It is well known that the probability of life arising in a universe of our sort is vanishingly small. Theists have used this fact to argue that life is designed by God. However, if there are an infinite number of parallel universes as part of a multiverse theory such as MWI, then even that very infinitesimal probability seems to compel the existence of life as a necessary truth. If one is justified in invoking an infinite number of parallel universes, even the most unlikely event must occur in one particular universe. This argument seems to mirror race conditions among infinities and infinitesimals.

So, if conventional statistical reasoning is applied, doesn't this obviate mathematically intelligent design? What is the current state of philosophical arguments in quantum physics and natural theology in regards to the collision of these two theories?

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    This is an argument, not a question. This site is not designed to discuss pet theories or opinions. Please try to ask a question proper. Ideally, you'd provide some sources as background for your assertions. As far as I am aware, the "counterbalancing" of infinities is not as simple as you make it seem, for example. Also, whether you express probabilities in form of logically possible outcomes of events or logically possible worlds à la Lewis does not make as much a difference. Actually, it makes none but a metaphysical one. The statistics stay exactly the same.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 21:47
  • @Philip Klöcking Hey sorry about that. I've adjusted my post Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 22:00
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    Yes, the same way evolution theory undermines the intelligent design argument for biological species. We can not infer a designer from an adaptive design, when its carrier arose as a result of selection from multiple random inputs. The argument is supplemented by anthropic reasoning "selection", our universe appears "designed" simply because "undesigned" ones would not have creatures like us to ponder it.
    – Conifold
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 22:38
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    If abiogenesis is impossible it doesn't matter how many parallel universes there are. Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 1:06
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    It's worth mentioning there's not the same one thing in all theories called "the multiverse". Different kinds of multiverses with different characteristics are implied by different theories, and some such theories are more speculative than others. Not all kinds of mutiverses solve the fine tuning problem you're alluding to. Commented Oct 16, 2020 at 14:30

9 Answers 9


I don't subscribe to religion, but if I were to argue it, I would probably say something to this effect:

  1. Life is impossible without a god.
  2. If there is life, then there must be a god.
  3. If a universe does not have life, that universe might not have a god.
  4. We live in a universe with life.
  5. Therefore: our universe has a god.

This argument runs into a few problems. Firstly, the first and second premises beg the question. Secondly, this flies in the face of the common response to the multiverse hypothesis that has been presented by Christians which is that, if God does not exist in all Universes, then it is not God. Rather, God must exist in all possible universes. Premise 3 doesn't directly negate this idea, but it does open the possibility that some universes might not have a God. This also has the problem of presupposing that life is impossible without God, something that would need to be demonstrated

Ultimately, the question is whether one argues that God exists in all possible universes or that life is impossible without God. If the former, then the burden of proof is really the same: prove the god; if the latter, then the burden of proof shifts to proving that fact and the theist would have to consider the fact that their god may be weaker than formerly thought because of the limited scope of his power being limited to one universe. If nothing else, it shifts the view of God from something without limits to something with limits.


The argument is logically sound, yet it is not good, because we haven't established that there is in fact a multiverse. The multiverse hypothesis is still highly speculative and a shaky grounding for any argument.

Why go so far when this argument from incredulity is so weak anyway? If anything, you are granting it too much of an honor by mobilizing such a complex counter.

The probability that any of us was born the way we are, if you consider how many ancestors had to meet, like each other, survive to adulthood, is also incredibly low. Does it mean each of us is the result of some grand conspiracy to make us born?

On the other hand, what is the probability that a magic immaterial sky daddy can create life just by wishing? This should be evaluated properly before any comparison.


It is well known that the probability of life arising in a universe of our sort is vanishingly small.

It is not well known. One could even argue that life inevitably occurs in our kind of universe.

In this case there is no need for parallel universes. But what about the very existence of parallel universes? We might live right next to one. If gravvity extends into a fourth space dimension, or an even higher one, we might encounter other universa that float in the higher dimensional space (but which are 3D themselves). The presence of the other universe would show up as a varying gravity field experienced in our universe. It could even account for dark matter.

To account for the properties of the matter in our universe about 10exp500(!) different possible universes are said to exist in the string landscape. Each of them filled with particles which have unique properties. One of them is the universe we live in containing the particles with the right properties such as the coupling strengths for all particles.

In this view the origins of the coupling strengths has no particular deep answer. It is just a coincidence that they have the values they have. Of course this shifts the problem to why the coupling strengths have a certain probability distribution going along with them.

And there is eternal inflation in which new universes are created in an always expanding universe. All these exist simultaneously though separated in a higher dimensional space.

Then there is the many world interpretation of quantum mechanics. They are s direct consequence of the statement that a wave function always has to evolve unitarily. Every time a wave function interacts, a splitting of the wavefunction into two different worlds takes place. Like this the wave function evolves unitsrily though it is of course the question if the splitting itself is unitary. In this theory all parallel worlds are equivalent and as such adds nothing new. This theory can't be tested in principle and there are otherways to get rid of unitarity, like hidden variables.

So while there is no need for parallel universes to explain life, they might actually be there. One of them can even explain dark matter. But to actuslly prove that they exist is impossible.


Depends on the nature of the universes within the multiverse.

If they do indeed contain a random distribution of events such that even extremely rare events can be said to be the far end of the distribution curve, that might support your argument.

However, they don't have to. They could, in fact, show such a plethora of extremely unlikely events that they strengthen the argument.

Since we do not know what they are (if they even exist), it could go either way and therefore does not support the claim either way.


Whether you posit God or a multiverse as the reason for our existence, you are simply exchanging one unsubstantiated conjecture for another. Whether one is more likely than the other is itself a matter of pure conjecture, since there is no meaningful basis for quantifying the relative probabilities involved.

Clearly if you propose that there is an infinity of universes that collectively represent every possible variation of the starting conditions for life, then you have an answer for why the starting conditions in our universe are as they are. However, that doesn't seem a particularly helpful or decisive answer. Leaving aside the fact that such an extraordinary claim as the existence of infinite universes is utterly lacking extraordinary evidence, why do you consider the probability of infinite universes to be any higher than the probability of one universe that just happens to have conditions compatible with life?


The Multiverse undermines conventional arguments for a great many things. Physicists get round this by reformulating their arguments within the context of the proposed Multiverse. For example the Multiverse undermines the conventional argument that there was no Time before the Big Bang, any more than there is land south of the South Pole. Physicists get round this by developing new notions of Time (such as "Time is as infinite as the Multiverse", or "every Universe has its own distinct Time dimension").

Similarly, it is not hard to concoct a theology in which God designed the Multiverse the way it is, specifically in order that some of the resulting Universes should contain sentient beings.

An obvious corollary is that other kinds of Multiverse are theoretically possible, which are incapable of spawning a Universe such as ours, but I doubt there is much incentive among mathematical physicists to explore the validity of such a proposition (failed M-theories might be a good place to look).


Your question hits the mark

There are evidences for design in our universe, and "naturalist" thinkers HAVE seized upon the multiverse to counter that evidence.

The multiverse theory was constructed explicitly to try to provide an alternative explanation for Apparent Fine Tuning. See Susskind's The Cosmic Landscape for his simultaneous embrace of a multiverse once he accepted the reality of Apparent Fine Tuning. A further discussion of detecting design, and the failure of Inteligent Design relative to evolution, can be found in this answer: How does one make a design inference for a designer not discovered yet?

There ARE serious problem with the Multiverse hypothesis, relative to possible testability. And Abiogenesis is one area where the evolutionary alternative to design, has so far fallen on its face. Abiogenesis research and theory has so far failed -- it mostly has shown us why our lab tests have not been able to produce proteins, or RNA (chirality, contamination with related compounds, and the energy needed to build chains also break them, etc.). The early and dramatic success of Urey-Miller to produce amino acids, has not been followed up by any other subsequent successes -- none of the three prerequisites for a protocell: proteins, RNA, nor semi-permeable membranes have been created thru abiogenesis experiments, and there are no candidate processes under investigation that show promise.

Use of "Multiverses are infinite, so all possibilities will be achieved somewhere" rationalizations to dismiss the failure of abiogenesis -- are just rationalizations. Science and empiricism operate off useful predictive power. And this rationalization rejects the use of statistical probabilities to make predictions about our universe. It is an explicit rejection of the empirical/scientific process, in order to rationalize rejecting a possible inference about our universe.

Therefore, there is scientific justification to maintain some limited form of Intelligent Design (limited, because evolution refutes the primary application of this principle) as a possible "science" hypothesis about our universe. And no, the "infinite multiverses mean anything could happen, and statistics are therefore not a useful science tool in evaluating universe theories" rationalization does not refute this.


It seems more that the mathematics of "intelligent design" (leading to consideration of a god that listens and cares, and perhaps intervenes, and provides life after death)...

... became philosophically and logically highly questionable when we figured out we were not the center of a single contained reality.

The evolution of our knowledge went like this:


Humans looked at the sky, and the reappearance of the Sun and the Moon and the stars, and came to the conclusion...

... Earth is the center of reality, the center of the cosmos, the center of the single creation. Our home, created for us, complete with overhead lighting and overhead scenery.


This belief in Earth being central to the universe is called "Geocentrism - Wikipedia".

Philosophically, logically, from a "senesability, and plausibility" perspective... when humanity believed that reality included one (1) single, "garden", here, Earth, the center of reality...

Garden of Eden

Back then, mathematically a "designer that cares"... was almost a sensible notion.

It wasn't until the 16th century that humanity (Copernicus) came up with the notion of the Sun as the center of the universe.

Galilleo came along and gathered the observations that proved what others had put forward... "Earth is not the center of the universe".


And it wasn't until later again, in the 18th century, that we managed to correctly interpret observations and come to the conclusion that the Sun was not the center of the one universe either, and in fact not the center of our galaxy, and not the center of anything.

Logically. Mathematically. Philosophically...

... THAT was when "Intelligent design" and a "designer that cares" became higly improbable.

When our mathematical awareness went from thinking there is 1 fertile habitable planet at the center of reality" to "there are 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or so planets out there, and have been for billions and billions of years at least.

If there were any validity of a claim to an "intelligent designer"... it would be extremely difficult to extend it to "an intelligent designer that has an awareness of Earth and humans individuals goings ons, us being one of so incredibly many, and time being so incredibly long as it is".

We thought we/Earth was the center and ONLY reality. When we conjured up gods and creators and designers and supernatural beings that cared.

The logic in that thinking went out the window with Copernicus and Galilleo long before the invention of the Many Worlds hypothesis.


Under construction

I will further edit this answer in the coming days; please don't vote it down before I complete it.

Yes, but so what?

Intelligent design adepts always stated that the emergence of life "by accident", that is without a designer willingly creating it is unthinkable. Emerging hypotheses over how it could have happened proof it is thinkable, but that does not proof it happened, of course.

Their mathematical argument we discuss here states that this "accident", which we call abiogenesis is so improbable we can safely assume it did not happen and the question is, if we can counter this argument by postulating a multiverse.

Yes, in a multiverse, extremely improbable events happen

How ever improbable an event is in a universe, if it is possible and you assume enough parallel universes, it becomes probable. In fact if you assume even more universes, it becomes improbable it happens nowhere.

But abiogenesis is probable enough without a multiverse

Intelligent design adepts did calculate the probability of abiogenesis and came to the result that you need more "trials" than their are atoms in the universe to have a fair chance to generate even a single protein from scratch by accident.

So, they say it is not created by accident, but by design. Not necessary, I reply: who says proteins were created from scratch?

#The history of the argument You should understand proving the existence of god is a very important topic in theology. Actually, every religion I know is addressing (politely or violently) the problem of atheism emerging in their midst.

Medieval proof for God from abiogenesis failed

If you leave a steak to rot, flies come out. This was long understood as the generation of live from dead substance and seen as a creative act from God. This and similar experiments were even seen as a proof of his existence. However, these proves are long falsified.

With our current knowledge of biology, we every apparent observation of abiogenesis turns out to be reproduction.

Evolution theory changed the game

Proof for evolution is rock solid ...

Traditional breeding techniques in agriculture proof selection can cause evolution of a species to acquire desirable properties. Observations of contemporary nature show us both anecdotal illustrations and statistical proof that evolutionary pressure drives the evolution of specious.

The study of fossils and DNA proof this mechanism has, over the long period that life exists on earth, caused species to change so dramatically they crossed the boundaries of families orders and classes. The apparent branching, in which homogeneous population evolved into distinct species can be explained by separation of sub populations, gradients in environmental conditions and escapes to niches. The classical genesis stories of theists do not match observations.

... but the origin of life is remains covered

If evolution explains increasing complexity and diversity all life might comes from one or a few very simple ancestors. The quest for the one or the few original life forms however stops about 35 billion years ago, with the fossils of bacteria on the oldest rocks on earth More on stromatolites.
The only thing we do know, is that the world was a completely different place, in which carbon chemistry that is now hardly found outside of life and laboratory was quite common in the open. So atheists and creationists can debate if this probiotic soup could have produces life.
Anyway, creationists conclude evolution theory fails as a non-theistic explanation of the origin of life.

The cell as a survival unit on "Mars"

Imagine a small group of humans colonize Mars. Then the earth explodes and a generation later, a computer bug destroys every record of human history on earth and nobody instructs children on the topic.
If ten generations later, people start speculating on their origin, what would they think? Nobody would have experienced breathing the natural atmosphere. There would be no tree in the open to take a stick from and make a tool from. Could they imagine humans ever invented technology from the start? Would they not believe technology was created for them, before they came into existence.

Now look at today's life, organized in units we call cells, full of chemistry that resembles the early earth. Does this not look like we (life) escaped into survival units before it was too late?

Failing attempts to repeat abiogenese.

Fair enough, but then why don't we reproduce the conditions of early earth and create life from scratch? Well, scientists tried that time and again and failed.

Probability enters the debate

Atomic mutations and functional evolution

If we look at evolution from a molecular point of view, it is all about small reorganizations of mainly proteins and amino acids (RNA, DNA).

Not observing abiogenesis as a proof of God

The assumption of abiogenesis

Once we understand the evolution from simple to sophisticates that the first life forms were even simpler and emerged from interplaying chemical reactions that we would not call life soon comes to mind. However this so called hypothesis of abiogenesis is far from evident, as creationists love to say:

  1. If it happened before, why don't we see it out there now?
  2. And why can we not provoke it in the lab?
  3. Even the simplest life form requires relatively complex molecules like protein. Can these really be created “by accident”?

The first two questions can be addressed as follows. In the so called pre-biotic chemical soup (google it) of the early earth there was an abundance of relatively complex molecules of the kind we now study in biochemistry. These conditions don’t exist anymore. So far, we have not recreated conditions for abiogenesis in a lab but Rome is not built in a day and science not in a century. The third one is harder. It makes me think of those board games with two dice where you can only start if you throw two sixes. If you would play that with ten dice, it would take ages to get started.

The traces are swept out

The oldest life forms we find back are simple bacteria and they occur even in the oldest rocks found on earth. Before that, the earth did not keep fossils, so archeology will not conclude this discussion.

On the mathematics of the argument

Probability of a step in evolution

You can go from one DNA sequence to another in small steps, but you cannot change less than one amino acid at a time. Many are irrelevant for the functioning of the organism, probably more are detrimental and will die out soon or immediately. Only some make the organism more fit for survival and reproduction. For the sake of simplicity, let us say all mutations are equally probable in the first place. A mutation that is as such detrimental, could be beneficial in combination with others. It is, however much less probable all these mutations will occur over a few generations. Therefore evolution can get stuck in a niche for very long time before it finds a new path forward.

The minimal complexity of life

Any known natural cell has at least 500 genes, each of which https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/we-built-the-worlds-simplest-cell-but-dunno-how-it-works

(Only viruses are simpler, but they don't replicate, they have themselves replicated by cells. Therefore, they are nor even considered to be life.)

You can't climb the roof before you climbed the wall

Evaluation of the mathematical argument

The number of opportunities

Computer viruses and the early earth chemistry

The Mars mission

Is there a wall under the roof ?


What, to my perception, is (dis)proved

What I conclude for myself?

  • How does not knowing the origin of life entail the existence of an undefined "God?"
    – Sandejo
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 0:50
  • It just shows evolution theory does not explain away the creator completely Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 6:00

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