QUESTION: What is unique about your line of reasoning in the context of historical discourse on the subject of God? What is actually new here?
This theory places existing arguments about the likelihood and nature of future simulations into a specifically theological context by phrasing the question of belief in God in terms of the probability that the universe as we experience it is designed. The explanation of the likelihood of civilizations simulating their ancestors in order to upload their consciousnesses into a future data-bank might explain why we seem to live in what often proves to be an unjust universe; we are more likely to be in a simulation that spawned a simulation of itself (or at least in a simulation of some kind) than in a random and authorless universe. This is one of the first explicit endorsements of virtual reality as a meaningful actualization of the concept of heaven, including even the possibility for “resurrection” into the data bank at some point in the future. But even if someone doubts that he/she is in a simulation, the historical trajectory leading up to simulations can itself be meaningfully deified as a providential force.
Typical arguments about simulism and intelligent design make the error that the mere fact that our universe contains more simulations than originating civilizations is reason to think we ourselves are in a simulation. In fact, even if this were true, it tells us nothing about what the sum total of reality might look like outside of our experience of the universe–just because it is possible and common to dream in our world does not mean that the world itself is probably a dream. Moreover, the premise that there are more simulations than civilizations does not mean there are more simulations than “random” conscious experiences of reality. In fact, for every simulating civilization in this universe, there must be many more seemingly random experiences of reality in the form of individuated lives born into it just like ours, to say nothing of the “consciousness” of animals and lower forms of life.
As far as I know, my original and unique arguments are those about the implications of ancestor simulations simulating themselves, the Boltzmann Brain analogy, and the connection of simulations with the idea of being trapped within a specific consciousness in itself requiring a sufficient reason beyond the mere existence of that consciousness in a universe in which everything else seems to happen for a reason (simulation provides the reason–the analogy would be Mario thinking to himself, “even if there are many Marios in the universe, why do I in particular exist and act in this way?,” the answer being that he is being simulated and played). The idea that certain interpretations of quantum mechanics suggest that the universe is a simulation in which only that which is consciously measured need be “resolved” also came to me spontaneously, but has likely been elaborated upon elsewhere.
QUESTION: In the first part of the argument, you define pure atheism as certainty that God does not exist and then reject the position as untenable. What about “atheists” who maintain that while God’s existence cannot be known for certain, they still believe that the preponderance of evidence goes against God? Are you falsely suggesting that because atheism and theism are both equally unprovable, it is most rational to be a pure agnostic?
I define pure atheism as certainty that God does not exist, and pure theism as certainty that God does exist. Since the issue cannot be known for certain one way or another, I dismiss both stances as an appropriate starting point for a debate and insist on beginning with some sort of an agnostic position. Someone who admits that he/she doesn’t know about God’s existence for certain is really a type of agnostic (even one who leans strongly in favor of God’s non-existence on the basis of the available evidence.) However, ultimately speaking, this debate over the definition of atheism doesn’t matter to the crux of the argument. The elegance of this defense of God is its insistence that there seems to be more evidence for a rational designer to our experience of reality than any alternative. At the same time, the very historical trajectory leading to simulation is similar enough to a doctrine of paradise and life after death to cause even those who doubt that they are in a simulation in the first place to be optimistic.
QUESTION: Why do you believe it is more likely than not that the universe as we experience it is designed? Isn’t this impossible to prove?
If a simulation ever simulated itself, a seemingly infinite loop would be created, and it is more probable that you are a member of this loop rather than merely the product of a single sperm and egg in an authorless universe. While data about alien civilizations is lacking, perhaps due to the fact that they are busy developing simulations rather than engaging in space travel, if one believes that human civilization is not unique and that simulations are indeed able to be developed, a whole battery of theological implications must follow. (According to the third point, there is reason to believe that the universe brims with very many civilizations committed to simulations as an extension of their rationalism, since simulations solve so many problems inherent to being social and rational animals, to say nothing of preserving the natural environment and conserving resources.) At the same time, even if we are not in a self-simulating ancestor simulation, the idea of being simulated seems a more reasonable explanation of the existence of my individuated consciousness than random chance–is Mario likelier to exist on one of millions of cartridges, or to be the single unique instance of his type? And does he leap over the pit randomly, or because he is “played”?
QUESTION: Is this really an argument for God?
Insofar as this is an argument for the existence of an intelligent designer being more likely than any alternative, then yes it is. Moreover, the fourth prong of the argument insists that an evolutionary process culminating in simulations can itself be meaningfully deified from a human perspective, insofar as simulations provide scope for solving many of the problems of the human experience.
QUESTION: Are simulations really inherently just? What about dystopian versions of simulations?
In the long term, it is possible not only to be distracted and entertained by simulations, but to learn from them and to enjoy great adventures unencumbered by the constraints and dangers of three dimensional reality. If the simulations are cooperative and sophisticated in nature, over time they will prove to be increasingly nuanced, fun, and interesting. Still, future civilizations must be vigilant when they construct simulations so that active learning continues to be fostered and world culture does not descend into a hedonistic turning away from reality. But insofar as future generations will probably be more intelligent on average than contemporary humans thanks to genetic engineering and the use of AI, it is likely that cooperative and interesting simulations will be preferred over the monotony of nothing but inane yet pleasurable simulations in the long run. Simulations enable great minds to explore the universe and probe the nature of reality at leisure rather than turning away from it. They allow limitless population growth and infinite wealth with no strain on natural resources. The horrors of the possibility of the creation of dystopian simulations are outweighed on a global scale, I believe, by the blessings of simulations in general. At any rate, since we inhabit a universe in which simulating technology is possible and in which technological evolution improves quality of life and fosters equality in the long term, we do not seem to be in a purely dystopian simulation.
QUESTION: Why don’t you argue that God is omnipotent?
Omnipotence seems to be a logically contradictory notion—insofar as an omnipotent God should be able to set limits to His own powers (for example, creating a rock He can’t lift), there seems to be a case of infinite regress. Moreover, could God make triangles and squares the same shape, or defy other mathematical principles? Or could He know the future but simultaneously be able to change it? These sorts of paradoxes are avoided in this specific defense of God, which defines the deity as an intelligent designer working in the shadow of a providential force which can itself be worshiped.
Next entry 10/30/2011 (Sorry for the delay.)