Atheist philosopher Alex Rosenberg is confident that the multiverse exists. I suspect this is partially because he realizes that a failure to believe in the multiverse is a failure to engage rationally with theists.
Unfortunately, he’s willing to fudge the facts in order to help make his readers as confident as he is:
Where did the big bang come from? The best current theory suggests that our universe is just one universe in a “multiverse”…
One remarkable thing about this best current cosmological theory is the degree to which physicists have been able to subject it to many empirical tests, including tests of its claims about things that happened even before the big bang (Atheist’s Guide to Reality, pp. 36-37)
Yes, it can now be said that the multiverse has been tested (though the test failed to turn up any evidence whatsoever). But, unless the scientific method has been seriously altered since I’ve last checked, there is a difference between one test and “many”, and between being inconclusively tested and deserving the confidence Rosenberg exudes.
This is relevant because, given the state of cosmology, the multiverse is the only viable option to the idea of a designer of the universe, and there is no empirical evidence to support it. This leaves atheists at something of a crossroads: either accept the multiverse at the cost of admitting that some things can be accepted without evidence, or reject it at the cost of admitting that there is at least one large hole in one’s philosophy.
Personally, I find the former view easier to respect. There are, after all, quite a few things in life that we believe without empirical verification. Adding the multiverse to this list is an issue, but isn’t nearly so much of a sacrifice as failing to offer an alternative to theism on such a fundamental question.
This might run counter to what many assume. Certainly it runs counter to what the New Atheists seem to assume. But, in a world full of uncertainties, we need to chose the most reasonable option available. And simply claiming “I don’t like this question” isn’t an answer.
That is to say, any argument can be countered by saying “I don’t know, but I’m sure there must be some idea out there that is more reasonable than your answer”, but this is closer to an appeal to magic than logical discourse.
Refusing to answer such a basic question about the nature of reality is rather like taking the fifth amendment in court. It adds up to grounds that may incriminate one’s philosophy– that it lacks answers to the questions that theists have always claimed non-theistic views can’t answer. This doesn’t show that any particular theistic answer is correct, of course, but it does mean that the atheist’s position hasn’t even made it into the pool of live options.
But, as Rosenberg sees, none of this applies to the atheist who accepts the multiverse. I’ll have some things to say about that position in a future post.