This post is an elaboration of my comment on this article– The Open Universe –which addresses the idea raised by some that the universe could be a computer simulation.
Leaving aside the idea of a computer simulation, per se, the idea of a holographic universe is, in fact, being seriously entertained by top-notch physicists and woo-woo-wackos, alike (as this YouTube search demonstrates). As I see it, however, this theory– if confirmed –would dovetail quite nicely with some form of philosophical idealism (e.g. Neoplatonism or some form of transcendental idealism a la Kant).
Indeed, it is with that in mind that I sometimes use the following (popular) presentation of the holographic hypothesis to show that the appearance of evolution (which seems, to me, to be undeniable) would, from the stand-point of a holographic universe, be true as phenomena (similar to the way in which the sun appears to rise and set) but not ultimately explanatory. The video is from an episode of Nova:
With regard to the relationship between the earth and the sun, it is undeniable that the more precise, scientifically accurate observation is that the earth rotates on its axis as it revolves around the sun. Still, we acknowledge the geocentric appearance — honor it, even — when we speak of “sunrises” and “sunsets” (even though we know it is not, strictly speaking, “the truth” — or at least not the whole truth). Likewise, it seems to me, I can reasonably acknowledge that my (apparent) body appears to be the result of evolutionary processes without conceding that “I” am the product of biological evolution, per se. Evolutionary biology illuminates the natural history (or genealogy) of the form that we see when we look in a mirror, to be sure–but it is crystal clear that there is more to us than meets the eye…
Nevertheless– even if we were to confirm that the spatio-temporal world is a holographic image that reflects some sort of transcendent intelligence/idea/datum –we could still point to (and speak of) the phenomena of biological evolution (as we currently understand it) as having taken place over the last several hundred million years, but we would also subordinate that phenomena to the more precise understanding that the real cause of these apparent processes transcends the flow of appearances in time and space (somewhat as we now subordinate our experience of the rising and the setting of the sun to our more precise understanding of the solar system).
[NOTE: Immanuel Kant lays the groundwork for this distinction in his discussion of “The Fourth Antinomy” in his Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics:
Thesis: In the Series of the World-Causes there is some necessary Being.
Antithesis: There is Nothing necessary in the World, but in this Series All is incidental.
He concludes the section as follows:
“…provided the cause in the appearance is distinguished from the cause of the appearance (so far as it can be thought as a thing in itself), both propositions are perfectly reconcilable: the one, that there is nowhere in the sensuous world a cause (according to similar laws of causality), whose existence is absolutely necessary; the other, that this world is nevertheless connected with a Necessary Being as its cause (but of another kind and according to another law). The incompatibility of these propositions entirely rests upon the mistake of extending what is valid merely of appearances to things in themselves, and in general confusing both in one concept.” ]
Leaving aside the holographic universe, however– along with Kant’s fourth antinomy –let us turn to the hard problem of consciousness which refers to the fact that we cannot seem to arrive at an understanding of consciousness through the analysis of matter and material processes alone. Even Sam Harris– one of the so-called new atheists –acknowledges this problem in his recent work on spirituality without religion, Waking Up:
“However we propose to explain the emergence of consciousness—be it in biological, functional, computational, or any other terms—we have committed ourselves to this much: First there is a physical world, unconscious and seething with unperceived events; then, by virtue of some physical property or process, consciousness itself springs, or staggers, into being. This idea seems to me not merely strange but perfectly mysterious. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true. When we linger over the details, however, this notion of emergence seems merely a placeholder for a miracle” (56).
“The fact that the universe is illuminated where you stand— that your thoughts and moods and sensations have a qualitative character in this moment —is a mystery, exceeded only by the mystery that there should be something rather than nothing in the first place” (79).
[Note: See also my Two Arguments Against Physicalism. One of those “two arguments”, BTW, is that it makes no sense to say that consciousness, as such, is selected for if it is reducible to physical structures and processes–and yet some scientists never tire of generating “just so” stories that explain why certain modes consciousness, as such, evolved. Sam Harris and David Chalmers seem to agree…]
In short, even though our bodies appear to have evolved over time from non-human species, that does not account for consciousness as such–which, as I see it, is the gift of God (an inexplicable mystery). In Christian terms, that which is born of the flesh is flesh (cf. those who understand themselves exclusively according to their natural history and/or genealogy and identify themselves exclusively with the form they see when they look in a mirror–and with their personal autobiography) while that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit (cf. those who participate in the life of Christ which is represented in terms of the virgin birth and incarnation–our eternal life from above). As such, we are invited to be “put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit” — invited to take up our cross and enter the kingdom NOW.
Indeed, as Valentin Tomberg explains, the Divine image in which we are created is in-tact, but because we do not recognize and honor it, the Divine likeness has become disfigured and, thus, it is said that we “must be born again/from above” (i.e. we must become “The Hanged Man” — see Letter 12 of Meditations on the Tarot— see Letter 14 for the discussion of the Divine image and likeness).