Category: Philosophy

The simulationist argument

In response to a scientific article two people wrote very dissonant comments. One, Rebekkah, condemned science and recited a very narrow fundamentalist view of the world. The other, Joshua declared emphatically that religion was entirely bogus and that all he could see was all that there is.

My comment:
Science vs religion again eh? Rebekkah”s diatribe is no sillier than Joshua”s categorical absolutism. Our universe appears to have been fine tuned for intelligent life. Better explanations than chance are: (a) God, (b) a multiverse (a virtually infinite number of universes), or (c) both. (See John Leslie)

Option (b) makes the best logical starting point but I can”t imagine (b) without there being many technologically (and ethically) sophisticated civilizations which can, and do, populate countless numbers of what we can think of as full immersion virtual reality simulations with beings like us. The more sophisticated, the more the distinction between the “virtual” and the “real” becomes meaningless.

Think of it. We are on the verge of developing such technology ourselves. What are the odds that no other civilizations have done so? And if they have, aren”t the odds of our being in one of those numerous “simulations” much greater than the odds of being in the one and only “reality”. (See Nick Bostrom)
Perhaps there is no reality underlying these simulations. Physicist Richard Gott III has proposed a manner for a universe to create its own ancestor-universe. This seems even more plausible an explanation for origins when one thinks of these universes as simulations.

So, once upon a time (in most senses not temporally connected to us but in another sense in our future) a technologically and ethically sophisticated being began running a simulation in which another did likewise and so on until one began running the simulation in which the “first” (first in our story anyway) found himself.

Fantasy? Rebekkah would dogmatically dismiss it for rendering a natural explanation for the supernatural. Joshua would dismiss it based on his pseudo-certitude concerning, well, everything. I find the scenario an appealing possibility that suggests that there may be a perfectly rational explanation for all aspects of actual human experience. It is at least cause enough to keep one”s mind at least partially ajar.

One substance

The Athanasian Creed says:

“Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being. . . .

What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit. . . .

“For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God”s Son, is both God and man.

“He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother — existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body; equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity. . . .

“Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ.

“He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity.

“He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures.

“For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.

Wikipedia says:
“The ”Athanasian” Creed boldly uses the key Nicene term homoousios (”one substance”, ”one in Being”) not only with respect to the relation of the Son to the Father according to his divine nature, but that the Son is homoousios with his mother Mary, according to his human nature.

It might be foolish to even try to apply logic to this alphabet soup of self-contradiction but if Christ is one in being with God and Mary is one in being with Christ, then is not Mary one in being with God. Doesn’t this mean there ought to be a quaternity rather than a trinity?

A prophet

Brigham Young, August 24, 1872: Journal of Discourses

“How much matter do you suppose there is between here and some of the fixed stars which we can see? Enough to frame many, very many millions of such earths as this, yet it is now so diffused, clear and pure, that we look through it and behold the stars. Yet the matter is there. Can you form any conception of this? Can you form any idea of the minuteness of matter?”

Dark Matter“, Wikipedia

“The first to provide evidence and infer the existence of a phenomenon that has come to be called “dark matter” was Swiss astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky, of the California Institute of Technology in 1933. He . . . obtained evidence of unseen mass. . . . Assuming that the visible material makes up only a small part of the (galaxy) cluster is the most straightforward way of accounting for this (his findings). Galaxies show signs of being composed largely of a roughly spherically symmetric, centrally concentrated halo of dark matter with the visible matter concentrated in a disc at the center.

“… the Milky Way is believed to have roughly 10 times as much dark matter as ordinary matter.

“. . . In 2005, astronomers from Cardiff University claimed to discover a galaxy made almost entirely of dark matter, 50 million light years away in the Virgo Cluster, which . . . does not appear to contain any visible stars.”

Pie chart showing that the bulk (96%) of the mass (matter and energy) in the universe is invisible.

A true Father

It is impossible to believe God to be omnipotent, omniscient and all-loving and yet to have created nothing more than pets, forever unable to understand him let alone to become like him. We can, and must know him (John 17:3), become like him (Matt 5:48), and share everything he has (Rom 8:17) . Anyone who denies that we are literally his children abases Him by denying to Him at least one of those three characteristics of godhood – omnipotence, omniscience, and an all-loving nature. To think that there are some who think we diminish God by suggesting that we can become like him when the opposite is true. A god who would choose to create pets rather than children does not deserve the appellation “Father”.

Some thoughts on Yoga

Interesting what you can end up learning by allowing yourself to get distracted by something . . . interesting. I was researching the papacy, which led me to the Council of Nicea and then Arianism, then to Aryanism where I cam across the fact that Himmler had sought relief from the guilt he felt from implementing the Holocaust by carrying (and presumably reading) a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. This book, a sacred Hindu text, contains the following instruction attributed to the divine Krishna:

“To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction.”

The Wikipedia article summarizes this accurately as the idealization of selfless action.
So there we have a real life example of what the practice of selflessness leads to – mass murder, genocide, the Holocaust.

Contrary to the many misguided Christians who believe Christ taught selflessness, he did not. “Love thy neighbour as thyself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” are not exhortations to disregard both self and others but to value others as well as self. The direction to love your neighbour is premised on first loving yourself.

What Christ taught was that by expanding our ability to love to include not just ourselves but others allows us to experience the happiness of others as our own happiness. Love is the emotion we feel when we are aware of the identity between the interests of others and our own interests. The extent of the awareness and/or the degree of identity determines the strength of the emotion. “I love my wife” means that I am aware that if she experiences something good, it is as if I too experienced it.

We choose our values (although the choice can be correct or incorrect as determined by reference to our common standard of value – but that is another topic). The point here is that we choose our values. The choice to identify my interests with those of my wife is mine to make. The experience of sharing in her happiness when she experiences something good results from my choice – my choice to love her. If I expand the number of people I love, I expand my capacity for joy as I am able to experience the joy of those I love as my own. The more Christlike I become, the greater is my capacity to experience joy.

In what sense then, is this selfless? None – how can maximizing one”s joy be considered selfless?

I acknowledge that the efficacy of this strategy is premised upon the world having a net greater capacity for joyful experiences than painful ones. I also think that the truth of this premise is so obvious that questioning it is a better subject for psychiatry than philosophy.

Freedom to do what?

The short and simple answer given to kids who inquire as to why our military is fighting overseas, has always been that they are fighting to preserve our freedom. At least that’s what I recall being told by teachers when I was young and parents when I was younger still. Perhaps now the common answer is to keep us safe from terrorists, and perhaps it is more believable as well when one considers just how free we actually are.

I’d like to hear the reaction of an Afghan vet, or better still, a WW2 vet, who believed he was fighting freedom”s battles, and then came home and built a tree house for his kids in his own backyard, when he ends up being prosecuted for doing so.



Luddites and liberals look up at the night sky and say, “I am but an insignificant speck in the midst of an enormous, indifferent universe.” I look up and say, “Wow, all this is for me?”

Faith and Reason

There are many dichotomies people seem to accept as givens without actually considering whether they are legitimate. One of these is faith and reason. It is commonly held, or at least unquestionably assumed, at least in some circles, that these are two distinct and dissimilar methods for discovering truth. I disagree.The only means for discovering truth with which we humans have been endowed is reason. Our senses deliver raw data to our brain which processes this data until our conscious mind can identify and categorize what we sense and then proceed to form opinions and to make and carry out plans based on those opinions.

Faith comes in one of two flavours. Some invoke it to bestow some divine legitimacy on what is nothing more than their closed-minded refusal to abandon bias in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This “blind” faith is no path to truth but a means of obfuscation.The other flavour is simply a word meaning that a judgment has been made on the basis of incomplete evidence, partly in the hope that the object of one”s faith is true. But where does this original judgment originate if not from the mind”s rational process.

The evidence, though incomplete, as in not overwhelmingly conclusive, must originate come from the senses. It may seem like a stray thought and may even be difficult or impossible to trace back to distinct sensory input. But it must have originated there or one is forced to believe in senses beyond the only ones of which we have any reliable evidence.

The Brightest of Stars

Often you hear it said that to stand in awe of nature is to realize the comparative insignificance of man. There are many references to this in popular culture. I have always held the opposite view, the one implied by Einstein when he quipped: “The most incomprehensible thing about our universe is that it can be comprehended.” Here’s an even better quote by English mathematician and philosopher Frank Ramsey:

“Where I seem to differ from some of my friends is in attaching little importance to physical size. I don”t feel the least humble before the vastness of the heavens. The stars may be large, but they cannot think or love; and these are qualities which impress me far more than size does. I take no credit for weighing nearly seventeen stone. My picture of the world is drawn in perspective, and not like a model drawn to scale. The foreground is occupied by human beings, and the stars are all as small as threepenny bits.”

Another quote which I like for its accurate portrayal of our relationship and significance to nature is this one (I can’t track down the authorship): “We are the universe”s way of comprehending itself.”

Pretty significant if you ask me.

God and evolution

I like this article and the blog generally. I don”t agree with it all but it is interesting.

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