Multiverse, Verse and Wonder

Context: The Multiverse As Muse

I once backpacked around the world alone but for my scant belongings and two books: Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Human, all too Human” and (philosopher) John Leslies’ Cosmological survey “Universes” (Routledge, 1989). Both fascinating reads and each in their own way. From memory, John Leslie made in this book some strong assertions in regards to multiverses, cosmological fine-tuning and the Anthropic Principle.

However, in a multiverse cosmos there does not necessarily need to be anything particularly special about that particular constellation, configuration or possibility-space of constants and fundamental forces within which one finds themselves any more than that on a random walk through a large forest you will always find yourself to be precisely in whatever location you happen to find yourself located. It is simply tautological to assert that there is something special about the fact that you should just happen to find yourself in a Universe finely-tuned for the possibility of your own existence.

Some additional background: on the Anthropic Principle(s) –

A wander through: the implicit tautologies of the Anthropic Principle, clear-thinking logic, physics, and a Principle of Chocolate Necessity with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Captain Jack Sparrow +Rhys Taylor Physicist of the Caribbean

Peripherally related: On the topic of Free Will and the multiverse, one random walk and relatively brief free-falling flight-of-fancy –

It is quite possible that multiple Universes, in fact – a countless panoply of such branching worlds, do actually exist. If you are interested in why this is considered plausible, try searching for “Many Worlds Interpretation” or try this as a staging point into the peculiarities of it all:
Having graduated from Wikipedia, try some post-wiki study at the excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

When asked which interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (QM) he favoured, physicist Richard Feynman once (apocryphally) replied “Shut up and calculate.” You can make your own determinations as to how to proceed. If you are fortunate enough to possess sufficient mathematical training, go get some QM. For the rest of us, left wondering what exactly it means (for instance) that some subatomic particles rotate 720° through their own abstract mathematical world to instantiate a rotation of 360° in the world of our own (primary, empirical, derived-from-our-senses) experience, the mind is but left to boggle in wonder.

Multiverses are fascinating things. Difficult to capture cognitively, comprehend or articulate and communicate to such relatively simple and linear-narrative-or-time-constrained beings such as ourselves; beyond the mathematical intricacies of contemporary physics it is perhaps best left to the poets, (the other) writers and the artists to visualise and communicate the strange worlds of possibility, interpretation and hypothesis which percolate out of the labs, notebooks and the offices of theoretical physicists.

An interesting read on the topic of science, literature and the multiverse concept; sampled in part below. Visit the article for the full text, it is not particularly long or challenging but of authentic interest to anyone interested to trace the etymology and semantics underlying the concept of a “Multiverse”.

Historically, the multiverse was a religious concept, not a physical one—a way to prove God’s existence and benevolence, culminating in the work of the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. That sentiment is also clear in the portrayal of the multiverse in earlier literature: The many worlds and branching stories of William Blake’s The Four Zoas, written in the late 1700s and early 1800s, for instance, form a multiverse of sorts—but the context is also spiritual in nature.

The multiverse is a natural outcome of modern philosophy, fiction, and physics. Traces of the idea are already visible in the work of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who turns Leibniz’s argument for “the best of all possible worlds” on its head by proposing that we instead live in “the worst of all possible worlds.” “For possible means not what we may picture in our imagination, but what can actually exist and last,” Schopenhauer wrote. “Now this world is arranged as it had to be if it were to be capable of continuing with great difficulty to exist; if it were even a little worse, it would be no longer capable of continuing to exist.”

Schopenhauer’s words contain the seed of the anthropic principle, which states that physical properties of the universe—values such as the cosmological constant or the force of gravity, which seem “finely tuned” to meet the needs required for life—must be compatible with the existence of observers who study those properties.

Unprovable Provenance

The original link that was here has been removed by the (other) author, orphaning my below assertions somewhat but not, perhaps, totally invalidating them.  Reflections on the act of anchoring a series of statements upon a logical non-entity is in any case very much the overall context within which this short essay is grounded.

The author referenced (as linked above) possesses an eloquence of short-form writing and intelligence of admirable agility; or perhaps it is just that the specific constellation of humanity, vocabulary and compositional method are such as to draw (and retain) my eye. Regardless, while I do not agree with her on every count of assertion across her G+ posts, I do strongly agree with such an overall well-framed humanism enough to informally (and indirectly – here) engage with it.

This particular statement captivated me, but not purely for the most obvious reasons of logic:

“In conclusion, it’s essential to note that no living person (…), has ever proved beyond all shadow of a doubt that God does not exist.”

As a general reflection – and as a matter of logical inevitability – while it is true that no living person has ever proved that God does not exist, nor has any living person ever proved that unicorns do not exist. The inability to prove the non-existence of a thing does not equivocate to the proof of the existence of that thing, nor of true and justified belief in that thing.

One might assert that there are different classes of unknowable things; that, in essence, God as a concept is not of the same order of entity as is a unicorn or any other fictional thing but I think that we might very rapidly find ourselves adrift and listless upon an ocean of aspiration upon which the acceptance of “existing non-existence” brings about the impossibility for any kind of knowledge at all. Admitting inconsistencies into logical arguments allows the proof of just about anything at all. Bertrand Russell once famously demonstrated himself to be the Pope as a response to the admission of logical inconsistencies into a system of belief, or truth.

I remain agnostic to Ultimate Truths as there always exists (within any such frameworks of sufficient sophistication as to be interesting or significant) further iterations and permutations of fact and recombinatory analysis.  If God were, for instance, the teleological end-point of hyper-advanced intelligence and technological civilisation, at an immeasurable extremity of intellect and influence (- consider a Kardashev Level 3+ civilisation as well on the way to that eschatological climax -) having cultivated the means and possessing the motivation to reach back across all of spacetime and produce the material circumstances from which the Cosmos itself might emerge in a Let There Be Energy kind of moment, then we should have a perfectly closed loop and seemingly impossible circumstance of the First Cause having Caused Itself.

Charles Stross introduces a similar concept of the technological uber-entity of the Eschaton in his excellent science fiction series beginning with the novel Singularity Sky.

Suggesting such plainly paradoxical circumstances might be even admitted into consideration is the point at which I expect to lose the attention of exactly half of the 5 people who will ever read this text. Of course, admitting any one (such) paradox into genuine consideration then unhinges Pandora’s Gucci bag of unending unintelligibility – unleashing endless tides of inconsistency and “anything goes” when in reality this does not appear to be either the world we find ourselves living in, nor representative of our phenomenal and lived experience of it.  Bound as we are by evolutionary and biological circumstances to brains and experiences of particular kinds, it may be that we are quite literally unable to see past our own noses and that we possess biases and experiences which predestine ourselves to think purely in linear and rational manners which may at some deep level or indefinable way restrict our ability to explain or understand the actual complexities and curlicues of the Cosmos within which we find ourselves.

A materially, rationally and logically explicable Universe (and all those who sail in her) need not necessarily be other than a superficially sensible system of structure and physical manifestation which is actually and fundamentally paradoxical at some deeper (or if you prefer – overarching) layer and for this reason logically inconsistent.  It is possible, if existentially worrying, that all of the order and regularity of our experience and as extrapolated through physical theory may just be that part of reality and existence which is explicable (to our limited cognitive mechanisms) and that our merry little cosmic spacetime journey is capped on both ends (or at least one monopolar end) with a mischievous paradox.

We certainly should not, in as much as we have actual lives to live and real existential worlds of our experience to navigate, cast off entirely from a familiar shore of causality, rationality and relative existential certainty. I suspect that the many signifiers within mathematics and logic as to the plausible existence of implausible entities (i.e. the existence of paradox and inconsistency) suggests that we do, as the originally referenced author suggests, hedge our bets somewhat in agnostic forbearance. God may just be a member of the order of entities that is unprovable but, unlike Unicorns, it’s availability on the scale of probability may be just ever so slightly lifted above and away from the impossible.

Faith is always placed in something.  It is very much a matter of whether or not you choose to rest your beliefs upon what can be demonstrated as opposed to what can not; proof by presence or by absence.  Ultimate questions are not, although many have tried, necessarily even answerable as although we do like to believe in our unlimited capacity to render truth from between these warm little ears of ours – we are all actually very limited, very contingent and very much a work-in-progress.

Of Stardust and Story-telling

I can fundamentally and at some level know that the planetary, stellar and cosmological context of our planet and all of its spectacularly diverse life and sentience is more fundamental, more profound than any symbolic theorem, narrative or mythological overlay that human culture may cultivate or nurture. Simultaneously, I am bound by the realisation that my language, my variously adoptive and creatively recombinatory thought patterns and the whole gestalt of perception, subjectivity and history (or even deep biological time) within which I exist generates boundaries, linguistic (or conceptual) containers and filters which circumscribe the limits and horizon of my conscious experience and embodied reality. The collective mental capacity to manipulate ratio, number and magnitude, to wield abstract (and yet mischievously predictive) mathematical quantities and to unravel the dynamic activities of ecosystems, planetary artefacts, stars or galaxies, does little to ease my sense of discomfort that for all of our apparent, retrospectively justifiable and Anthropic-Principle-like inevitability within this world, the discontinuity between this human story-and-explanation-making facility and the ancient expanses and depths of the material context and stage upon which this drama decompresses itself is almost entirely irreducible, inexplicable.

Some truths and realities may just be monumentally and inconceivably vaster than human minds can ever comprehend. A small compensation may be that this leaves plenty of (literal) conceptual space for projected future cultural, scientific and technological discovery and growth.

Strange Games

It is a strange game indeed, this one we play in which we extract and abstract meanings and purposes from our complicated clockwork societal mechanisms and the (perhaps unwittingly narcissistic) associated technical projections of measurement and quantity, of duration and qualitative essence; organisational systems and logical machines-of-induction overlaid upon (and interpreted from) the culturally recursive, reproductive cycles and generative systemic flows of our world, our economies and the technical extension of our senses as facilitated by our evolving technologies. Humanity and human life is not, could never be, the measure of all things beyond those metrics and structures we inscribe (like transient, flickering neon lights) upon the darkness of cosmic depth and from whose interior re-curvature and reflective surface and self-generating discursive necessity we are compelled to extract all axiom, law and meaning. I imagine that it is also (and ultimately all) that we can ever possess; we are bound to observe only the mirrored reflection of our own minds, beliefs and selfish purposes and for these facts, perhaps among many others, there can be no panacea for this lingering sense of futility I, but surely not alone, endlessly endure when confronted by the compound, insipid myopia and bellicose stupidity of our species.

You have Free Will

Yes.  We are fundamentally free and in at least two different ways.

At the social and cultural (or psychological) level – we do not determine the choices from which we choose but are free to choose from within the available spectrum of all possible available decisions. We are also free to recombine existing choices, ideas, concepts into new possibilities and this creative recombination is how the possibility space internally grows and expands, gathers complexity and notional mass-density. At a global (i.e. “holistic”) systems-theoretical level, this is essentially a self-gravitating and accelerating mass of reference and blossoming internal complexity – incomplete and under constant metamorphosis.

At a more fundamental (i.e. physical reality) level, what if *all* possibilities exist ? That is – there might exist some vast and incomprehensibly complex possibility space in which *all* possibilities, all timelines exist. Not so much a multiverse in which choices or possible branching points in physical reality indicate a splitting of the Universe into divergent, historically related-realities but rather one single vast (infinite ?) multidimensional manifold in which *all* possibilities *actually do exist* within the one Cosmological entity or process; itself stupendously complex but also organically continuous, constitutive of reality and the “physical” Universe. Does it matter that it might be a concept which turns out to be potentially unprovable as that possible constellation and state of possibility space/s in which it can never be proved is also one of the possible states of the branching Yggdrasil-like tree of all possible worlds ?


The Universe may be a wily playwright. All those near misses, narrative complexities and dramatic tensions; if people met their best matches in life, most of the rich tapestry of the shared stories we live would reveal itself as so much smoke and mirrors. But there is smoke and there are mirrors and for whatever else even vaguely resembling purpose, meaning or direction the world appears to inscribe into our timelines – the Universe is under absolutely no obligation to us to render itself as consistent or intelligible. We’re probably all just so many lost souls in diminutive atmospheric fish bowls, waiting for someone who never arrives…


We are Nowhere. A very specific Nowhere; unique and interesting (although perhaps not only) by virtue of the presence of sentient observers, of ourselves. In an expanding (accelerating !) Universe of some 2 trillion galaxies, each with anywhere up to several hundred billion stars and the countless worlds orbiting those stellar crucibles, organisms of unimaginable variety and morphology, sentient life-forms and civilisations at varying stages of technological complexity and organisational maturity – the only truly unique thing about our own spatiotemporal location is the naked fact of our existence here. It may be a fragile and beautiful Nowhere, equally populated with so many fragile and beautiful people, cultures, animals and ecosystems; but it is still Nowhere. Knowing we are Nowhere takes humility, it is an acknowledgement only truly possible through a mature consideration of the broadest horizons and most majestic depths of our shared existential context.