Multiple Universes (Part II)

Image by Joka2000

Image by Joka2000

In the beginning, man believed that the earth was the center of the universe.  The sun, the moon, and all the stars moved across the sky each day in a dance orchestrated by God, who looked down upon us from heaven beyond the stars.  We were his chosen people, the ones He created in His image, and we were placed at the center of His creation.

 Then in the 1500’s, a man of science named Copernicus published a theory that the earth was not stationary, but actually moving.  The apparent motion of the sun rising and setting was due to the earth rotating once a day on its axis and the inconsistent movements of the planets in the night sky was caused by the earth revolving around the sun once a year.  His theory fit the data of the observed facts better than the previous, long-held belief.

Since then, science has taught us a great deal about our world and the universe we live in.  We live on a small planet orbiting an ordinary yellow star located at the edge of an average galaxy among many, many other galaxies.  Copernicus’ theory knocked us from our most-favored position at the center of the universe, but it also spawned a host of other scientific advances.   

And at every step of the journey since Copernicus’ time, organized religion has fought the advances of science like a jealous older brother putting down a talented sibling.  Running disagreements over competing beliefs like Big Bang versus Creationism or Evolution versus Intelligent Design receive regular media attention.  Opinions on both sides are sharply drawn since they touch on the core beliefs each of us hold so dearly.

In my last post, I discussed the theory of multiple universes that has recently gained favor among some leading physicists and the controversy surrounding that theory.  The possibility of multiple universes comes out of quantum mechanics, the study of the smallest particles of matter.  The M-theory is the best model physicists currently have to explain the behavior of particles, like electrons or quarks, and how they relate to the General Theory of Relativity.  But the theory works best in eleven dimensions and, among other things, gives rise to the possibility of multiple universes.

Foul!

Predictably, the possibility that our universe isn’t unique and that multiple universes containing nearly identical copies of ourselves may currently exist in dimensions we can’t perceive has generated some strong opinions on both sides of the theory.  Some scientists have invoked this theory as another example that an intelligent Creator is less likely; the issue of the anthropic nature of the universe is explained by simple, random chance.  The natural reaction of some religious believers is to discount the theory out of hand as another elaborate attempt by science to deny the existence of God.  Both sides are crying, “Foul!” and claiming the simpler, more reasonable position in this disagreement.

As a person of faith who also embraces the spirit of inquiry and improvement that best epitomizes science, I’m always uncomfortable with these partisan arguments.  Science and religion are, at their best, two of mankind’s greatest accomplishments.  At their worst, both have been used to inflict massive suffering on the world.  They are not diametrically opposed, as is often portrayed in today’s media soundbites, but share common goals and objectives.  Science without religion is cold and soulless, religion without science is blind and dumb.  I believe that they need each other.  Together religion and science can inform, correct, and support each other.

For instance, on the theory of multiple universes, is it possible for there to be an infinite number of parallel universes while still having an intimate, personal Intelligence in control of it all?  Copernicus showed that the earth isn’t at the center of creation, proving the religious leaders’ widely held beliefs to be wrong.  However, he didn’t disprove the existence of God, he merely showed the limits of mankind’s imagination at the time.  It can be argued that Copernicus, who was a devout Catholic, helped to demonstrate how much larger God must be if He exists and He created all that is apparent in the universe today.

So the possible existence of other parallel universes can be seen as another extension of the same Copernican revolution.  Multiple universes don’t diminish, but rather enhance the province of a benevolent Creator, and they force another expansion of the mind of man.  Religion has been guilty of repeatedly overstating the importance of man in the universe, but science is equally guilty of the same human-centered bias by repeatedly underestimating the potential abilities an infinite God could wield.

But assuming parallel universes do exist, and are currently popping into existence due to small quantum differences such as the roll of the dice or your turning left instead of right at the cross road, the question most reasonable people would ask is, “Why?”  Why would God make it so complicated?  What possible purpose could He have for creating a multiverse of infinite life choices and diverging histories?  That doesn’t seem reasonable at all.

Here’s my theory: parallel universes allow us to live with free will and simultaneously abide by God’s intimate will for each of us. 

It works like this: in any dynamic system, the distribution of potential future outcomes is described by the Schrodinger Equation.  It “predicts analytically and precisely the probability of events or outcomes.”  That means in any situation, there is the most probable, or preferred, outcome plus a range of other, lower probability possibilities.  I take this to mean that the Universe has a preference in every situation.

But there’s also another law of physics known as the “Uncertainty Principle” which gives rise the “observer effect.”  It’s impossible to know precisely both the location and the momentum of a particle.  The act of observing something changes the thing itself.  In other words, we affect the universe simply by being in it.

This means that we’re in a continual dance with the universe.  The Universe’s preferred paths can be described through the math of probabilities, but we have our own preferences too; we have our free will.

From the Universe’s (God’s) perspective, we make things a lot more interesting because we’re unknown entities.  We’re the X-factor that gives rise to many more potential universes and their possibilities. 

But how does this benefit us?

I believe God enlivens every particle of our universe, existing within us and throughout the infinite stretches of the cosmos.  He has carefully planned each second of His preferred life for each of us.  Since He has given us free will, He will not impose that life on us.  Consequently, if we choose differently than He prefers, we could diverge into a parallel universe, exact in every detail to His preferred universe except for our choice.  Within that universe, the same laws apply (both physically and spiritually), therefore there are new preferred paths and new choices for us to make.

It’s a win – win for both parties.  We get to choose however we would like, and our loving God will still see each of us safely to the end of his preferred path for us.

This is a theory in development, with many more questions than answers.  If we make too many poor choices and stray too far from the original, preferred path, can this explain the loss of inner peace, purpose, and enthusiasm that many people feel in the world today?  Is it possible to consciously decide to move back towards God’s preferred path?  Is it possible that universes can converge through our conscious choices? 

And how would someone know if they were on their preferred path?  Our great religions may have already answered that question.  There are two possible ways to be on the right path, to be in harmony with the probabilities / preferences of the Universe:

  1. Chance: not choosing means the probability is highest that you’ll be on the preferred path at each divergence.  Examples: children, sages, and savants (think Forest Gump).
  2. Consciously choosing: living in the present moment, avoiding the experience and old peridynes of the ego and being open to the “still, quiet voice” within that speaks only when you invite it to and believe it will answer.  Remaining still, alert, open to what is.  Right action then naturally happen through you.

There are many implications to this theory, but this post is already over-long, so we’ll hold them for now.  Please share your thoughts, questions, concerns, and objections below.

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5 Responses

  1. Dugg,

    Happy New year! A very interesting thread. However, I have to object to the following…

    “…And at every step of the journey since Copernicus’ time, organized religion has fought the advances of science like a jealous older brother putting down a talented sibling. …”

    The Catholic church is not anti-scientific. Never has been, never will be…This is a myth.

    The RCC has supported scientific endeavors for centuries. During Copernicus’ time, the Jesuits had a highly respected group of astronomers and scientists in Rome. In addition, many notable scientists received encouragement and funding from the Church and from individual Church officials. Moreover, many of the scientific advances during this period were made either by clerics or as a result of Church funding. [Its actually speculated that Copernicus was a Catholic priest later in life…]
    He did dedicate his most famous work, On the Revolution of the Celestial Orbs, in which he gave an excellent account of heliocentricity, to Pope Paul III. Interestingly, it was actually the Lutherans of the day who outright condemned Copernicus’ work not the RRC.

    There’s a lot to chew on in your posts so I want to read them over again and I’m sure I’ll come back with some more thoughts soon.

    –Tman

    • T-man,
      Happy New Year to you and your family too. Thank you for your comment and your continuing support and scrutiny. I really appreciate it.

      I’m sorry that you took offense to the statement in question. I was not trying to single out the Roman Catholic Church in that statement. Science versus religion has become a regular staple of our news media, and any number of intollerant viewpoints have been forwarded in the press from multiple religious leaders. That same intollerance is also apparent from many “enlightened” scientists as well. In the previous blog post on multiple universes, I discussed my dismay at the familiar, knee-jerk responses of religious thinkers and scientists to each others’ statements. There seems to be a great deal of talking going on, but very little communicating.

      All that being said, it’s only fair that I also point out the Wikipedia article for Copernicus that I used as part of the research for this particular post. According to the article, Copernicus delayed the release of De revolutionibus until just before his death, perhaps, it’s speculated, out of “fear of criticism — a fear delicately expressed in the subsequent Dedication of his masterpiece to Pope Paul III.” The article goes on to describe how Galileo Galilei was convicted of heresy by Pope Paul V six decades later for “following the position of Copernicus, which is contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture.”

      The statement you questioned above was my “artistic” way of pointing out that organized religion held the power of authority for a very long time in Western history. That power was not always wielded in a responsible manner. For the past few centuries, science has come into its own as an authority. Are we seeing similar sorts of power mistakes being made by our scientists today?

      Science has given mankind many wonderful advances, and both you and I work at technical jobs made possible through the advances of science. However, science by itself is not the ultimate answer either. It’s sad to see so many putting their faith in a thought system that seems bent on proving there’s no intelligence behind the universe.

  2. Dugg,
    Thanks for the response. This is a deep and very interesting subject. One that I, like you, are somewhat out of my depth in considering what 5 (or higher) dimensions mean mathematically or in everyday reality.

    With that said I do think, now that I’ve re-read your posts in light of your clarifications, that I may have read too much into your “artistic” segue for the historical tensions between religion and science. And while, as you accurately point out, these tensions have escalated dramatically of late, there wasn’t always this tension. In fact, I tried to (albeit clumsily) point out that the RCC has historically been and continues to be a strong supporter of good science.

    Moreover, I agree whole heartedly that many of today’s scientists frequently overstep their bounds by making pronouncements regarding the Creator. It should be clear to anyone who thinks about it that science is incapable of speaking on matters of faith / religion. These subjects are completely outside their purview of observation and therefore it should stand mute. However, it’s also clear that many of these same scientists also see themselves as the priests of a new religion — Atheism with the all knowing eye of “science” enthroned as their deity. (And their god will have no others before it…) The proliferation and media coverage of authors like Hitchens, et al are prime examples.

    Sadly, I see the parallel you tried to draw but for me the scales do not balance. As a religion Atheism is far worse than Christianity. I’ll go further. Atheism has highjacked science and has tried to drive a wedge between faith and reason for the last 200 years. Faith and reason are not incompatible, they are inextricably linked. Pope JPII brought this point home in a now famous quote.

    “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”
    —Fides et Ratio

    Good science comes from scientists who have a firm foundation in the 1st science (or, as Dr. Anthony Rizzi puts it… “The science before science…” i.e., philosophy. See http://www.iapweb.org/OldSite/science_before_science.html ) Let me pose a question. How many top scientists have PhD’s…? How many took any philosophy courses in school to get it? I’m sure I didn’t !!! BTW — Dr. Rizzi’s book is excellent and his course work to become an institute member is also quite good. His work is all being done with the goal of re-educating scientists to think clearly from a sound philosophical basis and try to reclaim science from the inside.

    Lastly on the topic of Copernicus, I’d like to point you to a slightly more Catholic point of view on the topic (http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1991/9101prof.asp) with my point being that heliocentrism was a theory in the 1600’s. It was not proven fact. Copernicus and Galileo both brought forward evidence that the earth moved relative to the sun, but neither sets of which was conclusive. Both failed to publish their works for what they where … theories and that’s where the Church step in — to preserve Holy Scripture from being contradicted (which is its purview) by a scientific theory without conclusive proof. Their books overstepped there bounds and that’s why they where put on the Index. The Church wasn’t against their ideas or theories, they were against calling theories “the truth” without conclusive proof. (This was much more a problem for Galileo that for Copernicus.)

    Anyway I’ve go on too long. Keep up the good work in ’09.

  3. Doug,
    Just took a fairly quick read of your latest writings . Found many interesting thoughts that will lead me back to your blog . I will try to find more time for this, but it may be later than I would like . Don’t stop doing this as long as you are enjoying it , because I do know that it will only help develop your mind.
    Your brother in Christ, Glade

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