A few days ago we read this at PhysOrg: Do we live in a computer simulation? Researchers say idea can be tested. It says, with our bold font:
A decade ago, a British philosopher put forth the notion that the universe we live in might in fact be a computer simulation run by our descendants. While that seems far-fetched, perhaps even incomprehensible, a team of physicists at the University of Washington has come up with a potential test to see if the idea holds water.
The concept that current humanity could possibly be living in a computer simulation comes from a 2003 paper published in Philosophical Quarterly by Nick Bostrom, a philosophy professor at the University of Oxford.
He also held that “the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation.”
That seems rather speculative. However, then they discuss the work of Martin Savage:
[Savage, a UW physics professor, said] there are signatures of resource constraints in present-day simulations that are likely to exist as well in simulations in the distant future, including the imprint of an underlying lattice if one is used to model the space-time continuum.
This is not only a bit off topic for us, but we're not sure we can follow Savage's paper. Here it is if you're interested: Constraints on the Universe as a Numerical Simulation. We did briefly speculate about the difference — if any — between “living” in a universe created in some kid’s computer and one that’s created by some kind of deity. Then, because we’re not very good at theology, we shrugged the whole thing off.
However, there’s been a new development. The topic has come to the attention of the Discoveroids. It’s discussed in a new post by David Klinghoffer. He and the Discoveroids are described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page. Klinghoffer’s post is An Acceptable “Intelligent Design”. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us and David’s links omitted:
University of Washington physicists have set out a path to scientifically testing whether the universe is intelligently designed. They’re getting lots of interested, sympathetic attention, in the media and academia, for the plan. They say if the test were to come up positive, it might explain a lot that otherwise, in a more conventional naturalistic framework, seems inexplicable about reality.
Klinghoffer should be delighted, but as we’ll soon see, his reaction isn’t what we expected. Let’s read on:
Scientists can say all these things and get away with it — so long as their own notion of ID holds out the possibility that the world around us is nothing more than an elaborate computer simulation. Sounds like the premise of a creepy science-fiction movie. The designers, in this scheme, would be our distant descendants living in a society far more advanced in its technology than our own.
Klinghoffer doesn’t like the idea. But why not? Evidence of a designed universe is the sort of thing that ought to thrill the Discoveroids — especially since they don’t have any such evidence. He continues:
An intelligently designed universe — what else would you call a computer simulation — is scientifically testable, you say? We’ll keep that in mind.
Yeah, David. Keep that in mind while your blog claims that your “scientists” are churning out research to support your “theory” of intelligent design. Here’s more:
But wait, you have to understand that ID is plausible and testable only where it excludes a designer that overlaps with any theistic conception. The simulators are just humans, albeit possessing a level of technical sophistication greatly exceeding ours.
How disappointing that would be. The designer wouldn’t be supernatural. Then Klinghoffer quotes Discoveroid John West who wrote about Nick Bostrom — the originator of the simulated universe idea. West describes Bostrom as “a leading figure in the spooky Transhumanist movement”:
[West says:] According to Bostrom, the aggressive pursuit of biotechnology is a radical reaction against current convention, “an alternative to customary injunctions against playing God, messing with nature, tampering with our human essence, or displaying punishable hubris.”
Oh, how secular! That’s everything the Discoveroids are fighting against. Nevertheless, if the proposed research shows that the universe is designed, shouldn’t they be happy? Klinghoffer says:
So here you get a general sense of the moral, intellectual and spiritual orientation of a version of “intelligent design” that could meet with contemporary academic acceptance.
We’re confused. Our original reaction to the Bostrom idea and the Savage paper was that the concept was pretty much indistinguishable from a universe created by a deity. But Klinghoffer thinks otherwise and we’re still looking for the reason. He provides it, or he attempts to provide it, in his final paragraph:
It has to begin with premises that exclude theism. There would be no limits placed on the wildness of it speculations, even as theorists and the media assure us it is entirely “plausible.” It would share affinities with a scary sci-fi version of eugenics that dispensed with traditional moral sensitivities. In short, it would be a bit of a nightmare.
Klinghoffer is furious that real scientists are trying to test the idea that this might be an intelligently designed universe. That’s because if their idea works out, the “designer” will turn out to be our descendants, and not Yahweh. That conclusion outrages the Discoveroids, because (despite their nonsense claims to the contrary) they don’t want a rational, scientifically understandable designer at all — they prefer the supernatural.
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