Are We Living in the Matrix?

On Monday, the New Yorker suggested that “the bizarre finale to Sunday night’s Oscar ceremony brought to mind the theory—far from a joke—that humanity is living in a computer simulation gone haywire.” Lest you think that such a self-evidently absurd theory is a mere cry for attention from a dying publication, the idea that we’re all in the Matrix was actually seriously debated at the American Museum of Natural History’s 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate. The list of those partial to this theory include some of the most prominent scientific voices in our culture, and the debate was moderated by one of the most famous:

Moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the museum’s Hayden Planetarium, put the odds at 50-50 that our entire existence is a program on someone else’s hard drive. “I think the likelihood may be very high,” he said.

So how do people this smart end up advocating a theory this absurd? Simply put, because they’re atheistic materialists smart enough to see the implications of their own religious and philosophical views. Three errors in particular are at the root of this:

Mistake #1: Reducing the Mind to a Computer

If you’re a materialist – that is, if you think that matter is all that there is – then two conclusions follow: (a) the “mind” is really nothing more than the brain; and (b) the brain is really nothing more than a highly-advanced computer. You can’t be a materialist and still believe in things like a soul or an immaterial mind. And so, you’re left with arguments like this one, from Oxford’s Nick Bolstrom:

One thing that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their forebears. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations. Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct). Then it could be the case that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race. It is then possible to argue that, if this were the case, we would be rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones.

In other words, if there’s no principled distinction between us and computers, then there’s no reason to think that we’re not computers. In fact, there would be good reason to believe that we are. Technology is rapidly advancing, and there are predictions that computational speeds for personal ($1000) devices will surpass the human brain by about 2025 or so:

Continuing that trend into the future, the argument goes, it won’t be long before we will be able to create “Sims” that have the full range of human intelligence. These Sims would have no idea that they weren’t real, and we could create a virtually limitless number of them. So the odds that such a culture has already done that to us means that the mathematical odds that we’re amongst the nearly-limitless Sim population dwarfs the likelihood that we’re real.

Clara Moskowitz, writing in Scientific American, explains:

They [members of this advanced civilization] would probably have the ability to run many, many such simulations, to the point where the vast majority of minds would actually be artificial ones within such simulations, rather than the original ancestral minds. So simple statistics suggest it is much more likely that we are among the simulated minds.”

There are two things to point out about this theory. First, it follows logically from materialism. Second, it’s utterly ridiculous.

If human minds are nothing more than advanced computers, then current computers are nothing less than simple minds. Shouldn’t human rights (or at least animal rights) activists start advocating on behalf of abused laptops? By this reasoning, is there any moral difference between owning an iPhone and owning a slave — and if there is, is it just that the iPhone isn’t smart enough yet?

As far back as 1983, Robert and Mueller were asking, Would an intelligent computer have a “right to life”? And the EU parliament just voted in January in favoring of granting personhood rights to AI, a conclusion promoted by a study sponsored by the U.K.’s Department of Trade and Industry some ten years ago. So that’s where this line of reasoning leads. Or more ominously: once computers become more advanced than human brains (in terms of computational powers), this logic would suggest that human rights ought to be considered inferior to robotic rights. (Ray Kurzweil, one of the leading futurists advocating this, openly recognizes this possibility).

So let’s make a few things clear. First, human life isn’t reducible to consciousness (you’re alive even when you’re unconscious), and consciousness isn’t reducible to computational ability (you’re self-aware, and a calculator is not). These distinctions are true in principle, not just based upon current technology. In other words, the exact moment that Bolstrom’s argument goes wrong is here: “Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct).” Bolstom has aptly (if advertantly) demonstrated why a materialist philosophy of mind can’t be true without leading to absurd conclusions.

Computers might get (and are already getting) very good at mimicking human conversation and thought processes, but that doesn’t mean that they’re actually persons. The mind is not reducible to the brain, and the brain isn’t reducible to a computer. These bad assumptions are built into Bolstrom’s model, and the model suffers as a result.

Mistake #2: Materialism Can’t Account for the Human Person

Closely related to the last point, materialism reduces the human person to a collection of information, or an internal processor, or a collection of cells. Carl Sagan put it this way:

I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan. You are a collection of almost identical molecules with a different collective label. But is that all? Is there nothing in here but molecules? Some people find this idea somehow demeaning to human dignity. For myself, I find it elevating that our universe permits the evolution of molecular machines as intricate and subtle as we.

But if that were true, if you’re only a collection of molecules, consider what follows. Over the course of your life, you’ve expelled far more molecules (sweating, using the restroom, shedding skin, and the rest) than you currently possess. So why don’t we consider those assorted, discarded cells as the “true” Carl Sagan, or the “true” you?

And you equal the collection of molecules that happen to exist within your body at this exact moment, that collection has only existed for a fraction of a second, and already doesn’t exist by the time you finished reading this sentence. So it follows that you don’t exist, or at least, you’re actually a different person than the one who started reading this. In other words: if materialists are right, you are only a few moments old, and have simply inherited somebody else’s memories.

This problem is nothing new. The seventeenth-century philosopher David Hume argued that minds are “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.” As a result, he was logically forced to deny the existence of himself:

For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.

This also led him to claim he doesn’t exist when he’s asleep:

When my perceptions are remov’d for any time, as by sound sleep; so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist. And were all my perceptions remov’d by death, and cou’d I neither think, nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate after the dissolution of my body, I shou’d be entirely annihilated, nor do I conceive what is farther requisite to make me a perfect non-entity.

Of course, Hume’s argument is self-refuting: if I don’t exist, how is there is neither an “I” capable of stumbling (and certainly not “always” stumbling), nor a stable “myself” upon which to stumble.

In other words, any attempt to reduce human beings to mere matter will always fail, because our matter is in flux. We eat things, we digest, etc. If we don’t have something immaterial like a soul, there’s simply no coherent way we can speak of enduring human consciousness.

Or to put it another way, there is a you that is made up of cells, and has certain information in your brain, and contemplates things mentally, and which has grown and changed in countless ways. You’re not reducible to any of these processes, or to any of the stages of any of these processes, because these are things happening in you and to you.

Mistake #3: Refusing to Consider God as a Possibility

One of the strongest arguments in favor of the “we’re living in a computer simulation” argument is that the universe is filled with evidence of design. Scientific American points out:

And there are other reasons to think we might be virtual. For instance, the more we learn about the universe, the more it appears to be based on mathematical laws. Perhaps that is not a given, but a function of the nature of the universe we are living in. “If I were a character in a computer game, I would also discover eventually that the rules seemed completely rigid and mathematical,” said Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “That just reflects the computer code in which it was written.”

Furthermore, ideas from information theory keep showing up in physics. “In my research I found this very strange thing,” said James Gates, a theoretical physicist at the University of Maryland. “I was driven to error-correcting codes—they’re what make browsers work. So why were they in the equations I was studying about quarks and electrons and supersymmetry? This brought me to the stark realization that I could no longer say people like Max are crazy.”

These scientists have rightly seen that the universe appears to be mathematical, rational, and designed in a way that a randomly self-creating universe wouldn’t. Considering the universe to have randomly come-into-being despite its clear order and structure is a bit like assuming that the book you’re reading is the product of a series of random ink spills that happened to produce the letters in just such an order. (And a great many of the New Atheists’ arguments amount to saying, “this book couldn’t have been written, because I didn’t like Chapter 3!”)

Cosmologists like Tegmark and physicists like Gates, each of whom regularly bump into evidence of designedness in the course of their daily jobs, rightly recognize that “the universe just happened” is a bad explanation. It doesn’t account for the design at all. And yet, materialists refuse to accept even the possibility that this might point to the existence of a Divine Creator. The evolutionary biologist Richard C. Lewontin (himself an atheist) lets the cat out of the bag in an essay for The New York Review of Books:

What seems absurd depends on one’s prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity “in deep trouble.” Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

So no matter how strong the evidence may be, materialists refuse to accept the possibility that the right answer might be a Divine one. And so, if you recognize that the universe is designed, but refuse to accept God as a possibility, you’re forced to come up with ever-more-convoluted explanations instead. That’s how you end up with amusing moments like Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the smuggest popular opponents of religion, openly wondering if we live in a computer. Or this line from the philosopher David Chalmers:

And if someone somewhere created our simulation, would that make this entity God? “We in this universe can create simulated worlds and there’s nothing remotely spooky about that,” Chalmers said. “Our creator isn’t especially spooky, it’s just some teenage hacker in the next universe up.”

Part of the hilarity of these absurd explanations is that they’re so short-sighted. The “teenage hacker in the next universe up” apparently lives in a universe just as designed and mathematically-structured as our own, enabling him to code and omnisciently govern this universe. So why is that universe designed? This explanation just kicks the can down the road one step. The attempt to avoid God as an answer succeeds in creating foolish theories, but fails in eliminating the need for God.

In other words, the conversation has gone more or less like this:

Scientists: “You know there’s a lot of evidence that this universe was designed…”

Materialists: “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!! You’d have to be an idiot to believe that!”

Scientists: “… maybe it was an alien or a teenage hacker?”

Materialists: “Oh, those are valid theories! Let’s consider them carefully!”

There is a more rational explanation, guys. Just let the Divine Foot in the door already.


  1. “… if materialists are right, you are only a few moments old, and have simply inherited somebody else’s memories.”
    I’ve always wondered about this. Kinda like you can never wade into the same river twice. Because if all i am is material then the contract i signed 10 years ago can’t be legit because i am not the same person today that signed it or.. if i kill someone 20 years ago i am not that person today. Can i go free?

  2. The idea that the universe is a simulation/Matrix has some small merit behind it. Can’t really “test it” but the theories behind the idea aren’t exactly “not thought out.”

    What follows is a massive-over-simplification of what’s going on with this theory, and how some scientists came to it…

    As you approach the speed of light, three weird things happen.

    1. Time Dilation.
    The faster you go, the slower time goes. This also happens when you get closer to the gravity of a black hole.

    Take a set of twins, put one twins on a spaceship and send him off at near the speed of light, when they return the twin the remained will be old, if not dead, and the twin that was sent out will only have aged a little bit. This has been experimentally verified with pairs of nuclear clocks that have been synchronized, and one put on a plane that travels around the globe for a while, the formerly synchronized clocks are off at the end of the experiment. It’s weird, I don’t understand it, go ahead and ask God why He made His universe that way when you pray next.

    2. You get thinner along the axis of travel.
    Imagine seeing a person from the side, on the stands at a racetrack, as they run faster and faster around the racetrack, they will get thinner and thinner from your perspective every time they pass you.

    3. Your mass increases.
    A 100 kg person, as they travel faster and faster, will gain more and more mass, 101 kg, 102, 103, on and on the faster they go.

    This is one of the problems with traveling at relativistic speeds. You need fuel, which adds mass to the ship to get up to speed, which makes your ship more massive due to the increased speed close to the speed of light, which requires more fuel at the beginning of the journey, which gets you faster, which increases your mass again, which increases your fuel requirements… Onward and upward…

    Imagine a spaceship leaving the solar system, traveling closer and closer to the speed of light. If you take a magical sensor to look at that craft, you would see it getting thinning and thinner from the side as it zips by you, looking inside, the occupants would be getting slower and slower, almost at a standstill, and their mass, along with the mass of the ship, would be increasing.

    Those are the main reasons one cannot travel faster than the speed of light (The Cosmic Speed Limit). If you reached the speed of light:

    1. Time would slow down so much, it would stop.
    2. You would get so thin, you would cease to exist.
    3. Your mass would increase to the point it would be equal to the rest of the universe.

    You cannot have any one of those things, or two, let alone all three at the same time.

    Now… All that being said, the question now is: “Why do those things happen?”

    The simulation/matrix theory of the universe offers the best answer yet for those three things. (“Best” being a stretch…)

    If you imagine the universe as “a computer” with you traveling faster and faster through the cosmos, that’s “putting strain on the processing power” of the computer. Just like if you tried to run multiple graphic-intensive programs at once on your home computer, your computer is going to slow down (time dilation). If you are “inside a Call of Duty” game, you wouldn’t notice any “lagging” it’s only outside the game that your notice it. Which is what we see happening.

    The same with time slowing down around black holes: There is so much “stuff” (Black Holes have so much mass, with so much “stuff” in them, their gravity is so great light cannot escape. The “event horizon” of a Black Hole is where the escape velocity is equal to the speed of light.) running all at once in one spot, so the universe has to “slow down” in order to compensate.

    Moving faster and faster, is seemingly “taking up more RAM on the computer of the universe” (Increasing your mass) and the computer of the universe is trying to “compartimentalize the applications that are running” (Getting thinner and thinner).

    Unfortunately, with all that being said, even if that theory (or any theory for that matter) sounds great on paper, there’s really no way to test or prove any of that with any physics known to man.

    1. What I don’t understand is why the present scientific community is so small minded so as to turn the analogy on its head.

      Rather than saying that the universe (the non-man-made reality given to us) is like to a computer program (something we invented), shouldn’t the more natural framing of the analogy be to say that a computer program is like to the universe?

      Also remember that an analogy is just a relation of one thing to another, in that each are alike in some measure, but not all (in most cases it’s only in a handful of ways since we are dealing with abstraction). So by putting the computer program as the standard, you shrink the universe (in essence, shrink reality), whereas by putting the universe as the standard, you preserve its majesty and mystery and ennoble the computer program.

  3. “And you equal the collection of molecules that happen to exist within your body at this exact moment, that collection has only existed for a fraction of a second, and already doesn’t exist by the time you finished reading this sentence. So it follows that you don’t exist, or at least, you’re actually a different person than the one who started reading this. In other words: if materialists are right, you are only a few moments old, and have simply inherited somebody else’s memories.”

    Modern Buddhists claim exactly this with their idiotic “no self” doctrine which I’ve argued with yhem ad nauseum on the dhammawheel forumn Buddha didn’t actually teach. But whether their founder actually taught it or not, it seems the idea was devrloped only a century or teo later by Nagasena I think and Bhuddaghosa. Its so totally moronic I never want to tslk to s Buddhist ever again.

  4. I’m actually a fan of the Matrix-theory precisely because it leads scientists to seriously consider evidence for a designed universe. Of course it does only push the argument back one step because rather than postulate God they postulate aliens or hackers, and as you say this only begs the question of whether they are in the Matrix as well. Eventually we all have to choose whether we think that’s God or some other uncreated reality.

    On another topic, are eternal souls a doctrine of the Catholic Church? I thought this was considered a later Hellenistic/Platonic influence on a Jewish/Pauline Christianity which would never have separated mind, body and spirit in this way. I’m certainly not a materialist since I believe in a transcendent and immanent God both beyond our materiality and sustaining it, but with regard to souls, as Laplace said: “sir, I have no need of that hypothesis”.

    1. Tess,

      First of all, your timing is spectacular – I was just thinking about you earlier this week, and how I have been terrible at keeping in touch. I’ll take it as a sign to send you a proper e-mail soon. 🙂

      I agree with you on the appeal of the Matrix theory – the evidence that they’re marshalling is generally good evidence (a) for God, and/or (b) against materialism, and the theory that they’re settling on (Matrix) is so intellectually unsatisfying and philosophically bankrupt that I hope it encourages at least some of them to think more deeply on the question and be a bit more open to God.

      Regarding eternal souls, we don’t believe in them (in the sense of them being uncreated) but we do believe that the soul will live forever:

      CCC 366 The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not “produced” by the parents – and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.”

      A human soul is still the kind of thing that needs to be created: it’s not an explanation for its own existence. There must be, and can be, exactly one Being whose essence is to exist. There must be one, or you can’t have a beginning to the chain of causation. There can be only one, or you have contrary infinites. [As you might imagine, this is a succinct way of encapsulating a whole lot of metaphysical work.]



  5. “Mistake #2: Materialism Can’t Account for the Human Person”

    Yes, it is a mistake to affirm that “Materialism Can’t Account for the Human Person”. Well, even before defining “human”, “person”, and “materialism”. Depending on which materialism you are talking about, well, it can really account for the human person, so it’s really true that ” it is a mistake to affirm that “Materialism Can’t Account for the Human Person”, because Materialism Can Account for the Human Person.

    “So it follows that you don’t exist, or at least, you’re actually a different person than the one who started reading this. In other words: if materialists are right, you are only a few moments old, and have simply inherited somebody else’s memories.”

    You are reducing “materialists” to molecular reductionists. Whoever has claimed that “a person” is reducible to a collection of molecules at time = t is either stretching philosophical concepts or… scientific ones. You are either talking about something you assume materialists think is reducible to molecules at time = t (a person), or you are assuming that the concept materisliats have of a person is the exact opposite of what you think. Psychologists, anthropologists, Buddhists, Kardecists, all have different notinos of personhood that are not reducible to molecules at time = t.

    [Buddhists, by the way, have a much more refined concept of personhood, which is impermanent, but nonetheless real (inside your mind) and not reducible to a mere blink of an eye. It is an illusion, but hey, it exists. And it is not reducible to a given moment in a person’s life.]

    In a few words, you are taking the metaphor of a scientific-minded man writing to the general public as a statement of a never-defined group called “the materialists”.

    As an addendum, I would rather think that I am drunk than think that we are in a matrix.

    1. KO,

      I’m not reducing materialists to molecular reductionists. In that section, I included two examples, one who is (Sagan) and one who isn’t (Hume) a molecular reductionist, and demonstrated that the critique applied to both. That’s why in the final paragraph of that section, I acknowledged several different levels of human processes, and explained that you can’t be reduced to any of them (not just the set of your cells).

      But in any case, your objection amounts to “someone out there, there’s a materialism that evades this critique.” Wouldn’t that claim be a great deal more convincing if you actually laid out the materialism that can survive this challenge?



      1. As to Hume:

        “he was logically forced to deny the existence of himself”

        Doesn’t follow from your quote.

        “When my perceptions are remov’d for any time, as by sound sleep; so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist. And were all my perceptions remov’d by death, and cou’d I neither think, nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate after the dissolution of my body, I shou’d be entirely annihilated, nor do I conceive what is farther requisite to make me a perfect non-entity.”

        Non sequitur from “there is no consciousness” (on the contrary, he just said that “consciousness” is material).

        “Of course, Hume’s argument is self-refuting: if I don’t exist, how is there is neither an “I” capable of stumbling (and certainly not “always” stumbling), nor a stable “myself” upon which to stumble.

        “In other words, any attempt to reduce human beings to mere matter will always fail, because our matter is in flux. We eat things, we digest, etc. If we don’t have something immaterial like a soul, there’s simply no coherent way we can speak of enduring human consciousness.”

        Oh, there is. There are several coherent ways of speaking of enduring human consciousness. It doesn’t matter if this consciousness is “true” (Christians & Co.) or not (Buddhists), or that it doesn’t matter because it is unknowable if it is “true”, because it just happens (materialists, naturalists, scientists…).

        There are many “stable” things that make up one’s personality, and those things aren’t reducible to changing-by-the-minute molecules.

        Hundreds (if not most) psychologists, psychoanalysts, anthropologists, sociologists, and philosophers can come up with a somewhat stable definition of personality that doesn’t even refer to “molecules” or even to “matter” (as per the chemical processes definition of matter). But they aren’t divine explanations of anything, either.


        “Considering the universe to have randomly come-into-being despite its clear order ”

        You can be a staunch materialist and believe (rationally) that the clear order of the universe just came into being, not randomly at all, because of the properties of matter itself.

        “Order” is as much evidence of pantheism, polytheism, Shivaism, and Marxism, and capitalism, as it is of monotheism.

      2. KO,

        “When my perceptions are remov’d for any time, as by sound sleep; so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist.”

        He’s literally denying his own existence when he is asleep. I mean, he’s doing it explicitly. You’re just sort of claiming that he’s not saying that, but not really explaining how you can hold this seemingly impossible belief.

  6. Hi Joe,

    Earlier in your article you said if human minds are nothing more than advanced computers than current computers or nothing less than simple minds. My son is into symbolic logic and he said no that’s invalid. So we worked on two different attempts one a hypothetical syllogism and one regular syllogism but I think he’s right I think you’re committing the fallacy of undistributed middle. Other than that I like your article it’s very strong.

    All (minds) are computers

    All iPhones are computers

    All iPhones are minds

    The above hasn’t undistributed middle.

    And again:
    If our minds are computers

    And I phones are computers

    Then an iPhone is a mind

    1. Heidi,
      The syllogism properly begins: if computers are minds.
      If there is a symbolic logic issue it’s earlier, with the “if minds are advanced computers, then current computers are simple minds” statement. I think this is a valid statement. I suspect you’re mistaking this statement for the fallacy:
      All A are B,
      C is B,
      Therefore C is A (can’t find the name, sorry.)

      He is proving the premise that we live in a computer simulation absurd by showing a valid argument reaches the absurd solution that iPhones are slaves. This makes the argument valid, but unsound. From Wikipedia:

      “Formal logic is not used to determine whether or not an argument is true. Formal arguments can either be valid or invalid. A valid argument may also be sound or unsound:

      A valid argument has a correct formal structure. A valid argument is one where if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true.

      A sound argument is a formally correct argument that also contains true premises.

      Ideally, the best kind of formal argument is a sound, valid argument.”

      By presenting a valid argument reaching an absurd conclusion, he proves the premise that minds are simply computers unsound. If he hadn’t proved the absurd conclusion, he would have been committing the informal fallacy appealing the stone.

      I hope this helps.

    2. Heidi,

      First of all, I’m impressed by you and your son. I think you’re right that, read the way that you presented, it does commit the fallacy of an undistributed middle. I blame bad writing on my part. 🙂

      The people that I’m responding to seem to be arguing that computers are minds and minds are computers. It’s possible that some principle of distinction exists (all minds are computers, but only some computers are minds), but it’s not clear what the distinction would be. That’s why I ask:

      Indeed, the people advocating this theory speak as if current computers are already alive. For example, NDT has a convoluted “theological” argument that seems to presuppose that Mario is alive: “We don’t think of ourselves as deities when we program Mario, even though we have power over how high Mario jumps,” Tyson said. “There’s no reason to think they’re all-powerful just because they control everything we do.”

      I asked in the piece if there is “any moral difference between owning an iPhone and owning a slave — and if there is, is it just that the iPhone isn’t smart enough yet?” As I said, maybe someone will come up with a further distinction: that computers and minds aren’t identical, but that there’s a further principle of distinction. But I’m not seeing it yet.

  7. It seems that if there was a ‘Matrix’, it would have to have the properties of an all knowing, omni-present God to synchronize the relationships of all living creatures in the world/universe one to the other so as to account for the motivation that drives such creatures to do what they do. On a daily basis there are thousands of decisions made by various living creatures, especially humans, that effect the well being of not only themselves but everything around them. And there is competition in the thought processes driving a thinking creature towards a decision that are often difficult, if not impossible, to predict. For a simple example, we have the ‘fight or flight’ decisions that affect all natural creatures. Sometimes they fight, and other times the flee, and each decision is made to either their, or their opponents, benefit or destruction. These decisions and what motivates them are very complex. They might include memories going back to one’s infancy. And this is what drives the profession of psychiatry today.

    So, the freewill and motivations of creatures suggests that a Matrix program would need to have the omniscience of the God that Catholics believe in…to control so many of the rapid complex decisions that affect the whole variety of living creatures one to the other in our world. This is why the idea is, as Joe said, ‘absurd’. It could never capture the complex motivations, including errors, insanity, infirmity, etc…that lead up to the decisions that creatures make second to second, minute to minute, day to day in their lives.

    1. We’d consider an artist that could make a completely identical copy of the Mona Lisa, one that couldn’t be distinguished from the original by any known means as an incomparable genius. Science talks about identical particles in that way. Remember from high school chemistry the definition of a mole, 6.02 x 10**23??…and that’s only a tiny milliliter of water if counting water molecules. How do you explain that marvelously perfect duplication repeated across the universe countless time? If they bubbled out of random spacetime, you’d expect them to be random also…completely disconnected and unrelatable to each other. Furthermore, look at spacetime itself. Scientists talk about Einstein’s and Maxwell’s and Schroedinger’s equations etc as wonderful explanations. They are certainly the best description we have of what we see, but they aren’t reasons why they exist as they do. Everything in spacetime relates to everything else and all these interactions operate according to the equations/laws/models seemlessly in real time. You could never do all the calculations needed to make that happen, much less then actually make it happen. Even the simplest calculations quickly become extraordinary intractable. I seems obvious to me that only a single unlimited, transcendent, infinitely powerful and intelligent being could pull this off; a being that has all the attributes of God…the very ground of existence.

      1. …And, lucky for us we have Someone who actually rose from the dead, and teaches us with authority concerning Eternal sciences and issues, on which we can confidently rely on regarding this complicated subject. Jesus said that He came to reveal mysteries hidden since the foundation of the world. How wise are those who believe and listen to Him. Much better than fantasizing with our own meager intellects, and then finding ourselves weeping and grinding our teeth in agony for all eternity.

        Thank you Lord Jesus, for being our most loving Teacher, Savior, Lord and Eternal Friend! We can never thank You enough!

  8. Awlms,

    In my experience talking with people about this they would just say “This is simply an example of a more advanced computer technology”. When you throw out any need for proofs at all, logical or empirical, there is no longer a constraint on what one can imagine. Good science fiction works the same way, you use modern science until you need to be able to move across the universe overnight and then mankind can do so using “alien technology”.

    1. I think the ‘trekkies’ are behind this theory. Or, maybe the ‘Twilight Zone’ episodes, or ‘Lost in Space’ re-runs. It’s even a wilder theory than the countless UFO’s that NASA and others have been looking for, over that last 60+ years.

      At least in the 1960’s and 1970’s it was considered entertainment/comedy. 🙂

  9. Pinto: “So you are saying that each atom in the tip of my finger is…”

    Jennings: “One tiny universe!”

    Pinto [FLOORED]

    Jenings [Nods and smiles]

    Pinto: Can I buy some pot off you?

    1. Relating to ‘one tiny universe’, there is a great saying that we find in the Lives of the Saints which says “To God the value of everyman’s soul is so great, that it’s worth is of greater value than the ENTIRE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE.” I have come across this saying many times in various readings of the saints, but I can’t remember exactly where it derives from. But, this teaching stresses the essential part of the creation of man, which is the soul, the ‘personhood’ of man…and this is because God is a ‘Person’.

      Moreover, in comparing this to science fiction ponderings such as the ‘Matrix’ hypothesis, we note that any daydreamer, such as “Pinto”, above, can come up with such an idea very easily if he has the least degree of imagination or creativity.

      But, as Christ states in the Gospel, it is not in the ‘exterior’ physique wherein we find the nature and essence of ‘man’, but in the interior, in the depths of the ‘heart’. He teaches this when He says,

      “Are you also yet without understanding? Do you not understand, that whatsoever entereth into the mouth, goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the privy? But the things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man. For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man.” (Matt. 15:15)

      So, this essential part of man, what Christ says “comes forth from the heart” is what a computer, or ‘matrix’, can never duplicate. That is, a computer can never be cast into hell for all eternity, because it is not ‘alive’, and only God has the ability to create ‘life’. And again, can anyone ever admonish a computer what Christ admonished to us? :

      “And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

      ‘Matrix’ proponents seem to want to find a way around these very serious admonitions of Our Lord and Teacher Jesus Christ… their own eternal detriment.

        1. Hi Craig,

          I guess since I talk to so many people on the streets, on pretty much a weekly basis, that it doesn’t take much religious info. for me to get into a conversation with someone. Last Saturday, for instance, a local Farmer’s Market, I encountered an 80 years old Jehovah’s Witness, and after offering him a Catholic Radio card, I was able to ‘Leap into’ a very interesting conversation with him. I was very surprised that he had read Eusebius’ Church History, and was also familiar with many other topics found in Christian History. And he too was surprised that a Catholic, also, knew something about the History of Christianity, and complimented me for my care and interest in this regard. He was actually very pleasant to talk to, and I’m sure I’ll continue with the conversation in the future.

          It might be noted that Jesus also could find items in His own environment as a ‘leaping off point’ when He was teaching and preaching. A small wild flower, a mix of wheat and weeds in a grain field, a very small seed produced by a giant tree, a bird flying in the air, a common coin, an old lady donating her last penny to the Temple collection, etc…were all used in His parables and teachings, and many of these, it appears, were spontaneous observations.

          So, it seems that being able to use stimulus from ones environment, for purposes of religious conversation and evangelization, is a method that Jesus endorses by His own example.

          I might add, that the variety of people one might encounter in a public place is so great, that you really need to be able to adapt very quickly to them, and to tailor your message so that they might understand and not be offended. And actually, some people DO get offended if you don’t get things right and ‘miss read’ them in any way. Sometimes, if you ‘press the wrong button’, a person will angrily say…”I’m ending the conversation here”…and walk away. Then is the time to try to figure out how you ‘stepped on their toe’, and to try to watch for this error in the future. I guess the saying “Look before you leap”

          But, after talking with about 7 people last Saturday (one who looked like a prostitute but was actually very receptive and nice) and after giving out about 200, or so, Catholic Radio cards, I felt very rejuvenated and refreshed. Spiritual and spontaneous communication with complete strangers can be an exhilarating and very joyful experience. Then again, it can sometimes ‘wipe you out’ if you talk to too many in a short period of time, the diversity of their personalities and spiritual conditions being so great.

          Best to you,

          – Al

          PS. you asked for a photo recently of the commenters here, and I posted one on the prievious topic. But the ‘tinypic’ it hasn’t yet cleared. I’ll e-mail you the same if you still have the same e-mail address that you provided me a couple of years ago.

        2. We exchanged names, but I didn’t write it down and can’t remember. But, at this location, I usually go to every week during the Spring and Summer, and I always go to the same location, so I’m sure I’ll meet him again. Even with someone of old age, I don’t rush things, as the Lord knows all things and all people. That he was so amiable…almost like a desert father…I am not so worried about him. Yet, I will deal with him as the Lord provides me the grace when the time comes. But, I already consider him a friend, due to his abundant charity.

          He was so old, sort of tiny, and looked very similar to an Ethiopian friend of mine, and so I inquired if he was from Ethiopia. And this started our conversations. As said, he looked and spoke like a ‘desert father’…and was very interested in Christian history. Maybe his dignity is something associated with his old age, but we got along well.

          There are others like him, Hindu’s, Sikhs, Baptists who love Christ, etc… who I run into over and over again according to God’s Providence. They are nice, and I try to be nice as well, and we always have a cordial and inspiring conversation. I also try to leave them with whatever I have on hand at the time. Scott Hanh’s “The Lambs Supper” is something that I almost always bring 2-4 copies, and usually give them all out on any particular day. Then there is the Radio station itself…which just merged with ‘Relevant Radio’ to reach more than 125 million people in the US. And I also give out my own publication, a four part series from the Life of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure. Last year I gave out about 5-7000 copies at various locations…I lost count.

          I just started a new publication called “Precepts of Our Lord Jesus Christ”, which is all of the most impactful precepts of Christ that I found in the Holy Gospels for my own purpose, with the word’s of Christ printed in red ink. It’s a 56 page booklet. If you want a copy I can E-mail you the Pdf and you can print it and fold it by hand on your own color inkjet. I cut the corners to make it a little more graphically appealing, but you can do this with scissors if you want. You might even be able to improve it…with your excellent critical abilities.

          Best to you,


  10. The mind is not a turing machine. It can solve the halting problem. But it can do whatever a turing machine can.

    This observation shows that the human mind is more powerful than a computer.

  11. Even from the materialist angle there’s a rather problematic assumption built into this computer simulation business. It requires the belief that technological progress (at least for computers) has no ceiling and will continue unabated more or less indefinitely. Neither assumption is necessarily warranted.

    To explain further, the theory seems to be:
    -If we could build real artificial minds, we would construct a computer model of our own history so as to observe our forebears.

    -We definitely will have the ability to do this, given enough time.

    -Therefore it’s likely that we already have done this and we are the simulation.

    The first assumption necessary for this to work is that there will never come a point when humans will simply not be able to build a more advanced computer. Consider this analogy: if we discovered that the ants that lived 1000 years ago constructed much cruder anthills than they do now, would we conclude that, in another 1000 years, anthills would have electricity and running water? No. We’d say “there is a limit to ant progress. At a certain point they will be held back by their simple minds.” The same is true for us.

    The second problem is the assumption that progress will just keep going as the years pass. Neverending technological progress requires, among other things, that our current civilization will never fall apart or even decline. That the current global order is permanent. You know, just like the Roman Empire was. Or the Babylonian. Or Egyptian.

    Permanence is the illusion of every age, and it seems that every one of these theorists have forgotten that. (Yes, I am aware that they will respond that the fact that this saying is true in our “simulated” world doesn’t mean it’s true in the “real” one, but the entire reason we are supposed to believe that this world is a simulation is based on the idea that by the year 2200 we will be making such simulations ourselves. They forget that past experience shows us that it is just as likely that there will be no functioning computers in 2200.)

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