The Creation Argument
22 April 2008 (updated 23 June 2015)
I’ve blogged time and again about the Simulation Argument, formulated by Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom. Basically, the argument holds that either (a) we’re almost certainly living in an ancestor simulation or (b) we’ll almost certainly never create many ancestor simulations. The first half, “a”, of the disjunct (we’re almost certainly living in an ancestor simulation) is the Simulation Hypothesis. The Simulation Argument can be generalized. Its form remains valid regardless of the particular technology to which it is applied, although the feasibility of the first half of the disjunct may vary.
For example, for the same reasons that the Simulation Argument is valid, the following arguments are valid:
The Terraforming Argument Either (a) we’re almost certainly living in a terraformed and seeded world or (b) we’ll almost certainly never terraform and seed many worlds like our own.
The Cosmoforming Argument Either (a) we’re almost certainly living in a cosmoformed and seeded universe or (b) we’ll almost certainly never cosmoform and seed many universes like our own.
Extrapolating from these examples, we may formulate a generalized argument:
The Creation Argument Either (a) we’re almost certainly living in a created world or (b) we’ll almost certainly never create many worlds like our own.
The first half, “a”, of the Creation Argument is the Creation Hypothesis, and the second half, “b”, is the Limitation Hypothesis. It’s important to note that none of these arguments purports to prove the Creation Hypothesis in any of its forms, whether terraformed, cosmoformed or simulated. Rather, the arguments purport to prove their entire disjuncts, and so prove only the following:
(c) If the Limitation Hypothesis is false then the Creation Hypothesis is true.
(d) If the Creation Hypothesis is false then the Limitation Hypothesis is true.
(e) The Creation Hypothesis and the Limitation Hypothesis are not both false, although they may be both true.
It’s also important to note that the Creation Hypothesis, if true, in no way contradicts evolution theory, either logically or empirically. To the contrary, although the Creation Argument remains valid in all of its many possible variations, the Creation Hypothesis may be infeasible in many of its possible variations. In particular, variations of the Creation Hypothesis that contradict empirical evidence should be discarded, despite their logical validity. I mention this to reduce the chance that anti-evolution creationists may mistake this argument as evidence against evolution.
While considering the Creation Argument, I contacted Nick Bostrom to verify that I was not misconstruing the Simulation Argument and to request his confirmation that the argument can be generalized. In response to my request, he updated the Simulation Argument FAQ (see question #16) with helpful insights and referred me to an excellent document by Barry Dainton, entitled “Innocence Lost”, that provides a partial generalization of the Simulation Argument along a spectrum from soft (entirely computed) to hard (brain-computer interfaced) simulations.
If you like these thoughts, you might also like “The New God Argument Begins.”