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The landscape and the multiverse: What's the problem?

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author ReadJames, Le BihanBaptiste,
Project Composing the World Out of Nowhere: The Mereological Structures of Quantum Gravity
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Synthese
Page(s) 1
Title of proceedings Synthese
DOI 10.1007/s11229-021-03137-0

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


As a candidate theory of quantum gravity, the popularity of string theory has waxed and waned over the past four decades. One current source of scepticism is that the theory can be used to derive, depending upon the input geometrical assumptions that one makes, a vast range of different quantum field theories, giving rise to the so-called landscape problem. One apparent way to address the landscape problem is to posit the existence of a multiverse; this, however, has in turn drawn heightened attention to questions regarding the empirical testability and predictivity of string theory. We argue first that the landscape problem relies on dubious assumptions and does not motivate a multiverse hypothesis. Nevertheless, we then show that the multiverse hypothesis is scientifically legitimate and could be coupled to string theory for other empirical reasons. Looking at various cosmological approaches, we offer an empirical criterion to assess the scientific status of multiverse hypotheses.