In his book, Immortality Defended, John Leslie argues (in his Chapter 5) that the characteristics of our world can serve as evidence for his model of pantheism. Recall that Leslie thinks our world is one of many called forth from possibility into actuality by the creative power of the Good. These worlds can also be characterized as those worthy of being thought about by a divine mind.
This position can be thought of as intermediate between a non-theistic concrete modal realism (David Lewis’ model), where all metaphysically possible worlds exist, and classical theistic models where a personal deity creates our world alone (although some modern thinkers allow for a personal God to create many worlds, too.)
Leslie argues against Lewis that if all worlds exist, then many more chaotic and disorderly worlds exist than orderly ones. And he says there would be many which may be orderly for a time but where people living in them “suddenly turned into blackberry jam.” At every instant, innumerable things can go wrong. If all these worlds exist, then chances are we would inhabit one of them. So our expectation of a continued orderly existence implies accepting that these disorderly worlds don’t exist. The pantheistic idea would be that the world’s causal orderliness makes it worth contemplating for the divine mind inside which it has its being.
The argument that the parameters of physical law are fine-tuned for life has become a familiar one, and Leslie thinks it has some force. The idea that there are many universes, however, dilutes the force of the argument: if there are innumerable universes of all sorts, then we shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves in a universe conducive to life, since otherwise we wouldn’t be here to observe it (observational selection rather than divine selection).
But Leslie sees things about the universe which remain mysterious even considering the observational selection effect. First, he finds it mysterious that force strengths and particle masses are tuned for many different needed purposes at the same time. His example is the electro-magnetic force, which is tuned to provide for many seemingly distinct phenomena that all must manifest themselves for life to result. This suggests that the multiverse has to be one where all possible laws of physics needed to be tried out (not just parameters on the forces we know). Maybe there are regions of reality with no recognizable laws? Leslie thinks this makes the multiverse idea too foreign and strange to be reasonable. He also says he thinks it strange to contemplate that something as fundamental as relativity theory might only exist in a local region of reality. So, he thinks the observational selection effect can explain why we see our world among others which may have somewhat different parameters, but it has a harder time accounting for the existence of laws themselves.
Pantheism vs. Theism
Leslie thinks fine-tuning provides some support for the existence of God, but on the other hand he also thinks there certainly can be many worlds with different characteristics, including many lifeless worlds. He thinks traditional theism is inconsistent with the creation of these other worlds – why would God bother when his focus is supposedly on we humans? To pantheists, in contrast, he says these many orderly, if lifeless, universes may very well be seen as worthy of contemplation by the divine mind.
Now, putting aside the question of other worlds, many are skeptical that the deity of classical theism would create our world at all, given its flaws. In the same vein, one might ask a pantheist to address why the creative power of the Good would call forth our often miserable world? Leslie thinks that while there may indeed be innumerable worlds better than ours, there’s enough good about it that it could be worthy of creation as well.
I’ve not been impressed in the past with fine-tuning arguments, and I have thought the simplest explanation for the existence of our radically contingent world was that all metaphysical possibilities do exist. Still, as I discussed in this prior post, I am disturbed by the vision of so many worse-than-our-world scenarios granted concrete being in this modal realist model.
And I’m reminded that even in this model, its normal to accept some limits on what exists: logical necessities and perhaps mathematical ones. Why not some further restrictions? And if one is a realist about value, perhaps there are necessities about value which govern or shape what is concrete? It’s worth thinking about.