Answering a Few Questions

Most Christian Apologists like to bandy about 1st Peter 3:15 as their mission statement. “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”

In context, this isn’t about defending the faith from all comers. It’s specifically about explaining to unbelievers why you put up with an unjust master, whether you are a slave, or the wife of an abusive husband. And that answer is, “Because Christ endured worse pains on my behalf.”

At most, this verse could be used to say Christians ought to try and answer questions when we get them. I think that’s a terrible reading that misses Peter’s point. But a guy asked me a few questions on Twitter, and I figured I’d make some proper answers in honor of the spirit of the law. I can make a strong argument that we ought to do this thing (although I can also make a strong argument that we should avoid such things unless we are especially called). And I like to play with ideas, and this is as good an excuse as any.

The conversation opened when Mindset Guru and Unauthorized Media Mogul Mike Cernovich asked Twitter to ask him anything. Someone did ask him to affirm the Creed (which seems unlikely. Mike was, until very recently, openly anti-Christian), and being a puckish short, I made an offhand reply to his answer.

I believe we are living in a simulation. If I end up doing my dream documentary with the two Christian directors of Hoaxed, sit down for an interview

– Is God consistent with the Simulation hypothesis? https://t.co/Ur6JymFKgM— Mike Cernovich 📽 🌹🦍 (@Cernovich) February 5, 2019

God is indistinguishable from the simulation hypothesis. Simulations have programmers.— Logic Monkey (@logosimian) February 5, 2019

If we exist in a simulation, we and our world was created and has a creator. Ipso facto the simulation hypothesis is theism, though not what the average person thinks of as theism.

CheckRaiseFold/Rocktober1 replied,

So we are gods!— CheckRaiseFold(@Rocktober1) February 5, 2019

So I referenced John 10:34, where Jesus points out that the Scripture says “you are gods.” Of course, there is a ton of context to Jesus’s use of the quotation, and context for the quotation itself that I never even considered. I was being flippant. Goofing off. As one does.

Rocktober1 responded as follows:

For someone who may not care what the Bible says, why should one care what the Bible says? Do you have anything else to add to this conversation aside from [what amounts to] “Google it”? This is not a claim.— CheckRaiseFold(@Rocktober1) February 5, 2019

I couldn’t be arsed to make or defend a claim at the time, as I was just goofing off. But now let me address the topic as briefly but competently as I may.

There are four not-entirely related topics to address here:

  1. Are Simulation Hypothesis and Theism functionally identical?
  2. Does the answer to 1 imply we are gods?
  3. Why should a non-Christian care what the Bible says?
  4. Do I have anything to add to the conversation besides “Google it”?

First I shall answer 4: I regard Twitter as primarily a playing field for witticisms and trolling. Its character limit, though recently expanded, was always well tuned to pithy quotes rather than useful dialogues. It’s primary user-base: journalists, politicians, and their followers, is more truth-averse than average.

Witticisms and trolling are noble things. The idea that content-free rhetoric is fundamentally dishonest is not based on sound philosophy or theology. It is an artifact of Anglo-Saxon culture. As a proud heir of that culture, I nevertheless claim that elevating cultural virtues to the level of absolute truths destroys the goodness to be found in those cultural virtues.

So, in summary, unless I can find a clever turn of phrase or amusing (to me) association, I indeed seldom have anything of substance to say on Twitter besides “Just Google it.” Guilty as charged.

I shall take the remaining questions in order.

Simulation Hypothesis is fairly complex and varied when you get into it. I spend my time animating characters for games and going to my day job, so I can’t get very deep into philosophies that I regard as fundamentally flawed. I cannot do it justice. Nevertheless, like panspermia (the idea that life originated on some other planet, and was seeded here), the idea that we all live in a simulation either as organisms hooked up to the sim or else simulacra within it, Simulation Hypothesis, has the interesting property of appearing to render theism irrelevant while, in fact, leaving the question completely unchanged.

These theories are like mathematical identities. If you add zero to a number or multiply it by one, the number remains unchanged. If life was brought here by aliens, it appears to solve the problem of abiogenesis, but in reality leaves it unchanged. If reality is a simulation, it appears to solve the problem of why reality seems so darned designed, but in reality it leaves it unchanged.

Actually, these theories are worse than mathematical identities. They do not solve the problem, but they do add one thing to it: complexity. If they are true, it is that much harder to get behind the curtain and find out the real truth.

That doesn’t mean they are wrong (or right). It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be considered or tested. There is some value to considering them with the same baleful regard we might give to Ptolemy’s epicycles. But I do not have an open-and-shut case to present.

That said, Sim Hypothesis is essentially identical to theism in one regard: the pragmatic one. If we are simulacra in some cosmic computer, the designers and coders of this simulation are, for all intents and purposes, our gods.

Which brings me to the second question. In the sense that the designers and coders of this hypothetical sim are our gods, are we then also gods of the little worlds we create via our mad coding skillz?

The answer is yes. Or, in the more deft words of Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien,

Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we’re made

Tolkien, Tree and Leaf; Smith of Wootton Major; The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth

Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic and well understood the Christian idea that humans, bearing within them the image of God, might also be called (little-g) gods. This parallelism is implied not only by simulation hypothesis, but also by most forms of Christianity and (especially) by the Mormons (who as a result seem to have a knack for world-building that is unrivaled since Tolkien.)

And now for the final question. Why should a non-Christian regard the Bible as having any particular authority?

As a devotee of Christian religion, I am required to offer up my dogma. Because it is the word of God. Because it is true. Because it has mystic power that transforms whatever it touches. None of these reasons are compelling to the non-Christian of course. But I would be remiss in my duties not to mention them.

From a non-Christian viewpoint, there are two strong pragmatic reasons. First, theology has been debated for thousands of years by men smarter than I. If life’s answers can be found, they have already been found and written in some holy book. This is as much an endorsement of Meditations of Marcus Aurelius or the Tao Te Ching as the Bible.

The second pragmatic reason is cultural knowledge. A man on a voyage to Japan might be interested in studying Shintoism to better understand where Japan has come from and where it is going. A man living in the ruins of Christendom can gain similar insight from the Christian Bible. And this is as much an endorsement of Locke and Kierkegaard as St. Matthew or St. Paul, but there it is.

In the end very few have the aptitude, and none have the time, to know everything. If you ask someone to prove that vaccines work, he will quote a doctor. If you ask someone to prove that they cause autism, he will quote a different doctor. If you ask me why I pose a character a certain way in an animation I am making, I will quote an animator. Probably Richard Williams. And if we want to have a debate over theism, we could come up with arguments ourselves, or we could spend all day slinging quips from Richard Dawkins and William Lane Craig at one another.

I am not arguing that one side is not better than the other, that it is all equivalent, and that everybody (or nobody) is right. Not at all. Nor am I saying the arguments are not worth having.

I am simply saying that quoting a relevant authority is a time saving device we all need to engage in from time to time. Especially if one’s day has been devoted to drawing a naked chick on fire spinning ’round like Sonic the Hedgehog.

Lest you think I jest.

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