Yes, the r word.
I have a rule … not a big, important rule but a little, important one: If someone is obviously right about something, but everyone else acts like they never even heard it, watch carefully: Something big, and possibly fraudulent, is happening.
It’s the kind of thing you see when the bookkeeper quits and leaves town just before having to sign off on the books, and no one thinks that’s an interesting accident of timing and location.
I am thinking of mathematician Peter Woit’s conflict with Max “multiverses” Tegmark. Woit has said the unsayable, noting that the multiverse is a religious enterprise:
I take Tegmark’s vision as empty, so a good thing to ignore, but Rubenstein sees this as an opening for theologians to get back into the mainstream cosmology business, and the rest of the book focuses on this. With the boundaries between science and religion now gone, all sorts of possibilities open up for theologians. The final part of the book begins by invoking (just like Henrich Päs, who comes at it from the mind-altering drug rather than theological angle) Nietzsche.
Most people I hear quoting Nietzsche have some religious or political project in mind. Note: This is not a rule, big or small. Treat it as a rough guide, noting counter examples.
It seems that, unlike most authors, Rubenstein actually has got the story of multiverse mania right: it’s left conventional notions of science behind and entered into the realm of theology. We do, however, disagree about whether or not this is a good thing…
Sure, you disagree, but why is the fact that it is a thing at all not more generally recognized? Why is the pop science media, including Scientific American, sinking comfortably into this religion?
Why did the bookkeeper suddenly quit and move to the Seychelles?
My Science Fictions series of posts on cosmology sets out briefly (to spare you all having to read a book) that the multiverse was not developed because it was some sort of “only answer” to conundrums of our known universe. Quite the opposite, modest tweaks have been performing well. The big issues, like unifying gravity with the other three forces, likely await new discoveries in this universe, not more dramatic claims about putative other ones.
The multiverse was developed because cosmology in our own universe provides no evidence against theism or rationality. On the contrary, the Big Bang and fine tuning fit quite comfortably with both. But, inconveniently, large number of cosmologists are atheists.
So is Woit. But he sounds like the sort of fellow who is disinclined to simply build a universe that suits him, probably because he does believe in rationality. And to believe in the multiverse, one must get around rationality, which the new cosmologists are more than happy to try to do. As Woit knows.
Science as we have known it just isn’t giving these guys what they want. They want a universe where scientism is reasonable, and as David Berlinski helpfully explains here, this isn’t that universe. But just wait till our universe’s lone vote is drowned out by the multiverse …
No wonder Woit is now labelled a creationist and a hater. He struggles to defend himself against claims that he can’t defend himself against because they make no sense. Welcome to the multiverse, Woit, where things don’t need to make sense, and rationality is only a limitation. And religion absolutely rules. But it’s not the rational religion you grew up with, and there is no use treating it that way.
So, of course the multiverse is a religious enterprise! The critical mass is actually all the chair warmers in the middle, pretending that the multiverse has anything to do with science as we have known it.
– O’Leary for News
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology).
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