I was reading a 2016 feedback article on Creation.com, entitled, “Is the universe a simulation?” when I realized how much the allegedly Biblical principles that modern creationists tout in support of their Earthbound religious perspective have in common with Simulation Hypothesis.
For those of you who don’t know what Simulation Hypothesis is, it’s the idea that we’re living inside a computer simulation much like the humans were at the outset of the Matrix trilogy. As I pointed out in Defending Genesis:
“The appeal of simulation theory is that it neatly explains the anthropic principle: why the universe is so amazingly fine-tuned for the existence of our particular kind of sapient life…
Simulation theory does a bit of hand-waving with the anthropic principle. Our incredible string of Free Lunches are simply variables that were plugged in at the outset of our simulation. Perhaps there are other simulations with differing variables, as predicted by multiverse theory. Perhaps those fundamental anthropic “variables” are really constants after all and remain the same in all simulations because the simulations are meant to solve a problem and these fundamental anthropic factors are necessary, no matter what. Maybe the simulations run by differing lesser variables, each with different histories and outcomes. Of course, this simply moves the goalpost back to the Programmer of the simulation, since the only rational reason for such fundamental constants is that they are exactly what’s necessary to achieve our kind of sapient life.
Of course, Simulation Hypothesis cannot rule out the possibility that God is the Grand Programmer:
“Proponents of simulation theory also claim that it solves the problem of the supernatural. Supernatural elements like ghosts, déjà vu, miracles and angels are, ala’ The Matrix, simply glitches or bugs in the program. Of course, it also allows the Ultimate Supernatural back in: God as the Programmer. In such a case, the universe very well could have been created in just six days. Both the anthropic principle, any supernatural elements and/or direct interventions from the Programmer could be variables plugged in to suggest to the self-aware beings within the simulation that He indeed exists. Humanity’s will to worship may also be purposely programmed in by the Grand Programmer. This aspect of simulation theory makes pure naturalists very, very nervous. While the Programmer is said to be natural, since the Programmer is, from our stand point, omniscient and omnipotent, said Programmer is virtually indistinguishable from His supernatural counterpart (i.e., God); therefore, the claim that said Programmer is a purely natural entity is arbitrary.”
CMI’s Shaun Doyle correctly notes that, though they would prefer a more physical Programmer, a supernatural Deity eliminates a fundamental problem with the hypothesis:
“…the simulation hypothesis implicitly admits that the fine-tuning argument is sound. Wouldn’t that suggest a similar fine-tuning argument could also be run for the world the simulation was designed in? Indeed, it’s reasonable to think that any universe with a simulator would be subject to a fine-tuning argument. The simplest way out of this fine-tuning regress is a non-physical designer like God.”
Of course, creationists point out that while there are parallels between Biblical creationism, they’re really different. After all, creationists believe that we can largely trust our observations, while proponents of Simulation Hypothesis believe we are being fooled all the time.
Unfortunately, there is one striking parallel between Simulation Hypothesis and the views of anti-alien creationists. Both answer the Fermi Paradox in a similar manner. Again, from Defending Genesis:
Simulation theory also explains the Fermi Paradox, which can be summarized in the question, “Where is everybody?” In other words, where are all of the aliens? If molecules-to-man evolution is true and there are billions of galaxies out there, shouldn’t intelligent life have evolved on some of them? Why haven’t we heard from them? Why haven’t they colonized such prime real estate as Earth?
… Simulation theory makes the Fermi Paradox a matter of variables (alien civilizations) that weren’t plugged into our particular simulation.”
Creationists who admit the possibility of extraterrestrial life, on the other hand, have no reason to expect life to be ubiquitous. It could be as rare or as common as the Creator wishes it to be. It could even be exclusive to Earth as anti-alienists claim.
Anti-alien creationists go further than this. They claim an absence of aliens based on the Bible’s anthropocentric focus and the silence of the Bible on the subject. Many of them also go so far as to claim that we will never find aliens or even an Earth-like planet because the Bible doesn’t mention any other planets being created for life and because the express purpose of the heavenly bodies in Scripture is to provide light, to mark seasons and declare God’s glory.
All of these compounded arguments from silence amount to someone saying that the entire universe, including the parts we’ve never seen, are nothing more than an elaborate background. In other words, they have no substance. They’re like undeveloped sections of a video game world that players are never supposed to be able to reach, so less detail is necessary.
Now maybe this is the case. Maybe the universe follows a sort of law of contingent physical economy the further we get from Earth, but I doubt it. I suspect that the universe is exactly what it appears to be: a vast place of myriad stars, planets and other heavily bodies following the motions the Creator set them upon. If you looked closely at an exoplanet’s surface, I suspect that you would find real rocks and weather and all that. I do not think those conditions would be contingent upon our observation, because I do not think an economy of physicality is necessary given the existence of a Deity who is omniscient and omnipresent as the Bible describes. Programmers require such cheats because their resources are limited. God is not so limited. Nor would such a farce be in line with His revealed character.
I suspect that no creationist truly thinks the universe is a contingent farce, but this is exactly what anti-alien creationists imply every time they claim they suggest that alien life is not possible because the Bible is silent on life being a purpose of heavenly bodies. The implication, whether they mean to say this or not, is that the stars are nothing more than a light show, a backdrop that is less substantial than the solar system. It’s only true purpose is for man’s benefit. But God never said they were only created for our benefit; He simply stated their benefit to us.
Why do they propose such contradictions of thought to refuse the possibility of extraterrestrial life? Because they think alien life would somehow impugn on the specialness of Earth. Because many of them believe their own press and suppose that the existence of such life would falsify Scripture. This is an appeal to bad consequences built on bad logic and worse Biblical interpretation.
Yet the Bible stands and, as I demonstrated in Strangers and Aliens, it will stand even if we find another world teeming with life. Creationists could always point out that the Bible is God’s revealed Word, but that it focuses primarily on God’s relationship with this planet and the creatures He created in His own image. Its silence regarding extraterrestrial life forms would not invalidate its inerrancy. We might simply note that extraterrestrial life was not really germane to the discussion, as it were.