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Stimulating simulations

Evidence for God, not hackers

Stimulating simulations

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The observable universe contains more than 100 billion galaxies. Our galaxy alone, popularly known as the Milky Way, has more than 100 billion stars. Does that make you yearn for those days of yesteryear when many followed the thought of Aristotle and Ptolemy: Five planets plus the sun and the moon circling Earth? Was it easier to evangelize before people thought of Earth as a little sphere circling a fifth-rate star on a minor galaxy’s periphery—so why should God care about us?

A century ago scientists of course knew the Earth moved, but many still thought we were near the center of things. British naturalist/biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, who co-developed (with Charles Darwin) the theory of evolution through natural selection, wrote this in Man’s Place in the Universe (1903): “An overwhelming consensus among the astronomers establishes the fact of our nearly central position in the stellar universe. They all agree that the Milky Way is nearly circular in form. They all agree that our sun is situated almost exactly in its medial plane.”

But astronomers did not agree with that for long. As telescope improvements allowed them to see further out, they saw the vastness of space. They asked a truncated version of Psalm 8’s question—“When I look at your heavens … what is man that you are mindful of him?” Many answered: There’s no God and He’s not mindful. Humans are merely the result of chance plus eons of time, and thus of no importance.

It takes omniscience and omnipotence to create a universe almost unimaginably huge, with billions and billions of stars.

Now, though, I can tell you about a great reversal: A trendy theory among scientists means those billions and billions of galaxies should make belief in a godlike creator-of-sorts more likely, not less. The theory, taken very seriously by establishment evolutionists like Neil deGrasse Tyson, is that we are living in a simulation probably designed by aliens of a far-advanced civilization. As Scientific American reports, Tyson puts the odds at 50-50 that “our entire existence is a program on someone else’s hard drive.” Reasons why this could be so: “The more we learn about the universe, the more it appears to be based on mathematical laws.”

Of course, Isaac Newton and others saw such laws as proofs of the existence of God, but we are too sophisticated to believe in Him, aren’t we? Maybe not, as long as this “god” appears to be merely human. Scientific American quotes NYU philosophy professor David Chalmers: “We in this universe can create simulated worlds and there’s nothing remotely spooky about that. Our creator isn’t especially spooky, it’s just some teenage hacker in the next universe up.” 

Tyson adds, “We don’t think of ourselves as deities when we program Mario, even though we have power over how high Mario jumps. There’s no reason to think they’re all-powerful just because they control everything we do.” Oxford University philosophy professor Nick Bostrom speculates that our descendants with super-powerful computers may have simulated us, and estimates how much computing power that would take: “Simulating the entire universe down to the quantum universe is obviously infeasible, unless radically new physics is discovered.” 

Bostrom adds, “In order to get a realistic simulation of human experience, much less [computer power] is needed—only whatever is required to ensure that the simulated humans, interacting in normal human ways with their simulated environment, don’t notice any irregularities.” For example, “The microscopic structure of the inside of the earth can be safely omitted. Distant astronomical objects can have highly compressed representations.” 

What should Christians do with such speculation? We can chastise it as one more nutty, atheistic attempt to find a way of explaining creation apart from the Creator—or we can see that such speculation, if true, just produces one more proof of God’s existence. Say a super-advanced hacker in his garage wants to simulate a universe so he can have some bedtime entertainment each evening: Wouldn’t he go for something relatively easy to create, like a small, Earth-centered universe? A new come-on for the video game The Sims FreePlay offers “the ability to build A-frame roofing,” not “the ability to create billions of galaxies.”

A super-advanced hacker could conceivably create a solar system. It takes omniscience and omnipotence to create a universe almost unimaginably huge, with billions and billions of stars. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

Comments

  • Bob C
    Posted: Mon, 03/11/2019 01:58 pm

    “An overwhelming consensus among the astronomers establishes the fact…” 

    These kind of statements are a dead giveaway to a really weak argument because they start out pointing to a volume of agreement, instead of the actual facts or truth.  We are supposed to buy into their assertion based on unproven assumptions just because a bunch of other mislead experts do.  

    My first reaction has become is please give me a list of these other experts and provide their statements of agreement for me to review. Otherwise stop wasting my time.  

  • JACKIE PARFET
    Posted: Mon, 03/11/2019 02:38 pm

    " What should Christians do with such speculation? " My answer: read more scifi... like

    We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse Book 1)

  • Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Mon, 03/11/2019 09:00 pm

    Dr. Tyson begs the question, "Whence did the aliens come?"  The matryoshka dolls have to end, and a Creator seen.  I only pray that Dr. Tyson bows to the inevitable before it comes at the tip of Michael's sword.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Thu, 03/21/2019 07:46 pm

    Yes, the bit of our universe operating on mathematical laws had me wondering what exactly they picture this "one universe up" looking like. Are we to believe that

    1. It doesn't run on such precisely tuned mathematical laws of physics as ours.

    2. Kids in garages can create supercomputers capable of simulating enough of a universe that we can't tell the difference.

    Doesn't make much sense to me.

  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Wed, 03/13/2019 04:56 am

    Thanks, Marvin. Good stuff to ponder here. I love the reminder that it was not just Darwin.

    One thing that your piece brings to mind is a meeting I was in a few years back. Several brilliant researchers (not me, I was there for comic relief ;~) were discussing a cardiology conundrum at a local prestigious research hospital. They wrestled with a way to fix a perplexing cardiac medical condition while also wondering why our bodies function in a certain way. Sometimes our body's marvelous adaptive processes tries to fix something and then creates a new problem. At one point one of these doctor researchers with MD, PhD after their name stated, "But Nature is smarter than that!" I didn't ask but often see how there is a desire to have a godless theory of origins and processes but somehow lurking in the background we still see that something or someone must be at work.

  • Nat Manzanita
    Posted: Wed, 03/13/2019 05:59 am

    Once you allow the possibility that reality is a simulation, you cannot prove anything. For example, you cannot prove that your friend across the coffee table exists, or that killing him would have any moral significance. The idea is in the category of thoughts that must be rejected because they destroy the value of thought. It is intrinsically impossible to disprove, but equally essential to reject.

    The fact that Tyson thinks he can put odds on it is utterly ridiculous. If the reality we perceive is a simulation, we know absolutely nothing about the underlying reality that determines how difficult the simulation was to produce -- i.e., the probability that it has in fact been produced.

  • John Cogan's picture
    John Cogan
    Posted: Fri, 03/15/2019 12:19 am

    "Oxford University philosophy professor Nick Bostrom speculates that our descendants with super-powerful computers may have simulated us,"

    Wait a second...if we are a simulation, then wouldn't our descendents be a simulation since they descended from us??? This is logic from Ph.D.'s?

  • Laura W
    Posted: Thu, 03/21/2019 07:48 pm

    No, it means there are/were real versions of us, but we're not them. We're the simulated version of people wondering what life was like for their ancestors. Still doesn't make much sense, though. And then you don't get to avoid the problem of where the actual ancestors came from either.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Thu, 03/21/2019 07:49 pm

    If the people suggesting this really think that characters in a computer game can become self-aware and experience pain, loss, etc. in a meaningful way, then they should be trying to stop the development of all sorts of video games, as the easiest way to alleviate mass suffering.