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January 20, 2021 47 min
The Matrix, The Truman Show, and now more recently Westworld. Popular culture has long been captivated by the notion that our lives and the world we inhabit in are nothing more than an advanced computer simulation. But it’s also an argument that is being given more credence by world renowned philosophers and scientists. The leading proponents of the “simulation hypothesis” believe that the mathematical nature of the universe is itself the strongest proof we exist in an artificial reality. They point to human DNA and string theory in particle physics as but two of a growing number of so-called naturally occurring phenomena that behave remarkably similar to computer code - too close to be an accident. The mainstream scientific community is taking exception to these claims. They say the simulation hypothesis is based on overly complicated hypotheses that verge on circular reasoning. They argue the universe can be beautiful, even harmonious, mathematically and empirically down to the smallest atom or strand of DNA. Occam's Razor or the maxim that the simplest explanation is usually the right one, is all the proof we need that the universe is real and not a computer program. Arguing for the motion is Rich Terrile, Director of the Center for Evolutionary Computation and Automated Design at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He is a voyager scientist and has discovered moons on Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Arguing against the motion is David Kipping, Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University where he leads the Cool Worlds Lab. His research focuses on extrasolar planets, the search for life in the universe, and astrostatistics. Sources: HBO,, The New York Academy of Sciences, Google Zeitgeist, IGN Entertainment Inc., Gave Dev Guide, FragHero The host of the Munk Debates is Rudyard Griffiths - @rudyardg.   For detailed show notes on the episode, head to Tweet your comments about this episode to @munkdebate or comment on our Facebook page To sign up for a weekly email reminder for this podcast, send an email to   To support civil and substantive debate on the big questions of the day, consider becoming a Munk Member at Members receive access to our 10+ year library of great debates in HD video, a free Munk Debates book, newsletter and ticketing privileges at our live events. This podcast is a project of the Munk Debates, a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to fostering civil and substantive public dialogue - The Munk Debates podcast is produced by Antica, Canada’s largest private audio production company -   Executive Producer: Stuart Coxe, CEO Antica Productions Senior Producer: Christina Campbell Editor: Kieran Lynch Associate Producer: Abhi Raheja
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