October 22, 2012

Theism and the Multiverse

Filed under: Philosophy of Religion — camcintosh @ 3:01 pm

It is typically argued that if the multiverse hypothesis is true, then we cannot infer that the universe is designed. Let’s represent this as:

1. M → ~UD

It is also typically argued that if theism is true, the universe is designed. So

2. T → UD

But recent work on the relationship between theism and the multiverse hypothesis should make us either doubt these conditionals, or change the way we think about the multiverse. For example, it has recently been argued that if theism is true, we should expect the existence of a multiverse (e.g., Kraay, “Theism, Possible Worlds, and the Multiverse“. See also here, esp. Collins):

3. T → M

But then by hypothetical syllogism we’d have the following:

4. T → ~UD

Which is odd, because (2) is bedrock. So, either (1) is false or (3) is false (maybe entailment is too strong of a connective to fairly represent the relationships between these views, which seems likely because it’s dubious that ~M → ~T.  But it would be very easy to weaken them by stating them as conditional probabilities instead). But the most interesting point is that the plausibility of (1) and (3) will depend, I suspect, on how exactly we conceive of the multiverse; i.e., what metaphysical assumptions are going to be attached to it. This reveals just how metaphysically-laden the multiverse hypothesis is.



  1. I think (1) is mistranslated into logic. You said, “if the multiverse hypothesis is true, then we cannot INFER that the universe is designed” (my emphasis), but (1) states that “if the multiverse hypothesis is true, then the universe is not designed”, but this clearly doesn’t follow since, as you point out, theism is compossible with a multiverse. All that would follow from a corrected (1) would be that if theism were true, then we couldn’t infer the universe is designed, which is counter-intuitive, but at least not contradictory.

    That said, I’d imagine (without reading the paper you linked) that theism doesn’t imply a multiverse, but merely allows for the possibility, so:
    ¬(T -> ¬M)

    Comment by elliottroland — October 24, 2012 @ 8:25 am | Reply

  2. Right. But, mutatis mutandis, the points I make stand, I think.

    Comment by camcintosh — October 24, 2012 @ 3:00 pm | Reply

  3. I guess from a wrong statement you can follow anything. So, starting with the assumption that theism is wrong, both T → ~UD and T → UD are valid. Which is a strong point for Theism being wrong in my opinion.

    Comment by Jacob Something (@j_kanev) — December 4, 2012 @ 6:36 am | Reply

    • I’m not sure what you mean, Jacob. Do you mean that anything follows from a contradiction, and if we assume that theism is contradictory, anything would follow?

      Comment by camcintosh — December 4, 2012 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

      • Sort of. The principle of explosion “ex falso quodlibet” states that from a logically wrong statement anything can be followed. In English this usually is referred to as “anything follows from a contradiction”, although “falso” actually means false, not contradictory. In your example we have Theism plus points (1)-(4) and arrive at a contradition. This would mean either one of (1)-(4) or (using this principle) Theism itself must be logically wrong. If you want to limit “logically wrong” to “contradictory” that’s fine with me.

        Comment by Jacob Something (@j_kanev) — December 14, 2012 @ 8:25 am

      • Well, not anything follows from just any ol’ falsehood. It has to be contradiction. And of course if theism is contradictory, then theism is simply false. If theism is contradictory, and from that we instead conclude “Well, here’s a true contradiction!” the truth of theism follows just as surely as its falsity. Besides, as I say in the post, and elliot points out above, it’s best not to understand the implication in (1)-(4) as material.

        Comment by camcintosh — December 15, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

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