Header 1

Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Possibility of a Paraverse

Some of our modern physicists and cosmologists are infatuated with the idea of the multiverse, that there may be many other universes beyond our own. There is no sound scientific basis for such an infatuation. For one thing, the multiverse is typically imagined as a group of universes that are completely isolated from each other, without agents from one of these universes entering into or influencing another universe. Given such an arrangement, there is no possibility of someone in one universe being able to verify the existence of some other universe or to make observations of it or to verify that some effect in his universe was produced by some other universe or some agent in that other universe.

Another reason why the concept of a multiverse is not scientifically solid is that it has no explanatory value. If the other universes in a multiverse are isolated from our own, the idea of a multiverse is worthless for explaining any of the phenomena in our universe. We also cannot explain the fine-tuning of our universe by imagining the existence of many other universes. This is mainly because of the simple fact that the probability of success on any one random trial is not increased by increasing the number of trials (for example, you don't increase your chance of winning the lottery with any particular lottery ticket if you buy lots of tickets). So a multiverse would not make it more likely that our particular universe would have been so fine-tuned by chance. The chance of our universe having suitable characteristics by pure chance does not increase by even 1 percent if there are an infinite number of universes. See here for a fuller explanation of why the multiverse idea is not suitable for explaining cosmic fine-tuning.

The idea of a multiverse (as typically imagined) is therefore metaphysical and useless. But is there some leaner and more parsimonious concept we might formulate involving some other universe – perhaps some concept that might be of some explanatory value? It seems there is. Let us imagine what I may call the paraverse.

The term paraverse is formed from the end of the word “universe” and from the prefix “para,” which means “beside” or “to the side of.” We can define a paraverse as some hypothetical realm of existence that is in some sense connected to our universe in a way that allows information and causes to flow between our universe and this other realm of existence. 
The two main differences between the multiverse concept and the paraverse concept are as follows:
  1. The multiverse concept postulates many other universes, while the paraverse concept postulates only a single other realm of existence.
  2. The multiverse idea typically postulates universes that are completely isolated from each other, without communication or interaction between any two of the universes; but conversely the paraverse concept says there may indeed be interaction or communication between our universe and some other realm of existence, with perhaps causes and effects sometimes flowing between the two.
The visual below illustrates the difference between the two ideas. The arrows represent interaction or communication. 

In imagining a paraverse we should be as flexible and open-minded as possible. A paraverse might be a very physical place such as we know. Or it might be some very different ethereal existence very different from our existence. Beings living in a paraverse might be biological beings, or they might be beings of energy or purely spiritual beings.

There are various possibilities regarding interaction between a paraverse and our universe. Such interaction could flow purely from the paraverse to our universe, without anyone in our universe being able to influence or visit anyone in the paraverse. Or there could be two-way interaction between our universe and the paraverse. Conceivably a mind in our universe could somehow be able to visit or even migrate to the paraverse.

Given such possibilities, you might ask: why even use such a term as “paraverse,” when we might use older terms such as Heaven or the Other Side? One reason might be to be more general and open-minded in your consideration, and to avoid previously established religious associations. The term “Heaven” has all kinds of associations with Christian theology, while the term “the Other Side” has various associations with spiritualist thinking. Without excluding either, someone might prefer to use the word “paraverse” to be more general, without locking into some particular set of assumptions. The term “paraverse” does not specifically imply some belief in life-after-death, although the concept may be quite compatible with such a belief (as life-after-death might possibly occur in some type of paraverse being considered).

The fact that we do not observe such a paraverse with our eyes or our telescopes is no basis for excluding the possibility of such a paraverse. Our eyes can see only a small fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum, and we can't see much of the substance in our universe. Scientists tell us most of the universe is made of the dark energy or dark matter we can't see. There could be many types of substance or mass-energy, each of which is visible only to beings made of that type of mass-energy. For example, if we are made of the seventh type of mass-energy, we might be able to see  only the seventh type of mass-energy, and no other type. Standing right next to you, unobserved, might be beings made out of the other six types of mass-energy, which might be able to pass through you like neutrino particles are constantly passing through our bodies, unnoticed.

Can we consider this paraverse concept as a scientific hypothesis? Absolutely. Arguments against such a claim do not stand up to scrutiny. One rather ridiculous argument goes along these lines: we must reject the idea of some other world or unseen powers that influence our own world, because once we accept such an idea we would have to throw away our science textbooks and start over. This type of statement is just absurd. I think that 98% of the text in our current science textbooks could be preserved unchanged even if we were to find that some external influence outside our world was influencing our world. Topics such as geology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, zoology, and many others would need no revision, nor would there be much change in topics such as physics or astronomy.

Another weak argument against the paraverse possibility goes along these lines: in order for scientists to do science, they must make the assumption that the causes of physical phenomena are solely in our own universe. This argument is invalid, and is really just what we may call an argument from inconvenience. The argument refers to a situation of maximum convenience for the scientist (one in which all causes come only from within our universe), and we are kind of nudged to think that because some other situation would be inconvenient for the scientist, it would make science impossible. But that it is not persuasive. A pharmacist could make a similar argument, arguing fallaciously: in order for pharmaceutical scientists to do science, they must make the assumption that bodily conditions are determined purely by the pills patients take. But such an argument would not be valid. The fact that it is inconvenient for a scientist to have to consider a very wide spectrum of causes for things does nothing to exclude the possibility that there may actually be such a very wide spectrum of causes for things, including some causes from some realm of existence outside of our own. The truth or falsity of a hypothesis should not be judged by whether such a hypothesis is inconvenient for a scientist or anyone else.

Could the hypothesis of a paraverse be of any explanatory value? Indeed, it might be. There are a great number of anomalous observations and experiences that we might help to explain through a concept of a paraverse: certain types of UFO experiences, near-death experiences, mystical experiences, photographs of anomalous visual phenomena such as orbs, and perhaps also certain types of mediumistic phenomena. There is significant evidence that people in our universe have encounters with phenomena that are very hard or impossible to explain. Swept under the rug by our reality-filtering skeptics, such evidence may point to the existence of some unseen paraverse that may causally influence our own universe.