I have the complete works of Shakespeare on my bookshelf. I no longer have a typewriter, but let’s say there are 40 keys. And let’s avoid the problem of the shift key. There are, I very roughly calculate, six million discrete key strokes required to compile the complete works. So the odds of a monkey in front of a typewriter producing the complete works is about six million raised to the power of 40 to one. ‘Not very likely’ is somewhat of an understatement.
What are the odds of other intelligent beings existing outside of Earth in our universe? Well I don’t know because I don’t know what the odds are of life emerging by chance from inanimate matter and then, through random mutation and natural selection, going on to form intelligent life. The fact that there are apparently 100 billion stars in our galaxy and 100 billion other galaxies doesn’t help me. One hundred billion times 100 billion is a very small number when compared with 6 million raised to the power of 40. And just maybe the odds of intelligent life emerging are much, much longer than the chance of a monkey typing the complete works? If that were the case, the chances of intelligent life existing elsewhere would be remote. But wait! Infinity is the new God.
I glanced again at two books by eminent scientists. One is by Astronomer Royal Martin Rees (Just Six Numbers) published in 2001; the other by Francis Collins (The Language of God) published in 2006, when he was head of the Human Genome Project. They each give the same three competing theories for our extremely unlikely universe. One is that it just happened this way, so there. The other is that there is a Creator. The third is that our universe is part of a multiverse and therefore its unlikely characteristics are explicable despite the long odds against it. Neither scientist favours the first theory. In rejecting it, both quote philosopher John Leslie’s parable about fifty expert marksmen in a firing squad all missing their target. It is unbelievable.
Now it is self-evident from the title of his book that Collins favours a Creator. Rees favours a multiverse. It’s the multiverse that I would like to focus on.
Rees quantifies the multiverse in two ways in his book. He describes it as ‘many universes’ and as an ‘infinite multiverse’. Now to me there is a large difference (pun aside) between many – say the number of stars in the universe – and infinity. For example, if an infinite number of monkeys set to work to type Shakespeare one is bound to succeed. No, that is not right. An infinite number must succeed. I will leave you to think about that.
Infinity is a spooky concept. To me it is much spookier than God. If in fact there are an infinite number of universes then there must be an infinite number exactly like ours. And, in every detailed way; including you and what you had for breakfast this morning. To me it is absurd. Occam’s razor points me to God.
Of course, if the multiverse is just a large number of universes I want to know how many there are. Are there ten or ten million, or ten billion, or ten trillion? And then, if there are only ten trillion, I want to know why so few? Or, I suppose, alternatively, why so many? More to the point, why is the number what it is?
This all came to my mind when reading Phillip Adams some weeks ago and listening recently to our visiting dripping-progressive US scientist Lawrence Krauss on 7.30 and on Q&A. Both are unashamed God-bashers. Both obviously think that belief in God is risible.
I find this attitude to be unscientific. The scientists who I refer to above treat the idea of God with respect, even though they come to different views. Personally, I believe in God for a numbers of reasons. But one, certainly, is that I find it tortuous to get my mind around the alternative. However, I don’t treat the views of atheists with derision. I wonder why so many atheists in the commentariat feel obliged to be so aggressively anti-religious.
It might be a coincidence but it seems to be the case that God-bashers tend to believe in global warming, in the power of government to right societal ills, in human rights legislation, in gay marriage, in open borders, in anything which appeals to the sanctimoniously outraged of the inner city elite. I am reminded of the aphorism attributed to G K Chesterton, “He [she] who doesn’t believe in God will believe in anything.”