There is an ongoing PBS TV series (also several books and also a website) called “Closer To Truth”. It is hosted by neuroscientist Robert Lawrence Kuhn. He’s featured in one-on-one interviews and panel discussions with the cream of the cream of today’s cosmologists, physicists, philosophers, theologians, psychologists, etc. on all of the Big Questions surrounding a trilogy of broad topics – Cosmos; Consciousness; Meaning. The trilogy collectively dealt with reality, space and time, mind and consciousness, aliens, theology and on and on and on. Here are a few of my comments on two of the universal topics covered: The Simulated Universe and the Multiverse.
Are there Multiple Universes?
Let’s start with the assumption that there are indeed multiple universes as many of those interviewed on “Closer to Truth” have advocated. I’m not convinced they have thought as far outside of the box as perhaps they should have. Proponents of the multiverse seem to be fixated on a multiverse in space, all universes co-existing pretty much at the same time, as in right now. Little if any thought has been given to a multiverse in time; over time; throughout time. In other words, if you have one universe that morphs into another universe which evolves into yet another, again and again, universes in sequence, then you have accomplished the same thing – a multiverse. The fine-tuning argument might be such that we exist here now in this universe because previous universes on the road to ours, were not bio-friendly whereas our universe is one of the odd universes out in the emergence of life. The next universe after ours, say we do reverse direction and hit the Big Crunch which becomes the Big Bang of the next universe in the timeline, might not be a Goldilocks universe. Anyway, the point is that one can have a multiverse in space at one time, or a multiverse in time but just in one space, or, of course both.
Why Believe in Multiple Universes?
There is of course the fine-tuning argument that the more universes you have the greater the odds that one will have laws, principles and relationships of physics that will make that universe a bio-friendly universe; a Goldilocks universe. That alone explains the vast improbability of our existence. Another reason however might be that you would philosophically like, on the grounds of fairness and equality, that anything that can happen, should happen. That anything that can happen, will happen, will be maximized if one maximizes the amount of space and time available. The more time you have to play with; the more space you have to play around in, the greater the odds that the wildly improbable will come to pass. One way of doing that is to maximize the number of universes available, or have, in other words, a multiverse. That multiverse might contain identical or very similar laws, principles and relationships of physics, or each universe might be drastically differing in those laws, principles and relationships of physics. Regardless, you have maximized the odds that anything that can happen, will happen.
Did God Create Multiple Universes?
What’s the point of creating multiple universes instead of just creating one large universe that would be equal in size, and in intelligences that inhabit that one cosmos, to a bunch of universes? Maybe it’s a case of doing it just for the sake of doing it, but that doesn’t seem to be a rational reason for an infallible supernatural deity. In any event, to a deity, is there anything different in principle to creating many universes relative to one universe since to that deity all universes would be connected, a unified whole, even if only in the mind of the creator deity. The total cosmos would still be equal to the sum of its parts. The total of a glass of water is equal to the sum of all the individual water molecules. Once you have created one water molecule, well you can conclude that you’ve been there, done that, so why create more and more and more.
What would Multiple Universes Mean?
The concept of multiple universes seems to be advocated primarily to explain the fact that our Universe is a bio-friendly Universe or a Goldilocks Universe. Our Universe is very finely-tuned in terms of the laws, principles and relationships of physics (and chemistry) to allow life to survive and thrive. The odds that this should be are so astronomically low that anyone betting the family farm would bet that if our Universe were the only Universe it would be lifeless. To get around this problem one postulates lots and lots and lots of universes, each with a separate set of laws, principles and relationships of physics (and chemistry). Sooner or later, the improbable becomes near certainty. The odds are stacked against you being dealt a royal flush in poker on the very first hand in your very first game, but if you play thousands upon thousands of poker games, with tens upon tens of thousands of hands dealt to you, sooner or later the royal flush will come your way. Okay, that all seems clear enough, but I have one bone to pick here. The assumption is that if there is a multiverse that every universe within that multiverse will have a different set of laws, principles and relationships of physics (and chemistry). No reason is ever given for that assumption. There may well be a vast number of universes, but there may also be one, and only one possible set of laws, principles and relationships of physics (and chemistry). All universes will have the exact same laws, principles and relationships of physics (and chemistry). Can someone please explain why this possibility, a uniform across-the-board physics, isn’t as likely, even more likely since we know our set of laws, principles and relationships of physics (and chemistry) actually exist, than postulating without any even theoretical evidence why every universe should have a different set of laws, principles and relationships of physics (and chemistry).
Could Our Universe Be a Fake?
You would bet the family farm that you are living in a really real universe. The characters in one of our video games would bet their family farm that they were living in a really real cosmic landscape. We know better than those video game characters. We know that they don’t exist is a really real cosmic landscape. But if they don’t know, if they cannot know, what makes us think in no uncertain terms that we know that we live in a really real cosmic landscape, or universe? We can not know for absolute certain about our real reality versus our possible virtual reality any more than our video game characters can know that their certainty about their real reality is in fact wrong. What seals or at least slants our certainty of real reality being as wrong as that of our video game characters certainty in there (apparent) real reality is that we believe that our reality is a real landscape while at the same time knowing that there exists thousands upon thousands of virtual reality landscapes. Now just go up one level. Our (apparent) real reality existence in an (apparent) real landscape is just one of thousands, millions, even billions of actual virtual reality landscapes in some other real universe. In other words, you can have millions of virtual reality landscapes that reside in the landscape of one really real universe. So, what are the odds, without any way of determining whether you are in a really real reality or a fake reality, that you are in fact in the really real reality and not in the fake reality? You might be in the really real landscape, but you probably shouldn’t bet the family farm that that is the case. The odds are stacked against you.
Are we Living in a Simulation 1?
IMHO, the answer is absolutely “yes”. I’ll give just one reason (for the moment) which alone should point us towards that answer. If there is but one physics, if all of physics is self-consistent, then we probably live in a really, real reality; in a really real cosmos. However, if all of physics is NOT self-consistent then we probably ‘live’ in what I call the Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe. Now guess what? Physics is in fact NOT a self-consistent physics. Physics is inconsistent. The proof of that pudding is that despite many decades of effort by thousands of the finest scientific minds on the planet, there is and there remains an inconsistency between macro classical physics (gravity and relativity) and the micro quantum physics. Thus, the Holy Grail in physics is to unify the two and establish that our cosmos and our reality is a physical one, not a virtual one. That Grail is proving as elusive as that other Grail! The easy answer is that there are two separate and apart sets of software running the simulated cosmos, in the same way as you have separate and apart software systems that run your PC. That does not imply an infallible supernatural deity, but a flesh-and-blood fallible entity who happens to be a software nerd and maybe a video game fanatic. I’ve often wondered what the organized monotheistic religions are going to say if and when they find out that God is in fact some teenager who created “The Life and Times on the Third Rock from the Star Called Sol” as a science project!
Are we Living in a Simulation 2?
Although this doesn’t prove we are living in a simulation, it is suggestive that if you were to bet the family farm, you would bet on being a simulated virtual reality being. Why? There can at best be one and only one really real cosmos which may or may not contain a lot of separate and apart universes – a multiverse. Even if in that entire expanse of that really real cosmos there existed only one technically advanced civilization that created simulations, simulated universes, virtual landscapes populated by virtual beings, etc., then the number of simulations, simulations with simulated beings, simulated universes, will outnumber that one really real cosmos. More realistically, there will exist lots of simulation-creating civilizations in that one really real cosmos, each creating dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions or even more artificial landscapes for education and training purposes, for research, and most of all, for fun and profit. There’s a buck to be made out of creating virtual reality, or video games. The proof of that pudding is that the highly advanced technological civilization that exists on Planet Earth has in a very, very short period of time created a multitude of virtual reality landscapes or simulated worlds populated by virtual reality beings. So the ratio of real to simulated is going to be one to, well some way higher number. Perhaps a realistic ratio might be one real world simulates a million virtual reality landscapes inhabited by virtual reality beings. And of course there could be a vast number of multiple copies of each one of those individual virtual reality landscapes, or video games. So, here you are, a being in a landscape. Are you a real being in a real landscape or a virtual reality being in a virtual reality landscape? The odds favour the latter. Why don’t you know? Because you haven’t been programmed to know, any more than the characters in our video games have been programmed to be aware of their virtual reality status.
Are we Living in a Simulation 3?
In contrast to my post immediately above, one might argue that it might be the case that there are multi millions of highly advanced technological civilizations within the cosmos, yet for some strange reason, only one or two or a handful at best do virtual reality simulations. If that were the case, then the odds shift back to you having an existence in one of those really real worlds. The odds now favour your real reality versus your simulated reality. However, I feel that scenario is a bit of a stretch and thus that simulation-creating societies will be far more numerous than societies that fail to embrace the benefits of simulations or virtual reality.