From: Doug Porpora <>
Date: Mon, 12 Jan 2004 07:58:14 -0500

Thanks Hal (also Norman and others who answered),

I will just comment on one passage you wrote as it may be of general interest.

At 5:12 PM -0800 1/11/04, Hal Finney wrote:
>That would require that it is infinitely improbable that you could exist.
>But I don't think that is the case, because there are only a finite
>number of possible arrangements of matter of the size of a human being.
>(Equivalently, humans embody only a finite amount of information.)
>So it would seem that the probability of a human appearing in some
>universe must be finite and greater than zero, hence there would be an
>infinite number of instances across an infinity of universes.

First, no what I suggested was not infinite improbability but a
probability so close to zero it takes infinite chances for the event
to be expected even once.

What I think may be of general interest is that the discussion in the
physical sciences has assumed reductionism -- that human persons are
reducible to their physical bodies. However, Dennett
notwithstanding, reductionism has not only not been vindicated, it
remains in trouble.

There is an important implication for this issue if mental states
(i.e., thoughts, beliefs, emotions) cannot be reduced to physical
states. The reason is that ideas (thoughts) are not only infinite
but unlike universes, which are presumably discrete), ideas are
uncountably infinite. Consider, for example, how you would count
ideas. Unlike the real numbers, ideas cannot even be ordered into

As a result, ideas may well represent a vastly greater infinity than
universes. If so, even with infinite universes, you or I may never
show up again.

Anyway, this is what I have been thinking. And, re free will,
Dennett's compatibilism ultimately remains, I think, a sleight of
hand. But if reductionism fails, then so does determinism (but that
is a larger, social scientific argument).

Thanks again.


doug porpora
dept of culture and communication
drexel university
phila pa 19104
Received on Mon Jan 12 2004 - 08:05:08 PST

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