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There are some great multiverse-concept shows out there. But the multiverse doesn’t prove what some people wish it did, and here are 3 reasons why…..

There are some great multiverse-concept shows out there. But the multiverse doesn’t prove what some people wish it did, and here are 3 reasons why…..

I don’t get the multiverse…Let me rephrase that. I don’t get the appeal of the multiverse. Let me rephrase that. I don’t get the explanatory appeal of the multiverse.

This being said, I have actually generally liked multiverse-concept movies or TV shows, one of my favorites being Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (although, the movie is much more than a multiverse movie). The concept has become so mainstream now, two other prominent examples being the recently awarded Best Picture Everything Everywhere All at Once and the still-popular-though-arguably-past-its-prime Rick and Morty, that it is probably at risk of becoming cliche. It’s a fun mechanism in a story to provoke speculation and ask the infinite question of “What If..?” (speaking of another recent multiverse show), but largely unnecessary. 

Now, I have to backtrack and explain my previous opening statements. I do get the general points of the multiverse theory.

Basically, our universe is really big and really old, and with this big-ness and old-ness there has been a lot of variety, so this variety is being applied to things we can’t give much of an explanation to, something like dark matter (we know its something, just not what that something is). Apparently, the biggest argument for a multiverse is because of the unlikelihood of life or order in our universe (got some specially made creatures there, one wonders if they are made in the image and likeness of something, or Someone). 

I do actually get the appeal of accepting the premise of a multiverse, and not just in fiction. Existence can be hard, especially when one is burdened with the responsibility of finding some magical meaning of one’s life that is apparently out there somewhere. The multiverse allows for one to dismiss the seemingly ordered nature of reality as we experience it by saying it is just the product of a much larger chaotic reality that just happened to create the ordered one we are in now. According to a certain strange doctor, it is a multiverse of madness after all one supposes.

The general burden of existence is compounded by the exponentially larger burden that modernism and postmodernism has placed upon us to invent our own sense of meaning or purpose essentially from scratch. To be able to ignore or hand wave away the much larger sense of meaning instilled in the very structure of reality, and not just physical reality, allows one to ignore the inherent purpose on the smaller scale of one’s life. 

However, what is dangerous to me about accepting the multiverse theory is how its relativization of “our reality” inevitably leads to nihilism. It implies that the experience happening to you individually, or anything that has happened in “this universe” is trivial because an infinite combination of other things could have happened anyway. It seems hard to imagine finding any meaning in this scenario that one wouldn’t know is inherently arbitrary, and therefore leave one in the same state of ultimate, objective meaninglessness as before. 

Finally, I stand behind my inability to understand the explanatory appeal of the multiverse theory for three reasons:

1. It is anti-logic: Basically, there is an inconsistency in the general promotion of a multiverse. While I think the concept of Ockham’s Razor is generally misunderstood or sloppily applied, there is a kernel of truth to the idea that the simpler an explanation, the better (as long as that explanation actually explains something). One area I have seen Ockham’s Razor misapplied is in arguments against God’s existence, summarized in the “one less god than you” slogan. Basically, the logic is, “Primitive ancients used multiple gods to explain reality, but one God is simpler, therefore monotheism prevailed. Atheism uses no God to explain reality, which is simpler than one God, therefore atheism should prevail.” Checkmate believers.

The assumption here is first seeing God as just another part of reality as opposed to the organizing Principle of reality (or ipsum esse, existence itself, as Aquinas would say). The “one less” now moves from simply a quantitative difference to a qualitative difference because that one God is the ground of reality for everything else, but this is not a divine simplicity post. Ironically, though, the multiverse does not even follow the rules of Ockham’s Razor, so if one really wanted to accept the cut of the Razor, one would have to cut away all of the superfluous universes and see ours as the “simplest” explanation.*

The multiverse theory also breaks another important principle of logic, which is that of proportionate causality. Basically, this states that an effect cannot be greater, more powerful or more perfect than its cause. The multiverse theory, however, would require that an effect, the ordered universe in which we live, is greater than its cause, a chaotic multiverse that precedes it. The principle of proportionate causality, because it is a principle that applies in physics as well as metaphysics, ties in to my next reason.

2. It is anti-scientific: If one defines universe by physical reality, which most scientific reductionism already assumes, then it is intrinsically impossible for it to be “infinite,” which literally means without limits. Any physical reality, by its physical nature, is limited by that physical nature. 

To just assume that a multiverse is the cause of everything we experience here and that everything science has discovered could be totally different somewhere else undermines the moderate realism necessary for science to make truth claims. Very briefly, moderate realism is the idea that abstract concepts like “substance” or “humanity” exist, but our knowledge of them is dependent on the physical examples of our experience. I’m not talking about the accidental differences that we can notice even on this planet like the color of water in one region or another or species of plants surviving in vastly different climates. I’m talking about something more fundamental, like gravity or the conservation of mass or energy. By proclaiming that all physical reality as we know it is just some arbitrary combination of atoms in “this universe,” one cannot have any confidence in the objective “scientific” truth statements that guide the world. 

I don’t know about you, but I want to, ahem, “trust the science” on this one.

3. It is anti-reason: If you’re still worried about the multiverse as being some convincing argument against God, or Jesus, or the Church, or your unique individuality, don’t. Even if it all ends up being true that there is some distant realm out there somewhere or that predated our 13 point blah, blah-illion year-old whatever you want to call it, one has simply moved an extra step or steps between us and the Prime Mover. Adding more years and more instrumental, secondary causes does not replace the principle, First Cause.

To hand wave away the existence of the universe, especially a teleological one that is ordered toward something, would violate the principle of sufficient reason, which in and of itself is not any logical necessity but is one that is often taken for granted by those who conveniently espouse a multiverse. In the same way that Aristotle and Aquinas recognized one cannot infinitely move backwards in causes when explaining the existence of the movement within this universe, and therefore the movement of the universe as a whole, so too would one require a Prime Mover of any number of multiverses one wanted to include. 

The multiverse also cannot undermine any finely-tuned universe that supports life or intelligent life without rejecting arbitrarily at least the potential for intelligence within any previous universe that could have caused the one we are living in now. It doesn’t make any previous cause before our universe less chaotic to say that it eventually lead to a cosmos. If anything to have that potential more deeply embedded in some hypothetical previous-existing universe would make it a more intelligent cause, even if it is less obvious to our observation.

So, no, despite getting the multiverse itself, and even getting the appeal of the multiverse, there still is no explanatory appeal to it. The multiverse ultimately does not, and by its nature cannot, tell us where the order within science, or even within our own desire for meaning, comes from. While the burden to invent meaning is crushing or the burden to find it is daunting, one does not need supernatural faith to see that it is real because it is built right into the fabric of reality. Maybe it is just our responsibility to find it using the power we have been given.

*I understand the Ockham’s Razor is not a “law” of logic by any means, but it is significant that it is a convenient rule that many “sCieNtiFic” opponents would defer to.

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