Pastoral Perspectives

Vanity of vanities even in the Multiverse

By now, many of us are probably familiar with the idea of the multiverse given the recent success of Disney’s LokiSpider Man: No Way Home and Dr Strange: Multiverse of Madness. For those who are hearing this for the first time, the multiverse theory is simply the idea that apart from this universe that we know and live in, there are many, perhaps an infinity of, universes which exist all at the same time. As much as we can’t exactly wrap our heads around how this mind-boggling concept works, most would agree it was fun to see different iterations of Spiderman showing up in the same movie and working together to defeat the villains.

While the multiverse theory appears to be a philosopher’s muse, there is no doubt that Hollywood has gladly lapped up the idea that is often associated with the late theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking. One possible reason is that the multiverse serves as a convenient key plot device for writers to introduce countless versions of the same superheroes and villains within one story and offers exciting possibilities of spinning storylines without needing to create a new character.

In short, potentially more revenue from the box office and sales of merchandise with minimal marketing and little originality. Given that Marvel and DC Comics have more or less been successful in captivating the imagination of generations of worldwide audiences, our world is in no hurry to have another superhero.

Whether the multiverse remains mere science fiction or not, it is sufficed to note that even if the multiverse does exist, it does not mean that one must then exclude the existence of a creator. Surprisingly, it is the reverse for it turns out that in our reality, a multiverse must contain a creator.

This is because if one subscribes to the multiverse theory, the person must also allow for the possibility that within an infinite or near-infinite number of possible types of universe, there must also contain within this multiverse every possible type of thing or being that can exist. This would include a super-being who is able to control the forces of physics so that he could create a universe with physical constants and characteristics that conform to his own design. Furthermore, within this universe, it would not be far-fetched that this being would be capable of creating a realm that is home to creatures he could communicate with. Even with such a “generic” description, one would have to say that this being does seem to resemble the Bible’s description of the Almighty Creator God, isn’t it?

In addition, based on what scientists have discovered about our universe, we know that it is not just one but a dozen of conditions all have to be finely tuned precisely as they are for it to be even possible for our universe to produce any form of complex life. For example, in order for life to exist there must be an abundant supply of carbon, which is formed by the combination of three helium nuclei. But the combination must be so exact that if there is a variation of slightly more than 1% either way, the universe could no longer sustain life. Likewise, if there is a modification of only 2% of the current distance between the sun and the earth, it would result in the total annihilation of life. If the earth is too near to the sun, water would evaporate and the earth will be too barren to sustain life. However, if the earth is too far from the sun, temperatures would plunge to the point that life is no longer possible.

To get a sense of how great the odds are that Earth seems to be so incredibly finely-tuned for life, one just needs to note what Sir Roger Penrose -one of the world’s leading mathematical physicists – suggests that the precision necessary is less than 1 part in 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 123. According to one Christian apologist, this would mean that even if he was able to turn all the matter in the universe into paper, he would have far too little paper to print the required number of zeros!

Considering that all other universes that we know are so barren, one would need to provide a credible explanation as to why life can only be found here on Earth. To simply brush away the existence of God and attributing it to mere coincidence is hardly scientific reasoning. This is especially so in view that there is no hard evidence that even one other universe exists, let alone the remarkable number of conditions that are necessary to get the odds right. Even for Richard Dawkins who remains an avowed atheist, he is prepared to entertain the possibility of intelligent design in the face of such facts. If only this would lead Dawkins to join the psalmist in declaring “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

Perhaps what is more pertinent for us as Christians to bear in mind is that even within the multiverse of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the characters are all inevitably wrestling with similar pursuit for purpose and happiness. Indeed, the pursuit for something better – whether it is a better variant of themselves, a better decision or a better outcome – is a common theme and serves as the driving force for many characters in the MCU.

However, whether it is in one universe or another, they can find no utopia despite their attempts to tinker with the space-time continuum or travels through dimensions. This is not surprising since the characters are still finite and fallible beings even if not all of them are humans. Without a true Saviour like Jesus who can sovereignly rescue them from what is commonly described as the “human condition”, the superheroes are ultimately left to fend for themselves and to try to protect people in the midst of evil, death and suffering. Upon closer examination, it seems that even in the MCU, all is vanity and there is nothing new under the sun. But thanks be to God, in our universe, there is a hero who lives beyond the pages of books and big screens.

Rev Edwin Wong

May 22, 2022