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I'm taking a modern philosophy class and my teacher has talked about the a lot about the grounding of scientific law as well as whether it is necessary or contingent. For example, Descartes used his "proof of God" to ground scientific law. Further, scientific law is necessary under Descartes' conception.

Would the existence of an infinite number of parallel universes where there is a universe for every possible combination of events constitute a grounding of scientific law?

I.e. if every possible thing that could exist does exist in some universe, then it would be necessary that things are the way they are in our universe (or at least in some universe, but this is the one we happen to be in).

  • "if every possible thing that could exist does exist in some universe" This is not a good characterisation of the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. – CriglCragl Apr 23 '18 at 16:38
  • What you describe is a crude form of the co-called anthropic principle, and the reason why so many people are skeptical about it. It is a catch-all that "grounds" anything and explains nothing. As Penrose put it, "it tends to be invoked by theorists whenever they do not have a good enough theory to explain the observed facts". In this regard it is similar to theological "grounding". Why are natural laws the way they are? Because God. Such lazy "grounding" is an equivalent of throwing one's hands in the air. – Conifold Apr 23 '18 at 20:34
  • Very much agree with Conifold here.To ground a physical theory we require a metaphysical theory. God is a potential solution but just saying there is a God is useless and explains nothing. The multiverse idea also does not ground anything since it is not a fundamental theory. Still, in the end such a grounding will require an Ultimate phenomenon and God remains a contender, or a possible name for it. – PeterJ Apr 24 '18 at 14:00
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I understand the term "grounding of scientific law" as explaining:

Why is our world governed by exactly the laws of nature we do investigate and not by different ones?

IMO the question has no answer due to a current scientific theory. But there are many interesting and fascinating speculations. One of the most striking ones you indicate above: All possibilities are realized, and we live in just one of these possible worlds.

I consider this idea speculative, because at present time we can neither confirm nor refute this hypothesis.

Of course one can estimate on a scientific basis the scope of changing the fundamental parameters. To which degree can we change parameters like the constant of gravitation, the electric charge of the electron, Planck's constant etc. and still obtain a stable world?

Possibly you find interesting the book "Brian Green: The Hidden Reality. Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos." The book has chapters on "Science and the Multiverse" and on "The Many Worlds of Quantum Measurement".

  • Thanks for the book recommendations I will check them out! I know that we do not currently have enough empirical support to make strong claims about the truth of the idea, but I'm wondering from a philospher's perspective (I am new to this realm), if there WERE strong empirical support, would that constitute "grounding of scientific law" (defined exactly as you put it). And I suspect from your answer, that you agree? You may have gleaned that I do agree, but I was curious to hear from people better versed in philosophy than I. – Ashish Apr 23 '18 at 18:34
  • @user7498750 Even if the all-possible-worlds hypothesis were sufficiently confirmed, I am sceptical that this would ground the laws of nature. The deeper problem seems to me: What is a scientific law? Apparently, nature does not know about scientific theories and their specific laws. Why at all do mathematical laws match how the universe operates? – Jo Wehler Apr 23 '18 at 20:02
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No. The hypothesis of "infinite universes" is an attempt to solve an entirely different problem, which is "why some quantities and laws take specific values and form, that we observe". The answer proposed is a mixture of infinite universes (as there are potentially infinite possible real numbers and infinite possible forms) and Weak Anthropic Principle.

"How scientific laws are grounded" is an entirely different question, which asks why/how these laws exist (or rather, why/how objects in our Universe follow these laws), and not why these laws are like they are.

There is a difference of emphasis. Descartes wanted to answer questions like -

why is an object attracted towards another with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses, and inversely proportional to the square of distance between their centers with a constant equal to G

and not like -

why is an object attracted towards another with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses, and inversely proportional to the square of distance between their centers with a constant equal to G

Examine the respective emphasis.

  • I'm a bit sceptical that Descartes operates with the concept of gravitational attraction of masses, not to mention the corresponding quantitative law, which is due to Newton. Could you please give a reference concerning your statement about Descartes. - For the rest I agree with you, that your first highlighting is the deeper question. But IMO one can consider both types of questions as asking how to ground natural laws. – Jo Wehler Apr 24 '18 at 18:43
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – IsThatTrue Apr 24 '18 at 18:59
  • I do not intend to say that Descartes knew about gravitational law, but what part of the law he was answering. – IsThatTrue Apr 24 '18 at 19:01
  • To answer the question "why is an object attracted towards another?" one needs the concept of gravitational attraction. 1) Did Descartes have that concept? 2) What was his answer? – Jo Wehler Apr 24 '18 at 19:05
  • His answer is in the link, a sort of vortex, acting similar to centrifugal force, pushing objects inwards. – IsThatTrue Apr 24 '18 at 19:08
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If one looks at scientific law as a way to describe why something happens the way it does and not some other way, then having a multi-verse where everything happens in some universe would not ground why something happens in this particular way in our universe except to say that it is the manifestation of one of many random possibilities.

In Reinventing Gravity John W. Moffat, a physicist who developed modified gravity, a relativistic and deterministic gravitation theory that does not require dark matter, wrote (page 98):

The eternal universe or multiverse idea has been criticized for losing predictive power because of its possibly infinite number of solutions.

If the multiverse leads to science losing its predictive power, it is not likely a good ground for scientific law.

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infinite number of parallel universes

There is a criticism of religion as being a religion is just faith in the gaps of science.

Science has concluded in the idea of the big bang, or a beginning of this universe. This created a problem that this universe is singular and so exact as to support life as we experience it could not have come about randomly.

Now atheistic scientists found this proposal too difficult to take, so invented the idea we are just part of an infinite series of universes and we only observe the necessity of certain features to support life, because by chance that is the universe we exist in.

The problem is there is literally no way currently of proving this proposition or showing its impossibility, so is a belief in metaphysics or religion and not science.

And science is founded on limiting itself to measurable empirical statements. This is where it is emotionally hard to be certain about facts or ideas which are outside our ability to grasp.

Another similar problem is the rotational measurements of our galaxy suggest there is a lot more matter present than we can observe. This "matter" is currently called dark matter. The other alternative is some of our assumptions are wrong and not uniform as we believe. So under the current idea, what we observe is only 5% of the universe, and the majority is undetectable.

Now this appears to be a theory of gaps rather than science.

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    I would encourage you to look more into the many-worlds explanation of quantum mechanics. It is actually not a "god of the gaps" type theory--It is very rigorously mathematically based. It's true we do not currently have the technology to test it empirically, but you could say the same about many of Einstein's theories at the time of conception. – Ashish Apr 23 '18 at 18:31
  • Many worlds explanation may make some mathematical sense, but culturally it makes zero sense. The idea every reality has multiple spinning off alternatives, is an absurd idea. The idea universes exist with different foundations, without life or existence as we know it is very different. And metaphysics is just that, an idea. The fact the known world follows cause and effect in a linear fashion is our reality. There is purpose and meaning here and now, though many would desire to deny this. It is this bias which I find worrying. – PeterJens Apr 28 '18 at 8:28
  • It's not about denying it. It's possible to understand reality at multiple levels. For example, you can acknowledge that a beautiful painting is merely of composition of subatomic particles and simultaneously acknowledge it's human-ascribed significance and meaning. – Ashish May 4 '18 at 4:24
  • Perception of different views of one reality is not the same as having multiple universes. My point is simply if one has a problem with the conclusion of ones discoveries, to be scientifically consistent one has to leave them as they are, because that is science in its true sense. – PeterJens May 4 '18 at 7:59
  • The multiverse theory is a different level of analysis than your comment about "linear cause and effect being our reality" and "purpose and meaning here and now". It's completely irrelevant to what I'm saying because they are not mutually exclusive. What does this have to do with being scientifically consistent? Where is the inconsistency? – Ashish May 4 '18 at 17:23

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