The multiverse and evolution, related only in the minds at the Discovery Institute

On August 11, 2008, Casey Luskin veers away from his usual posts of misunderstanding and misreporting of evolution to talk about a subject that is completely unrelated to evolution: the theory of the mulitverse.  This theory states that there might be an infinite number of parallel universes that each differ by small variables.  As he says:

this speculative idea was invented for the purpose of avoiding the conclusion that the cosmos was intelligently designed

Does Luskin really think that scientists (many of whom are religious) sit around thinking of ways to disprove God? Does Luskin have any proof that this is the case? Of course not. This technique of accusing scientists of trying to destroy God by making up theories is ridiculous and has been a talking point against evolutionary theory.

But how did the theory arise? I really don’t know, but it does seem to fall out from what we know of quantum mechanics and the inflation shortly after the big bang.  Michael Clive Price wrote a FAQ explaining how the mulitverse actually resolves many paradoxes found in quantum mechanics.

Luskin continues:

the hypothesis was constructed in order to explain away the improbability of our universe’s physical laws, which are finely-tuned to permit the existence of advanced life.

Ignoring Luskin’s denial that the hypothesis came out scientific observations, another possibility that Luskin does not offer is that there is some fundamental property that forces the physical laws to be compatible with each other. This property would lead to the inevitable values that we currently measure.

Even more damaging to Luskin’s argument comes from a recent paper published in Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. Fred Adams, a physicists from the University of Michigan have come up with new calculations that seem to indicate that nearly a 1/4 of combinations of physical constant values results in universes that contain the stars and planets.

Of course Luskin’s post about the multiverse has nothing to do with evolution. Evolutionary theory does not deal with the beginning of the universe. It doesn’t even deal with the beginnings of life on Earth. So why is Luskin posting this on an evolution blog? Because many ID proponents equate evolution with atheism. Therefore, any topic that equates science with atheism is a win for intelligent design.

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Relying on intuition leads nowhere

One of the biggest reasons that people have a hard time believing in evolution is that it doesn’t make intuitive sense. How could my great(X 1000) grandmother have been a monkey? Even given the vast timescale that such changes occurred, it just seems impossible.  In cases such as this, one has to disregard intuitive feelings.     

Why should we ignore our intuition?  The answer is that so much of what we think is reality, simply is not. In this post, I am going to give two examples that show why reality is not what it appears.

The first example comes from Einstein and his theories of relativity.  Although I am sure that most people are familiar with his ideas, it is worth reexamining.  Einstein’s theory of relativity has passed every test that has been thrown at it. However, it just being a theory means that it is subject to refutation. For the sake of argument, lets say that it is fact.

The theory of relativity, at its most simple, shows us that things we take for granted are not always constant. Mass, length, and time all change depending on the movement of the observer compared to other observers. Does this make intuitive sense? Absolutely not. Even having learned these ideas when I was a child, it really doesn’t make sense to me. This is undoubtedly due to humans having evolved to never need to know about or use the consequences of relativity. If we lived in a world where we regularly traveled at speeds close to the speed of light, it might be another story.

The second example of how our intuition does not reflect reality is illustrated by the double-slit experiment. If you are not familiar with this experiment, please take a minute to read about it, or watch the video below.

Just so that we are on the same page, here is short description of the experiment.  Photons act like both a wave and a particle. If you shoot a beam of light at a piece of paper that has two slits that are close together, you will get an interference pattern. This is the same type of interference that you can see with waves in water or hear with sound. Here is where it gets cool (and creepy).  If you shoot single photons (or electrons or protons) at the double slit, you still get an interference pattern. Even if these particles are shot at a rate that is so slow that they cannot possibly hit each other, you still get this interference pattern.

What do the results of this experiment tell us? It tells us that each individual particle is actually interfering with itself. In some sense, the particle is actually going through both slits at once. Therefore, what we think of as particles moving through space are really probability waves that only collapse into a particle when it interacts with something.

These two examples show us that we can’t trust our intuition.  It tells us that what we see is not what we get, but reality is much different. The results of double-slit experiment, like relativity, have no real implications for our daily lives. It is no surprise that our intuition would disagree with these results.  Intelligent design proponents should not trust their intuition in matters of science, but they do. In fact, this logical fallacy of argument from personal disbelief appears to be one of their biggest talking points. It is too bad they can’t ignore their intuition and rely on the evidence.