Cosmology Intelligent Design Physics

At Mind Matters News: A physicist rejects the idea that we live in a sim universe

Spread the love

At IAI News, Marcelo Gleiser worries that the claim that we are simulated beings with no free will reduces our ability to tackle the problems humanity faces:

The “simulation” idea may sound pretty far-fetched but it is more popular than some might expect. Science broadcaster Neil deGrasse Tyson, driverless car entrepreneur Elon Musk, and former Astronomer Royal Martin Rees have aired the idea. Philosopher of consciousness David Chalmers argues that we can’t prove we are not living in a simulation.

First, Gleiser agrees with Chalmers that, from a philosophical perspective, a sim universe is not self-evidently false. A claim that the average cat has six legs, for example, can easily be falsified — and we don’t need philosophy to do it. But how do we show that Tyson, Musk, and Rees are mistaken?

Note: The arguments go back and forth. But free will seems like one of those things that we wouldn’t know about if we didn’t have it.

19 Replies to “At Mind Matters News: A physicist rejects the idea that we live in a sim universe

  1. 1
    Fasteddious says:

    Some speculations on interesting possibilities in a simulated world:
    https://thopid.blogspot.com/2019/01/our-simulated-world.html
    The “free will” debate goes back a long way, and no one today is likely to resolve it to everyone’s satisfaction. However, everyone behaves as if they have free will is, so we should go with that assumption as the most reasonable approach.

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Note: The arguments go back and forth. But free will seems like one of those things that we wouldn’t know about if we didn’t have it.

    But is it a black-and-white thing? We either have totally free will or we don’t have it at all? Remember the story of Peter’s triple denial of knowing Christ even though he was warned specifically he would do just that? There’s no getting around that story suggests we have no free will.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky, you do realize that you are making a theological, not scientific, argument against the reality of free will do you not???? So, I guess, you are now a Calvinist Christian??,, instead of a being a Darwinian Atheist??? 🙂

  4. 4
    chuckdarwin says:

    Isn’t “Calvinist Christian” redundant?

  5. 5
    Seversky says:

    Bornagain77/3

    Seversky, you do realize that you are making a theological, not scientific, argument against the reality of free will do you not???? So, I guess, you are now a Calvinist Christian??,, instead of a being a Darwinian Atheist???

    No, it has nothing to do with Calvinism or Darwinism. I’m just taking the concept of omniscience and following it to its logical conclusion.

    Omniscience means knowing all that exists to be known, not just in the present but everything that has existed in our past and, more importantly in this context, all that will exist in our future.

    The problem the foreknowledge of the future by an omniscient being presents to the concept of free will is illustrated nicely by the Biblical story of Peter’s denials. He did precisely what Jesus foretold regardless of what he wanted. For Jesus to know what Peter would do means that, for Jesus, that future already existed to be known and could not be changed. And a future that cannot be changed leaves no room for free will

  6. 6
    vividbleau says:

    Sev

    “The problem the foreknowledge of the future by an omniscient being presents to the concept of free will is illustrated nicely by the Biblical story of Peter’s denials. He did precisely what Jesus foretold regardless of what he wanted. For Jesus to know what Peter would do means that, for Jesus, that future already existed to be known and could not be changed. And a future that cannot be changed leaves no room for free will”

    Utter nonsense.

    I am absolutely certain how I will act under given conditions so far as I am free to act at all. As a parent I am absolutely certain certain that I will rescue my child in distress, and that in doing so I am acting freely. I know with absolutely certainty what my wife will do as well.

    I am absolutely certain that when the issue of Gods omniscience or benevolence comes up you are going to repeat your utter nonsense (sarc)

    “He did precisely what Jesus foretold regardless of what he wanted. “

    More utter nonsense Peter did precisely what Jesus foretold because that IS what he wanted. He was not forced or coerced to do otherwise.

    Vivid

  7. 7
    Querius says:

    Note Seversky @2:

    Remember the story of Peter’s triple denial of knowing Christ even though he was warned specifically he would do just that?

    What does Peter’s denial of Christ have to do with a “sim universe”?

    A “sim universe” doesn’t depend on anything to do with free will. Video games are “sim universes” and typically have both non-player characters and player characters.

    Relevant to the discussion would be how we could scientifically conclude one way or the other. In other words, what’s the evidence either way? Here’s some background . . .

    What Is Reality? [Official Film]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0ztlIAYTCU

    -Q

  8. 8
    vividbleau says:

    “More utter nonsense Peter did precisely what Jesus foretold because that IS what he wanted”

    This is not as precise as I want it to be. Peter did precisely what Jesus foretold because that was what he MOST wanted to chooses given the options available to him at the time the choice was made.

    Vivid

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky denies that his argument against the reality of free will has anything to do with Calvinism or Darwinism. But then why is he making a theological argument instead of a ‘scientific’ argument from determinism?

    Either way, theologically or scientifically, Sev’s argument against the reality of free will collapses in on itself.

    Theologically speaking, and as Vivid pointed out, it was not God’s omniscience that compelled Peter to deny Christ, it was Peter’s sinful nature that compelled Peter to deny Christ. In fact, the Bible is explicit in its claim that the unredeemed man is a ‘slave to sin’.,,, In fact, it is almost embarrassing to have to point out to Seversky the fact that man cannot redeem himself from sin and death, but God through Christ can, is pretty much the main thesis of the entire Bible.

    For one instance out of many instances, Paul’s “wretched man” lament in Romans 7, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

    Romans 7: 14-25
    We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
    So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
    So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

    And please note, that although we are ‘slaves to sin’ that we are still afforded the free will necessary to accept Christ into our lives, ‘open the door’ as it were, so as to be set free from sin and death.

    Revelation 3:20
    Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

    Likewise, and ‘scientifically’ speaking, the materialist’s deterministic argument against the reality of free will is also falsified.

    From neuroscience, and as Dr. Egnor points out, “an objective review of the neuroscientific evidence unequivocally supports the existence of free will.”

    Michael Egnor: Is free will a dangerous myth? – October 6, 2018
    Excerpt: 4. ,,, an objective review of the neuroscientific evidence unequivocally supports the existence of free will. The first neuroscientist to map the brains of conscious subjects, Wilder Penfield, noted that there is an immaterial power of volition in the human mind that he could not stimulate with electrodes. The pioneer in the neuroscience of free will was Benjamin Libet, who demonstrated clearly that, while there is an unconscious material predisposition to acts as shown by electrical brain activity, we retain an immaterial “free won’t,” which is the ability to veto an unconscious urge to act. Many experiments have followed on Libet’s work, most of which use fMRI imaging of brain activity. They all confirm Libet’s observations by showing what is at most a loose correlation between brain activity and volition (for example, nearly half the time the brain activity that precedes the act is on the wrong side of the brain for the activity to determine the will)—the looseness of correlation being best explained as evidence for libertarian free will. Modern neuroscience clearly demonstrates an immaterial component to volition.
    Harari is wrong about free will. It is not a myth. Free will is a real and fundamental aspect of being human, and the denial of free will is junk science and self-refuting logical nonsense.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/michael-egnor-is-free-will-a-dangerous-myth/

    And as Jeffrey Schwartz has demonstrated, a person’s immaterial mind, via focused attention, is able to modify the physical brain (brain plasticity).

    Jeffrey Schwartz: You Are More than Your Brain – Science Uprising Extra Content
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFIOSQNuXuY&list=PLR8eQzfCOiS1OmYcqv_yQSpje4p7rAE7-&index=9

    And in quantum mechanics, and as the late Steven Weinberg, who was an atheist, stated, “In the instrumentalist approach (in quantum mechanics) humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level.,,, the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else.,,, In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure,,, Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,”

    The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics – Steven Weinberg – January 19, 2017
    Excerpt: The instrumentalist approach,, (the) wave function,, is merely an instrument that provides predictions of the probabilities of various outcomes when measurements are made.,,
    In the instrumentalist approach,,, humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level. According to Eugene Wigner, a pioneer of quantum mechanics, “it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”11
    Thus the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else. It is not that we object to thinking about humans. Rather, we want to understand the relation of humans to nature, not just assuming the character of this relation by incorporating it in what we suppose are nature’s fundamental laws, but rather by deduction from laws that make no explicit reference to humans. We may in the end have to give up this goal,,,
    Some physicists who adopt an instrumentalist approach argue that the probabilities we infer from the wave function are objective probabilities, independent of whether humans are making a measurement. I don’t find this tenable. In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure, such as the spin in one or another direction. Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,
    http://quantum.phys.unm.edu/46.....inberg.pdf

    In fact Weinberg, again an atheist, rejected the instrumentalist approach precisely because “humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level” and because it undermined the Darwinian worldview from within. Yet, regardless of how he and other atheists may prefer the world to behave, quantum mechanics itself could care less how atheists prefer the world to behave.

    As 2022 Nobel laureate Anton Zeilinger stated, “what we perceive as reality now depends on our earlier decision what to measure. Which is a very, very, deep message about the nature of reality and our part in the whole universe. We are not just passive observers.”

    “The Kochen-Speckter Theorem talks about properties of one system only. So we know that we cannot assume – to put it precisely, we know that it is wrong to assume that the features of a system, which we observe in a measurement exist prior to measurement. Not always. I mean in certain cases. So in a sense, what we perceive as reality now depends on our earlier decision what to measure. Which is a very, very, deep message about the nature of reality and our part in the whole universe. We are not just passive observers.”
    Anton Zeilinger –
    Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism – video (7:17 minute mark)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=4C5pq7W5yRM#t=437

    Moreover, Anton Zeilinger and company have now, as of 2018, pushed the ‘freedom of choice’ loophole back to 7.8 billion years ago, thereby firmly establishing the ‘common sense’ fact that the free will choices of the experimenter in the quantum experiments are truly free and are not determined by any possible causal influences from the past for at least the last 7.8 billion years, and that the experimenters themselves are therefore shown to be truly free to choose whatever measurement settings in the experiments so as to ‘logically’ probe whatever aspect of reality that he or she may be interested in probing.

    Cosmic Bell Test Using Random Measurement Settings from High-Redshift Quasars – Anton Zeilinger – 14 June 2018
    Excerpt: This experiment pushes back to at least approx. 7.8 Gyr ago the most recent time by which any local-realist influences could have exploited the “freedom-of-choice” loophole to engineer the observed Bell violation, excluding any such mechanism from 96% of the space-time volume of the past light cone of our experiment, extending from the big bang to today.
    https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.121.080403

    Thus regardless of how Steven Weinberg and other atheists may prefer the universe to behave, with the closing of the last remaining ‘freedom of choice’ loophole in quantum mechanics, “humans are (indeed) brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level”, and thus these recent findings from quantum mechanics directly undermine, as Weinberg himself admitted, the “vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else.”

    Moreover, when we rightly allow the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics, (as the Christian founders of modern science originally held with the presupposition of ‘contingency’), and as quantum mechanics itself now empirically demands with the closing of the “freedom-of-choice” loophole by Anton Zeilinger and company), then rightly allowing the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics provides us with a very plausible resolution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’ in that Christ’s resurrection from the dead bridges the infinite mathematical divide that exists between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics and provides us with an empirically backed reconciliation, via the Shroud of Turin, between Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity into the much sought after ‘Theory of Everything”

    Oct. 2022 – although there will never be, (via Godel), a purely mathematical ‘theory of everything’ that bridges the infinite mathematical divide that exists between quantum mechanics and general relativity, all hope is not lost in finding the correct ‘theory of everything’.
    https://uncommondescent.com/cosmology/from-iai-news-how-infinity-threatens-cosmology/#comment-766384

    Verses:

    Luke 22:42
    saying, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Thine be done.”

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Thus in conclusion, Seversky made a very theologically unsophisticated, even juvenile, argument against the reality of free will, but when the actual ‘nuanced’ Biblical view of the reality of free will is taken into consideration, then Seversky’s argument falls completely apart. Moreover, and ‘scientifically’ speaking, when we rightly allow agent causality, and/or free will, of God “back’ into science, as the Christian founders of modern science originally envisioned, then a very plausible solution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’ readily pops out for us in Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

    Supplemental verse:

    Deuteronomy 30:19-20
    This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

  10. 10
    Origenes says:

    Bornagain77@

    Either way, theologically or scientifically, Sev’s argument against the reality of free will collapses in on itself.

    I totally agree.
    To say that a person is not free is to say that he is determined by something beyond his control. If a person is determined by something beyond his control, he does not control himself. If a person does not control himself, he also does not control his thoughts.
    A person who does not control his thoughts is not a rational being. Something that is not a rational being has no place in a rational discussion about free will. No one can coherently argue that he is not in control of his thoughts.
    For the sake of coherency, those who search for the truth and engage in rational inquiry must reject the possibility that free will does not exist.

  11. 11
    PyrrhoManiac1 says:

    As best I can tell, the messiness of the free will debate turns on the following question (please feel free to revise or modify if you think I’ve missed something):

    given that we have a capacity of self-control under some conditions, is this capacity best explained by positing the existence of a power of action that is metaphysically separate from the spatio-temporal causal nexus that structures the physical universe?

    This may not precise enough, but hopefully it’s a start.

  12. 12
    Origenes says:

    *removed*

  13. 13
    PyrrhoManiac1 says:

    @12

    If a “spatio-temporal causal nexus that structures the physical universe” is incompatible with self-control, and I hold that it is, then self-control can only (not “best”) be explained by “positing the existence of a power of action that is metaphysically separate from the spatio-temporal causal nexus that structures the physical universe.”

    That inference looks fine to me. I’d still want to question whether the premise is right: that self-control is (logically? metaphysically?) incompatible with being entangled with the causal nexus of physical universe.

    Here’s one approach to the question (not the only one, obviously).

    We know that lots of ‘higher’ mammals (apes, cetaceans) can refrain from acting if they would be socially sanctioned for those actions. (This could be explained in terms of prefrontal cortex inhibiting limbic system activity.)

    If something like that is right, then it’s not too difficult to imagine how an animal with an even larger and more powerful prefrontal cortex would be even more successful at inhibiting limbic system activity under a variety of conditions.

    In other words, the neurobiology of self-control could be a difference of degree and not of kind, with regard to what we do and don’t share with other animals.

    Would you want to say that apes and cetaceans are also somehow exempt from the causal nexus? Or would you want to say that humans are different in kind (and not just in degree) from them? If so, what makes our self-control different in kind from theirs?

  14. 14
    Origenes says:

    PM1@

    I’d still want to question whether the premise is right: that self-control is (logically? metaphysically?) incompatible with being entangled with the causal nexus of physical universe.

    I would argue that, in general, hard determinism is incompatible with self-control. I argue against Aquinas’ worldview as well as physical determinism. WRT the latter: if my thoughts are the result of laws of nature and circumstances before I was born, then I am not in control of my thoughts.
    I note that undetermined physical events also fail to establish personal self-control in any meaningful way.

    In the Aquinas thread, I go on to argue that the conscious self-aware person is (necessarily) the cause of his own existence—causa sui. This is IMO strongly related to freedom and self-control, however, I would prefer that my “irrational” claim does not become part of this thread also.

    Would you want to say that apes and cetaceans are also somehow exempt from the causal nexus? Or would you want to say that humans are different in kind (and not just in degree) from them? If so, what makes our self-control different in kind from theirs?

    In my view, we are self-aware beings and apes are not—a huge difference in kind.

  15. 15
    PyrrhoManiac1 says:

    In my view, we are self-aware beings and apes are not—a huge difference in kind.

    In experimental psychology, being able to pass the mirror test is usually taken as demonstrating self-awareness, and most apes can do that. So why isn’t that good enough?

    I don’t mean this as a ‘gotcha’: I think that there are dimensions of self-awareness that aren’t operationalized by the mirror test. But I have trouble really understanding what those are and why they matter. So please take this as an opportunity for us to think through this issue together.

  16. 16
    Origenes says:

    From an interesting article by Denyse O’ leary:

    Science writer Virginia Morell offers a useful distinction:
    “Self-awareness is not, however, the same as being conscious – which is commonly defined as being aware of one’s body and surrounding environment, a mental trait many animals share with us.
    (…)
    But being conscious of one’s body does not mean that an animal also has a capacity for introspection – a key part of being self-aware. While consciousness is being aware of one’s body, self-awareness takes the sensation one step further – you recognise that you are aware of your awareness.”

    Perhaps, it makes sense to say that the mirror test tests for ‘body-awareness’ as opposed to (inner)self-awareness.
    – – – –
    From the same article:

    Recently, a fish (the cleaner wrasse), not known for self-awareness, passed the [mirror] test.

  17. 17
    relatd says:

    Seversky at 2,

    Bad theology again. God knows everything we will do before we do it. We still have free will. YOUR problem is, ‘oh, I found this thing in the Bible where Jesus tells someone what they are going to do.’
    He’s GOD – remember? He is God and has the powers and attributes attributed to God. BUT FOR THE REST OF US – no message from God about any of our future actions. YOU are still free to choose right or wrong, good or bad. It is up to you.

    And one last thing. At the Last Judgment, we will all be judged. You make it sound like God will tell you what the outcome will be in your case before then.

  18. 18
    relatd says:

    Seversky at 5,

    You are committed to having it your own way. Of finding any excuse to avoid God and have your own 100% free – from anybody – will. I would caution against that.

    And another thing. God did not make robots that would obey Him 100% all the time. He gave humans free will so we could choose Him freely. Can you force someone to love you? Can you? It’s the same with God. He will not force you to choose Him.

  19. 19
    Querius says:

    Consciousness experiment:

    1. Set up an double slit apparatus with the capability to detect which slit an electron passes through.

    2. Set up a monitor so a human can see whether an interference pattern continues to display on the target screen. If two bars are showing, it means that the wavefunction, psi, has collapsed.

    3. Enable different organisms to observe the slit, including the following:

    a. A human (we know that human observation collapses the wavefunction)
    b. A cleaner wrasse
    c. A cat (named Heisenberg, of course)
    d. A chimpanzee

    That should resolve the question of whether humans have anything unique in this matter. A similar experiment involving complementary/conjugate variables would also be interesting.

    -Q

Leave a Reply