Friday, July 1, 2011

AHWU #4

Editor's Note

First, let me welcome the Philippines, New Zealand and India to the cabal of nations that enjoy this blog. You guys will not be disappointed.

Now let me take this moment to state that this blog follows a policy similar to the "No Cross, No Crown" policy. To sum it up, I will not use this blog as a platform to discuss the superiority/inferiority of any religious or political belief. I will always strive to put forth a neutral and balanced opinion when sensitive subjects come up.

With that being said, let us talk about whether God exists...

God and the Multiverse

Could parallel universes, a often used trope of alternate history, be the secret to (dis)proving the existence of God?

According to an article in Christian Today, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins admitted to evangelical geneticist Francis Collins that most difficult argument for nonbelievers to counter is the fine-tuning of the universe. Collins commented on this admission by saying:

If you are an atheist, either it is just a lucky break and the odds are so remote, or you have to go to this multiverse hypothesis, which says that there must be almost an infinite number of parallel universes that have different values of those constants.


So if I read this quote right (and I admit I might be missing his point), Collins seems to say that if the multiverse theory (the hypothetical set of multiple possible universes, including OTL, that together comprise everything that exists) is true and our universe is the only universe where the laws of physics allow for human life, than it is proof that there is no God and humanity really is just a coincidence.

However, could not the opposite be true? If the multiverse exists and we travel to other human inhabited timelines, is this proof that God exists? A long time ago I observed a discussion which suggested that the multiverse theory could be used to explain how God is omnipotent and all-knowing, yet humans still have free will (sadly I cannot find said discussion, but if I do I promise to share it with you all).

New discoveries often lead to controversies among the major religions. Even the discovery of Native Americans caused a small crisis of faith among Catholics in the 15th and 16th centuries. The discovery and exploration of a multiverse may cause a similar crisis, or something completely different may happen. Who knows what religions have evolved on these unexplored alternate Earths or what effect they will have on our Earth when we find them...

Mitro's Thoughts on American Civil War Alternate Histories

In the English speaking world, American Civil War alternate histories are one of the two most written about topics in alternate history. It is easy to see why when you look at the facts. The United States accounts for over 300 million of the English speaking world. Meanwhile, the war itself was one of the first examples of industrial war and one of the deadliest in American history. The legacy of the war is still felt in American culture as politicians and scholars endlessly debate the war.

Nevertheless, I fear that the topic in general often leads to bad alternate history. We have heard from others in earlier posts about their thoughts on the Civil War, now here are my thoughts:

In some ways the Civil War is still being fought in American culture, with many Americans still arguing over the reasons and results of the war. You see this reflected in alternate histories of the war. Supporters of the Confederacy tend to write timelines that glorify the Old South, creating nothing more than a wankfest.

Than there is the other extreme, usually created by people who vilify the Confederacy and all it stood for. The Confederacy becomes a stand-in for Nazi Germany and often is defeated by the United States sometime in the 20th century. While I realize that every culture has the capacity to commit horrible atrocities on others, it seems many of these authors do not even attempt to explain how they came to this point and just assume that the Confederacy has to be evil.

Though every once in a while you will come upon a timeline that tries to create a realistic portrayal of an independent Confederacy, it can easily be ruined by the underlying assumptions of the author. There are a lot of myths on the Civil War, many of which are still taught in schools. When you see these myths interwoven into the timeline it does nothing but prove that the author put little research in his work or else is still using sources that defend the myths.

Regardless of whether your American Civil War timeline leans to either extreme or tries to be as realistic as possible, it is likely to be controversial regardless of where you publish it. As I said before, many Americans are still fighting the Civil War. Some of the worst arguments I have witnessed between alternate historians involved the American Civil War. Unless you have a hard skin, you should not attempt to write a Civil War alternate history, as any debate can quickly turn into a flame war.

My suggestion, avoid American Civil War alternate histories in general. They are difficult to write and even if you can write a plausible one, there are hordes of Rebs and Yanks out there ready to blow holes in it for the sake of their own vision of history.

Princess Diana at 50

Last issue in my Not AH segment, I discussed a new novel about Princess Diana faking her death and why it was not alternate history. Well apparently someone at Newsweek decided it was time for some real alternate history about Diana. Check out this article, featuring pictures of what Diana would look like along with some speculation about her life if she survived.

Links to the Multiverse

5 Unfought Wars That Would Have Changed Everything - a Cracked article that discusses 5 wars that never happened. Might be a good idea for an alternate history in there.

Alternate History: Picking Out the Threads - Author Deborah Teramis Christian discusses alternate history.

2 comments:

  1. Hi, Mitro,

    Thanks for the mention of my blog, and I'm very happy to discover your own excellent blog here in the infosphere.

    What you say about the multiverse & God-proofs is an interesting conundrum. Depending upon what one counts as a "proof", I suspect the evidence presented by the existence of multiple universes will remain open to interpretation. But when it comes to this:

    "Who knows what religions have evolved on these unexplored alternate Earths or what effect they will have on our Earth when we find them..."

    - I noticed you write this as if it is fact.
    I like how you think.

    I especially like the implication here that we will not only find other universes, but have sufficient interaction with them that large-scale cultural matters may come into play. What an intriguing concept that is. We see fictional treatments of people from one reality interacting with those of another, but rarely does this occur on such a scale that one of the cultures significantly impacts that of another timeline.

    That's a thought worth chewing over. Hm, I feel a blog post coming on...

    -Teramis

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  2. You are welcome Teramis. I am always willing to share new opinions on alternate history.

    Maybe proof is to strong of a word, but certainly the existence of a multiverse will have drastic consequences for humanity. We could be looking at an unprecedented cultural event to exceed the legacy of the Columbian Exchange.

    Have you ever read Piper's Paratime series? What is interesting about that alternate history is that while the multiverse he created does contain our Earth and many common AH timelines (South wins the Civil War, Nazis win World War II, etc.), they play a small role. Piper really used his immagination when he created some of his alternate Earths, including one where reincarnation was scientifically proven to be true. Consider the ramifications that would have on our Earth if we were to stumble on such a world!

    ReplyDelete