My little toy universe: a cellular automaton for computational theology
Playing God and experimenting with divine action in a deterministic, reversible universe.
Greetings to all readers and subscribers, and special greetings to the paid subscribers!
Please scroll down for the main topic of this newsletter. But first:
The first two Artemis 1 launch attempts on August 29 and September 3 have been scrubbed due to fuel leaks. “The whole process is certain to lead to a setback of several weeks,” notes BBC News. “It means we may not see a third launch attempt before mid-October at the earliest.”
Well, they call difficult things “rocket science” for a reason. This is not the moment to criticize NASA. This is the moment to support NASA and the Artemis program. We have waited 50 years, we can wait a few more weeks. After the Artemis program takes off with a first successful launch, the necessary improvements will come gradually.
Meanwhile, let’s celebrate the humble beginnings of our permanent, sustainable return to the Moon. Let the next few weeks be an inspiring Moon festival.
The best gift to celebrate Artemis is this gorgeous image of the Moon by Andrew McCarthy & Connor Matherne. You can buy this image in print, or you can buy a high resolution digital download and print it yourself.
“The Hunt for Artemis” by Andrew McCarthy & Connor Matherne is a tribute to the Artemis 1 mission. The image has received rave reactions on social media.
Now let me go back to my metaphysical speculations started in “More thoughts on determinism and free will.”
Many scientists are adamant that the fundamental laws of our universe are fully deterministic, and also also reversible in time. In a deterministic and reversible universe, information is conserved.
This seems to fly in the face of quantum mechanics. But the hardcore fans of determinism would say that either quantum randomness is only apparent and can be derived by underlying deterministic and reversible rules, or that we live in a multiverse of worlds where information is conserved overall, though not in single worlds.
I prefer to think of that we are agents with free will in a creative universe. But here I’ll adopt the view that we live in a fully deterministic and reversible universe where information is conserved.
I haven’t changed my mind, but I’m exploring this view. I’ll also assume that the universe is computable. Actually I’ll make a stronger assumption - that the universe of physical reality has a finite number of bits of information. Inconceivably huge of course, but finite.
This view is a worst case scenario for me because it voids most of my arguments against determinism (e.g. no Gödel, no infinities, no uncomputable real numbers). But I’ll argue that this view doesn’t exclude God (or whatever you want to call God) and free will.
I’ll use a mental model based on one-dimensional cellular automata (CA). In a one-dimensional CA universe time t is just the vertical direction, so I can think of my own time as God’s Time T, which is not the time t in the CA universe.
I want an interesting one-dimensional CA universe with some important features of our own universe. Here’s my wish list: