Are we living in a simulation and the nature of truth?

by Matt Slick

In this dialogue you will find a philosophically deep conversation.  I encountered a non-Christian on who said he listened to my debates.  We were talking about various things when he explained, in voice, his position of what is called Simulation Hypothesis, which is the idea that we are living in a simulation and that reality is a kind of illusion.  I had only discussed this idea once or twice before with people over the years, so I was not very knowledgeable about his theory, but I wanted to witness to him anyway.  He was very polite, and I felt comfortable enough with him to tell him that I wanted to just experiment in our dialogue and see how it went.  We pick it up at the point with my trying to demonstrate that the Simulation Hypothesis isn't workable.  Of course, you will notice that the dialogue is a little choppy in places.  That's the nature of this kind of venue.  Also, I was using a speech recognition program which enables me to convert speech to text.  It was very helpful.

Brotha: I’m a religion nerd.  I don’t about "atheist" I lean towards simulation hypothesis personally
Matt: Explain simulated reality.
Brotha: Yeah a "matrix" a version of it.  I try to stay to stay away from the word God because I’m not dogmatic at all
Matt: Oooooooooooohhhhhhh church of the matrix . . .
Brotha: I don’t have a site Matt, just a YouTube channel.
Matt: Truth is a statement that agrees with actuality and/or logic.
Brotha: So far yes.
Matt: Since truth is a statement, a statement requires a mind.
Brotha: Yes.
Matt: Truth requires a mind.
Brotha: I would say so yes.
Matt: If truth requires a mind and you live in a simulation, than either your mind alone is determining truth, or your mind is recognizing truth that exists outside a simulation.
Brotha: True lol.
Matt: If the case is that you alone are determining truth, then there's a problem because your version of actuality is the only actuality that exists.
Brotha: Well I doubt I created our simulation.
Matt: But if that's the case, then whatever you believe is actual because truth will be determined by what you believe since truth is a state of mind.
Matt: If it is true that a simulation is actuality and is only you who knows this, then again we're stuck in the first part where actuality is determined by your mind which would contradict the issue of the simulation be outside of you--which you are inside of.
Brotha: Lol cool. You make it seem like it’s just ME, like I’m the guru of simulation hypothesis.  I’m not
Matt: But if it is true that simulation is actuality and you are recognizing a greater truth, then it is not dependent upon your mind. Then it must be true that there's a mind beyond the actuality of which truth, which is a conceptual abstraction, is the reality that you're tapping into . . . so to speak.
Brotha: Oh true I would think so
Matt: If it's true that the simulation exists and you know that but the truth is not dependent upon your mind but it is true, then it must be dependent on something other than the simulation because truth requires a mind; and a simulation is not a mind.
Brotha: The maker of the simulation? Or makers?
Matt: Let me tackle that. If there are multiple makers, then they would be contradictory because different minds produce different results in different ideas. However, if they are identical and they realize that there's only one actuality, then there's no functional difference between multiple minds or a single mind.
Brotha: Well have video though matt. Multiple minds.  One game.
Matt: Either way, if we look at it, I think we could come to the conclusion that in order for your ideas and the simulation theory to be true, there has to be a mind outside of your own mind and outside of the simulation.
Brotha: I don’t have a issue with that.
Matt: Then you are a theist.
Brotha: Like I said I let you all define me.
Matt: You are a theist because you believe--then logically there must be a mind outside of the simulation in which we live that has created the simulation; and thereby God is involved in our creation in which we live, especially since you're able to recognize truth is that which ultimately exists in his mind
Brotha: True okay.
Matt: If it's true that there is a mind like that out there and it's an absolute mind, then that means that there are truths that are also absolute. Where do we find the realization of any theological system of absolute truths that are supposed to be from an absolute God, er . . . Absolute mind?
Brotha: So we need to go the Jews now?Interesting.
Matt: Since we've more or less established that an absolute mind exists, then let's entertain the idea of what we might expect if this absolute mind were to interact with us.  Okay?
Brotha: Okay
Matt: Could we then expect that because this mind is outside of the simulation and outside of our minds, that any contact we would have or any revelation that we would have from him (I'll use the male pronoun) would be because of his choice and not ours?
Brotha: Or "their" choice.
Matt: Let me try to say it again. Any communication or revelation from this absolute mind would be by his choice--not ours. It would be a self-revelation.  Okay?
Brotha: Yes.
Matt: Does that sound reasonable?
Matt: About this. Any revelation that comes from this being would be authoritative.
Brotha: Humm.  I’m here
Matt: Everything that you've been saying going step-by-step fits completely into the hypothesis or theory of simulation hypothesis. You and I probably have more in agreement that all the skeptics out there . . . you know, zero--nothing than something. I mean you're going through the steps with me, but you're probably on the same page with me. The only time we hit a fork in the road is when we get into doctrine, like actual . . . whether these programmers or deities are getting into whatever books of Scripture or whatever.
Brotha: Lol.  Okay
Matt: Basically, we agree that this mind, if he were to communicate to us, would do it of his own initiative. In other words, it would be self-revelatory.
Brotha: Well go on.
Matt: It is not self-revelatory; he would have to be coerced.  We're not capable of reaching outside of the simulation and forcing this mind to do anything. Therefore, it seems logical to say that any communication of this mind whether via the simulation or directly to us or whatever would have to be of its own free will, choice, and action. Wouldn't you agree?
Brotha: Well I can’t comment that one actually.  I’m not sure.
Matt: We are presupposing well, not necessarily presupposing, but logically trying to deduce that there's a mind existing outside of the simulation. If the mind chooses to communicate to us or even create a simulation, which is a reflection of his own mind, then all of that is by his own choice and not by anything greater or other than he. That would force him to do that.  Agreed?
Brotha: Ok
Brotha: Have you ever played the sims game Matt?
   [Sim games are simulation reality games where people build cities, fight wars, etc.]
Brotha: Or have your kids?  More than 1 person made those games.
Matt: It's their mind, etc. I already went through that because if we have more than one mind and they are contradictory, then we can't have the unanimous view of what truth actually is. Furthermore, if there were different minds and they were all having to think in a single way, that is because their properties in the nature of their minds require them to behave in a certain way. That would mean that there is a system of existence and properties that govern the minds.  Then we would have to explore that possibility. What that would mean if more than one person made the game and they all have to play by the same rules, those rules would have to exist outside of those minds.  Then who created those rules?
Matt:  If one mind created a better simulation, then other minds . . . and how would you know which one is better or superior? What you're doing is inadvertently playing with the idea that there is something to which these multiple designers must submit, by which superior works can be judged. Then this means there's a standard outside of them. And we pushed the problem back another step.
Brotha: Does it seem weird that we have modern simulations today then matt?  You're acting like we don’t have sims already.
Matt: I think you're making a mistake in that you are imposing a present-day technology and wedding it to a philosophy without being able to verify that this wedding is proper and then assuming that we live in such a simulation type environment. But you're not able to verify that it's the case. You see, when there's something called non-falsifiability, generally it means that something is not real. If I were to say that there was a spaceship on the other side of the comet that's coming later this year, how would you know? It cannot be validated. It cannot be invalidated. This is called non-falsifiability. It cannot be demonstrated to not be true. Generally, that means it doesn't comport with actuality.
Brotha: There is no new age here though. If we didn’t have PCs, Sims, and World Of Warcraft etc. then I wouldn’t even take serious these claims Matt
Matt: I understand that. Let me say it differently. How do you know that in 1000 years there won't be a superior philosophical idea that makes simulation thought ridiculous--a game of child's play? In that case, what would stop your future equivalent from positing a new theory? This is problematic because his theory could contradict yours, and this would mean you really wouldn't know what is true.
Brotha: Humm
Matt: The whole point is this. If this mind or minds, which exists and creates a simulation, wants to communicate to us, then it would have to be by his sovereign choice--not by ours.
Brotha: 100%
Matt: I'm glad we agree, finally. Now, second point: This self-revelation would have to occur for us to know anything about him. If there's nothing that comes from him, if there is no way to detect him via properties or whatever it might be, then there's no point in even discussing him.
Matt: However, a mind can be recognized by its attributes. If a simulation exists, it had to have an author; and if a simulation is complicated which is how our universe exists, then it is logically true to say that the mind that would invent it would have to be greater, highly organized, incredibly knowledgeable, etc. Would you agree?
Matt: Let me just get to the point.  In order to find out if you are deceived or not, you have to be able to determine if there is an internal inconsistency in your thinking system or worldview, and the other way is that there is a fact that comes from an external source that contradicts what you believe.
Matt: If something is self-contradictory, it can't be true. If you accept that that's a true statement, then what you're doing is ultimately accepted the existence of a transcendental mind; and that's a whole other topic. But if your system has internal problems that cannot be resolved, then it is not true.
Brotha: Why do I fell this is going be in a in a Matt 2014 apologetics book? lol. Everything is being transcribed very subtly here.  Am I wrong?
Matt: If however, there's an external source that provides information that contradicts your system, then it can be validated that your system is not true as well.
Brotha: Am I being recorded too? 
  [I told him that I was not audio recording the conversation]
Matt: When we get to this main point . . . if this external mind were to communicate to us, it would have to be by self-revelatory means; and it would also make sense to say that whatever this incredibly perfect mind would reveal would necessarily be authoritative. Furthermore, we could assume that any such--that any necessarily but within the revelatory work--could be what we consider the miraculous.
Matt: The reason I bring this up is that it makes sense to say that a transcendent being--a being that is outside of our universe, outside of in your worlds, our simulation--that if this transcendent being would communicate to us, it would have to be a self-revelation that is authoritative and could be perceived as miraculous. This is exactly what we see in the Bible.  Okay?
Brotha: All the parts of me saying "is this being recorded" are probably going to be edited out.

At this point our conversation lost steam; and with others in the room making comments, it got sidetracked.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.