Is Our World a Simulation?

Quantum Mechanics with its non-intuitive claims has the potential to get us into a lot of trouble and it seems it already has. I was sent the above video by two people and asked to comment on it, so that’s what I’ll do. I’ll begin with a summary of the video, but first, a disclaimer.

The video uses information from three different fields – physics, philosophy, and computer science. I consider myself fairly competent at all three, but my physics only goes as far as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. So, wherever I disagree on a physics issue with your physics professor, your professor is probably right. If your professor starts going into philosophy (even if it’s philosophy of physics) you’ll have to be the judge. The video gets quite technical although the narrator does his best to break down the issue for us laypeople. I’ll only discuss what I understand.

Secondly, I’m a quantum mechanics skeptic. I believe that whatever experimental results we have on the issue are real, but the interpretations are suspect. If they weren’t suspect, they would make sense. For that reason, I never accept any conclusions that rely on quantum mechanics. I don’t believe things that don’t make sense because scientists say they’re true. When they get the field to make sense, I’ll start listening to them. And this argument relies a lot on quantum mechanics.

So let’s get on with it.

The video is divided into two parts. The first part argues that our world is functionally equivalent to a computer simulation (like The Sims). The second part argues that the simulator/programmer, is a being we can call God. The argument is more or less sound. If our world is a computer simulation, God would be the most sensible explanation. It also has a lot of potential. It’s power comes from the fact that it independently arrives on the idea of a creator and sustainer of the universe without going through any process that I am already familiar with. Despite all this however, the video fails on two counts. It fails, firstly, to establish that our world is a computer simulation and secondly, that it is a computer simulation of the kind that would suggest the existence of the Christian God.

The argument is based on a paper by a college professor Brian Whitworth. He argues that our world is more likely a virtual reality than an objective one. A virtual reality in this case is a reality which depends on information processing outside of that reality. In the same way that the world in a video game only exists because of the processing carried out by the gaming console. An objective reality, on the other hand, does not require a gaming console to control it. It just exists.

God as Creator and Sustainer of the Universe

The first argument comes from the Big Bang. How can a world come from nothing? Despite atheism would require, the Big Bang does imply a beginning of the universe. According to the video, this makes no sense if our reality is objective, but makes perfect sense if it is virtual. From the perspective of characters in your video game, their universe starts from nothing when you load the game. It does not exist before the game begins.

That’s a good explanation as explanations go, but Whitworth’s naturalistic bias is showing. If our reality consists only of everything that came from the big bang, then it would seem that our reality had a beginning. But we human beings are also spiritual beings and so our reality has a spiritual component that did not start with the big bang. Most importantly, God is a part of our reality and he exists eternally. In order for our reality to start from nothing like our video games, God would have to come into existence as well. God is an explanation for our universe coming into being from nothing and this explanation allows our reality to be objective.

The second argument is based on the idea that our universe is made up of tiny individual units – just like a computer image is made up of tiny pixels. So, our universe is like a a computer simulation in that one way. Big deal. The Sims is like our universe in that the characters can take jobs and have children. It’s hardly evidence that our reality is virtual.

The third argument is the one that must absolutely go in the trash. Our universe has a maximum speed (the speed of light) it says, just like computer simulations must have maximums. But the reason computer simulations have limits is that computers have limits. God, our proposed simulator in this scenario can hardly be limited. A speed limit in our universe might be evidence that it is being simulated on a computer, but not if that computer has God’s abilities.

The fourth argument sadly went over my head. It was something about the “Holographic Principle”. All I heard was “the real world is a kind of illusion” and ignoring this evidence would make it impossible to “rectify relativity and quantum mechanics”. our world as an illusion is a different from our world as a simulation. If our world is an illusion, we are real, but the world is not. If our world is a simulation, we are a simulation too. And I don’t care about rectifying quantum mechanics and anything. I think we should put it on the back burner until it makes more sense.

The fifth and final argument in the video has to do with locality. If our world is objective, things would only be able  to interact if they are right next to each other. But that is not true in a video game. two things don’t have to be next to each other on the computer screen in order to interact. They only have to be close to each other as far as the computer’s processor is concerned.

According to quantum mechanics, however, two particles of matter can interact over long distances. This makes sense if our reality is virtual, but not otherwise. I think there’s probably a long string that we can’t see connecting both particles, but we already established that I know too little about physics of this kind.

I’m tired so I’m going to stop here. In conclusion: God can be considered the creator and sustainer of our universe if we are a simulation produced by his mind (like a dream in the human mind, or a game on your Xbox) but the there isn’t enough given in the video to think this is the case. Brian Whitworth might have more in his paper.


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I’m Tracy

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