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The Mathematical Universe Hypothesis solves the problem of existence

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/25/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,337 times Debate No: 53384
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




The Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (proposed by cosmologist Max Tegmark) can be explained as follows:

1) Mathematical reality exists independently of our universe. That is, 2+2 = 4, regardless of our existence or that of our universe. I will posit this is axiomatic.

2) Every mathematical structure exists. For example, there is a digit which is the 1000th digit of the number PI. It exists, regardless of whether I calculate it or not. If I decide to calculate that digit, that's simply for my own benefit, but nothing I do makes that digit magically exist all of the sudden. Similarly, more complex mathematical structures exist, say, all NxN binary matrices.

3) Our universe can be thought of as a mathematical structure, and that's why it exists. You can think of it being a simulation that runs in a computer (or The Matrix), but it doesn't need to be run as a simulation. Running the simulation is only for the benefit of an external entity looking in. A simulation is nothing more than a bunch of calculations that produce an answer.


I want to think my opponent for this debate. Because he has presented points, I'm unsure if I can jump right into a rebuttal. So I'll pose a question for the readers amusement and my opponents wit to answer.

Premise 1: 1/3 = .333333 repeating
Premise 2: 2/3 = .666666 repeating
Given the pattern of the results it follows to reason
Premise 3: 3/3 = .999999 repeating
Premise 4: 3 divided by 3 or 3/3 equals 1
Conclusion .9999 repeating = (not approximate but exactly equals) 1

This has been proven by other, better mathematical proofs [1][2][3], even debated about on [4].

So somewhere down the line of 9's in .999 repeating there must be a nonexistent 1 to turn the whole mess into 1. I agree that's absurd how does through no interaction of us does a 1 magically appear during the computation of the equal sign. That would be like saying while I measure this the ruler grows.

Or is it Because they are absolutely the same value, what is existing is already existing. Then would it be fair to say 1 person can look at the number 1 and see one kind of reality, but another person can look at 1 and see .9999 repeating. A equal yet distinct reality?

Debate Round No. 1


I'd like to thank my opponent for an interesting question that nevertheless doesn't really address the key parts of the original argument.

It is in fact the case that 1 = 0.999... I take issue with the following assertion, however.

"So somewhere down the line of 9's in .999 repeating there must be a nonexistent 1 to turn the whole mess into 1."

That is without basis.

More generally, the symbols we use to represent mathematical reality are just that: symbols. They are human constructs, a kind of language, invented to allow us to communicate the underlying concepts with one another. One way to solve the problem you propose is to simply point out that "1" and "0.999..." are different ways to represent the same underlying mathematical concept, and there's nothing wrong with having multiple representations of the same thing. Indeed, I could also point out that "1" and "(9/9 + 9/9)/2" represent the same thing.


I was hoping my opponent would presents some arguments to refute. Being that he is Pro to the resolution, "The Mathematical Universe Hypothesis solves the problem of existence" and instigator I reason the burden of proof is on him.

The sentence I wrote, "So somewhere down the line of 9's in .999 repeating there must be a nonexistent 1 to turn the whole mess into 1." Was not an assertion of any truth. I presented 2 possibilities and ridiculed this possibility as implausible. Saying it was like measuring something while the ruler grows. I claimed that was absurd.

I then postulated that if 1 = .999... Then this related to 2 realities that are one in the same. So the mathematical universe postulates that all possible existences are equally real, equally present. In fact it postulates that all possibilities of an outcome are equally real and equally present.

Must of us understand that numbers and math can be used to describe an event. Hence the formulas we use to predict things. It's important for the reader to understand the theory set forth in the resolution says that everything is a mathematical construct. It's almost like thinking you live inside the matrix, your everyday actions and the objects you see are an illusion to the reality that they are computer code.

I am self aware. "I think therefore I am" kind of thing. If the resolution is true then, I am a mathematical construct that has feelings and awareness. I would be a mathematical construct able to imagine and construct in my mind abstract concepts of other mathematical constructs. If I am able to do this in my mind and those things do not exist, then the universe is in a mind and does not exist.

Mathematical constructs obey their nature and conform to interactions with other constructs in the same ways. But this theory can not adequately explain how I, as a thinking being, am able to imagine and formulate non existent constructs.
Debate Round No. 2


The topic of debate is worded the way it is because I did not intend to prove that the Mathematical Universe is indeed our current reality. That may or may not be provable. However, I posit that it is the best and simplest explanation there is for existence, compared to all competing explanations. It's also an explanation that is plausible, meaning that it doesn't require inventing complicated constructs, such as a super-intelligence that transcends the universe, itself without an explanation. In short, I'm proposing that Math itself is the thing that transcends the universe, an eternal thing that doesn't need to be created and can't be destroyed, The clear advantage that Math has over any other explanatory construct is that we know it exists.

My opponent keeps bringing up this idea that "0.999..." and "1" being equal constitutes some kind of problem for the hypothesis. I continue to fail to see why different representations of the same mathematical structure result in any sort of paradox or contradiction.

Finally, my opponent offers an argument from incredulity: How can a mathematical construct become self-aware? There are a number of surprising insights that arise from the hypothesis, such as the idea that Math itself becomes self-aware and studies itself. None of these insights preclude the reality of the hypothesis. As to the question of how a mathematical construct can imagine other constructs (in our minds), consider an analogy of something that happens in reality all the time: A computer that simulates (or emulates) another computer.


Numbers are an abstract idea. Being so they don't exist. Being that they don't exist there was never a time they were created. It's important to note that in the previous sentence the term numbers doesn't mean the system we use to denote numbers. We can use the roman numerals to denote them. Or the Arabic.

By number we are revering to the quantity and measure of the universe that exists. It is bound in the mechanics of the universe that good evidence shows had a finite universe. This will lead to the same questions of why did 1 pop into existence from 0.

My says that this system transcends itself. To accept Mathematical Universe Theory would require the acceptance of the multiverse and more.

The computer emulates another computer is a good analogy. How ever this requires saying that all our thoughts are based on the circuitry of our brain. It assumes that conciousness and emotion are the results of physical actions. A look into Idealism and the arguments presented there will show an opposing side to this view of reality.

Here is a podcast of Max Tegmark, the author of the Mathematical Universe Theory speaking for himself and his theory [1]. Where he admits that if he predictions of Mathmatical Universe fail it proves idealism.

The resolution is MUH solves the problems of existence. I think it is clear to say it does not solve. We can say Newton's formula for gravity solves the problem of escape velocity. We know Newton's equation fails in many situations in our universe. But in relation to escape velocity the predictions made by this formula are consistent with our experience.

Solve may be a bit strong of a word considering this theory has not truly been tested.


Thank you for the debate I appreciate it.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Anonymous 7 years ago
It is safe to say that consciousness is extremely complicated, one could argue that it is infinitely complicated. In our universe, nothing is random; consciousness is no exception, but just because we can determine that there is a calculation for something, doesn't mean its possible to ever determine what the calculation is. The fact that a problem can be stated, doesn't mean it can be solved. So, "The Mathematical Universe Hypothesis" doesn't solve anything.
Posted by Anonymous 7 years ago
This could be good.
Posted by Anonymous 7 years ago
You should start a forum topic about this as well.

My main question is: wouldn't this mean that consciousness can be reduced to mathematical formulae?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Sagey 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro cited no sources that I could use to ascertain the validity of Pro's argument. Con cited reasonable sources. Pro's concept seems to fall down when it comes to quantum level where the the mathematics is yet unknown and appears to be subject to randomness (chaos theory). These are likely never to be resolved mathematically, yet this is the level that all matter arises from, thus necessary. Einstein's Theory of Everything has yet to be realized and may never be found. Mathematics is only derived from our perception of reality, it does not represent reality in the real world, which is far more complex than our mathematical models. Human mathematical models of reality are extremely oversimplified, for the reason that we are limited as to how many variables we can consider resolvable or consistent enough to incorporate in a model. The model is not reality. So I don't think Pro has supported his resolution as per the debate title.

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