The multiverse, which is a trending idea in science that currently has little or no validation, suggests that our universe is but one of many or even an infinite number of universes. If there are an infinite number of universes, then we’re back to a steady state theory of everything, which is a theory Fred Hoyle revised to counter to the Big Bang Theory. The Big Bang Theory explains just one universe, ours.
The idea of the multiverse comes in many flavors, and some of them have a steady state quality to them. Does this vindicate Hoyle and Sir James Jeans? I’m hesitant to even link to the Wikipedia page after reading Peter Woit’s “Multiverse Mania at Wikipedia” but follow the link and read it anyway, and then follow Woit’s link. I’m also reminded of Farewell to Reality: How Modern Physics Has Betrayed the Search for Scientific Truth by Jim Baggot, and his idea of fairy physics.
However, the idea of the multiverse is catching on. Like string theory, its just so damn appealing, but it’s still much closer to ontological wishing than real science. Last night the new Cosmos even mentioned the multiverse theory and had a beautiful animation to explain it.
I hope everyone on Earth got to see Cosmos last night, even though everything it said is old news, and very basic, and everyone should know anyway. It’s a great to be reminded how fantastic our existence is, and we have many episodes to explore. But there are people that don’t watch science shows like NOVA, The Universe or How the Universe Works, so it’s always nice to have another beautiful show about science.
I also hope that people also caught 60 Minutes where they scooped Fox on cosmological wow with their story on “ALMA: Peering into the Universe’s Past.” It was great to get so much cosmology in one night.
JWH – 3/10/14
13 thoughts on “Does the Multiverse Vindicate Fred Hoyle’s Steady State Universe?”
Take my following comments only in the spirit of somebody who regularly reads you blog (probably, I read you blog more consistently than I do any other blog) and thinks you’re a marvelous writer, and I wish I could write half as well as you do!
I enjoyed Farewell immensely (it even maybe my favorite pop science book with the exception of Deutsch’s book which I know you liked as much as I did), but he fails the reader because sometimes the theory does come before ‘the corresponding theory of truth”.
The multiverse is a prediction not a theory and a necessary consequence of Inflation theory (a theory, of course), and is our best model for the creation of our universe. Once you accept inflation an output of it is a multiverse. Inflation explains many facets of our universe and if you reject it you must come up with a theory that explains the things it currently does explain.
For example, A prediction and consequence of General Relativty is black holes. Schwartzchild (a truly amazing man!) got black holes while in the trenches of WW I on the Russian Front and Einstein initially rejected it. Black holes are not a theory, they are predicted by and are a consequence of General relativity. If you accept GR you must accept black holes or find a correction to the theory. Einstein first rejected black holes, but he realized he had no choice because they are a consequence of his theory. Multiverse is a consequence of inflation. There is no way to have inflation without multiple universes.
As always, I enjoy your blog and it makes a difference in my life. My brother signed up for classic flix because of you! Keep affecting the world positively!
Thanks Gary for your encouraging words. I agree that the multiverse has some real science foundations, more than string theory. I was mainly implying many ideas about the multiverse was suspect because of Woit’s essay.
I hope all my readers will read Gary’s book reviews at Audible.com. Gary is far better read in science than I am, and I regularly read and reread his science book reviews to get ideas on which science books to read.
Also, Gary, it’s interesting to think about how much stuff has changed in our lifetime. I remember before the CMB was discovered, and scientists argued between the big bang and steady state universes. The big bang theory was validated in our lifetime, yet, now the multiverse has emerged as a pretty good theory.
We are lucky. We got to live in this century. The best of the 138 million centuries that have came before us after the great wars and before the unknown potentialities of the future.
Not only have they made advances in cosmology, but evolution, psychology, biology, and everything I thought I knew about the universe after graduating from college has been completely redefined. I don’t regret not having studied those things until fairly recently. It’s a great time to be alive and to able to read (usually, for me, listen) to this stuff. As Brian Green said in the intro to one of his books, the refutation to the myth of Sysyphus is the understanding about our place in the universe is reason enough to be alive.
Now, I understand your title to your post. Hoyle was right in some ways, but he would still have the Boltzmann Brain problem.
One of the problems with discussing this stuff – I frequently encounter the problem in arguments by Christian apologists – is what “universe” means. Sometimes, we mean this universe, our own universe, and other times we mean “everything.”
Since we don’t know if this universe is “everything” – let alone everything about this universe 🙂 – it’s important not to confuse the two. I think that Fred Hoyle was talking about this universe, wasn’t he? There are reasons why the steady state hypothesis was eventually determined to be wrong, and as I understand it, that’s still the case.
Even if the multiverse idea ends up being correct (it’s far too early to say that it “vindicates” anything at this point), I don’t think it would vindicate Fred Hoyle. (And note that his problem wasn’t that he was wrong in his steady state hypothesis. He certainly wouldn’t need vindication for that. But for clinging to that idea until he died, despite the mounting evidence against it? That’s not scientific.)
That’s true Bill. But Hoyle didn’t know about the multiverse. Hoyle didn’t like the Big Bang theory for different reasons, one of which is it suggests a beginning of time. That’s why the Pope liked it, by the way. Hoyle’s Steady State Universe proposes that everything is eternal, with no origins and no endings. In that sense, it anticipates the theory of the multiverse quite well.
In trying to understand why there is something rather than nothing, it’s much easier to imagine no beginning and no end. Having a beginning is philosophically troublesome, especially for atheists.
“Having a beginning is philosophically troublesome, especially for atheists.”
Why? I don’t see it, Jim.
I hear that from Christians, sometimes. “Why is there something rather than nothing?” But their answer – God – isn’t a solution at all, even if there were evidence behind it, because it just changes the question to “Why is there God rather than nothing?”
And that question would remain whether our universe had a beginning or not. Certainly, I don’t see a problem for atheists, especially since we’re not making any claims about it (or shouldn’t be, at least). I’m willing to wait to see what science discovers about it. Well, I’m eager to find out, but I guess I’ll have to wait, huh? 🙂
Note that the ‘multiverse’ might be a new hypothesis in science, I don’t know, but I’ve heard similar ideas my entire life. Just because the Big Bang started things in this universe, that didn’t really seem to limit the possibilities much.
Incidentally, I read Letters from an Atheist Nation awhile back – letters originally published in a freethought newspaper in 1903 – and I thought it was funny how some of the atheists made the same argument that “something can’t come from nothing” that I hear Christians make these days.
Back then, scientists thought the universe was eternal, apparently. But that was no more a good argument for atheists than it is for believers. We don’t know that “something can’t come from nothing” – especially since we’ve never seen “nothing” – and we don’t know enough about the start of the Big Bang to say much of anything. (Did something come from nothing? We simply don’t know that.)
You know how causality seems to break down in quantum mechanics? Well, from what I’ve heard, causality seems to break down if you go back to the singularity, too. And since the Big Bang was apparently the beginning of not just space, but also time, things get really weird that far back.
That’s fascinating, but I don’t see why that’s a problem for atheists.
Good points WCG. Hoyle is talking about “this universe”. His biggest crime was ignoring the mounting evidence. I always hate to suggest videos and books because we each have restraints on our time. Re the Christain Apologist confusing universes, the very recent debate between Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig is one of the best debates on this topic I have ever seen. WLC loses big time. I’m reluctant to recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read multiple popular cosmology books because it is complex to follow the proper arguments based on reason, but Sean Carroll (who actually wrote one of my favorite books) destroys the arguments brought up by the christian apologist (I always thought apologist were apologizing for what they did to us through out history, but now I know it means defending the faith!).
Also, for James W., the debate covers why the first cause (why there is something rather nothing) is the wrong way to think about the problem.
Gary, your going to have to elaborate. I think all explanations of reality have to explain why there is something rather than nothing. It’s one of those questions you can’t avoid. For Christianity, the ultimate question is “Why do bad things happen to good people?” For science, it’s “Why is there something rather than nothing?” They are like inescapable Zen Koans.
That debate was almost three hours long (including the Q&A), wasn’t it? I’d like to watch the whole thing, but I don’t think I’ll have time. Still, you might be interested in this brief video of some excerpt (less than seven minutes). I was impressed by Sean Carroll in that.
I saw that seven minute compilation. It’s very good and you get the full picture and you see how Carroll decimates Craig.
I see your point. Krauss’ book was one of my favorites. He speaks mostly of just within this universe and he shows how “nothing” is impossible within our universe, but doesn’t get to what happens before the big bang.
But to your question. Carroll spells it out in the debate, but I probably am just muddling it. The universe(s) itself doesn’t need a cause. It can always be. Inflation goes on forever (at least some say it does). Now another way to think about it is that cause implies time. Before our universe there was no time. You can’t have something come before something when there is no time. The universe (in this case the universes) have always been.
But regardless, I probably shouldn’t have been emphatic in my statement and your Zen Koan still bothers me because I can’t resolve it. IMO, soon we will have a good answer to these kind of questions. I can hardly wait and I hope I’m smart enough to understand them when the answers come along. It’s only been very recently when the absolute truth of evolution as expounded by Darwin has been fully accepted. These are the reasons why I want to live for another 30 or so years. I want to know these answers! and as Feynman (or was Einstein?) says if you can’t explain it in terms to the reasonably educated person who is not a specialist in the field than it’s not really understood.