QR1.2.3. Virtualism

Figure 1.1. The Ancient of Days calculates the universe

Yet as science and religion fight their thousand year ideological battle, another monism stands on the sidelines ignored by all, namely virtualism (Raspanti, 2000), that physical world is a processing output produced by some “other”. This idea seems new but actually traces back to Plato’s view that the physical world is like shadows on a wall that reflect another reality. A similar idea is that the world is ultimately digital. Pythagoras saw numbers as the non-material essence of the world, Plato felt that God geometrizes and Gauss believed that God computes (Svozil, 2005), as Blake’s Ancient of Days measures the world with his compass (Figure 1.1).

Computers today create virtual worlds but that the physical world is virtual is usually a topic of fiction not physics. Yet that physical reality is a processing output leads to ideas like that space calculates (Zuse, 1969) and that reality computes (Fredkin, 1990), (Schmidhuber, 1997), (Rhodes, 2001), (Wolfram, 2002), (Lloyd, 2006), (Tegmark, 2007). Plato’s radical view is no less so today.

In physicalism only the physical world exists, in dualism a higher reality also exists and in virtualism physical reality is a processing output. The latter denies the presumed “prime axiom” of physics that:

There is nothing outside the physical universe (Smolin, 2001).

Proposing instead its antithesis that:

Nothing in the physical universe exists objectively, i.e. of or by itself.

Thus virtualism gives the virtual reality conjecture that:

The physical world is a set of events output by some processing without which it would not exist at all.

Physicalism in contrast proposes the opposite, that the physical world is an objective reality that exists in and of itself that needs nothing other than itself to exist.

These are mutually exclusive statements. An objective world that is inherently real can’t be a virtual world and vice-versa. One can’t logically prove reality statements (Esfeld, 2004) so that the world is virtual isn’t provable but by the same logic neither can one prove that the physical world is an objective reality. It follows that to demand of a new theory what the old one can’t deliver either is bias not science.