Does simulation theory legitimize religion?
If your life has ever seemed like a grand work of fiction rife with irony, coincidence, and romance perhaps it’s because our world is something like a novel written by an alien author.
I was raised Christian and was a very energetic evangelical but as a young adult, I drifted away from the religion and ultimately became an atheist for intellectual reasons.
If I’m being honest with myself (and you) I didn’t leave the religion for purely intellectual reasons though, I left it because I wanted to indulge in the tantalizing hedonism that was dangled before me at a young age…
In my teenage years as a devoted Christian, I began reading entertaining Chick tracts, these are proselytizing mini-comic booklets that convey a little story in cartoons and end with a call to action to accept Christ. I ordered I think 750 of these things and physically spammed my high school and neighborhood with them…
My first red pill in regards to my religion was when I discovered thanks to a Chick tract the conflicting views on different Bible versions.
For those who might not know, there’s not just one version of the English Bible, there’s a multiplicity of translations. The conspiracy theory (and I don’t use that phrase facetiously) that introduced a quantum of doubt into my faith was that the mainstream versions of the Bible were satanic and subversive. That the evil Vatican establishment had corrupted the Bible and that the popular and easy-to-read New International Version of the Bible was nefarious. If you wanted to read the real Bible, you had to read the King James Version from the 16th century. So that’s what I did but there was a crack in the solid foundation of my faith. Christians are supposed to believe that the word of God is absolutely perfect and according to the evidence I was looking at some versions of the Bible were quite imperfect — why would God allow his holy word to be corrupted? If there was one thing he could use his limitless power to preserve shouldn’t it be his book?
In my 20’s I still identified with the religion but I edged further and further away from practicing it.
As I explain in my book review of Sam Harris’s Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion I once found myself in a lucid dream and I asked one of the characters (my subconscious?) in the dream if I had legitimate intellectual reasons for leaving my religion or if I was just justifying my secular, hedonistic lifestyle with pseudo-intellectualism. The character in my dream responded that I was indeed just justifying.
Eventually, I read Stefan Molyneux’s Against the Gods? and it finally cemented my reasons for leaving my religion.
Stefan asks the classic question: Why would a good God let bad things happen to good people?
Most religions explicitly state that helping others in need is morally good — think of the parable of the Good Samaritan in the New Testament. However, since gods do not exist, and so cannot intervene, religions have the rather challenging task of explaining why their “moral” God does not help those in need. If it is immoral for travelers on the road to ignore a bleeding man, when it will cost them both time and resources to help him, is it not infinitely more immoral for God to refrain from helping, when it will cost God neither time nor resources, since He has an infinity of both? (p. 36)
Stefan argues that Agnosticism is a weak intellectual cop-out, Agnosticism is kind of just a politically correct position that people take who haven’t really thought things through and are afraid of offending the faithful.
Agnosticism is a relatively modern phenomenon; avoiding the question of God’s existence is nothing new, of course, but agnosticism attempts to hook into a lot of science, particularly quantum physics, string theory and other multidimensional theoretical models. (p. 63)
Historically, the word “God” has never meant, “things that may exist in other dimensions of the multiverse, as described by modern physics.” (p. 63)
No, let’s not empty the word “God” of its true and original meaning, which was a cosmic and spiritual father who created the universe, breathed life into mankind, burns the wicked and saves the innocent, and so on. This meaty and monstrous superman, this thunderbolt-hurling patriarch of our dim and brutal histories, this frustrated and enraged slaughterer of rebels and sceptics — this fearful and omnipotent beast should not be reduced to some pale and conceptual ghost hiding out in the dim theoretical alleys between the atoms. (p. 64)
Thus I very privately became an atheist.
There’s a big difference between theory and phenomena.
- Phenomenon is an effect which is observed; Your muscles getting bigger as a result of exercising, getting drunk after drinking alcohol, the tides going in and out, etc
- Theory is an unseen cause and effect relationship that explains why something is happening; gravitation, evolution of the species, the mitochondrial theory of aging, etc
Theories exist on a spectrum from virtual certainties (gravitation, evolution) to disproven (Trump-Russia collusion in 2016, flat earth) or non-falsifiable (demons cause mental disease).
There’s this alluring domain of metaphysical phenomena…
- Near-death experiences
- Astral projection and remote viewing
- The Mandela Effect
- Ghosts and paranormal phenomena
Clearly, a lot of incidences of metaphysical phenomena have rather mundane explanations; weather balloons, faulty human memory, sleep paralysis, swamp gas, wishful thinking, government programs, hallucinations, etc
But there are some incidences of metaphysical phenomena that just defy a materialist scientific explanation…
And remember the way that logic works is that you only need to find ONE black swan to utterly disprove the notion that all swans are white — you don’t need a statistically significant number of black swans, you just need one.
Thus if we can find ONE verifiable incidence of metaphysical phenomena that resolutely defies a strictly scientific explanation of the world then we can conclude that the materialist worldview is false, at least until such time as a scientist introduces a cogent theory or evidence of what in the natural world composed solely of atoms bouncing into each other is the cause of metaphysical phenomena.
And there’s certainly more than one such incidence of metaphysical phenomena…
I used to enjoy the TV show Destination Truth with Josh Gates, it’s a reality TV show where every week they would travel to a new destination somewhere in the world and hunt ghosts or mythological monsters. Consistently they wouldn’t find any real monsters (except for the time when they discovered a Yeti hair in Bhutan that genetic analysis indicated was from a relic hominid) but they would encounter plenty of ghosts, demons, and metaphysical forces. Sure these kinds of things can be faked in the post-production of a reality TV show BUT ghost encounters are so common (just ask your friends and family) that it’s strong evidence that there is more to the world and life than meets the spectacled scientific eye.
There are three podcasts I like that do skeptical, critical thinking exploration, and analysis of metaphysical phenomena…
Skeptiko - Skeptiko - Science at the Tipping Point
skepticism consciousness science spirituality parapsychology science near-death experience consciousness skeptics…
Skeptoid is an award-winning weekly science podcast. Since 2006, Skeptoid has been revealing the true science behind…
The Other Side of Midnight - Can you handle the TRUTH?
Conversations from the Cutting Edge of Science and Thought The Most Exclusive Club in the Universe! TONIGHT SATURDAY…
I’d encourage you to download some episodes and judge for yourself if the scientific and academic establishment is ignoring a huge domain of human experience that is crying out (perhaps from beyond the grave) to be understood.
Or consider mass UFO sightings like the relatively recent Phoenix Lights incident…
Phoenix Lights - Wikipedia
The Phoenix Lights (sometimes called the " Lights Over Phoenix") were a series of widely sighted unidentified flying…
There’s this undeniable phenomenon of UFOs yet the theory of UFOs as extraterrestrial aliens is totally illogical and nonsensical.
Interstellar space travel would require an extreme level of technological prowess. They would be vastly more advanced than us. Aliens capable of interstellar space travel would be capable of totally masking themselves from our perception.
Real aliens would either be extremely moral or totally evil. If they saw us as potential competitors on the cosmic stage they would wipe us out the way a human stomps on an anthill. Or like in the classic science fiction series Earth: Final Conflict, they would gift us with tremendous technologies, give us cures to diseases, teach us to finally end war, and have a fair global economy.
Real aliens are less likely to be evil. There’s a clear correlation between intelligence, technological advancement, and morality. More advanced civilizations tend to be compassionate to less advanced civilizations (in modern times, I’m not talking about some battle between the British infantry and African tribesmen that happened 300 years ago).
Real aliens would either have some non-intervention policy like in Star Trek’s Prime Directive or they would act like do-gooder Western people who make a pilgrimage of selfish altruism to Africa to donate their time to build schools and take selfies with orphans.
What they certainly wouldn’t do is act like flamboyant pranksters, putting on dazzling displays in the sky and then disappearing to confuse us. Or messing with our cattle or cutting weird patterns in crop fields.
They could learn everything about us that they wanted by secretly sampling our DNA, they certainly wouldn’t need to abduct us into their spaceships to conduct (weirdly sexual) experiments on us.
Even if UFOs are just mass hallucinations that is indicative of a dimension of human consciousness and experience that science doesn’t have a cogent theory for.
This sort of phenomenon makes me reconsider my previous atheistic worldview. It should also make us reconsider the simulation theory.
The Simulation Theory
I remember this computer game I used to play, Black & White, where you got to be the god of an island populated with little digital people. In the video game, you would occasionally put on a dazzling display in the sky to increase belief. Could that be what’s going on with the metaphysical phenomena that is prolific?
In the film, he shows how the materialist worldview has been disproven by the double-slit experiment and its reproduction.
- He suggests that the findings of quantum physics and the observable effects of relativity make sense within a digital universe.
- And how the concept of the 5-dimensional holographic universe is consistent with the simulation theory.
Religion and metaphysical phenomena start to make a lot of sense if we’re willing to look at the universe as a vastly scaled-up version of the video game I used to play. The first time you played the video game I would just be as evil a god as possible for fun; demand human sacrifices, hurl thunderbolts, release plagues and monsters — really terrorize the digital population of natives in the gameplay environment. But then you would play as a more benevolent deity and win the praise of your subjects by being helpful and compassionate. It took more skill to be loved instead of feared. I can imagine if I was stuck playing the game for all eternity I would eventually decide to challenge myself by playing in a non-interventionistic style. I would very rarely put on displays in the sky or perform miracles. I would become a very hard to find god. I would simply introduce narratives and messages to subtly influence the people I watched over to level up and improve themselves and then I would give them the individual agency option to practice free will, which few of them would disappointingly.
Many atheists have pointed out the contradiction of a good God, who knows everything that’s going to happen in the future pleading with us to make the right decision. When I topple over a line of dominos I don’t plead with the final domino to remain standing tall despite the immutable forces of the universe acting against it. This contradiction also starts to make sense in the simulation theory…
The simulation would have thousands or millions of if-then rulesets about everything from human psychology to phenotypic revolutions. The processing power to create a whole universe would be sufficient to predict the future outcomes of such rules. So god, or the programmer or the player would be omniscient and they could see the future if they wanted. But it would be a lot more fun to just see how the little people in the game reacted to different narratives, historical wildcards, and even unexplained phenomena.
Given this view of the universe, it’s logical for me to say I believe in God or a creator, but I’ll have a problem accepting the Christian idea of a god that represents moral perfection. Considering simulation theory, god would seem to be a self-amusing prankster with a voyeuristic tendency of ogling our suffering. In the agnostic’s universe, there might well be a god but he definitely wouldn’t be any more interested in us than we are in dust mites.
Whereas in the simulation theory universe the Christian idea of a god who is concerned with our lives and well-being starts to make a lot of sense. As an avid player of computer games where you had a god’s view perspective of the world, I was always concerned with the well-being of my little digital subjects below and I became even more concerned the more advanced a player I became.
There’s this expression…
You can never go home again.
This means that you can never truly return to where you’re from or where you grew up because that place has likely changed quite a bit and you certainly have. That’s why returning to the neighborhood where you grew up is almost always a bitter pill of nostalgic disappointment. Similarly, I don’t think I can ever return to being the true believer, evangelical zealot that I once was.
But Christianity, at least the way my family practices it, is a very pragmatic faith.
- It provides a loving social circle.
- It provides a moral system that guides us into being functional, productive members of society.
- It gives a wonderful hope for something better after this life ends.
- The evangelical faith I used to practice was an especially potent gateway to transcendent flow states.
Stefan (sometimes called the most logical man on the internet) writes about the pragmatism of prayer
my argument is that what works is the act of asking a superior intelligence for guidance and wisdom. The simple fact is that people who pray often do experience a response, and the obvious and empirical answer is that they are asking for wisdom from their own subconscious… (p. 47)
[The subconscious] whose processing power has been estimated as 7,000 times that of the conscious mind (p. 46)
…the wisdom and astounding parallel processing power of the subconscious is largely only available to those who approach it on bended knee (p. 47)
I regard myself as a pragmatist, not a purist and ultimately I’m self-interested in what’s going to make me happiest and healthiest in the long term. I’ll lower my logical standards of skepticism for a moral or belief system that’s highly beneficial to me and I’ll scrutinize with increasing skepticism any system that hurts me.
If a socialist came to me trying to convince me of socialism, I’m going to have an extremely high level of skepticism because their system entails redistributing my property, highly taxing my labor, and a big government ruling over nearly every aspect of my life. Their system does little for me. But if someone comes to me with a system that’s proven to make me healthier, happier, safer, and freer my threshold for logical consistency lowers.
As a teenager, I had a very hard time attracting the attention of girls that I might like to date. Naturally, I just had low sexual market value. A PDF seduction guide that I downloaded in the dead of night (and then deleted the cookies) as a young man informed me that I needed to fake it till I made it. I needed to take up a logically inconsistent position of acting as a high-value man while in reality, I was barely a man. I remember (as a 16-year-old virgin) repeating this mantra that…
Women love having sex with me!
And feeling so foolish telling myself something untrue but it worked. Women started giving me more attention when I acted cocky and aloof, even though inside I thought I was a total loser. Almost two decades later I can see just how well this false belief had served me. If I, as a young man, had subjected my budding self-confidence and self-esteem to the same level of logical scrutiny that I did my religious faith I would probably still be a virgin instead of the man I am who has enjoyed an adventuresome sex life.