Micah Redding — humanity, technology & the future

In this series:

The Problem of Evil, part 3 - And God Saw The Multiverse, And It Was Good

If the multiverse, with the collection of all possible histories, really does exist, what does that mean for the Problem of Evil? Why does that solve it, or tell us anything about it?

At first glance, it may not help much. After all, if there are an infinite number of worlds with different histories than ours, we must assume that the amount of evil and suffering in creation is not just huge, but infinite. God created trillions of human beings only to suffer through short and horrific lives.

But the key thing about the multiverse is what it tells us about God's nature.

Why did God create anything? The traditional answer has been that he wanted something to love, or that his essence is creation. He had to display his All-Loving nature by creating finite beings to express his love through and towards.

I think this is correct. God has an innate desire to express his love through creation. And look at how abundantly he did this! He didn't just create another intelligent being to discourse with, he created a whole chain of creatures from bacteria to land animals to sea creatures, from birds to plants to the cosmos itself. He built a universe 20-billion light years across, and as far as we can tell, we're the only intelligent life-form in it. How wasteful! And yet, to God this is not waste. It's creation. It's creativity. It's love.

God's love is expressed in the existence of bacteria, which will never know him, just as it is in the existence of humans, who have the opportunity to be like him. God's love and majesty is expressed in 20 billion light-years worth of intricately shaped rock, dust, gases, stars and galaxies, just as it is in the crumbling of a small piece of sandstone.

And God's creative love, we have now discovered, is even more infinite than we thought. God didn't just create an enormous beautiful universe for us to inhabit; he did it trillions of times over, for different people and different creatures, with different structures and different patterns, holding different beautiful things we cannot fathom.

We should not recoil in horror at this image. We should stand back in awe at the creative work of God.

And this gives us a crucial insight into God. For the God we love and worship holds the suffering of his creation to be serious indeed. The rape of a poor woman, the torture of a Jew, even the unhappiness of a child, are serious things to our God.

Because he is All-Loving, there is only one thing that he could hate worse than the suffering of his children: their non-existence.

...

When I was 15 years old, I was in a bike accident, and busted out my front tooth. I ended up with 15 stitches INSIDE my mouth, and some pretty impressive scarring on the outside. Because of that accident, I went through months and months adjusting to the replacement that had been made for me. I got used to eating again. Then, in examining my mouth, the doctors discovered that I had four extra teeth growing under my normal bottom teeth, a pretty rare situation in humans. That was only one of a host of different odd situations that happened in this process.

It's certainly conceivable that this experience affected my confidence and personality as I finished high school and went on to college. It would be hard to assess whether this effect was positive or negative, but it definitely had an effect.

Due to having this experience, a host of other experiences resulted, including specific conversations I had with people that are very memorable to me. The chain of events leading from that one event grew and grew, including the one where I am writing about it now.

If that one event had never happened, some parts of my life would have turned out very different. I would have different memories, a somewhat different personality, and a slightly different set of pyschological tools to work with.

I would be a different person.

Not as different as, say, two random strangers walking down the street. But different enough. More different than the difference between my teenage self and my adult self. If I could meet this alternate self, we would have different memories and experiences to discuss; some shared thoughts, but also some different thoughts. We would recognize that we were indeed different people. We would even look slightly different.

But according to physics, this other self DOES exist.

Make no mistake - busting out my front tooth was suffering. Relatively minor suffering, but suffering nevertheless. The God who numbers our very hairs knows about this suffering. He empathizes with it. He felt it when it happened.

And he could have stopped it from happening.

But consider our two Micahs - one who got a busted tooth, one who didn't. Which does God love more? Which does God value having?

Doesn't God value both of us the same? Doesn't God love the version of me who got his face busted just as much as he loves the version of me who didn't?

So which one would he create?

...

If God was choosing to create the universe, and he could choose to create one in which I never had that experience, or one in which I did have that experience, which would he choose? I think we can now see the answer to that. God would look at the results of these two possible universes, and see people he loves just as intensely as he ever loved anything. And instead of choosing only one of these people to exist, he would express his infinite love by creating BOTH.

Truth be told, God had the option of creating a universe where no evil existed. In fact, he DID create that universe. That universe does not hold you and me, however. It probably does not even hold anyone like you or me. It is a world without suffering, but also a world without us. Without sin and evil, the genealogies that led to us never happened. God hates the sin and evil that have existed in our history, but he would hate our non-existence more.

And so God also created other universes, universes which contain you and me, and every version of you and me that is possible. God's love for his creation is so intense, he could not stand to let any possible creature miss its chance for existence.

When God began to create, he got to choose which universes (which histories) he would actualize. And from his perspective, the only choice was which of us got to exist. Which of his children would live? The good and unbroken, undamaged ones? Or the broken, suffering, victimized ones? The ones who never had a moment's worry? Or the ones who underwent unfathomable suffering?

If God had chosen just one universe out of the many, we would have a legitimate question: why this one? Why actualize all this suffering?

But the fact that God chose ALL reveals to us his overall nature: unfathomable love expressed in the infinite act of creation, the act of creating brokenness as well as wholeness, health as well as sickness, evil as well as good.

Because God is love.


Part 1, 2, 3

Next: (A Few) More Thoughts on The Problem of Evil

micah:

I should note:<br/><br/>This answer to the Problem of Evil is essentially the same as that given by Frank Tipler in his book "The Physics of Christianity". He does not, I think, delve as far into the reasoning of it as I have attempted to. It is a different answer than that he gave in "The Physics of Immortality".<br/><br/>Further, I came to this answer independently about a decade ago. So I feel justified in claiming it as "my answer". :)<br/><br/>What do you guys think about it? Have I explained what I meant well enough?

Ross:

Micah, does your theory not make God selfish? He creates us and lets us suffer. What if WE would have rather not been created? If there is a perfect universe like you mentioned, then there must be an infinitely evil one, pretty much hell on earth. Now, it would follow like all these individuals would likely rather not even exist opposed to suffering like this. Yet, if they were to kill themselves God would send them to Hell.<br/><br/>It is like if a scientist in a lab starting cloning all these people and put them through brutal torture experiments for his own enjoyment. They may want to die, but in death he would somehow subject them to even worse experiments. Even more torture and suffering.<br/><br/>He values His “love” of his creation more than the wishes of it. This is not a kind God, it is a selfish one. Like a jealous lover locking his wife in the house so she cannot leave him. This may be love, but it is still evil. This is another explanation that destroys your idea of an omnibenevolant God.

micah:

Ross, thanks for your comment. <br/><br/>First of all, no one is saying that someone who kills themself goes to hell. God doesn't ever say that.<br/><br/>Second, saying that God should not let certain people exist AT ALL is like asking a parent to decide which children should get to be born. If a father finds out that his unborn child will have a crippling disease, does that mean he should not allow that child to be born?<br/><br/>The child will suffer, but does that mean the loving thing to do is to deny that child existence?<br/><br/>Who makes those value judgments? Who can make a value judgment about whether or not someone who does not exist, should exist?<br/><br/>At the least, the individual should be given a chance to exist, to make their own decision.<br/><br/>Third, the question is:<br/><br/>"Are there some people who would have decided not to exist, had they been given the chance?"<br/><br/>That's a meaningless question, by definition. How can a non-existence being decide whether it would like to exist?<br/><br/>...<br/><br/>Would someone who went through Nazi holocaust hell - rather have not existed at all? I would argue that they would rather have life than no-life, even if that life involved hellish suffering.<br/><br/>Anyone who desires to cease existence can do so at any time. God does not stop (or punish) them.

Yogurt_King:

A novel approach. I apologize on behalf of other non-believers for the sarcasm you received on the Google groups posting. Definitely the thought you put into this is worth responding towards in a thoughtful and respectful manner. Which I will do, provided there is enough coffee today.

Kevin:

This is all good and well but it is my understanding that the multiverse theory is all but been obliterated and the superdeterministic ("hidden variable" or "spooky actions at a distance") theory proved by a Scientist (of Korean Decent) at U.C. Berkeley with an interferometer.<br/><br/>It was a proof of the EPR mental experiment by creating a interfering laser beam, then splitting it into two arms, blocking one beam at a great distance and observing the other beam ceasing to interfere at exactly the same distance from the split, even though the "information" about the block could not have traveled from one leg to the other at the speed of light and created coherent light at that point.<br/><br/>What is so wrong with <br/>gnosticism? Many of the worlds religions have independently come up with a theory of a turbulent battle/balance of creative and destructive forces in the universe (e.g. taoism) which seems much closer to scientific observation than a monolithic God/Buddy/Daddy of the universe.<br/><br/>It is my understanding that the Gnostics were getting along just fine until Constantine and the Counsel of Nice established the "Canonical Bible" then genocided all the sects that would not go along with it. The Gnostics emphasized the teachings of Jesus rather than the miracles and ritual (e.g. the communion and lord's prayer, which is contrary to all of Jesus' prior iconoclastic life and is openly admitted by the Catholics to be the "Nicean Chant") and were wiped out because they refused to participate in the rituals of the pagan Roman empire, AFAIK.<br/><br/>so you have the three systems, atheism, gnosticism, and canonical Christianity. Considering that it is possible that these questions cannot even be answered, the answer would be which system provides the happiest, most sustainable sociological system. Can you cite some empirical sociological evidence that one system is better for it's members and the environment that others?<br/><br/>Religion can be defined as that process which converts the unanswerable questions into the unquestionable answers!<br/><br/>BTW, superdeterminism <br/>kind of shoots the Christian concept of free will in the head!<br/><br/>Also, it was my understanding that the Copenhagen result was that neither theory was preferred and they were just going to continue to collect data until some future scientist could figure it out.

SL:

Its a few years late, but I just came across this in a google search and felt like I had to clarify something...<br /><br />The Copenhagen Interpretation and the Many-worlds(or Many Histories) Interpretation are not scientific. They fall in the category of metaphysics, which means that they are not testable or provable. I am currently studying physics, and it is very important to distinguish between the two.<br /><br />Physics: A mathematical description of natural phenomena which is used to predict future occurrences of those phenomena.<br /><br />Metaphysics: Philosophical conjectures which cannot be verified through experimentation about why the phenomena behave the way they do. If an experiment can be created and implemented which results in a conclusive true/false value for the conjecture, then it is now physics.<br /><br /><br />Finally, as I was writing this I noticed something about this application of the Many-worlds Interpretation. If every &amp;quot;decision&amp;quot; (using the word liberally) creates a new universe for each possible outcome, then god has no influence. Everything that can happen will happen in at least one universe, and no universe will have the same sequence of events. Thus the multi-verse is deterministic with or without any active interference from God, even though our specific universe might seem random or controlled by a greater power from our perspective.

J.:

It's a few years late, but I just came across this in a google search and felt like I had to clarify this something's something (I graduated with a double-major in mathematics and theoretical physics, specializing in particle physics and metamathematics, respectively): The Copenhagen interpretation is the bedrock of modern physics, and the many-worlds interpretation is a possibility in both the wave-function's pre-collapse and the non-zero cosmological constant framework. So, to say that they aren't scientific is either 1. trolling, 2. you're receiving a bad education, or 3. you fell for a degree mill scam. Mathematics is also metaphysical by its very nature. I suggest reading less Popper and more Tarski if you want to know what qualifies as science.