The impossibility of the multiverse

By Rane McDonough


Is there more than one universe? This question has been asked by everyone from quantum physicists to movie makers. Are there other universes in which simple decisions have changed the course of history entirely? Is there a universe, for example, in which Hitler became a water-color painter and the Nazis never took power?

The premise of the multiverse is a powerful one. It allows for freedom of choice, while still allowing for cause and effect, but is it real? I would have to say I don’t believe so.

I think that while humans may occupy a special place in this universe, it is the only universe. There are not new ones created every time someone makes a decision. As a hard determinist, I think that given the exact circumstances and moment in time, people will always act in the same way. There is only one outcome of every choice and only one universe for the outcome of that choice to exist in.

I believe that people are predictable, and that, given enough information about someone, you can predict their behavior under any circumstances. The problem is that no human being can ever completely know everything. As we are not omniscient, our ability to predict is limited. We can’t make any guarantees; we can only make educated guesses.

That being said, we can increase the accuracy of our predictions by learning more about what it is we are trying to predict. A good volcanologist has a better chance to predict an eruption than a person flipping a coin. We can’t be perfect, but we can be better.
Like volcanos, people have to be governed by laws of the universe. To think otherwise, that at any point in time a person can make any choice, is to invite chaos. In that situation, people would be erratic and unpredictable. No matter how much you knew someone, you couldn’t tell what they were going to do next any more than you could predict the behavior of a complete stranger.

I think people will agree with me that this is not true, that there is an underlying order to even the most random-seeming decisions. People have personalities, goals and other long-term factors in mind that stabilize their decision-making.

Since nobody is omniscient, there is some element of uncertainty as to what someone will be like in the future. People can be different at different moments. Even the wisest and most mature people among us were, at one point in time, 2 year olds. Just because someone’s path may be pre-destined doesn’t mean you can write them off. Only God knows whether someone will remain a sinner or redeem themselves and it is arrogant to assume with certainty that type of foresight for ourselves. We can only make educated guesses and act accordingly.
There are no sure bets. It is probably smart to avoid convicted felons, because they are more likely to commit crimes again, but it is wrong to assume they are incapable of becoming a functional member of society.

When I think of all the laws of physics that had to be just right for humanity to come to exist, I have to believe that this universe is special. I can’t believe it is some random reality among countless others. I have to believe that creation is ordered, not an accident.

The insignificant aspects of life might seem like they can be changed. It might seem like you could have decided not to read this article. However, the small things in life are dependent on larger ones. For example, the desire to read this article may stem from the same curiosity and respect for the written word that convinced you to go to college in the first place and so on.

You can’t say that any one thing is random without calling everything else that has ever happened into question. Considering how old the universe is, that is a very long series of accidents. If, to quote Sir Ian Fleming, “once is happenstance,” and “twice is coincidence,” then what is 13 billion years? It is more than an accident.

There is only one version of each of us, and every decision we make is a reflection of the unique self we each possess. I can’t go back and change anything I have done any more than a rock can decide not to be a rock. I can make different choices in the future, but those are new choices which reflect what I am in a different situation. I think the future is already set, but not already known. The only way to know your future is to live through it.

Rane McDonough is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]