Many Worlds Interpretation, Free Will and Soul

Hi there. I’ve looked a lot into this forum for similar posts, but they almost never talk about the issue I’m thinking about, and when they do, the issue itself is dismissed.
We don’t know what Interpretation of QM is true. We all have preferences. However, it is not legit to a priori exclude any of them as of now, at least the major ones, because there was no strong falsification for either of them. I think Apologetics must be ready for theories that are still speculatives. What happens if that theory is confirmed to be true? We should have theories ready to explain it.
So, even if you don’t agree with the MWI, suppose it is proven to be real. What would happen to Theology? Do any theologians or catholic scientists support this view? How do they reconcile it?
Obviously the issue does not deny God’s existence or His nature. Nor does it change the Creation necessity, Cosmological Argument and Design. But it does pose a moral dilemma. Do we have free will in a MWI-Scenario? You see, QM is divided in many interpretations because there are parts of it that leave room to speculation on what happens “In the background” of the experiment. One of such problems is the infamous Cat in the Box. Is it both dead and alive? Was it alive all along and we just didn’t know? Did consciousness cause the collapse? MWI answers by claiming that there is a timeline in which the cat is alive, and another one in which it died. Those timelines are not separate. They are connected until the choice happens (They split), which is what causes the Quantum Phenomena we observe, the “superimposition” of both states.
(Continues below)

The Copenhagen interpretation of QM is indeterministic (especially in the eyes of Bohr), the cat is in both states and will collapse in a genuinely random way. MWI is “kinda” deterministic, because there are as many timelines as possibilities in the universe. So each timeline is a single, straight line of decision, from the Big Bang to the Heath Death of the Universe. Yet, as I said, these timelines are not separated. They are joined until they part their ways. So this might actually save free will: until they are merged, “You” as a person are in a superimposed state. You are the ensamble of many possibilities joined together as one. When you make the choice, you are actually free, because the splitting has not happened yet. WHen it happens, and you go to Route A, you genuinely chose route A and you phisically had another possibility (route B), that actually exists. So free will saved, right?
No, because when you ask about Souls, a new problem arises.
Do other “copies” have souls?
Some people said “No” but such an answer is hardly logical. How do you know? Why is that a good explanation? Why whould God make bilions of realities, yet only one of them “a truly soul-ful” one? Should we exterminate our clones if possible, since they are souless? Would they think the same about us? It makes much more sense that each timeline has souls like ours. But, if it does, Determinism is back again at our doors. What happens to soul at the moment of splitting? Did the subject have one soul, and then a “new soul” popped into existence for his newborn clone? That seems irrational.

Would this posit multiple ‘copies’ of me, existing somewhere out there? If so, that would present many difficulties in the establishment of a philosophy of the human person.

Let’s look at a simple example:
You and I meet in a deserted alley. I pull a gun on you. In one “timeline”, I shoot you dead. In the other, I back away and leave.

Are we saying that I both commit mortal sin and not commit mortal sin? Or is it just the potential to have done one or the other? If the former, then there’s a real metaphysical dilemma, isn’t there? If the latter, then what does it mean for there to be a ‘potential’ state in which I truly exist?

(BTW – it would seem that MWI would be the death-knell for determinists who hang their hats on the “that which could not otherwise be” notion. The existence of multiple timelines would explicitly demonstrate that it could otherwise be, and therefore, their particular attack on the existence of free will would fail.)

I suppose that if we consider some (or all) the parallel timelines as virtual existences (Someone in this forum has supposed that before), as “potentia” in Thomistic sense, not fully existing, then maybe they would be as real as the Shadow is real.

But in both cases no, you would not sin for the sins of your copy, for that is a different person in a separate timeline.

That presents real problems, don’t you think?!?

Pick the horn of the dilemma on which you wish to be skewered:

  • My copy and I are distinct people.
    • Do we have distinct souls? Does God allow my copy to be annihilated?
    • At some point, my copy and I converge. Does God allow me to be held responsible for the sins of my copy?
  • My copy and I are not distinct people. (I know – you’re not asserting this.)
    • I have both “sinned” and “not sinned”, having faced a single choice. We’ve just broken the “law of non-contradiction”, haven’t we?
    • What would it mean to say that I both (1) take an action morally abhorrent to me, which I would never choose, and (2) defer taking such an action? Am I to be considered in possession of free will, such that I am (“virtually”) taking an action I’d never willingly choose? Wouldn’t that argue that I cannot make a choice, but am forced to be presumed to commit every possible sin imaginable?

I covered this on the last Many Worlds Thread. The Copenhagen Interpretation and Free Will do not work together, at least not if the choices we make are a part of the set of things that cause splits.

Free will means that when we make a choice we can make it either way. The CI means that at every branch points some of the worlds go one way, some go the other. Everything that can happen does, so there must be a split.

However, Free Will also means that our choices cannot be fully constrained. If I am making a choice then there is a me making that choice in every universe that is identical pre-split and each of us must have a choice and all of us can choose either path. That means it must be possible, if wildly unlikely, that all of us will choose the same way and there will be no split.

There must be a split and yet it must be possible for there to not be a split. Contradiction.

No, in MWI nothing ever converges. It just diverges. They are never joined back or joined from being separate. I don’t see why the other person should be annihilated by God. It’s the same as a cloning experiment: he looks like you, but he is a different thing from “you” you.

Hello mortebianca.

If by many worlds you mean there are many branching timelines (that there are many versions of you representing a different action), then i have to say that if this is true then we do not have freewill, since your choices are just the necessary outcome of a branching timeline. In one timeline you didn’t commit a murder, but in the branching timeline you did as a necessary outcome of the other timeline. Because of what you did in one timeline a different outcome is necessarily actualised and therefore there is no freewill for the person in the branching timeline and no reason to think there is freewill on any timeline.

If this were true, it would render the Catholic faith meaningless.

The only way i can see out of the problem is to say that there is one main timeline in which you have free-choices, and that every other timeline in which there is a version of you is a soul-redundant timeline. What i mean by this is that there are not real people with souls on that timeline; they are just philosophical zombies or bodies without a soul.

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Cool. You’ve just chosen one of the horns. Let look at the implications of being gored on that horn:

  • if each of these ‘clones’ is a distinct person, then he has a distinct soul? You’re suggesting that God creates more than one soul per person?
  • Or is he a soulless zombie? You’re suggesting that God allows soulless hominins to exist as a planned feature of existence? How would that soulless zombie have the property of ‘rationality’ if he didn’t have a rational soul?

No, it would be a different person (just very similar), just like you are not your clone, he is not you. So we would have different people with different souls. You keep suggesting that somehow you “are” your other “yous”, but they are disconnected and different (and more different as time moves on).

Regarding the second issue, that is my reason for writing in this forum. As a possible solution, not all universes are equal in some Sub-Schools of this Interpretation, so only some Timelines (we can call them “main timelines”) are fully existent. The other being mere shadows of them, not indipendent and not fully existing. So their inhabitants would be souless and they would be a mere byproduct of our existence just like a Shadow is derived from you without being a “new” you (we can call them “Shadow Timelines”).

You’re not seeing a problem with this suggestion? That God creates souls on the fly for multiple copies of people, ad hoc, at each time that this person encounters a situation that requires a bifurcation?

Let’s take it a step further: let’s go back to my previous example of the “dark alley”…
I meet you in the alley. I pull a gun on you, and shoot you dead. (The act of doing so has now caused there to be two copies of Gorgias – the murderer and the saint.) Let’s look at Gm. Subsequently, this copy encounters another “bifurcation event” (let’s say, he’s tempted to rob a bank). So now, we have Gorgias-the-murderer-and-bank-robber (Gm-and-t?) and Gorgias-the-murderer-but-not-thief (Gm-but-not-t?). Let’s suppose that Gm-but-not-t gets hit by a bus and dies.

Do we have three distinct souls and persons here? Or only two, since we bifurcated and then bifurcated again?

All of our Gorgiases have distinct souls, right? So, who do we have?

  • Gm committed murder
  • Gm-but-not-t did not commit murder, but his predecessor did.
  • Gm-but-not-t did not commit murder, but his predecessor did. Gm-but-not-t committed theft, but his predecessor did not.

Three souls, or two? If three, which subsequent one has Gm’s soul? If two, what happens to Gm?

Now for the really fun question: Which of these three are culpable for the mortal sin of murder? Is it one clone who did not actually commit the sin, but who proceeded from a person who did? Is soul a “copy” of his predecessor, or is it brand new? (That would mean that a person who committed a sin bears no culpability for it!)

Hmm… :thinking:

As I said in the first post, either the Souls start to exist at the moment of divergence, or they have always existed. I obviously favoured this second option, so we all live extremely close and connected to those parallel “us”, yet they are separated from us according to MWI.

Your statement would be correct, there are 3 Gorgias with a Soul. God did not “ensoul” some immediatly born-Gorgia, there would have been 3 Gorgias from the start. But, as we postulated early, this might not be the case for all parallel universes, in fact most of them would be Shallow.
So maybe, of those 3 Gorgias, one is actually existing (hopefully the Saint), the other two are mere shadows, they do not fully exist as their universe does not fully exist.

As for coulpability, as I’ve said earlier (twice), it would be of that single twin.

Right. And, the notion of a “bank of souls awaiting bodies” runs counter to Catholic doctrine.

That would run counter to doctrine, so I’m not sure it’s helpful to posit it, unless what you want to suggest is that the Church would have to throw out existing doctrine as “wrong”.

In terms of “shallow universes”, it seems that you’re saying that they don’t really exist, and aren’t really populated by real (i.e., ensouled) humans. So… it doesn’t seem to add any complications to doctrine, does it?

On the other hand, if they are real, then culpability seems to continue to be an issue. If culpability sits “with the single twin”, then you have one twin who is part of a chain that includes mortal sin, but for which he bears no culpability. If you want to deny that take on it, then you have two twins who bear culpability for a single act of sin! (These are both problematic, aren’t they?)

What I said is that they always existed in living being, IE as countrary to “they got ensouled at the moment of disconnection”. I didn’t say they always existed in a “Bank of souls”, I don’t really see how that would be implied by MWI.

“That would run counter to doctrine, so I’m not sure it’s helpful to posit it, unless what you want to suggest is that the Church would have to throw out existing doctrine as “wrong”.”

How so? Are you suggesting that 3 different beings having 3 different souls is contrary to Doctrine? Could you provide a Catechism or Biblical evidence for that? I am pretty sure you are in the wrong here. Or maybe you misread again.

I don’t see the problem in the first option. A person having coulpability in his life, how is that a problem?

Another approach to your conundrum
is for you to get to know Jesus Who is Deemed to be Truth Itself - to the best of your ability.

Read the NT


The “three different beings” are really one human person, no? Then “three souls” is contrary to Catholic doctrine!

Yeah, that must be it – I disagree with you, so I must either be “in the wrong” or “misreading”…

I’m not seeing where the catechism suggests that a person has more than one body or more than one soul.

Because the culpability seems to be transferred from one instance of the person to another, or not transferred, in a way that seems to ‘break’ the notion of culpability for one’s acts.

Dude, I have already said 3 distinct beings with 3 distinct souls. How do you translate that to “One” being with 3 souls? I just said those bodies live in a dimensionally very close relationship and overlap. That doesn’t mean they are one.

How so? When is that implied in the theory?

OK – so, many questions:

  • when do they go from being n beings to becoming 2n beings?
    • At the nexus of each decision point?
    • And, do we suggest that, at that point, God creates n more souls?
  • and, since you suggest that the souls “always existed in living being”, are you suggesting that a person has m souls in his single being, and some careen away into different beings at each nexus / decision point? (That would be contrary to doctrine, right there. And, if it’s "m souls, but only one per being, then you really are suggesting a ‘bank of souls’ just waiting to be bound to a newly-created being, aren’t you?)
  • and when they “collapse”, do the distinct beings cease to exist? Is the suggestion that God annihilates distinct persons and souls?

Dude, I have already said that! :wink:

OK: let’s go again…

  • At time T0, I’m the only Gorgias in the universe (G0).
  • at time T1, I face a decision whether to commit murder or not. That causes one of two things to happen (I’ll let you decide which you are suggesting):
    • either, two new beings are created (leaving G0 in a state of limbo?): Gorgias-the-murderer (Gm) and Gorgias-the-not-murderer (G~m)
    • or, one new being is created, and the other being is the already-existing G0
  • at time T2, a new decision must be made. Let’s simplify things and only say that G-the-murderer is making the decision – let’s say, to rob someone. We have another two possibilities, just like before:
    • two new beings – Gm+r and Gm+~r (that is, a Gorgias who robbed and one who didn’t rob)
    • or, one new being and one old being

Here’s where the problem comes from:

  • Gm+r robbed, but he didn’t commit murder. Yet, he proceeded from the murderous Gorgias. So… here are your questions:
    • is he culpable for the murder he did not commit? After all, Gm murdered, not Gm+r.
    • How about Gm+~r? Not only did he not murder, but he also didn’t rob. Is he culpable for murder?

How is this a problem?

  • If you create “new” beings at the nexus of each decision, then the newly-created beings proceed from the new decision, having not made previous decisions.
    • yet, they will proceed from a being who did make the decisions, and seemingly, the culpability will attach to them. They’ll therefore be culpable of sins they didn’t commit. This denies justice to them individually.
    • if the culpability doesn’t attach to them, then you’ll have sins committed, but no one culpable for them. This denies justice in general.

But, maybe you’re suggesting that we only create one new person at each nexus. We have to determine – at each decision point – whether the pre-existing being gets tagged with the sin, or if he’s the one who’s innocent. My intuition is that there’s still a problem with culpability / injustice, but I’d have to map it out to be sure.

“They” do form a Oneness … which yes does beg for a clear-ish human-like analogy …

For the sake of discussion … imagine 2 human Persons

Accept it - that their sense of Self - as in their use of “I” - … is their individual “Soul”

  1. **In the long run - The only way each has a chance of ‘seeing’ the other **
  2. - comes from conversational speech… aka their actual WORDs - to each other.

IF one always speaks Intelligent Reasonable Truth -
Then? Their WORD clearly Reflect their Soul.
This occurs when said one possesses an honest “spirit” …

This above person… is an analogy of The Trinity… realized spiritually…

God - His WORD (JESUS) - And His Spirit of Truth - flowing in Him and His Word…

As with that imagined human - A UNITY …

PS = A Liar? A disunity… bad…

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