This is Contest Question 1 for Earn Free Stuff: Does the multiverse help science make sense – or simply destroy science?
To help you decide, here’s a classic pop science article by Anil Ananthaswamy of New Scientist, fronting the multiverse:
Today’s measurements show the universe to be flat, but the uncertainty in those measurements still leaves room for space-time to be slightly curved – either like a saddle (negatively curved) or like a sphere (positively curved). “If we originated from a tunnelling event from an ancestor vacuum, the bet would be that the universe is negatively curved,” says Susskind. “If it turns out to be positively curved, we’d be very confused. That would be a setback for these ideas, no question about it.”
Until any such setback the smart money will remain with the multiverse and string theory. “It has the best chance of anything we know to be right,” Weinberg says of string theory. “There’s an old joke about a gambler playing a game of poker,” he adds. “His friend says, ‘Don’t you know this game is crooked, and you are bound to lose?’ The gambler says, ‘Yes, but what can I do, it’s the only game in town.’ We don’t know if we are bound to lose, but even if we suspect we may, it is the only game in town.”
Question: For a free copy of Expelled, is this a way to do science?
Winner: Contest Question 1 winner: Does the multiverse help science make sense – or simply destroy science? (6 May 2009)
The Uncommon Descent Contest Question 1 winner is #27:
To claim the prize, a free copy of Expelled, #27 John A Designer must send me a snail address at email@example.com
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason“, wrote NASA astronomer Robert Jastrow in his book, God and the Astronomers, “the story ends like a bad dream.” Jastrow was talking about the impact of the Big Bang Theory, which by 1978 had virtually eliminated the competing “steady state hypothesis”, which had argued that the universe was eternal and self existent.
But why should the idea that the universe has a beginning be such a nightmare to some scientists?
It is because the big bang itself presents a metaphysical road block to both empirical science and worldviews, like materialism and naturalism, that pretend to be based on empirical natural science. Natural science requires some degree of causal continuity. The big bang presents an absolute dead end to any kind of natural causal continuity.
So what caused the universe to explode into existence?
I think there are logically three possibilities:
1. The universe was uncaused. It just happened.
2. Our universe was caused by some primordial universe (or universes) that preceded it.
3. Our universe was caused by an eternally existing, or self existing intelligence that ontologically transcends it.
How can we decide among these three options? While there are probably some people that believe in number one, I think most serious thinkers put their money on number 2 or 3, so I‘ll concentrate there.
#3 appeals to people who are predisposed to some kind of theistic worldview.
#2, on the other hand, has an appeal to people who prefer scientific or empirical explanations. #2 is the logical basis for the so called multiverse hypothesis. But how does one empirically prove such an idea? If one universe is the cause of another, how does that happen? Will our universe cause another universe? What evidence do presently have of that? Are these other universes observable?
Furthermore, the multiverse idea appears to lead to an infinite regress. How can one empirically prove the existence of an infinite regress? How does one empirically prove the existence of anything that is infinite?
The only thing that #2 seems to have going for it, is that it superficially appears to be scientific. But regrettably, at least for its proponents, it is only a matter of appearances.
In my opinion, the only thing that gives #2 any life is that is simply unthinkable to some people that the explanation is #3.
What I liked about this entry is its clear communication with lay people.
I also especially commend 41, #45, # 48, #51 and # 52
If you did not win, relax. There are 24 more prizes and another contest (#4) will be posted shortly. And if lots of people enter, I am certain to be offered more prizes. So remember, no more than 400 words, and the contest is judged two weeks after the question is posted. For more rules info (not that there is a lot of it), go here.