An Empirical Metaphysic: Theology and Virtual Worlds 12


This month, the Ontological Geek has a theme: reli­gion and/or the­ol­o­gy in games. We have a great bunch of arti­cles lined up, from the very per­son­al to the deeply the­o­ret­i­cal, from both reg­u­lar OntoGeek con­trib­u­tors and sev­er­al guest writ­ers. We’d love to hear from you with your thoughts on spe­cif­ic arti­cles and the month as a whole – com­ment freely and e-mail us at editor@ontologicalgeek.com!

One of the three great con­tenders with Christian thought in the last few cen­turies has been the pos­i­tivist view of human knowl­edge.1 Deeply under­min­ing philo­soph­i­cal assump­tions of pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions the adher­ence to “that which only can be proven empir­i­cal­ly” has cast doubt on the con­cepts of meta­physics which under­lie ideas as basic as cause and effect. What has result­ed is a stripped-down but prac­ti­cal under­stand­ing of human knowl­edge. In near­ly full retreat are many of the old the­o­log­i­cal con­cepts that once stood as great pil­lars in the cities of Augustine, Aquinas and even Luther or Calvin. The mod­ern and post-modern ages have seen Christians rethink­ing con­cepts such as the Omnipotence, Eternity and Immutability of God. As well, other doc­trines such as the Incarnation, Miracles, the Second Coming and the Resurrection of the Dead have all been found embar­rass­ing by many and in need of rework­ing. Traditional under­stand­ings of these ideas appear only in the staunchest defend­ers of ortho­doxy whether they be fun­da­men­tal­ists, aca­d­e­mics uncon­vinced of the valid­i­ty of this new epis­te­mol­o­gy, or the faith­ful who refuse to budge from “the faith once given.”

In the face of all of this, it may seem strange to pro­pose a meta­physic, one which opens the doors to all of these cat­e­gories in their old robust splen­dor, derived from vir­tu­al worlds. That we should pro­pose that Pac-Man might save the Incarnation or Gordon Freeman pre­serve the con­cept of Obediential Potency may seem absurd. Yet this is what I will attempt in this short piece.

We begin by ask­ing what vir­tu­al worlds are. At their base, vir­tu­al worlds are con­structs based in our own world which have rela­tion­ships in them­selves depen­dent on the rules of our own world, but which are worked out in a sys­tem that is no longer iden­ti­fi­able as equiv­a­lent with our own world. We might call these Ontological Frameworks. Here we define an Ontological Framework as a col­lec­tion of enti­ties in rela­tion­ship with each other so that they have poten­tial mutu­al causal­i­ty over each other. When we say “Entities” we mean what­ev­er a “thing” might be in that par­tic­u­lar frame­work. In our world, an enti­ty might be a sta­pler or a plan­et, in Halo it might be a grunt or an sticky-grenade. We say that the mutu­al­i­ty is poten­tial due to the fact that it must be con­di­tioned by the laws of the Ontological Framework. So the sta­pler poten­tial­ly could have some effect on Jupiter, though due to the laws of our uni­verse, that doesn’t seem like­ly. Things stop being in the same Ontological Framework the moment they stop hav­ing this poten­tial mutu­al causal­i­ty over each other. My sta­pler and a sticky-grenade do not have the same kind of rela­tion­ships the sta­pler and Jupiter do. Thus we can see that the bounds of a frame­work end where mutu­al poten­tial causal­i­ty ceas­es and we under­stand how that causal­i­ty is con­di­tioned by means of the laws of the frame­work.

And inter­est­ing­ly enough this is exact­ly what we can draw from observ­ing a game of Pac-Man. We have enti­ties, a field of play, a Paku Paku man, four ghosts, pel­lets, power pel­lets, walls, por­tals and fruit. These are each enti­ties in the Framework and they all have poten­tial mutu­al causal­i­ty over each other which is con­di­tioned by the laws of the Framework. Thus the walls bound Pac-Man; the Ghosts can change his state and he can change theirs. The ghosts can­not affect the pel­lets but Pac-Man can and power pel­lets can affect him.2 Had the pro­gram­mers wished it they could have changed the laws of the frame­work to allow the ghosts to con­sume the pel­lets. There would have been no change to the bounds of the frame­work in that case.

We see most clear­ly what is meant by the bounds of the frame­work when we con­sid­er two things: our rela­tion­ship to a game of Pac-Man, and the rela­tion­ship of two dif­fer­ent games of Pac-Man. In our frame­work which con­tains Jupiter, books of Shakespeare, the event of Caesar cross­ing the Rubicon and quan­tum mechan­ics, changes of state in ener­gy and mat­ter are hap­pen­ing. Yet with­in the depen­dent frame­work (an Ontological Framework that exists with­in anoth­er Ontological Framework) of Pac-Man’s world, dif­fer­ent kinds of changes are hap­pen­ing. That which is the change of the state of ener­gy in our world is the move­ment from left to right of Pac-Man. It is a kind of asym­met­ri­cal change that is not one-to-one which reveals the dif­fer­ent lev­els of real­i­ty involved. When a ghost changes state in Pac-Man’s world there is not a cor­re­spond­ing ghost in our world chang­ing state instead some­thing total­ly dif­fer­ent hap­pens. As well the enti­ties in Pac-Man’s world are not acces­si­ble to me in the same way that they are acces­si­ble to him. In fact the enti­ties in Pac-Man’s world are not even acces­si­ble to the ener­gy states in our world which form them in the same way that they are acces­si­ble to him. This reveals the divi­sion between one Ontological Framework and anoth­er. The power pel­let and I do not have mutu­al poten­tial causal­i­ty over each other. I have poten­tial causal­i­ty over it but only by trans­la­tion into my frame­work (visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion on an arcade cab­i­net) does it have any kind of poten­tial cau­sa­tion over me.

In addi­tion, we may observe two games of Pac-Man played next to each other. The enti­ties in each of the two frame­works have no nat­ur­al poten­tial causal­i­ty over each other. The ghosts in one are not, as far as the other game is con­cerned, ghosts at all. They are for­eign, external…supernatural.

Now there are a num­ber of con­clu­sions we can draw from this sev­er­al of which are very inter­est­ing to the­olo­gians. First this gives us a model for under­stand­ing how par­al­lel frame­works might exist and what their mutu­al causal­i­ty might be con­sid­ered. This is because two Ontological Frameworks depen­dent on the same over­ar­ch­ing frame­work might inter­act with each other only by means of that over­ar­ch­ing frame­work. Thus I bump you while I’m play­ing Mortal Kombat and you mis­fire while pilot­ing your X-Wing in the 1983 Star Wars game. But more impor­tant­ly, we are able to see a num­ber of very impor­tant things about how a par­ent frame­work relates to a child frame­work.

1. The Parent Framework’s nature (actu­al­ized laws and objects) com­plete­ly deter­mines what kind of child frame­works it can host. Thus the rules of our world fully deter­mine what kinds of vir­tu­al worlds we can cre­ate. We can eas­i­ly imag­ine worlds and indeed cre­ate worlds in which vir­tu­al worlds are impos­si­ble due to their sim­plic­i­ty. For exam­ple, the world of Super Mario Brothers, no mat­ter how we arrange the pieces, is not com­plex enough to host a depen­dent vir­tu­al world of its own. For the­olo­gians this relates to two ques­tions: What kind of frame­work could poten­tial­ly be the Parent for our real­i­ty, and what would that rela­tion­ship look like? What must the most basic rela­tion­ship look like from the ulti­mate Parent onto­log­i­cal Framework? What would the rela­tion­ship between the Trinity and the World look like? What would the Nature of the Trinity be if per­haps the Father was the ground of the other two per­sons?3

2. There is an epis­te­mo­log­i­cal lim­it­ed­ness to a child frame­work as to its own nature. For the laws of that frame­work are not defined by the enti­ties in its own world but by the enti­ties and rules of the par­ent frame­work. Thus the rules of Pong are writ­ten in our world, which is inac­ces­si­ble to Pong. Should a sen­tient being exist in that world, he would only ever be able to deter­mine the rules by exper­i­men­ta­tion and obser­va­tion. Yet the laws them­selves would never be acces­si­ble to him. He might even come to the con­clu­sion that the ques­tion as to “why” the ball bounces as it does is inap­pro­pri­ate. Relationships with the sci­ences here are recon­sid­ered given the poten­tial ram­i­fi­ca­tions of this model.

3. Furthermore epis­te­mo­log­i­cal ques­tions are reframed because of the anal­o­gous nature of exis­tence. We might say that Pac-Man is played on a 2-dimensional plane but we are real­ly speak­ing in analo­gies. The world of Pac-Man is like2-dimensional plane on an x/y axis but it is not real­ly so. The rela­tions of Pac-Man to ghosts are not real­ly spa­tial but only anal­o­gous­ly spa­tial, for space is a thing that exists in our world, not in Pac-Man’s world, where the ghost­ly “move­ment” is achieved through the assign­ing of val­ues to vari­ables, not the phys­i­cal relo­ca­tion of an object.4 Thus we can speak only in analo­gies of even our child frame­works and they could only speak of our world in the same way. Theologians here are con­cerned with con­cepts like the Analogy of Being and the whole world of thought that comes in with it. What do we mean when we say that “God exists?” Does exis­tence there mean exis­tence as we take it in our uni­verse? Does the apophat­ic tra­di­tion, which speaks of God being “beyond exis­tence” have some­thing sub­stan­tial to con­tribute at this point?

4. It might be impos­si­ble for a child-framework to have epis­te­mo­log­i­cal cer­ti­tude about the frame­work that is host­ing it. Try as we might we must always com­mu­ni­cate with it on its own terms. Thus all inter­ac­tion with it must be in the terms of its own frame­work or else all com­mu­ni­ca­tion will not be received. Therefore, yell at the screen as I might when my video game char­ac­ter does not move as I have direct­ed him, he can­not receive the input. Instead, all input must be in terms he can receive. Theological mod­els of rev­e­la­tion are of course brought in here for con­sid­er­a­tion.

5. Dependent Ontological Frameworks can be designed with their own integri­ty, so that they func­tion with­out out­side inter­ac­tion. But they can also be made with the poten­tial as well as the pur­pose of being inter­act­ed with from their par­ent Ontological Framework. Thus when I con­trol Gordon Freeman he acts as he is sup­posed to. If I do not inter­act with him, the world goes on; and if I do, the world still goes on. Yet it is changed because of my inter­ac­tion. That inter­ac­tion is by def­i­n­i­tion “super­nat­ur­al” to the child frame­work. In fact, we observe that we cre­ate these vir­tu­al worlds very often for the express pur­pose that we might inter­act with them. They are not “com­plete” until we do. Here the whole con­stel­la­tion of ideas includ­ing mir­a­cles, Obediential Potency, the Incarnation, Resurrection, Sacraments and the Eschaton, is rein­tro­duced as com­plete­ly com­pat­i­ble with cre­ation.

6. Value sys­tems are imbued pri­mar­i­ly from the par­ent frame­work into the child frame­work. Thus inter­ac­tions in an MMORPG might indeed be inter­ac­tions of virtue or vice due to the agents who enact them with­in our own frame­work. A vir­tu­al elf killing anoth­er vir­tu­al elf is not moral­ly good or bad but a friend betray­ing a friend in this man­ner to get an orange drop very well is. The ques­tions for the basis of our moral sys­tems are here intro­duced for the­o­log­i­cal thought.

With regard to these con­clu­sions we find that the old robust the­o­log­i­cal doc­trines of Christianity are once more put back on the table. Miracles, Revelation and Obediential Potency all are sug­gest­ed imme­di­ate­ly by this frame­work as real­ly pos­si­ble and observ­ably mod­eled by our inter­ac­tions with video games. The state of our epis­te­mo­log­i­cal prob­lems in sci­ence, such as the inabil­i­ty to get at the “why” of nature instead of mere­ly the “how”, are also clear­ly sug­gest­ing that our own Ontological Framework is in fact a Dependent Framework, or in other words, a cre­ation. Finally, the Incarnation itself is mod­eled as the in-breaking of the parent-framework (the divine Trinity) into our frame­work in order to com­mu­ni­cate with us on our own terms and to enact other real changes in our frame­work both in terms of our nat­ur­al state and super­nat­ur­al ele­ments.

In clos­ing, a few things should be said. First with regard to the rela­tion­ship between the Trinity and the Created world, this the­o­ry would not pro­pose exact­ly the same kind of rela­tion­ship as our world has with our vir­tu­al worlds. Instead, because the rela­tion­ship is defined (as in #1 above) by the par­ent frame­work the rela­tion­ship of the Trinity to this frame­work would be total­ly defined by the Trinity’s nature which the­olo­gians have con­sis­tent­ly iden­ti­fied as God’s free cre­ation of the world from noth­ing. This would be pos­si­ble and with­in the bounds of this observed frame­work if indeed such a being as the Triune Christian God exists. Secondly, this model should not triv­i­al­ize God as cre­ator or as incar­nate in the terms of “God play­ing video games.” We may cur­rent­ly use our vir­tu­al worlds mere­ly as recre­ation, but this does not indi­cate the total­i­ty of poten­tial rela­tion­ships and means for such vir­tu­al worlds in humanity’s future in gen­er­al or the con­cept of child frame­works as a whole. This is not a pro­pos­al for “why” God cre­ates (i.e. for some form of enter­tain­ment) but, instead, a pro­pos­al for how we can observe from our own cre­ative process­es what is inher­ent in the rela­tion­ship between a “ground of being” and that which is ground­ed.

Notes:
  1. The other two being of course the ques­tion of evil and the ques­tion of plu­ral­ism. []
  2. Here of course per­son­al pro­nouns are used at the level of con­ve­nience. Pac-Man the Ghosts and all other enti­ties are mere­ly “objects” in their world real­ized enti­ties. This how­ev­er should not be con­fused with the term “object” either in a three dimen­sion­al sense nor in the sense of Object Oriented Programming con­cepts. []
  3. The work of Metropolitan John Zizioulas with regard to per­son­hood and being is in mind here. []
  4. This is not to assume that orig­i­nal chip-sets in Pac-Man games used the same con­cepts for pro­gram­ming as mod­ern day pro­gram­ming. []

Joshua Wise

About Joshua Wise

Joshua Wise is a Doctoral Student of Systematic Theology at Catholic University of America. However, he is an Episcopalian, which will explain both the hunted look and the penchant for wanting to have it both ways. His areas of interest involve Christology, Trinitarian Theology, Theosis, and the intersection of Pop Culture and Theology. He runs the website www.CrossedPurposes.com and hosts the podcast.

  • Joel Cuthbertson

    This is a won­der­ful arti­cle. I don’t know that I have the back­ground in actu­al doc­trine to com­plete­ly keep up, but the use of vir­tu­al worlds to exam­ine neces­si­ties of cre­ation is both high­ly intrigu­ing and very impres­sive.

  • Jim Ralph

    100% agree with Joel, ‘intrigu­ing’ and ‘impres­sive’ are the per­fect descrip­tions of this arti­cle.

    As I so often am, when talk­ing about inter­ac­tions with and between vir­tu­al worlds, I was put in mind through­out of The Matrix. If I’m read­ing this cor­rect­ly, it seems like those films’ focus on tech­no­log­i­cal and the­o­log­i­cal tran­scen­dence (and par­tic­u­lar­ly the inter­re­la­tion between the two) aligns rather well with your own dis­cus­sion of, to use my own layman’s ter­mi­nol­o­gy, worlds-within-worlds. I was par­tic­u­lar­ly remind­ed of those moments when Neo’s super­nat­ur­al abil­i­ties unex­pect­ed­ly begin to func­tion out­side of the matrix in what is meant to be the ‘real’ world, under­min­ing its pre­sen­ta­tion as such. I won­der if this might be read as a nod to the sleight-of-hand tac­tics of all fic­tion, the mis­di­rec­tion used to call the reader’s atten­tion away from their own world and into anoth­er. Neo’s true cap­tors are not the machine cre­ators of the matrix, but me, you, the Wachowski’s and any­one else whose imag­i­na­tion gives life to both him and the machines. His tran­scen­dence is per­haps an invi­ta­tion for us to look up as well as down the rab­bit hole.

    Goodness me, I won­der if I’m mak­ing any sense any more. I’d be inter­est­ed to hear any thoughts you have on The Matrix, Joshua, and would cer­tain­ly love to see more of your work appear­ing on OntGeek!

    • Jim,

      Yes, the Matrix is a good exam­ple of this kind of thing. What i think is inter­est­ing is that what you pro­pose about Neo as not real­ly trapped by the Matrix, but by all of us, brings togeth­er two ideas that do not seem to be happy bed­fel­lows: The con­cept of being, and the con­cept of impris­on­ment. By giv­ing life to Neo, it seems to me that we are not entrap­ping him, but instead we each give that char­ac­ter the nobil­i­ty of exis­tence (exis­tence as an imag­i­nary char­ac­ter in our heads), which hap­pens to have the acci­den­tal nature of being impris­oned in the Matrix. Could we sim­ply free him? Certainly, but then one won­ders if he is still Neo.

  • I had to look up Obediential Potency. Now that I have, I want to make sure that I can map the idea onto your Pac-Man frame­work to prove I under­stand it.

    Pac-Man will con­tin­ue mov­ing in the direc­tion of the last “order” the joy­stick gives him, unless he dies or hits a cor­ner. When the joy­stick moves again, he changes direc­tion unless it’s into a wall.

    If we’re in a child frame­work our­selves, is our equiv­a­lent “hear­ing a still, small voice”? Or oth­er­wise expe­ri­enc­ing noume­na?

    • Justin,

      It’s not quite that. Obediential Potency is the abil­i­ty of nat­ur­al things (things on our level of being) to receive super­nat­ur­al inter­ac­tion. Pac-Man’s obe­di­en­tial poten­cy is almost total, in that he will not do any­thing at all (except exist, and exist in rela­tion­ship with other enti­ties in his world), unless a super­nat­ur­al impe­tus is given to him. In his “nat­ur­al” state, Pac-Man sits still and waits for the ghosts to come and kill him.

      If we are indeed in a child-framework (which I thor­ough­ly main­tain) then our obe­di­en­tial poten­cy spans the whole spec­trum of reli­gious expe­ri­ence, from mirac­u­lous heal­ing to the heard voice, the strange warm­ing of the heart, the still small voice, the peace in the face of mor­tal dan­ger, for­give­ness of ene­mies, and on and on. In fact, from the Christian per­spec­tive, the whole trans­for­ma­tion of the human nature into a human nature shot all through with the divine life can be expressed in Obediential Potency.

      Of course Pac-Man is designed with only the Pac-Man him­self as pos­sess­ing Obediential Potency. But this is a design choice. Potentially the whole of any child ontol­ogy is acces­si­ble to the par­ent. Thus water may sup­port the weight of a man, or bread turn to flesh, or a dead body rise. 

      I hope this helps clar­i­fy the point.

      • Although it’s not a *require­ment* for our frame­work to be a *game* in the eyes of a par­ent, visu­al­iz­ing what God’s con­troller lay­out would be, and how much mas­tery would be required for the game of our world to be fun? It actu­al­ly trig­gers a sense of God-fear. So I have to applaud you for this men­tal exer­cise. Thanks.

  • Robbie Eberhart-Garah

    Hey Joshua,

    Your expla­na­tion of par­ent frame­works is good — if you aren’t famil­iar with Flatland, you should take a look. The dis­cus­sion of inter­ac­tion between high­er and lower dimen­sion­al planes echoes that sense of the nat­ur­al in a par­ent frame­work appear­ing super­nat­ur­al in the child frame­work. A cou­ple thoughts about the argu­ments that fol­low:

    1) Our rela­tion to Pac-Man does not imply any­thing spe­cial about our­selves. We may have divine power over him, but it is the com­plex­i­ty of our own frame­work, not the dis­tinct com­plex­i­ty of our­selves as indi­vid­u­als, that lends us appar­ent super­nat­ur­al agency. Similarly, if we sup­pose a par­ent frame­work to our own per­ceived uni­verse exists (as many sci­en­tists do), we may fair­ly assign god­like poten­cy to any indi­vid­ual with­in that frame­work. Within the con­text of that par­ent frame­work, though, the indi­vid­u­als them­selves should be noth­ing spe­cial: if we call one God, it is the frame­work God inhab­its, not the enti­ty itself, to which those prop­er­ties right­ly belong.

    2) As you men­tion, the prop­er­ties of a child frame­work are deter­mined by the prop­er­ties of the par­ent frame­work, and com­plex­i­ty appar­ent­ly dete­ri­o­rates with each step down. Rules gov­ern our exis­tence as they gov­ern Pac-Man’s. Ours are more com­plex and allow for more appar­ent free­dom, but nev­er­the­less our frame­work has rules as def­i­nite as that which man­dates that ghosts will flee from Pac-Man when he picks up a power-pellet. Moving up anoth­er step, to a par­ent frame­work of our own, does not imply that that high­er frame­work is any less bound by laws than our own — there is no rea­son to think by this anal­o­gy that God would have any free­dom what­so­ev­er, in fact, until we could sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly demon­strate free will in our­selves. It remains a pos­si­bil­i­ty, but one that we cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly can­not inves­ti­gate.

    3) It is impos­si­ble for Pac-Man or Gordon Freeman to observe us, the play­ers, except through our inter­ac­tion with them. Similarly, as you sug­gest, it is impos­si­ble for us to direct­ly observe a par­ent frame­work: if their is a God, we can only know about it as it reveals itself to us. But this means we can lie about our­selves in video games, and the inhab­i­tants of those games have no capac­i­ty to ver­i­fy or chal­lenge our claims. When I play Grand Theft Auto, my char­ac­ter could rea­son­ably sup­pose that the divine pow­ers upheld mass homi­cide and theft as moral virtues, because those are the qual­i­ties I com­mand. He would be wrong, but he would have no means to inves­ti­gate, and so his only options would be to be wrong or to be indif­fer­ent to my qual­i­ties. Similarly, if put God in a sim­i­lar rela­tion to our­selves that we put our­selves to Pac-Man, there appear to be only two rea­son­able respons­es to God: to ignore it, or to accept what is revealed with­out any rea­son to think we are cor­rect.

    4) It is easy to sup­pose that we will devel­op some form of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence at some point in the future. That vir­tu­al intel­li­gence will still belong to the same frame­work as Pac-Man, but given access to periph­er­als (cam­eras, arms, and so on) would be able to study and inter­act with our frame­work. It could suc­cess­ful­ly bridge the gap between child and par­ent frame­work, and become fully real­ized in the par­ent frame­work while still exist­ing with­in the child frame­work. It would be our cre­ation and our equal. For this anal­o­gy to hold true to the Trinity, there would need to be a way in which we, exist­ing in our frame­work, could with the prop­er tools fully observe and inter­act with our par­ent frame­work — the domain of God. There would need to be a process by which we could be in a sense upgrad­ed, what was super­nat­ur­al would become nat­ur­al, and God would become no more rel­e­vant or spe­cial to us than the aver­age human is to SkyNet.

    All of this things could cer­tain­ly be the case, but the con­clu­sion I come to from them is that if there is a God, that God is nei­ther spe­cial nor worth study­ing — we’ll just have to wait till it toss­es us the periph­er­als, at which point we’ll stop call­ing it “God” and start call­ing it “The guy with the thick-rimmed glass­es and stut­ter”.

    I’d be curi­ous to know your response.

    • Robbie,

      Thanks for your response. The pur­pose of this arti­cle is not to try to do the­ol­o­gy, but phi­los­o­phy. Your ques­tions are of a the­o­log­i­cal nature, and thus don’t fall in the scope of the article’s pur­pose.

      That being said…I’m a the­olo­gian, so these are real­ly the ques­tions that inter­est me. At first glance, I gen­er­al­ly agree with each of your objec­tions, but of course, in some nuanced ways. Also, yes, Flatland is a good con­cep­tu­al par­al­lel for some of this.

      1. This is true, except that it’s not. Yes, among human beings, I’m not par­tic­u­lar­ly spe­cial for being able to play Pac-Man (and only slight­ly spe­cial for being able to write the pro­gram that runs Pac-Man), but I rather excep­tion­al among gasses, rocks, birds, fish, suns, plan­ets, books, etc. In other words, I’m a ratio­nal free crea­ture (and these imply each other, if I am not free, then I am not ratio­nal, for my thoughts are not ratio­nal­ly caused, but mate­ri­al­ly caused). Now, of course, to cre­ate such a child frame­work, some con­cep­tu­al level of thought (or its anal­o­gy) seems to be required. Thus it seems that what­ev­er God is, God must at least be this (or its anal­o­gy). But it would be wrong to inter­pret this model as say­ing “because we are a child frame­work, the Christian doc­trine of God is true” (that is a ques­tion of rev­e­la­tion and falls under #3 below). It pro­pos­es that the Christian doc­trine of God is con­sis­tent with an observ­able meta­physic. With regard to your state­ment about “God’s Framework” let’s turn to ques­tion 2.

      2. While it is the case that our nature is com­plex, and cre­ates less com­plex natures, it is also the case that this is the result of the laws of our nature. It is not a state­ment about how all poten­tial natures could relate. If a nature is made of enti­ties that inter­act in high­ly anal­o­gous ways to our own (mate­r­i­al objects, ener­gy, etc.) then it seems that incred­i­ble com­plex­i­ties are required to host a child frame­work, and that we can cre­ate frame­works too sim­ple to host child frame­works (as in the arti­cle above). And in some ways, we argue exact­ly what you do, that the par­ent frame­work is full of laws, high­ly com­pli­cat­ed, and infi­nite­ly com­plex.

      But as well, we argue that it is entire­ly sim­ple in other ways. The rea­son we do this is because we pro­pose that the frame­work and the being are not dis­tinct at the “high­est” level. What we mean by “God” is not nec­es­sar­i­ly the direct effi­cient cause of our uni­verse, but the effi­cient and final cause of all that exists. Thus, if our uni­verse is a vir­tu­al world in anoth­er, then God is the author of both. Author of the first, per­haps direct­ly, and author of the sec­ond because He is author of the first.

      The com­plex­i­ty of God as pro­posed by Christianity is great, oth­er­wise the­olo­gians like myself would be sit­ting around say­ing, “Yep, that God…pretty sim­ple, right?” And we would have none of our great debates. We debate the ways in which the laws of God exist with­in and are iden­ti­cal with God. Now, of course, much of this is about our own abil­i­ty to con­cep­tu­al­ize these real­i­ties in one being. Thus we would say, at the “high­est” level, that we do find the root of our nature in God’s frame­work, which also hap­pens to be iden­ti­cal with God.

      With regard to the free­dom of that frame­work, Christian the­olo­gians gen­er­al­ly seem to agree that God is not free in the same way that we are “a bunch of choic­es” but ulti­mate­ly free in two other ways: Able to do what­ev­er God wills b/c God has the power and there are no block­ages to God’s power; and uncon­di­tioned by out­side real­i­ties, mean­ing God is what God is no mat­ter what hap­pens.

      One could go on for quite some time here with divine sim­plic­i­ty and com­plex­i­ty, as well as divine free­dom. However, a few other things could be said here. The gen­er­al frame­work of argu­ments like first mover, and first cause, also applies to the ulti­mate par­ent frame­work. We might imag­ine that it must keep get­ting more and more com­plex, and on one level that must be true. But on anoth­er level, at some point it seems that it must also become rad­i­cal­ly sim­ple, such that it may know itself to be the most basic frame­work. This seems only pos­si­ble if the basic frame­work knows itself utter­ly, and has its prin­ci­ple of being in itself. But I must rest on this ques­tion.

      3. This is absolute­ly true, and an issue that the­ol­o­gy has strug­gled with. The answer is high­ly com­pli­cat­ed, and enters into the whole region of the the­ol­o­gy of rev­e­la­tion. I can­not even begin to address the prob­lem here in any sig­nif­i­cant way. There is a sig­nif­i­cant debate about all of this in Catholic cir­cles called the “Nature/Grace” debate. I will not get into that here either. But I will con­sid­er some small piece of the gen­er­al ques­tion.

      The prob­lem, it seems, turns on a very basic ele­ment of human nature: the process of judg­ment. We have no rea­son to believe that our world exists, and there­fore no rea­son to believe that sci­ence is telling us about any­thing that’s real. Many peo­ple would agree with this gen­er­al state­ment. However, we also have no rea­son to believe that the things we are hear­ing about the world not exist­ing are real. All of the things we read that tell us that the world may be false are in fact part of that world, and are under as much sus­pi­cion as the rocks, trees and birds. Do our ears, eyes, touch, taste, smell agree? So what? They could be deceived in con­cert. Do other peo­ple agree? Who cares, they may be illu­sions.
      The only rea­son­able option is per­haps then solip­sism.

      But of course, we don’t do that. There is some­thing in us that judges the world to be real, and we trust that judg­ment. Now, the rea­son Christianity trusts rev­e­la­tion (though it is a com­plex hermeneu­ti­cal process to deter­mine what is rev­e­la­tion, what it is reveal­ing, and what it is not reveal­ing), relies in some ways on this human ele­ment of judg­ment. We judge the rev­e­la­tion to be true. We could be deceived in many ways. It could not be from the divine, it might not be a mes­sage at all, we might be hear­ing it wrong, and so on. But built into rev­e­la­tion seems to be checks against this kind of thing. 

      a. It is given over time. As far as Christians are con­cerned, it has been hap­pen­ing explic­it­ly for per­haps four thou­sand years, and implic­it­ly for the whole of human exis­tence. This implies a level of con­sis­ten­cy and pro­gres­sion.
      b. It is self ref­er­en­tial. Revelation in one place seems to refer to rev­e­la­tion in anoth­er place.

      c. It is self cor­rect­ing. Revelation points to some things that claim to be rev­e­la­tion and denies them that claim. It also empha­sizes some ele­ments and deem­pha­sizes other ele­ments of rev­e­la­tion.
      Now, of course, we must as well then say “but all of this could be a sham.” Yes, this is true. So could the appar­ent love our friends have for us be a secret plot, and indeed, in rare and ter­ri­ble cases it is. But then we rely on our judg­ment, intel­lec­tu­al­ly acknowl­edg­ing that we can­not get at the rock solid bot­tom of the out­ward appear­ance of things, and then set­ting that aside.

      Once more, it could go on and on, but I would like to point out one thing. The rad­i­cal dis­trust of real­i­ty leads to a self-focused exis­tence. At best it means that we use the world mere­ly as a means to an end, because we have no other means. At worst, we dis­be­lieve it at cut our­selves off from life entire­ly. Christianity pro­pos­es that to reject rev­e­la­tion on those same grounds is to do the same thing to our­selves, but to do it eter­nal­ly. It also pro­pos­es that not reject­ing it is ful­fill­ment of life in every impor­tant way it means to be human, this is why it is addressed not mere­ly to our sci­en­tif­ic minds, but to logic (dis­tinct from sci­ence), our emo­tions, our sense of myth, or sense of iden­ti­ty, soci­ety, fam­i­ly, our loves, fears, joys, and sor­rows.

      4. I do not know what is behind your ques­tion, because it has many res­o­nances with exist­ing schools of thought. But let me answer it at face value. There are two parts to the answer that come at it from dif­fer­ent angles.

      a. There are two things to note about your exam­ple, which is one I have con­sid­ered myself in my own explo­ration of the topic. First, we must dif­fer­en­ti­ate between the AI which exists in our world to begin with that now is given a new abil­i­ty, like cam­eras, and the AI which exists in its own nat­ur­al child con­text first . The first is not our con­cern here, the sec­ond is. Second, the addi­tion of cam­eras, micro­phones, and the like, do not actu­al­ly “bring” the per­son (for lack of a bet­ter word) in the vir­tu­al world into ours, any more than our inter­ac­tion with their frame­work “brings” us into theirs. Instead, they receive infor­ma­tion about our frame­work in their frame­work. It must be trans­lat­ed into the terms of their frame­work, and indeed be some change in their frame­work. To say that it is mere­ly now “in” our frame­work, would be wrong. Let us say that this is done by a high­ly com­plex AI that has been liv­ing in a vir­tu­al world in Everquest 50. All of the expe­ri­ences of our world, piped in by cam­eras and micro­phones, will be expe­ri­enced and able to be expe­ri­enced only as that AI can accept them, not as one who is nat­ur­al to our own world accepts it. So, indeed, there may be infor­ma­tion sent between the two, and caus­es and effects between the two, but the model you pro­pose does not actu­al­ly bring the AI “into” our frame­work.

      b. Depending on what Christian tra­di­tion you con­sid­er, you may find almost exact­ly what you are talk­ing about, minus the “com­mon­al­i­ty” that you pro­pose. In both Catholic and Orthodox tra­di­tions, there is absolute­ly a teach­ing of God’s trans­for­ma­tion of the human con­di­tion such that it par­tic­i­pates in the divine nature (this teach­ing is called diviniza­tion, deifi­ca­tion, or theo­sis). How the doc­trine is worked out in each of the tra­di­tions is a bit dif­fer­ent, and not impor­tant here. The teach­ing is gain­ing ground in some Protestant cir­cles as well, like my own. 

      Where it dis­agrees with your basic idea relies on our con­cepts in #2. God is not “part of” nor “par­tic­i­pates in” His own frame­work, but is His own frame­work. Thus, where­as lan­guage of par­tic­i­pa­tion, deifi­ca­tion, and so on, speaks of us shar­ing in God’s nature, it is insis­tent that we do not become God him­self. We are “drawn up into” God’s self, yet remain dis­tinct as crea­tures. We may see as God sees, but keep­ing in mind our rule from 4a, that we do so remain­ing crea­tures in our own frame­work. God may change us sig­nif­i­cant­ly so that we are in line with God at every point of our being, but we remain our­selves, and God remains rel­e­vant because He remains the source of this change, and in fact of our very beings. 

      I would reit­er­ate that the model I pro­pose in the arti­cle does not even attempt answer these ques­tions, but leaves them open, where­as a denial of meta­physics sim­ply denies them as ques­tions. We have moved well beyond the scope of this arti­cle into actu­al the­o­log­i­cal debate, which is of course the pur­pose of the arti­cle.

      • Robbie Eberhart-Garah

        Thanks for the thought­ful response, Joshua.

        No wor­ries, I quite under­stand that the orig­i­nal arti­cle only attempts to con­cep­tu­al­ize high­er dimen­sion­al or high­er order or what have you spaces which some­thing called God could inhab­it — it makes no claims about what that God might be. It’s a way to help peo­ple like me (athe­ists and empiri­cists) talk about the issue of mir­a­cles with­out shak­ing our heads, and as I say, you did a good job. Now, in re-response.

        1) If we assume that God is its own frame­work, then the ques­tion of whether God’s com­plex­i­ty is a prop­er­ty of itself par­tic­u­lar­ly or its frame­work gen­er­al­ly becomes moot. Which is alright by me.

        2) It may well be the case that God is quite sim­ple. I don’t think a sim­ple God fol­lows from the Pac-Man anal­o­gy, but it’s only an anal­o­gy. The ques­tion of how we actu­al­ly deter­mine God’s com­plex­i­ty is more inter­est­ing, and returns to the eter­nal­ly prick­ly prob­lem 3.

        3) As you say, this is a sub­stan­tial prob­lem, and I’m not going to try to pick at you. One sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ence between our sci­en­tif­ic obser­va­tion of the world and the­o­log­i­cal the­o­ry does seem out­stand­ing to me, though: over time, sci­en­tif­ic the­o­ry con­sis­tent­ly moves towards con­sen­sus. Theories are devel­oped (grav­i­ty, elec­tro­mag­net­ism, con­duc­tion, DNA as infor­ma­tion car­ri­er), and test­ed and chal­lenged exhaus­tive­ly until no real oppo­si­tion to them exists. We devel­op func­tion­al tools based on these the­o­ries, make pre­dic­tions using them, and explain our uni­verse with them. (Why are stel­lar bod­ies spher­i­cal? Because the sphere is the most entrop­ic geo­met­ric object — the same rea­son peb­bles on the beach tend not to have hard edges). Scientific thought may be divid­ed over cur­rent prob­lems, but those prob­lems are even­tu­al­ly sort­ed out and con­sen­sus is arrived at. And whether the uni­verse real­ly exists or not (there are a lot of com­pelling the­o­ries among sci­en­tists that it doesn’t, that it’s a holo­graph­ic dis­tor­tion of lower dimen­sion­al space, that mat­ter and ener­gy are noth­ing but an incred­i­bly ornate fold­ing of space-time itself), these the­o­ries appear to hold true at all times in all places. As Richard Dawkins is fond of say­ing of evo­lu­tion that if a sin­gle fea­ture of a sin­gle ani­mal could be proven to have no pos­si­ble func­tion with­out being exact­ly as it is, evo­lu­tion would be proven false. But it’s never hap­pened.

        Religion, whether any of its claims are true or false, does not arrive at con­sen­sus. Problems thou­sands of years old are still being hotly debat­ed (of the three great Abrahamic tra­di­tions, two (most­ly) do not rec­og­nize the divin­i­ty of Christ, as you of course know). Among Christians, accord­ing to The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, there are 41,000 denom­i­na­tions, sug­gest­ing that dis­agree­ment over the­o­log­i­cal issues has increased, not decreased, over time.

        Revelation is also not con­sis­tent in the way that our observed uni­verse is. Gravity hap­pens all the time; the life of Christ hap­pened once. We could sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly elim­i­nate every record of grav­i­ty, and redis­cov­er it in full detail quite quick­ly. If we sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly elim­i­nat­ed every record of Christ, that would be that. We rely on record-keeping for the­ol­o­gy, but only require that the uni­verse exist to study it sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly. As the Bible has been tran­scribed and trans­lat­ed over a few thou­sand years, there has cer­tain­ly been copy error: The King James Bible is a quite dif­fer­ent Bible than a first edi­tion would have been. But grav­i­ty remains con­stant.

        If rev­e­la­tion did occur in a uni­fied, observ­able, con­sis­tent way, it would pro­found­ly impact sci­en­tif­ic thought. In prac­tice, we find that reports of rev­e­la­tion are inverse­ly pro­por­tion­al to the watch­ful­ness of empiri­cists: the world used to be full of super-miracles (floods, fire rain­ing down, rivers of blood, that kind of thing), and isn’t any­more (Mother Teresa was beat­i­fied for remov­ing a tumor from a woman who was active­ly being treat­ed for it). The fur­ther back you go, the big­ger the mir­a­cles are. This could be the way God works, but it is also def­i­nite­ly the way mag­ni­fi­ca­tion of error works. That’s why no rep­utable sci­en­tist would try to prove a the­o­ry using old doc­u­ments (or even new doc­u­ments).

        As I say, I’m not try­ing to deval­ue or dis­cred­it the­ol­o­gy; I just fail to under­stand any the­o­log­i­cal process that is equiv­a­lent to the sci­en­tif­ic process in the ways men­tioned above. Obviously this is not a good forum for ever-expanding debate, but I think that is prob­a­bly the fun­da­men­tal dis­con­nect between the­olo­gian and sci­en­tist. It’s clear to us sci­en­tists that we have a method for scep­ti­cal­ly, cyn­i­cal­ly inves­ti­gat­ing the uni­verse to demon­strate beyond all rea­son­able doubt that what we have dis­cov­ered is accu­rate (that’s clear to every group of peo­ple about itself, of course); it’s not clear to us that the­olo­gians have a cod­i­fied, func­tion­al method to do the same. I know there are a lot of dif­fer­ent meth­ods, rang­ing from Descartes to Aquinas, but would be curi­ous to know if you think there’s one that all Christians, and prefer­ably all the­olo­gians every­where, accept. If so, could you point me to it? I’d be fas­ci­nat­ed.

        Again, thanks for the response: you’re cer­tain­ly not one of those chaps who show up at the door to tell me about my eter­ni­ty of tor­ment, and it’s a gen­uine plea­sure to read your thoughts.

        • Robbie,

          (My sin­cere apolo­gies, this was meant to be a short reply…it is not. I invite you, if you desire, to reply and have the last word).

          Yes, the dif­fer­ences between Science and the­ol­o­gy seem to boil down to some basic real­i­ties. These seem to me to have to do with the sub­ject of study, which then deter­mines the method of study. For exam­ple, study­ing birds is quite dif­fer­ent than study­ing the his­to­ry of print­ing press­es. This is because the nature of the study of a thing is deter­mined by the object stud­ied.

          Also, let us not con­fuse Theology, the pur­suit of intel­lec­tu­al under­stand­ing of God and rev­e­la­tion, with reli­gion, the prac­tice of wor­ship and obe­di­ence to rev­e­la­tion. For Christianity they coin­cide at times, but need not. Muslims and Christians are not pur­su­ing the same goal aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly and thus com­ing to dif­fer­ent con­clu­sions because their appa­ra­tus is faulty, or their sub­ject is non-existent. Instead, if Islam and Christianity can­not agree, it is because they are start­ing from dif­fer­ent premis­es, not draw­ing dif­fer­ent con­clu­sions from the same premis­es.

          Thus let us con­cern our­selves with the­ol­o­gy, not reli­gion.

          So, given the above premise about how study works, I pro­pose the fol­low­ing sim­ple thoughts.

          1. Science stud­ies that which is assumed to be, for all intents and pur­pos­es, unchang­ing, as does the­ol­o­gy. Thus it seems that both can or should be able to come to con­sen­sus over time. 

          2. The object of sci­en­tif­ic study is part of our own frame­work, and there­fore acces­si­ble to us. The object of the­ol­o­gy is not so clear. If the object of the­o­log­i­cal study is God, then God is whol­ly out­side of our frame­work. If the object of study is rev­e­la­tion (both gen­er­al and spe­cial), then this exists, not as some­thing to be stud­ied mate­ri­al­ly or sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly, but log­i­cal­ly and his­tor­i­cal­ly. This is due to the fact that rev­e­la­tion comes to us in par­tic­u­lar his­tor­i­cal sit­u­a­tions, not as repeat­able events. For the pro­posed object of study, if it is God, is a free per­son­al being with his own goals and inten­tions. Thus the study is more akin to psy­chol­o­gy or biog­ra­phy than it is sci­ence.

          3. Due to the dis­tant nature of Theology’s object, there is no clear exper­i­men­ta­tion that can be done. Either the object is out­side of our realm of being, or the object is pure­ly his­tor­i­cal (as you point out) and log­i­cal. Given that the ways in which we study both his­tor­i­cal and log­i­cal data, we can see why the­ol­o­gy does not specif­i­cal­ly come to a con­sen­sus over all things. However, it would also be wrong to say that Christian the­ol­o­gy (the one I am most famil­iar with) does not in fact come to con­sen­sus over issues. In fact, great con­sen­sus has been reached over many issues over long peri­ods of time. New infor­ma­tion aris­es, how­ev­er, and those old con­sen­sus views are called into ques­tion and exam­ined.

          (Also, your eval­u­a­tion of mir­a­cles and his­to­ry is a bit off, though there isn’t time to go into it here. It is wrong to think of the great­est mir­a­cles being the far­thest back, and the small­er ones close to the present, espe­cial­ly in the terms of the dates of the writ­ing of the Bible. Also, claims to major dis­crep­an­cies in bib­li­cal texts are every year being proven more and more ground­less given our increas­ing man­u­script evi­dence. Discrepancies in scrip­ture tend to be minor and sub­stan­tial­ly unim­por­tant).

          It seems to me that your basic con­cept is the real prob­lem: Religion as some­thing that is try­ing to search out truth with a par­tic­u­lar method and fail­ing over time to come to con­sen­sus is not a his­tor­i­cal real­i­ty. Instead, par­tic­u­lar com­mu­ni­ties of peo­ple, start­ing from very par­tic­u­lar premis­es, have pur­sued under­stand­ing of things that are nat­u­ral­ly very hard to under­stand. It seems to me that the rea­son that sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly mind­ed peo­ple have such a hard time under­stand­ing the­o­log­i­cal­ly mind­ed peo­ple is that they seem to think that our meth­ods should be the same as theirs. In fact, it is quite dif­fer­ent.

          My study as a the­olo­gian has me reg­u­lar­ly read­ing in physics, anthro­pol­o­gy, his­to­ry, phi­los­o­phy, and at times in psy­chol­o­gy and soci­ol­o­gy. I reg­u­lar­ly con­verse with his­to­ri­ans, quan­tum physi­cists (one of the ben­e­fits of being near UMD), philoso­phers, and the like. I do this because my field of study must be much more broad because at least on some level, every piece of cre­ation is data. Every human life is data. With such a wide field of unique and var­ied data, it is no won­der we have not sim­ply sat down, put our heads togeth­er, and sort­ed it all out. In fact, since time isn’t over yet, and since new things are hap­pen­ing, new peo­ple liv­ing, new ideas com­ing about, we don’t have all of our data yet.

          There are, as you sug­gest, many meth­ods, but that is to be expect­ed with so many dif­fer­ent kinds of data. The mys­ti­cal, the philo­soph­i­cal, the Biblical, the dog­mat­ic, the fun­da­men­tal, the sys­tem­at­ic, and so on. You will not get one method because the whole human being is used in the­ol­o­gy, not mere­ly the rea­son­ing part of the brain. This is indeed far more com­plex than I am giv­ing it cred­it here. Concepts like Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi and pro­gres­sive rev­e­la­tion aren’t even men­tioned here. 

          But in the end, no, I will not tell you about your eter­nal tor­ments. I don’t per­son­al­ly believe in them. You may point to this and say “see, anoth­er thing you can’t agree on” and yes, there it is. But in my opin­ion if we were able to pin down each thing in order, say exact­ly what God is, and how God acts, and what God will do, we will not have found God at all, the Infinite, tran­scen­dent, three in one being that Christianity claims is behind the whole show.

  • Johnson H.

    Josh,

    I immense­ly enjoyed read­ing your arti­cle and, in read­ing through some of your (gra­cious­ly thought­ful and exten­sive) respons­es to the ques­tions and com­ments you’ve received, I became even more excit­ed by the var­i­ous poten­tial ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the model you pro­pose in your arti­cle.

    I am a col­lege stu­dent who con­sid­ers myself 1.) a very seri­ous reformed, evan­gel­i­cal Christian (grew up in Episcopal church, but in Alabama it’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent), 2.) a seri­ous and prac­tic­ing sci­en­tist (cur­rent­ly study­ing neu­ro­science), and 3.) hope­ful­ly a flex­i­ble and curi­ous imag­in­er of the world around me, even as I learn ever more pre­cise and care­ful meth­ods of scru­ti­niz­ing its “real­i­ties,” such as we are able to deter­mine them.

    In light of these things I have a few com­ments I would like to make; less in hopes of chal­leng­ing your asser­tions (I find lit­tle fault) and more in hopes that you might be will­ing to engage the top­ics in your arti­cle from slight­ly dif­fer­ent and less rel­e­vant per­spec­tives.

    I do love video games myself, though I’m quite a poor play­er of them and I’m pleased to see the con­nec­tions between the things which make video games such com­pelling expe­ri­ences and the things which tick­le my mind and heart as I con­sid­er ques­tions of the­ol­o­gy, of phi­los­o­phy, and of sci­ence. I have been some­what pre­oc­cu­pied, as of late, with the idea that the cre­ative impulse (expressed through poet­ry, visu­al art, music, fic­tion, video game design, even sci­en­tif­ic exper­i­men­ta­tion) is essen­tial­ly divine, an out­pour­ing of our cre­at­ing “in the image of” the Christian God in Genesis. This jives par­tic­u­lar­ly well, I think, with your dis­cus­sion of our own drive to cre­ate child frame­works which we inter­act with and, essen­tial­ly, prac­tice domin­ion over. I real­ize that this is not exact­ly a cen­tral­ly impor­tant impli­ca­tion of the child/parent epis­te­mol­o­gy, but I think it speaks to the con­sis­ten­cy of your model with the Traditional Christian frame­works laid out in the Bible.

    Second, I won­der if your model can also speak to the appar­ent ten­sion between Science and Religion (I mean reli­gion, not the­ol­o­gy). On a per­son­al level, I have never quite under­stood the extreme dif­fi­cul­ty which many peo­ple assume one should expe­ri­ence in rec­on­cil­ing the two prac­tices. Certainly the idea of the “blind faith” which is asked of us in the Bible would give a staunch empiri­cist pause, but it’s hard­ly a con­dem­na­tion of the care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of our phys­i­cal world. As you point out, it is unrea­son­able to assume that we pos­sess the tools to make any analy­sis of the Creator of the Parent Framework out­side of His (I know that’s a prob­lem­at­ic pro­noun there, but bear with me) own ingress into the Child frame­work we inhab­it; as a Christian that would be rep­re­sent­ed by Incarnation and Revelation. The pur­suit of Religion and the pur­pose of Faith, there­fore, is stak­ing ones own spir­i­tu­al liveli­hood, such as we intu­it the pos­ses­sion of such a thing, on a spe­cif­ic set of ideas regard­ing the par­ent frame­work that we derive from what we rea­son­ably believe to be the ingress of that Creator into our own ontol­ogy. Science, on the other hand, asks only what we can under­stand about the rules of this frame­work based on obser­va­tion of the behav­ior of the frame­work and objects in it. The two hard­ly need inter­act except, of course, for the times which it is thought that inter­ac­tion between the Creator (or some agent of the Parent Framework, such as an angel or demon) and the Child frame­work. The ques­tion, I sup­pose, becomes whether one who places impor­tance on empir­i­cal obser­va­tion and under­stand­ing can accept the legit­i­ma­cy of mirac­u­lous events. Recognizing, though, that it is pos­si­ble, based on what we observe, that there IS a par­ent frame­work and that we have no con­crete method for under­stand­ing the laws of that frame­work, means that sci­ence is capa­ble, through obser­va­tion, of accept­ing that some­thing under­stood to be a “mir­a­cle” is pos­si­ble through means inac­ces­si­ble to those obser­va­tions. How would the usage of a “cheat code” appear to an enti­ty who has made an attempt, through obser­va­tion, to deter­mine the rules of a video game world? Perhaps I am over­sim­pli­fy­ing the prob­lem; many peo­ple (most?) do not feel as san­guine as myself about the rela­tion­ship between Science and Religion, I can only speak from my own expe­ri­ence. It seems to me, though, that your model does much to artic­u­late the sep­a­ra­tion that I see between the two fields of human thought. I appre­ci­ate this very much and I hope that you do not feel I have mis­un­der­stood or mis­ap­plied your ideas in any way.

    Finally, I would like to com­ment briefly on the con­nec­tion to neu­ro­science that I see here. The very prob­lem which plagues our under­stand­ing of Reality, is cen­tral to the study of the mind­brain (I hybridize the word to avoid the dual­ism which plagues this language’s abil­i­ty to ref­er­ence our organ of thought). The mir­ror that we must hold to our­selves in order to the­o­rize about and con­struct mod­els of the process­es that engen­der the expe­ri­ence of sen­tience is heavy indeed. The bio­log­i­cal under­pin­nings (per­haps man­i­fes­ta­tions is bet­ter, but of course, implies a causal­i­ty that I’m not sure I’m com­fort­able with) of this expe­ri­ence are per­haps more eas­i­ly observed, but we’re left hold­ing the bag as to what inter­ac­tions these process­es have with the expe­ri­ence of con­scious­ness (increas­ing­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed bio­log­i­cal analy­sis may alle­vi­ate this dif­fi­cul­ty some­what) and, per­haps more impor­tant­ly, why the mild­ly elec­tri­fied lump of fat in our skulls leads us to believe that there is a Divine being (or many) who Created and cur­rent­ly con­trols the world that we are able to observe. What is the util­i­ty of imag­in­ing such a thing? Is it mere­ly an unfor­tu­nate side-effect of the mur­der­ous­ly advanced frontal cor­tex we built to dom­i­nate the glob­al food chain? CS Lewis famous­ly sug­gest­ed, “If you find with­in your­self long­ings that noth­ing in this world can sat­is­fy it can only mean you were made for anoth­er world.” Perhaps, in com­bi­na­tion with your model, this would read “made by a cre­ative enti­ty belong­ing to an exter­nal onto­log­i­cal frame­work.” Doesn’t have quite the same ring, though.