One of the strangest claims in The Beginning of Infinity is that fiction that doesn’t disobey the laws of physics is, in some part of the multiverse, true. This I find utterly bizarre.
It isn’t the first time that I’ve encountered this “every possibility is realized” sort of thinking. In fact, even without the quantum multiverse there are lots of ways that such a thing might come about. If this universe, the one we know, is in fact infinite, then by definition every possible configuration of matter must occur somewhere within it. In fact, every possible configuration of matter must occur an infinite number of times, so that there are infinite versions of me typing these words.
But how could this possibly be? Consider that if any of these multiverse ideas, quantum many worlds or otherwise, are true then somewhere there is an Earth exactly like this one except that every person has the last name of Mixelplix.
This seems utterly unlikely to me. Wouldn’t some smart demographer point out the silliness of everyone sharing the same last name? It certainly would make using the phone book quite a task. Again, somewhere there’s an Earth exactly like this one except that all copies of Huckleberry Finn on that Earth end with Huck being elected president. Again, wouldn’t someone point out that he’s only eleven years old? And, as Deutsch points out, there’s an Earth where Huckleberry Finn actually happened, and many other Earths where something very like Huck Finn, but different in slight details, happened, too.
My gut tells me that we’re getting something wrong here. Is there really an Earth where Santa Claus just walked through our glass door and handed me a chocolate pie? And another where it looks like a chocolate pie but is actually, um, something else?
Deutsch makes the point that in some of these universes, unlikely coincidences would lead to rare configurations of matter, and that if the scientists in those universes tried to explain those rare configurations, they would fail. There would be no tendency of nature toward these rare configurations – such configurations make sense only in the context of the multiverse.
I don’t know. This idea that anything that can happen does happen leads to a lot of proposals that I just can’t accept. In some part of the multiverse, did I just now stand up and kick my dog? In another part, did I just now drop everything to go join the circus? (I know that can’t be, because I’m afraid of clowns!)
And in some part of the multiverse, I will live forever. You will, too. I guess that means we didn’t run into any killer clowns.
I’ll talk about this idea of quantum immortality next.