universes (which are already a tiny, tiny minority of the universes in the multiverse), that incredible coincidence will never happen again, and Harry will think that magic has broken down, or some such; but in a tiny number of universes, it will happen every time he ever tries it. Neither of these possibilities are “weird” or “meaningful” or “miracles”; they’re just inevitable occurrences that happen to be highly unlikely to be found in any given universe you look at.

In such a multiverse, you could personally witness a man healing lepers, curing the blind, and casting out demons—even rising from the dead after dying on a cross!—and it would have no significance.

Believers in this theory don’t care that such things are possible—no, that they must exist in some number of universes if their multiverse theory is true—because the odds that they currently live in such a universe is very small.

Now, to be intellectually honest, I’ll admit that, from a philosophical perspective, I can’t prove that the multiverse theory isn’t true.

But I can’t prove that Last-Thursdayism isn’t true, either. And I can’t prove that true solipsism isn’t true. And I can’t prove that I’m not a brain in a vat, being fed a series of experiences by a supercomputer.

And, as the saying goes, the person who believes any of this stuff needs a cure more than an argument.

LA replies:

That is a very useful explanation of the multiverse, uh, not theory, but hmm, what category of things does it belong to? I guess, b.s.

N. writes:

Skimming the article in the NY Times on the latest and greatest scientific proof of everything I am reminded of an old joke. A man goes to a philosopher and asks if the world is flat. “Yes, it is flat,” says the philosopher, “as anyone can plainly see from a high mountain.” The man then asks what hold the world up. “The world rests on the shell of a giant turtle” says the philosopher, confidently.

“Well, then, what does that turtle rest upon?,” inquires the man. Somehat testily the philosopher replies “That turtle naturally rests upon another turtle. And another turtle holds that one up.”

“But what is below that turtle, or the one below it?” replies the man.

Angrily, the philosopher dimisses the man, saying, “It is turtles! All turtles! It is turtles ALL THE WAY DOWN! Now, I am too busy to answer any more of your foolish questions.”

The multiverse theory has always reminded me of the turtles.

“It is multiverses all the way down!” is what we are being told.

Then we are advised to stop asking such foolish questions …

Gintas writes:

James P. said:

Tragically, that pesky word “almost” turns his idea from something with a marginal claim to being science into total nonsense.

Observe how science articles are larded heavily with wish-words like “possibly,” “almost,” “may,” “perhaps,” and “believe.” When those start appearing in a science article I reach for my revolver.

Carol Iannone writes:

One of the reasons they posit the multiverse is that the parameters of life on earth are so finely calibrated that it is hard to see them as the product of chance. But if you say there are multiple universes, life on earth does not seem so exceptional, and there could be other universes where the dice fell in favor of life like ours, supposedly.

Also, it could be that since there are no fixed rules, everything is equal to everything else. But there is always going to be that epistemological problem—if you say everything has to be equal, you are positing some value as the highest, that is, equality, and of course expending a lot of energy to make it so, since nature above the level of physics shows us inequality. Therefore, you are in that way undercutting the idea that nothing is more important than anything else. right? It’s close to the idea that if you say there is no truth, you are stating a truth, and therefore undercutting your position.

LA replies:


Gintas writes:

Many scientists today believe that if they can conceive it, they have achieved it! That is, if they can imagine something, then it is logically possible, and once logically possible, it’s as good as real. In other words, wishful thinking.

Roland D. writes:

Panspermia, the idea that life originated elsewhere, has nothing to do with the idea of Darwinian evolution in humans and is a perfectly legitimate theory.

LA replies:

The idea that life originated on another planet and was transported to earth has nothing to do with the history and evolution of life on earth?

Timothy W. writes:

I remember reading an article or book about Hugh Everett’s many-worlds interpretation (MWI) of Quantum Mechanics. Everett did his doctoral research on MWI at Princeton under the direction of the famous physicist John Wheeler in the mid 1950s. Wheeler was said to have later abandoned MWI because it had “too much metaphysical baggage.” Apparently, for many physicists nowadays, metaphysical baggage is part of the charm of these multiverse theories.

KGO writes:

The interesting discussion of the multiverse theory is making me wonder if the label we should most frequently use for our principal cultural opponents is materialists, rather than atheists, secularists or even liberals. “Atheist” or “secularist” implies mere denial of something, which leaves the burden of proof permanently on the theist. “Liberal” has the positive connotation of freedom, even when the freedom is to kill oneself.

Materialism, on the other hand, is a patently insane worldview (insane in the sense of being out of step with reality), which puts the burden of proof, and the risk of ridicule by even the casual observer, back where it belongs.

LA replies:

In this connection, see the 2009 entry, “Against materialist dogma: the reality of non-material consciousness,” particularly this section, where I offer a simple and, at least to me, irrefutable demonstration of the existence of non-material reality.

February 22

Patrick H. writes:

Unfortunately, the multiverse theory must be true. We must have an infinite number of universes in which everything that can happen does happen, no matter how fantastically improbable that thing is.

Otherwise, how can you explain a world in which a soldier is made to wear an “empathy belly”? How can you explain a world that even has the concept of “empathy belly”?

It’s not like a designer could have come up with something like that. At least, not an intelligent designer.

Virgil C. writes:

Students of probability often employ the computational trope of assuming the existence of many, or even of infinitely many, universes when they think about sequences of random variables such as the tossing of a coin. It’s just a trick of the trade that usually works well enough, though no one believes the many universes actually exist in any physical sense. Nonetheless, the notion sounds exotic and it is not surprising that enterprising academics, looking for a new angle, have foisted it onto a gullible media.

When it comes to the latest scientific theory of everything, it is prudent to recall von Neumann’s observation that “The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work.”

In what sense could a scientific theory of multiverses and nothingness be said “to work”? Granted, computational metaphors can be valuable—physics and mathematics are full of them; perhaps Krauss intends nothing more—and for amusement we can ponder the reality of such mental constructions. But the metaphors are models, not reality—unless, that is, one is willing to accept a non-material reality.

LA replies:

That’s why I say that the multiverse “theory” cannot be called a theory, any more than string “theory” before it. They are b.s. claiming to be science. But they must be claimed to be science, because they are the only thing left standing between today’s materialist science and the admission that the universe cannot be explained in material terms.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 21, 2012 11:47 AM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):