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ID by Another Name? Astronomer Says 50 Percent Chance We’re Living in Computer Simulation

Photo credit: Ryoji Iwata via Unsplash.

Back in July, biologist Jonathan McLatchie contributed a three-part series on applying Bayesian analysis to the question of intelligent design in life:

Doing the Math

Now Scientific American reports on a Bayesian approach to a very similar question: whether we live in “base reality” or a computer simulation. They give it odds of about fifty-fifty either way. Columbia University astronomer David Kipping weighed the various factors and did the math. From, “Do We Live in a Simulation? Chances Are about 50–50”:

Plug all these into a Bayesian formula, and out comes the answer: the posterior probability that we are living in base reality is almost the same as the posterior probability that we are a simulation — with the odds tilting in favor of base reality by just a smidgen.

Protein chemist Douglas Axe tweets, “Someone please explain to the people at @sciam that they’re saying there’s a 50% chance that reality — and therefore science — is a hoax!”

Indeed. Also please someone tell them they are saying there is a 50 percent chance that our universe is intelligently designed. That’s what a computer simulation is, obviously, intelligent design.

Don’t Forget Your Umbrella

This reminds me of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Brian Josephson. An interviewer asked him “What is your confidence level, on a scale of 0 to 100, that the design of the process of evolution is by some kind of transcendent intelligence?” To this Josephson, an emeritus professor at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University, replied, “Well, about 80 percent perhaps.”

Of course, an 80 percent chance that we live in an intelligently designed world compares favorably with only a 50 percent chance. On the other hand, both odds are pretty good. If you were headed out the door and the weather app on your phone forecast a 50 percent chance of rain, instead of an 80 percent chance, you’d still take along an umbrella, wouldn’t you?

See also Dr. Michael Egnor, “Of Course You Aren’t Living in a Computer Simulation. Here’s Why.”