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God, the Multiverse and Everything: Why Your Existence Has Changed How We See the Universe

When:Tu 17-12-2013 16:30 - 18:00
Where:Room 130 Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Oude Boteringestraat 38, Groningen

Dr Fernandez will discuss various ideas proposed as to why the Universe is so finely tuned. Some suggest that this hints at the presence of a creator. Others suggest that there are multiple universes (the multiverse), each allowing different values of the cosmological constants, permitting life to develop in some of these universes by mere chance. But what are the possible philosophical consequences of the existence of the multiverse, particularly for how we think about human morality and free will? Dr Fernandez will delve into these and other questions in depth.

Dark Energy

Over 13 billion years ago, after the Big Bang, the Universe began expanding. Gravity dictates that at some point, this expansion will slow down, and possibly even reverse,causing all matter to collapse upon itself once again. However, astronomers do not observe any indication of a slowing of this expansion. Instead, we observe other galaxies speeding up away from us, contrary to what gravity would lead us to predict. The driver for this acceleration is dark energy, a mysterious repulsive force that permeates the Universe and works against gravity. If the amount of dark energy was only a little bit greater, the Universe would accelerate so fast that galaxies and stars would not form, and no life would exist. However, quantum field theory predicts that dark energy should be much larger than it actually is, suggesting that the amount of dark energy in the Universe is “finely-tuned” to allow life to exist.Dark energy is only one amongst many other indications that the Universe is “finely-tuned” to the exact conditions that enable life.

Elizabeth Fernandez

Dr Elizabeth Fernandez is a Fellow and convenor of the Science, Religion and Philosophy Cluster. She has a PhD in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin, and currently works at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute. As a fellow of the Centre, she analyzes philosophical and ethical consequences of scientific discoveries. In addition to her research, she has participated in interfaith dialog, including appearing on the radio and television to discuss interfaith relations and participating in an trip to Turkey to create bridges between the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths.