Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Simulation Argument for the Existence of God

Note: this is my attempt to articulate the simulation argument for the existence of God,and not necessarily an original rendition of it.  I don't believe it is conclusive either of its proof of a Deity or the nature of that Deity. But it is thought provoking and provides a reasonable foundation for belief in the existence of God.

In making the case that God exists, it is customary for apologists to make use of arguments from design and origins.  While some of these particular arguments thought-provoking, they tend to be slightly overused and their reiterations can bore the reader out of the subject.  So, in the interest of keeping the subject interesting, I have elected to present an argument for the existence of God by blending the significance of future technological advancement with philosophy in order to establish a a particular conception of reality that necessitates God as its Creator.

Nick Bostrom, a Swedish philosopher and futurist, has come up with the with the simulation hypothesis.  This hypothesis is predicated on three assumptions.  They are:

i. It is possible that an advanced civilization could create a computer simulation which contains individuals with artificial intelligence (AI).

ii. Such a civilization would likely run many, perhaps billions, of these simulations (just for fun, research or any other permutation of possible reasons).

iii. A simulated individual inside the simulation wouldn’t necessarily know that it is inside a simulation — it is just going about its daily business in what it considers to be the "real world.”

Simply put, the hypothesis amounts to  the extrapolation that if it is possible create simulants with conscious’ on par with our own, then it is very probable that we are actually in a simulation given the fact that such simulations would vastly outnumber the amount of “real worlds.” Look at our own world.  The quantities of virtual worlds produced by the video games we play are orders of magnitude larger than our single world they exist in.  It goes without saying that the particular designer and watcher over this simulation would be God.  And trans-simulation designer would virtually indistinguishable in kind than a supernatural creator. It would possess infinite power from our perspective, and could perform the various actions of the Judeo-Christian God as described in the Bible.  The laws of physics could very well be the equivalent of software code, and the supernatural entities, such as angels or fallen angels,  whose existence have been recorded throughout history could either be a part of the same code that dictates our limitations, or a part of some other overriding code that intersects with this simulation. 

Note that this is not an argument that our universe is an illusion. It is an argument that our universe is a subworld that is on a lower plane of existence than the world containing the designer, in much the same way the world in World of Warcraft is a subworld of our own.  Our universe would still be very real in the sense that it exists independently from our minds and is the same for you as it is for me.  It would simply be the product of the trans-simulation mind that designed it. 

This is consistent with various Biblical themes.  Heaven is described wholly removed from this realm, and would be far more glorious than our own virtual world.

At this point, science fiction fans may point out that the simulation hypothesis is predicated upon the possibility of the singularity.  And many of my Christian readers may reject the idea of the singularity by pointing out that consciousness cannot be replicated by a computer, and thus requires the existence of a deity to instill one. 

I don’t disagree. But consider the following trichotomy, and the effect it has on my case that God exists:

A.The singularity – specifically, the production of conscious AI – is not only possible, but inevitable.  As processing power continues to increase, it is only a matter of time before we have conscious stimulants at our disposal. Thus, it is highly probable that we are in a simulation, as per the logic presented earlier.

B.The singularity is possible, but extremely improbable.  The processing power of the most advanced computers may be sufficient, but the software encompassing the computer is too crude to potentialize that processing power.  This difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that consciousness may not be replicated by an algorithmic system in a computer.  It could be something else that produces consciousness, like quantum wave collapses.  So Mankind may not be able to reach the singularity in time without destroying itself.  Alternatively, it may just not want to run simulations.

 C.The singularity is impossible due to the inherent limitations of the laws of nature.  Consciousness must be created via an external source, presumably by God.

Notice that both A and C are scenarios in which God exists and is the Creator of the universe. Scenario B cannot be discounted but its implications are neutral concerning the existence of God. Moreover, if the singularity happens to be improbable in this world, there is no reason it cannot be more probable in another conceivable world.

Too add on, quasi-simulations may not only be produced by a computer.  Something akin to dreams may be able to produce conscious agents – at least in another world.  In which case, the logic would be the same, thus bolstering my case for God by broadening the simulations logic’s applicability.
As the simulation hypothesis is taken into account, atheism becomes more untenable by the minute.  Its outright denial of the existence of God is unwarranted considering that mankind has already started to produce its own subworlds in which the designer is able to exercise god-like powers. 

Do I believe that we are living in a simulation? No. Believe is too strong of a word.  I speculate the possibility.  I believe it is just as if not more probable that God is the ultimate reality, the first cause, although I simply don’t know for sure and all we can do is play around with nonmathematical probabilities and good guesses. However, if humanity was ever granted access to the tunnel of truth on the matter, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that we are in a simulation.  But at any rate, the logic and evidence presented concerning the nature of reality should be sufficient to demonstrate that a belief in God, at the very least, is a reasonable one that has the potential of becoming the default position for any thinking individual.

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