Poll: One Universe or Many?

December 3, 2008    By: Matt W. @ 12:09 pm   Category: Theology


[Haven't done a poll in a bit. John C. didn't do one this week, so thought, ah, why not?]

54 Comments »

  1. I’m for the idea of there only being one universe myself. I think it’s because of Widtsoe and Roberts. The whole Idea that there is one universe with universal law and order and that these universal laws is co-eternal to God (and the spirits of man and matter). It makes everything much more nice and tidy for my somewhat finite mind. (I do think the universe is an infintie amount of space though, so go figure.) Besides, if the universe isn’t universal, then what is?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 3, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  2. I agree with you Matt. What is your definition of universe if it doesn’t include all creation?

    Comment by Kent (MC) — December 3, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

  3. I am in the middle. Multiple universes with God confined to ours. Other Gods for other universes.

    Comment by Gilgamesh — December 3, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

  4. What is a universe?

    Comment by Kent (MC) — December 3, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

  5. Gilgamesh, if not even God can see into the other universes, I’d say your answer is theologically equivilant to their being one universe.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 3, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  6. Matt,

    Here is the definition of universe given over at wikipedia:

    The Universe is defined as everything that physically exists: the entirety of space and time, all forms of matter, energy and momentum, and the physical laws and constants that govern them.

    So if we accept that definition your poll makes no sense at all. Maybe you are really asking what the proper definition of “universe” ought to be?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 3, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

  7. Geoff J: While I agree with Wikipedia, surely you might’ve heard the terms “Multiverse” or “Pluraverse” thrown about at least once or twice, right?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 3, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

  8. Here’s a crazy idea. As intelligent beings and their communities advance, they compute increasingly complex worlds (not just planets, but time and space, or “universes”) and become decreasingly distinguishable from their computational tools. Eventually they give birth, so to speak, to worlds as detailed as their own. These worlds go on to repeat the replicating process. The end result may be darwinian selection on a cosmic scale, with intelligent civilizations serving as the replicative mechanism. This would fit nicely both with multiverse cosmology and Mormon theology.

    Comment by Lincoln Cannon — December 3, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

  9. Ah, let us tread further. Does our definition of universe include only 3 dimensions, plus time? How about 5 dimensions – or 11? Is the Celestial Kingdom(s) within our universe? Is Kolob? Oh, this is too fun!

    Comment by larryco_ — December 3, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  10. Lincoln: A universe within a universe would mean there is only one universe and the universe within isn’t actually a universe but a subset of the universe.

    larryco_, What would the other dimensions be. I hear this whole idea of other dimensions a lot, but I don’t see much rhyme and reason to it. If Kolob and the CK exist beyond metaphor, they’d be in the universe.

    I can’t believe more people are voting for a multiverse. Any theological reasoning for it? I mean, seriously?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 3, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  11. Kolob is a metaphor and the star referred to is probably Sirius which definitely is in the universe.

    The terminology really depends upon the context. Sometimes multiverse refers to the multiple worlds interpretation of quantm mechanics where every physically possible world occurs. (This is because in quantum mechanics you have a probabilistic range for any quantum event) You then also have the notion of bubble universes that goes back as far as Linde and which has Lee Smolin as a current proponent. These are mostly causally independent universes that form from flat space-times. Then you have in string theory a multi-dimensional universe where there are floating “branes” (basically universes potentially like ours that float in the multidimensional space) There are a few other notions as well.

    Comment by Clark — December 3, 2008 @ 4:02 pm

  12. Matt, the theological necessity for a multiverse comes from the number of souls. Our universe just isn’t able to entail an infinite number of beings whereas most versions of our theology entail an endless number of beings.

    Comment by Clark — December 3, 2008 @ 4:03 pm

  13. Lincoln, ones computational ability is limited by the amount of information an universe can contain. So what you outline doesn’t resolve the problem.

    Comment by Clark — December 3, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

  14. Matt W:

    About two decades ago a couple of BYU professors wrote an article in BYU Studies, examining multiple dimensions (a very popular topic at the time as string theory was beginning to be examined)
    and how they could be used to explain many gospel questions, such as how miracles take place and how prayers can be answered instanteously. They also speculated that one of the elements of eternal progression might be progressing in dimensions, i.e. celestial kingdom folks are more dimensional than telestrial. I have a copy of the article at home.

    Comment by larryco_ — December 3, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

  15. Clark (#12),

    I would have said the widespread acceptance of the Big Bang was what has driven so many people to believe in a multiverse. So, I guess this is similar to your answer in that the problem has to do with explaining infinites in what appears to be a universe with a beginning and an edge. But, I’d add infinite time to your suggestion of infinite space as the sticking point. Of course, no one really knows what happened right at the beginning of the Big Bang so people can speculate about whether it actually came from nothing or if it simply “bounced” back from a Big Crunch so that you have the universe re-set every so often. I think I remember Prigogine speculating about a possibility like this in the book I mentioned here.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 3, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

  16. I am with Geoff on this one. “Multiple universes” is a virtual oxymoron. Even if they existed, there could be no communication between them, and no possible knowledge of them or about them. If there was any such communication, they couldn’t be considered separate in the way required to meet the most basic requirement of a “universe” – namely that it be a completely closed system.

    All this brane colliding theory is really positing (without evidence of course) is that our universe isn’t a “universe”.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 3, 2008 @ 5:17 pm

  17. Mark – it’s the issue of historic reference vs. history meaning. The historic reference is to the finite entity we measure in physics. What is beyond that is called a multiverse. Yet in the strict definition of universe all that is done is expand what is included in the universe. But sense universe already had that reference folks simply coined a new word.

    Comment by Clark — December 3, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

  18. Clark, if the universe represents an infinite amount of space, father than a finite subset of space which has an edge, then there is no theological need for a multiverse. It is just as (if not more so)probable that “the observable universe”, is surrounded by an infinite amount of space in all directions as it is that is is some sort of bubble where you go so far that you bounce of the edge.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 3, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  19. Is it the word “confined”? My wife seems to think this is a “dirty” word when talking about God.

    Or is it that you all read too many comic books?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 3, 2008 @ 7:16 pm

  20. Universes. The following verbiage goes beyond the categorized or categorizable. Or else it is nonsense like someone suggested of the poll here.

    Moses 1:33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

    Comment by we — December 3, 2008 @ 8:13 pm

  21. Can without number be them?

    Comment by we — December 3, 2008 @ 8:15 pm

  22. I don’t know whether or not there are other universes, but I don’t think that God is confined to this one.

    Comment by Steve S — December 3, 2008 @ 8:17 pm

  23. Matt, if there is really gravity then how is that possible?

    Comment by clark — December 3, 2008 @ 8:35 pm

  24. Matt W (#19), On a strict definition of universe there is no such thing as being confined therein. Confinement requires the logical possibility of escape. Wherever you go, there you are – part of the universe, and inside it.

    Clark (#23), I think you are assuming space is non-Euclidean, which isn’t a completely closed issue as I understand it.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 3, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

  25. Matt W,

    I can’t tell if we are on the same page about the basic points of the relevant scientific theory. I’ll pontificate for a moment and then you can tell me if we agree about the science or if I’m wrong or whatever.

    The big bang theory as commonly accepted says that at some particular point in time the universe was created from nothing. Time did not exist before the big bang, time was created in the big bang. Likewise, space itself did not previously exist before the big bang. When we talk about the universe expanding, this does not refer to lots of matter exploding outward into infinite space. The space itself is what is expanding. People often suggest that we think of space as a surface being stretched out, like a balloon being blown up.

    So, when you say the universe could be conceived of as a infinite amount of space surrounding “the observable universe,” you have in mind a very common conception of the universe, but one which is contradicted by the prevailing cosmological theory in science today. That’s why the big bang was so upsetting to people. The “universe” as previously conceived apparently had a beginning. Well, if we are to accept this theory then it starts to look promising to suppose there is something else besides this “universe” and thus the idea of a multiverse looks like an appealing option. (Unless of course you are Geoff and think there is a finite amount of matter working through all possible configurations over and over again in one eternal round.)

    At least, that is how I see it. I’m open to correction from Matt or anyone else.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 3, 2008 @ 11:02 pm

  26. Just to emphasize the difference between expanding space and matter moving apart in space: As we all know, GR says that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. However if space is being stretched out, two objects (stars say) will be moving apart because the space between then is expanding (picture two paint spots on a balloon moving apart as the balloon is blown up, even though they are not moving “in space” (the paint spots are not moving relative to the rubber of the balloon)). As it turns out, lots of stuff is moving apart at faster than the speed of light, which is perfectly acceptable in GR if it is because of the expansion of space, but totally illegal if space was not expanding and the two objects were simply moving apart in space. Thus, we can measure things in the universe moving apart at faster than the speed of light, which gives good evidence for all this crazy talk about expanding space.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 3, 2008 @ 11:20 pm

  27. Mark, the issue of space being non-Euclidean is pretty much orthagonal to the issue of gravity. I suspect you’re suggesting gravity is completely different from what we believe which is a pretty strong claim. About on par with suggesting we might all be in a virtual reality machine. (IMO)

    Jacob, Mark is referring to some philosophical arguments that assume QM is true and GR is false. The issue is that of the present. (There isn’t an absolute present in relativity) So the claim by some is that objects move as if GR were true but it’s really just an illusion.

    I really don’t want to get into those philosophical arguments here. I’ll just say that even those making such arguments end up being more careful about how to take GR than Mark suggests.

    Comment by clark — December 4, 2008 @ 12:18 am

  28. The big bang theory as commonly accepted says that at some particular point in time the universe was created from nothing.

    Jacob:

    If we buy into the concept of all matter being eternal, all spirits being eternal, and God being eternal, don’t we, as a matter of theological necesity, reject this idea of all coming from nothing.

    I don’t think we need to go back to the Steady State theory per say, but if we hold to the idea that we really have always existed, we do need to find some sort of acceptable theory.

    The big bang theory need only entail all matter in a certain area of space being hyper condensed and then exploding, pushing matter out from that point. (ie like big crunch theories, where matter always existed and contracts and expands.)

    The problem I have with the idea of multiple universes is one of semantics, I guess. If you have two universes in reality, and they reside in a space, then that space is the universe, and those two universes are actually subsets of the universe. At least that’s how it works in my mind.

    Matt, showing off his Cs in science classes.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 4, 2008 @ 8:53 am

  29. Matt W, I agree that “universe” is best applied to everything, which is why I put it in quotes in my usage.

    Clark, I’d like to understand better your comment to me. You wrote: “ones computational ability is limited by the amount of information an universe can contain. So what you outline doesn’t resolve the problem.” I agree with your statement that computation is limited to the amount of information a “universe” can contain, but what is the problem that my idea didn’t resolve? Thanks.

    Comment by Lincoln Cannon — December 4, 2008 @ 10:12 am

  30. Wasn’t it B.H. Roberts who coined “pluriverse?”

    Comment by BHodges — December 4, 2008 @ 10:32 am

  31. If there are parallel universes, and in these parallel universes there are duplicates of us, making different decisions than we made in this universe, doesn’t that negate the purpose of our existence? Because we are defined by the choices we make.

    Comment by V the K — December 4, 2008 @ 10:44 am

  32. Lincon, basically my point is that computation requires a computer. Computer takes resources. Thus even if God’s power could be tied to this there are distinct limits. You just can’t have virtual worlds without end anymore than you can have real worlds without end.

    Now if the “universe” is infinite then all bets are off. But as I suggested with the gravity issue that really requires a multiverse of some sort.

    Comment by Clark — December 4, 2008 @ 10:45 am

  33. “V the K” I think MWI of QM is pretty difficult if not impossible to reconcile to our theology. So I agree.

    Comment by Clark — December 4, 2008 @ 10:46 am

  34. It really does depend on your definition of “universe,” but I think I’d have to side with the multiple universe position. If nothing else, it seems like multiple gods might just start to get in each other’s way if limited to one.

    Comment by CoriAnton — December 4, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  35. …don’t we, as a matter of theological necesity, reject this idea of all coming from nothing.

    Yes, exactly. One way to do this is to believe in a multiverse. My theory is that this is one reason multiverse is doing so well in your poll. I could be wrong.

    The problem I have with the idea of multiple universes is one of semantics, I guess. If you have two universes in reality, and they reside in a space, then that space is the universe, and those two universes are actually subsets of the universe. At least that’s how it works in my mind.

    Yes, semantics. If you ask the question “is there only one universe or many?” then you can’t respond to everyone who answers “many” by saying, “but doesn’t the word universe mean everything that exists?” But it seems like that is what you have done in your comment above. I would think that the framing of your question requires you to accept the word “universe” as describing something less than “all that exists” or your original question is meaningless to begin with. Geoff complained about this right off the bat and I thought he was nitpicking since I figured we all knew what you meant, but now he appears wise.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 4, 2008 @ 4:29 pm

  36. CoriAnton,

    If nothing else, it seems like multiple gods might just start to get in each other’s way if limited to one.

    Wasn’t there a oneness clause that would fix that problem. I think the whole point of being divine is that it means you *can* live together (as opposed to all of us non-divines who do not play nicely).

    Comment by Jacob J — December 4, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

  37. I thought (Geoff) was nitpicking… but now he appears wise.

    I get that a lot.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 4, 2008 @ 10:10 pm

  38. Of course there are other universes. In the evil ones, everyone wears goatees.

    Ok, seriously now, let’s not get hung up on semantics. When physicists say “universe” they mean everything we can now measure. But we look at the laws of physics, there are some things that look eternal and permanent, and others that looks fantastically arbitrary. So are there universes like ours where the ratio of electron mass to proton mass is different? Or perhaps the ratio of gravity to electric force is changed?

    God can be both God and Creator of all of these just as easily as He can be both God and Creator of the myriad different nations and states on earth, all with different legal systems.

    Also, saying communication is impossible between universes…. that is saying more than I know and physics is my bread and butter.

    Comment by David Foster — December 4, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

  39. Ok Ok, don’t rub it in too much. I already confessed that I am not a scentist. Those who can’t teach, and those who can’t teach get MBAs after all.

    So is it safe to say that we can agree that in reality, there is only one everything, and in this one everything, there is only one unique me, etc? This everything is infinitely large, right? This everything is inclusive of the empty nothing and thus can be occupied by either an infinite or finite amount of something (spirits and matter).

    I’m just trying to make sure we all agree on the cosmos we live in. I think Geoff is right in that we need to lay out this founational things first before we can agree on other less clear cut theological tenants.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 5, 2008 @ 6:36 am

  40. Clark, I agree with your assessment, and will add that it appears to be a bad idea to take as our working hypothesis the idea that the universe is finite. We decrease the odds of finding what we don’t look for.

    Comment by Lincoln Cannon — December 5, 2008 @ 11:31 am

  41. One more thing. “Virtual” does not accurately describe the worlds I’m talking about. I’m talking about something quite real. “Computed” works better.

    Comment by Lincoln Cannon — December 5, 2008 @ 11:34 am

  42. Lincoln, if we just take for granted that all physics is wrong then of course we can postulate anything. I’m not sure we have any reason for our postulates. I think all the evidence we have strongly indicates the universe is finite in size. So I think that ought form a boundary for our speculations.

    Comment by Clark — December 5, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  43. Clark:

    Let’s not go too far in assuming where the evidence points.

    Another issue is whether or not the universe includes the “nothing” (ie space) which surrounds all the exploded bits from the big bang.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 6, 2008 @ 8:15 am

  44. What happens to those people classed as `sons of perdition?` Are they essential to the overall plan? do they get another chance? Can someone become a son of perdition with just the aaronic priesthood?

    Comment by Bobo fett — December 7, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

  45. Its caused me some serious pondering, but couldnt it be possible that satan could repent someday. There comes a time when surely a punishment must exceed a crime? Remember, he is our spiritual brother after all. Plus, without a `satan`, there would be no challenge ie, adversary. So, a satan is arguably as important as a jesus. If you think that sounds vaguely heretical then think on.

    Comment by Bobo fett — December 7, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

  46. Bobo,

    I have no idea what your question has to do with this thread, but if it makes you feel better I posted on that subject a few years ago.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 7, 2008 @ 4:25 pm

  47. I missed out on your posting two years ago. I was to busy drinking whisky. he he. ha ha.

    Comment by bobo fett — December 7, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  48. Clark, I know of no persuasive reason to believe the universe is finite — no rejection of physics required.

    Comment by Lincoln Cannon — December 17, 2008 @ 9:51 pm

  49. . . . and here I’m using “universe” broadly, inclusive of any multiverse that may exist.

    Comment by Lincoln Cannon — December 17, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

  50. Lincoln, I know of no persuasive reason to believe the universe is infinite

    Comment by Geoff J — December 17, 2008 @ 11:48 pm

  51. Geoff J: I’ve already given up on this as an issue of semantics, but basicly, if the universe where finite, then, there would be nothing beyond the universe, which is exactly what space is, right?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 18, 2008 @ 7:45 am

  52. Everyone knows that ‘uni’ means one. Everyone should know that the universe does not have demensions, for it is never-ending. If a universe is never-ending, it can’t be possible for another universe to exist. Therefore, if another universe did exist, it would be included in our universe, which defines it as just another dimensional object or world that is within the universe. And if you are right and there is another one, how would the two continue to be separate, because a universe goes on forever? They would instantly become one by being combined! Also, the universe is everything, so how would there be other elements outside of our universe to make another? Does anyone see my reasoning?

    Comment by Emma — May 15, 2010 @ 8:53 am

  53. Actually, there are elements outside of our universe, but that doesn’t make another. These elements and places are, of course, heaven and hell. However, I still agree with my comment before because heaven and hell only exist in space when you die. It exists for everyone who has died, and it always exists, but it is impossible for anyone alive to get there, even if our technology advanced so. It’s complicated.

    Comment by Emma — May 15, 2010 @ 9:03 am

  54. I always use the term Omniverse — that way I don’t have to think about it too hard, but it makes us folks with a Mississippi education sound smart.

    Comment by Jenny — May 16, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

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