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Multiverse Theory — Apologetic Tool or Atheist Construct?

While putting forth teleological arguments for the existence of God in Saturday night’s debate, William Craig mentioned the emergence of doorwaysmultiverse theories as a possible refutation of theism. In short, the theory hypothesizes a multiple set of possible universes, or parallel universes, that comprise reality. So rather than living in a uni(one)-verse, we live in a multi(many)-verse, entire worlds with independent histories, laws and possibilities.

Coincidentally, my friend Tim sent me a YouTube of Dr. Michio Kaku entitled From Universe to Multiverse, explaining this fascinating concept. The conversation inevitably broached the subject of theology. Why? Because if multiple universes do exist, it could challenge our notions about God, Christ, the creation event, and morality. For instance, If there are multiple universes, then the Genesis event spoken of in Scripture is not all that unique. Furthermore, Does Christ dying for the sins of the world have any impact upon other possible worlds? And do the laws of morality embrace all possible worlds, or are they specific just to our own?

In The Multiverse Problem, Seed magazine suggests that the growing popularity of multiverse theory among scientists may be an intentional ploy to undermine traditional theism.

In a 2005 New York Times op-ed, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, accused scientists of concocting the idea of a multiverse specifically “to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science.” Since then, a handful of other prominent Christian thinkers have also argued that multiverse theory is motivated by a refusal to accept evidence of god’s handiwork in the cosmos. Evangelical philosopher and Discovery Institute fellow William Lane Craig has called the idea an act of “desperation” on the part of atheist scientists. And Canadian journalist Denyse O’Leary, an ally of the intelligent design movement who is writing a book about cosmology, also asserts that “religious or anti-religious motives dominate the discussion” among scientists developing multiverse models. (emphasis mine)

One would only hope that the scientific community does not put forth theories driven entirely upon a need to refute theism. But I don’t put it past them. Nevertheless, Christian apologists have used discoveries from modern physics to further their argument for the validity of Scripture and the existence of God. For instance, the reality of multiple dimensions outside our own actually reinforces important biblical concepts. So should we fear or embrace the multiverse theory?

Christopher Hitchens, in the aformentioned debate, pointed out that Christians who once rejected science in favor of faith (presuppositionalism), have changed tactics in order to embrace science (evidentialism). It’s a legitimate point. But can this move toward reliance upon science backfire? I mean, reality does not always cohere neatly to our faith. Conversely, is condemning scientific theories strictly because of their theological implications the right thing to do? Maybe this is why the Seed magazine article suggests that multiverse theory may be the next theological battleground.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Ben April 9, 2009, 7:21 AM

    I agree with Hitchens observation that Christians use science when its convenient for them. At least atheists are consistent and don’t change the rules of the game to suit their purposes.

  • Mike Duran April 10, 2009, 7:35 AM

    Ben, atheists may be more consistent in their reliance upon natural law, but they’ve got no choice. It’s the only law they CAN invoke. And this hasn’t stopped them from changing their own presuppositions about the nature of the cosmos. It wasn’t just Christians who believed the earth was flat or that matter was eternal. So atheists have done their fair share of niggling long-held doctrines. Furthermore, some of the our greatest scientists (Newton, Galileo, etc.) were driven by a biblical worldview. Yes, science and religion have had a tenuous relationship, but they haven’t been completely antithetical.

    • Malcolm April 26, 2011, 2:48 AM

      I agree with Mike, but inclined to defend Ben .
      Critque of ..”It wasn’t just christians who believed the earth was flat …”
      but this is almost a red herring as flat earth belief was in a time without or very little science and secondly during the dark ages some people were actually prosecuted as heretics by the church for a round earth belief. Also people like Galileo and Newton did believe in a god, but its more likely there god were deistic, and that certianly is a improvement on the dogmatic believes of the church.

      • Ryan September 21, 2011, 6:18 AM

        Malcolm, you’re post shows an obvious lack in knowledge of histoy. First off, you’re belief concerning flat earth: The flat earth theory fully died out amongs graeco-roman intellectuals in the second century ad. Christians fully accepted as true the belief that the earth was a globe. This “myth of the flat earth” only evolved in the 19th century, along with the false belief in a Christian “dark age.” Any accredited historian today will tell you the popular notion of a dark age is false, if anything the dark age is dark because we dont know much about it from contemporary sources. So your assertion that the Church persecuted people for a round earth belief during the dark ages has been proven false on both counts. And now on to you’re assertion that Galileo and Newton were deists: Galileo’s two daughters went on to become nuns, and Galileo is known to have been a devout Catholic, not a deist of any sort. Newton devotes an entire chapter of his Principia to God, and I can assure you, his God was no deistic god, he even went so far as to find hidden codes within the New and Old Testaments, something no true deist would do. So Malcolm, if you’re going to make historical assertions, i advice that you make sure they’re factually accurate, and not some poor caricature stuck in the public psyche.

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