Virtual Theology

As a science fiction fan, I’m less interested in the question “Does God Exist?”, than in the more speculative question “If God existed, what would he/she be like?”

The best attempt that anyone has ever done at answering this question was in Olaf Stapleton’s Star Maker (1937), which tells the story of a galactic civilization and its search to achieve contact with the creator. It describes a being whose primary characteristic is creativity, a being that has undergone an artistic evolution through the creation of many universes, of which ours is neither the first or the last.

However, I was thinking along somewhat different lines. The idea that we’re actually inside a computer simulation is a pretty old one. There’s an anthropic argument that says if simulating a universe is possible, then chances are we are in a simulation, since the simulation would likely be run many times.

Its also interesting to think that the person running the simulation might not be omniescent or infinitely smart – in fact, they might not even be as smart as we are. At least, one could make the argument that the whole reason for them running the simulation is to find the answer to some problem that they themselves aren’t capable of figuring out by themselves.

If scientists were to uncover evidence that this universe is inside a virtual machine, what consequences would that have? Would we owe any duty to the people responsible for creating the simulation? Would they owe any duty to us? How could we convince them to continue to spend resources running it?

One bit of evidence that points against the idea that we’re in a simulation is the fact that the universe is far larger than it needs to be to host a civilization such as ours. The only possible counter-arguments that I can think of are (a) the rest of the universe is being simulated at a lower resolution, (b) we will eventually use that extra space for something, or (c) that there are other civilizations out there that are already using it.

4 Responses to “Virtual Theology”

  1. Iridium Says:


    Your counter-arguments are intriguing to say the very least. The lower resolution argument is something that parallels a long standing discussion I’ve have going with a good friend. One in which me toss about theories regarding the actually physical construct of the universe. I shall definitely bring your counter-argument to the table if you don’t mind. As far as the second of your fine counter-arguments I have to say without a more in depth understanding of the universe beyond the three dimensions we can substantiate I think that possibility is in a future far far away. Yes! I did say three dimensions. As in my personal opinion time is not a universal constant, due to it’s highly subjective malleability. I tend to shun the concept of time as the fourth dimension. In deference to your third counter-argument I must say this seems to me to be the argument with the highest degree of probability. Once we can make the leap beyond the third dimension barrier we seem to be so fettered with I think we will discover a great many others are already using that space.

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