Scott Adams of Dilbert fame believes we are living in a matrix (see his March 3, 2019 panel below for the wittiest exposition of the idea). The word has come to signify a cosmic structure in which we humans exist, that has the following qualities:
- we live in an artificial structure
- it is made by a conscious designer
- that designer has God-like powers relative to us
- we are designed so as not to inquire successfully into the nature of the matrix we live in (quantum indeterminacy and so forth)
- The matrix in which we live could be encapsulated with in a larger matrix, and so on ad infinitum, possibly
Ages ago I wrote a piece called “Allah’s holodeck”. It sought to explain the Islamic idea of God, that he was so all-transcendent, so all-powerful, that he could snap his fingers and annihilate the universe. In principle He could delude us into thinking two plus two made five or worse, that the rules of arithmetic could actually change and 2+2 could equal 5.
I think we have seen where the thought of God as an arbitrary sovereign leads us in practice. The profound lack of curiosity in the Islamic world about the nature of reality is predicated in a religious idea, that Inquiry into the ways of God is a form of blasphemy. Inshalah – as God wills. Everything is God’s will. It is a dark thought to imagine oneself powerless, that one does not have moral agency.
The matrix idea may have the opposite effect. It may stimulate research in an entirely different direction, the same direction as Western science has always followed, which is to understand the mind of God. In the case of atheists like Scott Adams, the inquiry will be directed at showing how the Mind of the designer works.
My hunch tells me that the matrix idea is a way for materialists to rationalize to themselves their intellectual curiosity without admitting to a theistic interpretation of the matrix. So that, if we are Sims in the Simulator, no feelings of religious awe are obligatory. The creator was just some Joe or Jane doing what we think is God-work for some metaphorical equivalent of an hourly wage, kind of like a Niebelung slaving away in the factories owned by Fafner which are protected by Wotan.
In the end I am persuaded that the matrix idea is the thin little envelope slipped under the door into the atheist’s bunker, which when opened produces revelations.