Re: Fw: belief, faith, truth

From: danny mayes <>
Date: Wed, 01 Feb 2006 23:56:35 -0500

Norman Samish wrote:

> Hi John,
> Your rhetorical questions about "heaven" point out how ridiculous the
> concept is

>> Actually, with all due respect to John, I failed to see how his
original message (below) in any way illustrated "how ridiculous" the
concept of heaven is. It may suggest that it is inconceivable that we
could live for eternity leading anything like the life we know now, but
his points aren't in the slightest pursuasive to me. I think the
problem is a lack of imagination. Why would I have to choose to spend
the afterlife with a certain spouse. I would assume the ties that bind
us together here probably wouldn't apply. Why would I need to choose a
body to be in that matched something from this earlier stage?

I'll readily concede all of this is pure speculation, and so I'll just
stop here and say that I think assumptions that an afterlife would be
ridiculous is as much speculation as assumptions in a specific afterlife

> - and no, I don't think heaven, hell, etc., are even remotely likely.
> I think that when I'm dead, I'm dead, never again to be congnizant.

Now this statement is fraught with all kinds of issues and problems for
me. Clearly you do not accept the QTI. No problem there. I've never
really sold myself on that either. But if it is true that our focus for
understanding should be on the first person, is there any meaning in
saying you are dead "never again" to be aware? Isn't it just crazy
speculation on your part that anything is continuing? And even if we
accept there is some "reality" or "truth" to the world "out there"- the
objective appearing environment that we seem to interact in- are you
saying we are to assume that it will continue for ever and ever, but
never replicate your experiences that you had in your life? Or perhaps
we should assume that it should end at some point, and that there will
never be another multiverse. Was all of this a one time deal? If so,
how do you explain such a "miracle" without invoking some intelligence.
How can something (big bang) happen only once in all of existence and be
a natural phenomenon?

It seems to me that at least from a perspective, the "block multiverse"
view makes sense. It must exist eternally- I just can't wrap my mind
around a "pre-existence" era or a "post existence" era. A careful
examination of time does seem to suggest that, as D. Deutsch says,
"different times are just special cases of different universes," each
existing eternally from at least some perspective.

I'm not so sure that there are yes/no answers to many of the questions
that we ask. Even a question such as "is there a god" may have an
answer that depends on your location in time or in the multiverse. If
it is ever possible in the future to replicate my experiences on a
computer through artificial intelligence, and the AI me asks the
question, then obviously the answer should be yes. But perhaps there
really was a natural, fundamental reality in which the original me
existed in which the answer would be no. Or take a Tipler-like theory
that has the universe evolving to the point that it can replicate or
emulate itself. The question "is there a god" at the point that a
universal computer exists would be yes, while the question at some prior
point would be at best "unknown."

I do not want to toss out there there is fundamental truth, fundamental
reality of some nature, but any questions going to the underlying nature
of existence seems to not easily lend itself to yes/no answers. Is
there a fundamental "realness" to the physical world, or is this all a
"machine dream."? Why isn't it both, depending on where you are at?
Now some would accuse of speculation here, but on close inspection it
seems I'm only choosing one form of speculation over another. Does this
mean science is pointless? Absolutely not. Science opens great doors
of understanding in, for instance, describing how a description of the
multiverse fits observable data. However, I am simply choosing not
to close doors in the absence of proof against.

> The thing I'm agnostic about (defining "agnostic" as "without
> knowledge") is whether an infinitely powerful God is reponsible for
> the universe we see. And if this God exists, why? And where did IT
> come from?

Despite arguments I have made previously, I would say I most closely fit
the agnostic description for God as well. I certainly do not believe in
a God separate and apart from our existence that "created" the
universe. Any answer for me will be some form of a self explanatory, or
bootstrapping concept in which God and all of existence are really one
in the same. I must admit I am partial to a Tipler like theory in which
the universe evolves to the point that it can create itself. Then again
you are left without a yes-no answer. Does it even make sense to ask
whether the universe evolved until it was able to create its creator, or
whether God existed first? Its a chicken and egg argument that doesn't
have a correct answer IMO.

You ask "why" God would exist. Equating God with purposeful action, or
intentional action, you question in a sense is asking why we should
consider intelligence to play a role in the shaping of our reality.
Again, I think Deutsch described very well in FOR why we have to
consider intelligence as a fundamental force in the universe. He
pointed out that over the last several billion years, the determination
of the color and brightness of the Sun could be made solely on the
consideration of physical laws. However, if one were to consider such
questions for the future of the Sun, one had to factor in the potential
role that intelligence may play in such a question. The role of
intelligence in understanding, shaping, and even replicating
environments, both in the "real" world and in virtual environments must
be admitted to seem fundamental to an understanding of our reality. In
this sense I am considering "God" broadly as all of the knowledge,
intelligence, and experience that will exist across the multiverse. My
take on the "where did it come from I have already answered.

> If you have an answer to "Why does anything exist?" I'd be glad to
> hear it.
> With respect to the personal gods that much of humanity prays to and
> has faith in, I think they're the result of human nature, fables,
> fiction, and the machinations of priests. The fact that so many have
> "faith" that these gods exist is dire testimony about a flaw
> in humanity that embraces the irrational.

I agree with you that belief in orthodox religion based on statements
made by a handful of people 2,000 years ago, or whatever else, is
irrational. However, I do not see a general belief in God as
irrational. Lets assume science were to somehow prove the MWI was
correct. And subsequently, we create artificial intelligence that
passes the Turing test, or whatever tests would satisfy reasonable
scientists. Finally, lets say science eventually proved that it were
indeed correct that in some universes that would allow for the
development of intelligent life, these universes would be designed in
such a way that it was possible to create a computational device with
infinite processing power.

None of these things are proven yet, by any means, but very reasonable
scientists have made arguments on behalf of each of these theories. If
the MWI is the correct interpretation and the other two things are
physically possible, how do we avoid something essentially equivalent to
God? Its not speculation to say that a universal computer would be
created that would develop artificial intelligence that would then be
processed through an infinite number of experiences (thus equating our
"multiverse"), because in the MWI if its physically possible- it happens.

This is where I have stumbled back into a bias in favor of God. I do
believe in the MWI, I do believe it will become possible to create
artificial intelligence, and I think that given just these two things
it is hard to avoid the role of intelligence in explaining experience .
Even if one universe never develops a universal computer- an infinite
number of universes capable of creating artificial intelligence would
lead to an infinite number of emulated first person experiences.

  My personal observation that is in the same way lay persons are drawn
toward God as a comfort, scientists seem to avoid God like the plague
for fear that it is irrational, or does not fit the conceptions they
should have as scientists. Now, I don't mean to paint with too broad a
brush here because I am aware that many scientists believe in a God, but
in general the belief is much weaker than as shown in the general
population. It just seems to me that science is moving closer and
closer to a TOE that includes a role for intelligence in the
explanation, in one form or another, and this intelligence in whatever
capacity is what would generally be considered God.

> Even though I don't think that personal gods exist, there are benefits
> to having faith that they do. As Kevin Ryan said, there is comfort in
> submission.
> Norman
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "John M" < <>>
> To: "Norman Samish" < <>>;
> < <>>
> Sent: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 12:59 PM
> Subject: Re: belief, faith, truth
> Norman:
> just imagine a fraction of the infinite afterlife: to sing the pius
> chants for just 30,000 years by 'people' in heaven with Alzheimers,
> arthritis, in pain and senility? Or would you choose an earlier
> phase of terrestrial life for the introduction in heaven: let us say:
> the fetal age? or school-years with the mentality of a teenager?
> Would you love spouse No 1,2,or 3? Would you forget about the
> biggest blunder you did and regretted all your life?
> Or would you prefer the eternal brimstone-burning (what a waste in
> energy) without a painkiller?
> I did not ask about your math, how many are involved over the
> millennia? I asked a Muslim lately, what the huris are and what the
> female inhabitants of heaven get?
> An agnostic has to define what he does 'not' know, hasn't he? Just as
> an atheist requires a god 'not' to believe in. We are SOOO smart!
> Have a good day
> John M
> --- Norman Samish < <>> wrote:
> > I'm agnostic, yet it strikes me that even if there is no God, those
> that decide to have faith, and have the ability to have faith, in a
> benign God have gained quite a bit. They have faith in an afterlife,
> in ultimate justice, in the triumph of good over evil, etc. Without
> this faith, life for many would be intolerable.
> If there is no God, there is no afterlife and they get a zero. If
> there is a God, there is an after life and they get infinity. So how
> can they lose? Maybe Pascal's Wager deserves more consideration.
> Norman Samish
> > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: "Brent Meeker" < <>>
> > To: < <>>
> > Sent: Sunday, January 29, 2006 5:25 PM
> > Subject: Re: belief, faith, truth
> >
> >
> > Even within the context that Pascal intended it is fallacious. If
> you worship the God of Abraham and there is no god, you have given up
> freedom of thought, you have given up responsibility for your own
> morals and ethics, you have denied yourself some pleasures of the mind
> as well as pleasures of the flesh. It's a bad bargain.
> Brent Meeker
> >
> > “The Christian religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I
> hold in veneration- courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and
> above all, love of the truth.” --- H. L. Mencken
> >
> >
> > Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> . . . if you believe in the Christian God and are wrong, the real God
> (who may be worshipped by an obscure group numbering a few dozen
> people, or by aliens, or by nobody at all) may be angry and may punish
> you. An analogous situation arises when creationists demand that the
> Biblical version of events be taught alongside evolutionary theory
> in schools: if we are to be fair, the creation myths of every
> religious sect should be taught. - Stathis Papaioannou
> > >
Received on Wed Feb 01 2006 - 23:57:12 PST

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