*New York Times* commentator Ross Douthat, in response to a mathematician advocating simulated parallel universes tweeted,

I’d be curious to hear a partisan of this kind of investigation distinguish it from Intelligent Design theory

The mathematician, U Berkley’s Edward Frenkel, writes,

The great logician Kurt Gödel argued that mathematical concepts and ideas “form an objective reality of their own, which we cannot create or change, but only perceive and describe.” But if this is true, how do humans manage to access this hidden reality?

We don’t know. But one fanciful possibility is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics — not in what we commonly take to be the real world. According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used.

This may strike you as very unlikely. But the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not. If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them — presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one.

Well, it is a form of intelligent design theory, but almost everyone who accepts the normality of design in nature feels that attributing it to advanced future space aliens is a bit dodgy, even from an advanced theoretical mathematician.

The comments so far read are hardly illuminating. So what do readers think?

*See also:* The Science Fictions series at your fingertips (cosmology)

In search of a road to reality

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