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Is the Universe a computer simulation?

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24 minutes ago, Beth Macbain said:

I believe in science.

As a physical scientist, I do too. Science is in the business of solving puzzles, which is one of the most demanding things you can do with your life (and is great fun too). As far as I am concerned, one big appeal of science is that it generates or uncovers more puzzles than it solves, so it's a never-ending pursuit.  Part of that comes from opening more doors that we never even knew about -- the realization that nature is much more subtle and detailed than it looks at first. Another big part comes from realizing that we keep stumbling over unwarranted assumptions and outright errors -- things that we thought we understood but have to rethink over and over and over again.

Sooner or later, however, any scientist begins to discover that there are some puzzles that can't be solved. Those fall into at least two categories: puzzles that we lack the current knowledge or tools to tackle, and puzzles that have built-in limitations. The first group are tantalizing questions, the kind that keep us reaching for more details and better tools. The second group includes frustrating puzzles that cannot be solved by getting bigger hammers or making more measurements, because they involve statistical uncertainty or entropy. Those are basic principles that prevent us from going backward in time, creating energy out of nothing, and measuring things without disturbing them in some way. The best we will ever be able to say is that we think we know what's going on.

And then there are puzzles that we can't hope to address scientifically -- the huge class of puzzles that involve finding some sense in the universe, the big "why are things the way they are?" questions. They can't be answered because they involve a leap of faith at some point, not just making more measurements. You may believe in God or the Cosmic Muffin, or in nothing at all, but as a scientist the best you can do is stand back, admire the universe that we have, and play the ball where it lies.  Forget about wondering why it's all here.  Just be glad that it is.

So yes, I too believe in science, but I don't for a moment think that science will be able to solve all of the lovely puzzles out there.

And then a miracle occurs. | For everyone who's been frustra… | Flickr

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1 hour ago, Beth Macbain said:

I believe in science.

This is an interesting statement, Beth. It's one that gets the religious to claim we're no different than they are, it's all "belief". They have theirs, we have ours.

I don't quite see it that way, though. The Scientific Method is probably our greatest invention, but it's not so much a belief system as a "verify" system. We propose theories and see if they can survive the onslaught of experimental evidence. Sometimes we get the theory wrong. Sometimes we get the measurement wrong. Sometimes we get both wrong. Progress is not perfect and blind faith in any corner of science is problematic. I try to maintain a critical eye, even on the things I think I understand well. If I have doubts about myself, my hubris demands I have doubts about everything.

The beauty of science is that it invites criticism and it understands its limits. It knows to stay away from Rolig's "why" questions...

 

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   Now I'm going to be hunting down all the Feynman videos I can find.

   I can't make myself believe in things. I either believe something, believe in something, or I don't. I don't know much, but, I can't believe that everything we see came into being spontaneously. I can't believe it all evolved by chance. I can think about the argument "Well, in all the universe, it had to happen somewhere. So it happened here. That we're a part of it is simply concomitant." But it doesn't work, not for me.

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21 hours ago, rasterscan said:

Is the Universe a computer simulation?

Yes, and it needs more RAM.

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11 hours ago, KT Kingsley said:

...I do think, however, the more accessible/interesting/relevant/immediate question is, "Is the universe digital?", whether it's "real" or just a simulation.

It is.  That's what quantum mechanics is all about.

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2 hours ago, Madelaine McMasters said:

Progress is not perfect and blind faith in any corner of science is problematic. I try to maintain a critical eye, even on the things I think I understand well. If I have doubts about myself, my hubris demands I have doubts about everything.

That's an excellent statement, Maddy.  You and I share an understanding of the strengths and the limits of science and, in particular, the importance of skepticism. We do not prove things to be true as much as peel back layers of "untruth" to get a better understanding of the puzzle we are trying to solve.  In a real sense, we are urged forward by our doubts, even more than by our curiosity.

Where I think you and I may disagree -- although I am not sure -- is that I think the same is true of religion. On the surface, religion appears to demand that we believe in order to understand. The history of religious thought, not only in Christianity but across religions, shows otherwise. Almost any of the people whom we identify as pivotal figures in religious philosophy shaped their understanding through doubt, through questioning prevailing ideas and dealing with their own skepticism. One of my favorite books -- a "go to" volume that I reread every few years -- is Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha, which is a powerful story of a faith journey filled with doubt and the revelations that it provokes. I recommend it as an example of the way that someone on the religious side of the fence grows through skepticism, much as we do as scientists.  I also recommend a fat volume called Doubt, written by Jennifer Michael Hecht and published in 2003, which is a survey of great doubters from Socrates and Jesus through Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson, all of whom stretched contemporary religious thought by being skeptical. In doing that, they not only came closer to answering personal questions but contributed to the broader shape of religious thought.

Blind faith is an anathema to science, and to religion. They approach different sorts of puzzles and are dramatically different in their methods, but both suffer without healthy doubt.

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, Ivanova Shostakovich said:

   Now I'm going to be hunting down all the Feynman videos I can find.

   I can't make myself believe in things. I either believe something, believe in something, or I don't. I don't know much, but, I can't believe that everything we see came into being spontaneously. I can't believe it all evolved by chance. I can think about the argument "Well, in all the universe, it had to happen somewhere. So it happened here. That we're a part of it is simply concomitant." But it doesn't work, not for me.

You might look into Emergence theory

Edited by Shansi Kenin
Grammer
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23 minutes ago, Rolig Loon said:

On the surface, religion appears to demand that we believe in order to understand. The history of religious thought, not only in Christianity but across religions, shows otherwise. Almost any of the people whom we identify as pivotal figures in religious philosophy shaped their understanding through doubt, through questioning prevailing ideas and dealing with their own skepticism.

Yes, very much this.

The difference between "blind faith" and real faith, is that illusion of certainly possessed by those who adhere to the former.

Blind faith is really just ignorance or intellectual laziness. True faith is a virtue precisely because there are no guarantees and no certainty; it is predicated upon, not merely a lack of knowledge, but an awareness that one does not and can not know.

Without that awareness, there is no free will involved, no sense of choice, and hence no "giving" of oneself -- because without it, you are simply taking the deity for granted. Scepticism isn't just present in faith -- it's an actual precondition for it.

One of my favourite bits from the poems of the brilliant Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (who became a Jesuit priest) is from his "Carrion Comfort," in which he wrestles with his own scepticism and despair in sort of dark night of the soul, and suddenly realizes that "That night, that year / Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God." That "wrestling" with God was intrinsic to his sense of spirituality -- it is what made it live.

(I say all this acutely and self-consciously aware that, as an agnostic, I myself seem to be incapable of this kind of faith. But I admire it nonetheless.)

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1 hour ago, Lyssa Greymoon said:

What is chance?

a thing about the word chance is that it is not a technical term. It is a common/place usage term, which people intuitively apply a meaning to in conversation. Intuitiveness born of historical usage in every day conversation

words like sick and fine, etc also fall in to this common usage category. When we use them in conversation then we understand what is meant in the context of the conversation

when we use words like chance, sick or fine, whether we realise it or not, we are referring to a process. A process of which we are uncertain. Even tho we often express it as a consequence/outcome in our conversations

like: I am fine.  How so?  Dunno I just am

it is not until we get into technical words like randomness, predictability, uncertainty, haphazardness, propensity, etc that we can be more certain of the process commonly referred to as chance

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, Pussycat Catnap said:

Among all the reasons Atheists come up with to explain their dogmatic faith in the belief of an absence of divinity I've always found this one to be the top of the stupid pile.

It just dodges the question.

"The universe was made up by some geeks in a lab".

Ok... who made those geeks? What is their universe?

Sooner or later you hit the first universe - and you have to finally answer that question you've been dodging...

The Simulation Hypothesis doesn't even try to answer the question "what started it all" or even "is there a god?" That's not the point, it's not about religion but technology and knowledge.

During the whole talk, nobody's making the point that if our universe is a simulation, that's the beginning of it all like some Big Bang 2.0 or that the simulations would be infinitely recursive. In fact nobody focuses on how this would relate to a god (barely mentioned) and nobody even hints that it could explain anything about "the beginning."

Whether or not our universe is a simulation changes nothing about whatever beliefs you have about "the creator" or "the beginning."

Edited by Wulfie Reanimator

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Posted (edited)

I'm told Elon Musk believes this (Universe is a simulation).  For me that's good enough.  Anyone who believes they can land a rocket booster on it's ass on a floating platform in the Atlantic....

... and then do it (time after time), has to be on to  something.

I don't believe in Electric Cars though, they all have tiny diesels inside somewhere.

Edited by anna2358
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I spoke with Schrodinger's cat.  She said she's not coming out of her box until we know if we're real or a simulation.

d90.jpeg&f=1&nofb=1

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All that matters is an open mind. Open to doubt, open to challenge, open to debate.

A couple of my friends are flat earthers. 

In that period of history they would have been absolutely certain the earth was flat. Now they are certain there is no god. No supernatural occurrences. Nothing beyond their reality.

Whatever you believe, a closed mind isn't helpful.

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

Yes, very much this.

The difference between "blind faith" and real faith, is that illusion of certainly possessed by those who adhere to the former.

Blind faith is really just ignorance or intellectual laziness. True faith is a virtue precisely because there are no guarantees and no certainty; it is predicated upon, not merely a lack of knowledge, but an awareness that one does not and can not know.

Without that awareness, there is no free will involved, no sense of choice, and hence no "giving" of oneself -- because without it, you are simply taking the deity for granted. Scepticism isn't just present in faith -- it's an actual precondition for it.

One of my favourite bits from the poems of the brilliant Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (who became a Jesuit priest) is from his "Carrion Comfort," in which he wrestles with his own scepticism and despair in sort of dark night of the soul, and suddenly realizes that "That night, that year / Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God." That "wrestling" with God was intrinsic to his sense of spirituality -- it is what made it live.

(I say all this acutely and self-consciously aware that, as an agnostic, I myself seem to be incapable of this kind of faith. But I admire it nonetheless.)

Well said, Scylla!

I credit Kierkegaard with teaching me this: the one free choice we can make is whether to believe In  God or not — because when we make choices about what to believe  based on, say, logic or scientific evidence, our belief is compelled: eg we are not free to not believe in gravity. We are not free to not believe 2 + 2 = 4.  We have to believe these things, we can’t choose not to. 
 

But there is no proof God exists or doesn’t exist. There is evidence on both sides but no proof. We are in fact free to choose, and we remain free to choose — because doubt is always present.
 

There is no faith without doubt.

Edited by Pamela Galli
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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, Arduenn Schwartzman said:

Is the universe a simulation, or isn't it?

Yes it's a simulation of a natural occurrence

 

Edited by Shansi Kenin
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2 hours ago, Beth Macbain said:

Am I close-minded because I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny, either?

Beth, you're a pretty liberal person: it's something I admire and like about you.

You fairly routinely chastise people for "kink shaming" . . . but you don't seem to be willing to apply the same principles to the deeply-held beliefs of literally billions of people around the world.

Believe what you believe -- that is your right. And, by all means, criticize, as I do, those who misuse religion as a club with which to oppress others.

But a facetious and mocking dismissal of theological systems that have developed over thousand of years with the aid of some of the greatest minds that humanity has produced seems to me unfair and maybe even arrogant?

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Beth Macbain said:

Am I close-minded because I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny, either?

No, because you don’t have a choice whether to believe in the EB or not. 

Believing in God is a completely free choice. You can choose to believe or disbelieve because there is no train of logic or proof compelling belief one way or the other.  Either way is an act of faith.

ETA You don’t have a choice whether to believe in the FSM either.

Edited by Pamela Galli
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4 minutes ago, Pamela Galli said:

No, because you don’t have a choice whether to believe in the EB or not.

Why not?

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1 minute ago, Lyssa Greymoon said:

Why not?

You presumably don’t believe, so you can answer why not as well as anyone.

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Oh the drama.  The irony and the tears!  Who's god is the real god and can no god be the real god?  Will we find out in this war since Abraham's kids had different opinions or will it end in yet another locked thread.  We'll find out in just a few moments.

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3 minutes ago, Pamela Galli said:

You presumably don’t believe, so you can answer why not as well as anyone.

I think that would come down to standards of evidence. Why is belief in God, or let's be generous, any god, a choice and not subject to the same standards?

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