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September 21, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

The anthropic principle and the multi-verse theory: does the multi-verse answer a “fine tuned universe”?

First, all current cosmological models involving multiple universes require some kind of mechanism for generating universes. Yet such a ‘‘universe generator’’ would itself require precisely configured physical states, thus begging the question of its initial design. As Collins describes the dilemma:

In all currently worked out proposals for what this universe generator could be—such as the oscillating big bang and the vacuum fluctuation models . . .—the ‘‘generator’’ itself is governed by a complex set of laws that allow it to produce universes. It stands to reason, therefore, that if these laws were slightly different the generator probably would not be able to produce any universes that could sustain life.²²

Indeed, from experience we know that some machines (or factories) can produce other machines. But our experience also suggests that suchmachine-producing machines themselves require intelligent design.
Second, as Collins argues, all things being equal, we should prefer hypotheses ‘‘that are natural extrapolations from what we already know’’ about the causal powers of various kinds of entities.²³ Yet when it comes to explaining the anthropic coincidences, the multiple-worlds hypothesis fails this test, whereas the theistic-design hypothesis does not. To illustrate, Collins asks his reader to imagine a paleontologist who posits the existence of an electromagnetic ‘‘dinosaur-bone-producing field’’, as opposed to actual dinosaurs, as the explanation for the origin of large fossilized bones. While certainly such a field qualifies as a possible explanation for the origin of the fossil bones, we have no experience of such fields or of their producing fossilized bones. Yet we have observed animal remains in various phases of decay and preservation in sediments and sedimentary rock. Thus, most scientists rightly prefer the actual dinosaur hypothesis over the apparent dinosaur hypothesis (that is, the ‘‘dinosaur-bone-producing-field’’hypothesis) as an explanation for the origin of fossils. In the same way, Collins argues, we have no experience of anything like a ‘‘universe generator’’ (that is not itself designed; see above) producing finely tuned systems or infinite and exhaustively random ensembles of possibilities. Yet we do have extensive experience of intelligent agents producing finely tuned machines such as Swiss watches.


R. Collins, ‘‘The Fine-Tuning Design Argument: A Scientific Argument for the Existence of God’’, in M.Murray, ed., Reason for the Hope Within (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 61.

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