Multiverse Morality

This cartoon, which I saw on the Daily Kos, gets at the serious issues which the notion of an infinite multiverse raises for ethics and for religion. In an infinite number of universes, there will always be an infinite number of you and of me, some having done more good and some certainly having turned to evil, and any and all differences you can imagine. Eternal life becomes guaranteed, but not the victory of good over evil.

Infinity seems to make it inevitable that this is the way things are. And if there isn't an infinity of universes, that solves this issue, but raises others.


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  • Michael Wilson

    James, I have imagined that if God is all knowing, then his/her mind would contain all possible outcomes for all possible universes in complete detail so as to be indistinguishable from reality, God’s mind would be a multiverse, and further, to have complete knowledge, he/she would have had to experienced the emotions of all possible beings from their perspective as they lived all possible lives. If not then God would not be all knowing since he wouldn’t know what its like to be oh say, space Hitler of alternate earth #201,003. A thing to keep in mind though is you are only you in the universe you are experiencing qualia in, and no other. James McGrath, pop-superstar of alternate earth #45,987 is not you.

  • Scott P.

    The above is sort of a reductio ad absurdum that I think effectively debunks the multiverse hypothesis.

    You are correct that if the multiverse hypothesis is true, then it does lead to some ethical questions. For example, there are two universes, each identical to ours, in one of which I commit suicide at 12:00 today and one in which I don’t. If I choose not to commit suicide at 12:00, then I therefore condemn my alternate self to death. I am a murderer. But if I do commit suicide, I ensure my alternate self lives. Which is the ethical choice to make?

    • David Evans

      I think that’s not how it works. There are (at least) 2 kinds of multiple universe model:

      In Type 1, you and your alternate (and a possibly infinite number of others) already exist and there are no causal connections between them. What you do has no effect on the alternates, each of whom makes his own decision.

      In Type 2, every decision brings into existence new universes.If your suicide was a real option, then whichever you choose there will be a new universe in which you live and another in which you die. The one who lives and the one who dies are both (successors of) the “you” who made the decision.

  • Gary

    Infinity of universes has always bothered my sensibilities. Nothing to do with morality. Or contradictions (like in time travel – me existing in multiple realities). It has to do with energy and matter. Infinite universes mean infinite mass and infinite energy.

  • Hydroxonium

    Here are two papers by different authors criticising the “Copenhagen interpretation” that is behind all this.

    • Nick Gotts

      I don’t think the Copenhagen interpretation underlies the idea of infinite universes. On the contrary, I’ve seen it expressed as “Shut up and calculate”, i.e., don’t bother about what the equations of quantum mechanics mean in terms of what reality is like, just use them to predict the outcome of specific experiments. The many-worlds interpretation is one of the alternatives to Copenhagen.

      • Hydroxonium

        I think you’re quite right. Sorry, been a while since I read about this topic! Though, I think there are many criticisms that apply to other “interpretations” like the “many worlds” interpretation.

  • Darach Conneely

    Could we be happy in heaven knowing there are other people suffering for all eternity in hell? Seemingly and I don’t understand how, some Christians think they could. Tertullian though it would even add to the joy of heaven. But what about being in heaven knowing there were other millions of other versions of you suffering in hell? Or would God could solve the problem by collapsing the quantum state of multiple versions of each one of us to the version where we put our faith in Christ… #Universalism #Annihilationism #ScienceFiction