Since it’s the Friday before a holiday weekend, I know there’s a good chance that relatively few people will be reading this today. So I thought I’d start with something weird. Over in the Atlantic there is a bizarre article on how the idea of the multiverse is destroying culture, written by Sam Kriss, a British writer for Vice and other outlets who recently published a Wired story claiming that Neil deGrasse Tyson “sucks the fun” out of life. Kriss claims on his Idiot Joy Showland to “hate intellectuals” and advocates re-enchanting the world by abandoning scientific truth for a more emotionally satisfying worldview, and yet major magazines still publish his poorly constructed cris de coeur.
Anyway, the Atlantic gave him space (in their science section!) to rant about the multiverse, and his argument boils down to his conviction that scientists who support the multiverse hypothesis do so out of religious faith—not anything like messy “math,” which he considers elitist. But their atheist religion destroys ethics because the multiverse posits that every binary decision’s two potential outcomes occur in some universe:
There’s nothing wrong with faith, but if it’s not recognized for what it is then monsters start to spawn, not in some distant reality, but right here. No religion is complete without a moral code, but how do you live ethically in our shapeless foam of worlds, invisible to telescopes but throbbing close at the moment of every decision? […] If there’s a divine hand that chooses, or a cleavage in the universe that delivers both results, then there’s some kind of order in the universe. The multiverse excuses every injustice; it’s all been made good somewhere else, in the static infinity of the possible.
I would posit that it is not the job of the universe to care about your ethics. Ethics do not exist in the laws of nature, and therefore they, like any construct, are of no concern to quantum physics. We may not like it, but it is folly to try to assume that physical reality should support a particular human belief in a given time and place.
Due to this fundamental error that physics should be the arbiter not of is but ought, Kriss’s amateur philosophizing becomes tediously dull. He argues that the existence of other universes means that “we” become complacent because some other version of us has already achieved every possible good, so “we” don’t have to. Hogwash. Any other being similar to me is, obviously, not me in the sense that I have no knowledge of him, and I did not have the experience and gained nothing from it.
His argument, in essence, is that the multiverse idea is ridiculous because it is ethically and aesthetically bankrupt, and gives succor to morons who believe in the Mandela Effect, so therefore we should restore God to a role micromanaging quantum uncertainty. God, he says, is functionally no different from quantum physics, but gives us ethics and aesthetics.
That is such a shapeless, sophomoric argument that it is all but self-refuting. The illogic is obvious. The Atlantic should be ashamed.
Speaking of shameful: A writer over at Ancient Origins is recycling an old idea he didn’t realize was old. Novelist, British TV presenter, and fringe history fiction and non-fiction writer Stewart Ferris has an article speculating that the people of Atlantis engaged in cryopreservation by shooting dead people into outer space. This, he said, is the origin of Egyptian mummification, which imitates the form but misunderstands why pharaohs’ souls went “to the stars.”
The Atlantians were said to have looked beyond our atmosphere for the answer to eternal ultra-low temperatures needed for cryo-preservation. They might have used rocketry to send mummified bodies to the outer reaches of the solar system, and this is what their descendants, the Egyptians, tried symbolically to emulate, thinking their dead would go on a journey to the stars.
No one in ancient or medieval times said anything about the Atlanteans cryopreserving their dead.
This claim, however, is not new. It seems to derive from a related claim proposed by Alan Landsburg in The Outer Space Connection (1975) movie and companion book. There, Landsburg alleged that the Maya misunderstood the idea of cryogenic freezing and therefore thought that the world would end in 2011, when frozen aliens would thaw out again. Early episodes of Ancient Aliens built upon this foundation to suggest that mummification is a memory of stasis chambers or cryopreservation. Similarly, the “stasis chambers” of the Anunnaki follow the same pattern. The only difference is that Ferris speculates that Graham Hancock’s lost civilization, rather than space aliens, was behind the effort.
I am surprised, constantly, that the speculators on ancient history can’t cite medieval texts that would actually support their speculations, like this passage from al-Maqrizi on what the Arabs found when they opened the Great Pyramid: “They entered the central chamber in which were three transparent and luminous stone beds and on these three beds lay three bodies covered with three robes. Near the head of each was a book in unknown characters” (Al Khitat 1.40, my trans.).
Oh, well. It isn’t my place to make his argument for him. After all, he’s been on TV. Apparently that’s a free pass to avoid needing evidence.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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