Is There More Of Me?

by Dr. Kenneth W. Regan, Easter 2012--?

Ongoing---one may say not yet begun from the start, but here is the head: Instead of asking an existential question of the kind that spearheaded classical computation, such as Is there a resurrection?, let us ask the corresponding counting question, of the kind that tends to be more important to quantum computation:

How many resurrections are there?---specifically involving you.

Your choices are basically

  1. Zero,
  2. One, or
  3. Many.

Many people have said that religion has been ginned up to avoid the "zero" answer. Just by knowledge of history, that is rather sad, you see. However, there is no need for me to argue against it. Science as represented in this book is already making a fine job of that.

This book as written favors the "many" answer. However, I believe the difference between this and "one" may come down to a matter of one interpretation or possibly another.

It is not yet timely to write out everything to go into this essay. But for some of the body, see the middle section of my eulogy for my father, and my talk slides here.

Update, Easter 2013: I am drawing ideas from N.T. Wright's book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, currently being read and discussed in my faculty study group. For instance, Wright's view of the soul is similar to what I surmised in the eulogy. This will take time, and the operative rule is that other surmises cannot go here until they are applied.

Update, Easter 2015: I am intrigued to find scientific theoretical support for the above-expressed views on uniqueness in two recent books by the physicist Lee Smolin, Time Reborn and The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time. The latter is with the philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger; I have not started it yet. Meanwhile, a little story: After New Year's 2014, Debbie and I took up our church's suggestion of a Christian tradition for Epiphany that is analogous to a mezuzah in Judaism. This is chalking on one's front door "CMB" for Christus Mansionem Benedicat and the year. Later in January, my trip to IBM Watson happened to coincide with a visit by the cosmologist Paul Steinhardt, a leading critic of the eternal-inflation theory and its multiverse prediction, who confirmed to me that "inflation" theories without "eternal" seem not to be viable (see also this paper). Then came the heralded announcement in March seeming to confirm a prediction about gravity waves made by leading eternal-inflation theories. It was especially arresting for me to hear this video practically open with the words "It's 5-sigma" as an expression of confidence, since I'm responsible for the same kind of statistical input on cheating allegations in the chess world. So I joked to myself that the "CMB 2014" on our door also stood for "Cosmic Microwave Background: 2014 Discovery". However, like the chalk on our door, the confidence and the result has faded away to dust.

Update, Autumn 2015: Have not read Mangabeira-Smolin yet. Should mention a book by Leonard Susskind that will also figure large in the essay: The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design. The thesis is that the multiverse ensemble of size on the rough order of 10^{500} given by the theory provides a natural explanation for the appearance of fine-tuning of our present universe, in that the fine-tuning prior odds are "only" of rough order 10^{-100}, which having 10^{500} cracks at the cherry swallows up into certainty. However, this thesis IMHO concedes that it is scientifically correct to regard the one universe we know as having some "English" on it, which in the absence of empirical support for such a multiverse is as far as we can robustly apprehend.

Update, Easter 2017: Still have not read Mangabeira-Smolin, but a nice book on the Fermi Paradox covers some related ground. So does the column by Ross Douthat in today's New York times, at the end:

"Finally, a brief word to the really hardened atheists: Oh, come on. Sure, all that beauty and ecstasy and astonishing mathematical order is because we're part of a multiverse or a simulation or something; that's the ticket. Sure, consciousness and free will are illusions, but human rights and gender identities are totally real. Sure, your flying spaghetti monster joke makes you a lot smarter than Aquinas, Karl Barth, Martin Luther King. Sure."
The points of this essay will be first to say how the multiverse compounds other problems besides the one of "astonishing order" it is purposed to solve, second, how the one-world view is more scientifically economical, and third, its alignment with Christianity is only "via negativa"---for the "positiva" we need to go back to the focus of the other three essays in this cycle.

Dei gratia completur