The Argument for Simulation via Traditional A Posterori Arguments for God’s Existence

I had a fun and interesting discussion with Canadian Catholic on his Global Skeptics podcast the other day. In the course of our discussion something clicked that has been loosely kicking around in the back of my mind. I have previously suggested that the argument from design is an argument for simulation and that the problem of evil is made much worse when thinking about why humans aren’t photosynthetic. I now think there is a general argument here.

  1. The traditional A Posteriori arguments (Cosmological, Teleological, etc) point, if one accepts their conclusions, to a creator but *not* to what kind of creator
  2. The traditional theistic God (all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally perfect) is one candidate for being the Creator
  3. The Simulators are another candidate
  4. The traditional arguments do not distinguish between (2) and (3)
  5. The problem of evil (evidential) suggests that 2 is not the creator [especially the version emphasizing photosynthesis]
  6. Therefore, the traditional arguments for God’s existence provide better support for the simulation hypothesis than they do for the traditional God of Theism

What do you think? I could formalize it up a bit but I think I kind of like it!

7 thoughts on “The Argument for Simulation via Traditional A Posterori Arguments for God’s Existence

  1. I’m with you for (1) and (2), and find the whole thing interesteing & fun to think about, but I think there might be some further steps to be fleshed :
    regarding (3) – I agree there are other candidates. But I’m not sure the Simulators are one without further work. The Cosmo / teleological args talk about non-contingent / necessary agents / causes, and I don’t see why the chain of contingent beings / causes can’t take the unconventional detour through the Simulators and keep on going to the really necessary first cause beyond.
    The issue you point to (a view I share) is that hanging the other attributes (including sentience, or even continued existence) of god to a first cause is something you have to provide additional evidence. That goes for the Simulators too. What’s the additional evidence that gives them the title?
    This is where your version of the evidential problem of evil seems to come in, but if I’m honest I’m not seeing why it makes it *more* likely that (1) is (3), rather than (2)?

    • Thanks for this comment, I appreciate it! There is a lot to say about this stuff (luckily David Chalmers has written a book on it that will be out next year!)

      I guess I was thinking that the series of causes in the simulated world do not include the cause of the simulated world itself. The simulators (should there be any) will not be a cause of anything in the simulated world (except in the ultimate or sustaining sense, akin to versions of theism). To be a contingent agent then would be to arises from the series of causes in the simulated world (what we call the physical world (if we are in a simulation)). In that sense the simulators are uncaused and not contingent. Could they be contingent on causes at the next level of reality (one way of taking your question)?

      Yes. But what does that gain them? That now they want to know what caused the reality at the next level up? Once you concede that what we call reality, our physical world, *this stuff around here* could be simulated then what would make you think the next level up couldn’t be explained by something natural? This is similar (I would say) to Kant’s strategy of linking that notion of necessary being to the ontological argument and that only gets you a very limited conclusion (I am rational to accept the conclusion if I accept that I can conceive of a being which exits in all possible worlds). I am not sure I can conceive of a necessary being in that sense (and the simulation idea shows us how we might not need one).

      I would also say that the Kalam cosmological argument is especially good for this. The evidence we have suggests our universe came into existence at some time T0 that is as well explained by the simulators as the traditional God. We have no evidence that the universe the next level up came into existence. But if we did we might think we have reason to think that the next level up is also simulated.

      Thus, overall, it seems to me that the cosmological argument -all by itself- justifies only the conclusion that there is a creator of our universe (or any one which came into existence) and then the question is whether a necessary being (in the sense you brought up) or a simulator is a better explanation. That is where the problem of evil would come in to make it more likely that it is the simulators. So I should have stated (1) as 1* The traditional A Posteriori arguments (Cosmological, Teleological, etc) point, if one accepts their conclusions, to a creator [of our universe] but *not* to what kind of creator and (2) as 2* The traditional theistic God ([a necessarily existing] all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally perfect) is one candidate for being the Creator [of our universe] and finally the kinds of things above to justify (4)….thanks again for the comment and looking forward to more!

      • Not aware of the Kalam cosmo arg variant, thanks and in general for the thoughtful response.

        I take your point that we have no evidence of anything of ‘the next level up’, so the chain of contingency / necessity may or may not continue beyond ‘our’ T0.

        My thinking is that even if you agree with the impossibility of infinite regression, and the need to for something happening at T0, even granting that only gets you the need for a creaTION, not necessarily a creaTOR. The cosmo args don’t require that that first cause be an entity, that it still exists, that it has any qualities other than being the first cause.

        I don’t have an issue with simulators being an alternative to the traditional creator god, but I see both and being so far down the line of unspecified assumptions that it might be better to say they are as equally UNjustified, without extra steps, by the cosmo arg. Or if I accept your argument, for the evidential PoE making the simulators marginally less unjustified.

  2. The idea that a perfectly moral god wouldn’t allow evil in his creation seems debatable to me if that god also gave us free choice between good and evil. Without the evil option, choosing good means nothing, and a moral god would presumably be all about us making the right choices.

    • p.s. I do agree most arguments for a god creator work just as well for a simulation creator. (FWIW, I think the simulation hypothesis might be suspect on resource grounds, though.)

    • I wasn’t talking about the ‘logical’ problem of evil but the ‘evidential’ problem (I have a lot of stuff on the logical problem here, just search for Plantinga). The point is the *even* if one allowed a perfect being would allow some evil there is just too much of it around to account for. On the free-will-requires-that-we-be-able-to-do-evil line, I don’t see why we should think that (see here for an argument to that effect: https://onemorebrown.com/2007/05/10/freedom-and-evil/ )…I also think it is perfectly possible that God could have made a world where everyone freely chooses to do good, but that is another story!

      • That there is “too much” evil seems a local judgement that might not apply to a creator concerned with everything from quarks to quasars. Perhaps humanity is part of the experiment that went poorly.

        I can see, either for a creator god or simulator god, that an open-ended system that allows extremes might be the point. Edge cases are often more instructive than average cases.

        (Certainly the politics of the last four years seems like an extreme “what if” political simulation. Toss in the notion that we can’t 100% trust that our memories are genuine — the world could be only five years old — and it makes one wonder sometimes.)

        I replied to your Freedom and Evil post. An interesting question, but I come down aligning with the notions of balance and Yin-Yang. The power to do great good cannot exist in a balanced universe without the concomitant power to do great evil. I don’t know that an unbalanced universe would necessarily serve god’s purpose or even be sensible.

        (There is also that, while many might yearn for a good-biased world, not everyone does. I don’t know if you watched the SF TV show Babylon5, but its creator, JMS, told fans that by the end of the series, some would likely align with the series’ nominal villains, the Shadows. He was right. I did. Perhaps it’s an arts background, but I do value chaos, and it’s to be found on the boundaries between extremes.)

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