A recent article in The Guardian reported some scientists’ beliefs that we may, like the folks in The Matrix, be living in a simulated universe. A couple ideas put forth by one of those scientists as reported in the article were, for me as a freethinker, particularly troubling.
One idea tendered in the article appears to support a sort of creationism: “That we might be in a simulation is, [NASA JPL scientist Rich] Terrile argues, a simpler explanation for our existence than the idea that we are the first generation to rise up from primordial ooze and evolve into molecules, biology and eventually intelligence and self-awareness.” While I won’t assume that Terrile himself subscribes to creationism per se (and a previous quote of his in the article refutes the need for supernatural involvement for this simulation to be possible) , I do think that the lay reader could easily walk away from the article with the idea that creationism can be easily supported by current science.
Further, the possibility that we’re living in a simulation “provides a scientific basis for some kind of afterlife or larger domain of reality above our world. ‘You don’t need a miracle, faith or anything special to believe it. It comes naturally out of the laws of physics,’ [Terrile] said.” Again, the same problem as before: the lay reader may presume that “heaven” as conceived by various religions is an idea supported by mainstream science.
To its credit, the article does provide quotes from other scientists refuting these claims. But will the reader seeking justification for believing in an afterlife and a creator take these as seriously as the quotes above? And if we do accept that we may be living in a simulation, should we view the “advanced humans” who may have created it any differently from gods? Human-generated technology will, one hopes, continue to move forward. If we (even inadvertently) deify those who create and have access to it, don’t we strip away some of the humanity that we have in common with those who live in that future?