The Simulation Hypothesis: A Materialist Spirituality?

"The notion that we are all self-aware software trapped inside computer-generated virtual reality first gained academic credibility in a 2003 paper published by Oxford philosopher and futurist Nick Bostrom. . . . One of the appeals of simulation theory, [Rothman] thinks, is that it 'gives atheists a way to talk about spirituality,' or something like it. It offers 'a source of awe.'" - Breakpoint

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Do Parallel Universes Exist?

Most of us are familiar with the distinction between facts and the interpretation of facts. Objective facts are often interpreted based upon the worldview, paradigms, assumptions, culture, and even personality of the interpreter. Facts do not change. Our interpretation of facts may.

This is certainly true when it comes to history, but also true when it comes to “science.” For example, a young earth creationist interprets the fossil record as suggesting rapid massive burial, probably a result of Noah’s flood. An evolutionist looks at the same pile of fossils and says small floods buried them over millions of years.

I don’t fault researchers for interpreting facts in light of their accepted models, but I do fault them for presenting their interpretations of the facts as the facts themselves.

Scientists are puzzled at the perfection of the universe and particularly our planet. Planet earth meets the plethora of delicate conditions necessary to sustain complicated life forms — like we humans. Even apart from the issue of how we came to be, the issue of how we can thrive anywhere in the universe is statistically challenging.

The laws of physics are too finely tuned to have been random, and thus they suggest Intelligent Design. Modern paradigms embraced by the majority of the scientific community, however, allow no room for a Creator. Enter the theory of the multiverse — multiple parallel universes.

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Confession of an Incurable Evidentialist, Part 4: Is Curiosity a Sin? Is Interpretation a Hindrance to Truth?

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Thomas Edison had over 1100 patents to his name. His inventions included the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, the moving-picture camera, the electric locomotive and the alkaline battery. “My philosophy of life,” said Edison, “is work—bringing out the secrets of nature and applying them for the happiness of man.” Among other things, Edison possessed an uncommonly strong work ethic, an unwavering practical bent, an almost boundless optimism, and an unusually high amount of curiosity.

A driving force

Curiosity is a driving force in the human psyche. Martin Heidegger, in one of his numerous sallies into the labyrinth of lost ideas to find Dasein (existence), attempted to explain curiosity for us. First, he says in a rather backward fashion, curiosity is “letting the world be encountered by us in perception.” Then, he proceeds to relate that curiosity “seeks restlessness and the excitement of continual novelty and changing encounters.” Through curiosity, existence is constantly uprooting itself. Heidegger then concludes his dismal discourse by saying that curiosity always ends in ambiguity (Being and Time, 1.5).

We may all thank our lucky Daseins that Thomas Edison never read Heidegger. We may also be certain that Heidegger wasn’t thinking about children at all as he discussed curiosity. If he had spent much time studying little children (or remembered his studies), he would have comprehended that curiosity is an inborn tool for learning. It provides the drive to discover. An infant, regardless of its environment, will put this tool right to work early in life: looking at things, grasping at objects, playing with them, talking to them and putting them in his mouth. Aristotle said, “All men by nature desire to know.” (Metaphysics, I.1) We may well add, the desire is awakened shortly after birth.

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Confession of an Incurable Evidentialist, Part 2

Read Part 1.

Thoughts on Christianity and science

In the imposing Munster Church of Strasbourg, France there is a clock which stands over two stories tall. Built in 1359, it shows not only hours and minutes but also motions of the planets and the phases of the moon. But through its moving figures and adorning paintings it also tells a message, namely, that time began with the creation and is heading toward the judgment of God at its end. This view of time was deeply embedded in the mind of Europeans before the Strasbourg clock was built.

We see few things as being as truth-telling or meaning-giving as time. We claim the right to vote on the basis of age. We celebrate athletes because they covered a distance in record time. We honor couples who have been married 50 years. People’s lives depend on how experts calculate according to minutes and seconds on the clock: airplane flights, space flights, train-track switches and hospital operations, just to name a few. Even Einstein’s theory of Relativity, which presents time-dilation, requires a constant related to time: the speed of light (299,792,458 meters per second).

The beginnings of science

All of the success of modern scientific venture goes back to the idea of the Strasbourg clock: a worldview based on the creation story. Alfred North Whitehead, hardly a believer in biblical Christianity, wrote (Science and the Modern World, 1925) that the basis of modern science is found in “the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher.”

Before the spread of Christianity civilizations believed in the cyclical view of time and history: birth → growth → apex → degeneration → cataclysmic destruction → rebirth, and so on. In addition, they believed the world was filled with and dominated by spirits whose activities in nature were often despotic.

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Confession of an Incurable Evidentialist

I am an evidentialist. Having said that, I can sense that I am about to be surrounded by a host of theologians who will gladly lower their heavenly weapons at me. But before you classify me with David Hume and Bertrand Russell, let me explain what I mean. I believe that all humans apprehend truth in part through evidence (what some would call “hard evidence”). Dr. Bauder’s articles on Subjectivity and Objectivity have aroused my interest to write on the same subject. This is not meant as a contradiction of what he has said. I hope, likewise not to take anything away from what he is planning to write. Dr. Bauder was my faculty advisor, and pushed me to develop intellectually in ways I had not anticipated. I owe him a great deal for instructing me how to better tackle theology. So consider this as part of a conversation he started. I simply am entering the conversation with a different perspective.

I am an evidentialist by the definition I have given for two reasons (I would say “common sense” is one, but I know that would create more arguments than it is worth). Here are the reasons:

1. God created us to apprehend reality and thus arrive at truth (while not all truth) through the senses.

We are fascinated by scientific measuring devices and their ability to bring us knowledge: say a thermometer or a compass. Scientific measuring devices are basically (often crude) imitations of measuring apparatuses in humans, animals and plants. In humans, these measuring devices make up part of our sensory organs. For example, the rods and cones (over 100 million of them) in the retina of the eye are photoreceptors. Each registers the smallest particle of light, a photon, when it comes in the visual pathway. The incredibly high sensitivity of the retina is the reason you should not look directly at the sun.

Aristotle began his Metaphysics with the statement, “All men naturally desire knowledge. An indication of this is our esteem for the senses; for apart from their use we esteem them for their own sake, and most of all the sense of sight…. The reason of this is that of all the senses sight best helps us to know things.” Through the senses we perceive reality quite correctly, and, combined with our current knowledge, arrive at new truth.

David’s actively measuring retinas helped him perceive the glistening reality of the night sky. Sensory experience combined with David’s knowledge of God as creator, plus the aid of the Holy Spirit caused him to produce a profound sacred statement: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). David knew about God’s visitations to humans recorded in salvation history. It was David’s sensory experience that got him thinking and filled him with wonder at God’s condescension.

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