Intelligent Design

Does possibility constitute evidence for existence?

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Parallel universes exist – study

“Parallel universes really do exist, according to a mathematical discovery by Oxford scientists described by one expert as “one of the most important developments in the history of science.” . . .” The Oxford team, led by Dr David Deutsch, showed mathematically that the bush-like branching structure created by the universe splitting into parallel versions of itself can explain the probabilistic nature of quantum outcomes.” © Copyright Press Association Ltd 2007, All Rights Reserved.

The reporter authoritatively declares that possibility of quantum outcomes as interpreted by Deutsch is evidence that parallel universes “exist”.

The Sci.Physics.Research blog about David Deutsch on parallel universes appears more restrained, (may I say “skeptical”?), unable to locate a published paper etc. “You can only show that something exists through experiment, not through a mathematical construction. So you cannot say “parallel universes exist”.” What Deutsch actually says may be seen at Deutsch’s current home page and his old web site.

The media’s treatment of this “major” discovery in science appears to parallel development of the theory of evolution where the possibility of its existence appears closely related to the declaration of obvious facts of its veracity.

Is the evidence for evolution now actually as strong as that for parallel universes?

23 Replies to “Does possibility constitute evidence for existence?

  1. 1
    Patrick says:

    Hey, only the potential possibility of a workable but still unlikely indirect Darwinian pathway has been enough for many so why not parallel universes?

  2. 2
    kbombbilly says:

    So, if there’s an infinite number of universes so that all possibilities exist, does that mean there’s a universe out there somewhere in which there are no parallel universes?
    😉

  3. 3
    professorsmith says:

    If ifs and buts were candy and nuts…

  4. 4
    Borne says:

    The only possible way to prove the existence of a or many universes is by discovering them in reality – not by mathematical formula or invention.

    In this case math can only predict a possible existence based on theory.

    But more importantly, I see no problem with a multi-verse reality. It changes nothing. And, the presumption that all possibilities would then exist is rubbish logic.

    Logical absolutes must exist in all plausible scenarios. No universe can exist in which 1+1 = 42

    Could Darwinian evo exist in another universe? Why not? God could choose to do it that way elsewhere. 😉 (The ID scenario and the God inference will always exist no matter what)

    But that proves absolutely nothing with regards to this one on this planet.

    The atheist/Darweenies will invent any imaginable BS in their attempt to save their sinking ship. And then, as always, they will pass it off as fact – no proof required.

    It is pure speculation to say there must be Darwinian style evo in another universe. But that’s what Darwinists are best at, speculation. Forcing the data to fit the theory through quaint little stories.

    Until you actually go to another universe to observe phenomena nothing can be said about it outside of logical absolutes and their implications.

  5. 5
    ghuraba says:

    If other universes existed and we could see them and even visit them, then would they not infact be part of our visible or known universe at that point?

  6. 6
    magnan says:

    If multiple or infinite numbers of universes besides our own verifiably exist, or even if they are only postulated to exist, then the ontological question of the origin of the entire multiple universe frame still exists. Why is there something rather than absolutely nothing, and why is that something so indicative of intelligence? This is cleverly avoided in materialist’s posing of such MWI hypotheses.

  7. 7
    Jack Krebs says:

    Some comments:

    Borne wrote,

    The only possible way to prove the existence of a or many universes is by discovering them in reality – not by mathematical formula or invention. In this case math can only predict a possible existence based on theory.

    I agree with the general principle here: In and of itself, math can’t prove anything about the world because the premises upon which the math is based have to be checked empirically against the evidence. I would think the same argument would apply to intelligent design, by the way: mathematical arguments may point to the possibility of the existence of design, but without actually discovering concrete positive evidence of the existence of a designer and a means of implementing the design, I think that both intelligent design and many universes are both metaphysical concepts, not something that is substantiated by science.

    magnan wrote,

    If multiple or infinite numbers of universes besides our own verifiably exist, or even if they are only postulated to exist, then the ontological question of the origin of the entire multiple universe frame still exists. Why is there something rather than absolutely nothing, and why is that something so indicative of intelligence? This is cleverly avoided in materialist’s posing of such MWI hypotheses.

    I agree with some of this, although not the last sentence.

    To paraphrase something I wrote elsewhere recently:

    All metaphysical answers (theism, pantheism, Taoism, materialism or whatever) have to posit something that “just is” in order to avoid the infinite regress problem.

    However materialism has no worse problem than theism here: If one holds that it is logically OK to posit that God “just is”, and that the question of who made God is irrelevant, then one must grant this same privilege to other metaphysical positions. There is no reason why the argument that the universe “just is” as it is, without reference to any prior cause, is any less compelling than the argument that God “just is”, without reference to any prior cause.

  8. 8
    professorsmith says:

    Mr. Krebs,
    First off, I would say that you are technically, slightly wrong about the necessity of positive evidence. If one can eliminate all other possibilities, the one that is left is true by default, regardless of the amount of positive evidence for the position. That said, I don’t see why ID would have to rely on that route, as there is positive evidence for design.

    As to your claim that materialism is no less a worldview than theism, I agree with you. Materialism is nothing more than a competing worldview, and relies just as much on faith as any other worldview. It’s nice to have a materialist be so candid and honest about his faith.

  9. 9
    Jack Krebs says:

    Hi Professorsmith. Thanks for the reply.

    Let me start here: you write,

    Materialism is nothing more than a competing worldview, and relies just as much on faith as any other worldview. It’s nice to have a materialist be so candid and honest about his faith.

    I did not say that I am a materialist. I am discussing the general philosophical problem of the origin of the universe, and was making a point that applies to all metaphysical views.

    Also, I did not say that materialism relies on as much faith as any other view – I didn’t even address that point. I merely said that materialism is on equal footing with other metaphysical views in that all of them have to start with positing something that “just is” without being obligated to provide a reason as to why that something “just is.”

    Also, you write,

    First off, I would say that you are technically, slightly wrong about the necessity of positive evidence. If one can eliminate all other possibilities, the one that is left is true by default, regardless of the amount of positive evidence for the position.

    This is true only if one knows with certainty what all the possibilities are, and that is an empirical question, not a mathematical one. If I know that either A or B is true, and can prove A is false (as we do with proof by contradiction), then I can conclude that B is true. But the question of whether A and B are the only possibilities in the real world is something that has to be determined by empirical investigation, and for that we do need positive evidence.

  10. 10
    jerry says:

    Nearly all the evidence presented in the evolution debate is negative. For purposes of explanation I have used the following 4 possible mechanisms for the origin of new species.

    1. Gradualism or what is commonly known as neo Darwinism using the familiar paradigm of random variation plus natural selection.

    2. Other naturalistic mechanisms (of unknown variety) that cause large changes in the genome which is then subject to natural selection.

    Of course some will combine 1 and 2 and say there are just a variety naturalistic mechanisms causing changes in the genome which is then subject to natural selection.

    3. One or more genomes were created/designed by some intelligence and introduced to Earth at one or more times in the deep past and from these all the life that we have witnessed has evolved based on some interaction of these genomes with the environment over deep time.

    4. One or more genomes were created/designed by some intelligence and introduced to Earth at one or more times and either these genomes were modified and new ones introduced at various times during the last 3.5 billion years by an intelligence.

    The last two are Intelligent Design variants and actually either could include 1 or 2 as part of the mechanisms that resulted in new species. They are not incompatible.

    Now it is certainly possible that there could be other possibilities that don’t include any of these 4 scenarios and it is certainly possible that all 4 could have been operating from the beginning at different times.

    The only reason I spelt this out is that if you decide to back one of the four, the main evidence for your choice is probably going to be negative arguments against the other three.

    There is very little positive information for any of the 4 mechanism and people arguing for one tend to mainly recite negative arguments against the others. That is why we have all these theodicy arguments, bad design arguments etc used against ID.

    We constantly hear talk about how neo Darwinism has been falsified so many times it gets boring to repeat it. We constantly remark that no one ever presents any of the overwhelming evidence for Darwin. Each is true and reflects that ID is mainly backed by negative arguments and the lack of positive arguments for mechanisms 1 and 2. Also the explanatory filter is in the sense eliminating the other possibilities which is a negative argument or choose this option because the other two are impossible.

    Jack Krebs is repeating a typical objection against ID in that there is no positive evidence for the designer and that is true for the events for which a designer had to participate in are maybe millions of years in the past or much longer. The designer did not leave a calling card so it is unlikely there will ever be an identification. But it is a typical negative approach. Jack calls for empirical information but then defends a theory with no empirical information outside trivial examples.

    Jack, there is no positive information for either of the naturalistic methods listed above. Neither Jack or anyone else has ever presented any information here. Read Behe’s blog at Amazon to see what the high priest of gradualism present when challenged. Essentially, nothing and their fraud is apparent for all to witness.

    So all sides play a game and some are more disingenuous than others and nearly every argument that bolsters their choice is negative.

    Jack, since you brought up the concept of positive information let us know if you have positive information for your beliefs on evolution.

  11. 11
    Jack Krebs says:

    Hi Jerry.

    The topic that I was addressing, which seems to be the topic of this thread, is the origin of the universe and the role that mathematics and logic can play in thinking about that. I don’t think we are discussing evolution in this thread.

  12. 12
    jerry says:

    Jack,

    You are right and I will save my comments for another time. I was reacting to your comment

    “the only possibilities in the real world is something that has to be determined by empirical investigation, and for that we do need positive evidence.”

    Another time.

  13. 13
    Jack Krebs says:

    Thanks. I have no idea whether professorsmith will return, or if anyone else is interested in the points being discussed, but I appreciate keeping the discussion focused.

  14. 14
    professorsmith says:

    Mr. Krebs,
    We both agree that empirical data is to be preferred and the other was simply a nit to pick. I still contend, however, that one need not always need empirical data to determine that a choice is out of bounds. For instance, I don’t need to try and jump over a building in order to know that I can’t do it. I could mathematically model the ability of my muscles to overcome gravity and find that I will be unequal to the task.

    I did not say that I am a materialist. I am discussing the general philosophical problem of the origin of the universe, and was making a point that applies to all metaphysical views.

    My aplogies. No slight was meant.

    Also, I did not say that materialism relies on as much faith as any other view – I didn’t even address that point. I merely said that materialism is on equal footing with other metaphysical views in that all of them have to start with positing something that “just is” without being obligated to provide a reason as to why that something “just is.”

    Again, my apologies for misreading you, but I’m wondering what else you could mean. If all worldviews must inevitably start from the same point of saying something, “Just is,” then how does that not constitute all worldviews requiring faith in equal proportions?

  15. 15
    Jack Krebs says:

    Hi profsmith.

    Good comments.

    You write,

    I still contend, however, that one need not always need empirical data to determine that a choice is out of bounds. For instance, I don’t need to try and jump over a building in order to know that I can’t do it. I could mathematically model the ability of my muscles to overcome gravity and find that I will be unequal to the task.

    True, but the reason this would work is because you are incorporating a whole bunch of previous knowledge that had been empirically verified, such as the force of gravity, the potential power of muscles, etc. I’m not certainly not saying that mathematical models are irrelevant to understanding and testing reality. (I’m a math teacher by the way, so I have strong positive feelings about the power of math and logic to help us understand the world.)

    But in the case of speculating about the origin of the universe (either at the beginning or at every moment via the many-worlds hypothesis), we don’t have any positive evidence for what exists outside the universe because we can only experience what’s inside the universe. Therefore, here I think math and logic are limited.

    The title of this thread is a question: “Does possibility constitute evidence for existence?” I think the answer is no in regards to the thing (a universe or universes) whose existence is here in question.

    Also, when I wrote, ” Also, I did not say that materialism relies on as much faith as any other view …. I merely said that materialism is on equal footing with other metaphysical views in that all of them have to start with positing something that “just is” without being obligated to provide a reason as to why that something “just is,” you replied

    My apologies for misreading you, but I’m wondering what else you could mean. If all worldviews must inevitably start from the same point of saying something, “Just is,” then how does that not constitute all worldviews requiring faith in equal proportions?

    Because ideas about how the universe got started are only a small part of what one thinks about in considering a metaphysical worldview. Once the world has started (which obviously has happened) and we are in it, then we have positive evidence for the nature of the universe and thus can find support for our view based on evidence. Therefore, all viewpoints do not require faith in equal proportions.

    My point is a narrow one – that at some point all metaphysical views on the nature of the world have to posit a starting point without reference to a cause of that starting point, and holding to that starting point is a matter of faith.

  16. 16
    professorsmith says:

    Mr. Krebs,

    True, but the reason this would work is because you are incorporating a whole bunch of previous knowledge that had been empirically verified, such as the force of gravity, the potential power of muscles, etc.

    Perhaps that was a bad example on my part, but I think you got my point on it.

    But in the case of speculating about the origin of the universe (either at the beginning or at every moment via the many-worlds hypothesis), we don’t have any positive evidence for what exists outside the universe because we can only experience what’s inside the universe.

    Which is why I reject MWI. I would disagree, however, that logic is necessarily limited. We can’t use math to prove MWI, but we can use math and/or logic to disprove it.

    The title of this thread is a question: “Does possibility constitute evidence for existence?” I think the answer is no in regards to the thing (a universe or universes) whose existence is here in question.

    We are certainly in agreement here.

    …Once the world has started (which obviously has happened) and we are in it, then we have positive evidence for the nature of the universe and thus can find support for our view based on evidence. Therefore, all viewpoints do not require faith in equal proportions.

    My point is a narrow one – that at some point all metaphysical views on the nature of the world have to posit a starting point without reference to a cause of that starting point, and holding to that starting point is a matter of faith.

    I would contend that your starting point colors all subsequent views of the physical evidence. Therefore, all views do require faith, even with “positive evidence.” Point taken that it is possible that not all views require the exact same amount of faith, since we can’t really measure that sort of thing.

  17. 17
    Jack Krebs says:

    It seems we are substantially in agreement about much of this.

    However, I don’t agree with his statement:

    We can’t use math to prove MWI, but we can use math and/or logic to disprove it.

    I’m not defending MWI nor am a proponent (or not) of it, but I don’t think you can use math or logic to disprove it, any more than you can disprove Last Thursdayism, or the ancient Hindu idea that the universe is utterly destroyed and then recreated a billion times a second, or the theistic idea held by some that every moment is a creative supernatural act of God. All of these are logically possible but completely uninvestigateable.

    So, back to the title of the thread: is possibility evidence for existence? No. Many things are logically possible and yet entirely divorced from the possibility of positive evidence for their existence.

  18. 18
    Borne says:

    Mr Kerbs:

    “I would think the same argument would apply to intelligent design, by the way: mathematical arguments may point to the possibility of the existence of design, but without actually discovering concrete positive evidence of the existence of a designer and a means of implementing the design, I think that both intelligent design and many universes are both metaphysical concepts, not something that is substantiated by science.”

    I think there is a clear and important difference between ID and multi-verses. Multi-verse theories have nothing but some exotic quantum math to postulate their possible existence.

    1. Design itself is evidence of a designer. So one only need demonstrate design even if by inference.

    2. ID has empirical facts underlying it. That of observed traits of designed objects and thus abductive methods.

    ID definitely does have metaphysical constructs and implications, like information itself… something we do know a lot about.

    Information is not sugars and enzymes. It is different than the material substrate that carries it. So the implication of metaphysics is not an ID stopper since the same or similar implications apply to information itself.

    We all know how methodological naturalism is loaded with metaphysical undergirding.
    Constructs not accepted by the IDists that invented the scientific method.

    The math involved in ID is probabilistic based on known examples of designed things and what they look like. It’s techniques are used in forensics every day. But ID is not based entirely or solely on math.

    It is based also on the nature of information. Common sense observations of designed things and applying the same commons sense to biological systems.

    It is also based the total lack purely naturalistic mechanisms capable of explaining the existence of complex coded biological information systems.

    ID also has the fact that no Darwinian pathways have ever been described for any complex biological machine.

    None.

    All we’ve seen is conjecture and extrapolation of micro-evolutionary mechanisms into macro scenarios, and that without any account being taken of evolutionary limits (as discussed in Behe’s latest) and little account taken of the nefarious accumulation of deleterious mutations.

    All we see is just so stories. There is no real math (outside population genetics which does not apply to macro-evolutionary projections)

    Probabilities can easily be applied to design inference and discovery. But upon what probabilistic basis would such inferences be applied to multi-verses? We have no evidence nor any logical reason to postulate multi-verses other than human imagination.

    I don’t think your comment on math/ID is correct though I understand your premise.

    We know what designed things look like. We do not know what another universe looks like. Your guess is as good as mine.

    Perhaps Dr. Dembski would care to reply to that point?

  19. 19
    professorsmith says:

    Mr. Krebs,

    I’m not defending MWI nor am a proponent (or not) of it, but I don’t think you can use math or logic to disprove it, any more than you can disprove Last Thursdayism, or the ancient Hindu idea that the universe is utterly destroyed and then recreated a billion times a second, or the theistic idea held by some that every moment is a creative supernatural act of God. All of these are logically possible but completely uninvestigateable.

    I was speaking more in a general sense than in a specific sense. I think I see what you are getting at, and so far as you go, I agree. Yes, MWI is just as substantial as “God did it,” which means that it is unassailable by logic, math, or anything else. In principle, however, if MWI proponents try to move beyond that point, they open themselves up to disproof.

  20. 20
    Michaels7 says:

    Krebs said…

    “we don’t have any positive evidence for what exists outside the universe because we can only experience what’s inside the universe.”

    I’d like to think of possibilities.

    I see your point so far as our current technical limitations, much as similar limitations of men without a telescope, or in that one did not know America existed when attempting to find a new route to the east.

    However as technology proceeds and ability to reach intersteller travel by even robotic means with instruments to take greater, more sophisticated measurements, maybe indeed we can discover perturbations within our own universe subjected to exterior forces.

    Maybe even an exchange of material flow between our known universe and the outside thru any number of means from friction to thermal flows in the membrane which open naturally, and to punctured instances whereby material flows into the universe by physical force.

    There are just thought experiments. But what if thermal rifts exist so that external flows into the universe are natural. What if the universe is instead of destroyed in cyclical events, it is duplicated. Therefore the information is not lost, but exist at creation of the new “bubble” so to speak.

  21. 21
    Michaels7 says:

    We exist today in such a tiny “timeframe” test are illogical from our pov. However, future could bring many events of longevity and abilities we do not have now to understand if our universe is settling towards equilibrium, or towards another possible scenario, even that of duplication, splitting apart, with information in both universes.

    I think the unprovable today can be seen tomorrow given enough time. This is of course speculation. But I like to think of possibilities at our growth potential to discovery.

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    JK, PS, B and M7 (et al):

    Interesting discussion. Pardon a note on a point or two, thanks:

    1] JK, 17: is possibility evidence for existence? No. Many things are logically possible and yet entirely divorced from the possibility of positive evidence for their existence.

    Of course the key issue there is what constitutes “positive evidence,” closely tied to the question of criteria for acceptability of evidence and reasoning.

    We might for instance consider the classic Russell five- minute- old universe conundrum, which is empirically indistinguishable from the one we think we inhabit.

    No empirical data deriving from study of the entities within such a universe would show it to be what it in “reality” is.

    But, if the Creator of such a universe were to come to us and explain himself — showing us good reasons to see beyond the veil of “standard” scientific-style observation and explanation — that would make a big difference.

    I would also argue, as I do in the linked above, that any worldview that embeds the epistemological implication that our minds and senses are generally untrustworthy is self-refuting. (Of course, this analytical lance skewers Evolutionary Materialism.)

    That brings us to:

    2] M7 (20) citing JK’s: we don’t have any positive evidence for what exists outside the universe because we can only experience what’s inside the universe . . .

    Again, this hinges on a key and debated concept: what constitutes “the universe”?

    If the universe as we experience it includes conscious mind that as a matter of easily “experienced” and directly known fact directly affects matter, then the physical world and our experience of it immediately point beyond the merely physical world.

    Of course, this is a view that is radically unacceptable to those influenced to accept Evolutionary Materialism. Such now tend to resort to artifices such as epiphenomena, emergence, or the mantra “natural selection” and associated just-so stories; latterly, the infinite multiverse, to avoid having to deal with Mind as a reality independent of and capable of influencing matter.

    All to no ultimate avail: Evo Mat inherently ends up in the absurdity of reducing mind to an inescapably unreliable epiphenomenon of matter, or else to miracles by another name: inexplicable emergence, or else to the absurdities of claiming that in an [unobserved, and probably unobservable!] infinite sea of randomly distributed sub-universes, anything is possible — indeed inevitable.

    That in turn brings up:

    3] The Design Inference alternative:

    –> We know that fine-tuned functionally specified, complex [often irreducibly so] information and entities that use such FSCI exist. And, in every directly observed case, they are the product of minds.

    –> Similarly, we know that on statistical thermodynamics-based grounds, the configuration spaces for such complex entities are so hugely beyond merely astronomical, that their emergence by chance plus undirected natural deterministic forces alone within the ambit of our observed cosmos is negligibly different from zero. [Cf here my always linked, appendix A.]

    –> Thus, on inference to best, empirically anchored explanation, FSCI is the product, and the hall-mark, of mind acting into our observed world. (Something that we routinely experience and rely upon in any case.)

    –> Then, by empirically anchored Occam’s Razor — i.e the Einsteinian principle that explanations should be simple as possible but not simpler than that — we do not need to posit an actually or even a quasi-infinite cosmos as a whole to explain the FSCI evident in the physics of the cosmos, the nanotechnology of life at cellular level, the origin of body-plan level biodiversity, or for that matter the origin and credibility of our minds.

    –> Further, while mind within the cosmos is a possible explanation of the observed life ands mind on our planet, we are aslso looking at a finetuned cosmos that bears all teh hallmarks of a carefully designed system that requires a Miond of enormous power, intellectual and material, to bring it into existence.

    –> Thus, on Occam again, a powerful, extracosmic designer is an obvious metaphysical level explanatory candidate for the designer of what we see. [Nor are we permitted to simply beg the metaphysical question on such a level of what is now an openly philosophical discussion. Cf 4 – 5 below, and onward link.

    –> Thus, the currently popularised applications and extensions of MWI etc too often function as a metaphysical speculative artifice intended to save the phenomena for an Evolutionary Materialist worldview that is in bigtime empirical trouble relative to what we do know, and is similarly seriously challenged to avert its evident self-stultifying nature.

    With that in hand, let us return to the central question in the thread:

    4] Original Post: The Oxford team, led by Dr David Deutsch, showed mathematically that the bush-like branching structure created by the universe splitting into parallel versions of itself can explain the probabilistic nature of quantum outcomes . . . . The reporter authoritatively declares that possibility of quantum outcomes as interpreted by Deutsch is evidence that parallel universes “exist”.

    We can leave off for the moment the debate on whether the reporter has accurately summarised Dr Deutsch’s claims.

    For, it is immediately apparent that Dr Deutsch is arguing to an EXPLANATION, not a demonstration. And, the explanation in view is relative to existing data, for which alternative explanations exist; e.g. the longstanding Copenhagen synthesis and its descendants.

    In short, he has certainly not proved the existence of a cosmos that operates as his explanatory mathematical model discusses.

    But, in a world where people often loosely think and talk in terms of “scientific proof,” it is easy to confuse the theoretical modelling with demonstrative proof. [NB: The tendency to dismiss the serious gaps between Neo-Darwinian thought and the longstanding empirical data by throwing up just-so stories is a major contributor to this fault.

    It is also one reason why we need to inject a little objective phil of sci and critical assessment of NDT into basic level biology courses! The story of the breakdown of classical physics and emergence of modern physics, appropriately told, does this for the physical sciences almost automatically.]

    5] PS, 19: Yes, MWI is just as substantial as “God did it,” which means that it is unassailable by logic, math, or anything else. In principle, however, if MWI proponents try to move beyond that point, they open themselves up to disproof.

    Actually, MWI crosses over [too often unrealised] into Metaphysical Speculation, AKA worldviews synthesis — philosophy, not science. (I am also aware of the Lakatos point that at the core of scientific research programmes in general, there lurk worldview commitments. I am emphasising here the point that empirical testing is not the only decisive issue . . .]

    Such worldviews can be rationally compared and weighed against one another, through the core philosophical method of comparative difficulties across:

    a] factual adequacy,

    b] internal logical and dynamical coherence, and

    c] explanatory elegance as opposed to either ad hocness or simplisticness.

    Indeed, in the above, I have used some of that to bring out what is at stake.

    I trust, helpfully.

    GEM of TKI

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm: Patrick, I may have been a bit long or had too many links [3] just now. (Or if this fails to get through too, the Akismet problem, sadly, has returned . . .)

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