Moses, Miracles and the Multiverse

Consider this small sampling of strange occurrences recorded from the life of Moses:

  • While walking in the desert tending sheep, he encountered a bush which appears to be on fire, but is not consumed.
  • Holding his staff out toward the Red Sea, the waters are parted and the people of Israel walk through this obstacle on dry land.
  • As they wander through the desert, they are led by a pillar of smoke during the day, and a pillar of fire by night.

By all accounts, these events do not happen within the normal state of affairs. Each of these appears to be an example of some interference or intervention in the natural order – a miracle. To pull these off would require a highly intelligent and powerful agent. For Moses, that was YHWH, the Creator God of the universe.

For some, the existence of a supreme being in the neighborhood doesn’t work well in their worldview.  So, they resort to explaining their existence through mindless natural laws which have the ability to randomly spin galaxies into existence and evolve conscious human beings. In such a world, no miracles would be possible since everything must conform to natural laws and must be subject to testable cause and effect. The astronomical improbabilities for obtaining the finely-tuned laws and physical constants plus the just-so mixture of atoms which comprise our world make that an unlikely tale.

However, physicists such a James Hartle and Stephen Hawking developed an idea which gave a glimmer of a hope for dealing with these improbabilities. They proposed that within the singularity which existed at the big bang, space-time curved in on itself (there was no time). Out of this “no-boundary” condition emerged not just our universe, but a multitude of universes, perhaps an infinite number of universes – the multiverse. Each randomly produced universe could have its own set of matter, energy, laws and physical constants. Hence, if there is an infinite number of universes, then it is not hard to imagine one of those is our finely-tuned universe – no God required.

Assuming such a thing exists, the multiverse does not quite so easily explain away the fine-tuning of our universe and push the need for God off the table. If our finely-tuned universe was produced by some multi-universe creating mechanism, then that mechanism would also need to be finely tuned. You are still stuck with the question of who finely-tuned the multiverse. It has only served to push the question further back.

As far as God is concerned, it certainly does not matter how many universes there are. He is God after all – he may create as many universes as he likes. Whether alternate universes exist or not, though, is beyond our knowing. By their very nature they are undetectable and unmeasurable – they cannot be tested and verified by the very science which suggested them – they are only hopeful objects of philosophy.

One of the implications for having so many universes produced by this multiverse is that it allows for many possible worlds with different possible laws so that things like burning bushes, parting seas and pillars of fire could be expected occurrences! If one is willing to believe (remember, this is philosophy, not science) that the multiverse could produce such effects, is it any less plausible that a Creator God could accomplish the same feat? I find it ironic that the very system which promised to discount the existence of God instead makes His existence and activity plausible.

It is this prospect, however, which really causes things to break down for the multiverse. If the multiverse allows for worlds in which natural laws can change at random intervals – what is to say this couldn’t be that world? If so, we would never be able to depend on the consistency of natural laws to know whether they are truly laws or not. Without a baseline assumption that we live in an orderly, predictable universe with knowable and unchanging laws, the whole enterprise we call science crumbles. There is a paradox for you: the capabilities of the multiverse would undermine our ability to even suggest such a thing as a multiverse.

In jest, I suggested above the possibility that the miracles experienced by Moses could be explained by the presence of the multiverse. It is worth noting that this really would not suffice.  A multiverse in which natural laws are mutable would result in a change for the whole universe – unconsumed burning bushes and pillars of fire would be everywhere – they would never be described as miracles. The miracles described in scripture only circumvent the natural order for a brief period in a precise location. They are recognized as miracles because they happened in the background of a regular dependable world. To be clear, the existence of God and the occurrence of miracles would in no way undermine our ability to do science as would happen with a multiverse.

In sum, the multiverse is powerless to explain the fine-tuning of our universe and displace God as an explanation for our existence. I think the best explanation for our universe and the miracles in scripture would be the Creator God to whom Moses attributed them. What we know from Moses and other prophets is what YHWH told them: that God created this earth. Its regularities are likened to the truth and dependability of God himself. That very same God has the ability to intervene and interfere in the world He made to accomplish His purposes. He does so, not to change the laws of nature, but to change the course of history and impact the eternal destiny of us humans.


Suggested Reading:

If you are interested in the physics (and metaphysics) behind the multiverse, I recommend a recently published book by David Hutchings and David Wilkinson titled, God, Stephen Hawking and the Multiverse: What Hawking Said and Why It Matters

If you want to read more about how miracles figure into the natural world, I recommend Miracles by C. S. Lewis.

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