In the jar


Once upon a time I was a real philosopher. I wasn’t a very good philosopher then, and I’m certainly not now, but here’s an argument for the truth of Christianity. If you fancy yourself as a philosopher, feel free to shoot my argument down in flames. But if you fancy yourself as a real philosopher, do what a real philosopher would do. Improve my argument, so that it’s as good an argument as it can possibly be. And then shoot it down in flames!

Okay, so here goes. Lately, something called the multiverse theory has become popular in atheist circles. It purports to explain why the universe we live in appears to be fine-tuned for the existence of life, without the universe we live in actually being fine-tuned for the existence of life. Because what best explains the fact that the universe we live in is fine-tuned for the existence of life, if it’s the only universe, is the existence of a creator God. If, however, our universe is only one of trillions upon trillions of other actual parallel universes, each with different physical laws and constants, then we can find the explanation for the apparent fine-tuning of the universe we happen to inhabit in the so-called anthropic principle. Basically, we’re here because of sheer, dumb luck and the probabilistic resources of a multiverse.

Atheist Logo

As far as I’m aware, there’s no empirical evidence for the multiverse theory, but it does at least explain why most atheists believe in pink unicorns. So there is that. Now, my argument appeals to the idea of multiple possible universes. The possible worlds heuristic has been a mainstay of academic philosophy for a very long time. Since I’ve been around, anyway. I think my argument only depends on the existence of a finite number of possible universes, and not on the existence of an infinite number of actual universes, but I’m not sure. But the question is, if there are multiple possible universes, but only one actual universe, which of the multiple possible universes is the actual universe we live in?

Well, it could be that the universe we live in is, in actual fact, contained in a tiny glass jar placed neatly on the shelf of an alien child’s room. It’s a logical possibility. The thing to note about this possibility is that it’s a possibility that our universe is contained within another universe. Thus, this possibility is a variant of what I have elsewhere called supernaturalism. Naturalism, as I define it, is the view that the world we know is a stand-alone affair. It’s not contained within anything else, or a product of anything else. It’s self-sufficient from go to whoa. It just is. Whereas, supernaturalism is the view that the world we live in—and all it contains, including us—is an artefact.

Now consider all the logically possible universes. Logically speaking, what is the likelihood that the one-and-only actual universe is a self-contained universe, as opposed to a universe contained within a greater reality? Bear in mind that the the universe inhabited by the alien child, in whose room our universe is contained in a jar on a shelf, could itself be contained in another jar on a shelf in some uber-alien child’s room. That’s right, for every possible self-contained universe, there are an infinite number of possible nested universes containing that universe. So it’s highly likely that we live in a nested universe.

God is eternal. The claim that God is eternal is often taken to mean (as I take it to mean) that God is “outside” time and space. God is outside the time and space fabric of our universe, which means that our universe is “inside” the outside reality in which God dwells. If Christianity is true, we live in a nested universe.

There are two types of possible nested universes. Those in which the creator in the containing universe has communicated with the inhabitants of the contained universe, and those in which the creator hasn’t. What would our world look like if we lived in a universe within a universe? Moreover, one in which the creator outside had communicated with us in the jar? It would look exactly like this one looks if Christianity were true. Therefore, Christianity is true.

Perhaps my argument, such as it is, is a variant of an argument that C. S. Lewis presents in Mere Christianity. According to Lewis, we should expect the unexpected.

Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have.

So, there it is. It’s not an argument I’m about to write up and submit to a peer-reviewed academic journal any time soon, but hey. I’m only a jar of clay.

9 thoughts on “In the jar”

  1. I agree.
    Reality correlates perfectly with the Biblical description.
    Ie The biblical hypothesis has great explanatory power… it makes sense…. and the rational position is to accept this fact rather than invent absurd fantasies to attempt to avoid admitting that reality actually correlates with the Biblical description.
    It was this fact that converted me.

  2. As Science has advanced, it keeps vindicating the Biblical assertions about reality, thus making belief more sensible with the passage of time and scientific advance.
    It is an incredible fact that the Biblical description of reality holds true… the universe is not eternal. It was created at a certain time in history….for real…. there really is a supernatural realm…. science *has* reached this empirical conclusion.

  3. We must take care of such ideas that the Bible views the universe as being ‘with in’ God… within the greater reality… our universe may be said to have ‘come out’ of the greater reality rather than be said to be ‘contained within’…. these may be good metaphors yet only metaphors.
    With the alien you are talking about I picture a *real/physical* ‘nesting’ in which its all about scale and magnitudes… yet still could be a reality *even with the constants being the same*…. rather than requiring a reality which the multi-verse theory is in fact talking about… ie one in which the [possible] constants are none the less different values…
    Ie it would be possible for the common materialist to accept the fact that an Alien is our God yet yet still maintain the impossibility of the supernatural Christian God.

  4. [Our universe] would look exactly like this one looks if Christianity were true. Therefore, Christianity is true.

    Undistributed middle fallacy.

    I shot down your argument therefore I must fancy myself as a philosopher.
    I didn’t improve on your argument first therefore I mustn’t fancy myself as a real philosopher.

    1. Impeccable logic, Reed. šŸ™‚

      But you mistake my leap of logic (that you quoted) for a syllogism. It’s not. It’s an inference to the best explanation.

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