God, Multi-verses, and Modal Realism

I have heard in various quarters recently the claim that Lewis’ version of modal realism is (a) just a kind of multi-verse theory; and (b) intrinsically incompatible with theism. A partial discussion of this issue may be found in the pages of Philosophia Christi:

Richard Davis ‘God and Modal Concretism’ Philosophia Christi 10, 1, 2008, 57-74
Graham Oppy ‘Reply to Richard Davis’ Philosophia Christi 11, 2, 2009, 423-36
Richard Davis ‘Oppy and Modal Theistic Proofs’ Philosophia Christi 11, 2, 2009, 437-44

I think that (a) and (b) are both mistaken. But, in order to explain why, we need to have some details of the relevant theories before us.

A. Lewis’ Plurality of Worlds

Here are some of the salient features of the Lewisian view:

1. Individuals are world-bound: no individual exists in more than one world.
2. Worlds have no external relations to one another.
3. (Consequence of 1.) There are no ‘extra worldly’ individuals who are externally related to more than one world.
4. (Consequence of 1.) If there are gods, then gods are world-bound individuals related to exactly one world.
5. There are no ‘island universes’: in each world, there is but one connected spatio-temporal manifold.
6. If there are gods, then spatio-temporal relations are not the sole external relations (since gods are then externally related to spatio-temporal manifolds and yet that external relation is not spatio-temporal). If there are island-universes, then spatio-temporal relations are not the sole external relation (since island universes are externally related to one another, and yet that external relation is not spatio-temporal).
7. The worlds–and their ‘contents’–are truth-makers for (de re) modal claims. ‘I might have Fd’ is true just in case there is a world in which a counterpart of mine Fs.
8. Standard theism receives the following formulation on Lewis view: In every world, there is exactly one all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good being that creates the single connected spatio-temporal manifold of that world (if there is one), and these beings are all counterparts of one another. On Lewis’s account of (de re) modal claims, this state of affairs would make-true the sentence ‘Necessarily, God creates whatever spatio-temporal manifold there is’. (Of course, Lewis does not accept standard theism. The point here is just that this is what the view would look like in a Lewisian framework.)

B. Multi-verses

1. Possible worlds may ‘contain’ many universes, i.e. many maximally connected spatio-temporal domains. If the actual world is a multi-verse, then it ‘contains’ many universes. (There is a question about whether to allow connections involving wormholes, or singularities, or the like. I think that this is simply a verbal question about the definitions of ‘maximal connectedness’ and ‘universe’.)
2. Individuals are universe-bound: no individual exists in more than one universe.
3. Universes have no ‘regular’ external relations to one another. (No information can pass through a wormhole or a singularity, if wormholes or singularities are held to ‘connect’ universes. Etc.)
4. Standard theism receives the following formulation: There is an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good being that exists in every world and that creates all of the universes in every one of the worlds (whether there are many, one, or none). (‘Necessarily, God creates whatever universes there are.’)
5. The multi-verse hypothesis is neutral on the logic, semantics, and metaphysics of modality. Defenders of this hypothesis could be: ersatzists, or primitivists, or fictionalists, or (I say) even (modified) Lewisian realists.

C. What modifications are needed?

1. We need to give up the idea that there is just one connected spatio-temporal manifold in each world.
2. On grounds of simplicity, Lewis prefers a view on which there is just one external relation: worlds just are universes, i.e., maximally spatio-temporally related entities. But, he recognises that his view can accommodate further external relations (and would need to do so, if, for example, it was to allow that it is possible that there are gods or island universes).
3. On grounds of simplicity, Lewis is opposed to island universes. However, as just noted, provided that he admits further external relations, his view can perfectly well accommodate island universes.

D. What might be controversial about the fore-going?

It goes without saying that Lewis’s account of (de re) modality is controversial. Famously, Kripke thought that invoking counterparts as truth-makers does not do justice to the thought that (de re) modal claims are about the very individuals to which they refer. But this is not an issue that has anything particularly to do with theism; if it succeeds, it’s equally an objection to the proposition that Lewis theory can accommodate (de re) modal claims about any other individuals (e.g. you or me). When we ask whether we can accommodate standard theism in a Lewisian framework, we only have an interesting question if we set aside global worries about the adequacy of the Lewisian account of (de re) modality.

I imagine some theists might say: no view can be acceptable if it allows that there are universes that are not made by God (where ‘God’ is taken to refer to a being that exists in the actual world). Now, it is true that this claim would be true on the above version of Lewis’ view. But it is also true, on the above version of Lewis’s view, that it is impossible that there is a universe that is not made by God. Does this mean that the above version of Lewis’ view is contradictory? No.

On the version of Lewis’ view in question, there are no ACTUAL universes that are not made by the ACTUAL God — even though there are non-ACTUAL universes that are not made by the ACTUAL God. Our objecting theist should be happy to accept that there are MERELY POSSIBLE universes that are not made by the ACTUAL God — but, by Lewis’s lights, that’s all that you are required to commit yourself to when you accept that there ARE universes that are not made by God.

About Graham Oppy
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12645042531440559735 Aaron Boyden

    Discussions of modal realism do so often seem to miss the point. We want to be able to say that anything that could be true of the actual world is true of some possible world; that's just what they need to be like to play the role they're supposed to play. Lewis proposes that instead of inventing elaborate stories about what kind of special things worlds are, and inventing further stories about how we're really talking about those things in indirect ways when we talk about what's possible, we should instead just forget about the elaborate stories and say what we want to say about possible worlds directly. If that produced contradictions, that would be a problem, but if it doesn't produce contradictions, what more is needed? We're supposedly talking about a priori matters when we're talking about modality. And debates about what a priori claims are really referring to are not notorious for being productive.

    Still, perhaps theists have a better than usual reason to worry about the Lewis account. Certainly anyone who believes God has necessary existence has to believe that the exact reference of a priori claims can be determined and is important.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    I have always found Multiverse Theories in discussions like this irritating and boring and pointless. The reasons I shall explain below.

    1: The first is Grammar. Universe is a Universal singular, and means “One Truth”. There can’t, by definition, be another Universe. This actually doesn’t mean that the Many Worlds Theory is wrong, but if those alternate “Universes” exist, they are in fact a part of the same Universe as this one, as this one contains all that exists.

    It’s even worse when you use the word “World” the way you do above, so that our World obviously contains that Universe, but may contain other Universes. I do not see how a World can contain more than one Universe though. If not used as a Planet (here it clearly is not) then “World” can be taken to mean “universe”, but won’t be bigger than the Universe. I would posit that we reverse the word choice. We have many worlds, and one Universe, not many universes and one World.

    That of course is criticisable as a semantic, but I feel that words should be sued properly as they are the basis of our thoughts often.

    That out of the way, here are the other two major objections I have to using the Multiverse Theory as an argument for anything.

    2: It is unproven.

    We have no idea that another World even exists, so its really just sheer speculation. The rest is Speculation built on Speculation.

    While this can be fun, its still meaningless.

    What if thee are no other Worlds?

    3: Even if these other worlds exist, there is no real reason to assume that any other world exists apart from those created by God.

    In fact, according to most Theories I have heard, these “Multiple worlds’ come about off of each other, and only represent different pathways events could have taken. For every action that “Might have” occurred, a new world occurs. For every decision, the Timeline splits into two worlds, identical to each other until the moment of Separation.

    But if the Universe itself is contingent on God for its existence, then its easy enough to postulate that God created the initial event.

    For the sake of ease let’s just say the Big Bang with no alternate courses possible, for the sake of argument, than our Natural laws we are familiar with.

    God makes the Big Bang and everything prior to the first 6 minuets is identical in all worlds. Again, this is for the sake of Argument.

    While now there are Timelines in which Earth never formed, or never developed life, or developed life but never developed complex life, or never developed intelligent life, or never developed man but did develop intelligent life, all of those worlds share the same moment of creation. They really are just Timelines that branched off of each other.

    Even if not, even if each has a distinct “Moment of creation’, why couldn’t an infinite God be the creator?

    Of course you covered that possibility. But all the Christian, or Jew, or Muslim has to do is presume that the premise that no extra worldly entities exist is false and that at least eon does exist and the Logic ceases to really support an Atheistic conclusion. Indeed, even of all the other Worlds were independent of each other, there is no Logical reason why God, who is external to each World, couldn’t have made them all.

    Of course this assumes that God exists, which is not proven here by this speculation, but that’s OK, we can’t prove the Multiverse exists either. We may as well toss in Olympus while we’re at it, and Russell’s teapots for fun.

    Now if you will excuse me, I have a cat in a box who is both Alive and Dead because no ones bothered to open the Lid. Of course I do wonder why the cat can’t observe his own state, he apparently can’t. Especially if Dead. I have to collapse a wave function by observing a reality and thus create a World of my own.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05034037930336299849 Mike Gage

    Zarove, do you ever use the word 'atom'?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    Mr. Gage, sometimes yes, when it is warrented.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05034037930336299849 Mike Gage

    And do you know that atom implies that the thing is indivisible? Of course, we now know that what we call an atom is not indivisible and we continue to use the word coherently. That's just a commentary on your first point. It's not particularly persuausive or important. Everyone familiar with the issue knows how the words are being used.

    Your second point seems misguided when compared to the aims of scientific inquiry. It would also potentially commit you to things like external world skepticism. I also don't think anyone is suggesting it is proven, so I don't know what you hope to achieve. Even if it is admittedly not proven, though, we can still discuss the implications if it were true (that seems to be just how conditionals work!).

    Your third point is more than I really want to respond to.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17668854596329493360 ZAROVE

    MR. Gage, I am afraid you toiok my post a bit more seriously than I intended it.

    My only point int he Universe argument is how sloppy our usage of wrdsis, but tisimmaterial to the discussion.

    My second point was also not misguided. Whenever I see an arfument for Atheism that invokes the Many Worlds Theory, it just rings hollow. Even if we accept that a Many Worlds model precludes the need for God, we are confronted with the reality that thre is no actual reason to beelive in the Multiple Worlds theory. There is currently no ecvvidence for it. This is not an affront to Scientific enquirry, only a satement that Science has yet to provide any observable evidence for the claim. it may be so that this is the only world and the Multiple worlds theory is wrong. it is not anyhere enar as established as, say, Relativity.

    The whole of it is mroe an abstract Philosophical "What if' at the moment. One can hardly be oursuaded into Atheism by a n unprovable what if. After all, I can always ask "What fi God really did make the Universe" and tis just as solid.

    Appealign to future potential discoveries is really not useful either. I can appeal to the future rerun of Christ, or a future jewish Judgement day. or a Muslim one.

    That said, even if we do discover the Multiple Worlds exist, this si still not an argument hat God does not exist, or that God exists for some worlds and not others. God coudl be the oen who creaed then all and the samefor each one. There is no reason why we have to assure God is linked tot he world he created, especially if, as in threads that insist Naturalism opposes Theism, we see God as only Supernatural. I even contest this however.


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