Rationally speaking, is a presentation of New York City skeptics dedicated to promoting critical thinking, skeptical inquiry and science education. For more information, please visit us at NYC Skeptic's Doug. Welcome to, rationally speaking, the podcast, where we explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, I am your host, my Somerfield, and with me, as always, is my co-host, Julia Gillard. Julia, what are we going to do today?
Well, we are live at the 2012. Give it up for four years with some skepticism. So before we get started today, I'd like to introduce our special guest. Please welcome Kyle Johnson. Come on up. Kyle is a professor of philosophy at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He's also the host of his own podcast at Philosophy and Pop Culture, Dotcom, and also writes the blog Plato on Pop Psychology Today. Thanks so much for joining us.
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. So go ahead.
All right. So I jumped the gun a little bit when I said that we were live at Nexxus because, in fact, that is the question up for debate today. Are we, in fact, live at Nexxus or is this conference and indeed the entire universe part of a computer simulation? Kyle has recently published a paper in the journal Thilo about this question on the simulation hypothesis and some intriguing implications that it has for theology. Now, I know what many of you in the audience must be thinking at this point, so I'm just going to come right out and say it.
No, you don't get a refund on your ticket price if it turns out that this conference isn't real. I'm sorry.
Exactly. Also because the money turned out to be money asters. Yes, it's real stuff. So we're really excited about this. This topic come out soon. So but interesting way, right before getting in touch with Kyle, I was teaching a class at CUNY this semester, which is on science fiction and philosophy, using science fiction movies and literature to introduce students to topic and philosophy. Sure enough, we watched The Matrix, of course, and and we ran a couple of interesting papers, one by a philosopher named Nick Bostrom, which we will talk about today a little bit.
And then I one by David Chalmers, another well-known philosopher of mind. And my students, I noticed, gotten unusually excited about the topic until I pointed out toward the end of our discussion that, in fact, there was really not much difference between the idea that we live in a matrix type simulation stuff and the idea that there has been a God who intelligently designed the universe. What's the difference? It's computer parameters on one hand or laws of nature and the other.
At that point, all the job growth and with the full weight. So does that mean that I have to believe in the Matrix? Got whatever they got. Kyle has been very nice. He has written four essays for the rationally speaking blog, prepared and introduced the topic. You might want to check them out very well. And they generated, predictably, a very good amount of in-depth discussion. So there's quite a bit to talk about today. Why don't we start by you telling us what the heck is this simulation of what is right?
Good. OK, and so it's important to first start off to make a distinction. The simulation hypothesis is different than the simulation argument, although they're obviously related. So first, let me talk about what the simulation hypothesis is and then what the simulation argument is. All right. So the simulation hypothesis is so, you know, we got a smart crowd. You probably know some of this, but let me do just a little bit of review. You all know that you have brains, right and right.
Right. So what we we assume there's some really good evidence that you all have brains. Right. And and we know that mental activity is dependent upon brain activity. Right. And roughly put, we know that minds are a result of the kind of activity that goes on in one's brain. Right. And if that activity is gone, of course, those mental capacities are gone in that kind of stuff. Right?
Well, philosophers of mind often conclude it was a very common theory and philosophy of mind. Is that the reason that our brain produces activities because of its complexity? Right. Roughly put because the neurons are kind of wired and firing the way that they do. That's what gives rise to our minds. Right. And it's suppose that because that's what gives rise to our mind. Anything that replicated that activity would also be minded. And so this is where you get, you know, discussions about artificial intelligence.
Right. If I could build a computer that was sufficiently complicated, that replicated the kinds of things that that our brains do, then it who would be minded. Right. And so you don't have to have that. You can you can think of like a data or data on Star Trek would be like a what would be an android. He would be his positronic brain would be something like that, a something that functions like our minds do. But you don't have to have a body in order.
In order to do this, you could create an artificial, like simulated brain just on a computer hard drive. You could just get a computer hard drive, arrange it, program it such that it is replicating what our brains do. And because it is replicating what our brains do, it would be minded and you could create a whole world for that being to exist in. Right. We see, you know, a tree before us. We see that tree because, you know, photons bounce off of it, stimulate our optical nerve and that nerve sends electrical signal.
To our brain that our brain that interprets it fires its end in this experience of a tree comes along right. And so if you wanted your simulated person to see a tree, you could just send it the right kind of signals in the program and it would see a tree and sense what its brain would be doing would be identical to what your brain does when you see a tree. It would have an experience of a tree. And in fact, it would think that tree is physical.
Right, because its brains are doing just what your brain does when your brain does that, you think the tree is physical. And so it would think that tree is physical as well. And so, of course, you wouldn't just stop at trees. You could create a whole variety of information that you could say in that brain. And it would. But you don't have to just do one. You could do multiple brains. You could have a whole bunch of brains where you would plug into this simulation.
Right now, this is all contingent upon we eventually get the kind of computing technology that would allow us to do this. But presuming that at some point in the future, maybe not in twenty fifty or whatever like this, sometimes projected, but sometime in the vast future, if this ever occurs, we could create one of these simulated worlds that's full of simulated people, all interacting with the simulated environment that they think is a physical reality. But is it?
And so that would be a simulated world, the simulation hypothesis. Is that that's that's exactly what this is. Now, wait a minute, however. So, first of all, that doesn't sound like the Matrix is more like a holodeck on Star Trek. A bit more like a holiday. Right? Right. Just to get our science straight, because in the Matrix, the brains are actually the physical bodies and brains are actually out there and they think they're in a particular in the holodeck.
On the other hand, the simulated characters really think that that's their universe and they are entirely simulated. Yeah, right. Right. So, yeah, it's more like it's not like Captain Picard using the holiday because it's a real physical being. Right. It would be more like Moriarity. Right. So great. You know, a couple of great classic Star Trek TNG episodes where, you know, Geordi La Forge, once an adversary capable of defeating data.
And so the computer thinks that in order to beat data, it's got to be a conscious thing. And so it creates Moriarity as as as his antithesis, whatever date is playing Sherlock Holmes. And it becomes a real conscious being. But he's it's all just on the computer hard drive that's running this. And he just kind of has a physical appearance in the you know, in the in the holodeck. And there's a later episode where they come back.
And Moriarty's has been kind of living in the program and they want him to survive, but they don't. Do they actually create this little cube? Right. And it's just this little supercomputer and it contains a whole world. And they put Moriarty's program into the cube and it has its own special little power source. And then he gets to live out his entire existence in that world. Right. So you need to go and check out those episodes of Star Wars and Star Trek.
Yes, I forget what they're called, what they're called. It'll take him a minute to figure it out. So why why should we think that it's plausible that this is actually a simulator? OK, OK, so so that's the simulation. So the simulation hypothesis is that this is what this world is, is a computer simulation. Right? That doesn't mean that it's true. Nick Bostrom has got a great argument called the simulation argument. Now, to be very clear, Nick Bostrom is not arguing that we actually are all living in a simulation.
What Nick Bostrom is arguing is roughly put. It's more likely than you think that we're living in a simulation, since most of us think that it's not likely at all. I don't think it's likely at all. By Nick Bostrom as a philosopher at Oxford. Sorry about that. So he's a very good philosopher of Oxford and he did not appear on Star Trek and he was never on Star Trek as far as I actually I didn't get an email from him yesterday.
I sent him my paper and said, oh, by the way, I've got this if you'd like to put it on.
And he's got a whole if you're interested in this, he's got a whole Web page dedicated to the simulation argument, repost his original paper, popular versions of it, responses and stuff that's been and my paper will now be on there. So that's kind of cool. But the argument goes like this. So, again, he doesn't say that it's true, but he says it's more likely than you might think. So a lot of people want to equate the simulation argument, a simulation hypothesis, as something like the matrix of the brain in a VAT hypothesis, the inception.
We're all stuck in a dream hypothesis. It's like, well, yeah, sure it's possible, but it's really just kind of merely unfalsifiable. There's no way that you could prove it false, but there's no actually good reason for thinking it's true. So it would be in that sense, it would be what philosophers of mind sometimes referred to as a skeptical hypothesis. Right. Right. And so it's not merely a skeptical hypothesis. That's his argument that there is a difference between the simulation hypothesis and the mere skepticism.
The skepticism over the basic skepticism of that of that sort is that you cannot really prove that you are in a physical living in a physical world or anything like that. If, for instance, I had to ask you, how would you prove to me that I live in a physical universe and I'm not in somebody else's imagination or figment of imagination, then typically somebody would get up on the stage and stop me in the face thinking that that's going to do it.
Don't first of all. First of all, because I would react and punch you in the nose. And second of all, because that wouldn't do the trick. Right. Because the idea is that if I am in fact entirely in somebody else's imagination, there's no reason to think that that imagination wouldn't include the feeling of pain. And so there's nothing you can do essentially to prove to me that I am a physical body. And which is why it's referred to as a skeptic about this.
But this one is if you are even to give you evidence about whether it's more or less likely that you are likely to have a physical. Right. Yeah, so it's a possibility, but it has nothing to do about it. It started in this case, according to Boston. It's different. Right, right. Good. Good. This is this is shameless. But I should like another version of the hypothesis that we're all stuck in a dream.
Everyone remembers Inception when we talk about that. And I actually have a book and it's on Inception and Philosophy. If anyone's interested in that, you know, you can check your movie first and then check the movie first and read the book. But see what Bostrom argues is not merely that. It's just not it's not just a skeptical hypothesis, not just merely unfalsifiable. There's actually a decent chance that it's true. He actually puts a number on it.
Twenty percent, that's more kind of a twenty percent likely that we're all living in a simulation which is probably higher than you expected. Right. And how we get that number, it's a bit subjective, actually have a way of getting to that number specifically. Let me let me tell you how the argument goes. All right. So there goes something like this. If one day, let's imagine one day that you know how far in the future you like or whatever we become what he calls posthuman, we get the kind of technological ability to create a simulated world of our own.
Right. So it would be like, you know, we were able to actually create a super Sims game, right. Where, you know, you could this whole world and you plug in all these these individuals into it and all the individuals that are in The Sims game, their brains running on this computer are just as complicated as ours. They run just like ours. Right. And so we create the super Sims game. And there are a number of reasons for running what you might call these ancestor simulations.
Like scientists would love them like you could. You could and historians would love him. You could find out what would have happened had Hitler won World War Two. Right. You could create a little simulated world in which he knows about the D-Day invasion in advance and then see how it plays out. You could figure out what would happen. I think they could be very useful for ending political discussions. Right. Well, if we pass this legislation, horrible things will happen.
Let's put it the simulation and see what happens.
Or you can waste a lot of time playing or you don't need to do it anymore.
We have your explanation. Yeah, I mean, you would want to do this, right?
And you can. So there's the cool Sims game, right. If you could do try to be it would be so much fun right now. Before you go to let me let me point out one thing that this does sound, of course, like a combination of science fiction and science philosophy for whatever.
But in fact, neuroscientists are discussing as as of these days, this is these last few weeks, the possibility of funding a large project to do something along those lines are much, much more restrictive version of it that is simulating every single neuron in neural connection in a single human brain. Now, just to give you an idea, I think that's the estimated cost for that is into the several billions of dollars. So we're not talking about something that you'd be able to buy for your Mac and iPad.
Right. But so people are actually thinking and doing at least that would essentially be the first step to write something like this. And we already know that we've there's already been stuff where we have, you know, seemingly at least minimal parts of the brain have been working on simulating what our vision centers do or the neurons that are in their eyes and what they do. And that kind of they don't any kind of progress in there. So it's not completely science fiction that this could be possible.
But of course, we haven't we haven't done it yet. So but if we ever do if we ever get there right. For one, it won't be something that we do just once. Right. Just like you can say, just like the iPhone is not something that we would you just. Oh, look, an iPhone, that's pretty cool. We'll stop there, right? No, everyone's got one. Right. And so and it's still expensive and they're still expensive.
Right. But they will come down. Right. They'll be they'll be less expensive as time goes on. Right. And so the idea is that once we get them, once we realize that we have the ability to do this, we won't stop with just one. There'll be multiple simulations and multiple simulations and multiple simulations. And they'll be they'll be everywhere. They'll be games that scientists will use them, historians will use them. There's all kinds of stuff that you could do with these simulations.
Now, if we do that, if one day we do that, we will have put ourselves in a very precarious epistemic situation. And so when we start talking about, well, given this kind of information that we have now, we know that simulations are possible. What should we conclude about what kind of world that we live in? Right. Well, ultimately, there's kind of two possibly like the physical world that exists could be one of two ways.
Either the physical world that does exist is one in which simulations never occur, simulations never happen, or the physical universe that exists is one in which there are millions of simulations. And it's like as millions of iPhones. Right. So it's either Nunn or millions. There's not really much much in between. There'll be a lot of them anyway. Right. But once we create a simulation, we'll know that this is not the physical universe that exists. The physical universe that exists is not one with no simulations because we've got one.
So it's not that the physical universe it exists is one which one physical universe and millions of simulated universes. But now that we know that, we ask ourselves, what kind of universe do we live in? There's no way to tell from the inside, right, a simulated universe looks like a physical universe from the inside, so there's no way to tell from the inside what it looks like. The only thing we really have to go off of to figure out whether or not we are in a simulation are the odds, what are the odds that our universe is a simulated universe or one of our odds that it's the physical universe?
Well, the odds that we're in a simulation are that we're not in the simulation excuse me, are a million to one because there's millions of simulations and only one real physical world. And so if we do ever create a simulation, we will have almost nearly almost proved that we actually are in a simulation because we have a somewhat paradoxical.
So let me get this straight. Let me get this straight. So the idea is that if we're live in a city where the iPhone has not been invented, the probability of finding an iPhone is zero. Mm hmm.
But you're saying once the iPhone has been invented and it is the cool thing that it is and everybody wants it, then the chances that we find iPhones in this room are actually pretty high, let's say 20 percent. Right. Right. So we're being very unlikely. If we didn't, we couldn't we couldn't get an iPhone, right? Well, you know, it's as simple as like, you know, if you're if you're pulling a, you know, a bunch of balls from an urn, there's a thousand balls in the urn.
And you know that one of them is red. The rest of them are blue. But you're blindfolded and you reach in and you pull one out, but you don't know what color it is. All the information I have to go on is odds. So what am I what should I conclude about the color but the color. My ball. It's blue. Right. It could be red. I could have got lucky. And Ben got it. But most of them are blue.
And so I probably now I should like to point out and I don't think we need this to go too far in that direction. But just as a as a footnote to this discussion, it was a caveat. Today's discussion is that throughout today's podcast, we're going to actually assume essentially one philosophy of mind is called a computational theory of mind or something like that. Right. So the idea that the mind really does work like a computer. The analogy often is that the mind is the software, the brain is the hardware or something like that.
The important idea is this, first of all, that mining is essentially about symbol manipulation that that we are seeing. The minds are symbolic processors of information. If they are, then they are analogous to computers, which are also symbolic processing information. And that means that that processing of information is independent of the substrate, which means you can do it on a brain, you can do it in a computer, you can do it in whatever right we should.
As I said, I don't think we need to go too far in the direction because I want to get to the problem of evil at some point. But we should point out that there is a minority of respectable philosophers in mind who actually disagree that the competition of of money is correct, or at least it's entirely correct. Nobody disagrees that there are computational aspects to finding. And the most prominent of them is John, are perhaps one of the most prominent and several pointed out that, look, you're confusing, not you people here are confusing, simulating something with the actual thing.
Know, and he's one of these analogies, analogies in biology. We just heard earlier this morning a Nexus piece is talking about what he likes and about biology most about what is important right now with octopus, whatever. So Cheryl pointed out that, look, there is there is imagine another if we were talking about another biological process, let's say photosynthesis, which is, of course, what plants do in order to produce energy for their cellular metabolism. Well, we can we can simulate the process of photosynthesis, reaction, chemical reaction by chemical reaction.
We know exactly how it works and we can actually simulate the quantum aspects of photosynthesis, pretty detailed stuff, and that would work very fine.
And the simulated plant would behave exactly like a real plant with only one difference. You don't get sugar at the end, right? Because it's a biological process. The real thing, the simulation is only simulating the biological process. You don't get the actual outcome. So there is a possibility, I think we should bracket that out. I just wanted to make sure that we don't give the impression that this is entirely uncontroversial. Right. Right, right. Yeah, yeah.
And I'm not convinced. I mean, I think it is wrong. I don't like like the Chinese rim example, you know, that kind of stuff. I think he's wrong about that. I've always I've often wondered if you could just figure that into the probabilities. Right. Like if if if it's 20 percent likely that we're in a simulation, assuming strong, I'm assuming the computational, you know, a theory of mind and artificial strong artificial intelligence.
Right. If you assuming the best traits, 20 percent likely will then say, well, what are the possibilities that that's false? Well, maybe it's 50 50 that that's false. And that just brings it down to 10 percent. But it's still more likely than you and you think. I've always wondered that. What could we have that conversation some other time? OK, I'm not sure I'd have thought a lot about that. I'm not sure how that would work now and put probabilities on each step of the simulation argument.
Right. Like the probability that a civilization will last long enough to. Without blowing himself up last long enough to develop the kind of advanced technology necessary to create these simulations, and then if it does progress to that point, what's the probability that that civilization will actually once, you know, we'll we'll be interested in putting their time into developing the simulations? Right. So that's how we get the specific 20 percent number, something like that. The 20 percent falls out of rough estimates of these probabilities.
And you can assign your own probabilities to the steps of the argument and see what you know. But your resulting probability is that you should believe we're in a simulation. Right. But I have a question that I've been wanting to ask. But instead, we'll I'll ask you, how important is it to the argument that these are ancestress simulations? These are simulations of, you know, of a world very much like ours or our past? Why it doesn't actually seem at all self evident to me that a civilization with the technology to simulate worlds would simulate worlds very much like their own.
Right. Right. Yeah, there was something very different. But the argument might work anyway. Yeah, I think so. I think it does. Right. So again, to be clear, the way that you get to the kind of percentage no.
Right. Is by suggesting, look, if we do create a simulation, then it's almost certain that we are in a simulation. And so how likely you think we are in a simulation is directly proportional to how likely you think it is that we will create a simulation? If you think it's really likely that we will, then you got to think it's really likely that we're in one. If you don't think it's very likely that we will die and you don't think it's very likely that we're in one.
Right. And so it depends on how likely you think these different, you know, these different things are, whether you blow yourself up or whether we lose interest in doing it or whatever. Right.
But that's all that's all also premised on the idea that that the experience of being in the simulation is indistinguishable from the perspective of that entity, from the experience of being in the real world. Right. And that's why you have to rely on odds because you have no other way, because you have no other way of telling us what it is that you actually plausible that it would be.
What presumably would it be?
Again, it would be the kind of thing that's unfalsifiable. It might be able to be proven true. Right. Like if we're all walking around, then all of us all simultaneously get this big message in our visual field that says you are living in a simulation. Click here to learn more. Right.
That's that's actually if that happened, the first thing I would go is to go to my psychiatrist and check your account.
Anonymous. I feel like this sort of thing they're progressing towards the future will be doing OK, but I never get the answer right. Yeah, so. So but but it could be I mean, he actually kind of deals with this and some of like on his on his website and stuff like could it be aliens. Right. That did it instead of beings like us and a certain kind of way it can't be aliens because whoever is hosting us is like that's our home planet.
And so they're not like they're on our home planet. Right. But they could be beings very much unlike us. Right. Maybe even beings that are on another planet, our simulation or something like that. And. Yeah, and that's that's that's possible. And it doesn't really affect the argument that much. I just means that a different kind of being with different kinds of motivations are creating the simulation. So instead of studying their own history, they're wondering what other beings would be like or how other beings would develop or they you know, they have other kinds of beings in their games.
So that sometimes that was video games with absolute things that don't look very much like us. Yeah, like I mean, like, you know, I was going to say Starcraft. Starcraft is at least the human race in it, but it's got, you know, the the zerg and the protons. Right. It's got. Sorry, I'm finding myself out nerd. And this is very. Wow. That is a great I'm very proud. I don't think that I don't think that has ever happened before.
OK, let me let me point out a couple of other things again, on the sort of somewhat the skeptical side of this argument. That is two important variables here, from what I understand, are the probability of a technological civilization actually surviving long enough to essentially engage in this kind of things. And, of course, the idea that these civilization is know has a want to want it to want to do these kinds of things. Now, those it strikes me as similar to some of the assumptions that go into, for instance, the Sady project, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, which is fine science as far as it goes.
I mean, we haven't found any. But again, this is the kind of thing that could be settled tomorrow if if we find and find a signal or never if we never find find one. Now, one of the typical objections to the to the the soundness of the city project is, in fact, based on a critical assessment of century. Those two assumptions. The first is so, you know, on what basis do we come up with a number even approximate that tells us how long this a technological civilization is going to survive?
We have a sample size of zero there, not even one because we are a technological civilization. But so far we have survived. But we have to wait until our end to say, do I have at least an equal one? And hopefully that's not going to happen anytime soon. So that may not be settled. So in other words, we have a number about which we really don't have any sensible way to. In an estimate, we only thing we can do is to put a minimum estimate and what we survived at least one hundred years, two hundred years, whatever, however you want to define technological, by the way.
The second point is that, OK, so these beings have the curiosity of or the they want to waste their time in the same way in which we play video games, which is similar to the assumption that, you know, if if somebody is out there trying to communicate with us because they are curious, they want to find out if there are other beings out there and they're want to develop similar technologies and they're essentially thinking in ways that are similar to human psychology.
Again, there we have a sample size of one, and it is at least questionable that human psychology is that cosmically relevant or that sort of universal, that in fact, we expect other alien species to sort of pretty much think and behave the way we do. So, again, none of these is a defeater of the simulation hypothesis, but there are more caveats that go right. Right. And, you know, depending on how much you think that kind of that kind of information, those kinds of thoughts should limit should limit your, you know, should affect your epistemic probability, your personal epistemic probability might go up or down.
Right. You might think it's less than 20 percent. You think it's less than Bostrom if you think it's if it doesn't affect how much you think, it's very, very, very likely. But that will create a simulation, then you're your epistemic has something to do with how we know. Right. Right. Yeah. So so your your your probability that if you think is really likely will go up. Right. And so I mean basically what Bostrom would say in this case is, look, I am just arguing for this kind of like this tripartite disjunction, he says.
Right. So kind of given what we know, there's three possibilities. Either we'll never get the ability to create a simulation because either we will blow ourselves up first or there just are technological. Walls that stand in the way that are just unsurpassable, right, which is before we will get the ability, but we just won't do it either because we lose interest or because they'll be ethical objection that we will actually take seriously and not do it right. That would be cruel to create all of those, right?
Not very likely that we wouldn't actually do it for that reason. But but then but then the third possibility is that we actually will be able to do it. And we will. Right. And so you're it's a kind of like which one do you favor? But what he's saying is we have to choose between these three. That's the argument. Right. And these kind of considerations would affect how likely you think each one of those disjunct are. But it's not going to affect the overall sound.
So I go for the blowing ourselves up. But anyway, I think that's what he's more worried about, too. I think he's more we're just blowing ourselves up before we get the ability.
Is there any doubt about whether we would whether there would be enough computational power to simulate the entire universe or many, many. Right. Right. That should be factored into the probability.
Yeah, absolutely. So what Bossom suggests is if we aren't a simulation, that it can't be a down to the atomic level simulation of a whole universe.
Right. Like, we couldn't it would take as much computing power as the universe has altogether to do that. Right. But what what you would do to create such a simulation. And so if our world simulation is how it would work is that it's not it's not simulated all the way down to the atomic level. Like whenever I look at the bottle, all the individual information. But each individual atom it's here is not replicated. Right. It's not in the computer.
The computer simply sending a fairly simple signal to my brain to make me see a bottle. Right. And it's not very, very complex. Now, if I decide to put this under a microscope, the computer will see that I'm about to do that and then it will add the detail it needs to see. I see the atoms and I see all the little specific details. Right. But then I'm looking away. It just goes back to the simple program again, which makes it computationally, which may explain why physicists are getting to the theory of everything.
Somebody somebody should tell Neil deGrasse Tyson. Right, right. Right. Yeah. They're wasting their time. Yeah. So that I get in and the kind of thing stimulates and I go get my coffee. And right when I finally felt like the ultimate Large Hadron Collider and we know that's the particles goes the other well actually emerges just the messenger during the simulation. Congratulations. You smashed the simulation. OK, so, you know, there's a couple kind of fun things that come out of that.
One is that some people have argued that we, the three of us, are actually endangering all of human existence. All right. Sorry. I always wanted that much power. Thank you. Right. Right. Because, I mean, the idea is that if we are in simulation, the simulator is only interested to see how it goes when we think it's real, if we figure out it is a simulation. This isn't very fun anymore. All right.
And so if if we figure it out, we may be actually, you know, the whole thing could just shut down. Right.
This would be a great way to end the episode, just the entire universe. So before we go, we already are. Twenty minutes into OK, we need to talk about evil. Yeah, we do. OK, so what has got to do with with. OK, so what is the problem here. OK, so ok. So all of that's all we talk about. That's Nick Bostrom. That is not my argument. I'm using his argument to make another argument.
I've just published a paper in a journal called Vilo, which is basically kind of like a humanist philosophy, religion and kind of journal journal. And in this, I argue that theists have maybe a specific brand of theists, but a lot of theists to answer certain questions in certain ways or get themselves in a very precarious situation. And it's specifically whenever it's related to the problem of natural evil. The problem of the problem of evil in general is the the seeming incompatibility between God's existence and the existence of evil in the world.
Right. If God seems to be all good, all powerful, all knowing. Right. He wouldn't want evil to occur. He'd be able to prevent evil occurring and he'd know how to do it. So how is it that there is evil? That's generally the problem of evil, the problem of natural evils, a little bit more specific. It's not about things like moral evil, like the Holocaust. The Holocaust was caused by humans. You might be able to excuse that by saying, oh, God gives us free will and we can do what we want.
That's a whole nother kind of issue. But naturally, those different natural people can't be accounted for by our free will because natural evil is the result of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, diseases, floods, tsunamis, those kind of things. We'll call them calamities. Right. And so the problem of natural evil is in general, this kind of problem is how could God allow calamities to occur? And what a number of theists do, some things try to answer this problem in kind of ways that not even they are satisfied with.
Like a lot of things don't even kind of like the answers that there's often other things give to these these kind of problems. And so a lot of people will just say, look, yeah, I know it's a problem, but I already know that God exists. And so I know that he's got some kind of reason for allowing the natural level. And so that's how they kind of avoid the problem. Actually, my favorite is my favorite silly responses by Reacher's, who actually argues seriously, I guess that natural evil is there to fortify our character.
It's. God's way to make us, you know, deal with calamities and see how well we come out on the other side, right. Which is one of the most nonsensical and callous things I've ever heard. Yeah, but whatever. Yeah. Know. So, like, so it's similar to here. So John Hick is kind of got something called The Soul Making The Odyssey where he suggests that the reason that God allows evil is so that we can build our characters and build our souls on.
Swinburn is of the same ilk where he basically argues that, look, the reason that God allows natural evil is because natural evil allows for it, makes makes necessary, allow for the possibility of things like compassion and generosity and that kind of stuff.
I can do it. Let's compassion and, you know, less Surinamese. I don't know. Yeah.
Yeah, exactly right. Have compassion and generosity are good things. Right. Sure. But they're not. I mean in order for a good to justify such an evil it a has to be necessary. Like the only way to get that good is through that evil. And then the good also has to outweigh the evil and compassion and generosity do not outweigh that just by itself, outweigh the evil that was brought about by the 2004 Indians, you know, the Indian Ocean.
So it does not do that. What my priest, when I was seven, had an interesting answer to that. If he had an interest, the same answer to every single question I asked him, and that was me study the mystery of faith. And I said, what the hell?
Yeah. And he said that, too. Right, right. Right. So and that sounds a bit like another problem. So let me let me back up one second and go to that. So just to kind of solidify your intuition, that compassion and generosity do not outweigh natural evil. Compassion and generosity are is shown very well by Doctors Without Borders. Right. That goes and takes care of people in these kinds of situations. And it's very admirable what they do, of course.
But none of them would ever say, I am so glad that the tsunami hit so that I can now be here and taking care of these people. And, you know, they would all exchange the compassion and generosity they're showing for the thing never happening in the first place. Right. But another possible way out of this is it's called skeptical theism. And basically what it suggests is that the fact that God may have reasons for allowing such things as calamities, God may have reason that we just can understand for allowing those kinds of things right.
That's possible. That's true. That is, if God existed, he may have reasons that we can't comprehend. And so they suggest, because it may be the case, that God has reasons we can't comprehend, then such things can never count as evidence against God's existence at all. It just can't affect the epistemic possibility. It can't move it at all, because for all you know, there may be a reason that God has for allowing such things right.
There's also the argument that maybe it's just impossible to create a world where there's not natural evil. Right. That's like not really impossible. Right. Right. So let me talk about each one of these in turn. Right. So the problem with skeptical theism is there's a few problems with that. One is that it renders if that's the case, it renders any of your objective moral judgments completely useless. Because, I mean, even if God doesn't exist, for all you know, there are some good that came out of the Holocaust.
Right. There's good that that outweighs it. I mean, we're limited beings. We don't know there's a baby drowning in the fountain as you walk outside. For all I know, that could actually be a good event. And so I can't judge that thing is evil. I can't judge you do something to stop that. I should do something about it right there. Right. So I'm sorry. There's a there's a tradeoff there that if the theist plays that card, the skeptic card, then then is bound to be skeptical about any sort, which they certainly don't want to who they don't want this universal moral skepticism.
They don't want to do it right. Another problem I have with it is just that it seems a bit maybe hypocritical in a certain kind of way because they claim to have all this grandiose knowledge about God's existence. Thomas Aquinas writes tons and tons of same theological, and they have all this grandiose knowledge about God. God exists. And he's trying to his person, his son, to die for our sins and that. And then when it comes to evil gods, too big to understand, right?
Well, that's essentially another trade off. It's another know, I'm sorry. If you give up knowledge of God here, then you're going to lose the kind of agnosticism. Right.
I also have another paper in a very short theology course. I was just just as well, I don't know, dying. Right. Well. So and then another problem, having actually another paper to not publish it has been considered where I argue that that's just the probabilities don't work if you plug this kind of stuff into Bayes Theorem. It's always the case that seemingly unjustified evil reduces the probability of God's existence, even if it is the case that he may have a reason they don't understand.
And people should check out our episode on Unbiased because we talked about that in the past so they know what you're talking about. OK, now, how did you put the two together?
OK, OK, so so let me let me go back to here. So OK, so we should also say then a few minutes we're going to open the floor to Q&A. So if you want to think about your own skeptical audience, skeptical questions about the simulation, it bothers the problem of evil and whatever, it's more or less related to it. OK, so I'll do here and then I'll get the punchline right. So. So your question was.
Oh, yeah, some people think that. Right, right. It's just a reason that God does it this way is because it's just logically impossible to do it any other way. Same reason God can't make two plus two equals. Right. You're right. And two plus two equals five. I can't make that true. And so God can't make it true that there aren't natural disasters. The problem there is that traditionally the way God is talked about among theists is that God can do anything that is logically possible.
Now, we can't make two plus two equals five because that is logically impossible by the definitions of the terms.
That doesn't make sense. But a world without natural evil, that's not logically impossible. It would be physically impossible because it doesn't come here with the way that our physical laws work. And that's what defines physical possibility. But it's not logically impossible. There's nothing in that statement. There is a world with no natural that that there's nothing logically incoherent about that. And in fact, the logical coherence of a world without natural disasters is embedded into the into the into the theist own theology.
Heaven is a world in which people exist, but there are no natural disasters right now. Not all theists think that heaven is real. But I've never heard a theist say it's logically impossible for heaven to exist. Right. So as long as you think that's possible, like the Garden of Eden, as long as you think it's at least logically possible, then you have to think that at least logically possible and thus within God's power, because God could have made our world like that.
God could have. But it's more. But that's yet another example, a third example of essentially the same strategy. Right. That is atheist. I cannot show you that you're wrong, but I what I can show you is that if your position is that, say, a physical world, that is not logically possible, it has to have evil, then then how do you explain your your own.
Yeah. Your own concept of heaven, having your own concept. Right. Right. Right. So they need to twist themselves into logical red cells. Right. OK, so, so but what I argue here, what a lot of theists will do because they are not a lot of these aren't satisfied with the answers that you kind of guys have been kind of throwing out there, because for these kind of reasons I'm articulating, they realize they don't work very well and they don't want to be, you know, lead to objective moral skepticism, you know, that kinda stuff.
Right. So what they end up doing is something like urban planning. It does where he says, look, yeah. Problem of people's natural form. I don't really have a good solution for that. But I do know that God exists. Right. Planning would probably say something that God has revealed his existence to me through mystical experience, through what he would call the senses divinity or the internal investigation and instigation of the Holy Spirit. God has revealed himself to me.
And so I know that God exists. And because I know that God exists, then I know that there is a solution to the problem. I just don't know what it is right now.
You know, I would say there's a number of different problems with relying on mystical experience for justification, thinking that that evidence can't trump mystical experience and all that kind of stuff. And we could go along with that. But here's what I do on it. OK, fine. I'll grant you that I'll give you your experience, I will even give you knowledge of God's existence, right. For the sake of giving, I'll give you knowledge of God's existence.
That's still going to cause a problem. OK, here's why. The problem of evil, the problem with the logic of natural evil is not merely an incompatibility between God's existence and the existence of calamities. It's not just that simple. That is actually not pose much of a logical threat to God's existence for a very long time, because before we understood calamities, it was really easy to explain them. Demons did it right, evil spirits did it, or before we had the kind of an all good version of God.
God was pissed off and he did it right. There's there's a number of different ways to do that. Druss was easy to say, especially when you couldn't get laid.
It was just or when he didn't get laid and hear him and say, yeah, yeah, that's true. Right. So the problem is really the the problem of natural evil. And when calamities actually started to be seen of as natural started, when science came along, when we you know, science kind of started as an investigation to figure out how the world works. One of the regularities that the world is governed by, are they governed by regularity?
So what are they? And so we discovered the laws of physics. But when we did, we discovered something we didn't really expect to discover that it was those laws that are. That's what causes the calamities our universe is set up, the laws are such that they necessitate that things like hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes and all that kind of stuff occur. So you wind up with this kind of there are three things that the academic year seems to be committed to that don't seem to be able to go together.
Right. One, that God exists and is all good, all powerful, et cetera. Right. To they think that God is the creator and designer of the physical universe and the laws that govern it. But then three, the laws that govern our universe are what are responsible for natural evil, for all the calamities that caused all this terrible suffering. How could an all good God set up laws that cause so much evil that would make him the author of that evil?
I mean, that's not compatible with him being all good. How do we solve this problem? Right. So say I know that God exists, so there's got to be some solution there. Well, if I grant you that, then that will defend God's existence. But that's going to create another problem. You're going to end up being committed that we live with, that we live in, that we live in a computer simulation that you forgot about that that started out being about right.
And so here's here's how the argument goes. OK, think about a friend of us. Let's say I've got a friend of mine in Canada. Actually, you have a friend named Caleb, although he did not do what I'm about to describe. I suppose that my my neighbor, Caleb, the evidence really points that he just did the cold blooded murder of a child. It was terrible, awful cold blooded murder of a child. The evidence that he did it is really good.
Right. And so I think for a while that he did it, but then through an infallible psychic connection. Right. Maybe like, you know, a Vulcan mind meld or something like that, he gets direct knowledge that it is impossible for him to do anything that's morally heinous. It's impossible, literally 110 percent impossible. And he knows this, right? Well, then he knows that Caleb didn't do it. Regardless of how the evidence is. He did not.
He must be innocent. Right. And so that defends Caleb's innocence. But the problem is you have you have two you have two options there. When you're in the Caleb situation, you can either conclude that despite the evidence, somebody else did it or you can conclude that the cold blooded murder of a child is not actually morally heinous. And it's not the kind of thing that Caleb couldn't do. Right. Those are the two options. Right. Which do you have more reason to think it's true?
Well, regardless of how good the evidence against Caleb is, it's never going to trump. The reason I have for thinking that the cold blooded murder of an innocent is a morally heinous thing. Right. The thesis in another is in a very similar position. Right. Either natural evil is actually good because it leads to compassion or whatever is actually a good thing or somebody else designed our universe. All right. Those are the two options. I don't think anybody's got like I think that that natural evil is evil is one of the most universally agreed upon things in the world.
Everybody agrees it natural that we wouldn't spend so much time in tornado detection and hurricane detection and building earthquake proof buildings that we would spend so much time doing that if we thought they were a good thing. Right. If if if if we found out that that that calamities were actually the result of some James Bond type supervillain in a mountain causing them with a with a laser. Right. Little disease disaster causing laser. And he said, oh, actually, the reason I'm doing this is to create compassion.
We would not think he had a good point. Right. We would lock him away is criminally insane. Right. And so no one's going to agree that. But we actually have no reason to think that God designed our universe. Right. Even if I grant you tell logical arguments that suggest that the universe was designed, they don't point to God specifically. So what we should reject is that God is that God is on your universe. God didn't designer universe.
Right. But if God didn't design the universe. But we're going with all of the assumption and creativity exists and all that kind of stuff, what is the most likely scenario in which our universe was not designed by God? It's given it's computer simulation, right. That's that's the most likely scenario we could be born into. But it's at least 20 percent likely that we're in a computer simulation. That's that's that's why that's the most likely scenario. And so that's why they end up being committed to the computer simulation.
So the idea is that God designed a physical universe and then someone in that physical universe set up a simulation to play Sims. That's what we're living and that's what we're living. Right. Then why would God create a person who would create a simulation that had some suffering in it? Right. Right. Good, good. Right. So what this does is what this solution does, right? So if the theist let's say the theist bites the bullet and says, OK, fine, we're in a computer simulation.
Right. What this does is it changes the problem of natural evil into the problem of moral evil, the evil that we're all the calamities and all that kind of stuff. They're actually the result of the choice of whoever programmed our simulation. Right. And so it was the Freewheel choice of that of that being. And so it's not natural. It's not how did God why did God designed the natural laws? And then they know somebody else designed them.
So why did not allow that person to do that? Then you can say, well, because God allows free will. Right. And God, you know, God will allow us to screw things up and do whatever we freely choose to do. And so God. So if you think that the moral problem of evil isn't a problem, then you can get out of the problem, then you. Right, so how is that possible? There's also a possibility that, frankly, I think the betting on God, what I do with my Sims, it's little to nothing sense, but since it's a little it's pushing it too far.
I mean, come on, it's my own game. I can I can play with it. It's not real. Right. Right. So I guess it comes down to this mostly. I think that the free will solution to the moral problem works. So if we can get to that point, then they'll you know, then they'll say, well, the reason that I would do that is because you allow the program to do whatever you want right.
Within the simulation. Right. If you don't think that works, will, then then you've got a problem. You've got a problem anyway. That matter, if we're in a simulation, you still got a problem with got existence. Right. But you get to that point, you could use the FREEWHEEL solution to solve the moral problem.
But they still ended up believing that we're going to simulation like they have to believe that. And that's the problem. So but what you've done actually is just given theists an out for the problem of evil.
Right. But it commits them to believing that the simulation and the price at a price is no free lunch. Right. OK, let's let's see. Get prepared for the Q&A. So we have Mike, I understand you can't see them, but I wear microphones on both sides and so the first one gets there. Trampling everybody else is either a good sign or a bad sign. People are leaving in droves, you know, and why they line up.
Let me let me ask you a first question, actually. So while you are talking and if I'm reading your series on on the Russian speaking blog all of a sudden and I thought, wait a minute, does that mean that as a secular person, I am committed to at least entertaining the idea that I should be worshipping a simulator, a God of some sort? Yeah, I mean, I guess it depends because that changes the whole game for me right now.
And I need to go home with my iPad and sort of set a shrine or something and be in one sense, like maybe that should be morally, but maybe should be worshipping strategically. Like maybe then you won't turn this thing off. That's right. We worship. Right, right. But still, that's that's even for second base. I think there is a yeah. So like if Bostom is right and it's a 20 percent, it's 20 percent likely that we live in a simulation, then that doesn't increase the probability specifically that God traditionally conceived.
Try Omni all good, all knowing. Right that exists. But it does increase the probability that some being greater than us that designed our universe or something like that, that exists. Right. That makes that a little bit more life. And that's that's how we started. Right. So when I when I mentioned my class, all of a sudden getting surprised by this sort of curveball that was coming their way, that was exactly the realization that, you know, some of them are agnostics or even some of them are stender believers in some kind of Christian or type of God.
And when they realize that for all practical purposes, there was no difference between the parameters of a simulation and the laws of the universe or God making miracles, which essentially means altering the parameters of the simulation or stopping the simulation or whatever it is, then got a little war. Yeah, but what I would say is maybe psychologists who should get worried. Yeah.
Maybe they should get a little bit, at least by Boston's argument individually or very briefly.
There's another argument I think originated by Professor Robin Henson, that if we think that it's at least somewhat likely that we're in a simulation, what we should be doing is not necessarily worshipping our hypothetical simulator, but instead trying to make the world as interesting as possible and entertaining. Right. He doesn't turn out. And I think we're doing a pretty damn good job at that. I think so. But OK, do we have questions lined up?
OK, let's go left. All right.
You were talking about how the simulate the simulation algorithm has to make some simplifying assumptions, like when you're looking away at the bottle not simulated in so much detail, but the the physics of the universe in which the computer that simulating us exists could be radically different than ours. There could be a lot more dimensions. It could be a lot bigger and there could be no speed of light limitation. And so there is no reason that the simulation couldn't be simulating everything down to the atomic level.
I mean, the only worry is that. So are you saying that the physical world could be so different than ours that it could have enough computational power to surely this all the way down? Yeah, especially if our universe is finite. Like I mean, if the universe is the physical universe and there's also so much bigger. Right. And so they have they have a lot more computational power. Right. Yeah. I guess that's possible. Right. Yeah, you could do that.
But on the other hand, what do you think? I think actually that is an interesting question. On the other hand, I don't see the point of it, meaning that, you know, why would not have the question, but of the simulating the universe down to earth. Yeah, yeah. I mean, y you know, since the relevant players, presumably us actually existing and interacting, much higher level of pseudo reality than. And that one then why bother?
I mean, this reminds me of another a science fiction movie that deals with these kinds of things, I think it was the 13th floor where, in fact, the idea was that eventually you find out by the end, spoiler alert, that there are nested simulations, one on one, one inside the other. And because once you start, why stop? Right. It could be a simulation of a simulation, which until your head started hurting. But the idea there is that one of the characters finds out that there is a problem precisely because it reaches the limit of the simulation.
At some point he starts driving out of town because he realizes that apparently nobody has been out of town. And people talk about things that are out of town, but nobody seems to be there. So he said, well, let's go. And he finds the end of a road. This construction ignores the construction and goes on. And at some point, the landscape in the distance becomes fuzzy and bright. And it's clearly not well defined because the simulator said, well, there's no point in simulating this thing.
So even if it is possible, that may not be actually any particular reason to do it unless you think that your characters are getting to that level. Right. Right. And the characters that get to the. Yeah, yeah. Anyway, yeah. I mean, yeah, that's what Bostrom says. Right. It's like you might think, well what if there where we're just take the glitch. We saw a glitch in the matrix, a glitch in the simulation and we all we're about to figure it out.
Well, if he really doesn't want us to to find out, he could just pause the simulation, back it up a little bit and tinker with it and get rid of the glitch and then set it on the way.
So this may all be for naught, right? As soon as we're done, it may just get paused. And then all three of us will attack back stage, which may explain why after I drink a martini, I often don't remember things that I said, OK, I like that explanation. OK, we got a question on this side.
I have a small problem. Well, maybe a big problem with the probability. And my problem is not necessarily with the way that the universe, because, as people said, it could be radically different and it could also be, you know, there are simulators out there that you can kind of build your own physics and then you encourage students to describe the physics through experimentation. So everything can you know, we can have rules in the simulation that allow physicists to kind of explore new things.
That's fine with me.
My problem is the with the probabilities that we discussed in order to get a real claim about any sort of probability, you need to know the system. And we don't you can't make a statement like in order for you to say that I have a thousand, you know, blue balls in a bowl and one red one. So it's one of a thousand for me to pick up the red one. You need to know that there are a thousand with the blue balls, and you need to know, you know, that it's a ball and you need to know the conditions.
So, for example, if this ball had like a wind tunnel in it and every time you close your hand, you might meet the ball or you might not. Then now the odds changed. So you can't make a statement about probabilities without knowing the system. And we don't know the system.
We know our planet and we know more or less, you know, about observable universe. And we don't know all that much that we should know about it like dark matter. And there's so many things that we don't know. I don't know how you can make a statement about, you know, how much probability you have. You have the you know, the unobservable universe. And beyond that and things in the quantum level, we don't yet know. It's just it seems to me like a bank statement to say anything about probability.
I can think that. Well, go ahead. So according to one standard definition of probability, the frequenters definition of probability, that that is correct. Like you would have to know how many blue balls, red balls are in the jar. And in order to say anything about the probability of drawing a blue versus a red ball, because probability in that case is defined as a frequency of events of a particular.
But but the Bayesian definition of probability is it's just a statement about what you believe based on your current understanding of the relevant facts. And it's subjective and it's relative to each particular observer, all of whom might have different information. So like, if I flip a coin and I see that it comes up heads, but you haven't seen that it heads for me, the probability that it has it's 100 percent for you. It's roughly 50/50. And there's no contradiction there because those probabilities are just statements about the, you know, the state of our own beliefs about the coin.
Right. So the difference is, is between probabilities as a some somehow an inherently objective property of the world and the frequency of events versus a statement about the epistemic state status of the of the person of the individual. So it is it is a reflection of the of what I know at this point. At this point. And we should add that although there's huge discussion between frequent dissemination analysis, I think that it's somewhat fair to say that the Bayesian approach is now increasingly used in a lot of the sciences because it has a lot of advantages that we don't have any time to get into it.
But so that's there is a difference. So you're right in it from a frequent this perspective, I think, but not so necessarily from a business perspective and definitely making a non fricatives. To make an argument on that side to the second one is really quick. The first one is so we're talking about sort of approximations in the simulation. So why and we keep saying we why even say the only thing that we have direct evidence for is our own thought process?
And that's even sketchy. So why not say, you know, you guys don't actually exist, you're just in my simulation, really simulating me and what I can observe and what I can do and what that can that what that needs to happen. And that's it. Yeah, that's pretty easy simulation. Yeah. I mean that's that's possible. That would be a very limited simulation. Right. Because all the simulator would have to simulate if I'm that, you know, if I'm the subject or if you're the something, all you have to simulate is what's in this room.
Right. And in the simulation is kind of close and, you know, and so that's maybe it started out that way. Yeah. Maybe it's maybe it's getting this morning. Let's get a second one. Right. Right. Yeah. That reminds me. Let's start out with Adam.
And then Eve came up. It was running on an Apple two, OK?
I mean, that's possible. I don't know how that affects the argument specifically, but it's possible that we can have one there just to analyze one part of it. And you had a segment with the other one was different.
Just about what if is just incompetent, maybe a little bit. Right. Right. He's a little confused. Then he's then by the traditional definition, he's not God. He's just he's just doing something. We're also a little incompetent.
So, yeah. He's not the Judeo-Christian Muslim, right. Absolutely right. There are, in fact, that conception of God as imperfect. And, you know, the universe is the best that he can manage to do was actually probably more common in the in ancient Greece. I mean, Plato talked about that, that God was called the demiurge. And there was this guy who had, you know, certain materials and certain things to work with. And this is the best he could come up with.
Don't blame him.
Procrastinated no words. You know, I'm a guy that's a McGyver version of God, right? I mean, I can do what I can know that dark matter things right away.
Hold on a second. Yeah. All right. There. Yes.
You may have addressed this right at the very beginning. Some apologize. I came in a little late, but is it actually not? Twenty percent that we're in a simulation, but one hundred percent because we were in a simulation that's generated by our brain from our own sensory input and. Oh, right. You know, so the simulation of the simulation might be twenty percent. Right.
Right. Yeah. So the likelihood that we're in a computer simulation would be twenty percent. Right. But if you, if you define simulation in a more broad way where by simulation you actually mean that your mental experiences aren't actually tracking reality in a very specific way, that's kind of true because like, you know, I think this is a solid object, but it's actually mostly empty space. And like it's all based on Endino, as Morpheus said, of The Matrix.
Right. We're talking about what is real. It's all just logical impulses, you know, interpreted by your entire purpose or by your brain. Right. So in a certain kind of way, that's true. But in the computer simulation, you know, way that's that's kind of a different version of the simulation. If I understood we had time for a couple more questions. If there are some that say I can't see if there is somebody that I can see you.
Oh, that's good enough. Yeah.
Is is the simulation hypothesis necessarily sufficiently deterministic such that only only one simulation to determine some some likely outcome of passing the law or recreating some historical event would be sufficient? Or would you need to do statistical analysis on many, many simulations to determine something useful about such effects, especially if you consider the possibility of a philosophical analogue for the theological Freewheel position where you had independent actors in your simulation?
Right, right. Right. Yeah. So my my knee jerk reaction to this is to say that depending on what kind of computing power we have, what computers can do, you might be able to create both kinds of simulations. You might be able to have a deterministic simulation which has no randomness in it, and everything is just deterministic. If we have the ability to program randomness and or have like a quantum computer or something, it's got the random center or something like that, then you might be able to get one that that has some brain in the Senate.
And so it would turn out like you back it up and play it out and would go different every time because of the randomness in it. I guess the answer would be like if we're an ancestor simulation, it would depend on if the beings are creating an ancestor simulation and they want to use it to answer questions like what would have happened in their one world. It would depend on what their universe is like. If the universe is deterministic, they need to create a deterministic one.
If their universe has a quantum randomness in it and it's not deterministic, they need to create one that had their kind of ran. And if they had that kind of randomness and they may have to do multiple ones and. What the most likely scenario, like I'll create 10 and in eight of them this happens and then in two of them this happens. This most likely what would have happened had Hitler won or something like that, you'd have to do some statistical stuff.
And that's how the simulators created the multiverse.
Now now we need to I need to point out one thing, because this is it's actually been used for me as well since I got recently in discussions with colleagues about determinism, particularly, you might have noticed recently there has been a spate of writings and books and articles about free will and the relationship between free will and determinism, which we're not going to go in this episode. But typically, one of the things that emerges from these discussions is somebody waves the quantum mechanics stuff and says, well, it's not that the universe is not deterministic as it turns out.
My understanding is and I checked this with with Sean Carroll, the cosmologist who occasionally sort of visits the Russian speaking blog and makes very, very thoughtful comments. And so I checked with him apparently. Actually, that's another thing the physicists haven't figured out yet, whether the universe is truly deterministic or not, because there are a couple interpretations and quantum mechanics that are not there are not actually fundamentally random.
Right. Which means that this piece is really don't know what they're talking about. One more question, perhaps on that side.
Yes. If there's a chance we're in a simulation, does that mean atheists should become agnostics at the very least, 20 percent agnostic?
Yeah, yeah, maybe maybe 20 percent agnostic, right. Bostrom actually mentions on his page that somewhere along the line where an atheist friend of his who would have been a hardcore atheist for a very, very long time, said that his argument that the simulation argument convinced him to become an agnostic. Right. So, you know, like it's like you said, like a 20 percent agnostic, maybe to some degree. But again, it's not it depends on what you mean by you.
It might so if you took it seriously, you'd have to be an agnostic about there being a greater it being like a being that designed our universe. I get to be a little bit more enlightened, maybe a 20 percent chance or something like that. But you may not have to be agnostic about God traditionally conceived. Try Omni, all that kind of stuff. Like you may not have to be agnostic about that. Right. You could like for example, you can think it's 40 percent like they were in a simulation.
Thus they get 20 percent, like there's some greater being. But then also argue. But there still can't be a on my God, because omnipotent and omissions are logically contradictory. There can't be such a God. Right. So you can still do that and be an atheist in that regard.
But then 10 percent likely there's a to be. Right. But so that does open up a whole different sort of way of looking in intelligent design, because this is a simulation that by definition, that's totally outside. Right. Not in the kind of Behe way we're now. So there's invisible complexity and all that kind of. Right. Right.
Nonetheless, it's there now that roughly speaking, you've made the argument for intelligent design. I never thought I would say that sentence. You did not expect that one coming. We normally close our hour episode with a pick, but because this is a special live episode and because we are all out of time, we are going to wrap up this episode of rationally speaking. Thank you so much.
Can I mention my picks very, very, very, very quickly? Oh, yeah, because I've got something to go with them. Right. So so I actually have pics. Pics. So that's like two seconds. I had to pick one a band. It's called Etherial Collapse. It is banned for anybody who's into metal and it tickles my fancy because they sing about philosophy. The lead singer and guitarist is one of my old students. And it's not just like a little garage band.
They actually have five albums. You can get some of their stuff on rock band. You got you played on rock band. And if you're interested, there are twenty free samples CD's out there with the New York City skeptic's table free for the taking if you'd like to listen to them. And of course you can find them online and that kind of stuff. So my second pick was a book by Ted Shick and Lewis fan called How to Think About Weird Things.
At the book. I use a very, very often I in my personal opinion, it is the best kind of guide to thinking skeptically that there is he is a brilliant author. He lays things out so wonderfully. He lays it out in a way that's not overbearing. He doesn't say, you know, you need to disbelieve everything. That's weird. It's a wonderful book. I use it in a lot of my classes. And if you have like, you know, we talked about yesterday how most people kind of learn to do this kind of thinking, skeptical, thinking on their own.
If you have a friend that's mildly interested and you want a Barry and demon haunted world is just too big. Right. To give over to them and you expect them to read weird things is a very, very, very, very thin book, very easily readable. It's a very good kind of thing to give over to someone second the other Ted Shick, Theodore Shick. How to think about weird things second. S s s s chickies, and since we've been talking for an hour about weird things, you might want to get the book before listening to the episode time.
Read the book, the episode again. Right. And for our our listeners who aren't here today, there will be links to these pics on our website, rationally speaking podcast, Dotcom. Now, that concludes another episode of Russian Speaking. Join us next time for more explorations on the borderlands between reason and nonsense. The rationally speaking podcast is presented by New York City skeptics for program notes, links, and to get involved in an online conversation about this and other episodes, please visit rationally speaking podcast Dog.
This podcast is produced by Benny Pollack and recorded in the heart of Greenwich Village, New York. Our theme, Truth by Todd Rundgren, is used by permission. Thank you for listening.