Infinity, Possibilities, the Multiverse, and Misconceptions

A common thing I see brought up in discussions about the multiverse is that god would have to exist because in an infinite number of possible universes that option would have played out. This is incorrect, and a common misconception regarding infinity, probability, and restrictions. It has a lot to do with our hesitance to even accept infinities as possible to begin with. 

The reason we humans recoil at the concept of infinities has much to do with our very limited brains, conditioned to perceive reality in finite concise terms. Knowing it is our limitation, not one of any absolute sense, infinities, as repugnant as they seem, are nonetheless possible. 

We need only remember that some natural concept of infinity, like an infinite multiverse, is still superior to the alternative, an infinite god, as it at least does not invoke magic as an explanation. 

The other thing about infinite universes is that it does not necessarily lead to the slippery slope of ANYTHING being possible. There may well be restrictions on what configurations can exist, even when an infinite number of universes are posited to exist.

Think about it this way. If I had an infinite number of blue and red marbles, there is still no possibility that a green marble exists. One can have conditional restraints on an infinite set. And using the marble analogy, just because an infinite number of them exists does not make the existence of a magical marble possible. 

There may indeed be an infinite number of universes, of which ours is the one (or one of the ones) where life happened. But there may be a limit on how dimensions can fold and unfold, how time can operate, and how energy can be used in any universe, restricting the possible configurations of these infinite universes. Thus you would get copies of universes, with nearly or exactly the same properties. There could even be millions or billions of possible configurations, but still be a finite number of possibilities none the less. Thus you could have an infinite number of universes with a finite number of configurations possible. This would be like having a hundred different colored gum balls possible, while having an infinite number of gum balls of those colors. The number of colors would not be infinite. Just the number of gum balls with those colors. Likewise, there may well be an infinite number of universes, but the number of possible configurations might be finite.

Anything we can conceive would not then be automatically possible just because an infinite number of universes might exist. Only possibilities that lie within the restrictions that apply to possible universe configurations could exist. And there is no guarantee that all configurations have been assembled in the first place. There may well be some configurations that are possible that have not occurred yet, especially if the configuration of any new universe is determined by a random event. 

Of course, the knowledge of what these restrictions are might be forever beyond our ability to ascertain, given that our tests and observations seem to only be limited to what is inside our universe. We then only know of one possible configuration that is possible... our universe. We would have no way of forming a data set of possible configurations of other universes as we would have no way of determining what rules govern universe configurations. 


Let me find an asprin.  My head hurts.  

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Comment by Tom Sarbeck on August 25, 2014 at 12:04am

Idiosyncrasy.

Comment by Gregory Phillip Dearth on August 24, 2014 at 6:39am

A more useful analogy to the infinite multiverse problem came to me last night. Think about origami. You can fold paper to resemble damn near anything if you do it just right. Now, consider each unfolded piece of paper the neutral state preceding existence. This would be analogous to the pre-big bang conditions. Now grab a book that shows you how to build 108 different origami objects. The book has a theme: all of the objects you can build are universes. Get your supplies together too. You have an infinite number of pieces of paper. Of those 108 different universes, one happens to work well enough for our form of life to be possible. The others don't work well for that function. So naturally, if you go through all 108 configurations, one will eventually come along in the configuration necessary for the ants to use it as a house. This is the anthropic principle. 

Now what does that say about a god? Is god the guy folding the infinite pieces of paper into the limited number of configurations, of which one happened to be just right for us to exist? Does that guy have to exist to fold the paper in the first place?

Well, lets imagine that paper has a tendency to fold itself. It has already been creased in such a way that it can be folded into any of the 108 configurations but cannot be folded in any other way. Also, this paper is special, as it has a sort of elastic property that it automatically snaps into one of the 108 objects if left alone long enough. It does not want to lie flat, but wants to crumple back up into either a useless irregular mass or one of the 108 objects, as defined by its creases. 

That is how cosmologists think about the multiverse. Existence is a preferred state. Rather, nonexistence, or nothingness is not even a state to begin with and might be completely impossible. So existence is the default. When a big bang happens, a neutral state (not necessarily nonexistence) snaps into one of a finite number of configurations. Given an infinite number of tries, one configuration will come along suitable for life to develop. Our universe is one that barely meets that condition (it is 99.99999999% completely hostile and incompatible with life). 

Most cosmologists accept the fact that the universe wants to be folded. it wants to be in a form such as it is. Unfolding the universe breaks a symmetry and requires a LOT more energy than the entire universe even possesses. So it does seem like a universe automatically would assume some lower energy state, one where symmetry manifests in a particular configuration or another. The singularity condition of infinite density, energy and infinitesimal size is an unstable condition. 

If you take an actual origami object and unfold it, and try to make the paper flat, the paper will resist, wanting to return to the folded state since the creases already exist. The flat state of paper is an unstable condition, and the preferred state is one that is folded. 

So after all of this mental masturbation, who put the creases in the paper, making existence the default state and not non-existence or pre-existence?

Nobody necessarily had to set that condition, making a restriction on the number of potential universe patterns. This condition or restriction may have always existed into infinity (one transcendent and beyond any universe). It is just as likely, and possibly more likely, to suggest that this preconditional restriction has always existed as it is to suggest a 'Grand Divine Folder of Universe States' always existed. 

There might even be a super-anthropic principle that applies here. Suppose that like matter and anti-matter, both options exist regarding multiverses.

1. Existence is the default state. The neutral pre-existent state is unstable. And stable universes must assemble in one of a finite number of possible configurations.

2. The neutral pre-existent state is the default state. Existence is unstable.

Now given the two options, which multiverse set would be the one that actually yields universes? The first option would have to automatically be the most dominant. The second multiverse would be completely empty as there would be no reason to violate the default state on pre-existence. Since both options exist, then one option obviously has the conditions necessary for the creation of our type of universe. NO god is necessary to make the rule (of existence being the stable condition) in the first place. 

Thus the concept of god has become useless in any explanatory framework whatsoever, even hypothetically. 

Comment by Gregory Phillip Dearth on August 24, 2014 at 5:53am

I don't think so low of the human intellect. I think our minds are vastly more capable than we give ourselves credit. Rather, it has been thousands of years of religion that has programmed us to take a default position of humility and assumed ignorance. 

We might recoil at the the invocation of topics such as these here, but that is not because we lack the ability to actually discuss and comprehend them. It is because we are trained to recoil from such discussions, sometimes unintentionally as merely the product of conditioning by merely existing in our 3-dimensional world, and sometimes intentionally by religions that insist that you are a stupid worthless creature. 

The ability of the human mind to organize thoughts efficiently enables us to have conversations about subjects for which don't necessarily possess complete data sets. Understanding definitions, knowing limits, understanding mathematics, and how the universe works (if only on a basic level of comprehension) enable us to move deeper into the issues and seek truth, if any exists, within the arguments about the subjects.

Humans can comprehend and understand the Logical Absolutes. This is a particular mile-marker in the development of intellect that heralds a whole new set of contemplative capability. If we keep to the logical absolutes and avoid making logical fallacies, we can wade deep into the murky waters of metaphysics and the unknown without fear of drowning. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 24, 2014 at 12:11am

WOW! This discussion is beyond my comprehension or imagination. I don't understand how we,as Homo sapiens can state there are restrictions, or conditions, or capabilities, or knowledge, or agency, or requirements, or infinity, or transcendence, or intrinsic properties, or .....

Imagine you were a bed bug living in a crease in your mattress, and some other bed bug started talking about restrictions, conditions, capabilities, etc., of those big creatures that crawl into bed each night and upon whom they feed. I fell like that bed bug, asking about unknowable attributes of what is beyond that night person.

I envy the mind that goes into those unknowable places and seeks answers. Wake me up when you have it all figured out. 

Comment by Gregory Phillip Dearth on August 23, 2014 at 11:46pm

Penn, though it is possible that a god could be restricted to each universe, it is not necessarily the case. A truly transcendent entity could reside in such a state that it is independent of any universe and can interact with any universe at will. This god would see each universe simultaneously, as would be required by a truly omnipresent entity. Thus a singular one god could exist, capable of moving into any universe it wishes, tinkering with this or that and still having full knowledge of what is going on in every other universe (true omnipresence). This does require that the term transcendent reference a third type of existence that is beyond the logical bounds of what we would term existence. But that would be the very definition of a god's existence. 

What I was getting at in my post is the possibility that there is only a finite number of ways to build any universe, and thus in an infinite supply of universes, the claim that anything is possible fails. Otherwise we would have to accept that there is some universe out there where Smurfs actually exist or in which the logical absolutes do not apply. I reject this outright, as I consider the logical absolutes transcendent, in a very real use of the word. Rather, they would be intrinsic properties upon which any universe would have to operate. This automatically would make certain things impossible, and place restrictions on how a universe could develop, even if we offer the flexibility of completely different values for various constants, different mechanisms for force-like actions, and even different dimension counts. 

The theist claim based on the multiverse is that because an infinite number of universes may exist, it is not only probable, but inevitable that a god must exist in at least one of those universes. I reject this outright, as any truly transcendent entity would reside external to any particular universe, if that being has omnipotence to create universes in the first place. As the position is often stated that god created our universe, that would automatically define that god as external to our universe, not some property bound to our universe. Thus separate gods for each universe seems nonsensical. Any god bound to a universe would be less powerful than a god that can create a universe. This ontological argument still fails, however, as just because we can conceive of a god more powerful than another god does not make that god automatically exist. Thomas Aquinas tried that approach a long time ago and his "5 ways" have been all shown to be quite flawed.

We might also consider what heaven and hell would be in an multiverse. It is perfectly rational to suggest that a hell or heaven might be bound or tied to a particular universe. There would be no need for those types of places to be themselves transcendent. And as they are themselves a proposed form of existence, it would seem to suggest that they themselves must have parameters similar to the universe in which the inhabitants exist prior to moving on to the afterlife. However, being that both heaven and hell are typically defined as eternal, they would not be tied to the cosmological arrow of time of any particular universe unless that universe also has a cosmological arrow of time that extends into infinity. We do know that our universe lacks such an arrow. Our universe has a cosmological arrow that is finite and bound. Thus heaven and hell, should they actually exist, must indeed have its own time dimension at least. Considering the law of entropy also does not apply in heaven or hell (you don't get older in heaven and all the torture and suffering in hell has no end), this would also mean certain laws of our universe also do not apply to the existence conditions in heaven or hell. 

This would seem to indicate that heaven and hell, should they exist, are themselves separate universes to our own. They could not just be transcendent, as they must possess some properties to make limited sentient thought even possible (it is not suggested that the inhabitants of heaven or hell are mindless). Indeed, if one's identity can still be maintained in heaven and hell, they must abide by at least some of the logical absolutes.

Also, for a god to be truly omnipotent and omnipresent that god would have to be external to both heaven and hell. This is also consistent with the idea that god created heaven and hell. It seems illogical for a god to have the capability to create a state of existence that the same god would then be trapped or bound within. So a real god, if it possesses the omni-attributes, must be both external to both our universe, and the afterlife existence universes of heaven and hell. 

The point is, that given these logical conditions and restrictions, the proposal that a god exists is no more supported than before we had a multiverse concept. It would necessarily have to exist in some transcendent state not intrinsic to any particular universe or state of existence. As such, it still would lie beyond the confirmation ability of any entity in any universe (except perhaps in heaven or hell, where that entity makes its presence obvious and known to the inhabitants).

This brings me to the next argument, that any god that has no problem with the inhabitants of some universes (like heaven or hell) having direct confirmation of its existence THAT ALSO HIDES its existence to sentient beings in other universes is not playing fair. It is immoral and unjust to expect some sentient beings to accept the proposal of its existence when that god offers no evidence of its existence in certain universes, while STILL also maintaining the practice of judging people after they die, sending them to a heaven or hell where that god's existence would be obvious. It seems like some cosmic joke or game for a god to treat sentient beings in such a manor, enabling those beings with the ability to comprehend its existence, form justified true beliefs based on evidence, and then still hide itself from observation until those life forms have died and moved on to the afterlife. 

It just seems very unlikely that a truly transcendent and all-powerful god would create conditions for existence in such a cruel and nonsensical manor. If that god wanted people to really rely solely on faith for belief, why would that god give its creation the ability to understand the logical absolutes and form beliefs that are justified based on evidence? It is like humans were designed improperly for the game of religious belief to be moral and just.

Comment by Michael Penn on August 23, 2014 at 8:46pm

One might as welll draw circles on a big cardboard and point to one saying this circle "is our universe and our earth system." This is the realm where we react and anything else inside of it can react with us as well. Now imagine all the other circles that are other worlds and universes. We cannot interact with them and they cannot interact with us. If a god existed this would also apply to that god. We might also ask if there is a dffrerent god for each of the circles and universes. If so, christians might go to the hell of Allah, and Muslims go to the christian god's hell. Maybe we could do this on the exchange program plan.

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 23, 2014 at 1:23pm

How can I even discuss infinity? There is nothing with which to relate. An infinite god suffers from my same inability to conceive it. I look at stars with my eyes and see blobs, with or without my glasses. I use my Audubon Society bird watching binoculars, and see a little more clearly. My computer gives me Hubble and Casini photos and I am simply stunned, while filled with wonder. I listen to Tyson or Greene, or Porco, and begin to think of probabilities and dream of possibilities and even stretch to imagine preferabilities. Even though I have been around the world a couple of times, and I have observed many different cultures, I see what is. Things will probably stay the same unless and untill we start to think in terms of a larger perspective. Tribalism isn't going to solve our problems, nor is feudalism or monarchies nor republics. 

We have to start thinking in much bigger termsd, like, what would human culture look like if our focus was on sustaining life on Earth? What would be the social structure if we had a goal that all people on Earth have a right to clean water, soils and air? Could Homo sapiens exist without mining, manufacturing and production? 

How would life be if we organized ourselves into small, self-sustaining units that could flourish with the natural planet? 

A wee little gold finch just landed on my feeder. There used to be dozens; now I notice when one arrives. The flies are abundant, as are the ants. Just saw a black eidow spider in my garage and I suppose they will thrive. 

Our winter is predicted to be wetter and warmer than normal ... how will the lilacs and tulips respond? They need a period of freezing weather. 

As for me, as I sit in my garden, surrounded by beautiful things. Roses, phlox, hydrangeas, sedums, sunflowers, hollyhock, Perovskia, anemone, thyme, coriander, oregano, sage, dill, strawberries, all tenderly cared for and allowed to flourish. My wish is that others have a place where they can design, take action, and have a result that is satisfying and rewarding for them.  

Comment by Luara on August 23, 2014 at 12:17pm

How is god  well defined?

Also, God is conceived of as a being.  We know "beings" in terms of how we perceive other humans.  But how could this perception be rendered into mathematics, physical laws that can be expressed in mathematics?

Beings are agents, they have will, desires, a personality.  I guess you could program a "being" capable of intervening in a world. 

We could think of authors as being God to their book-worlds.  So a world with a God would be a world that's part of a larger world that interacts with it in a certain way. 

Comment by Freethinker31 on August 23, 2014 at 11:56am

How is god  well defined?    We still don't know for sure  whether  god is a male or female, Black or White......No one has ever seen this God.  It has been told  that God  spoke but this can not be verified......I would seem  to think that God  resides  in our mind as a deity who is all knowing  and will make  everything  right in the world...The Human brain is a dynamic  organ that has not been tapped  of its  full potential....If  anyone  needs  or wants  to believe in this God,I suppose  it is their right...It does not  however  make it true.

Comment by Luara on August 23, 2014 at 9:00am

How would you define a God in a universe, with the precision of physics?

Perhaps there would be a random number generator that would rarely come up with random violations of physical laws?

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