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Intelligent Design and the Multiverse (part two of two)

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Unfortunately at the opposite end of the science and religion spectrum from our Intelligent Design proponents lay another group of people with preconceived notions of their own. Most are brilliant scientists and very dedicated to their profession, but they harbor within them a thinly veiled hostility to the idea that scientific discovery can detect or even point to things metaphysical. And when they look at our universe, the one that we know exists, they don't like what they see.

It has been said that our universe seemingly came into being precisely the way necessary so that eventually intelligent life would be able to examine it in awe and wonder, and the more we learn about it the harder that is to dispute. If the current scientific consensus is correct and the universe came into being with a Big Bang some 14 or 15 billion years ago, that event is even more remarkable considering there are life forms with the ability to discuss it today. There are innumerable laws or characteristics of physics that simultaneously came into being with the Big Bang, and if any one of them were minutely different the eventual emergence of life would have been impossible. The weight and distance ratio of gravity, the rate at which stars burn nuclear fuel, and the ratio of existing elements and their subatomic properties are just a few of these. A rational, objective person can consider all of this evidence and reasonably draw the conclusion that the universe seems designed for the purpose of producing life.

Ah, "design" and "purpose," two words that are the bane of too many scientific perspectives, and I believe it it these perspectives that lead to propositions such as the Multiverse. It would not be overly cynical to perceive the Multiverse as a flight of fancy motivated solely by the desire of some scientists to remove design and purpose from the consideration of our universe. It seems as if what is really being said by Multiverse proponents is "Yes our universe does appear to be purposely fine tuned for the emergence of life, but it's really just one of (insert your number here) universes, so ours falls into the mathematical range of chance probability."

Please. Is there anything about the Multiverse that could be empirically demonstrated? Even at the loftiest levels of esoteric physics, where maybe it could be said that some of the speculation on the Multiverse is based on plausible reasoning, is it even possible that within the next few centuries some facets of Multiverse theory could transform into a few shreds of actual evidence? Hey gang, isn't our universe enough to keep people busy? It's hardly as if what we know about our universe falls into the 2+2=4 category. To me the Multiverse proponent is much like a person who's put in charge of finding a needle in a city-sized haystack but would rather speculate about a bunch of needles floating in invisible clouds in the stratosphere.

Also, isn't it a function of science that, short of examining evidence in order to acquire knowledge that meets accepted standards of epistemology, to at least responsibly theorize plausible explanations for things for which available evidence is currently inadequate or lacking? How is it more plausible that an abundance of universes have resulted from a mindless, unintentional accident or chance than it is some type of preexisting intelligence is responsible for the universe we see? Isn't it fair to say that many reasonable, rational people, even those without religious inclinations, may not find either of those scenarios more fanciful or spectacular than the other?

Many scientifically inclined people have a strong mistrust or antipathy toward organized religion, and are extremely wary of providing religion with scientific justification for its worldviews. This is understandable. Reason and organized religion have often if not always been mutually exclusive, and the collective memory of the scientific community still vividly recalls centuries of persecution by religiously dominant cultures and governments. Yet there are a few things to keep in mind here. While science and the sectarian, revelation-based monotheistic religions seem beyond reconciliation, that is not true of all religion, especially the wisdom-based traditions. It is a strong desire of many spiritual devotees to cultivate a worldview that is informed by science. And this spiritual community has a lot to offer science as well, as it can provide a conduit for science to further permeate and influence the general public.

Where the scientific and the spiritual can find common ground, the potential exists for this commonality to create a powerful cultural center, which each aspect of it nurturing and strengthening the other. And if this can happen, the more dogmatic and traditional religions that cannot incorporate scientific edification will find themselves being pushed more and more to the social fringes.

But science has to do its part. If it insists on maintaining a course of dogmatic reductionism and materialism, even when evidence can be rationally interpreted otherwise, it will continue to polarize itself and fight an uphill battle in the arena of public opinion. It would be especially unfortunate if that result occurred because science was as obstinate and biased as it accuses Intelligent Design as being.

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