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    1. #1
      Member SuperOhm's Avatar
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      Argument from Simulation: My Favorite Argument for the Existence of God

      I'm going to preface this with an admission. I am an atheist. However, this does not mean that I have only negative opinions concerning arguments for the existence of god(s). Admittedly, most annoy me with the way they torture and escape logic. However, this one does neither. It also rather appeals to the nerd in me. That argument is the argument from simulation.

      First, however, let me establish that this is a statistical argument. I intend to establish that there is a non-zero chance that we currently inhabit a universe where god functionally exists. "N%" will be used to note a percentage chance which is unknown and yet greater than zero.

      S1. It is possible that a civilization of sufficient technological development could create simulations so detailed and accurate that the inhabitants of said simulation would be unable to recognize that they were in a simulation. N% chance of this being accurate.
      S2. S1 also applies to civilizations which are themselves simulated. 100% given S1.
      S3. If there are even two simulated universes and only one real universe, the chances of our inhabiting a simulated universe are greater than the chance of us inhabiting the "real" universe.
      S4. There is a N% chance that we are more likely to inhabit a simulated universe rather than the "real" universe.
      S5. There is a N% chance we are in a simulation.

      In The S phase of the argument, we can actually think of the N% as being very likely. It's not unreasonable to simply grant S1. In fact, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that S1 is indeed accurate and that simulation could get to the point described therein within a few generations. For now all that's important is that we agree that there's a non-zero chance that we are living in a simulation. Alright, now for gods.

      G1. Omnipresent gods cannot be tested for within one's own universe because we need to be able to compare them to control groups to determine objectively whether or not the data matches with or without such a god's existence.
      G2. One way to answer the question "does god exist?" is to to engineer simulated universes with and without gods, collect the data, and determine if our universe is more congruent with universes with or without gods.
      G3. It is possible that some simulations will be of universes where god(s) functionally exist. N%
      G4. Given S and G3, there is a N% chance that we exist in a simulation where god functionally exists.


      Now, some particulars about these gods. First, they would indeed be just another part of the simulation. However, that doesn't mean that they wouldn't still function exactly as one would expect a "real" counterpart. That is what I mean by "functional existence". If, at the end of my simulated life, I experience a simulated death, my simulated soul rising to a simulated heaven where my simulated sins are weighed before a simulated god to determine what manner of simulated afterlife I should then experience, what is the difference between that and the "real" deal? Is the simulation not real to those within it?

      There are some limits to this argument. The first is that it only establishes god's existence as an unknown possibility greater than zero. Second is that this existence is merely a functional existence. It speaks to our possibility to experience the functional existence of god. It does not speak to god's existence in the "real" world. The third is probably the biggest, and that is the fact that we still have no way of knowing which god we might be faced with unless we create such simulations ourselves by which we can compare. Interestingly, this fact increases the value we assign to N through S3 and G3 as it increases the likelihood that there will indeed be multiple simulations as well as helps ensure that some within some of those simulations god(s) would exist. Ironically, what seems like a weakness actually helps the percentages.

      In any case, that's my favorite argument for the existence of god. It relies on very few assumptions, all of which are actually fairly reasonable to grant. Those assumptions being "it is possible to make really accurate simulations" and "people will want to run simulations wherein god(s) exist." Neither of those requires much imagination to agree that the percentage likelihood that both of those are true is greater than zero. I might not believe in god, but there's just something about this argument that really appeals to me.

      What do you think?
      I'm not always lucid, but whether I'm awake or asleep I'm always dreaming.

    2. #2
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      TimeDragon97's Avatar
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      It's a possibility, sure. But isn't everything a possibility? It's a possibility that we are in a simulation. It's a possibility that the Greeks were right about their gods. It is a possibility that we're all dreaming right now and we're actually super-intelligent squirrels living on Mars. Saying, "It could be true," doesn't make the claim any more convincing to me.
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    3. #3
      Member SuperOhm's Avatar
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      I did preface all of this with "I'm an Atheist" for a reason. I am not convinced by the argument, or any other argument for the existence of any god. However, the difference between this argument being accurate representations of reality are different from those which you suggest. There are certain assumptions one must make in order to grant the possibility of any of those things. Few, if any, of those assumptions would be reasonable to grant. In the argument from simulation, we need only grant two assumptions. The first being that realistic simulations are possible, and the second being that people will want to use simulations to test whether or not god(s) exist. Both of those assumptions are not just reasonable, they are highly likely.

      Ask nearly anyone in the computer science industry whether that first assumption is accurate and they'll grant a high probability to it. I would say that with the course of technological advancement being what it is, there's almost a 100% chance that this first assumption is accurate. That is, currently there is no reason NOT to grant that first assumption.

      As for the second, I'm sure that at least for our universe, on this planet, that there are plenty of people who would use this method for determining the existence of god(s) if such a method were available to them. That doesn't say anything about the probability of a similar situation being present in other universes (simulated or otherwise), but if this universe ever does progress to that point, and we have not yet left gods behind, then there's a high probability that at least here, in this universe, that we would build such simulations. It may also be possible that due to the nature of societies, not just ours, that gods necessarily become part of the social vocabulary. That is, it may be possible that gods are developed by completely alien civilizations, and that they may have faced, are facing, or will face similar "religious" consequences. This is especially true if god(s) indeed exist in their respective universes. That is all to say that the second assumption is more than reasonable to grant in this universe and there is some reason to grant that it at least could be true of other universes (real or simulated).

      Both of those are in an entirely different category from the assumptions which make bizarre propositions such as "we're all squirrels on Mars" a possibility. They're not in nearly the same category. Then again, I understand that your approach is an argumentum ad absurdum intended to show that possibility doesn't make something true, and you're right. This doesn't get us to a 100% chance of god existing, and it never was intended to. It can only prove that there is a possibility higher than zero, that we exist within a universe where god is functionally existent.

      Remember the saying "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"? Well, "we're all squirrels on Mars" is an extraordinary claim. Neither of the foundational assumptions in this argument are extraordinary. They're practically trivial. It would be like the difference between my telling you that I am biologically female, versus telling you that I'm the reincarnation of Lao Tsu. It's not unreasonable to say that I've lied on my profile, or that perhaps I'm transgender and merely identify as male. There's roughly a 50/50 chance that I was born female. That is not an extraordinary claim at all. Being the reincarnation of Lao Tsu on the other hand is a big one. First, it assumes that both reincarnation and transmigration of the way things go. It assumes that not only does the soul exist, but so did Lao Tsu. In order for me to demonstrate the truth of that claim, it would require that I provide some pretty steep evidence.

      Furthermore, nothing in the argument from simulation requires extraordinary evidence to back up and, in fact, one way of backing them up is through using simulation. That is, one way we could determine if other universes (simulated or otherwise) might get to the point to where they can create realistic simulations, and whether or not some of said simulations would test the existence of gods, would be to create simulated universes which we could observe. This fact increases the probability of the first assumption in trying to determine the probability of the second.
      I'm not always lucid, but whether I'm awake or asleep I'm always dreaming.

    4. #4
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      In that argument, the fake god isn't really a god. He isn't the creator of anything, nor is he active in the universe in any way. In fact there really isn't any point in simulating a world where a god exists, if he doesn't interact in the world and just meets people in heaven when they die. Clearly that doesn't have an impact on anything. In fact the argument doesn't really make sense since we are talking about a concept of God that is pretty much meaningless.

    5. #5
      Member SuperOhm's Avatar
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      Nope, that's a strawman. There is no reason*to take my one example and assume it is the only possibility and therefore write off the entire argument unless you are trying to construct a strawman. A little imagination gets you exactly where I intended. Simply add in something like "and the simulated god answers simulated prayers and punishes simulated sinners with simulated strife" or perhaps "and then experience simulated reincarnation under the effects of simulated karma" or "and rise to the ranks of simulated godhood to create your own simulated worlds". I left that tiny bit of an example vague for a reason, because it could represent a wide range of possibilities, you were supposed to fill it in with your imagination, not chain yourself to it. Don't go tripping over one ugly rug and condemn an entire building.

      I used, from the beginning, the term "functional existence" for a reason. In these simulations these god(s) would be programmed to exist in their respective roles. For some, that will mean that the simulation includes their creating the universe. For others, it might not. If the simulation includes a god who answers prayers, then they would do so within whatever rules were established for said prayer. If the god sent natural disasters for certain behaviors, they would do that too. The point is, to the people who inhabit these simulated world's, these gods would indeed exist. They wouldn't have any reach outside their own little simulated universe, but they would be just as real as anything else within those worlds.

      Obviously, I'm talking about gods that have an impact on this world otherwise there is no point to the tests because it could only tell us about the effects of said god in the spiritual realm. That won't tell us anything about the world we currently find ourselves in. On top of that, every god that humanity has named is one which should have an effect on the physical world. Our knowledge of any god assumes interactions with said god if we are to assume said god exists.

      I'm not saying that every god we know about exists. I'm saying that every god we know about supposedly has interacted with the physical world directly or indirectly. I thought that would kind of go without saying.

    6. #6
      Member Infinityjester's Avatar
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      I think what we are talking about here are just words. It's all about your definition on what the human word God means. For example my brother and I are both atheist but he denies it because he understands the definition of God differently. I personally believe there is a higher consciousness out there like would be the minds that created the simulation we presently reside in. I prefer not to call them God as the word God has to many attachments to man made fantasies. The god your talking about is not the God but just a program created by other programs created by other programs created by other programs. I will say that it is fun to speculate. I don't see any point in having an argument over something we wont have an answer to anytime soon.......but speculation is an adventure I will give you that. Your best bet is to just keep going ohm.

    7. #7
      Member SuperOhm's Avatar
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      I certainly don't let this argument sway my behavior one bit. I am an Atheist after all. However, it is a rather fun one. I like it because it's simple, it only requires a few small assumptions, and it's nerdy. All in all, I think it's probably one of the best arguments for the existence of god(s) I've ever heard. Granted, it only gets us to a percentage likelihood that is above zero. Not very far. But it is fun to think about.

      Once again, whether or not the "god(s)" I'm describing in this argument fit the definition of a god to an "outside" observer is irrelevant. Their nature only matters by relation to those within the same simulation. For example, if this were all a simulation, and I get punched in the face, did I "really" get punched in the face? I don't even "really" exist, nor does my attacker. Furthermore, it's just bits flipping to simulate the whole thing. But that doesn't mean anything to me, because as far as I can tell, I am having experiences, and I really did experience getting punched in the face. The same would go for experiences of god, and that's what's important here. We need only worry about the existences of god(s) if we can experience their existence. Whether or not such gods are as much a part of the simulation as we are, is irrelevant. This is what I mean by "functional existence".
      I'm not always lucid, but whether I'm awake or asleep I'm always dreaming.

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