Avengers Endgame and Molinism

Doctor Strange used the time stone to not merely look forward into the future to see what WILL happen, but to evaluate over 14,000,000 “alternate futures” (otherwise known as “possible worlds”) to see what “WOULD happen IF.” Doctor Strange is doing this because although it is not logically impossible for the Avengers to defeat Thanos (of course that COULD happen), he wants to see if there is a possible world that could be actualized (what philosophers and theologians describe as a “feasible world”) in which the Avengers actually would defeat Thanos!

Doctor Strange explains that he examined over 14 million possible alternate futures, but out of the multi-millions of possible worlds surveyed, he knows of only one in which the good guys actually defeat Thanos in the end. One in 14 million is typically thought of as “horrible odds.”

Many thought the ending of Infinity War was one of despair. I, however, was filled with hope. This is because it seemed that these “alternate futures” were not merely based on chance alone, and that Doctor Strange gained knowledge of how all of these super heroes and villains would freely choose in each of the millions and millions of possible worlds he examined. Possessing this knowledge of how these super-powered persons would freely choose in each of these possible futures (similar to what theologians refer to as God’s “middle knowledge”), it seemed to me that Strange freely chose himself — and did everything in his power — to make the possible world in which the good guys would win the actual world in which the good guys will win. Indeed, right before Strange fades away at the end of Infinity War he tells Tony Stark, “It was the only way.”

@AndyWalsh and @AllenWitmerMiller are going to love this one.

How to illustrate the middle knowledge of God is tricky for some. They want to embody “many worlds” as this middle knowledge.

But i dont think there is s way to do that without demoting all the many worlds into non-existence.

Based on what we saw at the end of Doctor Strange, it is not clear at all that Stephen is merely imagining possible worlds. He is either visiting/living through the timelines of actual worlds, or creating those worlds. So I’m not sure he is really addressing the problem of pain in his narrative universe. Not to mention that it’s a purely artificial conceit that there is only one solution and it involves so much suffering.

I can certainly see the value in using Avengers: Endgame to introduce topics in theodicy and molinism. We just need to be careful extrapolating from that is and isn’t possible in a fictional universe to what is or isn’t possible in our actual universe.