It may sound like a joke, but it’s not.
At least, it’s not a joke to astrophysicists like Neil deGrasse Tyson. As Business Insider puts it,
“One of the main arguments that physicists use to talk about what’s known as the ‘simulation hypothesis’ is that if we can prove that it’s possible to simulate a universe — if we can figure out all the laws that govern how everything works, which physicists are trying to do — that makes it much more likely that it is actually simulated. If we know that it’s possible to do something, it’s much easier to think that thing is being done. We haven’t been able to figure out how to simulate a universe — yet. But it’s not too hard to imagine that some other creature out there is far smarter than us.
“Tyson points out that we humans have always defined ourselves as the smartest beings alive, orders of magnitude more intelligent than species like chimpanzees that share close to 99% of our DNA. We can create symphonies and do trigonometry and astrophysics — some of us, anyway.
“But Tyson uses a thought experiment to imagine a life-form that’s as much smarter than us as we are than dogs, chimps, or other terrestrial mammals.
“’What would we look like to them? We would be drooling, blithering idiots in their presence,’ he says. Whatever that being is, it very well might be able to create a simulation of a universe. ’And if that’s the case, it is easy for me to imagine that everything in our lives is just the creation of some other entity for their entertainment,’ Tyson says. ‘I’m saying, the day we learn that it is true, I will be the only one in the room saying, “I’m not surprised.”’
“And maybe that means there’s some chance of doing a reset at some point.”*
So, are we living in a real-life “Matrix”-type universe? A couple of thoughts on that:
1. Nothing New
The first thing that strikes me about the simulation hypothesis is that it’s actually nothing new—not by a long shot. It’s essentially just an updated “sciencey“ version of what religions like Buddhism have believed for centuries: that all of life is an “illusion.”**
“Well, so what?” you may ask. “Do both ancient Buddhists and modern-day astrophysicists have a point on this one?”
That brings me to my second thought:
2. The Biggest Question Remains
Ultimately, the simulation hypothesis does nothing to answer the biggest question of both science and theology—that of “where did everything come from in the first place?” The simulation hypothesis just pushes that question “backwards” one step, and files it behind the question of “who created the simulation we’re living in?”
But—think about this!—if, indeed, we are living in a simulation, then it’s exactly that, right? It’s a simulation. In other words, it’s an artificial imitation of some kind of reality that exists somewhere.
…Which means that the “real” reality still exists out there somewhere, in some form.
…Which means that things like nature, time, and information still exist out there somewhere, in some form.
…Which means that something (or someone) had to create those things which have now been simulated.
…Which means that we still ultimately need an uncaused cause behind the universe in which our simulation was created.
…Which means that we’re still left with the question, “what was the uncased cause behind that universe?”
…Which—still!—would need to be an uncaused cause that is all the things I’ve discussed before in Blog 2 at bigquestions411.wordpress.com (such as intelligent, supernatural, timeless, etc.)—things that match the description of God we have in the Bible.
3. No Red or Blue Pills Needed
And that tells me—even if I were living in a simulation?—the fact that I can even think about all of this (see Big Questions Blog 32, for example), including that I can conceive of such a God Who is loving at all, logically tells me that He’s still out there.
And as a God with the omnipresence required to create any universe, certainly He would be able to hear my prayers and petitions that are directed His way, even in a simulation, and respond to them.
He may even choose to invade the simulation at some point—perhaps as a man named Jesus—in an attempt to bring salvation to those of us “trapped” inside. Perhaps that’s why Jesus was ultimately so rejected in history—He was in fact sent by God and had the potential to “ruin” the simulation. (If we’re following the simulation thought process, that would certainly make sense.)
Thus, any hope of salvation or understanding of true reality would still hinge on pursuing a personal relationship with God through the Jesus He sent to us. So, for a follower of Jesus Christ, living life in a simulation wouldn’t really garner any difference in response from us in terms of faith. We’d live the same.
Thus, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if this is a “simulation” or not. Either way—speaking simply from a logical thought process—it doesn’t change my plans for today.
Though I do have one simple question to close with…
4. Which is Truly Easier?
I must admit, I read things like the “simulation hypothesis” and think through the implications of it (as I have here), and—frankly—I just end up wondering why people like Tyson reject the Bible’s (relatively straightforward) explanation of reality as something “improbable”, yet flock to ideas like a “simulation hypothesis” that—from what I’ve seen online—is laughable by many people?
Does a “simulation” really make more sense as an explanation for our universe than what the Bible has already outlined for us? Why are we as humans so quick to dismiss God as a possibility (which, as I attempt to show each week in my blogs, is a legitimate logical possibility) yet so quickly believe that we may actually be living in something like Jim Carry’s character did in the film The Truman Show?
Could it be that the Bible is actually correct when it makes the point that each one of us is born with a sinful nature that would rather invent a crazy simulation theory than just surrender our pride, ego, and souls to a God Who loves us—a God Who does, in fact, plan to “reset” the universe one day (see Revelation 21-22)?
It all reminds me of a quote I read sometime back by a man named Robert Jastrow:
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
My continual hope is that a scientist such as that would simply have the humility to admit it, and share what he’s learned so that both can benefit.
* See the full article, here: http://www.businessinsider.com/neil-degrasse-tyson-thinks-the-universe-might-be-a-simulation-2016-12
**…which, logically speaking, I find significant problems with as a worldview. But that’s a topic for another blog.