Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse [NOOK Book]

Overview


"Multiverse" cosmologies imagine our universe as just one of a vast number of others. While this idea has captivated philosophy, religion, and literature for millennia, it is now being considered as a scientific hypothesis -- with different models emerging from cosmology, quantum mechanics, and string theory.

Beginning with ancient Atomist and Stoic philosophies, Mary-Jane Rubenstein links contemporary models of the multiverse to their forerunners and explores their current emergence. One reason is the so-called...

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Worlds Without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse

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Overview


"Multiverse" cosmologies imagine our universe as just one of a vast number of others. While this idea has captivated philosophy, religion, and literature for millennia, it is now being considered as a scientific hypothesis -- with different models emerging from cosmology, quantum mechanics, and string theory.

Beginning with ancient Atomist and Stoic philosophies, Mary-Jane Rubenstein links contemporary models of the multiverse to their forerunners and explores their current emergence. One reason is the so-called fine-tuning of the universe: nature's constants are so delicately calibrated, it seems they have been set just right to allow life to emerge. For some theologians, these "fine-tunings" are proof of God; for others, "God" is an insufficient explanation. One compelling solution: if all possible worlds exist somewhere, then it is no surprise one of them happens to be suitable for life. Yet this hypothesis replaces God with an equally baffling article of faith: the existence of universes beyond, before, or after our own, eternally generated yet forever inaccessible. In sidestepping metaphysics, multiverse scenarios collide with it, producing their own counter-theological narratives. Rubenstein argues, however, that this interdisciplinary collision provides the condition of its scientific viability, reconfiguring the boundaries among physics, philosophy, and religion.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/28/2013
The lines separating theology, cosmology, and philosophy are often blurred, as Rubenstein, professor of religion at Wesleyan University, demonstrates in this wry and learned history of the theory of the multiverse. She starts with the atomists, the first philosophers to consider the possibility of other universes in the cosmos—2,500 years ago and without calculus. This concept—along with equally thorny ones regarding the origins of the universe, its end, and any potential help from divine deities—is seen through the thoughts of Aristotle, Plato, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Leibniz, Nietzsche, Newton, Hawking, and many others, including Woody Allen. Rubenstein takes no sides in this debate over the universe’s origins, instead elucidating attempts to find an answer to things that are essentially unknowable. Some seekers used semantic gymnastics to prove the existence of a god. Others created long formulae to prove otherwise. The postulation of Dark Energy is a case in point. No one knows what it is but it must be there for the standard model of physics to work, fomenting an “existential crisis” in the physics community. Rubenstein’s witty, thought-provoking history of philosophy and physics leaves one in awe of just how close Thomas Aquinas and American physicist Steven Weinberg are in spirit as they seek ultimate answers. (Feb.)
Marcelo Gleiser

Rubenstein grounds the current debate on the plurality of universes on solid scholarship, skillfully exploring its historical and philosophical roots.

Catherine Keller

This is a work that performs the 'many-oneness' of the multiverse, whose history and potentiality it maps. As she traces the startling philosophical depths, mystical ancestry, and scientific shocks of this cosmic boundlessness, Rubenstein's brilliance sparkles like its innumerable stars.

David Kaiser

Some physicists suggest that our cosmos has been caught in an endless loop, repeatedly cycling between big bangs since time immemorial. In Worlds Without End, Mary-Jane Rubenstein provides a remarkable tour of how such ideas -- and competing ideas about whether our universe is embedded within some larger multiverse -- have likewise been cycling throughout Western thought for millennia. This deeply learned excavation is a rare accomplishment: a page-turner that asks large questions about science, philosophy, and religion. Fascinating.

Charles Jencks

We are living through a golden age of cosmology, when observations reveal a universe 13.8 billion years big and new theories and new evidence vie with one another almost on a daily basis. Rubenstein is an expert guide to this dramatic scene. Uncovering humorous comparisons with the past, she shows that our golden age is tarnished in only a few ways. We cannot tell which of the many-worlds hypotheses is the right one, whether they exist under an integrated set of laws, and we may never be able to so. Yet the quest continues and produces many profound insights. Rubenstein shows the way scientific worldviews grow from the kind of questions we ask, how metaphysics and physics are mutually entangled, and how the many worlds of her title emerge, again and again over two thousand years, often in spite of their authors' intentions and taste. A witty and mature view of views.

Laura Mersini-Houghton

A must read for anyone who is interested in the evolution of human thought about the cosmos. The reader is led through the history of philosophical, religious and scientific ideas and arguments for the existence of many worlds then left to contemplate their own ending to the cosmic story. A beautiful and authoritative description of the struggles and developments of competing ideas about nature for the past three millenia

Marcelo Gleiaser
Rubenstein grounds the current debate on the plurality of universes on solid scholarship, skillfully exploring its historical and philosophical roots.
San Francisco Book Review

Wonderful... A fun, mind-stretching read, clear and enlightening.

Green Spirit Magazine

A fascinating and very well-written book...

CHOICE

An excellent starting point for those wishing to go even deeper down the throat of the wormhole. Recommended.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231527422
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 2/11/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 464,277
  • File size: 8 MB

Meet the Author


Mary-Jane Rubenstein is associate professor of religion at Wesleyan University and the author of Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe.

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: How to Avoid the G-Word1. A Single, Complete Whole2. Ancient Openings of Multiplicity3. Navigating the Infinite4. Measuring the Immeasurable5. Bangs, Bubbles, and Branes: Atomists Versus Stoics, Take Two6. Ascending to the Ultimate MultiverseUnendings: On the Entanglement of Science and ReligionNotesBibliographyIndex

Columbia University Press

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 5, 2014

    Good explanation of the wild theory of the multiverse

    Explains well the various forms of thinking of how to explain the 'why' our universe exists that can support life. No real mathematical explanation exists for the concept of a multiverse, and it seems to be the scientists replacement for God, or the grand Designer concept. Same result though, as it never presents an answer as to what started the multiverse. Well Written for someone interested in the topic

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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