Multiverse speculations routinely take a beating on Uncommon Descent for various reasons – the lack of falsifiability, the entirely speculative nature, the near complete lack of scientific evidence. All, in my view, quite good reasons to reject it all.
But I think ID proponents are missing the boat by reacting to multiverse speculations so negatively. So, I’m going to offer up several reasons why I think it’s a good idea, from an ID perspective, to accept and take part in multiverse speculations.
* If we live in an infinite multiverse, Intelligent Design is no longer a possibility – it is a certainty.
I have in mind here Max Tegmark’s Ultimate Ensemble, but really – any multiverse that is infinite and allows for some variation will typically do the trick. The best way to explain my thinking here is to take a look at one of the more infamous arguments against design – Richard Dawkins’ Ultimate 747 Gambit. Courtesy of the wikipedia:
The argument is a play on the “tornado sweeping through a junkyard to assemble a Boeing 747” argument, usually deployed to decry abiogenesis and evolution as vastly unlikely, and the existence of life as better explained by the existence of a god. According to Dawkins, this logic is self-defeating, as the theist must now explain if the god itself was created by another intelligent designer, or if some process was able to create the god. If the existence of highly complex life on Earth is the equivalent of the Boeing 747 that must be explained somehow, the existence of a highly complex god is the “ultimate Boeing 747” that truly does require the impossible to explain its existence to Dawkins.
Yes, I know – Plantinga destroyed this argument, Feser destroyed this argument, and it doesn’t apply to the God theists talk about. But if the argument is accepted – if God is viewed as some material being – then something funny happens once an infinite multiverse is added to the mix: the ultimate Boeing 747 is not some vastly improbable thing. It is, in fact, a certainty. God exists. In fact, quite a lot of gods exist. As do a whole lot of designers, and simulated universes, and… well, pretty much each and every form of Intelligent Design on offer.
Accepting an infinite multiverse requires accepting the reality of Intelligent Design – even large-scale, grand, galaxy-sized design. ID shifts, upon the instant, from possibility to certainty – at least somewhere, somehow. And that somewhere and somehow may well be right here. Of course, some will reply that this would also suffice to get evolution over any hurdles in its way too – which leads me to my next point.
* While Intelligent Design becomes a certainty (at least somewhere), Darwinism becomes obsolete and obscure.
If there exist an infinite number of universes (and thus an infinite number of chances with this or that development of life and anything else), then the problem Darwinism was drummed up to solve would seem to vanish. No longer is it necessary to appeal to the supposed power of natural selection to explain this, that or anything else in the history of life – simple inevitable luck is now on offer as a real life possibility. Now, this doesn’t mean natural selection disappears entirely as a possibility in evolution – but it would mean that the anthropic principle has the potential to kick in. While ID becomes an absolute certainty, Darwinism no longer occupies a place of intellectual necessity even for the wannabe naturalist – and that means the history of life has gotten far messier. Granted, this isn’t a very big deal intellectual – at most it’s mere schadenfreude. And if we’re going to deal in that, well… there’s a juicier bit the multiverse provides.
* Theism becomes true on the spot – specifically, polytheism.
Since ID becomes a certainty in an infinite multiverse, that means that just about any small-g god you can think up – Zeus, Apollo, etc – really exists, somewhere, or at least a close enough analogue to be worthy of the name, while at the same time the God of classical theism remains untouched. Even Dawkins would have to admit that God exists, since remember, his ultimate 747 gambit merely spoke to the improbability of his (weird, hypothetical) God existing – but an infinite multiverse turns that extreme improbability into a certainty. Thus, for anyone who accepts such a multiverse, atheism dies on the spot – and polytheism at the very least obtains. Granted, it still remains possible that these gods are remote and may not be encountered – but a god is a god is a god. And if schadenfreude is on the menu, we may as well have some fun with it and call Sean Carroll and company what they actually are, insofar as they embrace such a multiverse: polytheists.
However, it may not actually come to that – because there’s one more good reason ID proponents should consider embracing the multiverse (at least in some way.) Namely, because it’s a self-defeating proposition – but ironically, this is where losing is winning.
* If ID proponents embrace the multiverse, there’s a good chance the scientific community will drop it like a hot potato.
If multiverse speculations now, in their arguably earliest stages, are seen to be embraced by the dreaded and reviled ID community – if they are rallied to show the legitimacy, even inevitability of Intelligent Design speculations – then the door will be opened to a swift and decisive reaction against it. Let’s face it – at least part of the drive to embrace the multiverse comes from the desire to avoid anything so much as resembling an ID inference. But if ID proponents weaponize the idea for their own purposes, the shine will come off this speculative proposition straightaway. Nothing would make the Ultimate Ensemble and similar models go radioactive quite like a William Dembski or Michael Behe talking about the ID inevitabilities in such a universe.
Let me sign off this post by pointing out: embracing the multiverse doesn’t require believing it’s true, or even dishonestly presenting yourself as if you believed it were true. All you have to do is enthusiastically point out what follows from these speculations – and when we’re dealing with infinite multiverses, what follows is ID, polytheism, and more. Crash the multiverse party. It will be worth it for the reactions alone.