Hi Philosophers, I have a burning question that is troubling me relating the religion versus science debate. I hope I articulate it well enough. Here goes. Mathematically, physicists are close to proving that a multiverse exists. Assuming they do prove this, and that as part of this proof it is deemed that infinity universes exist with both every conceivable and inconceivable possibility and outcome occurring throughout, then is it not fair to say that God certainly exists in at least one of these infinite possibility universes? Adversely, it is also fair to assume that God certainly does not exist in at least one of these universes? Then consider that if God certainly exists in at least one universe, and he is the all-seeing, all-knowing God that religion states he is, then how can he certainly not exist in at least one of the infinite universes? To say that God definitely exists is to, by definition of God, say that he exists everywhere and created everything, yet this notion within the multiverse theory eliminates the possibility of infinite outcomes as there can be no single constant to infinite possibilities. By definition of infinite outcomes, there must be at least one multiverse outcome where God doesn't exist. Will the theory of the multiverse, if proven, both unequivocally prove and unequivocally disprove the existence of God at the same time?

I think it's a bit optimistic to say that physicists are close to proving the existence of a multiverse, but we can set that aside.

There are different ideas of a multiverse in physical theory, but none of the ones that cosmologists take seriously call for showing that literally every possible "universe" exists. Rather, what's at stake is the idea that the totality of the Universe writ large contains relatively isolated sub-parts that have many of the characteristics of the physical universe as we usually think of it. In particular, the values of various physical "constants" would vary across the different sub-universes. But the important point for your question is that this is entirely about physics and has nothing to do with God. God, as usually understood, is not a physical being at all, but a being who (among other things) underwrites the existence of physical things. God doesn't exist within this or any other physical universe on the usual theological view.

Put it another way: if the God of classical theology exists, then the obvious thing to say would be that the entire physical multiverse is the creation of God.

There are some conceptions of God that don't put God outside the physical world. What I've said doesn't apply to those cases, but on this way of thinking about God, God is a limited being. Whereas it's arguably a conceptual confusion to say that there could be more than one God of the sort that, say, Aquinas believed in, it's not a confusion in the same way to suppose that there could be different parts of a physical Multiverse that each contained gods of this more limited sort. But whether any of the multiverse views under serious consideration entail that some parts of the Multiverse contain gods in this sense is still not clear. And it's even less clear that there could be good scientific evidence for the view that every possible configuration of matter consistent with the overarching laws is realized in some part of the Multiverse or other. As far as I'm aware, the considerations that lead physicists to take the Multiverse idea don't extend that far.*

So in answer to your final question: if what's at stake is the God of classical theology, then Multiverse theory isn't going to help. If there's a God of that sort, then the whole Multiverse is his creation, but whether there's a God of that sort isn't a question that physics answers.

---------

* Footnote: The physicist Max Tegmark believes that every mathematically possible universe is real. My reaction to this is that physics doesn't call for accepting this view, and it's very doubtful that any good philosophical argument does either.

Great question (and great response by Allen). Let me just add a tiny bit, by encouraging you to check out both Norman Malcolm's and Alvin Plantinga's work on the ontological argument. (The latter is a lot more technical and difficult, so start with the former.) From them you get something like the idea that if God exists at all, He exists necessarily (for God surely isn't a contingent being); to say that God exists necessarily is to say that He exists in every possible world. But now, if it's even possible that God exists -- i.e. the idea of God contains no contradictions -- then God would exist in at least one possible world. But if He exists at all He exists in every possible world, so if He exists in one PW He exists in every PW. Now is it possible that God exists? Does the idea of God involve any contradictions? Lots of discussion in the history of philosophical theology on that topic (lots of purported contradictions posed, then response to), but lots of people, even many ordinary atheists, think there's no contradiction in the idea of God, just merely that God contingently doesn't exist. So if you construe the multiverse theory to mean that every possible world exists (not sure it should be construed this way, but let's suppose), and if you think the idea of God involves no contradictions, then it sounds like the multiverse theory could support this line of argument toward God's existence.

hope that's useful!

ap

Read another response by Allen Stairs, Andrew Pessin
Read another response about Physics, Religion