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Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiverse
http://forums.avemariaradio.net/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=170530
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Author:  theJack [ Mon May 27, 2019 11:15 am ]
Post subject:  Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiverse

So full disclosure before I lay this out, I am not a fan of Plantinga, his analytical method, or a lot of his argument. I also am not particularly persuaded that his version of the ontological argument works despite its recent influence. With that said, some side studies I've been doing have raised the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics enough that I decided to run a thought about it by you all. Essentially, it seems to me that the overall structure of Plantinga's argument is sound enough and that when we modify the premises only slightly so that it is about the multiverse (as popularly considered in at least some parts of the scientific community today), we have a reductio ad aburdem showing the whole notion to just be false--that is, there is no multiverse following the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

For refresher, Plantinga's version of the OA goes as follows:

    1. It is possible that a maximally excellent being exists
    2. Therefore, a maximally excellent being exists in a possible world
    3. If a maximally excellent being exists in a possible world, then it exists in all possible worlds.
    4. If a maximally excellent being exists in every possible world, then it exists in reality.
    5. Therefore, a maximally excellent being exists.

The structure of this argument is entirely uncontroversial. Its first premise is the one that drives all the debate. The essence of the argument is that if it is even possible for a "maximally excellent being" to exist, then such a being must actually exist (i.e., must exist in our own world). So if God is possible, God exists. God is possible, ergo God exists. As I've already said, I don't like the argument with respect to God, but it does seem interesting with respect to the multiverse. Let's modify it as follows:

    1. It is possible that a universe exists in which we have discovered the multiverse and have been able to make contact with other universes [hereafter, AUCO (advanced universe contacting othres)]
    2. Therefore, an AUCO exists in a possible world
    3. If an AUCO exists in a possible world, then it exists in all possible worlds.
    4. If an AUCO exists in every possible world, then it exists in reality.
    5. Therefore, an AUCO exists.
    6. But there has been no contact in our world from an AUCO, contrary the nature of an AUCO
    7. Therefore, an AUCO does not exist

This is part logical and part a practical demonstration comparable to the attempt to disprove time travel by hosting a party for future time travelers. One of the reasons they might not attend: they can't, because time travel doesn't exist. Only I think this argument is stronger, because whereas there are multiple reasons time-travelers might not come back to your party (even if it were possible, which I say it is not), and therefore there are multiple reasons the conclusion might not hold (that time travel is impossible), that does not apply here due to the nature of the many worlds interpretation of QM. On that interpretation, because quantum particles exists as a field of possibilities rather than an actual state, there really are universes in which the particles are in these other states. And therefore, there really are other universes where you have chosen differently than you have. In other words, if something is possible, it's real in another universe.

So the force of the modified argument now is: if it is possible for a universe to exist in which we have discovered multiverses and have contacted them, then it is really the case that there is a universes in which we have discovered the multiverse and have contacted those other universes.

Of course, we've seen absolutely no such contact, ergo, it is either the case that we can discover other universes and not contact them or else we simply cannot discover other universes. But I'n not sure what it would really mean to talk about a universe we can observe but not contact in some way. I mean, there are parts of our universe we can observe but can't contact, but that seems largely due to both historical accident and a pure function of distance. Neither of those seem to be a problem in a construction of QM in which any conceivable thing that can happen will happen regardless of how infinitely unlikely it is. In this view of QM, to prevent something from happening at least once (i.e., to be possible), it needs not merely to be unlikely but conceptually self-contradictory. So there is no universe in which a four sided triangle exists. So why not a universe in which people made much, much, much more rapid discoveries than they have today and in which they came on the scene of their universe much, much earlier? Maybe their physics are different enough that distance doesn't affect them the way it affects us, and so on.

In short, it seems like it is too much of a stretch to say that it is conceptually impossible, on the many worlds interpretation of QM, for a universe to exist that makes contact with ours. But the very fact that no contact has been observed rules that out. And since it has been ruled out, that necessarily entails that such a universe does not exist, which entails that such a universe is impossible, which either entails that there are conceptual problems with a universe existing that can contact ours or else (seemingly more likely) that the very notion of multiple universes is just false--not necessarily conceptually, but really.

Any thoughts on this?


Also, while I don't expect anyone to be particularly interested in my arguments regarding Plantinga's OA, here are two threads on another board where I argued the point several years ago. Of course, I'd say things differently now than I did nearly a decade ago, but I think the substantive points remain.
https://discussions.godandscience.org/v ... hp?t=34355
https://discussions.godandscience.org/v ... 19&t=38290

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Mon May 27, 2019 1:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

I don't think multiverse proponents would accept the premise that other universes must be contactable.

Author:  EtcumSpiri22-0 [ Mon May 27, 2019 6:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Off topic maybe but I got the impression that the migration of a multiverse, from the pages of a Superman comic book ... to scientific literature, occurred in the timeframe around the discovery that the universe had a beginning. Hubble and Einstein grudgingly admitted that they were wrong and "In the beginning, God" ...was right. At that point atheistic scientists were forced to get up off their Godless laurels and create a new narrative. So they turned to Superman to save the day.

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Mon May 27, 2019 6:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Your chronology is off. Multiverse theories predate their use in comics.

Author:  Closet Catholic [ Mon May 27, 2019 6:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
I don't think multiverse proponents would accept the premise that other universes must be contactable.
But wouldn't that contradict the concept that if something is possible - e.g. contacting other universes - it is also necessarily actual?

Author:  EtcumSpiri22-0 [ Mon May 27, 2019 7:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

The MAD scientist

Hugh Everett: The man who gave us the multiverse

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn ... ultiverse/

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Mon May 27, 2019 7:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Closet Catholic wrote:
Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
I don't think multiverse proponents would accept the premise that other universes must be contactable.
But wouldn't that contradict the concept that if something is possible - e.g. contacting other universes - it is also necessarily actual?

Not if I claim that it's impossible.

Author:  Closet Catholic [ Mon May 27, 2019 7:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Closet Catholic wrote:
Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
I don't think multiverse proponents would accept the premise that other universes must be contactable.
But wouldn't that contradict the concept that if something is possible - e.g. contacting other universes - it is also necessarily actual?

Not if I claim that it's impossible.
But why would it be impossible? Can you demonstrate anything logically contradictory in the idea?

Author:  EtcumSpiri22-0 [ Mon May 27, 2019 7:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Your chronology is off. Multiverse theories predate their use in comics.


Your response piqued my curiosity.

Found this

Wonder Woman No. 59 (1953)
While the origins of the DC multiverse are traditionally attributed to an early ‘60s issue of The Flash — we’ll get there in a second — the story “Wonder Woman’s Invisible Twin” by Robert Kanigher and Harry G. Peter is actually the first instance in a DC or Marvel comic where the title character manages to cross over into a parallel world. “Earth must have a twin world, existing simultaneously alongside it!” the Amazon princess helpfully explains towards the end of the story. “Everyone on it, is a double of everyone on Earth!”
https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat- ... vel-748649

Coincidentally (or not?)

Hugh Everett’s many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics arose from what must have been the most world-changing drinking session of all time. One evening in 1954, in a student hall at Princeton University, grad student Everett was drinking sherry with his friends when he came up with the idea that quantum effects cause the universe to constantly split.
He developed the idea for his PhD thesis – and the theory held up. According to his work, we are living in a multiverse of countless universes, full of copies of each of us.

Max Tegmark of Massachusetts Institute of Technology has said that Everett’s work is as important as Einstein’s work on relativity.

Who knew!?!

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn ... ultiverse/

Which would, of course, lead one to that burning question:

Multiverse me: Should I care about my other selves?

https://templateguru.co/11/?gclid=Cj0KC ... 28EALw_wcB

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Mon May 27, 2019 9:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Closet Catholic wrote:
Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Closet Catholic wrote:
Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
I don't think multiverse proponents would accept the premise that other universes must be contactable.
But wouldn't that contradict the concept that if something is possible - e.g. contacting other universes - it is also necessarily actual?

Not if I claim that it's impossible.
But why would it be impossible? Can you demonstrate anything logically contradictory in the idea?

I don't know enough physics to answer that. I don't think anyone does, honestly. The whole multiverse thing is fairy-tale physics anyhow. No one has the faintest idea how to test it, which means no one has the faintest idea whether or not it's possible to contact other universes (assuming they even exist).

Author:  theJack [ Mon May 27, 2019 9:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

To your original response, Obi, I think the argument shows at a minimum that other universes (if they exist) are such that they cannot be contactable (not merely that we don't have to accept the premise that they are). In other words, if you want to propose a many worlds theory, you are going to be constrained at a bare minimum to show how and why, at a conceptual level, no such universe may under any conditions whatsoever be contactable. Not only can they not be contactable, but it would have to be impossible in any universe whatsoever to send a message to another universe on the basis of the same argument. Again, the conceptual constraints on that are interesting, to put it pretty mildly

I don't think the argument shows that no such universe is detectable. In order to demonstrate that, you'd need to show that it is conceptually possible to contact or at least send a message to other universes, and while I don't see any prima facie reason to think you can't based on the theory underlying the many worlds hypothesis, my ignorance doesn't speak to that question. Still, I do think it's very much something proponents of the theory should keep in mind. Because if it does turn out that there is no fundamental, conceptual reason (i.e., a reason that would entail a self-contradiction) that individuals in one universe could not under any circumstances or any type of physics ever contact or send a message to another universe--shy of showing why that is absolutely impossible--it really does seem to me that the argument in the OP makes a strong case for why we should consider the whole thing absolutely false (and not merely fairy tales).

Having said that, I'm open to correction in the logic of the argument showing where I'm off track. :-/

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Mon May 27, 2019 9:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Ok, here's an objection: if inter-universe observation is possible, you're stuck back in the middle of all the coherence/collapse problems that the multiverse is supposed to avoid.

Author:  theJack [ Mon May 27, 2019 10:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Is that really an objection? Seems like that's just saying, "Right -- in a multiverse, you can't so much as even detect other universes" and that on grounds other than what I've proposed. Unless I've misunderstood you. In that case, it remains true that contactable universes are conceptually impossible. In any case, I'm not aware of "all the coherence/collapse problems that the multiverse is supposed to avoid." But then again, I've not studied this too much yet--only about a year now. I'm primarily following the line of thought I've already laid out (the idea of daughter universes based on quantum possibilities) with some possible background reference to brane theory.

Author:  Closet Catholic [ Tue May 28, 2019 10:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Ok, here's an objection: if inter-universe observation is possible, you're stuck back in the middle of all the coherence/collapse problems that the multiverse is supposed to avoid.
Which to me seems to be why the entire idea is incoherent. If all logical possibilities are actual, as is the argument from defenders of the multiverse (as far as I can gather), then it follows necessary that there is actually a universe that has contacted us and let us know that they are from another universe.

And we cannot say that people have contacted us but that it has been 'hushed down' either. Because if all logical possibilities are actual, then every person in this universe would have been contacted by at least one person from another universe. And again, if all logical possibilities are actual, then we have all been persuaded by it.

The mere fact that it hasn't then seems to show that the idea itself is false.

Author:  theJack [ Tue May 28, 2019 10:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Closet Catholic wrote:
Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
Ok, here's an objection: if inter-universe observation is possible, you're stuck back in the middle of all the coherence/collapse problems that the multiverse is supposed to avoid.
Which to me seems to be why the entire idea is incoherent. If all logical possibilities are actual, as is the argument from defenders of the multiverse (as far as I can gather), then it follows necessary that there is actually a universe that has contacted us and let us know that they are from another universe.

And we cannot say that people have contacted us but that it has been 'hushed down' either. Because if all logical possibilities are actual, then every person in this universe would have been contacted by at least one person from another universe. And again, if all logical possibilities are actual, then we have all been persuaded by it.

The mere fact that it hasn't then seems to show that the idea itself is false.

Actually, I think your emphasizing the logical possibility drives this home. One of the absolute principles of QM, as you well know, is Heisenburg, with the upshot being that a particle, considered as a wave, has a very time probability of being literally anywhere (or, alternatively, a tiny probability of having any velocity). Now if "literally anywhere" is taken seriously, and if the multiverse is real, then it would follow that there are universes in which particles from one universe suddenly appear in another. Super tiny chance! But a chance, nonetheless, and therefore, it would have to happen. That's not merely logically coherent. That's logically entailed. Still more, if one particle can do it, then so can two, and three, and four, and an entire body of them. Again, the chances are astronomically small, but they are there. So there absolutely will be universes in which entire entities, be they planets or stars or animals or plants or even whole galaxies, just "jump" from one universe to another. That's just quantum tunneling on a massive scale--again, unfathomably unlikely, but with an infinite number of universes, it's bound to happen. But this seems to be a perfectly acceptable way for beings in one universe to make contact with beings in another. But that hasn't happened, so the entire notion seems to be intrinsically false. Or, at least, proponents of the theory need to explain why this logical possibility is actually illogical and self-contradictory.

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Tue May 28, 2019 11:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

I'm not sure that "literally anywhere" bears the weight you want to put on it. Reading recommendation: Farewell to Reality, Jim Baggot.

Author:  Obi-Wan Kenobi [ Tue May 28, 2019 11:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Look at velocity. That can't be anything; it is constrained to be between zero and the speed of light. Maximum uncertainty just says that any answer in that range is as likely as any other. Similarly, I would think that maximal uncertainty of location means only that of all possible locations, none is more likely than any other.

Author:  Closet Catholic [ Tue May 28, 2019 12:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

Yes, but that's not what the defenders say. They literally say that all logical possibilities are not just possible but actual.

Author:  theJack [ Tue May 28, 2019 12:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Plantinga's Ontological Argument and the Proposed Multiv

But isn't there a fundamental difference in velocity and location, in that the former must be limited by the speed of light while the latter doesn't need to be? For simple enough proof of that, we've already demonstrated that particles can "travel" at upwards of 10,000 times the speed of light via quantum entanglement (source). I'm not suggesting anything as silly as the ability to communicate at faster than light speeds. That isn't at all implied. But it does imply that the "light cone" doesn't mean anything whatsoever in terms of limitations of "where" a particle can be. Put differently, if we are certain that the velocity of any given particle is zero, we are absolutely certain that all locations are equally likely, not merely all locations within the lightcone (because the lightcone would presume a velocity, which we've already set to zero). And, again, I don't see why if a particle can't be effected at distances that cannot be reached within the speed of light that therefore particles can't be effected (and I mean effected, rather than affected) and infinitely further distances. You would just need less and less certainty regarding its velocity.

As an aside, what this all presumes in the nonlocality of space, which Einstein flatly rejected but today is widely believed to actually be the case. Put in the language of the source above, "quantum mechanics is intrinsically nonlocal." In that case, you can't use limitations on location to describe where something can or can't be (assuming a velocity of zero). That'd be a category error.

All that said, thank you for the book recommendation. It's now on order. :)

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