# Role reversal challenge: Disprove we are not "in the Matrix"

#### Critical Thinker

##### Senior Member.
This thread may go nowhere, but I thought it would be an interesting exercise for the CTers and debunkers to reverse roles. This would give people a better insight into the difficulty in proving anything beyond any possible doubt. Based on the movie "The Matrix" , can the CTers conclusively prove, beyond any possible doubt, that we are not in the Matrix..... and the forum's debunkers could argue for the theory that we are all in the Matrix and look for any possible holes in the other side's logic as to why we are not in the Matrix.

#### Mick West

Staff member
As technology advances it is inevitable that simulations of the universe will also develop.

There's no limit to the number of simulated universes, but there can only be one real universe.

Therefore the ratio of simulated to real universes is infinity:1

We are in a universe, but we don't know which one, so randomly it's going to be one of a basket of the infinite number of simulated universes plus the one real one.

Infinity-1 is still infinity.

Therefore we are in a simulated universe.

[Update 2020: Just want to clarify I don't think this argument is correct, it's a devil's advocate argument as suggested above]]

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#### Critical Thinker

##### Senior Member.
My belief is that if anything is even extremely remotely infinitesimally possible, that with time and space and multiverses being infinite ... in some place that remote possibility would have to come to pass (actually in infinitude of times, but that is a different mental exercise). The concept of the Matrix is obviously conceivable and it is my belief that it therefore is possible. I have seen nothing to convince me that we are not in the Matrix, so I am going with the assumption that we are trapped in the Matrix.

#### Mick West

Staff member
But then the question is if we are entirely constructed as virtual beings, or are simple virtual avatars of a physical being who is in a vat somewhere. i.e., is it possible to exit the matrix?

#### Critical Thinker

##### Senior Member.
But then the question is if we are entirely constructed as virtual beings, or are simple virtual avatars of a physical being who is in a vat somewhere. i.e., is it possible to exit the matrix?

I'd imagine that going with the Matrix scenario would offer more opportunities for debunking, whereas I could see the virtual being thread becoming a metaphysical/philosophical discussion.

#### Pete Tar

##### Senior Member.
It might be provable that we're in the Matrix if we have an emergence to the next level, but we can never prove that the next level is not still of the Matrix.
We just have to learn to live with the existential uncertainty.

#### Critical Thinker

##### Senior Member.
It might be provable that we're in the Matrix if we have an emergence to the next level, but we can never prove that the next level is not still of the Matrix.

I think that may be the plot in the next in the Matrix series....

#### Critical Thinker

##### Senior Member.
Seems that debunking this idea might not be possible after all......

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/201...niversity-of-washington-matrix_n_2282745.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/11/physicists-may-have-evide_n_1957777.html

#### MikeC

##### Closed Account
From Critical Thinker's post:

I'd like to know why it is that this is "the statistical likelihood".

From the 2nd extract:

Why is it that there are many more such simulations than real universes? It seems a circular argument.

#### Mick West

Staff member
I think it's philosophical nonsense. The probability argument is meaningless as the scope and nature of any enclosing universe (the "real" universe) is an unknown, so this might be it.

#### jvnk08

##### Senior Member.
Well, the universe certainly couldn't be simulated with current silicon-based computers. For every atom we simulate, we must have more atoms that represent the information of that atom and other atoms to store the logic for processing that atom, ad infinitum.

If we're in a simulation, it's some crazy quantum computing that I couldn't even begin to fathom right now. But maybe that's what reality is, an unfathomably complex quantum computer, the atoms and subatomic particles themselves being the "bits" and "logic gates". But then again perhaps our contemporary view of computing is not even applicable.

#### Oxymoron

##### Banned
Banned
The concept of the Matrix is obviously conceivable and it is my belief that it therefore is possible. I have seen nothing to convince me that we are not in the Matrix, so I am going with the assumption that we are trapped in the Matrix.

That's all very well CT, (sorry but have you actually considered the possible Freudian implications here; that CT could a subconscious, subtle allusion to 'Conspiracy Theorist'... ?), but I digress; just because something is 'possible', doesn't mean 'it is'.

What do you think is the best bit of hard evidence to substantiate your assumption that we are trapped within the Matrix. Have you had any 'personal' revelations or strange happenings which are not consistent with accepted reality?

#### Billzilla

##### Senior Member.
For me it's simple ....
The stuff that tastes good is bad for you and vice-versa, thus this must be reality.

(Unless it's all some kind of bizarre test ...! )

#### Pete Tar

##### Senior Member.
This assumes the Matrix is fantasy fulfilment - pain frustration and suffering could be simulated too.
Actually, suffering is always a simulation that we create. (see, the Buddha)

#### Mick West

Staff member
The matrix could of course just be simulating the individual particles in the universe, so the only way of telling would be to look at the lowest possible level, to try to find the resolution of the universe.

lee h oswald has an interesting theory about how it's a simulation, but the other way around, there's one big blob of universal consciousness being simulated, individuals are aspects of that consciousness, and the necessary bits of the universe don't exist even in simulation but are extrapolated whenever the individual aspects need to measure them. He claimed there was proof of this via astral plane out of body communication.

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#### Critical Thinker

##### Senior Member.
From Critical Thinker's post:

I'd like to know why it is that this is "the statistical likelihood".

From the 2nd extract:

Why is it that there are many more such simulations than real universes? It seems a circular argument.

Lets say that within any given universe that there are at least 2 intelligent civilizations that are soooo advanced that they have been able to create a simulation of a universe. Then you would have at least 2 simulated universes per actual universe. Further on they discuss that within those simulated universes there would be simulated civilizations that would be soooo advanced that they too would create a simulated universe... this would be the case where you have a simulated universe within a simulated universe. Based on this situation you would have more simulated universes than actual universes... and since there are more simulated universes than there are actual universes, therefore odds are that any universe (actual or simulated) would be a simulated universe

#### Oxymoron

##### Banned
Banned
Lets say that within any given universe that there are at least 2 intelligent civilizations that are soooo advanced that they have been able to create a simulation of a universe. Then you would have at least 2 simulated universes per actual universe. Further on they discuss that within those simulated universes there would be simulated civilizations that would be soooo advanced that they too would create a simulated universe... this would be the case where you have a simulated universe within a simulated universe. Based on this situation you would have more simulated universes than actual universes... and since there are more simulated universes than there are actual universes, therefore odds are that any universe (actual or simulated) would be a simulated universe

Lol.... Thought we were role reversing...sorry.

Thirteenth Floor seems a precurser to The Matrix

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thirteenth_Floor

#### Pete Tar

##### Senior Member.
Is there any reason to assume the simulation is for anyone other than my self? Why would 'we' be in the Matrix and just not me? You are the Matrix to me.

Anyway, here's a good video presentation on the theme of knowing reality.

#### Mick West

Staff member

"It is intuitively obvious" is one of my favorite quotes of all time.

#### Oxymoron

##### Banned
Banned
Lol... Bomb 20 decides:

#### Pete Tar

##### Senior Member.
The Matrix scenario assumes we are connected to the primary reality but being fed the secondary, but the simulation scenario would presume that we ourselves are simulations of sentience.
I think 'me' being a simulation of sentience is closer to the real situation - I *appear* to be primary but all my existence depends on causes beyond me, therefore I am simulated.

#### Marcus Mudd

##### Member
exactly pete. so is this still role reversal, I reserve the right to be ambiguous because im new

#### MikeC

##### Closed Account
As technology advances it is inevitable that simulations of the universe will also develop.

There's no limit to the number of simulated universes, but there can only be one real universe.

See now that's where this fall apart -

1/ who says there can be only 1 real universe??

2/ and/or if there can be an infinite number of simulated universes from 1 real universe than that real universe must itself be infinite.

Either way there's infinity on both sides of the equation, so the "chances" are meaningless

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#### Don Gisselbeck

##### Member
Samuel Johnson would kick a stone and say: "I refute it thus".

#### Oxymoron

##### Banned
Banned
See now that's where this fall apart -

1/ who says there can be only 1 real universe??

2/ and/or if there can be an infinite number of simulated universes from 1 real universe than that real universe must itself be infinite.

Either way there's infinity on both sides of the equation, so the "chances" are meaningless
If we have an infinite universe,
Then by definition, everything must exist within it, including any simulated universes, although the simulated universes cannot be infinite as they are contained within the 'real' universe, (which is infinite/never ending).

However, if we went with Multiverses
, the implication is that infinity cannot exist.

Then there is the Infinite Non Expanding Universe theory.

http://www.ineu-theory.com/ineu-theory-explained.php
Interesting that the Big Bang Theory was first expounded by a priest.

#### MikeC

##### Closed Account
Not really - before the materialist/non-materialist kerfuffle by "modern" fundamentalists became "popular" organized religion was very much at the cutting edge of "science", Gallileo et al not withstanding 'cos "science" per se hadn't quiet been codified then.

Newton and other early "scientists" as we would understand the term were all quite religious men too.

It shouldn't be a surprise of course - for thousands of years religion WAS the best explanation of how the universe worked!

#### exu156

##### Member
This is a fascinating topic. Certain schools of philosophy believe that the world as we know it is one of appearances. We do not know it as it really is; we know it only as it is represented in our consciousness. Struck by the unreliability of the senses, Descartes doubted the existence of everything but resolved that, since he was contemplating the world, the act of thinking is the one thing he could be certain of and from that the rest could be deduced. This insight was similar to that of Schopenhauer, who insisted that only our own consciousness is known immediately: everything else is mediated through our consciousness and is therefore dependent on it.

Kant adopted the terms phenomenon and noumenon to distinguish between the thing as it appears to us and the thing as it is in itself. Thus 'phenomenon' applies to the world of appearances, the phenomena that inhabit our consciousness, and 'noumenon' describes the world that 'lies behind' the world of appearances. If we cannot know the world as it is in itself but can know it only through our perceptions, how is it that our perceptions are so uniform we can communicate with each other effectively through a shared view of the world? Kant maintained that humans' capacity to perceive the outside world and thus form representations of it depends on certain 'conditions of sensibility' that exist before the experiences themselves, notably the forms of space, time and causality. These are inbuilt forms of the human mind, and they provide the structure that allows us to receive in an intelligible way the sensory data of the outside world. They are present before experience. As a result, instead of learning the forms of space, time and causality through experience of the world, we in fact impose them on the world. This is the meaning of the often-quoted observation in the Talmud: "We do not see things as they are, but as we are."

Now you may notice that many of these concepts have a similarity with Eastern mysticism. Schopenhauer was the first Western philosopher to appreciate the deep insights of the East, where it is said that the world as we experience it has no real being but is instead 'a ceaseless becoming'. In the Hindu Vedas the idea can be found in the doctrine of Maya, the chimera of the everyday world, 'an unstable and inconstant illusion without substance . . . a veil enveloping human consciousness'.

As with time, so with space: both are forms that inhere not in the world itself but rather in our representations of it. Thus in the Upanishads, space is, in addition to being a property of things, the 'creator' of things, and all things are contained within space as Brahman: "Space, as it is called, is the bringer into being of name and form. That which contains them is brahman, the immortal." All phenomenal forms exist 'inside' the boundless and timeless ground. When the subject brings the form of space to the world, differentiation is created since the spatial coordinates of a thing distinguish it from another thing. In Schopenhauer's words, "only the one and identical essence can manifest itself in all those phenomena." This idea reappeared across the ancient and modern worlds, in the writings of the Platonists and the Sufis and the works of Spinoza and various Christian mystics, before Kant took it up and argued it using the rules of logic rather than just mysticism.

In the Upanishads the idea of oneness from which all else is manifest is explicit in the idea of Brahman. The unifying or subtle essence can be interpreted as the sacred power of the whole universe—that is, the universal 'energy' that is the essence of the noumenon. It is the source of creation yet is uncreated. Thus Brahman is said to be 'self-born'. In Buddhist teaching, which is atheistic, this is captured in the notion of the 'suchness' of the world, the essential quality that infuses all things and reflects the oneness of the whole creation: "When the Ten Thousand things are viewed in their oneness, we return to the Origin and remain where we have always been."

Aldous Huxley summarized the insight of the sages of all traditions by describing a hierarchy of the real:

"The manifold world of our everyday experience is real with a relative reality that is, on its own level, unquestionable; but this relative reality has its being within and because of the absolute Reality, which, on account of the incommensurable otherness of its eternal nature, we can never hope to describe, even though it is possible for us directly to apprehend it."

Apologies for the overly long post.

#### "They"

##### New Member
Is there any reason to assume the simulation is for anyone other than my self? Why would 'we' be in the Matrix and just not me? You are the Matrix to me.
I agree and disagree with your post. Since we are both here discussing this, we could both be in The Matrix.
But
If it is just me, I do gotta say in the words of Doug Quaid from Total Recall "If it is my delusion, who the hell invited you?"

#### Inti

##### Senior Member.
Seems that debunking this idea might not be possible after all......

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/201...niversity-of-washington-matrix_n_2282745.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/11/physicists-may-have-evide_n_1957777.html

Nick Bostrom who originated the serious version of the argument in his paper “Are you living in a Computer simulation” .http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html has acknowledged one possible objection to his scenario as he framed it: In this podcast, for instance http://philosophybites.com/2011/08/nick-bostrom-on-the-simulation-argument.html); if John Searle, or other critics of the computational theory of mind (Raymond Tallis, Roger Penrose, Mark Bishop etc). are right, the idea that we could be inside a computer based simulation is "debunked", because computation as it is normally understood (algorithmic manipulation of digital symbolic representing data) cannot be a sufficient cause of consciousness.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that a machine-based simulation is impossible, as these critics happily agree (as far as I know, they are all convinced naturalists, so they believe that the human brain is an evolved machine giving rise to consciousness; they just argue that it is a qualitatively different type of machine to a digital computer in a very fundamental way.

Statistically, it seems that computer people are more likely to reject Sear;e and the other anti-computationalists, while biologically-based neuroscientists are more prone to be broadly sympathetic. So my guess would be that Mick may not accept Searle type “debunking” of computationalism. However, I might be wrong: I was surprised to find Aaron Swarz arguing strongly in favour of Searle in his blog, for instance. http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/searle

I’ve thought about bring this topic up on Metabunk, but I’m not sure that either side of the pro- or anti-computationalist debate are really pushing bunk, whoever is right; it’s a serious philosophical or scientific debate on both side, and perhaps not really what Metabunk is for.

#### Amgbmwlover

##### New Member
The simulation idea is a great arguement!

This article finally seems to lay to rest the idea that we're in a computer.

https://patrickjuli.us/2016/10/23/debunking-the-simulation-argument/

Of course, the typical form of the argument isn’t nearly so cogent. In popular outlets as prestigious as the New York Times, Scientific American and the New Yorker, the idea is simply presented as “We are living in a simulation.” The only major outlet I could find that properly presented Bostrom’s disjunction was PBS. Indeed, there are now some Silicon Valley billionaires who believe the argument, or at least think it merits enough attention to be worth funding research into how we might escape the simulation we are in. (Frankly, even if we were inside a simulation, it’s not clear that “escaping” would be something worthwhile or even possible.)

Yet most people, when presented with this idea, think it is profoundly silly and a waste of time.

I believe this is the correct response. I am 99.9% sure we are not living in a simulation.

But it’s one thing to know that an argument is wrong, and quite another to actually show why; in that respect the Simulation Argument is a lot like theOntological Argument for God:

Worth a read to finally lay to rest the idea.

#### 0x90

##### Closed Account
Yet most people, when presented with this idea, think it is profoundly silly and a waste of time.

I believe this is the correct response. I am 99.9% sure we are not living in a simulation.

I'd also point out that there are people still living at this moment who were born more than a decade before (for example) Alan Turing. Such people have witnessed, in its entirety, the invention and development of the general purpose computer, along with the concept of simulation it has fostered, which we now see put forward as a fanciful explanation of the nature of reality itself.

Which is all well and good, until it is extended to the point of saying that this is somehow an inescapable fact, because that ignores not only that the very concept could not have existed a comparatively-short while ago, but also fails to consider discoveries that may be made over the next century (say), which themselves will then likely be woven into incompatible, yet similarly "inescapable" conclusions (at which point the previous ones will quietly be forgotten).

In actuality, this is just another example of pseudo-scientific dilettantes (too often encouraged by attention-seeking scientific popularizers who should know better) myopically fixating on the current/latest thing, and feeling as though they're having some really deep thoughts. But just because we can write the sentence "this statement is false" does not mean that we are saying anything about reality itself, when it is really more just a quirk of (or indicates fundamental problems with) our language and logical systems.

#### Rory

##### Senior Member.
Whether in The Matrix or not, the real question is, what difference would it make? How would you live your life if it were proved you were in The Matrix? And: what's stopping you from doing that now?

#### Inti

##### Senior Member.
Nick Bostrom who originated the serious version of the argument in his paper “Are you living in a Computer simulation” .http://www.simulation-argument.com/simulation.html has acknowledged one possible objection to his scenario as he framed it: In this podcast, for instance http://philosophybites.com/2011/08/nick-bostrom-on-the-simulation-argument.html); if John Searle, or other critics of the computational theory of mind (Raymond Tallis, Roger Penrose, Mark Bishop etc). are right, the idea that we could be inside a computer based simulation is "debunked", because computation as it is normally understood (algorithmic manipulation of digital symbolic representing data) cannot be a sufficient cause of consciousness.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that a machine-based simulation is impossible, as these critics happily agree (as far as I know, they are all convinced naturalists, so they believe that the human brain is an evolved machine giving rise to consciousness; they just argue that it is a qualitatively different type of machine to a digital computer in a very fundamental way.

Statistically, it seems that computer people are more likely to reject Sear;e and the other anti-computationalists, while biologically-based neuroscientists are more prone to be broadly sympathetic. So my guess would be that Mick may not accept Searle type “debunking” of computationalism. However, I might be wrong: I was surprised to find Aaron Swarz arguing strongly in favour of Searle in his blog, for instance. http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/searle

I’ve thought about bring this topic up on Metabunk, but I’m not sure that either side of the pro- or anti-computationalist debate are really pushing bunk, whoever is right; it’s a serious philosophical or scientific debate on both side, and perhaps not really what Metabunk is for.
I had thought that the Simulation hypothesis was rather like solipsism (the hypothesis that only I exist and everything else is an illusion in my mind) . That, that it untestable and unfalsifiable by its nature.

True, unlike solipsism it proposes (very vaguely) a mechanism by which the illusion might come about - via computer-based simulation.

Now that give rise to a fork: does this mean something like what we call computers, that is devices that process data by algorithms. If so, John Searle and others have given us good reason to believe that no simulated mind inside such a computational simulation could be conscious.

On the other hand, if the simulation isn't based on computers (algorithmic data processing). then we have to take the technology on faith, and the Simulation hypothesis really is very like solipsism.

I don't know enough physics at the right level to judge the Bonn argument mentioned above, though.

#### Inti

##### Senior Member.
By the way, Nick Bostrom has written a terrific book, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, which makes a convincing case why we should be very careful about developing high level artificial intelligences

http://www.nickbostrom.com

This starts with the following fable:

"The Unfinished Fable of the Sparrows

It was the nest-building season, but after days of long hard work, the sparrows sat in the evening glow, relaxing and chirping away.

“We are all so small and weak. Imagine how easy life would be if we had an owl who could help us build our nests!”

“Yes!” said another. “And we could use it to look after our elderly and our young.”

“It could give us advice and keep an eye out for the neighborhood cat,” added a third. Then Pastus, the elder-bird, spoke: “Let us send out scouts in all directions and try to find an abandoned owlet somewhere, or maybe an egg. A crow chick might also do, or a baby weasel. This could be the best thing that ever happened to us, at least since the opening of the Pavilion of Unlimited Grain in yonder backyard.”

The flock was exhilarated, and sparrows everywhere started chirping at the top of their lungs.

Only Scronkfinkle, a one-eyed sparrow with a fretful temperament, was unconvinced of the wisdom of the endeavor. Quoth he: “This will surely be our undoing. Should we not give some thought to the art of owl-domestication and owl-taming first, before we bring such a creature into our midst?”

Replied Pastus: “Taming an owl sounds like an exceedingly difficult thing to do. It will be difficult enough to find an owl egg. So let us start there. After we have succeeded in raising an owl, then we can think about taking on this other challenge.” “There is a flaw in that plan!” squeaked Scronkfinkle; but his protests were in vain as the flock had already lifted off to start implementing the directives set out by Pastus.

Just two or three sparrows remained behind. Together they began to try to work out how owls might be tamed or domesticated. They soon realized that Pastus had been right: this was an exceedingly difficult challenge, especially in the absence of an actual owl to practice on.

Nevertheless they pressed on as best they could, constantly fearing that the flock might return with an owl egg before a solution to the control problem had been found. It is not known how the story ends, but the author dedicates this book to Scronkfinkle and his followers."

I hope this isnt too far off-topic in this discussion.

#### Ray Von Geezer

##### Senior Member.
I had thought that the Simulation hypothesis was rather like solipsism (the hypothesis that only I exist and everything else is an illusion in my mind) . That, that it untestable and unfalsifiable by its nature.
Surely that is testable and falsifiable? Perhaps not by the believer, but by anyone else with access to a blunt instrument......

Ray Von

#### Rory

##### Senior Member.
You could kill them, but then they wouldn't be around to view the results.

And if you only injure them, then it's happened as if in a dream. Therefore the hypothesis could still be true.

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#### Ray Von Geezer

##### Senior Member.
You could kill them, but then they wouldn't be around to view the results.
Would that matter? I'm sure many hypotheses have been tested without requiring the proposer of the hypothesis to not have already fallen off his or her perch. And aren't you presuming the result?

I also think merely maiming would have to be considered a failure in the test process, poor execution if you will.

I see three main possibilities:-

1) The "subject" ceases to be, reality rolls on. Hypothesis falsified.
2) The "subject" does not expire, but their illusion of reality likely ends. Hypothesis proved. Imagining further realities is optional.
3) The "subject" expires and reality ends. Further testing required.

I suppose option 4 would be that neither is affected, but that sounds more like the plot of Highlander than the Matrix.

Whichever way it goes, the real winner is science.

Ray Von

#### Inti

##### Senior Member.
Surely that is testable and falsifiable? Perhaps not by the believer, but by anyone else with access to a blunt instrument......

Ray Von

But you are begging the question, by assuming that there are other people at all. If solipsism is true, then there is only one consciousness being (me, of course ;-) ) Any result of any test would have to be an illusion created by "my" mind.

That was the point of this philosopher's joke:

#### Inti

##### Senior Member.
Would that matter? I'm sure many hypotheses have been tested without requiring the proposer of the hypothesis to not have already fallen off his or her perch. And aren't you presuming the result?

I also think merely maiming would have to be considered a failure in the test process, poor execution if you will.

I see three main possibilities:-

1) The "subject" ceases to be, reality rolls on. Hypothesis falsified.
2) The "subject" does not expire, but their illusion of reality likely ends. Hypothesis proved. Imagining further realities is optional.
3) The "subject" expires and reality ends. Further testing required.

I suppose option 4 would be that neither is affected, but that sounds more like the plot of Highlander than the Matrix.

Whichever way it goes, the real winner is science.

Ray Von

Why do you assume that the results we have always seen when somebody gets hit on the head are not the result of the simulations?

This is very like Dr Johnson's famous reply to Bishop Berkeley.
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/berkeley/

Berkeley argued that all reality was made of ideas - either our own or, ultimately, ideas in the mind of God. That's close enough to the Matrix or The Simulation hypothesis for our purposes.

But Johnson's attempted debunk of Berkeley fails completely, as almost every philosopher of every stripe agrees. If Berkeley was right, what Johnson experienced was exactly what you'd expect him to experience. Johnson's argument is a circular and question-begging and start by assuming that Berkeley's idealism is wrong.

More good stuff on this here: https://askaphilosopher.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/when-dr-johnson-kicked-the-stone/

Your proposed tests have the same problem - whatever the result, it might be what you could expect. After all, there might be a sub-module of the simulation that detects our attempts to test it and fakes the results as required.

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