Cosmological Convergence: The Pavilion That Covers God’s Hiding Place

The Universe

Ben F. checks back in from the halls of science, with a second installment in his BCC guest series on faith and physics. (Read his first post here.)

I would like to ask a simple question as the basis for this post: Is God a native of our universe? Although I lack any significant polling data, I suspect the gut instinct for most Mormons would be a confident “yes.” After all, Mormon theology emphasizes the shared characteristics between God and his spirit children—we believe he has a physical body that exists somewhere in space and time; we believe that his origin is not so different from our own; and we even believe that we can, with sufficient grace, become like he is. Therefore, it seems only natural that he is from the same place we are from—that is, this universe we find ourselves in. Besides, what would the alternative be? That he is from some sort of parallel universe? That would just be crazy, right?

Maybe not. It turns out that our modern understanding of quantum mechanics and physical cosmology provides reasonably strong theoretical justification for the existence of multiple universes. I would like to suggest that the notion of God originating from and possibly still existing in another universe is not (quite) as far-fetched as it sounds. I do not want to discount the possibility that God’s current place of residence is somewhere within our universe—He has plenty of options, with an estimated 10 to the 20th power (yes, that is 100000000000000000000) habitable planets in our observable universe alone—but in some ways,
parallel universes make it easier to understand certain aspects of God and his creations.

Let’s first consider the current scientific view of the origin of the universe, the standard model of physical cosmology known popularly as the Big Bang theory and more accurately named the ΛCDM model. This theory, which is widely accepted but still lacks some important details, asserts that the universe sprang into existence nearly 14 billion years ago when an enormous surge of energy expanded rapidly from a singularity in spacetime. The Big Bang refers to this first instant of the universe’s
existence. Initially, the universe was so hot that matter existed only as energy, but after the so-called inflationary epoch during which space itself underwent exponential expansion at an extremely rapid rate, the universe cooled enough to allow particles of matter to form and the fundamental forces to decouple from each other through a process called symmetry breaking. As the universe continued to expand and cool, the particles of matter we are most familiar with—electrons, protons, and neutrons—began to form, thereafter combining into neutral hydrogen atoms. Temperature fluctuations from the earliest moments after the Big Bang caused some regions to have higher density than others, resulting in the eventual formation of stars and galaxies. Over the next billions of years, all other elements were synthesized through stellar fusion and supernovae explosions. Around 4.5 billion years ago, a lump of iron and nickel and a handful of other elements formed and fell into orbit around a fairly average star in a fairly average part of a fairly average galaxy, and we now call that place home.

If we accept this theory, which has been highly successful in explaining many features of the observable universe such as the cosmic microwave background and the distribution of large scale structures, then we have to ask the obvious question, “Where was God during the Big Bang?” For that matter, where were we, or more precisely, the eternal intelligences from which we were made? If we insist that God is a native of our universe, then it is hard to find an answer to this question that is consistent with both the ΛCDM model and our understanding of who and what God is. However, at least we could answer one of the long-standing question found in the hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob”: gods first began to be sometime less than 14 billion years ago.

This is where multiple universes—the multiverse—can come in handy. Although there is certainly no consensus in the physics community about the nature or even existence of alternate universes, various theories are in the process of gaining mainstream status as a result of serious research. There are four major classifications of theoretical descriptions of the multiverse, which I will briefly describe below.

But first, let me be more precise about my use of the word universe. The bounds of our observable universe are set by the most distant objects from which light can have been emitted and reached us since the time of the Big Bang. Because of the ongoing expansion of the universe, this distance is a bit more than just 14 billion lightyears—the most distant observable objects are currently about 40 billion lightyears (4 x 1026 meters) away from us. A sphere of this radius defines our observable universe. Such a sphere is also referred to as a Hubble volume. With this understanding of what is meant by “our universe,” we can now talk about the four possible levels describing the multiverse:

Level 1: Cosmological inflation leads to infinite space containing infinitely many Hubble volumes, each one with precisely the same laws of physics as ours but with a different set of initial conditions. Assuming infinite space and a uniform enough distribution of matter, this implies the existence of another world identical to ours, even including an identical copy of you doing precisely what you are doing right now. In fact, there are infinitely many copies of you.

Level 2: Chaotic expansion occurs during the inflationary epoch, leading to a nearly infinite number of “bubbles” of spacetime in which different local minima of a global energy landscape are realized. Each bubble becomes its own universe, sharing the same fundamental laws of physics that we observe but with different values of the fundamental constants such as the speed of light or the fine-structure constant. This could result in a vastly different reality with a different number of dimensions, different types of matter, and so on.

Level 3: Our current universe is splitting off into an inconceivably large number of parallel branches at every instant, each branch corresponding to a different set of all possible outcomes of all quantum events. These quantum events can in principle range from the most elementary, such as the decay of a neutron into a proton and electron and neutrino, to the most complex, such as the decisions made by self-aware entities. Thus, these parallel universes include all possible alternate histories of this universe and will contain all possible futures. This is known as the “quantum many worlds” interpretation.

Level 4: Different mathematical structures are realized in alternate universes with completely different fundamental laws of physics. There is essentially no limit to the diversity possible in these types of parallel universes.

This may sound incredibly counterintuitive and impossible or merely useless to believe, and I don’t blame you if you feel this way. However, the very same theories that have been extremely successful in describing directly observable physical phenomena are the ones that allow room for the types of parallel universes mentioned above, so they at least warrant consideration. Many physicists find the idea of multiple universes very useful in explaining the so-called anthropic principle, which refers to the seemingly too-good-to-be-true fine tuning of all the fundamental constants in our universe that conspire together to make it a place where life can exist. Believers might be quick to point this out as a sure sign of an intelligent creator, whereas skeptical scientists just point to their infinite universes and explain that it is no big surprise that at least one of them had the perfect combination of conditions to allow for life. As is often the case, faith comes down to a choice between two reasonable alternatives.

Now let me get back on topic. What does all this talk of the multiverse actually contribute to our understanding of God? To be sure, it is not a perfect fit—there are some very sticky issues to be worked out such as communication and transportation between different universes, not to mention the fact that many of the above scenarios begin with the same Big Bang that gave us trouble in the first place—but there is at least a framework in place that would allow God to reasonably exist outside of this universe, thereby escaping the finiteness of his existence and creations that would seem to be implied were he to be a native of our universe. Again, this is a very rough idea at best, but hopefully it gives us another possible way of viewing God and his methods of creation that may be more compatible with modern physical cosmology. The Big Bang, instead of representing an ultimate limit to God, becomes a creative tool in his hands attesting to his knowledge, wisdom, and power. Moreover, these ideas of infinitely many universes leave plenty of room for the infinite progression and eternal increase espoused by Mormon theology. Indeed, the multiverse has a lot to offer in the way of gaining new insights into the nature of the infinite and eternal. Overall, I feel that the multiverse provides the promise of an elegant union between theological and physical cosmologies—a cosmological convergence. And if you don’t agree with me, you probably do in some other universe.


For an accessible review of the theories of the multiverse, and for the source of most of my information in this post, I recommend this paper.

Comments

  1. When I read in the Book of Moses (1: 37-38) where God is speaking to Moses on cosmology, I wonder if God isn’t actually presenting the idea of a multiverse. “The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man…And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come…”

  2. A nice place to start, Ben. I disagree with your interpretaion of Level 1. If I (whatever that is) am of uncountable cardinality, then it would not be right to suspect an identical I in another universe, even with infinitely many (countably, which is the only one that makes sense in this Level, I think, though uncountably many works fine in Level 3) other universes. FWIW, I imagine exaltation as a matter of taking over or creating another verse in the multiverse and I sometimes wonder if the infinitude of the atonement implies Christ is forever suffering in some dimension or universe.

  3. He said, “it is finished.” I don’t think that the Infinite Atonement means that it is going on in another dimension; 2nd Nephi implies that the Infinitude is taken care of because God was the one who Atoned. The question I’ve had is rather, does the Atonement apply across all the universes/worlds or does it apply to our world?

  4. I doubt Nephi thought much about the multiverse, and there are other possible interpretaions of the first statement you cite. It is all speculation, of course, but infinite doesn’t strike me as a good synonym for God.

  5. Always fun to contemplate. Thanks Ben.

  6. Thanks for the post. These are always fun discussions, particularly if not taken too seriously… A few questions and comments:

    (1) Level 1: Why would inflation require an infinite space? Isn’t it typically considered as an exponential expansion of a finite space over a finite time?
    (2) Level 2: What does “nearly infinite” mean? You say each bubble “could result in a vastly different reality”. I find it hard to imagine that more than a handful would be compatible with highly stable bound systems, i.e. something other than soup. Do you know if this has been estimated (in a relative sense)?
    (3) Level 3: The quantum many worlds interpretation makes me feel yucky inside, but it’s hard to argue with something that cannot be tested even in principle…
    (4) Level 4: Can you expand on what you mean by this relative to the Big Bang? Levels 1-3 still seem to arise from a common singularity, therefore do not address the question of “Where was God” during that “hot dense state”. They make a distinction between the energy content of our observable universe and the energy content participating in the Big Bang. If there are discontinuous pockets of space-time, then you can point Level 4 or whatever you want. But that’s not really physics, since there is not even an indirect path through spacetime that connects them. Any model for spacetime outside our observable universe is at best in the sketchy gray zone between science and something else, but aren’t serious multiverse theories typically built out of “overlapping bubbles”? That is, a distant point in our universe (or a near point for that matter) is within the observable universe of spacetime that is not within our observable universe.
    (5) In any of these cases, you can’t gloss over the problem of how God sends signals from his Universe to ours (and we reciprocate). Of course, you can always invoke the standard “He knows the laws better than we do” explanation (i.e. magic), but if this is where the argument ends up, then why bother starting with the assumption that we can rewind the currently observed expansion all the way back to a singularity?
    (6) I agree that physicists’ invoking of the anthropic principle is important for explaining our existence absent God, but its utility is not clear if we begin by assuming a Supreme Being.
    (7) If your multiverses do not resolve the “Where was God” question because they originate from a common Big Bang, then I’m just as happy to consider anything down to, say, one god per galaxy. Comparing “innumerable” with the “stars in the firmament” (spoken to someone looking up in the sky with limited knowledge of large-scale structure in the Universe) or the “sands upon the seashore”, could mean a number well outside your experience, or actually infinite, but I’m no less satisfied if it means something of order a galaxy. Still a lot of room in which to do stuff…
    (8) Brian in #2: I also don’t know what you (or any of us) are, but if an individual is a particular ordering of a finite number of particles, then isn’t that countable?

  7. One may wonder why God created so many celestial bodies that seem to be useless. With multiverse one wonders even more: why are there so many (even infinitely many) useless universes?
    I’m not saying that I believe that God resides in our universe, but I would use Occam’s razor. The concepts of multiverse in physics will lead to universes that have such conditions that any form of life is hard to think of. And if we believe that God is a man like us, then those universes are quite useless.

    There are many problems within our universe too. Not just heavenly communication, but also spirits for example. How do spirits fit in our view of universe? I’ve heard suggestions about dark energy, but those don’t really convince me. How do a spiritbody interact with our material body? Questions, so many questions…

  8. Aaron in #7 – if I am no more than a sum of a finite number of particles with a finite number of states, then sure. However, I suspect there is something continuous, rather than discrete, about personhood/intelligence and that would imply a being of uncountable complexity. Others may disagree; my impression is that many physicists are uncomfortable with the idea of continuity, instead preferring a discrete model of time, space, etc. and leaving all continuums in the minds of mathematicians. It may be just a matter of ego, but I hope that under an appropriate microscope each of us would be fractal-like, with nuance and structure at never-ending levels. Perhaps, though, we’re just a stack of charged balls.

  9. Time and space are generally assumed continuous – only matter and energy are treated as quantized, based on overwhelming observational evidence and consistent, compelling models. I wouldn’t have a problem with quantized spacetime, but I’m not aware of evidence in that direction. It’s all pure speculation, but for me infinitely divisible spiritual matter is no more satisfying than another class (or classes) of quantized particles with corresponding forces and force particles. That would be an additional dimension to our universe (metaphorically speaking, and maybe also not…) that mirrors, or could be an natural extension of, existing models. In any case, I’m going to hope against “just a stack of charged balls”, since those tend to end up parting in violent explosion…

  10. it's a series of tubes says:

    #3 – Moses 1:33 read in connection with D&C 76:43 seems to imply an answer to your question.

  11. Aaron, thanks for the reply. The key issue as I see it is that, as a concept, infinity has potentially serious theological ramifications and continuity is tied up in this because a continuum is necessarily of infinite cardinality. Example: I can think of a number larger than my daughter can, because she is currently convinced that 2 “jillion” is the biggest number she can think of and the idea of 2 “jillion” + 1 is not yet obvious to her. But is it the case that God cannot think of a larger number than I can, because x + 1 is obvious to me? For God to be omniscient, does He need to hold all infinity integers (to say nothing of the real numbers or the countably infinite number of uncountable cardinalities) in His mind? Or is he, like us, simply extrapolating? If spirit is matter, then how is the Holy Ghost (even its influence) omnipresent in continuous space? More importantly, are there infinite choices available to me and, if so, what does that mean for agency, God’s foreknowledge (assuming some tasks require non-polynomial time), and even something as rudimentary as cause and effect? These are certainly not questions that need answers for salvation, but they do bump around in my mind as I try to comprehend my God as best I can.

  12. rameumptom says:

    Of course, none of these theories discusses where the singularity came from in the first place. If these multiverses did not exist separate and prior to our current universe, then God existing within any of them is a moot point. However, if there is a universe/multiverse existing prior to the Big Bang, which is separate from the energy within that singularity, then God could have existed previously.
    Otherwise, God’s existence (and ours) in our current state will exist only until the Universe or multiverses run out of steam. Once entropy sets in then there would be no more existence, unless priesthood power can counteract it.

  13. it's a series of tubes says:

    assuming some tasks require non-polynomial time

    This is one of my greatest fears regarding the afterlife. I suspect that developing certain attributes of godliness might be NP-complete. Well, for me anyway.

  14. Thomas Parkin says:

    God is not omnipotent. The Holy Ghost is not omnipresent, but is brought into our compass by the arrival of spirits, probably most often those of our ancestors, who themselves generate, or are “accompanied” by, that same Spirit. (Eventually we are ourselves accompanied by the same Spirit, but not all by a single entity – ti comes to reside in us as a part of us.) Pretty much everything is done by divine investiture of authority, including having prayers answered. The idea that God must be aware of every hair on our head, and not only our thoughts but the minutest electric impulse that makes them, while simultaneously being aware of the same in a near limitless number of beings, while also being aware of sparrows and each grain of sand on an infinite number of seas … is nonsense derived from a Christian paranoia that any limit one might imagine for God makes Him unworthy of our worship. We worship God because he is our ideal, not because he can multiply magic tricks. If we could see Him as he is we would see that He is like us, and to not understand the ramifications of this is not only to misunderstand God, it is to fail to understand ourselves. We can worship Him because he is emulatable, in meaningful ways, right here and now. I don’t know how long God has been God but He hasn’t been God forever. (It is a simple matter to show that not only does the word “eternal” never mean that something is forever changeless, but that neither do related words and phrases like ‘endless’ and even ‘without beginning or end.’) Welcome back to Mormonism.

  15. Thanks for all the insightful comments, everyone. As usual, these types of discussions almost always raise more questions than they answer. And I hope everyone shares the same sentiment that Aaron and I do about these discussions not being taken too seriously :).

    A few responses:
    Comment #6: (1) In many models, inflation is still occurring in some regions of the universe and will continue eternally. In this sense, space grows infinitely. The regions where inflation ceases form the “bubbles” mentioned in Level 2. (2) Correction: “an infinite number of bubbles.” Sorry. Yes, an extraordinarily small number of these bubbles would be expected to have conditions suitable to life or even stable matter as we know it. There is probably an estimate of the relative probability, but I’m not sure what it is. (3) Although you can’t test the existence of the many worlds multiverse directly, you can test other predictions of that same theory. Quantum many worlds is a direct extension of the “decoherence” interpretation of quantum mechanics, which has garnered significant experimental support and does away with the troublesome notion of wavefunction collapse in the traditional Copenhagen interpretation of QM, so it does have a lot going for it. (4) The level 4 multiverse is completely separate from the Big Bang. Level 4 is pretty radical–it equates mathematical existence with physical existence, so essentially any formal system corresponds to some universe somewhere. Pretty crazy, and still met with extreme skepticism by all but the most devout, but who knows, it could solve a whole lot of problems! But yes, the other multiverse levels have a common big bang, leaving us with the same problem. Like I said, this is not yet an elegant solution, and I fully acknowledge and accept the validity of the other comments you make.

    Comment #7: Physicists actually claim that Occam’s razor is on their side in the case of multiverse theories. It is much simpler to say that an infinite number of universes with all possible values of all physical constants exist and we naturally find ourselves in the one that happens to support life, than to try to prescribe why the physical constants are just so. This latter approach would require additional parameters. In this way, I can imagine that the creation of all these other universes was actually the simplest and most elegant way for God to create ours.

    Comment #12: You are exactly right about this whole discussion being moot if all these possible multiple universes originated from the same singularity. That is where Level 4 might come to our rescue, since the multiverse at this level is not tied to the Big Bang, or I can imagine a type of Level 2 multiverse in which the Big Bang giving rise to our universe was a local disturbance of dimensionality and/or spacetime within an existing Level 2 universe. But again, this is all pretty iffy, I admit.

  16. Antonio Parr says:

    For the record, there are many active Latter-Day Saints — I am one of them — who believe that God is the Supreme Being, the God of all that there is, i.e., there is no realm or universe or dimension over which God does not have dominion, and there is no God or being who preceded the God who we worship. These Latter-Day Saints believe that they will, with joy, always worship God, and believe that they will direct/impart glory and honor to Him forever.

    I believe that the great weight of scripture (both Judeo-Christian and LDS) supports the above-mentioned beliefs, the non-canonized King Follet discourse notwithstanding. I do not see any comparable ~scriptural~ authority for the Mormon dogma that God used to be a fellow on some planet who progressed to the point of gaining his own planet/universise/dimension/whatever.

    In Moses 1, it is written

    35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but <<>> are numbered unto me, <<>>

    36 And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.

    37 And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; <<>>

    38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.

    [Emphasis supplied.]

    I feel justified and at peace with a theology that acknowledges the glory and power and supremecy and uniqueness of God, and believe it noteworthy that our canonized works support such a notion. Moreover, the Church of which I am a part and which I love dearly has never suggested to me that a condition of my membership is a profession that God is the more commonplace creature described by some in preceding posts.

    I am not naive, and certainly understand the historical basis for some of the statements outlined above and in other places by active Latter-Day Saints who see things differently than me. Nevertheless, I find many statements that attempt to limit God to be, at best, misguided, and, at worse, blasphemous.

    (I don’t mean to dampen in any way the pleasure that comes to some by way of speculative theology, but, to the extent that those not familiar with our faith might stumble across this discussion, I wanted to note “for the record” that Mormon theology is not a rigid construct, and that active Latter-Day Saints find ways to serve together even with different views of the nature of God.)

  17. Antonio, thanks for that statement. It is easy to forget that blogs themselves exist in a sort of multiverse where any number or sort of trawler may come across them without enculturation or context. I do find your comment concerning blasphemy a bit odd, however, because it seems to me that all statements thus far have been made in good faith and that God would have no reason to be offended at our speculative mistakes (of which there are, no doubt, many); and I say that considering that God may either be unachievably greater than me or more qualitatively like me, because even I can feel non-aggrieved at someone sincerely trying to understand but failing.

    #13 – Word!

  18. Antonio Parr says:

    Brian:

    I shouldn’t have used the word blasphemy, because the issues are too big and my mind too small to tell the difference between a perfect theological utterance and one that misses the mark. And, I agree, that nothing in the precding statements merited my use of that admittedly harsh word.

    That being said, I find comments that I often encounter in some Mormon circles that God is “just like us, only better” to be, well, *blasphemous*. God is worthy of awe and praise and adoration — at least that’s what the scriptures (and my human heart) say/says — and referring to him in the sometimes casual tone and terms used by some fellow Latter-Day Saints strikes me as being the very attitude that the word “blasphemy” is meant to capture.

    Joseph said of God that “His brightness and glory defy all description.” Latter-Day Saints would do well to remember this, as any words that we grasp at to describe Him are ultimately metaphor.

  19. Antonio, excellent point. It is worth remembering, though, that when Joseph said he did not believe anything earthly could be made to appear so white and brilliant as Moroni’s robe, he had never attempted to look at a flashbulb or considered the flash from a nuclear explosion. It is absolutely good and right to stand in utter awe of the Lord. It is also unwise, I think, to reduce ourselves to referring to His work as magic when it is extraordinarily advanced science just because the two might seem indistinguishable. You did not claim otherwise, though I could see an enterprising believer construing your argument in that manner.

  20. We’re crawling around on the floor in diapers blabbering gibberish even at the end of a righteous life. Yes, we can inherit all the Father has, but sometimes I encounter discussions which trivialize things to the point of ridiculousness as if 20 minutes after you die you’ll be kickin’ it in some distant universe with a bazillion spirit kids creating planets. It is this easy to mock bizarro world that draws us away from what really matters IMO.

  21. Antonio Parr says:

    Brian:

    It is the “stand[ing] in utter awe of the Lord” which I believe to be sometimes missing from our culture. If we look at God as just another guy who was once a sinner, yet who eventually achieved the identical divine destiny that awaits so many of us, then it is not surprising that expressions of awe/wonder/worship are missing. If, on the other hand, He is the Being described in Moses 1 who formed ~all~ things, and is the source of life and light, then how could anyone feel anything other than wonder and awe?

  22. Antonio, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see how what he may have been before detracts from what He *is* now. My awe, at least, is not noticeably lessened and perhaps enhanced when I consider that real work may have gone into His becoming. Others’ mileage may vary.

  23. In my view, the real issue is “where does God stand in relation to the baby universes?” If God stands outside, then, if he is also a physical being, the extant theories do not permit God to get “inside” of such a universe. If God stands inside, then he is not creator of that “pocket universe” and is at the mercy of whatever set of natural laws happens to fall out from the initial constants that define that “universe” (almost all of which are not compatible with life or even continuing in existence beyond a non-second).

    As I have spouted at great length, the notion of a god with a beginning and merely a local god is not one that inspires me much. He is at the mercy of the big crunch and all laws of nature at the particular pocket universe in which he is located. However, given that mulitverse theology is beyond speculation squared to the infinite power, I don’t worry about it much.

  24. Antonio Parr says:

    Brian:

    My comments regarding “awe” have to do with the general notion of paying hommage to deity. Ask a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim about God, and He would be portrayed as the self-existent One, i.e., “I Am that I Am.” (I realize that the theologies of all three traditions are more complex than what I just wrote, but, in general, I believe my general summary to be an accurate one.) This “ultimate” Being does not worship another Being, but is worshiped by all creation because He is the source of life (as we know it). Expressions of praise of/for God are commonplace in all three world traditions, and not surprisingly so.

    If the God of Mormonism is not the supremely self-existent One, but, at least in part, is the product of creation of some precedent God(s), then the wonder and worship that flows so naturally through the above-mentioned traditions starts to trickle down in a dramatic way when applied to a God who apparently provides no hommage to ~His~ God (or, at the very least, does not direct His children on Earth to consider or worship any such precedent being). (By extension, such a theory would suggest that the humans who walk the earth and who will someday become gods will not teach ~their~ divine offspring of their “grandfather” in Heaven, as such was the example that we experienced during our mortal sojourns.) Wonder and worship and awe can become murky concepts when applied to a non-unique deity.

    I believe that the words about the unique supremecy of God found throughout scripture are there for a reason, as are the calls to worship Him, not just in deed (which Latter-Day Saints do so beautifully), but in word, as well. On a personal level, this call to worship speaks to me deeply.

  25. Thomas Parkin says:

    well, *blasphemous*.

    Snort.

  26. Antonio, my biggest problem with what you are saying is that I know of almost no non-Mormon Christians who can believe in such a God and also believe we were created to be and become gods in any real and meaningful way. The inseparable gulf between God and humanity that lies at the core of most modern Christian theology does more than just elevate God; it also, of necessity, devalues humanity in obvious and central ways.

    I also wish badly we had more of an active praise and classic worship component to our religious expressions and services, but I’m not willing to give up the power and beauty of our Atonement theology in order to go to the extreme I see so clearly in the beliefs of my Christian friends – and I believe our theology allows for intense wonder and awe even without the unbridgeable gap that inevitably accompanies traditional omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. In fact, for me, Mormon theology (as I understand it) adds a level of wonder and awe that is missing completely from the traditional Christian construct.

  27. To the layman it may appear from the outside that there exists some sort of unanimity amongst physicists and cosmologists concerning the origins of the universe. There have generally been at least two different approaches, one from the tradition of particle physics and the other from the community of relativists (those who have been working with general relativity and cosmology). It should be noted that inflation came from the particle physics community, and while it solves a good number of technical problems it presents quite a few more. Inflation doesn’t yet qualify as a theory, but instead there are many different models of inflation. To quote George Ellis ‘While a great many possibilities have been proposed (it could for example be an effective field due to higher-order gravity effects, or it could involve multiple scalar fields), at the present time the identity of the proposed Inflationary field (‘the inflaton’) has not been established or linked to any known particle or field. The hoped-for link between early universe dynamics
    and particle physics is potential rather than real’. Most of the multiverse ideas are coming from the string theory community. In order for string theory to be self consistent it needs supersymmetry and as more and more data comes in from CERN it seems less likely that supersymmetry is realized in nature. To talk about the multiverse posited by string theory is premature. George Ellis again – The idea of a multi- verse provides a possible route for the explanation of fine tuning. But it is not uniquely defined, is not scientifically testable apart from some possible consistency tests, and in the end simply postpones the ultimate metaphysical questions.”

    We should always be brutally honest and what is known, what is not known, and what is pure speculation vs. science vs. philosophy. I am of the opinion that drawing any firm conclusions (particularly theological ones) is also premature.

    Here is George Ellis’ article (he coauthored The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime with Stephen Hawking)

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0602280v2.pdf

  28. Antonio Parr says:

    Ray:

    To say that we are planning to become “gods” just makes me cringe. It smacks of wanting our own planets and wanting beings to worship us, and all of the other unpleasantries that anti-Mormons use as fodder against my beloved Church. (NOTE: Your sincere and well-written comment did not at all come off that way! I am referring to less articulate sentiments that I have heard through the years from fellow Latter-Day Saints as it relates to a quest for godhood.)

    Isn’t it possible believe that God has a glorious eternal destiny for His children that includes us participating in His creative process without at the same time believing that our God has a being in the eternities that is greater than Him in the way that He is greater than us? I do not feel heretical or on the fringe of my religion by believing simultaneously in both the plan of salvation and the absolute supremecy of the God who I worship and to Whom Jesus and the prophets offered praise and prayers.

    And while I agree that our theology has ample room for praise, one is hard-pressed to find such expressions in our religion. “Hallowed be Thy Name” has been replaced by “We thank thee.” While such expressions are related in feeling, they are not the same, and they are certainly not mutually exclusive. I would love to hear modern psalms spoken by Latter-Day Saints, in the spirit of the words of praise proclaimed by ancient prophets and saints.

  29. Thanks for keeping your disagreement so civil, you guys. Maybe we’ll turn that subthread into a Friday firestorm or something.

  30. Brian #11:
    The omniscience of God does not hinge, in my view, on whether he can think of a larger integer than I can. But while we can write symbols to express some crazy huge number like 10^80, it’s so far removed from experience that it’s almost beyond human comprehension – presumably not so for God.

    “If spirit is matter, then how is the Holy Ghost (even its influence) omnipresent in continuous space?” Any old ordinary-matter quantum mechanical particle can be non-localized and described by a wavefunction that is nonzero over all continuous space – in sense existing simultaneously throughout the whole universe. At least until you go and look at it… There is still no general consensus about how to interpret the probabilistic description of quantum mechanics, and what it means to collapse the wavefunction, so for now I’m fine waving my hands and extending the fuzziness to spiritual matter (whatever that is) without a need to invoke something drastically different.

    “Are there infinite choices available to me and, if so, what does that mean for agency, God’s foreknowledge (assuming some tasks require non-polynomial time), and even something as rudimentary as cause and effect?” Everybody knows that God has a quantum computer. And that Hari Seldon guy at best only ever fumbled around in the dark.

    Thomas #14: I find your confidence in detail perplexing…

    Ben # 15: Ok, I suppose if you’re allowed an infinite number of bubbles, then you can have an infinite number of “normal” universes like ours. And a whole lot of wasted space. That theologically-based criticism (expressed earlier by someone else) resonates with me as well, but on the other hand those funky physics bubbles could maybe be used as playgrounds to provide endless opportunities for incredibly fun science experiments.

    The quantum many worlds theory is, as you rightly said, an extension of an interpretation of quantum mechanics, not an extension of quantum mechanics itself. The theory of quantum mechanics is extremely well founded in the sense that it enables prediction that correspond precisely with observation (within its range of validity, blah blah blah). But that’s not evidence for an interpretation of what it means. It’s still a huge leap (like 10^80 huge) to say that alternate choices made by the macroscopic I each produce a newly bifurcated universe.

    Antonio >= #16: I think I get your concern, but I also believe assignment of words like “all”, “eternal”, “infinite”, etc, still leaves room for consideration of what these terms mean in a theological sense. For example, if I have one grain of sand while you have all the grains of the seashore, then within the sphere of my experience and comprehension, you might as well be at infinity minus one. Similarly, the universe itself, in its unfathomable vastness and complexity, inspires in me an incredible sense of “awe” that does not depend fundamentally on whether or not it extends beyond 40 billion light years, or ~10^23 miles. To emphasize the point, I recommend counting up to 10^23 (by ones!). You should allow at least one million ages of the universe for this exercise.

    I hold this profound sense of “awe” towards God very dear, and strongly agree with your contention that it often gets somewhat lost in our efforts to emphasize our personal, Father-to-child relationship with Him (somehow the two have to coexist). Similarly, while Mormon doctrine is all about striving to become more like God, I always cringe upon hearing expressions that are flippant or presuming regarding timeline, process, and extent.

  31. Antonio Parr says:

    Aaron. Your last paragraph expressed in a few words what I attempted to communicate in multiple posts. Well said.

  32. Thomas Parkin says:

    A couple words on awe, etc.

    Awe is not worship, and I doubt whether it is essential to worship. I feel awe for a mountain, an animal, the way the human body works, the way my wife never fails me, etc. But I do not worship any of those things. My awe is also not dependent on their relative size – though the size of some things does contribute to the awe I experience. For me, worship remains a matter of where I have set my ideal, what I most desire, what seems to call me to itself – in short, what is my God. Therefore I feel both awe and worship Heavenly Father (through Christ which is how we can get to know Him). I certainly praise and adore Him, as the being who is the most Supernal thing that is. But the awe and the worship (and the praise) are not inextricable.

    By the way, the first half of Sec 93 is specifically given so that we will ‘know what we worship and how we should worship.’ It is interesting that after having said this it is never explicit on either point, but instead gives us a picture of Christ (a God), who develops, who becomes, until at some point he ‘receives the fulness.’ I don’t consider this conversation complete without a close reading of it.

    It seems to me that the religious neurosis par excellence is in conflating awe and worship. (Our God is an _awe_some God.) And further, conflating awe and size. So that any diminishment in total scope is a diminishment of God. This God is constantly dissolving across increasing chasms as one psychically strains to maintain one’s sense of awe. The sense of awe becomes the thing worshiped and praised. Eventually there is no God, at all, (though it might call everything God) but the prostration before wonder. Hallelujah.

  33. Thomas Parkin says:

    Aaron – it is not confidence in details, it is confidence that the details are what exist. Individual identity. Love always for the specific thing in its circumstance. Love at the level where vessels of life exist. Not for any kind of conflation of things. God is such a thing, and is therefore can love and is lovable.

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