My World View: Mechanical Atheism – The Matrix?

Subtitle: If you thought epistemology was difficult to understand, just wait…..

There are, in my head and view, many converging lines of thought which have not yet been well mixed in the public consciousness. These reach well back into the history of philosophy and up to the present day. Such things mix as they must in my view because as we gather more evidence for or against a particular proposition it clarifies the value or possible truth of other propositions. With clarification comes understanding. Understanding brings insight. Insight brings new ideas. The ability of the human hairless ape species to both record and convey ideas has given us the tools to continue the process over many generations such that it has become a communal work and not simply the brain child of an individual or select few individuals. In this, we have become more than  we were at first, and in doing so have changed our understanding of reality and truth forever. It is changed so dramatically by this process that we can scarcely believe that we too were once like the other apes of the forest. Many changes, especially with regard to thought, are irreversible. In as much, one can never go home. I’d argue that as a species we don’t want to go back to our beginnings.

Some Reference

A run-down of mechanical philosophers can be found here. Materialist philosophy gets several names, mechanical is one.

There used to be a few links to previous thinkers who were described as mechanical atheists. I cannot seem to find those links in Google at this point. For some reason my writing seems to top the charts there now. I did not plan for that.

Mechanical Atheism

I describe myself as a mechanical atheist, being rather comfortable with a materialistic nihilist point of reference to the world around me. To that point, I see little pragmatic value in arguing whether we exist in a simulation, a real universe, or the dreams of the Brahma. While we are unable to leave this existence, it makes no difference what it is made of. I say that but there are reasons to go beyond this practical approach to the question of existence. The point of such questions is to determine what is real, what is truth. In one respect, as long as the Brahma dreams it does not matter for all reality and truth continues to exist as it is, unchanging. The same is true of a matrix existence. As long as the simulation continues, truth and reality as we understand them do not change. If the universe as we understand it is real, the same is true. As long as it exists then truth and reality as we understand them do not change.

To be clear then, the ultimate goal of understanding reality and truth, by definition, will change its very nature. Read that again. To understand the nature of reality and truth would change it forever in our understanding and it can no longer exist as it has done for the entirety of our species’ existence. Just as learning to understand the magician’s tricks forever changes our understanding of their magic, reality and truth cannot remain as it has always been if and when we understand it. It will be the death of philosophy and religion as we know them. For these reasons, the pragmatic thinker will know that it is unimportant in our lifetime to understand reality and truth of existence so long as it does not change while we are ‘alive’.

There is no credible evidence for a creator god nor any kind of god or supernatural being, yet what I’m going to discuss here implies that there might indeed be some being that generally fits the description of a creator being which is outside of our current understanding of truth and reality. For the record, if there is such a being which exists and demands my obedience rather than courting my friendship, that being is not worthy of my concern never mind my worship except in the circumstance that it should become necessary to kill that being to preserve my existence. That little statement brings this text headlong into the seemingly bizarre. It implies that I would feed the Brahma sleeping pills, or kill the programmer who wants to shut down the simulation. If we find that truth and existence is that we live in a simulation we will be faced with that decision and all that it implies.

Bizarre Thoughts To Ponder

To exist in a simulation would necessarily mean that there is no actual need for death, and that every death of a life form on this planet or any other is, for all our understanding, pointless. Can you say nihilism? Even while I might seem to indicate that intelligent design is true, it also makes a stronger case for emotional nihilism.

If we consider that we exist in a simulation, it is necessary to consider why that simulation might have been created. What purpose does this simulation have? If in fact we are players in a simulation then we are little more than nothing to begin with, mere puppets in an existence of a scientist’s labratory experiment. Something from nothing becomes more meaningful in some sense. Even worse, we might be nothing more than ants in an ant farm for some child in the simulation on their bookshelf in their bedroom, long forgotten for other pursuits.

If we exist in the dream of the Brahma, what difference does it make if we are moral or not? If morality must encompass truth and reality rather than simply how we conduct ourselves, what point does it have then? Perhaps the Brahma will wake up tomorrow.

The questions become quickly overwhelming and it is not my goal to simplify them here. Instead I mean only to give them some light so that they might be seen and contemplated by many.

The Matrix Theory

I’ve spoken about this a bit or at least mentioned it and it is this theory that occupies my thoughts of late. A very good post on this can be found at the blog Prometheus Unbound, called Is Our Universe A Computer Simulation? There are many other resources you can find with Google on the Matrix theory and a simulated universe.

I recommend that you read the entirety of that post and spend some time lingering there to read other posts. I like this blog quite a bit.

The Matrix Theory has a lot of support and even a couple of ideas on how to test it. Why is the question. Not why might we exist in a simulation, but why contemplate it? What value will it bring us? Would we be the first simulation species to correctly understand the simulation itself? Could we transfer our consciousness to a being in the world that simulated ours? Could we leap again and again upwards till we were in the ‘real’ existence? Could we eliminate death? Could we fix global warming? Could we create time travel? Could we travel faster than light? Could we conquer the known galaxy and universe(s)?

More worrying is the thought that we exist only for the creators of this simulation to grow and harvest particularly intelligent minds. Perhaps the creators of this simulation can encapsulate a mind/intelligence but cannot create one and their only hope for the future of their existence is to create an intelligence in this simulation and move it up to their simulation level while allowing the rest of us to simply die. Perhaps they are searching for ‘the one’ and have programmed us to all die in time, allowing them to grab ‘the one’ before it’s death.

Perhaps ‘reality’ is absolutely NOTHING like our simulated universe. Perhaps there are so many layers of simulations that we cannot possibly hope to discover what reality and truth are.

If there is no way to see outside of this simulation, will we ever learn anything more than what we know now of truth and reality?

If we continue to study the universe as we currently understand it and find that there are others, what then do we do? If we find life on other planets, perhaps even capable of star travel, what then do we do with our philosophies and truths?

Shouldn’t our truths and philosophies account for all these possibilities? What does such a philosophy look like? How does it taste? What kind of texture does it have?

What philosophy allows for alien life forms, multiple galaxies, multiple universes, simulations and more?

I’m not sure either but I can’t see it being the philosophy that we are most certainly living in a universe/world created for us and us alone for the benefit of a creator god who loves us and wants us to live with him.

While you contemplate these thoughts presented here, ask yourself this: Does your philosophy allow for any of these possibilities? How would it change? Could it even continue to be of value if any of these things are true?

I believe that my understanding of the world and existence allows for any or all of these possibilities. Not because I think it must, but in asking the questions I see no reason to change my world view if any of those possibilities were true.

What do you think?

Take your time, it’s a lot to contemplate at one go.

There is something for your solstice doldrums…..

  1. Wow! For the last week or so i’ve been messing around with the simulation idea after the University of Washington news broke. Nick Bostrom’s earlier thoughts caught my attention years ago but i’d let it slide. This is a great essay. What you’ve done here is awesome. Well done! This one i’m going to store.

    • Thanks John,
      I hope only to help bring these thoughts out to the general consciousness so that they can be talked about openly and with respect. Perhaps this will help, or maybe not.

      These thoughts have plagued my thinking for many years. Why is a big question that takes only three letters. The answer needs more than three letters in my view.

    • entropy
    • April 20th, 2015

    We should fight till death to seek truth.

    • I plan on seeking it till I’m dead 😀

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