According to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, there is about a 20% chance that we’re nothing more than characters in a large simulated universe ran by sentient beings of the future. This proposal is briefly explained in the New York Times article, Our Lives, Controlled From Some Guy’s Couch.
While this highly speculative theory is very interesting, it seems to be less imaginative than one might imagine. Think about it. To me, this seems to be a modern or post-modern example of Feuerbach’s old claim that God is simply humanity’s desire writ large – i.e. God is a projection of our desires. In this case, however, the very metaphysic of the universe is our current technology writ large. Computer simulations are a reality in our world, Bostrom seems to argue, so who’s to say we aren’t simply part of a grander more elaborate computer simulation of the future?! Is this any different than early humans believing that storms, earthquakes, etc. were gods in some way?
In the end, I think our faith can hold up to these kinds of critiques, because Jesus simply does so many things that I don’t want to do. Who wants to love or forgive their enemies? I don’t. Who wants to give up their life to save it? Not me. If my deepest desires were written large upon the universe, the God of my invention would look a whole lot different. Wouldn’t yours? So, I think there is something important about the fact that God’s difference is revealed to us by the very paradoxical claims of Christ revealed through Scripture. There is something that refutes the Feuerbachian claim in the very fact that our calling is so often conflicted with our intuition and desire. Yet at the same time, when we pursue God’s call to live in this counter-intuitive way we are given peace that surpasses understanding.
So, I guess I’m not worried that we’re simply Sims after all.