Posts Tagged ‘multiverse’

What a mouthful!

But it’s an important theorem, so let me give a brief introduction.


First, you may have heard of entropy, but in case it’s not a clear concept, let’s review.

Entropy basically means disorder, and in particular, it means the disorder that energy gets into when work is done. You drive your car, burning the gas. After you drive the car, the world has just as much energy as before, but it’s all scattered around the countryside as heat and fumes, and you can’t use it to drive your car unless you collect it back again, which would take far more energy than you could obtain by that collection. For all practical purposes, the energy is gone, not because it does not exist, but because it is too scattered to do anything for anybody.

This particular kind of disordering of energy is called entropy, and one of the characteristics of the universe as a whole is the increase in entropy. The whole universe is, like my house, getting messier every day. Fortunately, I can eat a good meal, read a good book, get some orderly energy into myself, and clean house, but the universe has nowhere to turn for a new input of order, so it is running down. We have conservation of mass and energy, but not of order, and without order, all the energy in the world – or in the universe — won’t do any work. It’s like those fumes and heat from my car; scattered energy may as well not be there at all.

Increasing entropy

Entropy means time has an arrow.

What does that mean?

Well, some things, like the rolling of a ball, could go either way. If you took a video of a gently rolling ball and ran it backwards, it would look just as real – at least for a while. If you took a photo of a light turning on and off, you could run it backwards; same thing. Even if you took a picture of sunrise or moonrise and ran it backwards, most people would just think you had a picture of sunset or moonset.

But a video of a falling egg would be very funny backwards, because it’s not possible. Or get one of those time-lapse pictures of a flower unfolding from a bud; not the same backwards, eh?

A universe with increasing entropy is like that egg that falls on the floor; you always know which way the arrow of time is going. In one place or another, the universe might be like the rolling ball, which looks the same for a while, but if you see the entire roll, you generally know where the start and finish are.

Because entropy is increasing in the universe as a whole, it follows that the universe cannot be infinite in time. It cannot have an infinite history because when you go back far enough, the energy is in the best possible order for doing stuff, and any change would be more entropy, not less. By the same token, the universe cannot have an infinite future because when the disorder is total nothing meaningful can happen.

What would that look like?

It would look like a puff of smoke, only the smoke is so thin and the puff is so broad that there’s really nothing to see, and as  you approach the end, even though some particles have enough oomph to drift, they still cannot make a difference in how it looks. It’s not that energy and mass are gone; it’s just that they can’t do anything noticeable – my father would say that the power to pass information is gone. The universe as an intelligible system is ended; there’s nothing to know. (And, of course, no place to stand and watch it!)

The multiverse is subject to entropy

We’re almost there.

Father Spitzer has a new book out, (New Proofs for the Existence of God) explaining that there is now (since 2003) a theorem – the Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem — which shows that even if Hawking’s multiverse were real (there is no specific evidence for it), the laws of entropy would still prevail and the multiverse would come to an end — and would, for that matter, need a beginning. Thus Hawking’s multiverse does not open up the possibility for a universe infinite in time; it just offers a universe context that can hang around unimaginably (which is not the same as infinitely) longer than the one we know.


I have not read Spitzer’s book; I have only heard him talk about it. You can listen too by going to http://www.magisreasonfaith.org/ and choosing the video clip from EWTN. Around the 18th minute, he gets to the Borde-Vilenkin-Guth theorem. Note that there are also clips that say something about Larry King Live. These are not from the TV show but are follow-ups to such a show, and interesting in their own right. Enjoy yourself!

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A completely different multiverse is presented by Philip Pullman whose fictional work is deliberately blasphemous as well as cosmologically foolish. Since his work is popular and, at a certain level, even attractive because he writes well, it’s worth taking a moment to consider his errors.

He states that every time someone makes a decision, the universe splits into two universes: the one where the decision went one way, and another where it went the other way. It’s a way of saying that all possible universes really do exist, not merely on the physical level, as Hawking has it, but also on a personal level.

But in saying this, he is also saying that this universe, where you have a history and a character based on your personal choices, is no more real than an alternate universe in which you made opposite choices, one by one. There is no ultimate value, then, in any of your choices, and no ultimate value in your personal character. It’s just one of the universes, part of an endless array of options, all equally real.

And all equally unreal. For if none of your choices actually stands before God as the working of a unique “self” then you are not real. There can be no love affair between God and man, and no meaning to life. Everything you do is immediately undone at the cosmic scale. Every action is instantly offset in its significance by an anti-action elsewhere in the multiverse. Even the most commonsense idea of character development is brushed aside, since every decision is unmade elsewhere the day it is made here.

Of course this is all completely silly, just a piece of fiction, but even fiction affects the thinking of its readers. It is important to look squarely at an idea and take a stand for your own reality and your own relationship with God, or even your relationship with your best friend. No decisions are real and none have genuine consequence in Pullman’s multiverse. Do not let these ideas seep into the corners of your consciousness.

And in the end, Pullman is not quite as democratic as all that anyway. Much of what he says is deliberately blasphemous, with a clear sympathy for what Christians have carefully and clearly identified as satanic.

Furthermore, in the end, Pullman does provide a way for some people to travel between universes – without acknowledging that precisely such travel would mean that there was only one universe, not several. (Remember that if two universes interact, they are really one universe.) Not to mention that the universe pairs that arise from each decision are already related, – identical up to that moment in time – so that it is really not fair to call them distinct universes

Multiverses are always a bad idea, always self-contradictory, always a denial of the creator and of his unique relationship with us. They show more about the philosophical presuppositions of their inventors than about the world of physics, and their primary value is in the exploration of flimsy ideas that show what a wise universe we have. Philip Pullman is simply one more character in the intellectual lineage of Giordano Bruno.

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Hawking’s Multiverse

Besides the infinite universe, there are two other kinds of multiverse that one meets from time to time. (Probably more than two!) One is the multiverse of Stephen Hawking, which has a scientific appearance and reputation; the other is the multiverse of people like Philip Pullman, who has written some spiritually horrible fiction with a peculiar cosmological error based on a philosophical atrocity.

Hawking’s foam

Hawking’s multiverse is the assertion, without any proof or any possible proof, that our Big Bang universe is merely the statistical accident of a universe that made it into long-term existence, while innumerable others didn’t.

  1. Some were quickly followed by a collapse, a Big Crunch, so they never got to the star-making stage.
  2. Some were so explosive that they blew into a powder before they formed stars. (And where is that powder? There must be an infinite amount of it since it has been generated over eternity… )
  3. Some might have long-term existence but with a dubious relationship to our universe. The reason for this uncertainty is that there are a few basic relationships in the foundation of the universe, expressed as specific ratios and known as cosmic constants. They seem to be arbitrary but, on closer examination, turn out to be essential to the working of our universe and its hospitality to life. Other universes in Hawking’s proposal might have different starting constants. It is not clear how their matter would be related to our matter if they overlapped our universe or touched it, whatever that might mean for a different physics.

Hawking imagines a kind of cosmic foam, whose location is undefined since it is not part of any universe, from which universes leap into existence and mostly collapse back. It is a mathematical exercise, not an exercise in physics. None of the other universes can be verified; and the concept itself is curious. Think about the consequences:

My nose itches. Hmmm. Is that because I’m catching cold or have just breathed in some lily pollen, or could it be that one of those multiverses just popped in and out of existence inside my nose? It could happen anywhere, you know. It might make me itch or not. We don’t know how – or whether – these other universes would actually interact with ours. All unknown. All without any measure. All carrying the curious suggestion that odd events in our universe might be the result of interaction with other universes. Just might. You never know.

This is chaos. It is just the sort of chaos that was chased off when Christians said that the universe is our Father’s work, and we, made in his image, are meant to understand it, little by little. It’s the kind of mess that was present in ancient mythologies that presented the universe as a work of chaos. It’s the kind of belief system in which the natural sciences could not be born because these sciences depend, philosophically, on a confidence in universe order. Fr. Stanley Jaki argues that the very reason why the scientific revolution began within Christianity of the 14th century, and not within another culture, was this hearty Christian confidence in a reasonable creation by our Father. (Not earlier than the fourteenth century because the Roman Empire had to be converted and then the Saxons, before the universities could be built. Then science had a chance.)

A multiverse cannot be understood because it doesn’t have universal laws. Science does not develop in a climate of thought that disparages – or dismisses – or doubts – the reality of universal laws.

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