[The is the addended transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 17 June 2015.]
Our secular humanist brethren misconstrue Darwin as having claimed and conclusively demonstrated that the cosmos was uncreated, and that life arose by chance from the primordial muck. In fact, Darwin made neither claim, but did present compelling evidence that once life came about, it then began transforming to adapt to its environment through evolution. Today evolutionary progress of the species has been accepted by all except the most fundamentalist believers in the several faiths.
Secular humanists of all stripes arose in the latter half of the 19th century, and by the mid-20th popular champions of ‘God is dead’ were penning eagerly read volumes claiming to demonstrate how science explained everything, including no need for creation and God. All that was still required was the Big Bang. Among those who arose to lead this movement of science-glorifying people to atheism, are Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins – the latter of The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, and The God Delusion fame. Being a declared atheist was supposed signal to society that you were an intellectual, an independent thinker, and above all cool.
Since science is not always the handmaiden of populist agendas, the idea that we might live in a purposely created universe began to be explored around mid-century by agnostic scientists, philosophers, and science-savvy writers. Theoretical evidence began surfacing that explained our universe as possibly a program running in a cosmic computer. In short, seeing time, space, matter, and energy made up of very fine grained but undeniably discrete pieces has started making sense to many physicists and computer scientists as both the necessary and sufficient characteristics of a created and computed universe.
Human knowledge is already advanced enough to describe in detail that we or our progeny will someday be able to build, or let’s say it, to create a virtual universe with sentient creatures that to them will seem as real as our universe is to us. And the logical extension of that follows - who is to say that we ourselves don’t live in such a created computed universe? Given the 13+ billion year life of our perceived universe, there may well exist civilizations that have already created complex new universes. And depending on how far ahead of us they are, their universes may contain civilizations that have also created their own universes. All it takes is sufficient computational power, and our universe has literally an endless supply of the stuff that can compute.
Over recent years the prestigious Association for Computing Machinery, in its flagship Communications of the ACM, has published a number of articles chronicling the evolution of thought on computationally created worlds and universes inhabited by sentient and sapient creatures. The June 2015 issue features the latest on created computed universes, and reviews both the physical and philosophical arguments that make the reasonable case for trading in aetheism for agnosticism. In short, when we think about living in a created universe, science advises keeping an open mind.
Let me close with a question – what would you call a sentient and sapient agent that may have created this universe, and is able to manage the progress of everything in it including the evolutionary processes that gave rise to you?
My name is Rebane, and I also expand on this and related themes on georgerebane.com where the addended transcript of this commentary is posted with relevant links, and where such issues are debated extensively. However my views are not necessarily shared by KVMR. Thank you for listening.
[Addendum] So now consider someone like you, several years down the line when technology has really advanced. Game companies have come up with the ultimate game genre that is teasingly named ‘Games of God’. You like computer games and have played many versions of them from twitch games to games where you build and control cities, countries, economies, and societies. But games of god offer cloud-resident products that let you create and manage an entire universe that you can let evolve or populate with sentient and sapient beings with characteristics of your own choosing living on a world in a universe whose design you can create from scratch, or selectively modify from a set of fully functional templates.
You look over the catalog of such games, and one that is called ‘Srimad Bhagavatam’ catches your fancy, and you decide to buy it. After you log on to SB, pay for it, and establish your ID bona fides you are directed to a start page whereon you have to select a set of characteristics for the universe you are about to create. You notice that you can even create a new kind of physics for your universe, but you choose to accept a template that implements our universe’s physics and populate it with galaxies, suns, nebulae, planets pretty much like the one you live in.
You pick a ‘goldilocks planet’ that will express our ontology, e.g. ultimately supporting life as we know it, and hasten it through a planetary evolution that winds up terra forming it to a very Earth-like state. You’re really interested in getting the world populated with stimulating critters, so you again fast forward biological evolution – remember, in your created universe you can control time, space, matter, and energy to your liking, you can even run time backward to a previous point of departure if you want to sort of take a mulligan in the progress of things.
So there you have it, your critters are sentient and stand at the doorstep to sapience – think of the black obelisk appearing before the apes in ‘2001’. Now the SB user interface (UI) asks you a whole bunch of other questions which you as the creator have to answer and/or allow various sets of defaults to be implemented. Some of the required inputs the UI requires from you are answers to questions like –
1. What kind of free will can your sentient sapient critters (SSCs) have and express? (random, algorithmic, …)
2. What intrinsic values will they evince? (regarding property, security, liberty, peerage, might, …)
3. Will there be love? (think of love as taxonomized by the Greeks)
4. What will motivate their behaviors? (food, shelter, sex, progeny, power, wealth, …)
5. What characteristics of yours (‘in your image’) will they share? (say, reason, justice, fairness, joy, sorrow, longing, …)
6. What attributes will define their good behavior, bad behavior?
7. Will you inject in them some overarching goals like seeking immortality or asking ‘why existence?’?
8. If religions develop, how will you be informed of and treat praises? prayers (what kind)?
9. What type of mortality/ies will afflict your SSCs? Will they suffer gradual and/or intermittent threats to their health? degeneration?
10. Will their ultimate fate be oblivion or perceived eternal life – in what form? (a la Frank Tipler’s Physics of Immortality)
11. What kind of UI would you like to communicate the passage of time in SB, the perception of time by your SSCs? The ability to ‘replay’ to understand how the present state was achieved?
And so on – you get the picture. It may take you some days to think through and create the kind of SB universe that is to your liking. But sooner or later, perhaps after a mulligan or two, you will be able to hit the ‘play’ button and, God willing, become pleasurably absorbed in your created universe.