Thoughts on theology, survival, and The Simulation.
BTW, Thanks, Glenn! With all the political and international messes going on right now, sometimes it is nice to think about something else for a while!
Ever since I first heard of the "computer simulation" idea, it struck me that it is just another Creation Myth. I do find it ironic that so many who are inclined to the idea have been opposed to the idea of a divine Creator. Personally, I am a Christian, and I believe that we were created by God. I am not a "young earth" Creationist--I know how that 4004 BC date found in some old Bibles was cooked up, and the problems with it. I also can deal with the idea that the Genesis account is a poetic summary rather than scientifically detailed history. Even C. S. Lewis didn't take the early chapters of Genesis as literal history. And the Genesis account is simpler and more laid-back than most of the ancient Creation stories--the myths of the Babylonians, Egyptians, and Greeks were much weirder than Genesis. Even Methuselah living for 969 years is not as outlandish as the Babylonian King Lists, which claimed their earliest rulers lived for 10,000 years and more.
There is quite a bit of speculation anymore, about "computer simulation" and "multiple universes" and other stuff. But it is all speculation, not real science. Science is about examining the physical world--what is here and what works or doesn't work. It has no way to go beyond the physical world, or to find any other physical worlds--because the methods it works with are for use in our physical world.
The area of Cosmology historically was considered one area of Philosophy. Our modern scientists are often lacking in knowledge of Philosophy, and usually don't realize when their thoughts have strayed outside the limits of Physical Science and into the realm of Philosophy. But when they do so, they are just as ignorant as anybody else who starts pontificating in areas outside their field.
In principle, I guess you could have a whole hierarchy of simulated worlds...our world, Level 4, might be a simulation created by beings living in Level 4. But Level 4 is itself as simulation, created by beings in Level 3. And so on up.
And if we implemented a simulated world, Level 5, it could eventually extend the meta-universe down to Level 6...
None of which helps resolve the problem of where Level 1 came from.
Interesting how it's always Christian Intellect design, yet Hindus and Moslems also believe in creationism. Do they ID too?
On another note, what was once accepted as evolution is now considered ID? I know the catholic school I attended long ago taught evolution with a guiding hand, which is now considered ID. On,y randomness and atheists need apply. Poor De Chardin be damned.
I think I'm going to steal some of these thoughts the next time I teach seminarians on the problem of evil. One of the classic responses to the existence of evil is an aesthetic one: the overall beauty of the universe is enhanced by what we see as moral evil, the black velvet essential for enhancing the shine of the diamond. If there is one thing we can all agree on about human history, it is that it is fascinating. The rise of the internet and now social media has gone a long way towards showing just how fascinating we actually are. While I wouldn't want my kids to grow up to be Florida Man, if I'm honest I'm glad that he exists. It's sort of like the end of Flannery O'Connor's "Revelation" in which ultra-moral and judgmental Ruby Turpin receives a vision of the march to heaven. Leading the parade are all the people to whom she was condescending in life. There is a beauty to them that she spent most of her time missing. Not sure what the implications would be for Christian ethics, but it certainly helps theodicy; all this craziness makes us infinitely--and I use that word intentionally--watchable.
A powerful post with some very interesting strands.
How does prayer work in a simulation created by an Intelligent Designer? Does He or She (or It) respond to a prayer by tweaking the weighting of the various “good” and “evil” elements in the program?
I think the best take is, as noted - does it matter?
Philosophically? Yeah. A lot.
Tactically and Operationally? Hardly at all.
We keep eating and playing and sleeping and fighting and working hoping we're doing the best we can and whether The Creator exists for our purposes or Their own is of little consequence to those ends.
I think the most difficult part, philosophically, is the After part. We fear the unknown and Death is a super duper unknown so we have created all manner of stories to help us make sense of things we don't understand and literally inserting our own explanations and attributing them retroactively to The Creator.
Fun and interesting column. There's a YouTuber called Ridddle. He does lots of well-made, well-informed conjectural videos on exoplanets (e.g., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOJjc0XhItw, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18rARy8g4Hc). (Other Ridddle videos include ludicrous alien-civilization/pyramids stuff.) But he did a really intriguing little piece in 2017 called "What If the Earth Does Not Exist?" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CyN8rYdX6g). It asks whether we might be a simulation and then proceeds to explore how this could explain quantum mechanics, the two slit experiment, quantum entanglement, space-time, the Big Bang, dark matter, Fermi Paradox, etc. It's quite entertaining and, at least in the eyes of this reasonably informed this layman, well-versed in physics. And yes, he does deal with Elon Musk's take on the whole thing. I've always wondered what a trained cosmologist would think of the video. (Bob--https://graboyes.substack.com)
This is just another avoidance of the fundamental question of how the universe began. A simulation has to be written by someone who was created in some manner. At some point, you still end up with a creator being the first cause of everything. God is that creator. We are all fallen and sinful, including our simulations and AI. Christ offers salvation and redemption through His sacrifice. Accept that, and everything starts to make sense.
2 x 10^12 galaxies times 10^11 stars per average galaxy is a current estimate = 2 x 10^23 stars. Simulation? Reductio ad absurdum.
I agree Professor; Simulation Theory is Intelligent Design Theory, only with God deliberately left out.
Great simulation!! It is always said you can’t make up this stuff. Your simulation theory also works with scientific discovery. Every day something is discovered that has always been there, we just have evolved enough to understand what we are looking at. I wonder what is around the corner?
The thing that gets me is that materialists can grok science fiction, yet they can’t grok a triune (like a hive mind, but smaller) God who created this universe (perhaps one of many), and has intervened on Earth. Why viewed through a science fiction lens is all of that impossible? Seems to track with Clarke’s third law that sufficiently advanced tech is indistinguishable from magic. Or miracles. Could be simulated, but not necessarily. Could be real. Sufficient tech enabling manipulation of matter, energy, and time would explain much.
Ps. (Edit doesn't seem to be working) I attribute all the turmoil in our lives to an infestation of emotional vampires. They seem to be everywhere.
Heh™, my life has been feature-filled of late, yet I consider myself lucky compared to most. A thought-provoking essay, thanks.
Ps. Still, I attribute all the turmoil in our lives to an infestation of emotional vampires. They're everywhere.
Some of you might be interested in Neal Stephenson's novel "Fall". In that book, not only is "the world" simulated, there are hints that it's recursive -- a simulation in a simulation (in a simulation)? Plus, the simulation being followed *very* strongly recapitulates Genesis. How could it not?