PM1003: We know this universe exists

We know that this universe exists. We do not, it seems, know whether other universes exist; but there appears nothing impossible about their existence. As to other universes, which may exist, we may divide them into two kinds: those which are wholly independent of this universe, and those which overlap with this universe in some way. In the latter sense, consider the possibility of multiple futures, of branching timelines: we may have two separate universes, which originally were one and the same universe, and up to a certain point in time were exactly the same, but since then have developed in different directions.

Do you believe in God? If you believe in God, surely you believe that God created this universe, which we know exists; and yet, if God can create one universe, surely he can create many? It appears, that if God so wished, God could easily create other universes, both wholly independent universes, and also universes overlapping with this one. Of course, even if it is true that God could do something, that by itself is no proof that he has; but surely it would be possible if God wanted to, if God had a good reason to do so. Indeed, let me say that the remainder of this essay is solely addressed to those who believe in a God of some description; if you do not believe in any God, then little of what I have to say will have relevance to you: for the remainder, I will assume that God exists, that God is the creator of this universe (and any other universes which may exist), that God is all-powerful, and that God is perfectly good.

Why might God wish to create parallel universes? One reason could be pure fecundity, love of creation: the same love which lead God to create one universe might also lead God to create several. However, may I suggest that while God has certainly created one universe, and may well have created many, even more than any of us could count, surely God has not created every possible universe. I believe that anyone who truly understands the idea of every possible universe existing must conclude that such a scenario is so offensive to reason and to morality, that a good and sane God could never do such a thing.

 There are other reasons why God might create parallel universes. I wish to begin by speaking of a very difficult topic: that of infant mortality. What happens after death to them? Different religions will give different answers: there are two main afterlife models: in the model most commonly associated with Christianity (and other Western religions also), in the afterlife we go to another place, be it one of reward or punishment, and we do not come back to this one; in the model more commonly associated with the Eastern religions (such as Hinduism or Buddhism), in the afterlife we come back to this place to live another life, either immediately, or after a temporary sojourn through other places. We might call these the non-reincarnation model and the reincarnation model, respectively.

Let me begin by assuming the non-reincarnation model is true; I will come to the question of reincarnation later. So, what happens to babies when they die? Most Christians would say that they go to heaven. This scenario does pose a challenge for Christians, many of whom will say that heaven is only for those who have (the right kind of) faith, something of which babies are seemingly incapable. And yet, despite this fact, the vast majority of them nowadays do in fact believe that those who die in infancy go to heaven: there may be some who insist that they are eternally punished in hell, but I think that if any Christians today think that they must be very few. (There may also be a few who hold to the old Catholic idea of limbo, according to which unbaptized infants, but not baptized ones, go to a place which is neither heaven nor hell, a place which is very good and pleasant, but not as good as heaven: however, that view was never the official view of the Catholic church, and seems to have fallen out of favour with the church authorities, and has very few adherents today.) So, babies who die in infancy go to heaven.

What then of their parents? Most Christians believe in both heaven and hell, with heaven being the everlasting reward for some, and hell the everlasting punishment for us. Christians disagree on what are the criteria of admission to heaven: some say it is only for those who have faith (and the right kind of faith at that) — this is known as salvation by faith; others say it is for those who do good and refrain from doing evil (with some allowance for those who have done evil to repent and be forgiven, and also for those guilty of less serious sins to nonetheless gain admission) — this is known as salvation by works; others say it is by some combination of both faith and works. The first position is that of most Protestants, while the third position is that of the Catholic church and others. Most Christians believe that both hell and heaven are everlasting states, although there are minority positions who dissent from this in one way or another. Universalists deny the everlastingness of hell, saying that all eventually go to heaven — some may spend some time in hell, but only a limited period — a minority of universalists go further than this, and deny the existence of hell altogether. Annihilationists also deny the everlastingness of hell, but rather than everyone eventually going to heaven, the damned cease to exist forever: either immediately upon death, or after some limited period of punishment in hell.

Given all of this, we can say that when the parents eventually die, it is at least possible that they go to heaven – those Christians who say that not everyone goes to heaven, would also say that if the parents really want to go to heaven, there are means available to them to get there (whether it be by doing the right deeds, or placing their faith in the right persons or things, or some combination of both).

Would it be wrong then for the parents to hope that they will see their dead baby again in heaven? It would seem, given all of this, it is not wrong for them to so hope: God has provided them with a means to achieve their hope.

I will also assume, that in heaven we will meet again our departed loved ones who are also there; I am not sure we can claim this as an explicit doctrine of Christianity, but it is something which most Christians hold — they see the afterlife as maintaining individual personalities, and the possible of social and communal interactions between them — most Christian views of heaven are rather different from the idea that some have, of the afterlife as the disappearance of the individual personality into some amorphous and impersonal All.

So, the parents have the hope of meeting their dead infant again after their deaths. I would say, this is indeed the natural hope of every loving parent, and it is a fitting that a good God would provide the possibility of this hope being fulfilled — indeed, dare we say that a God which did not provide any possibility of this hope being fulfilled, could not be called good? Indeed, let me propose this principle: For every natural hope of ours, a good God will provide us means by which that hope might be fulfilled, and fulfilled to the fullest.

But, let us ask, when the parents meet their dead infant in heaven, is it still a baby, or has it grown up? And if it has grown up, then how did it grow up? It would seem, were it to remain a baby forever, that would not fully satisfy the hope and longing of its parents: for while we love our children in the innocence of their infancy, and we savour those moments while they last, no loving parent would wish upon their child everlasting infancy: to fully fulfil the natural longing and hope of the parents, it is necessary that the baby grow up.

Yet if the baby is to grow up, how shall it grow up? Shall it grow up in heaven? Yet it seems, that it cannot grow up in heaven — for to grow is to endure and suffer through challenges and trials and adversities, and it seems that all such things would be impossible in a perfect place such as heaven. Of course, one does not wish the trials for one’s child to be too severe, and regrettably many children endure trials which no child should have to endure: but the absolute absence of any trial or challenge or suffering or mistakes, which is what the perfection of heaven implies, is incompatible with growth.

So it seems, that with respect to those who die in infancy, or even later on in childhood, the traditional Christian model of heaven contains a major flaw — it cannot fully answer to the natural hope of parents, not only to see their dead child again, but to also see it grow up.

Does the reincarnation model fare any better? It would seem, that the child could be reincarnated, and then grow up in that manner. However, I would suggest that this model does not answer to the natural hope of the parents either: while the child in some sense who dies may be the child who grows up, in another sense they will not be the same child: they may well have a different name, a different gender, a different appearance, a different personality, different parents and family and friends: the child who grows up may in very many ways live a quite different life from that which the child who died would have lived had they not died. So, I dare say, that while in some ways this model might fare better than the traditional Christian model, it too falls short of the principle, that a good God will provide a means to fulfil our every natural hope to the uttermost. This answer goes some way to answer that hope, yet fails to fully answer it.

 The question is then, is there any afterlife model which may answer the natural hope of the parents? I would suggest that there is, and it can be provided by branching parallel universes. What if, when the baby dies, God then divides the universe into two near-identical universes, in which the only difference is that in one the baby dies, in the other the very same baby somehow does not, and then permits thereafter the two universes to develop as they will? It would seem that the universe in which the baby somehow does not die best answers the hope and longing of the parents whose baby dies, save for the fact that they are not in that universe, but in the other one. But what if, in the afterlife, they were granted knowledge of that universe, knowledge so perfect that it was as if they themselves were present in it? I dare say, that might answer their hope and their longing better than any alternative.

But what of the baby? Where does it go upon death? Let me say that the soul of the baby is taken from the universe in which it dies, and given over to the universe in which it does not die, and the two souls are joined together as one. Therefore, the dead baby does not go to heaven immediately, but rather first goes to a parallel universe in which it does not die: it may then thereafter eventually go on to heaven.

I think this afterlife model answers the natural hope and longing of the parents better than any other possible model. This natural hope and longing of loving parents is not in any way sinful or wrong or evil; it is in itself a perfectly good thing, and while the parents may in many other ways be flawed and deficient and even wicked people, in this hope there is for them no wrong and no guilt. If God exists, and God is good, then surely God desires to fulfil the natural hope and longing of loving parents as fully as possible. Therefore, if this afterlife model is the model which best fulfils that longing, this must be the afterlife model which God brings about, and therefore it must be true.

I began by saying that we cannot know whether other universes exist, or whether God created any other universes. But if we know this model is true, then we know that other universes must exist, and that God must have created them. And I believe we can know, on the basis of the arguments I have outlined, that this model is true; and therefore we can know that God has created other parallel universes overlapping with this one.

What about wholly independent universes? A desire to fulfil hopes and longings such as these can only lead to overlapping universes, and not wholly independent ones. Therefore, I would say, that while we can know that overlapping universes exist, we cannot know whether or not wholly independent universes exist: God may have created some number of them, but we cannot know whether he in fact has.

This argument for the existence of parallel universes is essentially a form of potuit, decuit, ergo fecit – God could have done, it was fitting for God to do, therefore God did it. God could have created overlapping parallel universes, it is fitting that God create overlapping parallel universes, therefore God did indeed create overlapping parallel universes.

Some will object to this form of argument. Some might say: God could have created a perfect universe, it would be fitting for God to create a perfect universe, therefore God created a perfect universe; yet the conclusion is false, for this universe which God created is imperfect, therefore this argument must be somehow invalid. However, in reply, we cannot say the conclusion false; from the fact that this universe is imperfect, we cannot conclude that God did not create a perfect universe: if it is possible that God created other universes than this one, it is possible that God created a perfect universe which exists alongside this universe of imperfection.

In response to that reply, some would form a revised argument: God could have only created perfect universes, it would be fitting for God to only create perfect universes, therefore God created only perfect universes; yet the conclusion is false, for this universe which God created is imperfect, therefore this argument must be somehow invalid. And yet, on the contrary, it would not be fitting for God to only create perfect universes. First, we must ask, whether God loves us: I will submit that God loves us as a parent loves their children. But there are two ways in which we can love people: we can love them as people in general, not for the sake of who they are as particular individuals, but simply on the grounds of some property which they possess along with countless others: at its broadest, we can love our fellow humans simply for having the property of being humans; some will love others on the basis of more restricted properties, such as being of the same country or nation or ethnicity or religion: but even that more restricted love embraces very large numbers of people without regard to their individual particularity. On the other hand, we have the love we have for particular individuals: we love our partners, children, parents, family, friends, because of who they are as particular individuals. Our love for persons in general is fungible: there are many persons to whom it may equally apply, and for any one who might receive it we could exchange many others; our love for particular persons is infungible: our children cannot be replaced in our hearts by others, no matter what redeeming qualities those others may have. The best person in the world cannot take the place of any of our children, even if our children in contrast are very flawed and imperfect persons. We may love persons in general on account of their good qualities, but we love particular persons simply for who they are, even at times when they are lacking in many redeeming qualities.

Having said all of this to distinguish love for particular persons from love for persons-in-general, we must ask, what kind of love does God have for us? I would submit that the love which God has for us is love for particular persons, as opposed to only love for persons-in-general. Firstly, we cannot love everyone as individuals because we cannot know everyone as individuals: our minds and our hearts are not big enough to contain everybody. But the mind and heart of God lacks those limitations, while we can only love a few as particular persons, and others we can only love as persons-in-general, God can love everyone as a particular person. And if it is possible for God, and it is fitting for God, then surely God must have so done. Secondly, I have said, God’s love for us is like the love that a parent has for their children. Now the love that a parent has for their children is love for particular persons, not merely love for persons-in-general; therefore, God’s love for us must be love for particular persons, not love for persons-in-general.

Now, if you love a particular person, surely you must will that they exist, and be happy that they exist. For most of us, this fact, however true, is of little practical relevance, for we lack the power to cause the existence of those whom we in this way love. Even when it comes to our own children, whom in this way we love, and whose existence we cause at least in part, our causing them to exist predates our loving them in this way, so our causing them to exist cannot be a consequence of our loving them in this way: we do not encounter the particularity of our children, which we love, until after we have already set the chain of causes which leads to their existence in motion. For God, however, matters are rather different. God has far greater powers of causation, and such knowledge so as to be able to foresee in their particularity the persons whom he is to create, before he has created them. Therefore, for God, unlike for us, the decision to bring a particular person into existence can be the fruit of a love for that person in all their particularity.

Would it therefore be fitting for God to have created only perfect universes? I submit that it is not, because loving us as particular persons, God must bring about our existence; but we as the particular persons whom we are cannot exist in a perfect universe, only in this imperfect universe may we exist. God may well have created perfect universes, in which some most fortunate among his children live idyllic lives of perfect happiness and peace; but if any such universes be, certainly we are not in any of them, nor is anyone whom we have ever or ever shall love or know. Therefore, it is not fitting for God to only create perfect universes, therefore this counter-argument fails.

Another point I must make regarding this form of argument, potuit, decuit ergo fecit: it is what I might call a defeasible form of argument. Some forms of arguments operate on the basis of certainty, so that if its premises are true, and the argument itself is valid, then its conclusion must be true, and cannot possibly be false. When dealing with this form of argument, in order to demonstrate such an argument invalid, one needs to show that its conclusion is false even while the premises are true. Other arguments, however, are presumptive in character: if the premises are true, then we ought to accept the conclusion as true, in the absence of any strong evidence to the contrary: yet, if such strong evidence be presented, it does not thereby show the form of argument to be invalid, since it never claimed to be an argument of certainty, merely one of presumption. Along those lines, I would suggest that potuit, decuit ergo fecit arguments are such arguments, and hence evidence that the conclusion of any of them is false does not prove this form of argument to be invalid in the general case.

Diversions

The argument potuit, decuit ergo fecit was originally devised by Catholic theologians (such as Eadmer of Canterbury and Duns Scotus) as an argument for the Immaculate Conception of Mary, i.e. her being conceived without original sin. The argument goes, that God could have exempted Mary from original sin, that it would be fitting for him to do so, therefore he must have done so. It may be asked, what do I think of this original argument?

What is original sin? In my view, the original sin is the sin of our origins, the sin of our existence: we are inherently sinful creatures, in that sin is necessary for our existence; in a world without sin, we would have never been born. Our original sin is the sinfulness of our existence.

In that sense, could God have exempted anyone from original sin? Certainly not Mary the mother of Jesus, nor Jesus himself, both of which were born into a sinful world, and the particularity of their existence is utterly dependent upon that sinful world, and the long history of sin without which they could not be the particular persons that they are. Therefore, the argument as originally formulated fails, for its potuit is false; but, even if this particular argument fails, it may serve as an inspiration for other arguments far more successful.

The only persons who may escape original sin are Adam and Eve, or their equivalents — only one born into a world in which sin does not yet exist may be said to be exempted from original sin. An interesting point here, regarding Jesus as Saviour, is that anyone who would save a sinful world must enter into it, and in entering into it receive original sin in themselves. Therefore, Jesus too received original sin, and without original sin could not in any way save this world. In the NT, it speaks of Jesus emptying himself of divinity and taking on a human form­ — if that is true, then we must say that sinless was part of the divinity of which he emptied himself, and that in taking on a human form, he took on a form of sin.

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