The Multiverse and God

A Stephen Hawking paper was published posthumously today on a framework using string theory and GR to significantly constrain the number of universes (multiverse) coming out of eternal inflation. But it took Dr. Deb Haarsma, president of Biologos and (former) science contributing astrophysicist no time in studying the Hawkins paper and commenting on the paper directly but instead she took ownership of the Multiverse and claim it in the name of the Evangelical Christian God. Her claims are that if there is a multiverse, her Evangelical Christian God created it. So now we know. Despite hundreds of scientist working on a theory that can explain eternal inflation without an infinite number of universes popping into existence, here we have Deb Haarsma who has an imaginary friend who actually know who created it. What hubris.

As is well known, I have no problem criticizing Deb Haarsma. On this one, however, I agree with her. If the multiverse exists, God created it. This is not a new position in the slightest; and reminds me of CS Lewis’s work. It is not “stealing” Hawking’s multiverse. It is just how we as Christians would understand this scientific theory, it were proven to be true.

I think it is deplorable for a scientist to do that. She wrote this in direct response to the public interest that was generated by the publication of Hawking’s posthumously published paper on the multiverse. Very disrespectful and very disingenuous. She uses the Doctor of Astronomy moniker to proclaim her religion. Does she think that she is the president of Biologos because of her commitment to Evangelical Christianity? No, she is president of Biologos because she has credentials in the secular scientific community.

Let’s calm down. Or we might need to take a break for a while longer. We understand, @Patrick, that you dislike Christianity. It is, however, legitimate for Christians who are scientists to explain how they understand scientific findings within their belief system. There is nothing deplorable about this.

Just think; in some alternate universe, Patrick may be the lone holdout for theism. Not deplorable at all. Just very unverifiably imaginative.

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Sorry Patrick. I’m a ‘aggie’* and I just don’t see the issue. I think it’s a perfectly reasonable suggestion for a Christian (or Jew, Muslim and any number of religions).


Speaking of credentials, was very proud to graduate my first PhD student today. He has a couple weeks to finish off after the defense, but he will have 17 papers before he is done. I’m pretty proud of that. Compare him to most people in the faith science debate if you dare (atheists too) :wink:

That’s impressive… it’s not 95 theses yet, but he still has time!

Congratulations Joshua!

Further congrats.

On the Multiverse, Patrick’s protestation is, in effect, to say that no Christian belief about nature is permissible.

Haarsma’s position on evolution is that God stands behind natural laws, which are sufficient to do the job and, therefore, do not point directly to God, who is hidden behind the processes he created. It’s not a position I agree with, because I find it hard to justify either theologically or philsophically - and certainly not scientifically. But it is the basis on which she can say “We should never portray God as an alternative to a scientific theory,” and is a rational option - certainly more rational than the alternative, that the laws of nature are a brute fact lacking any reasons [“rational” - pertaining to reason].

Therefore, any law-based conception of a multiverse - which as far as I can see is Hawking’s model - fits neatly into her model, whether it originated in time or is eternal (Thomas Aquinas argued coherently for the need for God even in an eternal universe).

Since the late nineteenth century (only) it has been disallowed to speak of God within scientific discourse. But now Patrick is saying that it is disallowed for a scientist of faith even to speak of God in a religious organisation like BioLogos. And that is more than hubristic - it is totalitarian.

Secular materialism has increasing difficulty justifying itself intellectually, and many scientists - and most lay people - reject it. It’s not clear to me, therefore, on what grounds it co-opts science to its failing metaphysical agenda, with its imaginary invisible and incoherent causal entities like “chance” and “necessity”, neither of which has been demonstrated.

Congratulations on your first PhD student. Best wishes of continued success in science to him and his family.

Regarding Haarmsa, she is in it for the $124K salary the position brings in. Yes, she is a light weight in the science community. She is no Francis Collins. Reminds me of a Sunday school teacher who tells the kids to behave and get along with each other to make God happy. Not impressive at all. Do you think she even read the Hawking’s paper?


@Patrick can’t help himself. He fits the “official guidelines” of the New Atheist to a “T”. He seems to think Atheism proceeds by “the badger of the mouth”.

Everyone has the right to speak out. My complaint regarding Deb Haarsma’s purely theocratic claim is that she give the illusion that she has some scientific authority or some special.scientific insight because of her training and PhD in Astrophysics. Her pronouncement was more what I would expect the Pope to say. Or perhaps the Vatican Science Board. But from Biologos it sounds so lame. What’s next Danny Faulkner at AIG saying that the multiverse if it happened at all was on day 3 of the creation week 6000 years? Let the scientific community work as it has and keep God out of it.

Out of curiosity, did you read his paper?

Here is layman’s summary from my favorite astrophysicist writer. I’m not sure there is even really much of an advance here over what we’ve already thought:

Here is, in a nutshell, what they do. They create a (deformed) conformal field theory that is mathematically equivalent (or dual) to an eternally inflating spacetime, and investigate some mathematical properties of that field theory. They look, in particular, at where the border of a spacetime that inflates for an eternity (forward in time) versus one that doesn’t, and choose that as the interesting problem to consider. They then look at the geometries that arise from this field theory, try to map that back onto our physically inflating Universe, and draw a conclusion from that. Based on what they find, they contend that the exit from inflation doesn’t give you something eternally inflating into the future, with disconnected pockets where hot Big Bangs occur, but rather that the exit is finite and smooth. In other words, it gives you a single Universe, not a series of disconnected Universes embedded in a larger multiverse.

That’s their paper. There are no observable consequences; there is nothing to measure; there is nothing to test. There’s no prediction about the end of the Universe, and there are no robust conclusions we can draw about its beginning. There are tremendous limitations to the implications of this work, and there are few compelling reasons to believe that their toy model has relevance for our physical Universe.

I Am An Astrophysicist. Here's What Stephen Hawking's Final Paper Was Actually About

Why do you care so much about this paper @Patrick?

Yes it did read it on arxiv. It is very readable. It is really just a framework on how string theory, GR and QM can be used to significantly limit the number of universes to a finite number all with the same physics.

Yes I enoy reading Ethan Siegel too. I agree with your points in bold above.

But I marvel at the foresight in thinking. Reminds me of the first time I read about Alan Guth’s inflation in 1980. It sounded way way out there. But low and behold 40 years later it is refined and pretty mainstream science. I started Bell Labs in 1978 the day Penzias and Wilson’s nobel prize was announced on the CMBR. I live across the street from the famous horn antenna they used.

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But not on other people’s property. This is not your forum. You are coming into someone else’s “house” and behaving very boorishly. That’s not good. What’s worse is that you (and this is typical of today’s irrational atheists) go around making one assertion after another that this idea or that is ridiculous and you are either referencing some idea that few or none around here endorse (i.e. whacking away at a straw man) or you are attacking their ideas directly but don’t hang around and submit your accusations to the scrutiny of dialogue.

I don’t think that I can be a better man without a relationship with God. If you think you can, please go ahead and try it.

Did I correctly peg your objection here? The Rules of the Game

If that is about right, can you clarify how she could have written that in article to make it more clear? Reading her article, I’m not 100% sure how you prefer it was written. She does, for example, add clauses like, “as a Christian.”


I think my chief complaint was that fact that she is a PhD in Astronomy commenting on astronomy. Sure she was head of Biologos however if she was a PhD in evolutionary biology, folks would immediately look at it as she was really commenting on her theology and was way outside her scientific area of expertise. Another complaint was one of timing. It purposely coincided with the death of Stephen Hawkings and the public adoration he was receiving from the press as a great scientist and proclaimed atheist. It was a petty insult on a great man who died from a little known person in physics. Completely unnecessary grandstanding by Biologos to make them look relevant. Even the Vatican was more gracious.

Can you link to the Vatican response you thought was gracious?

I see what you are saying. Hawking’s death is a real loss, and particularly meaningful to you. It doesn’t seem like Debs article even mentions Hawking. Either she is just out of touch with culture, and did not know about his passing, or was using his death to make parochial point. I can understand much better why you were offended.


You paint quite the picture…

You take your official position of “Policeman of Religious Support of Evolution” pretty darn seriously… the gravity of the scope of your responsibility over these matters must be quite daunting.