Further Linguistic Defeats
The Fatal Bent

The Cosmological Just-So Story

From an anonymous commenter at Neoneocon's blog: 

Multiple universes is the physicist’s version of stacking turtles on the backs of turtles.

See this if you don't get the turtle reference--of course "turtles all the way down" has a Wikipedia entry. And see this for a Wikipedia tour of various multiple universe theories. I've never understood how this could possibly be anything other than speculation, forever beyond the reach of physical investigation.

I think the commenter I'm quoting had in mind the invocation of multiple universes as a way out of the quandaries posed by the "anthropic principle"--the idea that many aspects of the universe as we know it are so finely tuned to support life, and not just physical life but sentient life as well, as to defy probability and raise suspicions of a designer at work. Some people of course do not like that idea at all. 

That's what I have in mind in quoting him, anyway. The Wikipedia article suggests that there are other and more important reasons, arrived at by inference from known physical principles, for hypothesizing that there are multiple universes. That's not something I would presume to have an opinon on, but it does strike me that from the theistic point of view there is no reason why there couldn't be other universes--in whatever sense we might use the word "universe." The Wikipedia article also seems to imply that not all the theorists in this area are using the word in the same way.


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The multiple universes thing always brings to mind Marion Montgomery's observation about ascribing so many things to genetics. He said that once we realize that genes can't explain certain things, of course it'll then be theorized that our genes have genes, and it's those genes that will now explain everything.

It also reminds me of C.S. Lewis's quip that Freudianism can explain everything except Freud.

A remark which could easily have been made, in fact more or less is made, by Walker Percy in Lost In the Cosmos. He just didn't single Freud out.

Re genes: when I was introduced to biology in the seventh grade or so (i.e. around 1961), I think they were still using the word "protoplasm." I can't think where else I would have encountered it. Anyway, I know the books were still presenting the cell as a basically pretty simple thing, a sort of blob with a nucleus surrounded by blob-stuff.

Also, atoms were still little micro-solar-systems, mostly electrons, protons, and neutrons, with some in orbit around others in a nucleus. I don't know which view, the relatively simple cell or the relatively simple atom, has been more completely exploded since then. I'm sure it was all well under way in 1960 but hadn't yet made its way into 7th grade textbooks.

For as long as I can remember science journalism has talked about scientists being right on the verge of finding the fundamental component of matter. Maybe they've stopped now, as the picture just seems to get more complicated, with matter almost disappearing as a concept at the deepest level. I think it was back in the '30s when a famous cosmologist said that the universe was beginning to seem like more like a thought than a machine...something like that....

Hamlet was ahead of them all:

"There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Still true today

I think it's even stranger now, in a way, because we've learned all these weird things that Horatio really didn't dream of, and there seems to be more rather than less unknown.

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