One question I often hear when discussing the idea that we might live in a simulation that has a conscious creator, is the following —
Suppose it’s true, and this world was created by someone. But who created the creator? Aren’t we just pushing the same question one level down?
And of course, it’s true. We are. But instead of assuming that’s a bad thing and moving on, let’s try to dig deeper into what it might mean. For instance:
With regards to this world, we examined our options (pure agnosticism vs revealed religion vs deism vs atheism), and we came to the conclusion that Occam’s Razor points to deism as the least irrational option.
However, the same may not be true of the world that the creator inhabits. We know nothing about that world, do we?
Did it have a big bang where time suddenly began? Does it have quantum uncertainty? Does it have a constant speed of light? Does it even have light?
Without knowing the answers to these questions, it seems odd to demand that the same answer we chose for our universe (which was based on things we observed in our universe) must also be true of a universe we know nothing about.
A direct consequence of implication #1 is that we don’t need to have the same answer at all levels. If we select “turtle” as our answer for one of the layers, we don’t have to assume turtles all the way down — assuming only one turtle is a viable choice too.
Specifically, we can be deist with regards to this world, while being atheist with regards to the creator’s world.
I’m not saying we have to be, but.. we can.
To paraphrase this into starker terms for all my atheist friends: it seems that deism and atheism do not necessarily contradict each other. It is logically-consistent to believe that the world has no supernatural deities, and yet this universe that we inhabit and observe appears to have been coded up by a nerdy teenager in his basement in the year 2519 — and to us, this teenager is a supernatural deity with unlimited powers to modify our universe at will.
The fact that an answer is not completely satisfying does not mean that it isn’t useful. It’s true that the deist hypothesis only applies to the first layer and says nothing of what lies beyond, but that in itself doesn’t mean we have to opt for one of the competing hypotheses —
First, because the competing hypotheses could all be worse.
Second, because even if this hypothesis doesn’t answer the universal question, it seems to answer all the practically-useful ones.
And that’s a pretty big deal, isn’t it?