Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Steve Hays on some implications of combining the multiverse with ECREE


Here. Another line on multiverse arguments., which I think complements one that I linked to from Graham a couple of weeks back.

I suppose, if the multiverse is true, then Jesus did rise from the dead. Just not in this universe! On the other hand, why not?

355 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 355 of 355
Crude said...

1. My point was that it's not at all clear that simulations are enough for gods to exist, under any regular concept of gods, and I would have to ask about yours.

And my reply is that the regular concept of gods makes it trivially easy for them to qualify. The fact that Zeus alone, with all of his limitations, is uncritically accepted as a god (to give a single example) sets constraints for theism that fit for the purposes of my argument here.

2. I do not know that Bostrom's simulation is nomologically possible,

I've already said that my argument as I'm giving it largely turns on whether someone accepts the possibilities of A (simulating minds/universes is possible) and B (multiverses of the relevant sort exist). If you want to dispute A, you're welcome to it. Heck, if my arguments can cause people to reject A or B, well, that'll be a very interesting result.

They would still be flesh and blood, without even the powers of, say, the Hulk in their universe, even if they could show off in the simulation.

Flesh and blood. So? Zeus was too. So's the god of mormonism for that matter. So are many others.

Mortal? Also not a problem. And depending on the sort of multiverse, not even these limitations are largely required. (Tegmark's, for example, gets you to some wild stuff in principle. Other multiverses are more up in the air.)

Also, you mentioned beings that would be more powerful than Zeus, but it seems to me that they wouldn't be. Perhaps, we're assessing power differently?

Zeus did not have unchecked mastery over the earth and its inhabitants. Various programmers of simulations, would.

How about the human creators of the holodeck, or some of their holodeck creations? Would they count as gods?

I think that gets into a limit case, which I pointed out earlier. Arguably yes, depending on just what they're doing with that holodeck. But we go from 'arguably' to 'certainly' in a Bostrom style case, among others.

I've replied to them as well, but here I was pointing out lack of denial of either of those would not make me a theist under any definition.

If you're saying that you could remain agnostic about A and/or B and therefore not have to deal with any repercussions of their conjunction in a sense, sure. Like I said recently, if this argument can spook atheists out of commitment to a multiverse and/or the relevant metaphysical theories of mind, well, that's a very interesting result. Yes, yes, you're going to say that I'm implying you're spooked. No, I'm not. The true agnostic about A/B isn't a concern to me either.

BenYachov said...



>I'm familiar with different concepts of 'god' and 'God'. What the author classifies as 'theistic personalism' actually includes more than one concept.

>But yes, I do realize that Crude is aiming at a pagan concept. My disagreement with him is about the extent to which there is or isn't universality. I do not think that there is a pagan concept, but many, which overlap to some extent, but not enough in this context, which causes difficulties.

If you say so I will be following your discussion.

Angra Mainyu said...

Ben Yachov: "Sorry it clearly is a non-Catholic & non-Jewish presupposition on how Scripture should be interpreted. You have given me no reason to accept it."

Again, it is not a presupposition. I already explained why. You did not reply to my explanation but by insisting with no argument that it's a presupposition.

As I explained, it's just an assessment based on what I (and all of us, probably) know, namely that we can find a zillion examples of laws in which the commands are meant to be taken literally, and I've yet to find one in which that is not the case.
To be even more clear. If half the commands given in laws I'm familiar with were to be taken literally, and half non-literally, I would not give a low prior (given my background evidence) to the claim that this particular command was not meant to be taken literally. That, however, is not the case.

Ben Yachov: "Rather if I am going to debate a Muslim on the Koran I know he is not going to be moved by my private interpretation of his sacred text if I ignore Hadiths and Muslin Tradition also if he is let us say a Sunni he is not going to be moved by my Shia interpretations."
That misses the point, which is that the prior that the command in a law book was not literal is extremely low, for the reasons given.

Ben Yachov: "If they where not meant to be applied literally via tradition then applying them literally in error is a misuse. That heretics interpret some verses literally in error is trivial. "

No, the point is that some Jewish scholars claim that today, no one is in a position to apply such laws, the fact of the matter is that they were applied, even if the cases were not frequent, and they were applied because they were interpreted as (of course) literal; furthermore, even Jewish scholars agree with that interpretation, as I have explained and given evidence for.

Crude said...

I do not disagree about whether most atheists would likely disagree. But then, I do not have to go with the majority. In my experience, however, the degree of ambiguity shows very frequently, and has been showing in this discussion for a while.

I don't think there's been any ambiguity that affects my case. If you want to say most atheists are wrong, go for it.

Actually, I think the situation would not disrupt most versions of atheism much, at least if some kind of simulations exist.

Now, if I recall right, you admitted that if multiverses of the relevant type existed, and these powers yielded gods, then atheism was false and some form of theism was true. I've got to say, 'atheism is concluded to be false' counts as a major disruption.

Moreover, even if there are some powerful beings on some parallel universe, but no being in our universe has the power to transmit information faster than light (and those beings cannot get in, either).

You may be appealing to a practical sense - 'Okay, so gods exist, but maybe they never affect me.' - but it becomes more complicated than that. Once you have created universes and simulated universes being made as a result of A and B, the next step is to start seeing if the universe you're in is actually one of those. That, however, is a whole other subject - but the fact that it's a live possibility disturbs the practical assumption.

Beyond that, there's more than the practical to deal with. Again, it leads to atheism being wrong, and theism being right. In fact, quite a lot of things atheists (and I think this works back into steve's point in part, even if I went on a different road with it) said could never happen, have happened. That's quite a thing.

As for monotheistic religions, introducing such entities would require more rewriting and adapting, though most of the required changes have already been introduced

I explained why the case differs for the classical theist, even the Christian theistic personalist.

For instance, they talk about gods, demons, supernatural, etc., on 'Supernatural', or 'Buffy', etc., but not on 'Star Trek'; it's not only about level of powers, but kind of the 'feel' of the environment, it seems to me.

I recall you thought that words like 'natural', 'supernatural', 'material' were too obscure to be useful. If I interpreted you right, I agree. But that ambiguity favors my position more than yours.

I don't know if you read my responses to your holodeck example - there's a lot of replies and counter-replies going at this point. I'll check back later.

BenYachov said...

@Agrna

>Again, it is not a presupposition. I already explained why. You did not reply to my explanation but by insisting with no argument that it's a presupposition.

You "presuppose" Commandments given with "literal" commandments must be interpreted literally. I reject that in principle without proof via Halacha or the Catholic rules of biblical interpretation.

>As I explained, it's just an assessment based on what I (and all of us, probably) know, namely that we can find a zillion examples of laws in which the commands are meant to be taken literally, and I've yet to find one in which that is not the case.

That is an interesting standard. But not one sanctioned by Halacka or Catholic rules of Biblical interpretation.

>To be even more clear. If half the commands given in laws I'm familiar with were to be taken literally, and half non-literally, I would not give a low prior (given my background evidence) to the claim that this particular command was not meant to be taken literally. That, however, is not the case.

Your standard is still interesting but not Halaka or the Rule of Catholic Bible interpretation.


>>Ben Yachov: "Rather if I am going to debate a Muslim on the Koran I know he is not going to be moved by my private interpretation of his sacred text if I ignore Hadiths and Muslin Tradition also if he is let us say a Sunni he is not going to be moved by my Shia interpretations."

>That misses the point, which is that the prior that the command in a law book was not literal is extremely low, for the reasons given.

No for me that is the point and the only point. You can believe what you like. But you can't convince me with your Protestant framework.

>No, the point is that some Jewish scholars claim that today, no one is in a position to apply such laws, the fact of the matter is that they were applied,

They where at best applied incorrectly against Tradition & thus against the Will of God who gave Tradition as His Word with Scripture.

>even if the cases were not frequent, and they were applied because they were interpreted as (of course) literal; furthermore, even Jewish scholars agree with that interpretation, as I have explained and given evidence for.

Your "evidence" is invalid since you clearly don't understand either Jewish or Catholic doctrine or rules on Scriptural interpretation.

Let the readers decide.

Cheers.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "It's a false choice. Looks up the words I told you, plus polytheism, to see why. My definitions fit better than yours for the situation being described."
I do not see how that would challenge my point that if the concept of 'god' that you are using is such that, if a being reaches a certain level of power (say, like Q), then that being is a god, then even if the God of classical theism (assuming for the sake of the argument both coherence and a single concept) existed, the other entities would match the criterion, so there would be many gods, even if there is one capitalized God. 

Crude: "Sure, I'll bite that bullet, with the caveat that classical theism would still be (or could, if you want to stay skeptical) true. Atheism, however, would certainly be false. Theism can withstand an infinite number of gods, obviously. Atheism can't stand 1."

Okay. My point was about the (rhetorical) consequences of (the part of) your usage of the definition. As for atheism, 'atheism' according to some conception of 'god' might stand 100 entities that are gods under another definition, but not the relevant one.

Crude: "How is it giving an impression of a concession, when what I said was that you're saying that theism may be true, and atheism may be false, given the conjunction of topics I'm discussing? You can't accuse me of changing your words here - I was expressing relief that you admitted this possibility was truly in play. That usually takes an awful lot of hammering to get at."
1. I didn't mean to suggest that you were deliberately giving that impression, but it seems to me it gives it, since the 'there is at least that' may give the impression of an ontological issue to readers, whereas I reject that this is so, it's a semantic matter.

2. I did not admit that the possibility was 'in play' beyond the fact that I do not know enough about the concepts that are in use, so I can only reserve judgment. More precisely, what I said was: "But then again, it might be that, under the definition you're considering, at least some of those infinite universes and/or multiverses would make theism true."

Crude: "Sure, but your reservations actually don't matter much here, since we're accepting some things for the sake of argument."

I disagree. My reservations were pretty important to me, so perhaps we're not accepting the same thing for the sake of the argument.

Crude: "I'm saying that for a classical theist, a multiverse could conceivably exist, but that multiverse would have God's will (putting it loosely) to deal with as a factor to determine what, if anything, shows up in those multiverses. The atheist obviously has no such constraints on the model."

But that changes the model radically. Are you saying that, in fact, the models you have in mind, as proposed in the context of your arguments (i.e., the one that you claim to be problematic for atheism) is also incompatible with classical theism?


Crude: "And my reply is that the regular concept of gods makes it trivially easy for them to qualify. The fact that Zeus alone, with all of his limitations, is uncritically accepted as a god (to give a single example) sets constraints for theism that fit for the purposes of my argument here."
There seems to be more than one concept of 'god', but my point remains that even if you assume that any entity with the power and limitations of Zeus would qualify as a god, it's still not clear (let alone trivial) that assuming a simulation would give you such level, or anything like it.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "I've already said that my argument as I'm giving it largely turns on whether someone accepts the possibilities of A (simulating minds/universes is possible) and B (multiverses of the relevant sort exist). If you want to dispute A, you're welcome to it. Heck, if my arguments can cause people to reject A or B, well, that'll be a very interesting result."

a. It's not clear to me which kind of simulations you count (e.g., holodeck); but see below.
b. With regard to the Bostrom simulation, even if some kind of simulations are possible under some multiverses, it's not at all clear that the Bostrom simulation would be nomologically possible as well, or how either infinitely many galaxies, or even a number of multiverse models, would entail that it is. I've not seen a good argument for that.
In other words, I do not know how you get from 'simulation' + multiverse to Bostrom, without more information about 'simulation' and 'multiverse' (i.e., I do not know enough about your hypotheses).
c. Your arguments on this point so far wouldn't give me reasons to reject any ontological hypotheses, since they're not arguments for or against them, but about the meaning of the word 'god'.
d. I do not accept A or B, so if that counts are 'reject' them, I already have. But then, I still do not know enough about them to say they're false, or even improbable.

Crude: "Flesh and blood. So? Zeus was too. So's the god of mormonism for that matter. So are many others.

Mortal? Also not a problem. And depending on the sort of multiverse, not even these limitations are largely required. (Tegmark's, for example, gets you to some wild stuff in principle. Other multiverses are more up in the air.)"
I said 'without even the powers of, say, the Hulk'; the 'flesh and blood' part was an introduction to their puniness regarding their surroundings.

As for other types of multiverse, perhaps, but then, you would have to explain which multiverses give you which results, and why.

Crude: "Zeus did not have unchecked mastery over the earth and its inhabitants. Various programmers of simulations, would."
But Zeus did have enormous powers over his surroundings; he wasn't in a world in which he was extremely puny except with respect to the hapless inhabitants of the simulation.
A programmer with, say, my powers over his surroundings would never qualify as a god, in my usage of the term, no matter how powerful he is over the simulation.


Crude: "I think that gets into a limit case, which I pointed out earlier. Arguably yes, depending on just what they're doing with that holodeck. But we go from 'arguably' to 'certainly' in a Bostrom style case, among others.

See, now the concepts of 'god' that you and I are using appear very different, since those humans would never count as gods as I would intuitively grasp the term (not even close).
I'm not even sure about Bostrom. either.
Do those entities have any powers, immunity to harm, etc. in their universe?

Also, as I mentioned, I do not know how you get from 'some simulations' + 'multiverse' to 'Bostrom simulation', which might require too much computing power for any universe within a multiverse; also, I do not see that 'infinitely many galaxies' would give you any of that, either (though I do not know what your stance on that infinite universe is; I would need more info about what kind of universes or multiverses you have in mind, beyond Tegmark's).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "If you're saying that you could remain agnostic about A and/or B and therefore not have to deal with any repercussions of their conjunction in a sense, sure. Like I said recently, if this argument can spook atheists out of commitment to a multiverse and/or the relevant metaphysical theories of mind, well, that's a very interesting result. Yes, yes, you're going to say that I'm implying you're spooked. No, I'm not. The true agnostic about A/B isn't a concern to me either."

Okay, but the point is that so far, your arguments on this point seem to be only about semantics. I do not yet know what kind of simulations count, or how you would derive from whatever simulations count + a certain kind (which kind?) or universe, the Bostrom simulation, etc.

Crude: "I don't think there's been any ambiguity that affects my case. If you want to say most atheists are wrong, go for it."
I already argued why the ambiguity affects your case. It seems more like a semantic case so far.
That said, I would say that in my experience, most people (atheists or not) underestimate (if asked) the degree of interpersonal variation in the usage of 'god' and 'supernatural'.

Crude: "Now, if I recall right, you admitted that if multiverses of the relevant type existed, and these powers yielded gods, then atheism was false and some form of theism was true. I've got to say, 'atheism is concluded to be false' counts as a major disruption."

With that criterion, you admitted that monotheism would be false, so that would count as a major disruption. But in practice, it's just words. Atheism would be false under certain conceptions of 'god', and true under others.
Again, as long as there is no entity capable of transmitting information faster than light in our universe, there would not be any major disruption, semantics aside.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "If you're saying that you could remain agnostic about A and/or B and therefore not have to deal with any repercussions of their conjunction in a sense, sure. Like I said recently, if this argument can spook atheists out of commitment to a multiverse and/or the relevant metaphysical theories of mind, well, that's a very interesting result. Yes, yes, you're going to say that I'm implying you're spooked. No, I'm not. The true agnostic about A/B isn't a concern to me either."

Okay, but the point is that so far, your arguments on this point seem to be only about semantics. I do not yet know what kind of simulations count, or how you would derive from whatever simulations count + a certain kind (which kind?) or universe, the Bostrom simulation, etc.

Crude: "I don't think there's been any ambiguity that affects my case. If you want to say most atheists are wrong, go for it."
I already argued why the ambiguity affects your case. It seems more like a semantic case so far.
That said, I would say that in my experience, most people (atheists or not) underestimate (if asked) the degree of interpersonal variation in the usage of 'god' and 'supernatural'.

Crude: "Now, if I recall right, you admitted that if multiverses of the relevant type existed, and these powers yielded gods, then atheism was false and some form of theism was true. I've got to say, 'atheism is concluded to be false' counts as a major disruption."

With that criterion, you admitted that monotheism would be false, so that would count as a major disruption. But in practice, it's just words. Atheism would be false under certain conceptions of 'god', and true under others.
Again, as long as there is no entity capable of transmitting information faster than light in our universe, there would not be any major disruption, semantics aside.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "You may be appealing to a practical sense - 'Okay, so gods exist, but maybe they never affect me.' - but it becomes more complicated than that. Once you have created universes and simulated universes being made as a result of A and B, the next step is to start seeing if the universe you're in is actually one of those. That, however, is a whole other subject - but the fact that it's a live possibility disturbs the practical assumption."

I'm more like saying "okay, so if you go by your conception of god, and you present some kind of multiverse, and some kind of simulation, and you show that that kind of multiverse + that kind of simulation gives you that kind of entity that you call 'god', then if those universes and simulations exist, then so do gods in that sense of the word, but still, that alone does not have any practical relevance for atheists and their beliefs any more than the falsehood of monotheism in the scenario I presented has for theism; in other words, it would make atheism false under some definition, true under some other, but no significant consequences except for the rhetoric of the debates and similar issues".

Now, the issue of the probability of being in one of them is another matter, and I admit that an argument showing that being in some kind of multiverse + some kind of simulation (which kinds you'd have to explain) entail that Bostron is a live option would be a far more powerful argument. But I'd have to see that argument too.

But there is a problem: Just as assuming an infinite universe in which infinitely many doppelgangers of my neighbor quantum tunnel into the room of a doppelganger of me does not make the claim that my doppelganger did that a live option at all (too improbable), even the nomological possibility of Bostrom would not entail that Bostrom is a live option; you would need to give arguments supporting the claim that it would be a live option.

Here, I would like to highlight the following point: the issue of whether the programmers in the Bostrom scenario would count as gods would be pretty much a side note, a semantic debate. The real objection to those hypotheses would be that they would imply that a Bostrom scenario is a live option, regardless of labels (though labels might have rhetorical force, but making an assessment of the hypothesis based on labels would be a mistake)- .

Angra Mainyu said...


Ben Yachov: "Now you are confusing the issue. As a Catholic I certainly believe the Bible can be interpreted in error and applied erroneously. Any law can be. Joan of Arc was a victim of a tribunal that willfully misinterpreted Canon Law to put her to death for political purposes. But you have not shown me your interpretation is the authoritative one."

1. I've provided sufficient evidence to conclude that that was the traditional interpretation among Jews, and among Christians.
2. I explained that it's the interpretation that one should adopt in absence of good reasons to suspect otherwise, given what we generally know about commands in law books.

I have no reason to suspect that there is an 'authoritative interpretation'; what I argue is that my interpretation is both non-fundamentalist, and correct.

Ben Yachov: "Angna you keep ignoring my argument. You treat the texts perspicuously. I A priori reject that concept."
No, you keep ignoring mine. I treat the texts like any human studying it without religious commitments to the text would properly treat it. That is not a fundamentalist approach, even if in some cases, by very different ways we get to the same results. It's the approach a historian would take.

Ben Yachov: "The charge stands since you are not giving me a Catholic or Jewish interpretation of the text via the authority of either the OT Church or the New. You are giving me opinions and interpretations & I am giving you counter ones and we will stalemate each other forever. Which is why the Church teaches the Bible is not to be interpreted privatly. God did not give Scripture alone and Jews and later Catholics did not take it alone."

I'm afraid that there is no stalemate other than your rejection of arguments evidence that should be sufficient, but the charge would be false even if you were right about the interpretation, since my approach to the text is not at all fundamentalist.

Ben Yachov: "Logically I understand silence as silence. No position should be taken till the Church Authority has ruled on it. What you are giving me is not a Catholic or Jewish view."

No, I'm giving a rational argument.

Ben Yachov: "Where does Scripture teach if a “literal” Command is alongside other Commands it must also be taken literally? Where is this novel doctrine of yours taught? By the rules Halakah employing Dat,Pishat, Drash and Midrash justify this claim of yours while you are at it employ Augustine’s rules for interpretation. Finally show me either the OT or NT Church Authority taught this doctrine of yours?"
It's not a 'novel doctrine'; it's not religion.
It's an obvious assessment that if you get a law book with a list of 30 commands, you know 29 are meant to be taken literally (as commands in law books normally are), the other is written in similar tone and has no indication whatsoever that it not meant to be taken literally, the rational conclusion is that it's meant to be taken literally.

Angra Mainyu said...

Ben Yachov,

Regarding your other posts, you seem to be insisting on points I've addressed already, or similar ones.

So, I would say that I have already provided sufficient evidence to show that:

a. The command was meant to be interpreted literally.

b. Regardless of a., my approach to interpretation is not fundamentalist. I am surely not putting a fundamentalist hat on.

But the arguments for both sides are on record, so I see no reason to continue going back and forth.

Papalinton said...

Wow! An amazing thread. Having now completed reading the 200-odd comments, it is with a degree of relief that I was unable to comment due to commitments elsewhere.

To Angra Mainyu
The manner in which you have prosecuted your argument has been simply enjoyable. I am somewhat a deal envious of the manner in which you have conducted yourself; in personal quietude and with steady determination. You are indeed, as Dr Reppert noted, a veritable reader in philosophy. Please pursue your course in this discusion wherever it may take you. It has been most enlightening, not only in terms of content, knowledge and structured argument, but in the temperament and personable disposition you display.

It is interesting that Steve Hays, the man with a gun to his head, the progenitor of this OP, is from the Triablogue stable, a motley cabal of reactionary, dyed-in-the-wool and hidebound religious nutters that, in the main, give conservatism and tradition a really bad name. As a self-confessed calvinist, inerrantist, semicessationist, and science denier, and a fully paid-up subscriber of the primacy of divine revelation in Scripture, there is little to wonder about the rationale[?] underpinning his perspective on the purported implications of combining the multiverse with ECREE.

Simply another obscurantist and unsubstantiated observation masquerading as cogent thought, one that Angra Mainyu has largely and singlehandedly removed the dents, gnarls and wrinkles in Hays' opus.

Well done, I say.


Angra Mainyu said...

Crude,

Regarding Bostrom, a few quick points for now (some clarifying or summarizing previous ones):

1. He assumes substrate-independence.
However (and leaving aside souls, etc.), all the cases we've seen of complex minds seem to the result of particles combining in certain ways (i.e., involving some carbon stuff, not silicon stuff).
We simply do not know whether silicon would do the same. For instance, even if it can combine and result in minds, it might not be able to make complex ones, or the same kind of experiences, etc.

2. Computing power requirements aren't clear, even if the simulation is possible. In addition to 1. (big assumption), he assumes that a lot of redundancies would be set aside (for instance), but it's not clear why similar experiences would be achieved in that way. In particular, it's not clear how to make a program that would effectively deceive the simulated people going only to the proposed depth, given that it's not clear how a mind on silicon reacts to stimuli from the silicon used to simulate a human-like environment in a simulated world around it, etc.

3. Assuming that Bostrom scenarios are possible, in most kinds of proposed multiverse, or a universe with infinitely many galaxies, they would occur infinitely many times. However, that would not entail they're likely at all, or even not extremely improbable.

4. There is no way a post human being in an environment like our universe (i.e., as described by Bostrom) would be a god, as I understand the word 'god'; you may well be using the way 'god' in a different manner, and this shows here.

4. The issue of the meaning of 'god', while interesting to some extent as a matter of semantics, it's not a matter that one should be taken into consideration when assessing the issue of how the world is (i.e., it's not ontologically relevant).

5. As I mentioned, if a certain hypotheses entails Bostrom is a live (i.e., not very improbable) option, then that's an actual challenge, because then you can raise general objections you could raise to a position that does not rule out a Bostrom simulation. There are potential replies, of course, so the real question would be how bad the Bostrom option is (under the assumption that it's possible under those hypotheses, that is).

steve said...

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

“For what it's worth, I wish that no one took an adversarial approach to important issues.”

It’s precisely because some issues are life-and-death issues that they invite an adversarial approach. Morally and theologically speaking, the debate between Christianity and atheism is a debate between good and evil. Atheism is nihilistic. And this isn’t just an academic debate. Many atheists are political activists to strive to make public policy reflect their nihilistic views.

So this isn’t a case where we agree to disagree, then leave each other alone. This is a debate with drastic real-world consequences.

steve said...

In answer to Ben's question, I'm a Zwinglian Calvinist.

BenYachov said...

@Angra

You didn't offer any evidence your interpretive principle was in line with Halaka or the Rules of Scripture interpretation used by the historic Church.

I OTOH showed the only literal application of that Law was condemned by the religous authorities for being outside the tradition. You have given no counter example of it being applied literally within tradition.

>2. I explained that it's the interpretation that one should adopt in absence of good reasons to suspect otherwise, given what we generally know about commands in law books.

Sorry but that still assumes the Bible is perspicous and that it is the default view which is a novel concept that came about in the 16th century with Luther(& or the 9th AD Century with the heretical Jewish Karaites). You have not shown me where the Bible teaches it is perspicous.

>I have no reason to suspect that there is an 'authoritative interpretation'; what I argue is that my interpretation is both non-fundamentalist, and correct.

So you like the fundamentalists and other extreme low church Protestants reject the Catholic and Jewish belief there is an authoritative interpretation?

On the practical level there is no difference in my eyes with agreeing with the fundamentalists vs being one. Sure I would not accuse you of believing in God or the Rapture. But it is fundamentalist-ish.

BenYachov said...

>I'm afraid that there is no stalemate other than your rejection of arguments evidence that should be sufficient, but the charge would be false even if you were right about the interpretation, since my approach to the text is not at all fundamentalist.

By your own admission you agree with their key doctrinal positions on how Scripture is to be interpreted. It's like if you attacked Transubstanciation & wasted your time arguing with Steve Hays that John 6 should be taken literally when his false Protestant tradition tells him to interpret John 6 symbolically.

Don't you see that is what you have been doing with me?

>No, I'm giving a rational argument.

At best you are giving me a possible interpretation maybe even a plausible one. But without authority or the testamony of a really ancient Israelite the only default is the authority of either the OT Church or NT Church. It's their documents not yours. They have not formally ruled on it.

Just as a non-American is not the immediate interpretor of the Constitution the Supreme Court is.

>It's an obvious assessment that if you get a law book with a list of 30 commands, you know 29 are meant to be taken literally (as commands in law books normally are), the other is written in similar tone and has no indication whatsoever that it not meant to be taken literally, the rational conclusion is that it's meant to be taken literally.

No it is not obvious. It is an interesting assumption but you have failed to show me that was formally the rule held by Jews or Catholic Christians. It's your rule and it means about as much to me as my private interpretation of the Koran sans Hadiths and Muslim Tradition means to a Muslim. It means nothing.

>So, I would say that I have already provided sufficient evidence to show that:

>a. The command was meant to be interpreted literally.

I would add there is still some ambigiouity about your moral objection. It's still not clear if you are objecting to the death penalty broadly. the mode of execution or the propriety of executing someone for sexual immorality.

>b. Regardless of a., my approach to interpretation is not fundamentalist. I am surely not putting a fundamentalist hat on.

A distiction without a difference. You agree with the fundamentalists that there is no authoritative interpretor of Scripture. I would like to see you justify that concept from Scripture alone.

>But the arguments for both sides are on record, so I see no reason to continue going back and forth.

Indeed they can go back & read it for themselves. Nobody should take my word for it or yours.

That we can agree on.

Thank you for the discussion. Cheers.

Angra Mainyu said...

Ben Yachov, regarding the evidence for the interpretation in question, I've already provided enough already, and I've already argued my case sufficiently, so I won't be add anything more, at least for now (and I'm not saying I will later; I might or might not, if I have time).


But there is one point I like to highlight again.
You said: "On the practical level there is no difference in my eyes with agreeing with the fundamentalists vs being one. Sure I would not accuse you of believing in God or the Rapture. But it is fundamentalist-ish."

Please take into consideration my earlier replies on the matter, because calling me view 'fundamentalist-ish' is akin to saying that because Christians conclude that Zeus does not exist, if I too conclude that Zeus does not exist, what I'm doing is Christian-ish.

BenYachov said...

>Please take into consideration my earlier replies on the matter, because calling me view 'fundamentalist-ish' is akin to saying that because Christians conclude that Zeus does not exist, if I too conclude that Zeus does not exist, what I'm doing is Christian-ish.

I disagree rather it means we are both Atheists toward that particular "god".

Which I accept wholeheartedly agree with.

Angra Mainyu said...

I'm going to now address a post by Hays; while his claims are not true, they actually raise a relevant matter in the context of these discussion and their tone.

So, let's see:

Steve Hays said: "It’s precisely because some issues are life-and-death issues that they invite an adversarial approach. Morally and theologically speaking, the debate between Christianity and atheism is a debate between good and evil. Atheism is nihilistic. And this isn’t just an academic debate. Many atheists are political activists to strive to make public policy reflect their nihilistic views. 

So this isn’t a case where we agree to disagree, then leave each other alone. This is a debate with drastic real-world consequences."

1. On the claim that atheism is nihilistic, Hays seems to be under the impression that some metaethical argument for theism succeeds. I think that such metaethical arguments are (apart from bad arguments) pretty harmful, since many Christians and some other theists who buy into them are inclined to also attribute atheists in general the position that they (the theists in question) believe an atheist would take, in light of those metaethical arguments and a number of other bad arguments.
This leads me to the second point:

2. Generally speaking, and in the context of debates between Christians, atheists and others, it's not a good probabilistic inference to say something like: "Person A has belief P. Philosophical or religious argument R show that P entails Q (or makes it very probable). Thus, A believes (or very probably believes) Q."
A lot more information would be required in order to make that kind of assessments; moreover, that kind of assessment is often false. That goes both for theists and atheists.

3. In light of that, theists who believe some metaethical argument is successful and, say, shows that atheism entails a moral error theory, should not assume an atheist will be an error theorist.

4. Also, theists who believe that they would themselves engage in killing, theft, etc., if they did not believe in God (I've seen such claims on the internet) should not assume atheists will do that (in fact, given the experience of people who aren't theists anymore, one can tell that in many of such cases the believer in question is even mistaken about what he will do, but that aside).

5. Also, Christian shouldn't even assume that actual moral error theories would behave, given a certain situation, without any moral restraint. That's not remotely what actually happens. Even moral error theories have a sense of right and wrong, which continues to operate as a motivational factor, even if believe in a moral error theory.
For instance, if A believes in a color error theory, she will still perceive colors, and will still use color information to navigate her environment. And if A believes in an error theory about gustatory taste judgments, she will still be motivated by her sense of taste. And so on.
Granted, error theories at a meta-level might sometimes have some effect on some cases at the base level, so an error theory might sometimes affect how an error theorist behaves (e.g., perhaps, in some cases being dismissive of arguments given by a moral realist, or whatever), but the matter requires assessment on a case by case basis.
In particular, moral nihilists (a minority of atheists, by the way) continue to be morally motivated, and they do not become thieves, murderers, etc.; in fact, if they did any of those actions, nearly all of them (like everyone else) would feel guilty about the matter, error theory notwithstanding.

6. Also, as I pointed out, the matter applies to atheists too. It's generally not a good idea to think that if, say, someone is a Christian, they will believe that it was okay to burn people to death for, say, willingly entering a man-woman-daughter of the woman marriage.

7. More later.

Angra Mainyu said...

To be clear, in the case of 6., I mean 'that it was okay in the context of ancient Hebrew society, and following biblical commands'.

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angra Mainyu said...

More on some of Hays' claims:

Steve Hays said: "It’s precisely because some issues are life-and-death issues that they invite an adversarial approach. Morally and theologically speaking, the debate between Christianity and atheism is a debate between good and evil. Atheism is nihilistic. And this isn’t just an academic debate. Many atheists are political activists to strive to make public policy reflect their nihilistic views. 

So this isn’t a case where we agree to disagree, then leave each other alone. This is a debate with drastic real-world consequences."

8. One of the things Hays seems to miss about those political activists is that probably most of the views that those political activists push are actually based on moral motivations. Those activists are in some cases even outraged by the behavior of others (in many cases, many Christians), and in any case, assess that their own political behavior is morally good; in other words, their own assessments of right and wrong provide a considerable portion of the motivation (in many cases, most of it) for their political activism.
In brief, generally people should be careful not to confuse lack of moral concerns with moral disagreement.

9. On the other hand, there are, indeed, considerable real-world consequences like, say, whether women are allowed to have abortions, or whether marriages between two men or two women are allowed, etc.
To be clear, I'm not suggesting all Christians take the same stance on them; clearly not. But it's also clear that religious beliefs, and specifically Christian beliefs in most of the many versions of Christianity, do play a role in the moral beliefs many people have on those subjects. And that surely results in consequences.

Angra Mainyu said...


10. Regarding the good vs. evil debate, most people, Christians or atheists, are neither all good nor evil. Mostly good, like most people. But as previously mentioned, there are clearly moral issues at stake, and it's to be expected that they will result in hostility. That's because people end up perceiving their opponent as behaving immorally in many cases (sometimes properly, sometimes not).
That's a limit to the civility of the discourse, when it gets really bad in the assessment (correct or not) of the person engaging in the debate. I don't see a way around that; moral disagreements will always tend to result in conflict, and strong moral disagreements will tend to result in stronger conflict.

For instance, if someone goes around spreading the belief that, say, those who claim that the Earth is about 4.54 billion years old and/or humans evolved from other animals, etc., are evil, even after having plenty of access to information on the matter, many (myself included) would assess that they (i.e., those spreading such beliefs) are behaving immorally, since they're defaming people (i.e., by calling them "evil") who do not deserve moral reprobation for their actions in this context (i.e., they deserve to be told that they're behaving immorally).
A more extreme case would be that of those people who, based on religious beliefs coming from their version of Christianity, are trying to pass a law that would significantly enhance the oppression of gay people in Uganda.

While one would be able to talk in a civil way nonetheless, when someone has failed to be persuaded regardless of argumentation, and they are causing significant harm (which depends on the case, and has to be assessed in that context), the issue of whether to respond with stronger words becomes more pressing.

For instance, I would have no problem condemning the appallingly immoral behavior of those Ugandan lawmakers pushing for their new anti-gay law. Of course, even when making a moral judgment that their actions are appalling, it would be a mistake to attribute mistaken motivations to them; while some people support it by political reasons, chances are that most of those who support the law among the public, and many politicians, do so motivated by [wrong] moral assessments; i.e., they believe what they're doing is either obligatory, or if not obligatory, still good.

11. Religions and other ideologies of various flavors are obviously among the roots of those moral disagreements and conflicts, though they're not the only ones of course.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Steve Hays wrote:

It’s precisely because some issues are life-and-death issues that they invite an adversarial approach. Morally and theologically speaking, the debate between Christianity and atheism is a debate between good and evil. Atheism is nihilistic. And this isn’t just an academic debate. Many atheists are political activists to strive to make public policy reflect their nihilistic views.

So this isn’t a case where we agree to disagree, then leave each other alone. This is a debate with drastic real-world consequences.


Well, Steve, even though you are fighting for the side of evil, I'm still going to be nice to you since I'm fighting for the side of good. ;-)

Seriously, I agree with you that there are real-world consequences. And I think that being verbally abusive is rude, wrong, and often counter-productive.

In fact, the real-world consequences provide all the more reason to refrain from verbal abuse. Imagine an argument between two people (A and B). B walks away thinking that A was an asshole. While it is possible for B to nevertheless be persuaded by A's arguments, surely the much more probable / frequent outcome is that B thinks A was an asshole and doesn't give A's arguments much thought.

steve said...

Regarding Angra’s confused comments on metaethics:

i) I could give a long list of infidels who admit that atheism logically leads to moral relativism or nihilism.

ii) The fact that many atheists are morally decent in spite of their atheism is hardly a commendation for atheism.

iii) This isn’t just theoretical. For instance, Wesley J. Smith (at NRO/Human Exceptionalism) regularly documents the morally devastating consequences of secularism for social policy.

iv) Angra’s attempt to counter with cases of Christian misconduct begs the question, for he hasn’t established a secular foundation for his value-judgment.

steve said...

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

“False. I've tried to convince others to fix their tone by appealing to PR-type considerations.”

Which confirms my analysis.

“That has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I am respectful to just about everyone. If you discount my testimony about my own motives, then that would be mind-reading. You would be claiming that I do X because of Y, when I have explicitly said that Y is not the reason I do X.”

Well, Jeff, there are several issues here:

i) There’s no presumption that people are always forthcoming about their true motives. Surely you’re aware of the fact that some people conceal their true motives. That’s hardly an earthshaking observation.

ii) Likewise, some people suffer from a very poor self-understanding. Once again, that shouldn’t come as a shocking discovery to you.

So whether or not we ought to accept someone’s explanation at face value is person-variable. If Shirley MacLaine tells me that her extramarital affair isn’t really adulterous because her current lover was her husband from a former life, I don’t have to be telepathic to doubt her explanation. On the face of it, it seems like a convenient rationalization.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that she really does believe in reincarnation. In that event, her explanation might be sincere, but sincerely self-deluded.

Likewise, if Jimmy Swaggart tells me that a demon got him hooked on pornography, am I not allowed to consider an alternative explanation?

iii) In your case, I think you operate with a quaint, residual honor code. I think you genuinely believe in that.

At the same time, your honor code reflects the superficiality of your atheism. You’re a kind of half-atheist or theoretical atheist. You’ve never allowed the nihilistic implications of your secular worldview to really sink in.

From a consistent, atheistic standpoint, there’s no fundamental reason to treat just about everyone respectfully. At best, that would merely be a useful way of getting what an atheist wants from others.

steve said...

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

"Seriously, I agree with you that there are real-world consequences. And I think that being verbally abusive is rude, wrong, and often counter-productive."

That depends on how you define "verbal abuse." You and I could doubtless agree on some examples.

However, if I point out that my opponent is arguing in bad faith, that's not verbally abusive. A failure to argue in good faith impedes constructive debate. There are situations in which it's quite appropriate to point that out.

Angra Mainyu said...

Steve Hays says: "Regarding Angra’s confused comments on metaethics:

i) I could give a long list of infidels who admit that atheism logically leads to moral relativism or nihilism.

ii) The fact that many atheists are morally decent in spite of their atheism is hardly a commendation for atheism.

iii) This isn’t just theoretical. For instance, Wesley J. Smith (at NRO/Human Exceptionalism) regularly documents the morally devastating consequences of secularism for social policy.

iv) Angra’s attempt to counter with cases of Christian misconduct begs the question, for he hasn’t established a secular foundation for his value-judgment. "
My statements are not confused (interested readers: it's all on record :)), but that said.

i. Error theory is not the same as relativism. There are many variants of relativism, and one would expect them to make non-fictional moral assessments.
In any case, I could give a list of atheists who aren't error theorists, or relativists for that matter, but that's not really my point about metaethical arguments (as usual, it's on record).

ii. I obviously reject the claim that it's 'despite' of their atheism, but also this misses my point on the matter, which wasn't a recommendation for atheism.

iii. Actually, I noticed some of the deviations caused by some versions of Christianity, including Hays' for social policies, so I disagree on what is causing the deviations, and which are the deviations. That said, as I explained very clearly, I fully agree with his claim that this is not just theoretical. Obviously.

iv. This is a particularly bad reply, and spreading the belief that somehow atheists' are somehow begging the question if they haven't found a 'foundation' for moral judgments is one of the beliefs that causes considerable harm (I already commented on this when I touched upon the issue of metaethical arguments for theism).

William said...

Getting back to the multiverse: I wonder if we can classify atheists and theists in a multiverse versus local universe way as follows:

1. Local theist, multiverse theist: God exists and is god of all local univeses, including this one.

2. Local atheist, multivese atheist: There is no God, and the multiverse does not allow in its variation any God or gods(defined as a being greater than any human in this universe who is at least locally in their universe of the multiverse omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscent) to exist.

3. Local atheist, multiverse theist: There is no God in this world, but other universes may have a God of that universe.

4. Local theist, multiverse atheist: there is a God and creator, etc of this universe, but the multiverse has universes over which our local God has no control, and in which no local God exists.

Is this complete enough?

BenYachov said...

No.

Classic Theist-God/Being Itself/Ground of All Being is the cause of the Multiverse.

Angra Mainyu said...

William,

Regarding the classification, whether it's complete enough depends on your goals (i.e., what do you need it for?), but perhaps you might want to add cases like 'local atheist, no stance on multiverse', and so on.

That aside, I would say that I do not see any significant difficulty except for vagueness and differences in usage, which is usually the same difficulty in this kind of classification (by the way, Ben Yachov's example would fall under category 1, as long as you don't need much precision).

In the context of this discussion, that difficulty is showing, and the new classification does not seem to avoid it.
For instance, would entities that run simulations be counted as gods, even if they are puny with regard to their surroundings? Say, a human or genetically modified and more intelligent but still human-like or post-human being can do whatever she pleases with the characters in the simulation she created, but is no stronger regarding her actual surroundings than we are, or not more than a gorilla, or stronger but something still pretty puny. How would you classify her? (i.e., local god, or not a god?).

On the other hand, that kind of precision probably won't be needed in a number of other cases.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

>This comment has been removed by the author.

Warning! Usually when I see that appear it means Paps is about to post some of his blather to suck up all the oxygen!

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

It seems the extrapolation of 'infinite possibilities' in a multiverse may well be a somewhat misconstrued exercise. To imagine a non-being here, eg a god that lives outside time and space, becoming a real-life entity in another universe is a stretch. That imagined entity would remain outside time and space in relation to all universes as it now does in this universe. That is, if the elements of time and space are considered the primal features that define what a universe is, in which material/energy is expressed. That which is not constrained by time and space could not be described as a universe. If one of these elements are missing, could the resultant notion be properly conceived as a universe?

Equally, to think a Zeus in this universe, would not necessarily translate to a real life Zeus in another Universe. Zeus in this universe is generally accepted as a figment of the imagination, with no basis beyond mythology. However, within the multiverse, such mental ideation of both the christian god and a Zeus could be as diverse as infinity permits. The possibility of a god that exists outside time and space, as is implied by Apologetics, and about which the LaPlacian axiom ["Sire, je n'ai pas eu besoin de cette hypothèse"] seems the best explanation based on existing data and knowledge in this universe, that transmogrifies into a real-life christian god in another universe is very much in the realm of speculation, as it is in this universe.

To extend the ECREE of this universe to a multiverse seems to remain a reasonable proposition. albeit what constitutes ECREE in any one of the other universes would match whatever 'god' claims would be made in those universes.

BenYachov said...

I so called that......

Crude said...

Angra,

I do not see how that would challenge my point that if the concept of 'god' that you are using is such that,

You gave me a choice between monotheism and polytheism. I pointed at two definitions which were more appropriate than either, given the scenario I'm outlining. That's really the beginning and end of it.

As for atheism, 'atheism' according to some conception of 'god' might stand 100 entities that are gods under another definition, but not the relevant one.

Well, let me put it to you this way. You're talking about 'rhetorical' persuasiveness - but what I'm pointing out goes beyond rhetoric. Conceding that according to some very common sense, even ancient views of god - even views of god which are common in modern conversation (see: all the Zeus talk when discussing theism among atheists) - that theism is true - is not a mere rhetorical thing. It's pretty devastating to the position as it's been for an extremely long time.

Now, again, I don't doubt that you can update and change atheism. Heck, if you want, you can call me an atheist - 'Atheism means someone who doesn't worship any merely powerful gods, but only the First Cause.' But really, once you're there, what's the point?

I disagree. My reservations were pretty important to me, so perhaps we're not accepting the same thing for the sake of the argument.

We're not only discussing your views, but the views of atheists generally.

But that changes the model radically.

Well, yeah. Of course it does. That's the point.

Are you saying that, in fact, the models you have in mind, as proposed in the context of your arguments (i.e., the one that you claim to be problematic for atheism) is also incompatible with classical theism?

Not at all. I'm simply saying that for a classical theist, God's will shows up as a factor in multiverse considerations. Now, said God could will a multiverse that contains all these gods - or God could will a multiverse that contains none of these gods. For the atheist, there is no God's will to look to, so all they're left with is the unaltered odds.

There seems to be more than one concept of 'god', but my point remains that even if you assume that any entity with the power and limitations of Zeus would qualify as a god, it's still not clear (let alone trivial) that assuming a simulation would give you such level, or anything like it.

No, that can't be your point, because it's simply false. Remember, we're talking about the conjunction of A & B, and infinite universes with the right variance. In Tegmark's case, we're altering the variables even more to something approaching mere mathematical consistency. You're getting gods no matter what.

Now, you can start playing with the definition of gods in response to this, but A) it's going to be obvious that you're playing in response, and B) it has some pretty disastrous effects on atheism's rhetoric.

I do not accept A or B, so if that counts are 'reject' them, I already have. But then, I still do not know enough about them to say they're false, or even improbable.

You keep going back to this, and I keep pointing out that that's fine, because my point is that plenty of people - quite a lot of atheists - accept A and B both, and they're who I have in mind.

Let's say you don't accept A and B, but are agnostic on them. In that case, you're in the position where advances in science (let's assume the typical atheist position that science is decisive here, not metaphysics or philosophy - a view I reject) threaten to undo atheism. That's pretty significant.

Crude said...

But Zeus did have enormous powers over his surroundings; he wasn't in a world in which he was extremely puny except with respect to the hapless inhabitants of the simulation.
A programmer with, say, my powers over his surroundings would never qualify as a god, in my usage of the term, no matter how powerful he is over the simulation.


Zeus did not have 'enormous power over his surroundings', with regards to his peers. Are you familiar with the greek myths? He was regularly smacked around by his wife, at times imprisoned and depowered, etc.

Like I said, if you want to come up with a usage of the term such that creating universes identical to ours populated with beings, having utter and complete control over them, etc, is not godhood, that's fine. I think it's trivial to see you've amended the definition of god considerably, and it really will come across as a move being made to avoid a theistic conclusion.

See, now the concepts of 'god' that you and I are using appear very different, since those humans would never count as gods as I would intuitively grasp the term (not even close).
I'm not even sure about Bostrom. either.


Bostrom outright countenances the possibility I'm talking about.

Do those entities have any powers, immunity to harm, etc. in their universe?

A) It's not necessary to have 'immunity to harm' going by the age old definitions of gods - even immunity to death isn't necessary. 'Any powers' is trivial - you and I both have some.

B) In some universes, they would be extremely powerful even in their universes.

C) Both points aren't relevant, unless you're going to start undertaking a massive rewrite of historical atheism, which would have its own ill effects. It's a lose-lose here.

Also, as I mentioned, I do not know how you get from 'some simulations' + 'multiverse' to 'Bostrom simulation', which might require too much computing power for any universe within a multiverse

"Too much computing power." is not a limitation in a Tegmark multiverse, obviously. Considering computing power would be limited by a resource pool alone, and the source pool you're dealing with in even typical multiverse scenarios is for all practical purposes unlimited, it doesn't seem to be an issue there either.

Remember, this conversation was originally about infinite universe selections which a pretty broad range of variance regarding initial conditions, etc.

I already argued why the ambiguity affects your case. It seems more like a semantic case so far.
That said, I would say that in my experience, most people (atheists or not) underestimate (if asked) the degree of interpersonal variation in the usage of 'god' and 'supernatural'.


It's not really a 'semantic' argument, since I can call on an absolute wealth of historical views of god, including modern treatments of them, to make my case. Every time an atheist invokes Loki or Zeus etc as a god, my case is built.

I agree that 'supernatural' is next to useless as a word - by the way, so too is 'natural'. But god/God? That has far more meat to it, and it's meat I'm relying on. I think when someone insists that a being creating a universe filled with sentient agents over whom they have complete control would not be a god unless he could consistently beat his brother in arm wrestling, they're the ones engaged in semantics-play. Kind of like 'no true scotsman' but with gods.

Before you take offense at that, consider what I'm saying about simulations. And notice that you keep avoiding the more obvious cases of a simulator or even creator (again, simulations are a powerful kind, but just one kind, of scenario here), and keep focusing on touchier cases.

Crude said...

With that criterion, you admitted that monotheism would be false, so that would count as a major disruption.

Not at all. Again, I'll spell it out.

First off, as I said before, I've been treating the multiverse case without factoring in the God of classical theism. Once you factor that God in, things have the potential to change with regards to the multiverse (and again, I reject both A and B) - but this is for obvious reasons no help to the atheist.

Second, let's say you factor that God in and still you have these other gods. Sure, there's a change - but it's not a change that renders the central claim of monotheism ('God exists') false. Now, you can argue that 'God exists - and no other gods do!' is central - assert that if you like. But I think it's easy to see that the disruption is minor for the monotheist, given that the God they believe in isn't impacted by the situation as I've given it.

Third, in the atheist case, you've got a universal negative: God/gods don't exist, period. Now it's being conceded, they do exist. In fact, infinite numbers of gods exist. When you say 'okay, atheism would be false under certain conceptions, true under others', that really is just saving-through-wordplay. Furthermore, whether we exist in a world that is under any kind of god would still be an open question - this argument doesn't determine 'we don't live in such a universe, but others do'. It determines, 'considering the multiverse, gods exist. Do gods/God exist in our universe? More argument required.'

Here, I would like to highlight the following point: the issue of whether the programmers in the Bostrom scenario would count as gods would be pretty much a side note, a semantic debate.

Sorry, but no. This is no mere semantic debate. If you say it is, then your argument is with the legion of atheists who regard every god from Loki to Zeus to otherwise as gods, who regard creation scenarios as god-talk, etc. What you seem to be saying here is something along the lines of the following: 'Atheists are usually more interested in disproving the God of Christianity more than anything else. So if that's their key concern, then the truth of theism may not be unsettling to them.' But insofar as the atheist claim is that no gods exist, have existed or will exist, the conjunction of A and B is devastating to their views.

Crude said...

William,

Getting back to the multiverse: I wonder if we can classify atheists and theists in a multiverse versus local universe way as follows:

1. Local theist, multiverse theist: God exists and is god of all local univeses, including this one.

2. Local atheist, multivese atheist: There is no God, and the multiverse does not allow in its variation any God or gods(defined as a being greater than any human in this universe who is at least locally in their universe of the multiverse omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscent) to exist.

3. Local atheist, multiverse theist: There is no God in this world, but other universes may have a God of that universe.

4. Local theist, multiverse atheist: there is a God and creator, etc of this universe, but the multiverse has universes over which our local God has no control, and in which no local God exists.

Is this complete enough?


I'd reject the whole scheme as a dodge. Theism and atheism have always been presented as wholesale metaphysical views - if gods exist anywhere in reality, gods exist and theism is true. If they do not, atheism is true.

More than that, the list would be incomplete. There would be classical theism considerations ('There is only one classical theist God and He exists/does not exist', in relation to all multiverses currently under discussion - it's a meta-consideration with respect to multiverses). 2 is fatally flawed since the comparison to human power is irrelevant, and omnimax attributes aren't necessary for godhood under age old definitions - even Angra seems to cop to that.

William said...

Ben:

quote:
"No.

Classic Theist-God/Being Itself/Ground of All Being is the cause of the Multiverse.
"

Ah, this should be part of the #1,localtheist/multiverse theist category, but you are right, that is a detail that makes yours specifically position 1A, I guess: you are specifically saying that God caused the multiverse as a whole,not just its component parts.

Thanks for the refinement.

William said...

Angra:
quote: "Regarding the classification, whether it's complete enough depends on your goals (i.e., what do you need it for?), but perhaps you might want to add cases like 'local atheist, no stance on multiverse', and so on. "

True, I left out agnostic from the four categories. The reason was that I was going to say that, given how little we truly know about the world, anyone who takes the position #3,of local atheist/multiverse theist, should actually be a local universe agnostic.

I expect you saw that, and likely not coincidentally, saw that a more stable position for someone who wants to remain an atheist given a multiverse is the local atheist/multiverse agnostic one?

Crude said...

Angra,

Regarding Bostrom, a few quick points for now (some clarifying or summarizing previous ones):

I've already replied to these in advance, or showed that they're not relevant to my case as I've presented it. I entirely conceded that someone can argue that actual minds cannot be simulated - but I also pointed out the conviction on the part of many, particularly many atheists, that they can be.

The questions about whether (even if such simulations and creationist scenarios are possible) they're 'common' in various multiverse scenarios is actually a side point that leads into a different discussion. Now, I don't think they'd be rare in some scenarios (Tegmark's in particular comes to mind), but if they exist at all, some form of theism is true, and atheism is false.

The basket I see you putting most of your eggs in is the 'semantic' one: basically, 'yes, okay, under this definition of god then gods exist in abundance given the conjunction of A and B, but I can just make a definition of god that excludes those as challenges to the atheist view'.

The problem for you is, at that point, I've got thousands of years of history, the bulk of modern argument, etc on my side. I'm not the one who called Zeus a god, nor did I use Zeus, Thor, Loki, etc as examples of god for the purposes of atheism. Right away, that illustrates that omnimax attributes of any kind aren't necessary for godhood. The sort of move you're making would require one to assert something like the following: 'A being who creates a universe exactly like our own, has overwhelming power over it, exists outside of it, etc, is not a god. Even if our universe is created by such a being, that doesn't mean any god exists.' I think to anyone who's not interested in an extremely superficial saving of atheism as a concept is going to find that line of reasoning ridiculous. At the very least, the atheist is going to have to concede that his definition is very particular, runs afoul of some long and established (even accepted by atheists) views of god and theism, and that - as you've basically said - your definition is what's doing most of the work. But that alone would wreak havoc on the atheist position: imagine of Richard Dawkins with his scale-of-gods said, 'Well, I'm a 6.9 on the scale by some definitions. On others, I'm a 1.1.'

Like I said, this is the tip of the iceberg for the problems the conjunction of A+B present to atheism. But even just the tip is enough to do a whole lot of damage to atheism (conceding A+B essentially results in an acceptance of some form of theism - polytheism at the least) as normally conceived. That's a good start, from a skeptic's vantage point.

Papalinton said...

No Ben. There were too many spelling errors to proceed.

William said...

Crude:
quote:
"'d reject the whole scheme as a dodge. Theism and atheism have always been presented as wholesale metaphysical views - if gods exist anywhere in reality, gods exist and theism is true. If they do not, atheism is true."

This seems to me to be due to questions of how we define the extent of our world. Does our world include a multiverse? Or is there a multiverse outside of our world? Could we even know this in a meaningful way?

If the multiverse is just a highly partitioned version of the traditional concept of the world, then the scheme could be a "dodge" as you say. I have trouble understanding what the bounds of the world could be anyway.


"2 is fatally flawed since the comparison to human power is irrelevant, and omnimax attributes aren't necessary for godhood under age old definitions - even Angra seems to cop to that.
"

True. The concept of god once we bring in arbitrary versions of polytheism or pantheism gets fuzzy, so I threw that in to make things more specific to the scriptural topics under discussion here.

Anyway, it seems clear that people can and do pick a multiverse that helps their intended argument. So the multiverse as a theory does not seem to me to help settle theistic matters.

It is likely that people choose (or change to) a concept of multiverse based on how well it supports what they want to believe already :-)

Crude said...

William,

Anyway, it seems clear that people can and do pick a multiverse that helps their intended argument. So the multiverse as a theory does not seem to me to help settle theistic matters.

It is likely that people choose (or change to) a concept of multiverse based on how well it supports what they want to believe already :-)


That's cynical, but it's a cynicism I share. My response is that multiverses are far more problematic than people understand, and I think the sort of people who do dive for such-and-such multiverse concept as an (a)theistic tool, usually do so without realizing just what they're doing. I think the arguments I'm giving here work, and are extremely defensible. I also think quite a lot of multiverse-favoring atheists would absolutely choke if they encountered the argument. Most people get as far as 'oh, it challenges fine tuning? okay, that's all I need to hear'.

As I've said a few times now, this isn't even the only problem presented. Play with infinite multiverses (or even sufficiently large ones) and you start opening the doors to problems on everything from probablistic reasoning to evolutionary issues to more. I'm putting all those aside for the moment, because the gods question is interesting enough, and I think it ties into the issue Steve brought up originally.

Angra Mainyu said...

William: "I expect you saw that, and likely not coincidentally, saw that a more stable position for someone who wants to remain an atheist given a multiverse is the local atheist/multiverse agnostic one? "

I do not approach the matter in terms of what a person wants; it's a matter of where the evidence (or evidence + arguments, if you use a less broad conception of evidence) lead. The language is just words, except to the extent that some people might get confused by rhetoric.

Also, I do not know what impact the multiverse will have; I'm yet waiting for Crude's argument, but it might depend on the conception of 'god'.

Crude said...

Also, I do not know what impact the multiverse will have; I'm yet waiting for Crude's argument, but it might depend on the conception of 'god'.

What argument are you waiting for? It can't be the argument that multiverses of the relevant sort plus such-and-such technological capability yields theism - I've been giving that. You've been interacting with the argument, precisely on the topic of what qualifies as a god.

Now, are you talking about arguments that work off of the multiverse to suggest that our universe is possibly or likely under such a god? Sure, I've not gotten into that - but it's also a whole other subject. Right now I'm content to deal with theism, period, given a multiverse. So far what seems to be the case is your saying that, if A and B are granted in conjunction, then yes, given such and such conception of gods, theism is true. The bulk of the conversation beyond there has been focused on 'But god concepts are fuzzy' or 'But monotheism would be false'.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "You gave me a choice between monotheism and polytheism. I pointed at two definitions which were more appropriate than either, given the scenario I'm outlining. That's really the beginning and end of it."

You mean henotheism or monolotry?

Of course, one can always come up with finer terms to described scenarios in a finer way; for that matter, one can just describe the scenario instead of picking some words. But my conclusion about monotheism follows using more or less common terms, and you seemed to be insisting on somehow catching showing some problem for atheists (another vague concept; too vague at this point in the discussion), also using common terms (well, like atheists).
To be frank, I don't think there is much of philosophical interest here, beyond maybe the semantic issue of how people learn and use words; but not metaphysics.

Crude: "Well, let me put it to you this way. You're talking about 'rhetorical' persuasiveness - but what I'm pointing out goes beyond rhetoric. Conceding that according to some very common sense, even ancient views of god - even views of god which are common in modern conversation (see: all the Zeus talk when discussing theism among atheists) - that theism is true - is not a mere rhetorical thing. It's pretty devastating to the position as it's been for an extremely long time.

Now, again, I don't doubt that you can update and change atheism. Heck, if you want, you can call me an atheist - 'Atheism means someone who doesn't worship any merely powerful gods, but only the First Cause.' But really, once you're there, what's the point?"

Okay, I think it's time to clarify some points, else we'll keep going in circles around this (unfortunately, maybe we will anyway, but such is life; I'll try).

To be clear, I'm not going to argue for the views in points a-i.; I'm mentioning them only to explain what I would find to be a rhetorical point; I will very briefly comment on the matter from the perspective of others too.

So, briefly, my position on a number of issues is as follows (I think some concepts like omnipotence and omniscience might be problematic, but let's assume it's all coherent; else, the answer would be 'either incoherent or...')

a. Omnipotent, omnipotence, morally perfect being – does not exist.
b. Greatest conceivable being – does not exist.
c. Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, etc. - do not exist (yes, yes, you can say that Yahweh is the GCB, etc.; not my view, but not trying to argue here).
d. Generally, all of the entities worshiped by different religions, past or present – do not exist.
e. A creator of the universe, multiverse, etc., that intervened in human history – does not exist.
f. Some creator of the universe – I do not know whether she exists; after considering the matter sufficiently, most people ought not to believe she does.
g. Entities with the power to transmit information faster than light within our universe – very probably do not exist.
h. Entities with Zeus-like powers in some other realm – I do not know; after considering the matter sufficiently, most people ought not to believe they do.
i. First cause – probably does not exist; if it does, it's probably a non-agent; if it's an agent, it's not any of the entities mentioned in a.-e.

Angra Mainyu said...

Given all of the previous answers, if someone calls me an atheist, that's fine with me. I do not think that the word is so precise that that would be a misnomer. I prefer non-theist, but sometimes I would use the label 'atheist' with respect to myself, since that's the word in use in the context of a conversation.

Let me now address some of the possibilities under discussion:

1. I do not know that an entity puny in their surroundings but that can do whatever she wants in a simulation she makes counts as a god by a very common sense.
However, if it did count as a god in a very common sense, then not denying that such entities exist would not be a change in my position, other than a change in my assessment about the meaning of a word.
On the other hand, accepting that such an entity exists in some such realm would be a change in my ontological views, though of no significant practical consequences.

2. Zeus-like powers in his surroundings: I do think that that would count as a god in some common conceptions (which to some extent vary from person to person; one may call it a vague conception instead).
Not denying that such entities exist would not be a change in my position.

On the other hand, accepting that such an entity exists in some such realm would be a change in my ontological views, though of no significant practical consequences.

3. Conclusions that would involve significant changes in my position on ontological matters, or some epistemic matters (see above), do not involve just assessments about the meanings of the words. I don't consider a change in an assessment about the meaning of a word describing some kind of entity particularly significant, in this context.

4. Different people use the label 'atheist' differently, and some might have to introduce significant changes in their ontology perhaps in response to other arguments. It's a matter to be assessed on a case by case basis. Frankly, this is kinda 'meh' to me, but it would be important to some other people, I guess.
Even then, not denying the existence of entities I don't deny (see above) would not be really significant changes in their lives (except, perhaps, if they spend a lot of time arguing about them).


Crude: "Not at all. I'm simply saying that for a classical theist, God's will shows up as a factor in multiverse considerations. Now, said God could will a multiverse that contains all these gods - or God could will a multiverse that contains none of these gods. For the atheist, there is no God's will to look to, so all they're left with is the unaltered odds."
My point is that if your multiverse scenarios guarantee that those gods exist, whereas theism can block them like that, then those scenarios seem incompatible with theism (not all multiverses, but the ones you're using).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "No, that can't be your point, because it's simply false. Remember, we're talking about the conjunction of A & B, and infinite universes with the right variance. In Tegmark's case, we're altering the variables even more to something approaching mere mathematical consistency. You're getting gods no matter what.

Now, you can start playing with the definition of gods in response to this, but A) it's going to be obvious that you're playing in response, and B) it has some pretty disastrous effects on atheism's rhetoric."
No, that is my point (in that part of the reply), and it's not false; I already told you A) and B) are not clear (the original A) and B)).
As for the 'playing with definitions' charge, it won't be obvious because I won't and wouldn't be doing it, and that should be obvious by now; quite the opposite, I've been trying to ascertain how you use the words (it seems not much like me), and considering the matter under different usages; you're the one who keeps making an argument relying on your (still somewhat obscure to me, but considerably different from mine, it seems) usage of 'atheism', which you claim to be standard.

As for whether your usage is more common than mine, that would be a matter for empirical testing.

Side note: Also, we're not only talking about Tegmark level 4 version.

Crude: "You keep going back to this, and I keep pointing out that that's fine, because my point is that plenty of people - quite a lot of atheists - accept A and B both, and they're who I have in mind.

Let's say you don't accept A and B, but are agnostic on them. In that case, you're in the position where advances in science (let's assume the typical atheist position that science is decisive here, not metaphysics or philosophy - a view I reject) threaten to undo atheism. That's pretty significant. "
1. That's one of many positions held by atheist (though we're apparently using 'atheist' differently). I do think that both science and philosophy (including metaphysics) can be evidence (in a broad sense of 'evidence'; else, let's say 'evidence and arguments') that could (potentially) change my position on many issues.
However, one can predict that it's extremely unlikely (even beyond a reasonable doubt that it won't happen) that, say, advances in science would show that the Earth is less than 1 million years old.
So, a question question would be what advances in science might realistically affect my position on those issues, and how likely they are.

I do not see any realistic advance that would change my position as an atheist. But of course, evidence might change my mind on almost subject (That should not be understood as a suggestion of doubt).

Crude: "Zeus did not have 'enormous power over his surroundings', with regards to his peers. Are you familiar with the greek myths? He was regularly smacked around by his wife, at times imprisoned and depowered, etc."
1. He did have more power than other gods, but it's true that he did not have complete power over them; they were even less powerful. However, I did not say complete or maximal power over his surroundings. I said 'enormous', which she had. A person who plugs herself into a computer to have power over the simulation but is as puny as we are where she lives isn't even close, in my assessment.

2. In any case, I don't know that a certain amount of power is a sufficient a necessary condition for qualifying as a god in a very common sense; at least, I haven't seen a definition like that matching usage. There seems to be many different properties in many different entities named 'gods', and even relations (e.g., origin seems to play a role, in many common usages).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Like I said, if you want to come up with a usage of the term such that creating universes identical to ours populated with beings, having utter and complete control over them, etc, is not godhood, that's fine. I think it's trivial to see you've amended the definition of god considerably, and it really will come across as a move being made to avoid a theistic conclusion."

1. I was talking about creating simulations within universes, not universes. It's hard to see how an entity can create a universe like ours and have full control, while being puny like ours in their own place, in a universe/multiverse like ours. I still do not think that that would likely qualify.
2. I disagree with your claim that there is "the" definition of 'god'; there are many different conceptions.
3. Your contentions like 'trivial to see', your accusation of amending "the" definition of 'god', etc., at first glance come across as moves intended to get readers to believe by showing assertiveness and confidence, even suggesting disbelief of my position. Moreover, the semantic moves come across as being made to insist upon a conclusion with the label 'theism' on it, despite the lack of any argument to back it up.
The same goes by your insistence on 'having complete control over them', instead of 'being as puny as we are in our universe'.

However, appearances can be deceiving. Considering the context of the thread, my conclusion is that you actually believe that you're onto something here; further (and frankly, this part annoyingly) you actually believe that I'm changing "the" definition of 'god', and that that's even "trivial to see", etc.

Even though not deliberate, unfortunately they might have rhetorical punch. But there is nothing I can do about it; in other words, I would have to leave it to the judgment of interested readers to take a look at the exchange and reach their own conclusions; if they make as mistaken an assessment about me as you do, such is life.

Perhaps, we could try an empirical test?
If we can agree on a text for some questions (e.g., describe a scenario and ask 'is that a god?'), we plaster the internet with polls, and we wait for the results?
Yes, it's merely anecdotal, but it's more than going back and forth on this semantic matter.

All that said, I would say that this are semantic issues. I'd be more interested in the arguments about what actually might exist, not about what that is called.

Crude: "Bostrom outright countenances the possibility I'm talking about."
As far as I'm familiar with his papers, those entities would be puny in their universe. But if he countenances another possibility, I'd appreciate a link.

Crude: "A) It's not necessary to have 'immunity to harm' going by the age old definitions of gods - even immunity to death isn't necessary. 'Any powers' is trivial - you and I both have some.

B) In some universes, they would be extremely powerful even in their universes.

C) Both points aren't relevant, unless you're going to start undertaking a massive rewrite of historical atheism, which would have its own ill effects. It's a lose-lose here. "

A) Remove enough conditions that, each separately, are not required, and you go from god to non-god (hence, the 'etc.'); but I did not speak clearly there; I wasn't talking about full invincibility, but significant degree of immunity (though the former clearly would be a stronger condition towards godhood).

B) Okay, that is an interesting matter. Could you explain what kind of multiverse we're talking about, and what kind of powers would they have?

C) Could you please provide a definition of 'historical atheism'?
Regardless, that is not a problem like, say, rewriting historical Christianity. There is no atheist claim of inspiration, infallibility, etc.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: ""Too much computing power." is not a limitation in a Tegmark multiverse, obviously. Considering computing power would be limited by a resource pool alone, and the source pool you're dealing with in even typical multiverse scenarios is for all practical purposes unlimited, it doesn't seem to be an issue there either. "
1. Obviously, that's not a problem in a Tegmark 4. multiverse. But we're not talking about that alone.
2. Computing power is certainly a serious issue for an infinite universe like if our universe has infinitely many galaxies.
3. For other multiverses, it would probably depend on the case. You say that in "typical multiverse scenarios", it's for all practical purposes unlimited. I do not know what you have in mind as 'typical' or how you reach that conclusion. Since there are not so many actual multiverse theories, could you please mention the ones (or at least, several usual ones) that meet your condition, and why you think so?

Crude: "Remember, this conversation was originally about infinite universe selections which a pretty broad range of variance regarding initial conditions, etc."
Actually, this conversation (i.e., between you and me) is to a considerable extent about me asking you what kind of multiverses you're actually arguing about, other than a Tegmark 4. ;)
Come on, there is only a handful of theories; we would probably save time if you just explained which ones you have in mind.
If you'd like to refer me to some previous blog post here or in Hays' forum or wherever this whole thing might have started whenever it started, please let me know.

Crude: "It's not really a 'semantic' argument, since I can call on an absolute wealth of historical views of god, including modern treatments of them, to make my case. Every time an atheist invokes Loki or Zeus etc as a god, my case is built."
1. You keep insisting on that, and I keep asking you to explain which models and which assumptions gives you Zeus (or now Loki), and how you reach that conclusion.
2. With regard to the ambiguity, there are other cases to consider, like the puny programmers who can do as they please within such universes. An empirical test might be doable. But I've already mentioned that, so I'll leave that aside.

Crude: "I agree that 'supernatural' is next to useless as a word - by the way, so too is 'natural'."
Well, I'd say that without a definition, they can be used reasonably well in the context of fictional genres; when it comes to philosophy, they might work sometimes, but very often they require definitions because vagueness becomes an issue.

Another problem with 'natural' and 'supernatural' is that when definitions are offered, they're often circular.

Crude: "But god/God? That has far more meat to it, and it's meat I'm relying on."
Those words have different amounts of meat, so to speak, and it's probably more than 'supernatural' or 'natural', but still, in philosophy, usually lack of definitions would be a problem.
Indeed, philosopher often define 'God' or refer to some definition when they make their arguments, though unfortunately some of the words in which they define it are often problematic as well, not to mention that when giving a definition it would be better to use non-capitalized words and leave the capitals for proper names (using it as a word defined in terms of some properties and as a proper name tends to create confusion).

Anyway, we've been over this repeatedly, so I would only say I don't agree; I offer the test I mentioned if you like and you're interested in the semantics of the word (though I would take time, which is a minus).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "I think when someone insists that a being creating a universe filled with sentient agents over whom they have complete control would not be a god unless he could consistently beat his brother in arm wrestling, they're the ones engaged in semantics-play. Kind of like 'no true scotsman' but with gods."
My first impression when someone characterizes my position as insisting "that a being creating a universe filled with sentient agents over whom they have complete control would not be a god unless he could consistently beat his brother in arm wrestling", after my repeated point that as I understand the word, an entity that is puny like us (or something that evolves from us) in her universe, but who can do as she pleases in her simulation, is not a god, is that he's engaging in funny rhetorical argumentation, which may be an effective tactic but would only persuade by confusing a reader about the opponent's position.

But further considerations make me think that you believe I'm engaging in semantics-play. Still annoying, frankly.

Also, quite frankly, I care little about the semantic debate; it's taken too long already in my view; still, if you want, as I said we can try to settle on a question and then go with the poll (in, say, several forums, both theist and non-theist).

Crude: "Before you take offense at that, consider what I'm saying about simulations. And notice that you keep avoiding the more obvious cases of a simulator or even creator (again, simulations are a powerful kind, but just one kind, of scenario here), and keep focusing on touchier cases."

I focus on those cases not for the purpose of any sort of semantic game (which should be clear by now), but because:

1. There is an issue about the meaning of the words, and you seem to stress that point, while claiming I'm changing terms. I'm presenting scenarios in which in my assessment there is a good chance that many readers (well, if there are many readers!) will agree with my assessment.

2. You keep avoiding the question of what kind of multiverses (beyond Tegmark's level 4) + what kind of assumptions (i.e., what kind of simulations count) you have in mind in the context of your argument, and you keep avoiding explaining how your reach those conclusions, and giving an argument showing that even those simulations would be possible, let alone the more powerful beings. I'm not saying you do that deliberately; it comes across as that at first glance, but I think you do not realize that.
As a result, I go with the kind of simulations that I've seen proposed by others, which involve puny human-like beings (or stronger, but still pretty puny), since arguments in support of the nomological possibility of those simulations under certain hypotheses are the most common. Not that I've seen your argument to that effect yet. If you're going to argue for a more powerful being, that's fine with me.
I would ask again what kind of multiverses (beyond Tegmark's level 4) result in those beings, and how you reach that conclusion.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Not at all. Again, I'll spell it out."
I pointed out that those were just words; my point was that your point had only rhetorical force.

Crude: "Third, in the atheist case, you've got a universal negative: God/gods don't exist, period. Now it's being conceded, they do exist. In fact, infinite numbers of gods exist. When you say 'okay, atheism would be false under certain conceptions, true under others', that really is just saving-through-wordplay. Furthermore, whether we exist in a world that is under any kind of god would still be an open question - this argument doesn't determine 'we don't live in such a universe, but others do'. It determines, 'considering the multiverse, gods exist. Do gods/God exist in our universe? More argument required.'"

1. No one has conceded that.
2. If such a concession were made with regard to some conception of 'gods', atheism would be falsified with respect to that conception.
3. You accuse me of 'wordplay', whereas what seems to happen is that you engage in wordplay, but saying without qualification that infinitely many gods exist, whereas rejecting my points 1. and 2.
I know you don't realize that, but the accusation is annoying.

Let me put it in a different way: nothing I say tends to confuse the readers about what's going on. I explain the points carefully, and say that it's under that conception, not that one, etc.; you disagree with my view that the conception I'm using is common. That's one thing. But that's disagreement about a claim about semantics, not use of semantic games on my part. I spell things out, even if you disagree, so my clarification reduces the risk of confusion. I go to considerable lengths to explain my position in great detail, precisely to, among other reasons, reduce such risk.

On the other hand, if I'm right about the different usages, your insistence on your claims has a serious potential to confuse, and there is a good chance that readers who (reasonably) haven't read the whole exchange in detail will get the wrong impression.

Now, you think you're right about the meaning. Such is life. We can try the polls if you want.
But accusing me of playing with words is just, well, a mistaken accusation, and even if you were right about the meaning of 'god', you would be wrong about your claim that I'm playing with words.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Sorry, but no. This is no mere semantic debate. If you say it is, then your argument is with the legion of atheists who regard every god from Loki to Zeus to otherwise as gods, who regard creation scenarios as god-talk, etc "
Actually, the issue of whether the programmers in the Bostrom scenario (who control pretty much within the simulations they create, but are pretty puny in their universe afaik; if you have other scenarios in mind, please let me know), is a semantic debate.


Crude: "What you seem to be saying here is something along the lines of the following: 'Atheists are usually more interested in disproving the God of Christianity more than anything else. So if that's their key concern, then the truth of theism may not be unsettling to them.' "
No, I do not remotely seem to be saying that. I'm afraid you appear to be reading my posts in light of assumptions that are not true. I mean what I said, so I guess I'd have to again recommend readers to take a look at the exchange, if they're interested and have enough time.

Crude: "But insofar as the atheist claim is that no gods exist, have existed or will exist, the conjunction of A and B is devastating to their views."

Now I have explained my main views relevant to this topic, very briefly but sufficiently clearly. If you have an argument that challenges them (related to this, of course! I don't have time to debate all arguments for theism), please make your case if you like to.
On the other hand, if you think I'm not an atheist, I would say that that depends on the usage of 'atheist', etc., but it's a semantic side issue.

Crude: "I've already replied to these in advance, or showed that they're not relevant to my case as I've presented it. I entirely conceded that someone can argue that actual minds cannot be simulated - but I also pointed out the conviction on the part of many, particularly many atheists, that they can be."
a. Well, you claimed that they were not relevant to your case. I still need to see your case.
I would ask for the specific multiverses (apart from Tegmark level 4), the specific simulation assumptions (i.e., what kind of simulation they accept), and how you get from there to some entity E (a rough description of E would help).

b. More precisely, in 1., I'm not arguing that minds cannot be simulated. I'm saying that he fails to give good grounds to think it's likely that they can, in the kind of simulation that he posits. In 2., I'm questioning the basis for his claim about computing requirements, given the point I mentioned.

Crude: "The questions about whether (even if such simulations and creationist scenarios are possible) they're 'common' in various multiverse scenarios is actually a side point that leads into a different discussion. Now, I don't think they'd be rare in some scenarios (Tegmark's in particular comes to mind), but if they exist at all, some form of theism is true, and atheism is false."

a. Actually, it's not a side point with regard to the non-semantic issue about whether we would be likely to live in such a simulation.
b. I have no idea how you assess probabilities in Tegmark universe, or how you conclude that they would be common. I would ask for some argument.
c. I would also ask for other arguments with regard to other multiverses, infinite universes, etc., if you want to make a case applicable to our universe (though you might not want to, of course).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "The basket I see you putting most of your eggs in is the 'semantic' one: basically, 'yes, okay, under this definition of god then gods exist in abundance given the conjunction of A and B, but I can just make a definition of god that excludes those as challenges to the atheist view'. "

Well, you perceive me as that, but that's very mistaken. I've done considerable effort to explain my position, and you keep misrepresenting it badly in your replies, taking away all the carefully explained nuances.
Fine, you do not do that deliberately. But I wish you didn't keep reaching mistaken conclusions about what I say, and didn't kept saying that I'm saying something very different from what I'm saying.
I mean, I know you will disagree with me, and we would continue to disagree if this exchanged continued for years, but at least I would be dealing with arguments against my views, rather than with arguments that attribute to me views that are different from the ones I have, and then attack them, putting me in a position of explaining them again, etc.
After spending several hours (thank Zeus I'm on vacation! But that's only until Tuesday) responding to your latest posts, I would only refer you and interested readers back to the whole exchange.

Crude: "The problem for you is, at that point, I've got thousands of years of history, the bulk of modern argument, etc on my side. I'm not the one who called Zeus a god, nor did I use Zeus, Thor, Loki, etc as examples of god for the purposes of atheism."
But that's not a problem for me. It's a problem for the position that you continue to mistakenly attribute to me.

Crude: "Right away, that illustrates that omnimax attributes of any kind aren't necessary for godhood."
Sure. But if you keep taking away attributes that, on their own, aren't needed, you get no godhood.

Crude: "The sort of move you're making would require one to assert something like the following: 'A being who creates a universe exactly like our own, has overwhelming power over it, exists outside of it, etc, is not a god. Even if our universe is created by such a being, that doesn't mean any god exists.' "
No, that is not the case.
I do assert, using the word 'god' as I understand it, that if, say, in the future human scientists manage to make a simulated universe, and have overwhelming power over the people in that universe, but remain puny humans outside it, then they're not gods.
I would ask readers to go by their own intuitive grasp of the word and ascertain whether those would be gods, as they assess the term.

Let's now move to the Bostrom scenario. It's similar to the previous one, only instead of humans, we're talking about people who evolved from humans by means of genetic engineering, integration between humans and machines, etc., but still without any superpowers in their surroundings (except for more advanced tech, obviously), and with the same kind of great control over the people within that universe.

I would still say no gods, but I recognize different people have different usages (clearly, given yours), so also anyone can make their own conclusion.

If you want to argue for a more powerful entity, sure, I would ask for an explanation of the kind of multiverse, etc.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "I think to anyone who's not interested in an extremely superficial saving of atheism as a concept is going to find that line of reasoning ridiculous."
But that's a line of reasoning you attribute to me; for my line of reasoning, I would recommend my posts. I've been careful enough with the details, so if someone has enough time and willingness to read it, it's on record.


Crude: "At the very least, the atheist is going to have to concede that his definition is very particular, runs afoul of some long and established (even accepted by atheists) views of god and theism, and that - as you've basically said - your definition is what's doing most of the work. "
No, I have not said or basically said any of the sort.
It's your definition that's doing the work, since you're the one giving (or hinting at) and argument, but insist on the relevance of the meaning of 'god' that you claim is nearly universal and is like the one you use.

Crude: "But that alone would wreak havoc on the atheist position: imagine of Richard Dawkins with his scale-of-gods said, 'Well, I'm a 6.9 on the scale by some definitions. On others, I'm a 1.1.'"

But such a statement from Dawkins might only wreak rhetorical havoc. If Dawkins were to later explain the definitions in question, then that would only give greater precision to the claim.
Yes, of course, many people are just impressed by rhetoric, and don't even understand the arguments they accept or reject (it happens all around, obviously), so you might get some conversions...though it's far more likely you'd only get a zillion people attacking Dawkins as a traitor; in-group/our-group mentality is prevalent among humans, and very strong in the context of debates involving religion, regardless of the fact that the positions within the groups are widely varied.

On the other hand, someone carefully studying the ontological matters at stake but who does not much care what definition is used would not be even fazed, though he might be annoyed by definitions and rhetorical games that confuse people, as well as by mistaken assessments that confuse people anyway, even though the persuasion by confusion is not deliberate.

Crude said...

Okay, Angra. You just dumped 10, count 'em, 10 nearly-maxed-out comments in response to me. I think that is, frankly, entirely unnecessary. So I'm going to skip a line by line response to you, and start focusing on key points, one at a time.

Let me select what I think is a central plank you're offering here:

Crude: "But that alone would wreak havoc on the atheist position: imagine of Richard Dawkins with his scale-of-gods said, 'Well, I'm a 6.9 on the scale by some definitions. On others, I'm a 1.1.'"

But such a statement from Dawkins might only wreak rhetorical havoc. If Dawkins were to later explain the definitions in question, then that would only give greater precision to the claim.


I am disputing whether the concession would 'merely be rhetorical'. I am saying it strikes at the heart of a long-standing view of atheism, and that taking the position Dawkins hypothetically would would be a significant, major and frankly disastrous one for atheists generally.

First, let me head off something here: I've said this before in conversation. Your response has been, in essence, to tell me that your own, personal definition of atheism would likely not be affected. But, I am not trying to convert you, personally. I'm making reference to atheism as it has been conceived for, arguably, thousands of years, and is certainly conceived in a popular sense.

I think it's beyond obvious that atheism, in the minds of most modern atheists, and certainly historically, is connected with the claim of no gods existing, period, end of story - where 'gods' would be, not exhaustively, but certainly inclusive of, 'beings capable of creating worlds and universes inhabited by beings like ourselves and animals, etc, and over whom they have considerable power'. To have such beings existing would mean that gods - even if they were petty gods, even if they fell far short of the God of Christianity or the First Cause, etc - do exist.

Now, I don't have to go far at all to see Zeus being recognized as a god, even by atheists. And Zeus was powerful. But he was also capable of having his ass kicked by fellow gods, and even lesser beings at times. He was a third generation being, an arguably inept creator (go see his creation stories), etc. But he was a god all the same, and for Zeus to exist would mean atheism was false. Likewise, for the Zeus-like to exist would mean atheism was false.

When you tell me that conceding that such beings exist is a 'merely rhetorical' issue, I honestly question your understanding of the word 'rhetoric'. In fact, let's test that.

Person A claims: no being exists who can create worlds and universes inhabited by his creations, and over whom he exhibits overwhelming power, existing above and beyond his creations and their world.

Person B demonstrates that such beings, given the conjunction of two beliefs person A accepts, certainly do exist.

I think person A's view can very reasonably be regarded as a summary of the historical atheist position. I think for person B to demonstrate what I wrote is not a mere 'rhetorical' victory. It's decisive. Person A is, in fact - granting those beliefs - simply wrong. Not somehow 'rhetorically wrong, but actually right'. Merely wrong.

If you disagree here - if you're going to say that no, it's all 'rhetoric', and person A isn't actually wrong - then really, there's no sense going any further on that. I'm going to regard that as self-evident word-gaming. Now, Person A could have been wrong for a number of reasons. Maybe they didn't think things through. Maybe the world turned out to operate in a way they never expected, and whose consistent working-out surprised them. Maybe a million things. But that they are wrong, is not a 'maybe' issue. It's not mere rhetoric.

They're just wrong.

Angra Mainyu said...

Ben Yachov:

Just one more point regarding the punishment in the OT for a woman who is the daughter of a priest and a prostitute:

http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/john_gospel/Chapter%208.htm

That's a Catholic source.

Yes, you can say it's a mistaken interpretation. I provided enough evidence to show that that is not the case, but the point here is that it's not the case that the literal interpretation in that case is a fundamentalist interpretation (though I've already showed that, but just to add even more evidence).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Okay, Angra. You just dumped 10, count 'em, 10 nearly-maxed-out comments in response to me. I think that is, frankly, entirely unnecessary. So I'm going to skip a line by line response to you, and start focusing on key points, one at a time."

It took me several hours to write, explaining my position carefully given that you continued getting it wrong, and then accusing me of playing with words. I would think it not necessary, if it weren't for that constant misrepresentation (not deliberate, but it does happen).

Crude: "I am disputing whether the concession would 'merely be rhetorical'. I am saying it strikes at the heart of a long-standing view of atheism, and that taking the position Dawkins hypothetically would would be a significant, major and frankly disastrous one for atheists generally."

I know what you're claiming, but I explained carefully (in painful, long detail) why I disagree with that. Different people who accept the label 'atheist' have different views, and even use the words differently.

Now, Dawkins may be a referent of a large group of such people today. But that does not make the point not rhetorical (so far, anyway), and if he were to make such a statement, or any other, that wouldn't even faze me, or a number of other atheists, and for good reasons. Arguments are one thing, but statements clarifying his position about definitions isn't interesting to me.

That said, given that you bring up Dawkins, I will briefly (yes, briefly :D) consider his definitions of 'God', 'atheism', etc. (from "The God Delusion") in the following post.

Before that:

Crude: "First, let me head off something here: I've said this before in conversation. Your response has been, in essence, to tell me that your own, personal definition of atheism would likely not be affected. But, I am not trying to convert you, personally. I'm making reference to atheism as it has been conceived for, arguably, thousands of years, and is certainly conceived in a popular sense. "
No, that's not, in essence, my response. In fact, I'm not even saying that, since I'm disputing that my usage of 'atheism' is my own, personal one (though I do say that my beliefs would not be affected under certain conditions; they would under others).
But I'm afraid I would need many posts to explain again what my response is, and it would be pointless since that's on record already, so I would refer you and readers to those posts, if you're interested.

Crude: "When you tell me that conceding that such beings exist is a 'merely rhetorical' issue, I honestly question your understanding of the word 'rhetoric'. In fact, let's test that. "
But I do not tell you that. You misunderstand and again misrepresent my reply again. I carefully explained, repeatedly, that I'm not telling you that. I spend several hours doing so. It fail to even get you to stop claiming that I claim what I do not claim. I will refer you and interested readers to the record.

Angra Mainyu said...

Regarding Dawkins' terminology:

On 'The God Delusion' (page 13), he defines 'God' as "a supernatural creator that is
'appropriate for us to worship'."

Then, he explains (to some extent) 'supernatural' on page 14, by opposing it to 'natural', which he defines (quoting Julian Baggini) as follows: "What most atheists do believe is that although there is only one kind of stuff in the universe and it is physical, out of this stuff come minds, beauty, emotions, moral values - in short the full gamut of phenomena that gives richness to human life.'

Now, that is what Dawkins identifies as the "atheist's commitment to naturalism" (page 13).

If we go by those definitions, it's apparent that even level 4 universes with simulations but no souls (simply put the basic stuff of the world is particle-stuff) would not contain any gods.

While it's true that, in those passages, Dawkins uses capitalized 'God' sometimes, he also speaks of 'a supernatural God', etc., and seems to use capitalized 'God' and non-capitalized 'gods' with the same meaning. Moreover, he makes no distinction when he defines what he describes as the naturalistic commitment of atheism, and on page 20, he makes it clear that his case is about (in his words) "supernatural gods", among whom he names Yahweh as the one most readers are familiar with.

As for the appropriateness of worship, that would seem to rule out pretty much everything in my assessment, but at least a lot.
However, Dawkins seems to ignore that later (page 31), where he reformulates the hypothesis he argues against, but keeps the 'supernatural' part of the definition.

As to your other question:

Crude: "Person A claims: no being exists who can create worlds and universes inhabited by his creations, and over whom he exhibits overwhelming power, existing above and beyond his creations and their world.

Person B demonstrates that such beings, given the conjunction of two beliefs person A accepts, certainly do exist."

I do agree that in that case, person B did not achieve a mere rhetorical victory. Or a rhetorical victory at all. Person B achieved a substantive victory. Person B showed A to be mistaken, regardless of rhetoric. That would be an argument significant to the views of the people involved regardless of whether B established that there are no gods, under some definition of 'god'.

But for example (why do I pick that example? I already explained that, so I will refer you to my posts), if you count simulations run by puny humans who only have power within the simulation, and that's the only kind of being B demonstrated existed under A's beliefs, then while I certainly believe that atheists (and theists) do not normally believe in the existence of said beings, I do not see any good reason to think that according to usages of the words accepted by most people, that would mean theism is true.
At least, that would not be the case under my understanding of the relevant words, and I do not see any good reason to grant that my understanding is uncommon. I would invite readers to use their own intuitive understanding. I also offered you to test the matter, even if only in a limited fashion (i.e., by plastering the internet with polls; see my posts for details). I do recognize that there are others (like you, for example) who grasp the word 'god' differently from the way I do.
Clearly, this is a matter of how people use words, not of what they believe, and while choice of words can have persuasive force, that is only so for rhetorical reasons. The real meat is on what entities actually exist under the beliefs of person A, not what they're called.

BenYachov said...

@Angra

Did I mention you are bad at this

Jewish Source.

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0004_0_03929.html


Burning remained confined to the *adultery of a priest's daughter and to certain forms of *incest (Sanh. 9:1; Maim. Yad, Sanhedrin 15:11). Here again the question arose of how to execute by burning without destroying the body: an old tradition has it that when Aaron's sons were consumed by divine fire (Lev. 10:2) only their souls were burnt, their bodies remaining intact (Sanh. 52a); in accordance with this, a mode of burning which would leave the body intact had to be devised. The man to be burnt was to be immersed in mud up to his knees (so that he should not fall); two kerchiefs were then to be bound round his neck, each to be held in the hands of one witness and drawn in opposite directions until he opened his mouth, and then a burning wick was to be thrown into his mouth "which would go down into his bowels" (Sanh. 7:2). As will be seen, this mode of execution is almost identical with that of strangling, it being reasonable to suppose that the wick will no longer burn when it arrives in the bowels, but suffocation will already have supervened. Maimonides substitutes hot lead or zinc for the comparatively harmless mishnaic wick (Sanh. 15:3), taking the wick to be a metallic substance, but insisting that as little pain as possible should be inflicted (Comment. to Sanh. 7:2). There is no record that this method of burning was ever actually practiced. There is a report that a priest's daughter was burnt for adultery by being bound with bundles of grapevine which were then ignited (Sanh. ibid.). The explanation there given was that this may have been the method employed by a Sadducean court, leading some scholars to conclude that that had been the original biblical mode of burning, the Sadducees rejecting later oral law modifications. The same older method of burning is reported to have been adopted by a later Babylonian scholar, Ḥama b. Tobiah, who was rebuked for it (Sanh. 52b). That burnings may also have taken place at the stake appears from midrashic sources (cf Gen. R. 65:22; Mid. Ps. 11:7). Josephus reports that Herod ordered men who had incited others to desecrate the Temple to be burnt alive and their accomplices to be killed by the sword (Wars, 1:655).END QUOTE


So thus far the only example of a literal application from history was Sadducees version which was condemned by the religious authority as being against the Tradition & we may add to this Hama Ben Tobah endorced the Sadducee version & was rebuked.

Oh and I looked up the stake burnings in the Midrash cited above. One is about some idiot who commits suicide by subjecting himself to all four methods of execution out of guilt for mocking his Rabbi uncle for undergoing Martyrdom & the other takes place in Hell. So neither is an example of actual literal judicial punishment.

Angra Mainyu said...

Ben Yachov: "Did I mention you are bad at this"

You claimed that, repeatedly.

Our exchange on the interpretation of the Leviticus passage that (clearly) commands that a woman be burned to death if she's the daughter of a priest and is also a prostitute (or, on some translations, commits adultery at a certain stage in her marriage) is on record.

That's good enough a reply for me.

BenYachov said...

>Just one more point regarding the punishment in the OT for a woman who is the daughter of a priest and a prostitute:

>http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/john_gospel/Chapter%208.htm

>That's a Catholic source.

So all you have given me as a "proof" is a common speculation that the reason they brought only the woman & not her paramour was because she might have been a Priest's daughter & they where trying to trap Jesus into giving out a stoning punishment when burning would have been warranted?

That is "evidence" the official interpretation of the text should be literal?

Weak sauce!

My Jewish Source there is no recorded examples of this being legally carried out.

So far the only evidence you have given is your novel self-serving theory how Biblical texts should
be interpreted & illegal examples of this being applied literally. Not to mention the Pharisees trying to get Jesus to do something illegal.

You are bad at this.

BenYachov said...

>Our exchange on the interpretation of the Leviticus passage that (clearly) commands that a woman be burned to death if she's the daughter of a priest and is also a prostitute (or, on some translations, commits adultery at a certain stage in her marriage) is on record.

>That's good enough a reply for me.

So you are telling me the Bible says it I believe it & that is good enought for me

Which of course is a well known fundamentalist saying & you deny you have a fundamentalist view of scripture?

You are not helping your case.

BenYachov said...

@Angra

I did not want to do this. I did not want to play this card. But I am busy so I am going to do it.

My Father has been diagnosed with possible first stage lung cancer.

This has been fun and you are a worthy foe. But we have to stop. We are not getting anywhere here & I can't waste anymore time on it.

Like you I too am busy. So for a time I am going to say on the sidelines.

Angra Mainyu said...

@Ben,

I'm sorry to hear that. Of course I understand, and I wish him well.

Crude said...

It took me several hours to write, explaining my position carefully given that you continued getting it wrong, and then accusing me of playing with words. I would think it not necessary, if it weren't for that constant misrepresentation (not deliberate, but it does happen).

I dispute that I'm misrepresenting you in any way, and part of the reason I'm choosing to focus on this particular question is to get around that very response.

No, that's not, in essence, my response. In fact, I'm not even saying that, since I'm disputing that my usage of 'atheism' is my own, personal one (though I do say that my beliefs would not be affected under certain conditions; they would under others).

You're saying that atheists have never denied the existence of being capable of creating worlds populated with agents who they have radical control over?

Put another way, consider the following:

"This world was created being a being who does not exist in our world per se, but who exists above and outside of it. Said being isn't subject to the same physical laws we are, and they are capable of creating and destroying, in an instant, whatever they like within our world, at a whim, with minimal effort."

That is a view compatible with atheism, and not only that, historically compatible with atheism?

But I'm afraid I would need many posts to explain again what my response is, and it would be pointless since that's on record already, so I would refer you and readers to those posts, if you're interested.

It shouldn't take 'many posts'.

On 'The God Delusion' (page 13), he defines 'God' as "a supernatural creator that is
'appropriate for us to worship'."


He also says: "I have found an amusing strategy when asked whether I am an atheist to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon-Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further."

Further, Dawkins uses the word 'supernatural', which he defines as 'physical' - but that's far too open-ended and vague. Especially considering Tegmark's universe would naturally involve a far broader class of 'nature' in principle. Hell, Tegmark's own example is some kind of mathematical platonism - that's not clearly fitting in with Dawkins' naturalism as defined there.

I do agree that in that case, person B did not achieve a mere rhetorical victory. Or a rhetorical victory at all. Person B achieved a substantive victory. Person B showed A to be mistaken, regardless of rhetoric. That would be an argument significant to the views of the people involved regardless of whether B established that there are no gods, under some definition of 'god'.

Great, we agree on that much.

Crude said...

But for example (why do I pick that example? I already explained that, so I will refer you to my posts), if you count simulations run by puny humans who only have power within the simulation, and that's the only kind of being B demonstrated existed under A's beliefs, then while I certainly believe that atheists (and theists) do not normally believe in the existence of said beings, I do not see any good reason to think that according to usages of the words accepted by most people, that would mean theism is true.

No one, not even humans, 'only have power' within a simulation (save for the ones who exist in the simulation of course). Further, "puny" is being used here as a relative term. Compared to any denizen in the denizen in the simulation, they have phenomenal power. Compared to beings outside? They may have phenomenal power, but not necessarily so. On the other hand, that applies to Zeus and his fellow deities.

I also offered you to test the matter, even if only in a limited fashion (i.e., by plastering the internet with polls; see my posts for details)

You are aware that internet polls aren't really a scientific concept, right? Not to mention that one part I've stressed in response is that the modern atheistic view has changed radically in some quarters from what it was in every other age?

I would invite readers to use their own intuitive understanding.

I invite readers to do the same. Look at Zeus: look at what he was. Look at his origins, look at his power. Yet Zeus has been and still is called a god. Now, consider beings that are radically more powerful than Zeus, have accomplished more than Zeus managed, etc. Ask yourself, does it seem as if atheism and consideration of gods underwent a strange change from what it used to be, to what it is now? Does it seem as if it underwent that change precisely because nature and technology turned out to be far different from what atheists for so long assumed it to be, or be capable of?

Crude said...

Ben,

My condolences to your father. I hope everything turns out well for him. I'll pray for him.

Crude said...

Angra,

I'll further ask.

You seem to accept that Zeus was a god. Is this correct? If not, I'd like to hear why not.

If so, I'd like to hear what made Zeus a god, in your own words.

BenYachov said...

Dad is fortunate my Mom made him go to the doctor for Pneumonia. They did something called a petscan?

The found it on his lower right lung. This was fortunate. If after a year when symptoms started to show it may have been too late.

It hits me real hard since a few years ago we lost my wife's mom.

I guess that is why I have been such a rage freak lately more then usual.

Anyway thanks Crude and Angra.

God be with you guys(especially you Angra ;-) )

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

Parting humorous observation.

Angra I don't think you are an evil person nor do I think Atheists are necessarily evil. I understand you wanting to defend your fellow Atheists against the charge they somehow intrinsically evil because they are Atheists.

But naming yourself after the Zoroastrian Devil & or force of Evil doesn't help you make that case.....I'm just saying......:-)

HA! I'm funny! Humor! Deadpan mode!

Cheers again.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude,

Crude: "I dispute that I'm misrepresenting you in any way, and part of the reason I'm choosing to focus on this particular question is to get around that very response."
Again, my reply is on record, including at which point you're misrepresenting me. But to be clear, I'm not saying that you do that deliberately. You misunderstood my position, and then replied to something that is not what I was saying.

As I mentioned, people can read the exchange and reach their own conclusions if they like, so I will proceed to address your new points and questions.

Crude: "You're saying that atheists have never denied the existence of being capable of creating worlds populated with agents who they have radical control over?"
No, I'm not saying that. I'm saying what's in my posts. I do not know how to be more clear.
As to your new claim:

1. Different people have denied different things. Probably some atheists have denied that (I do not know which ones, but it's almost certain); I do not know that that was part of their atheism, under their conception of 'god'.

2. In the part of my post you're replying to, I'm disputing the claim that my usage of 'god', 'atheism', etc., is unusual. I would add that more specifically, I dispute the claim that my disposition not to call beings involved in the simulations I described (including beings evolved from humans in a universe like ours who run Bostrom simulations) 'gods' is unusual among people who describe themselves as atheists, at least in the present-day usage of the term, in English-speaking countries.
I would require evidence of that usage, though it's a matter of semantics, rather than a substantive one.

3. In the particular case of Dawkins, his position is that simulations made by advanced aliens would be...simulations made by advanced aliens, not by gods. He did not even reject the simulation hypothesis in TGD.

4. I recognize that there might be a number of people (like you) who uses the word 'god' in a way that would render all or most of the beings in those simulations 'gods'. However, I deny that this is somehow a universal usage, in the linguistic environment previously specified.

I will consider the rest of your points and questions in the next post.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Put another way, consider the following:

"This world was created being a being who does not exist in our world per se, but who exists above and outside of it. Said being isn't subject to the same physical laws we are, and they are capable of creating and destroying, in an instant, whatever they like within our world, at a whim, with minimal effort."

That is a view compatible with atheism, and not only that, historically compatible with atheism?"

That scenario has unclear constraints. Given that you're placing those beings outside the 'physical laws' we're subject to, that suggests incompatibility...unless you're not counting the laws of the multiverse as physical laws, and they too are, say, like (for instance) puny humans in their environment, under laws almost exactly like ours.

In that case, I would say that under usages of the word 'atheism' and 'gods' that are not uncommon among people who call themselves 'atheists' in the linguistic environment I explained above.

In particular, that view (in the puny case) is compatible with Dawkins' claims, at least the ones he makes in his most famous book (TGD), and the ones I'm familiar with.

As for 'historically compatible', I admit I'm not so familiar with comparative meanings of the term 'god' as used by people calling themselves 'atheists' since those words has been in use in the English language. I would say then that I see no good reason to accept the claim that it would be incompatible.

Crude: "It shouldn't take 'many posts'."
Ideally, you would have understood my points, would not have misrepresented them, etc., but despite my increasingly detailed explanations, that did not work. I am not accusing you of doing so deliberately, but then again, despite the lack of ill-intent, I find myself in a position in which you keep attacking a stance you attribute to me but is not mine.

Yes, yes, I know you disagree. We both made our points; we can either continue debating this, or leave the matter to readers to decide.

All that aside, I will address Dawkins' usage of the terms, beliefs and particular version of atheism in my next post.

Crude said...

4. I recognize that there might be a number of people (like you) who uses the word 'god' in a way that would render all or most of the beings in those simulations 'gods'. However, I deny that this is somehow a universal usage, in the linguistic environment previously specified.

It's not the beings inside the simulations, per se, that I've been pointing out as 'gods', but the creators of those simulations.

Nor have I been saying that said definition is 'universal' - I know better than that, precisely because people object to it. What I am saying is that the considerations of what would qualify as a god is such that, throughout far and away most of history, beings of the sort I'm describing would clearly have been regarded as gods, and that the change in attitude is relatively recent.

This reply also carries over to 3, with Dawkins.

In the part of my post you're replying to, I'm disputing the claim that my usage of 'god', 'atheism', etc., is unusual. I would add that more specifically, I dispute the claim that my disposition not to call beings involved in the simulations I described (including beings evolved from humans in a universe like ours who run Bostrom simulations) 'gods' is unusual among people who describe themselves as atheists, at least in the present-day usage of the term, in English-speaking countries.

I haven't said that modern day people who describe themselves as atheists would all cop to the definitions I'm suggesting. If anything, I've pointed out that yes, nowadays people would dispute that. I've pointed out a problem, considered in terms of what qualifies as a god historically, and the position of atheists historically, with their standard.

Again, my reply is on record, including at which point you're misrepresenting me. But to be clear, I'm not saying that you do that deliberately. You misunderstood my position, and then replied to something that is not what I was saying.

Again, I dispute this, and will also let others read on and judge for themselves. I think I've been quite clear in what I'm arguing and suggesting, and have been interpreting your responses reasonably.

Crude said...

That scenario has unclear constraints. Given that you're placing those beings outside the 'physical laws' we're subject to, that suggests incompatibility...unless you're not counting the laws of the multiverse as physical laws, and they too are, say, like (for instance) puny humans in their environment, under laws almost exactly like ours.

They aren't subject to the laws of the simulation, obviously.

It can't be that merely being subject to natural restraints is the issue, unless you're prepared to say Zeus and company (who all were subject so such restraints) were therefore not gods.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "He also says: "I have found an amusing strategy when asked whether I am an atheist to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon-Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further."

Further, Dawkins uses the word 'supernatural', which he defines as 'physical' - but that's far too open-ended and vague. Especially considering Tegmark's universe would naturally involve a far broader class of 'nature' in principle. Hell, Tegmark's own example is some kind of mathematical platonism - that's not clearly fitting in with Dawkins' naturalism as defined there."
Alright, the Tegmark 4 civilization example is a difficult one. Could you described at least a little bit those beings, their origin, etc., in that particular case?

But for now, the following should be pretty conclusive (regarding Dawkins' usage) in the case of at least some types of multiverses, universes, etc., and including any Bostrom simulations run by post-human beings or any beings that evolved from something like humans, or from something like whatever we evolved from, in any of those universes or multiverses.

On page 69 of The God Delusion, under the title "Little Green Man", Dawkins addresses speculation among aliens.

Among other things, he says that the members of any alien civilization, no matter how advanced, would not be gods. In fact, he considers explicitly the simulation hypothesis, which he does not consider to be a problem for atheism, as he understands the word.
While he considers "Counterfeit World", by Daniel F. Galouye (Dawkins even goes on to say that he cannot think of how to disprove it), which is considerably smaller than the Bostrom simulations, his words clearly show (please, take a look at the page if you don't believe me) that the programmers of Bostrom simulations would also not be gods, in the way Dawkins uses the word 'god', and for exactly the same reasons, regardless of how powerful they are.

Granted, someone might say that even if Dawkins' usage wouldn't render the designers of a Bostrom simulation gods and so his brand of atheism wouldn't be threatened by that, some other atheists use the word 'atheism' in a way that differs from that of Dawkins, and according to their usage, the Bostrom designers would be gods, so if someone can show that their beliefs about simulations + multiverse entail that there are gods, that's a defeater for their brand of atheism.

I do not know whether you'd like to go down that road, but if someone were to say something like that, I would ask them to make their case (i.e., to show with at least a reasonable degree of precision what kind of multiverse, assumptions, etc. they start from and how they reach the conclusion they want to reach about the beliefs of the atheists in question), plus at least some details about the group of atheist whose beliefs the argument is targeting.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "No one, not even humans, 'only have power' within a simulation (save for the ones who exist in the simulation of course). Further, "puny" is being used here as a relative term. Compared to any denizen in the denizen in the simulation, they have phenomenal power. Compared to beings outside? They may have phenomenal power, but not necessarily so. On the other hand, that applies to Zeus and his fellow deities."

Oh, come on. I already explained in detail those scenarios. Now, I summarized one of them because you didn't want to read the long posts, okay, but you're nitpicking on the point about their having power only in those scenarios?
I mean they only have their great powers within their simulations, and in their own universe, they're like us, or like something that could eventually evolve from us (with tech, etc.) in our universe, or something like it, given the way our universe works.


Crude: "You are aware that internet polls aren't really a scientific concept, right? Not to mention that one part I've stressed in response is that the modern atheistic view has changed radically in some quarters from what it was in every other age? "
1. Not only am I aware of the fact that internet polls are not science. I already explicitly said "Yes, it's merely anecdotal, but it's more than going back and forth on this semantic matter·" in the posts you declined reading, and to which I was now referring you to for details.

Crude: "I invite readers to do the same. Look at Zeus: look at what he was. Look at his origins, look at his power. Yet Zeus has been and still is called a god. Now, consider beings that are radically more powerful than Zeus, have accomplished more than Zeus managed, etc. Ask yourself, does it seem as if atheism and consideration of gods underwent a strange change from what it used to be, to what it is now? Does it seem as if it underwent that change precisely because nature and technology turned out to be far different from what atheists for so long assumed it to be, or be capable of?"

You invite readers to do the same, but keep replying ignoring my detailed previous replies. Christianity keep changing, despite the alleged inspiration. Despite different meanings of the words, atheists never claimed inspiration, so not a problem.

Yes, of course, I know you deny that it's a problem for Christianity.

Crude said...

Alright, the Tegmark 4 civilization example is a difficult one. Could you described at least a little bit those beings, their origin, etc., in that particular case?

Tegmark's L4, as I understand it, is so broad that you don't even need to get into simulation talk. The standard is one of mathematical consistency, so conceivably a universe where a being's willful desires results in the creation of said desire is a go for the Tegmark L4.

Granted, someone might say that even if Dawkins' usage wouldn't render the designers of a Bostrom simulation gods and so his brand of atheism wouldn't be threatened by that, some other atheists use the word 'atheism' in a way that differs from that of Dawkins, and according to their usage, the Bostrom designers would be gods, so if someone can show that their beliefs about simulations + multiverse entail that there are gods, that's a defeater for their brand of atheism.

I think you may have misunderstood me. You're giving these examples as if I denied that any atheists, or any prominent atheists, would in fact deny that such beings were gods. But I at no point in this conversation that that. In fact, I've maintained throughout this conversation that modern atheism, particularly among people who have encountered simulation-style talk, has been amended to rule out talk of such beings as 'gods'.

What I've said is that, historically, it's clear that such beings would have been regarded as gods. Now, one thing I'd be willing to get into is the following - Dawkins justifying why such beings would not be gods. If the sole reason is 'Well, they'd be natural and physical', I'm going to call that a red herring - 'natural' and 'physical', and unless I misinterpreted you earlier you agree with this, are ridiculously plastic words, particularly nowadays.

Crude said...

Oh, come on. I already explained in detail those scenarios. Now, I summarized one of them because you didn't want to read the long posts, okay, but you're nitpicking on the point about their having power only in those scenarios?
I mean they only have their great powers within their simulations, and in their own universe, they're like us, or like something that could eventually evolve from us (with tech, etc.) in our universe, or something like it, given the way our universe works.


That sounds an awful lot like Zeus having tremendous power over humans, but when it comes to other gods, he's entirely capable of having his ass beat. So no, I don't regard this as a nitpick - I'm pointing out a problem with your reasoning on this front.

1. Not only am I aware of the fact that internet polls are not science. I already explicitly said "Yes, it's merely anecdotal, but it's more than going back and forth on this semantic matter·" in the posts you declined reading, and to which I was now referring you to for details.

Alright, I missed the anecdotal comment.

You invite readers to do the same, but keep replying ignoring my detailed previous replies. Christianity keep changing, despite the alleged inspiration. Despite different meanings of the words, atheists never claimed inspiration, so not a problem.

I'm ignoring the discussion of Christianity because it's a red herring. Christianity isn't under discussion here, so why the move to change the topic? Consider Christianity false, and nothing about my argument changes.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "You seem to accept that Zeus was a god. Is this correct? If not, I'd like to hear why not.

If so, I'd like to hear what made Zeus a god, in your own words. "

Are you asking me for a definition of 'god' that matches usage and would give us an analytic reduction in terms of terms not involving the word 'god'? (or a synthetic reduction? but that wouldn't work without empirical evidence, and we don't have models of gods; plus, you would still have an open question?)

If you pointed at this animal, and asked me whether that's a horse, obviously I would say 'yes'.

If you asked me what made that animal a horse, I would not be able to answer that question. The same for 'car', 'cat', 'house', or pretty much nearly all terms used to refer to the world around us.
I have no answer for questions about truth-makers even in the case of usual terms about abundant objects, where fuzziness is very limited. I have never seen any non-refutable answer to those. No way I would suggest an answer in the case of 'god'. I'm just using the word intuitively, as I grasp the term, based on my experience when understanding it, but I variation seems considerable.

Angra Mainyu said...


Coincidentally, there is an ongoing discussion on the issue of truth makers (someone is raising Open Question arguments and the is/ought problem) in this thread at FRDB; you might want to take a look at my arguments there for more details.

Crude said...

Are you asking me for a definition of 'god' that matches usage and would give us an analytic reduction in terms of terms not involving the word 'god'? (or a synthetic reduction? but that wouldn't work without empirical evidence, and we don't have models of gods; plus, you would still have an open question?)

I'm asking you some clear questions.

Zeus: is Zeus a god? Yes or no?

If no, why not?

If yes, why is Zeus a god?

You say: I have no answer for questions about truth-makers even in the case of usual terms about abundant objects, where fuzziness is very limited. I have never seen any non-refutable answer to those. No way I would suggest an answer in the case of 'god'. I'm just using the word intuitively, as I grasp the term, based on my experience when understanding it, but I variation seems considerable.

Alright, so your answer isn't non-refutable. You say it's intuitive. I'd still like to hear just what the standard is, if you do think Zeus is a god. What makes him so?

Angra Mainyu said...

sorry, this is the link to the thread (if you're interested, I'd recommend the exchange involving Bomb#20, Bobinius and me).

http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=320746

Crude: "It's not the beings inside the simulations, per se, that I've been pointing out as 'gods', but the creators of those simulations. "

I know. I meant 'in the scenarios involving those simulations'; I already explained everything in detail; now I was speaking more quickly and without aiming at precision. Sorry, I thought it was clear enough. I'm actually tired.

Crude: "Nor have I been saying that said definition is 'universal' - I know better than that, precisely because people object to it. What I am saying is that the considerations of what would qualify as a god is such that, throughout far and away most of history, beings of the sort I'm describing would clearly have been regarded as gods, and that the change in attitude is relatively recent."

You had been saying that I was modifying "the" definition of god, saying that my alleged semantic move would be obvious, etc., so while not universal, it seemed nearly so (details in the posts you declined reading).


Crude: "I haven't said that modern day people who describe themselves as atheists would all cop to the definitions I'm suggesting. If anything, I've pointed out that yes, nowadays people would dispute that. I've pointed out a problem, considered in terms of what qualifies as a god historically, and the position of atheists historically, with their standard."

You brought up Dawkins. But anyway, as I said, I'm not an expert on comparative usage of 'god' since the English word in question was coined.
If you could please explain whose beliefs you're targeting, that might help.

Crude: "Again, I dispute this, and will also let others read on and judge for themselves. I think I've been quite clear in what I'm arguing and suggesting, and have been interpreting your responses reasonably."
I dispute this. I would say that you've continued to misinterpret some of them after I carefully clarified them (perhaps, because you didn't read the posts clarifying them and giving details?). I'm not sure any readers are interested on this particular point, but it's all on record anyway.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "They aren't subject to the laws of the simulation, obviously.

It can't be that merely being subject to natural restraints is the issue, unless you're prepared to say Zeus and company (who all were subject so such restraints) were therefore not gods.?"

No, I was asking about what kind of actual restraints (whatever 'natural' restraints means); also, their origin might help assess the matter, etc. (I do not have a theory of truth-makers for 'gods'; if you have one, please go ahead).

Crude said...

I know. I meant 'in the scenarios involving those simulations'; I already explained everything in detail; now I was speaking more quickly and without aiming at precision. Sorry, I thought it was clear enough. I'm actually tired.

Not a problem, just being clear.

You had been saying that I was modifying "the" definition of god, saying that my alleged semantic move would be obvious, etc., so while not universal, it seemed nearly so (details in the posts you declined reading).

Yes, I think that discounting such beings as gods is, in fact, a modification over the long-standing usage, and a clear one. But I was not saying at any point that my definition was in use universally - hence my talk of how it would be regarded as a pagan theistic scenario 'in any other age'.

You brought up Dawkins. But anyway, as I said, I'm not an expert on comparative usage of 'god' since the English word in question was coined.

I gave an example of how it would deal with the atheist position even if Dawkins made a caveat for 'certain kinds of gods'. I never said he subscribed to the view I was outlining.

I dispute this. I would say that you've continued to misinterpret some of them after I carefully clarified them (perhaps, because you didn't read the posts clarifying them and giving details?). I'm not sure any readers are interested on this particular point, but it's all on record anyway.

Well, I think we're hashing things out fine now, and yes, I do dispute your reading of things. So hey, onlookers can do whatever.

You brought up Dawkins. But anyway, as I said, I'm not an expert on comparative usage of 'god' since the English word in question was coined.
If you could please explain whose beliefs you're targeting, that might help.


I'm arguing that the standards of what qualifies as a god, historically, would easily cover beings of the sort I've been describing - and that the modern change is not only a considerable break from the view, but superficially inconsistent given the considerations I've outlined.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Tegmark's L4, as I understand it, is so broad that you don't even need to get into simulation talk. The standard is one of mathematical consistency, so conceivably a universe where a being's willful desires results in the creation of said desire is a go for the Tegmark L4."
Any conceivably universe, souls and all?
I mean, would beings like Zeus, etc., exist there?
Okay, if that is what Tegmark actually proposes, you don't need anything else. Under some usual concepts of 'gods', there would be gods (though not the monotheistic God).
I don't know what Dawkins would say.

Crude: "I think you may have misunderstood me. You're giving these examples as if I denied that any atheists, or any prominent atheists, would in fact deny that such beings were gods. But I at no point in this conversation that that. In fact, I've maintained throughout this conversation that modern atheism, particularly among people who have encountered simulation-style talk, has been amended to rule out talk of such beings as 'gods'."
Are you not denying that my usage of words like 'gods' and 'atheism' is common, in the context of present-day English speaking countries?
If you're not, great.
If you are, please clarify.

In any event, if you're not trying to challenge the belief of many or most people who call themselves 'atheists' these days, I'm not sure why you kept arguing about simulations and multiverses.
If your claim is that the meaning of the word 'atheism' has changed specifically in response to scientific advances, I do not know about that, but I would ask for linguistic and historical evidence of usage of that word, etc.


Crude: "What I've said is that, historically, it's clear that such beings would have been regarded as gods. Now, one thing I'd be willing to get into is the following - Dawkins justifying why such beings would not be gods. If the sole reason is 'Well, they'd be natural and physical', I'm going to call that a red herring - 'natural' and 'physical', and unless I misinterpreted you earlier you agree with this, are ridiculously plastic words, particularly nowadays."
Dawkins gives different reasons; the word 'natural' is defined (still vague to some extent) on his book.

I can give a simpler reason for how I would assess that those aren't gods (i.e., the programmers of the simulations in the cases I described at least):

I learned how to use the word 'god' by reading and/or watching (TV, etc.) some fictional or hypothetical entities. God is 'one of those, or similar'; Zeus counts, Yahweh counts, the Ori do not, etc., and the 'similar' part is picked intuitively (as is the case with most words).

Given that different people are exposed to different such hypothetical beings, etc., there will be considerable variation. However, my assessment on this particular scenarios seems reasonably common. I do not know what people who speak English in, say, the 1800s would have said. If you want to make a case about it, okay, I'm listening. It seems linguistic/historical evidence would be required.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "I'm ignoring the discussion of Christianity because it's a red herring. Christianity isn't under discussion here, so why the move to change the topic? Consider Christianity false, and nothing about my argument changes."

You've been changing the topic a few times; if you make a claim about changing uses of words, I think it's find to point out changing Christian beliefs.

But alright, if you want to make a historical case for changes in the meaning of the word 'atheist' and 'god' as used by self-identified atheists in response to historical scientific and/or philosophical developments, I'm all ears.

Angra Mainyu said...



Crude: "I'm asking you some clear questions.

Zeus: is Zeus a god? Yes or no?

If no, why not?

If yes, why is Zeus a god? "
They're not clear to me, not only due to the vagueness of 'god', but because of the fact that it's a truth-maker question (see the thread I linked to for details), and while I can post some properties usually associated with them, that wouldn't avoid exceptions.

I couldn't answer that in the case of 'horse', 'dog', 'human', either.

As for how I assess that Zeus is a god, plausibly (I do not remember the details) he was actually one of the paradigmatic examples, when I learned to use the word 'god'; else, he was similar enough, using the terms as I intuitively grasp them.

Crude: "Alright, so your answer isn't non-refutable. You say it's intuitive. I'd still like to hear just what the standard is, if you do think Zeus is a god. What makes him so?"
If you asked me what makes Lassie a dog, I could not give an exceptionless answer. I cannot give such answers in regard to any usual terms. I can point out some of the properties associated with dogs, but exceptions can be found as far as I can tell.

If you asked me what makes Obama a human, or a person, I would be in the same situation. The problem extends generally to truth-maker questions.

So, I do not know what makes him so, but that's not a peculiar feature of the word 'god' as far as I can tell (the degree of discrepancy in usage seems to be so, though, when compared to most words).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "I'm arguing that the standards of what qualifies as a god, historically, would easily cover beings of the sort I've been describing - and that the modern change is not only a considerable break from the view, but superficially inconsistent given the considerations I've outlined. "
I see you're claiming that there was such change, but I do not see linguistic evidence.

As for consistency, I do not know where you found a contradiction. Could you elaborate, please?

Angra Mainyu said...

Ben,

Good to see my choice of name didn't go unnoticed. ;)

Cheers.

Crude said...

Okay, if that is what Tegmark actually proposes, you don't need anything else. Under some usual concepts of 'gods', there would be gods (though not the monotheistic God).
I don't know what Dawkins would say.


Alright, so at least we have that.

re you not denying that my usage of words like 'gods' and 'atheism' is common, in the context of present-day English speaking countries?

Unsure. I think it's common among some subsections of atheists. I think it's not common among others. I think most people have it depending on how the issues are presented. I think historically most would have copped to my version of it easily.

In any event, if you're not trying to challenge the belief of many or most people who call themselves 'atheists' these days, I'm not sure why you kept arguing about simulations and multiverses.
If your claim is that the meaning of the word 'atheism' has changed specifically in response to scientific advances, I do not know about that, but I would ask for linguistic and historical evidence of usage of that word, etc.


I'm saying that the word 'atheism' has changed, sometimes specifically in response to scientific advances, other times due to a lack of reflection.

Dawkins gives different reasons; the word 'natural' is defined (still vague to some extent) on his book.

The definitions you cited from Dawkins aren't encouraging - vague 'you know, physical - whatever that is' and 'not supernatural' standards.

I learned how to use the word 'god' by reading and/or watching (TV, etc.) some fictional or hypothetical entities. God is 'one of those, or similar'; Zeus counts, Yahweh counts, the Ori do not, etc., and the 'similar' part is picked intuitively (as is the case with most words).

And the Emperor in 40k counts, as do the Chaos Gods. Just to get geeky.

I think, upon reflection, the justifications for distinguishing about the types I'm talking about drop away and become difficult to justify. Anecdotally, I can cite at least Bostrom in agreeing among the modern set. Historically, I think my case is made far easier.

But alright, if you want to make a historical case for changes in the meaning of the word 'atheist' and 'god' as used by self-identified atheists in response to historical scientific and/or philosophical developments, I'm all ears.

I've been making it. Maybe you haven't understood, maybe it hasn't been to your satisfaction, but I have been making my argument on that front.

I see you're claiming that there was such change, but I do not see linguistic evidence.

As for consistency, I do not know where you found a contradiction. Could you elaborate, please?


Again, I've given this evidence. I think when I give statements about 'A being who created a universe/world inhabited by... and has control over...' etc, etc, I'm getting to the linguistic heart of the matter.

But, you're saying words are - just as a matter of fact - vague to the point where you couldn't define why Obama is a human. Okay. Would you admit that there is a historical standard for 'human' that Obama would typically meet the bar for? Would you say if I said that Obama is 'not human', that you couldn't determine that I was using some novel definition of human that didn't track to historical uses of the term?

Likewise, are you suggesting that atheists would be advised to ditch their atheism and become agnostic on the grounds that, conceivably, there may exist some things reasonably called gods that their definitions do not track to and that they have not considered?

Crude said...

But, you're saying words are - just as a matter of fact - vague to the point where you couldn't define why Obama is a human

And before you jump on this, I'll qualify that you're saying there's no way to do this in some unchallengeable way.

But my point is, if you're making that move, then it seems like you're scuttling atheism across the board anyway - and thus atheists (including Dawkins) should pull back from strong belief in the non-existence of gods to... what, basic 'Can't even give the odds' agnosticism?

Still, you're admitting Zeus is a god, but you won't get into what features make Zeus a god - to you it's just 'well, you know, they called him a god so that's what he is'. I think it's reasonable to expect more than that, because bare particulars aren't the only things a person can pick up from that sort of transmission, but also standards of classification. I'll bet you you don't walk into a friend's house and point at what they call a pet cat and, since you've never seen it before, go 'Oh goodness, what manner of creature is this?'

If you really have no category or decisive features to regard what is and isn't a god other than 'well, I hear that one is', then I'll - at least for a moment - advance the view that the definition of gods I'm referring to is a live option and has a pretty damn nice pedigree.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Unsure. I think it's common among some subsections of atheists. I think it's not common among others. I think most people have it depending on how the issues are presented. I think historically most would have copped to my version of it easily."
Okay, so you're not denying that my usage is common, but doubting it is.
I didn't learn to use the word 'god' as an atheist (I was raised a Catholic), and I've interacted with a zillion theists and atheists using it.

While I do not say that there is a majority usage of the word, I would think my usage probably roughly matches some usages that are considerably common, and in some cases, my intuitive assessment of whether an entity is a god would be shared by most. I guess the question would be whether programmers in Bostrom cases fall into that category.


Note: While I don't think it's relevant due to my level of exposure to people using the word 'god', you might think it is, so just in case you'd like to consider it, my comments about how I (originally) learned the word 'god' are 'modulo translation' so to speak (English is my second language).
I suppose it might be suggested that my usage would be only common among subsections of atheists in English, even if it would be common if we were talking about 'dios' in Spanish. The reason I think this isn't relevant is that the paradigmatic examples of 'dios' and 'no es un dios' from which I learn to use it would also be examples of 'god' and 'not a god' (at least, for many) in English, so the translation shouldn't be relevant (and now I've encountered and/or used the words more frequently in English)

As for your historical claim, if you'd like to bring historical evidence, I'll take a look.

Crude: "I'm saying that the word 'atheism' has changed, sometimes specifically in response to scientific advances, other times due to a lack of reflection."
Since I would say that the word has several meanings even today, and different people learn it differently by exposure to different entities, I tend to agree that it's changed; I'd even say it keeps changing, though the reasons are varied.
For instance, maybe in the past, more people tended to learn that word with examples from, say, Christianity and Greek mythology, but nowadays examples from different fictions may play a significant role.

I would like to ask for evidence of the specific changes you're claiming here, if you want to argue for them. I don't deny it happened, but absent evidence I won't accept it, either.

Crude: "The definitions you cited from Dawkins aren't encouraging - vague 'you know, physical - whatever that is' and 'not supernatural' standards."

Sure. He might even be using the word intuitively, and providing a definition that attempts to match his usage. If so, I've never seen such an attempt succeed.

Crude: "And the Emperor in 40k counts, as do the Chaos Gods. Just to get geeky.

I think, upon reflection, the justifications for distinguishing about the types I'm talking about drop away and become difficult to justify. Anecdotally, I can cite at least Bostrom in agreeing among the modern set. Historically, I think my case is made far easier. "
You mean that you have anecdotal evidence that most people would consider Bostrom scenarios in which the programmers evolved from humans and live in a universe (outside their simulations) more or less like ours, gods? If so, did you get the evidence in Christian or atheist venues, or neither? Is is a lot?

Regarding the historical case, as before I'll look at the evidence if you'd like to bring it; still, that alone wouldn't be show it's a change in response to scientific advances. I can't rule it out, but for all I know, it might be that fictions have had a greater impact. What do I know?

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "I've been making it. Maybe you haven't understood, maybe it hasn't been to your satisfaction, but I have been making my argument on that front. "
Okay, then could you please briefly mention the main points of your case (i.e., where you got the evidence from, what that evidence is, etc.)?


Crude: "But, you're saying words are - just as a matter of fact - vague to the point where you couldn't define why Obama is a human. Okay."
I'm not sure that's a matter of vagueness; the word 'human' is far less vague than 'god', in my assessment. I do suspect that the general difficulty in giving such definitions, if it can be overcome at all, may well be compounded by vagueness in cases like 'god'.

Side note: If you'd like to see more details on my take on this, the thread I mentioned earlier might help (http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=320746); also, posts by Bomb#20 would provide an interesting read for anyone interested on the subject, from a perspective that they may not have run into before).

Crude: "Would you admit that there is a historical standard for 'human' that Obama would typically meet the bar for?"

I think that there is probably far less change in the usage of 'human', though perhaps findings of other hominids and/or learning of evolution has had a slight impact in usage of people familiar with that, and might have created some slight divergence between subsets of the population.
I think that Obama would always meet the bar for 'human'.

Crude: "Could you say if I said that Obama is 'not human', that you couldn't determine that I was using some novel definition of human that didn't track to historical uses of the term?"
Well, you wouldn't say it, but if someone did, I would be able to determine that they're using a non-standard definition, or making a mistaken claim due to racist assumptions, or both (i.e., I suppose some groups might develop racist usages), etc.

Crude: "Likewise, are you suggesting that atheists would be advised to ditch their atheism and become agnostic on the grounds that, conceivably, there may exist some things reasonably called gods that their definitions do not track to and that they have not considered?"

I do not think that that's similar if their usage of 'gods' if common today; the word 'human' has not undergone such change, and any use of 'human' under which Obama is not a human would non-standard. To put it simple, in English, Obama is a human.
On the other hand, I do not think that a usage of the word 'god' according to which the Bostrom scenarios in which the programmers evolved from humans and live in a universe more or less like ours, are not gods, is a non-standard usage.

That said, I think that words like 'atheist', 'atheism', etc., are only good as preliminary, rough approximations to what a person believes on a number of matters, and only to that extent they might be useful. But I think (and this goes both for people who identify themselves as atheists and theists) when it comes to making philosophical arguments, often they're not good enough, so it's better to define the thesis one will defend in terms of words that are clear enough (i.e., very little intersubjective differences in usage among the target audience).

At any rate, I wouldn't describe the change you propose (if I get it right) as "ditching their atheism" (which suggests a change in their beliefs, beyond the meaning of the words), but rather, a case of changing their terminology for the purposes of clarification.

In fact, someone might even want to coin more words, for a finer classification. That might be useful in some contexts.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "And before you jump on this, I'll qualify that you're saying there's no way to do this in some unchallengeable way.

But my point is, if you're making that move, then it seems like you're scuttling atheism across the board anyway - and thus atheists (including Dawkins) should pull back from strong belief in the non-existence of gods to... what, basic 'Can't even give the odds' agnosticism? "
I do not see why the odds would be affected.
The point I'm making is that I can't even give necessary and sufficient conditions for 'human', 'horse', etc., but that wouldn't suggest they should change their beliefs if they agreed with me on that (except, perhaps, for reconsidering some beliefs about semantics, truth-makers, etc., but that's another matter).

For instance, I have a strong belief that humans and horses exists, dinosaurs do not but they did, and some of the descendants of some dinosaurs still exist, and so on (the word 'god' is much vaguer in my assessment, but that's not what your objection is based on).

Crude: "Still, you're admitting Zeus is a god, but you won't get into what features make Zeus a god - to you it's just 'well, you know, they called him a god so that's what he is'. I think it's reasonable to expect more than that, because bare particulars aren't the only things a person can pick up from that sort of transmission, but also standards of classification. I'll bet you you don't walk into a friend's house and point at what they call a pet cat and, since you've never seen it before, go 'Oh goodness, what manner of creature is this?'"
Indeed, I wouldn't say that. I would surely understand that it's a cat. However, if someone were to ask me to give necessary and sufficient conditions for catness, which would withstand challenges from hypothetical scenarios, I would not be able to do that.

At least, I've not been able to. I don't know of anyone who has. Interestingly, the case of 'cat' is the same example used by the poster 'Bomb#20' in the FRDB thread I mentioned; I recommend his posts in that thread presenting the difficulty.

That said, I do agree that we get standards for classification. In the case of 'cat', I would say that we get far more precise standards than in the case of 'god', though even 'cat' has some vagueness (start playing with genetic engineering or go back in time, change the animal gradually, etc.).

In the case of 'god', the standards we get are very poor, so there is a considerably degree

Crude: "If you really have no category or decisive features to regard what is and isn't a god other than 'well, I hear that one is', then I'll - at least for a moment - advance the view that the definition of gods I'm referring to is a live option and has a pretty damn nice pedigree."
You mentioned that a sufficient condition was a certain amount of power, but the amount wasn't specified, and I've not seen proposed necessary conditions. Maybe I missed it (zillion posts; tired guy); if so, please let me know when you posted it, or repost it.

Crude said...

While I do not say that there is a majority usage of the word, I would think my usage probably roughly matches some usages that are considerably common, and in some cases, my intuitive assessment of whether an entity is a god would be shared by most. I guess the question would be whether programmers in Bostrom cases fall into that category.

See, this is where I'd ask you to name the features of pagan gods that distinguish themselves from the features of aliens such that you regard them as being in two different categories, but you've already said - or at least, this is how I've interpreted your words - that you define 'god' based on, basically, little more than specific association. 'Zeus is a god because people call him a god. This guy is not a god because people don't call him a god.'

You say that the 'god' categories are fuzzy. I don't believe they're that fuzzy. More below.

Sure. He might even be using the word intuitively, and providing a definition that attempts to match his usage. If so, I've never seen such an attempt succeed.

Considering he's on record as saying he believes God's existence is a question that can be settled by science, these caveats do a number on his reasoning.

You mean that you have anecdotal evidence that most people would consider Bostrom scenarios in which the programmers evolved from humans and live in a universe (outside their simulations) more or less like ours, gods? If so, did you get the evidence in Christian or atheist venues, or neither? Is is a lot?

What I've been saying is that what I describe when I talk about these simulated universes, created worlds, etc, would have uncritically been recognized as gods historically, and that whatever change has taken place is extremely recent and either unreflective or unsupportable.

For one thing, just think about what's at work in the basic claim of 'That's an alien, not a god.' Since alien simply means extraterrestrial life, it's a little like saying, 'A banana isn't food, it's a fruit.'

I've used Zeus a lot as an example. Another example would be Mormonism. I think the gods in mormonism are regarded by most as gods, and historically always were regarded as gods from a neutral perspective. The whole line of 'they're not gods, they're aliens!' bit, insofar as it takes place, is recent.

Okay, then could you please briefly mention the main points of your case (i.e., where you got the evidence from, what that evidence is, etc.)?

Hard to summarize them all but, here's a few considerations:

* 'God/gods' have never required omnimax attributes to qualify as being what they are. Hence the uncritical acceptance of Zeus, Ares, etc as gods. Further, atheists themselves routinely include Zeus, Ares, etc in the list of beings they specifically deny the existence of.

* 'Beings creating worlds populated by beings they have near complete control over.' was always a dead giveaway that you were talking about a god. Not even necessary (again - see the various pantheons of gods), but pretty much exclusive. From what I read, Hume in his dialogues regarding the argument from design never questions whether the designers would be gods/deities - and he questions just about everything else.

* 'Alien/extraterrestrial' isn't a category in obvious exclusive competition with 'god' since the various pagan gods at the least (Zeus, etc) and quite possibly even the God of Classical Theism qualify under the normal definition.

Not an exhaustive list, but it hits some major points.

Crude said...

You mentioned that a sufficient condition was a certain amount of power, but the amount wasn't specified, and I've not seen proposed necessary conditions. Maybe I missed it (zillion posts; tired guy); if so, please let me know when you posted it, or repost it.

Intentional world-creation with worlds being populated by the beings in question. I don't think the standard even has to be that high, but it's a dead giveaway.

I do not see why the odds would be affected.

Because if a category is fuzzy to the point that you can't tell what's in or out of it, that potentially can impact the ability to give odds-statements about the category's instantiation. I think that's the case with the category in question under the conditions of fuzziness you're talking about.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "See, this is where I'd ask you to name the features of pagan gods that distinguish themselves from the features of aliens such that you regard them as being in two different categories, but you've already said - or at least, this is how I've interpreted your words - that you define 'god' based on, basically, little more than specific association. 'Zeus is a god because people call him a god. This guy is not a god because people don't call him a god.'

You say that the 'god' categories are fuzzy. I don't believe they're that fuzzy. More below. "
I'd say if there is a story involving Zeus, and Zeus and Hera had a daughter who inherits their powers, intellect, etc., lives and Olympus and behaves more or less like them, she would be a god in the (very fuzzy) sense I'm talking about, regardless of what I call her.

There may also be a context-dependency here, in the sense that similarity of the universe/realm they inhabit (e.g., the world as represented in some Greek myths) might determine whether entities with certain capabilities within them are gods.

That aside, I think the same person might even use the word 'god' differently in different contexts of talk, which might result in further miscommunication, and perhaps (if the person in question is not careful) sometimes equivocations.

Crude: "What I've been saying is that what I describe when I talk about these simulated universes, created worlds, etc, would have uncritically been recognized as gods historically, and that whatever change has taken place is extremely recent and either unreflective or unsupportable."
Okay, I get you've been saying that. I was asking about the evidence.

Anyway, if we humans made simulations in which we have such powers, but outside them we're still, well, we, with all of our puniness, I wouldn't assess that that's a god, and I do not see the evidence for the claim that that would have been historically the case.

The same applies to the case of beings who aren't humans but evolved from humans in a universe with our laws.

That said, I do not think the change you're arguing happened, if it did, was carried out reflectively; changes in the meanings of words usually aren't.
But then, I do not know that the problems, errors, etc., involved in the usage of 'god' today is greater than it was before, or that any changes were problematic (i.e., why are things worse than they were, in terms of what people mean?).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "For one thing, just think about what's at work in the basic claim of 'That's an alien, not a god.' Since alien simply means extraterrestrial life, it's a little like saying, 'A banana isn't food, it's a fruit.' "
That is the case if there is clearly no conflict between 'alien' and 'god'; but it may well be that when they're talking about 'alien' in that context, what they have in mind is something that evolved on another planet in a universe like ours, etc., and that does not overlap what they mean by 'god'.

Or maybe they're wrong. I would have to consider specific cases. Also, the same person may use both 'god' and 'alien' differently in different contexts, etc. In some cases, the 'it's an alien, not a god' issue may be a case in which there is no fact of the matter as to whether it's a god, people are talking past each other, etc.

Crude: "Another example would be Mormonism. I think the gods in mormonism are regarded by most as gods, and historically always were regarded as gods from a neutral perspective. The whole line of 'they're not gods, they're aliens!' bit, insofar as it takes place, is recent. "
Plausibly it is new, since the word 'alien' became popular more recently.
But that line is often raised by some Christians (e.g.: http://www.christiansontheclock.org/archives/the-mormon-belief-system-god-is-an-alien; http://carm.org/questions-for-mormons).

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Hard to summarize them all but, here's a few considerations:

* 'God/gods' have never required omnimax attributes to qualify as being what they are. Hence the uncritical acceptance of Zeus, Ares, etc as gods. Further, atheists themselves routinely include Zeus, Ares, etc in the list of beings they specifically deny the existence of.

* 'Beings creating worlds populated by beings they have near complete control over.' was always a dead giveaway that you were talking about a god. Not even necessary (again - see the various pantheons of gods), but pretty much exclusive. From what I read, Hume in his dialogues regarding the argument from design never questions whether the designers would be gods/deities - and he questions just about everything else.

* 'Alien/extraterrestrial' isn't a category in obvious exclusive competition with 'god' since the various pagan gods at the least (Zeus, etc) and quite possibly even the God of Classical Theism qualify under the normal definition.

Not an exhaustive list, but it hits some major points. "
Thanks for the list. I've got a few points for now:

1. Regarding omnimax attributes, I would agree that those were not required for at least some usual conceptions of 'god'. But that does not support the contention that a certain level of power that entities like Zeus had was a sufficient condition, but just that a much greater power was not a necessary one.
2. Even if Zeus level of power used to be sufficient (but I do not know that), it's not clear that the power of the Bostrom programmers would be enough as well. In their simulation, they had great power, but outside it, they're very weak (yes, they have the power to create the simulation and controlling it, but that power is already counter).
3. Alien/extraterrestrial is also a vague term, and it's not clear that people claiming 'alien, not god' are not using them as exclusive categories. In any case, if even the god of classical theism plausibly qualifies as an alien, and clearly she qualifies as a god by any standards, this would only mean that those making that particular argument are incurring some error, but I do not see why this would support the change in meaning you're arguing for. If you're saying that some people are being inconsistent in their claims, I'd say that's almost certain (well, certain), though I don't think that all people saying 'alien, not god' are.
4. Regarding beings creating worlds populated by beings they have near complete control over, I agree the beings that were historically considered were usually called 'gods'. But those beings did not inhabit also a realm in which they were as weak as we are, or as some future people who evolve from us in our universe might be (given the way our universe is, etc.).
In fact, going by the common usage among people traditionally calling themselves 'atheists' (and other English speakers), it seems to me that any being who inhabits a realm in which she is as weak as we are, or as some future people who evolve from us in our universe might be (given the way our universe is), would not be considered gods. Obviously, that cuts both ways, since those puny entities traditionally were not capable of creating simulations in which they would have full control.
So, my point here is that examples like Bostrom or similar ones simply weren't considered at the time (at least, I know of no such examples).

5. Aside from 1.-4., if there was a shift in meaning, we would still need evidence that the changed resulted from some atheists moving the goalposts or something like that.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Because if a category is fuzzy to the point that you can't tell what's in or out of it, that potentially can impact the ability to give odds-statements about the category's instantiation. I think that's the case with the category in question under the conditions of fuzziness you're talking about."

It seems you've mixed my point about fuzziness with the point that I can't give truth-makers. Those aren't the same points. Perhaps, I've not been clear enough, so let me clarify:

I do think that fuzziness would include further complications in a quest for truth-makers, since any hypothesis is tested against examples (i.e., against hypothetical situations in which people use their intuitive grasp of the terms to see whether a proposed reduction matches their verdict), and too much fuzziness plausibly would affect a number of those scenarios.

However, even in cases of very little fuzziness, like 'horse', or even 'human', I wouldn't be able to give necessary and sufficient conditions.

But that aside, my response about the odds was to the following argument.

You said:

Crude: [quoting from your previous post]"But, you're saying words are - just as a matter of fact - vague to the point where you couldn't define why Obama is a human.

And before you jump on this, I'll qualify that you're saying there's no way to do this in some unchallengeable way.

But my point is, if you're making that move, then it seems like you're scuttling atheism across the board anyway - and thus atheists (including Dawkins) should pull back from strong belief in the non-existence of gods to... what, basic 'Can't even give the odds' agnosticism?"

My point about truth-makers and definitions wasn't the same about the point about fuzziness, but going by your argument about 'human', I do not see how your conclusion about the odds, if applicable, would be limited to the case of atheism.

In other words, why wouldn't you suggest that I can't even give the odds to whether humans exist? (since that wasn't fuzziness-based)?

But my inability to provide necessary and sufficient non-trivial conditions for 'human' (i.e., reduce 'X is a human' analytically to a proposition in terms of properties in some sense simpler or easier to assess than humanness, or something like that, rather than 'a sufficient condition for X to be human is that X is human') does not preclude me from assessing that the proposition that humans exist is so probable that it's beyond a reasonable doubt.

To be clear, I'm not saying that it's never going to be possible to give such a reduction, but that all attempts I've seen or made so far failed (also, I'm very skeptical if the reduction is supposed to be a conjunction in terms of irreducible terms, but that aside).

Crude said...

Angra,

There may also be a context-dependency here, in the sense that similarity of the universe/realm they inhabit (e.g., the world as represented in some Greek myths) might determine whether entities with certain capabilities within them are gods.

That aside, I think the same person might even use the word 'god' differently in different contexts of talk, which might result in further miscommunication, and perhaps (if the person in question is not careful) sometimes equivocations.


Maybe, but I think the preponderance of historical evidence and attestation makes it a lot easier to defend some less-than-fuzzy categories of gods such that the argument I'm making is well supported. I've given arguments and evidence to that end (I think I've been supplying them throughout this conversation), and I'll comment more below.

Anyway, if we humans made simulations in which we have such powers, but outside them we're still, well, we, with all of our puniness, I wouldn't assess that that's a god, and I do not see the evidence for the claim that that would have been historically the case.

You keep making reference to 'puniness', but as near as I can tell you keep glossing over my reply: Zeus' power, relative to the other gods, was pretty meager. This was a god who could be tricked, who could be beaten up, who could be captured, and who himself was paranoid about his being overthrown and even eliminated.

In other words, the claim I see you making here - 'surely a god wouldn't share so many of our frailties' - fails straightaway, because there is no shortage of gods who share these frailties relative to their peers.

That is the case if there is clearly no conflict between 'alien' and 'god'; but it may well be that when they're talking about 'alien' in that context, what they have in mind is something that evolved on another planet in a universe like ours, etc., and that does not overlap what they mean by 'god'.

You're going to have to tell me what definition of alien you're using such that it doesn't apply trivially to God or gods in general. 'An extraterrestrial being' is trivially compatible with various gods, including Zeus.

Plausibly it is new, since the word 'alien' became popular more recently.
But that line is often raised by some Christians


I'm sure it is, but the newness supports my point, not to mention the context. 'Alien' could be applied to Zeus and the god(s) of mormonism equally. But gods are they are.

But that does not support the contention that a certain level of power that entities like Zeus had was a sufficient condition, but just that a much greater power was not a necessary one.

It supports the contention to a degree, since it shows that a god's power could be limited, but they could still be a god all the same. It also specifically plays a role in helping to answer your charge about relative 'puniness'. It may not completely answer it, but it lends some support.

In their simulation, they had great power, but outside it, they're very weak (yes, they have the power to create the simulation and controlling it, but that power is already counter).

First, Bostrom simulators are not necessarily weak - that's not some kind of feature, and in a multiverse scenario there's nothing stopping the head simulator from being supremely powerful outside of the simulation as well. Second, again, Zeus' power outside the scope of humanity was also relatively weak. In fact, I can't recall offhand, but I think even some humans could put one over on Zeus. Sisyphus being one.

Crude said...

Alien/extraterrestrial is also a vague term, and it's not clear that people claiming 'alien, not god' are not using them as exclusive categories.

Alien/ET has the advantage of having a pretty clear and common definition - 'a being not from earth'. Zeus, etc, trivially qualify.

I'll also add another bit of support: Deism. For deism generally, the central defining feature of the deity was 'An intelligent agent who created our world', and while some individuals surmised via reason some traits or aspects of said deity, the relative power of said deity *not in regards to our world* was in principle an open question. What was central on the deism consideration was said being's status as world architect. I'll again note Hume regarding the argument from design: Hume was able to be skeptical of many things about the creator of the world - imperfect, possibly immoral, possibly unlike us, possibly too much like us, possibly numerous rather than singular - but, from what I recall reading, at no point did he say 'and who knows, maybe the deity/deities created this world aren't deities'.

5. Aside from 1.-4., if there was a shift in meaning, we would still need evidence that the changed resulted from some atheists moving the goalposts or something like that.

I'll maintain the culpability aspect, but even if atheists weren't particularly culpable, that there was a shift - and the shift was unjustified - would still be maintained. Let the blame fall on someone else, but an unprincipled shift remains.

But my inability to provide necessary and sufficient non-trivial conditions for 'human' (i.e., reduce 'X is a human' analytically to a proposition in terms of properties in some sense simpler or easier to assess than humanness, or something like that, rather than 'a sufficient condition for X to be human is that X is human') does not preclude me from assessing that the proposition that humans exist is so probable that it's beyond a reasonable doubt.

Don't you find this akin to saying 'I have no reliable definition for X, but I maintain X exists'? I mean, especially in philosophy, where you have people willing to be eliminativists about just about anything, or mereological nihilists.

Crude said...

By the way, this isn't something Angra brought up, but I want to explain one of the reasons I pursue this line of argument.

First, it's literally fascinating to me. I find the very concept interesting, even if I reject various key metaphysical views to get it off the ground, and the scientific requirements are either not there or are pathetic.

Second, atheists regularly make a lot of hay about the polytheist gods like Zeus. They come up repeatedly as 'gods that science showed don't exist/never existed'. But if my line of argument is correct, then that's not only not the case, but those very gods are - again, granting various metaphysics - a live threat to atheism.

Third, even beyond the various interesting fallout that comes in the atheist/theist discussion over such, I think - intellectually speaking - that even though such views aren't popular, they're lingering there as possibilities that not only are worthy of consideration, but are stronger than people give them credit for.

To me, the orthodox Catholic, the whole question is one that's unjustifiably ignored. Elephant in the room, so to speak, even if more for atheists than theists.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude,

I'll address your previous points in a moment, but one quick point about the line of argument you pursue:

Second, atheists regularly make a lot of hay about the polytheist gods like Zeus. They come up repeatedly as 'gods that science showed don't exist/never existed'. But if my line of argument is correct, then that's not only not the case, but those very gods are - again, granting various metaphysics - a live threat to atheism.

Not all atheists make that claim, but I would say that Zeus and other gods have clearly been refuted (well, and Yahweh;), but yes, okay, you won't agree with that one, so let's leave that one aside), even if we grant that other who haven't.
The point that all those claims are false would still be interesting as a point about the general unreliability of religious claims portraying specific entities engaging in specific actions (e.g., why should we believe that your claim of a specific deity doing such and such is true, where we saw all of the others fail?).

Third, even beyond the various interesting fallout that comes in the atheist/theist discussion over such, I think - intellectually speaking - that even though such views aren't popular, they're lingering there as possibilities that not only are worthy of consideration, but are stronger than people give them credit for.

To me, the orthodox Catholic, the whole question is one that's unjustifiably ignored. Elephant in the room, so to speak, even if more for atheists than theists.

From the perspective of this non-theist, it's a question about the meaning of the word that, while interesting to some extent, is not more than that. In particular, it's not relevant to the issue of ontological discussions.

As for whether I'm an atheist, it's a vague word, but given my beliefs (I explained them briefly in an earlier post), I wouldn't say it's improper to use it, though of course just to give a general idea of my beliefs, not details.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Maybe, but I think the preponderance of historical evidence and attestation makes it a lot easier to defend some less-than-fuzzy categories of gods such that the argument I'm making is well supported. I've given arguments and evidence to that end (I think I've been supplying them throughout this conversation), and I'll comment more below."

To be clear, the point you're arguing for is that the meaning of the words 'god' and 'atheism' has recently (when?) changed among some subsets of atheists in response to scientific and/or philosophical progress challenging their views (in addition to other changes), correct? (if not, please let me know).

Crude: "You keep making reference to 'puniness', but as near as I can tell you keep glossing over my reply: Zeus' power, relative to the other gods, was pretty meager. This was a god who could be tricked, who could be beaten up, who could be captured, and who himself was paranoid about his being overthrown and even eliminated."

Zeus power in his original place isn't meager; even if there were also powerful rivals, he has huge power over most that surrounding him. But let me put it this way:

Zeus has far greater power in his universe [i.e., some Greek-mythology verse] than we humans have in ours, or that something that evolves from us in our universe has.
On the other hand, Bostrom programmers in their universe are as week as we are here, or as something that evolves from us in our universe would be. Their power over the simulation is not a power they can translate to make themselves powerful in their world.


Crude: "In other words, the claim I see you making here - 'surely a god wouldn't share so many of our frailties' - fails straightaway, because there is no shortage of gods who share these frailties relative to their peers."
The claim is more like:

Let's contemplate a being that is puny like ours (or something evolved from ours in those conditions, etc.) in her universe, and has great power in her simulation. It's intuitive to me that 'god' does not apply.
The point about 'frailty relative to other gods' misses the point that in their universe they are far more powerful than we are here, even if they have those rivals; it's a matter of general power in their world, not about not having competitors.

Side note: even if they had greater power than Zeus, in some universes they wouldn't qualify as gods at least according to some common present-day usages (e.g., Q; this one may be a more likely case of a change in meaning), but the other case (i.e., human-like) seems more clear-cut.

Crude: "You're going to have to tell me what definition of alien you're using such that it doesn't apply trivially to God or gods in general. 'An extraterrestrial being' is trivially compatible with various gods, including Zeus."
My approximate speculation about what they have in mind is what I said above. But as I said, maybe they're just wrong. I'm not making claims to the contrary.

By the way, what's your position on what they mean?
Something like: 'Those entities are not gods, but entities not from Earth?'
If that's what they mean, they're trivially making an error since it's irrelevant, I would agree.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "I'm sure it is, but the newness supports my point, not to mention the context. 'Alien' could be applied to Zeus and the god(s) of mormonism equally. But gods are they are."
I'm not sure what point of yours you mean here.

The point is that the word 'god' changed recently among some atheists in response to something wouldn't be supported by Christians making the argument, so it's another point.

Maybe it's that the word 'god' changed recently?
Since I think it changes and keeps changing as time goes by in response to different people watching/reading different examples, etc., I won't deny that it changes, but what I do not see is the relevant connections here (i.e., to some atheists, etc.)

Crude: "It supports the contention to a degree, since it shows that a god's power could be limited, but they could still be a god all the same. It also specifically plays a role in helping to answer your charge about relative 'puniness'. It may not completely answer it, but it lends some support."
I addressed the puniness point above, but in any case, I still do not see how it address it, since there was no dispute about the fact that omnipotence or something like that was unneeded.

Crude: "First, Bostrom simulators are not necessarily weak - that's not some kind of feature, and in a multiverse scenario there's nothing stopping the head simulator from being supremely powerful outside of the simulation as well."
I asked you if you had another description of them, beyond what's in the two papers I read, and which described the simulations as 'ancestor simulations', making the programmers evolve from us (by genetic engineering, integration with machines, or whatever) in a setting that behaves like our universe.
I was going by those simulators.
The case you raise here is different, and the point about puniness would not apply to them. I would need more information about their universe, powers, etc.

Crude: "Second, again, Zeus' power outside the scope of humanity was also relatively weak. In fact, I can't recall offhand, but I think even some humans could put one over on Zeus. Sisyphus being one."
Regarding Sisyphus, I'm not sure what event you're talking about, but Zeus condemned him to some sort of eternal hell.
In any case, my point is that Zeus' power in his universe is far greater than our powers in ours, or the powers of the simulators I was thinking about in theirs.

Crude: "Alien/ET has the advantage of having a pretty clear and common definition - 'a being not from earth'. Zeus, etc, trivially qualify."

Okay. So, is your position that those people who claim "they're not gods, they're aliens" mean "they're not gods, they're beings not from Earth"?
If that's what you're saying you're right about that, I would say that those people (whom do you have in mind?) are trivially making a mistake, regardless of whether the meaning of 'gods' changed at all.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "I'll also add another bit of support: Deism. For deism generally, the central defining feature of the deity was 'An intelligent agent who created our world', and while some individuals surmised via reason some traits or aspects of said deity, the relative power of said deity *not in regards to our world* was in principle an open question. What was central on the deism consideration was said being's status as world architect. I'll again note Hume regarding the argument from design: Hume was able to be skeptical of many things about the creator of the world - imperfect, possibly immoral, possibly unlike us, possibly too much like us, possibly numerous rather than singular - but, from what I recall reading, at no point did he say 'and who knows, maybe the deity/deities created this world aren't deities'. "
Interesting example, but you seem to be suggesting that power relative to their own environment, or any other feature other than agency, does not matter in this case, and any entity meeting the condition that it's the architect of our universe would be God.
If that is true, then if human scientists were able to make a universe with some rules, which grows on its own, but over which they have zero power (actually, I recall some speculation about the feasibility of doing something like that), then even we would qualify as gods by the usual usage, if the use of 'God' in the context of deism is the usage you say exists or existed and changed.

Is that your position?
In other words, the usage of 'gods' you have in mind is such that humans with no power over the universe they create would be gods?

Crude: "I'll maintain the culpability aspect, but even if atheists weren't particularly culpable, that there was a shift - and the shift was unjustified - would still be maintained. Let the blame fall on someone else, but an unprincipled shift remains."
1. I'm not sure what you mean by 'unprincipled shift'. Generally speaking, the meanings of words change over time. There is no culpability, or justification. It just happens.

2. You maintain the culpability aspect. I'm not sure what you're accusing them of, other than, say, perhaps being obnoxious and unwilling to recognize that some of their claims had proven false, either deliberately or irrationally.
It's not a particularly big thing in my view, but if you're interested in that charge, alright, then.
In that case, I would like to ask whom you're accusing (i.e., which atheists), what the charges are, specifically (i.e., was it deliberate?), and what the evidence in support of the charge is.

Angra Mainyu said...

me: "But my inability to provide necessary and sufficient non-trivial conditions for 'human' (i.e., reduce 'X is a human' analytically to a proposition in terms of properties in some sense simpler or easier to assess than humanness, or something like that, rather than 'a sufficient condition for X to be human is that X is human') does not preclude me from assessing that the proposition that humans exist is so probable that it's beyond a reasonable doubt."

Crude: Don't you find this akin to saying 'I have no reliable definition for X, but I maintain X exists'? I mean, especially in philosophy, where you have people willing to be eliminativists about just about anything, or mereological nihilists

Not at all. Why would it be akin?

We generally do not have a definition of X that provides necessary and sufficient conditions and avoids all exceptions. Moreover, while I talked about my inability to provide such conditions, I would be willing to similarly make the point about (at least) nearly everyone on the planet (maybe everyone, but I wouldn't want to go that far). I was in no way suggesting I was exceptional.

I can make the following point too: But the inability of the vast majority of people on the planet (at least) to provide necessary and sufficient non-trivial conditions for 'human' (i.e., reduce 'X is a human' analytically to a proposition in terms of properties in some sense simpler or easier to assess than humanness, or something like that, rather than 'a sufficient condition for X to be human is that X is human') does not preclude them from assessing that the proposition that humans exist is so probable that it's beyond a reasonable doubt.

If you believe that that's not the position of (at least) the vast majority of people on the planet, I would ask you to show me one non-philosopher who can do it.

Granted, that's not a scientific study, but I think it would be powerful evidence that my claim is correct.

However, if you don't think that that would be good enough, I would ask you to explain why that evidence would not be enough, and then to find me one person, philosopher or otherwise, who can provide such a definition (okay, you already realized that I don't think you'll find that person any time soon;), but if you do, that too would be a very good result for me, since some of us have been trying to find something like that for a long time, with no success).

Crude said...

Angra,

The point that all those claims are false would still be interesting as a point about the general unreliability of religious claims portraying specific entities engaging in specific actions (e.g., why should we believe that your claim of a specific deity doing such and such is true, where we saw all of the others fail?).

Well, I never found that convincing at all. It's not identical, but similar to saying 'Why should I trust the science of today as having the truth about the world, when the history of science is just one long list of refuted ideas and soon-to-be refuted ones?' Someone can always say, "Well, these claims are different and better supported." Well, so too are these religious claims and/or gods.

More than that, the line of thinking has nothing to do with religion itself. My argument doesn't depend on any religious claims whatsoever, at least in the sense of my saying 'such and such religion is correct' - in fact, it's tied more to philosophy and technology, which is another reversal.

From the perspective of this non-theist, it's a question about the meaning of the word that, while interesting to some extent, is not more than that. In particular, it's not relevant to the issue of ontological discussions.

Sure it is, further down the line. I mean, you can turn up your nose and say 'Even if Mormonism is true, that doesn't necessarily impact ontology'. But A) the number of atheist who give a crap about ontology (or theists, frankly) is thin, and B) for it to turn out that the more popular atheist worldviews are downright supportive of what would be associated with the most primitive polytheism would be humbling if it were realized. And what's wrong with a little humility?

To be clear, the point you're arguing for is that the meaning of the words 'god' and 'atheism' has recently (when?) changed among some subsets of atheists in response to scientific and/or philosophical progress challenging their views (in addition to other changes), correct? (if not, please let me know).

It's broader than that. Yes, among some, there's a reluctance to regard these things as gods, because then gods become a live option and the world gets a lot more scary - that's one contention. Another contention is that historically, these things I'm speaking of are what would have been called gods in any other time and place, and there's no good reason for the change - save, perhaps, for some people wanting to think of their views and ideas as having nothing to do with The Enemy's. And some of that isn't exclusive to atheists - it's not like typical theists are thrilled at the prospect of gods like these existing. It's unsettling.

To put another spin on it, there's that old (Clarke?) quote - sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I think that works in both ways. Sufficiently grasped magic is indistinguishable from technology.

Crude said...

Zeus power in his original place isn't meager; even if there were also powerful rivals, he has huge power over most that surrounding him.

I think if you take a look at just what kind of power Zeus had in the myths, it's not as big a deal as you might think - sans the particular power I'm talking about.

Zeus has far greater power in his universe [i.e., some Greek-mythology verse] than we humans have in ours, or that something that evolves from us in our universe has.

What, his ability to direct elecricity? When will humans ever master that feat, I wonder. Seriously, probably the best you'll be able to mention here is his swan trick.

I really suggest you don't play the particular card you're doing here, namely 'mastery over environment', because that automatically sets you up for failure. You're basically pitting Zeus' feats against modern technology - I'll see your mighty spear and raise you a camera controlled atom bomb.

Let's contemplate a being that is puny like ours (or something evolved from ours in those conditions, etc.) in her universe, and has great power in her simulation. It's intuitive to me that 'god' does not apply.

Get inside a simulation and tell me that again. Keep in mind what's meant by simulation here: a world in principle entirely like the one you experience, populated with beings, etc. With programmer power over it. That's *more* power than Zeus had relative to humans.

So no, I don't share your intuition, and I don't think it holds up on an objective evaluation. Especially once you start looking at the power of Zeus, Loki, etc among their peers, or even with regards to humans.

By the way, what's your position on what they mean?

ET? Exactly that. 'Being not from earth.' I suppose if you pressed me I may say 'Embodied being not from earth' or 'Embodied being from some other planetary body.'

Crude said...

asked you if you had another description of them, beyond what's in the two papers I read, and which described the simulations as 'ancestor simulations', making the programmers evolve from us (by genetic engineering, integration with machines, or whatever) in a setting that behaves like our universe.

I think we had a miscommunication. I haven't been advancing Bostrom's simulation hypothesis here, because it's not necessary to my case. When I said Bostrom-style simulation, I was using it as shorthand for, basically, 'A simulated universe populated by mindful beings', etc. So no, I'm not tying this to humans specifically, but he at least does explain some relevant features of what I mean.

Even for Bostrom's definition, your conclusion would probably not work. That guy's a transhumanist, and I doubt he'd say his simulation argument fails to apply for the post-human.

Regarding Sisyphus, I'm not sure what event you're talking about, but Zeus condemned him to some sort of eternal hell.

One some stories, Sisyphus duped Zeus. That's a hell of a thing to do to a god. And sure, Sispyhus was condemned. Pretty trivial for a programmer to pull off too. (Besides, 'eternal hell' in greek myth was dicey. Prometheus got that too, and then escaped.)

If that is true, then if human scientists were able to make a universe with some rules, which grows on its own, but over which they have zero power (actually, I recall some speculation about the feasibility of doing something like that), then even we would qualify as gods by the usual usage, if the use of 'God' in the context of deism is the usage you say exists or existed and changed.

Is that your position?
In other words, the usage of 'gods' you have in mind is such that humans with no power over the universe they create would be gods?


Yes and no. No in that I'm obviously setting a bar here that assumes the ability to interact in a major and decisive way with the creation, even though I can jump that bar. Yes in that, if you pressed me, I'd probably conclude the same. Now, in the no-power case, I'd be tempted to say that IS a fuzzier one - I'm not aware of any historical gods like such. Which is why I've not been pressing that.

And yes, I'm aware that some scientists speculate that may be possible. Of course, there you also get into indirect measures of control - front-loaded creations, etc.

I'll note that man becoming like a god fits vastly more in with religious thought than it does atheistic. I've even seen among the crazier transhumanists talk about how someday technology will be such that all humans will be resurrected and experience eternal life, usually with the tack on of 'Ha ha, won't that show those religious people.' You know, those religious people who believe in a future resurrection and eternal life. (David Deutsch, Frank Tipler being examples of this. Tipler himself being interesting since he shifted from atheist to theist based on his speculations, and argued with Deutsch about it.)

Crude said...

1. I'm not sure what you mean by 'unprincipled shift'. Generally speaking, the meanings of words change over time. There is no culpability, or justification. It just happens.

I don't think that can easily be maintained. It's not like everyone forgot about Zeus or these old gods.

Not at all. Why would it be akin?

We generally do not have a definition of X that provides necessary and sufficient conditions and avoids all exceptions.


Because the latter sentence seems to indicate something along the lines of what I proposed: that all of the definitions fail. They are invalid. So what in the world are you talking about? Do you even know? You can give me a definition, but you're saying every definition you'll give me will be flawed and fail.

Then again, maybe the problem is 'reduce it analytically'. Maybe there's truths that aren't subject to analytical expression. Crazy thing, I'm sure.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude,

"Well, I never found that convincing at all. It's not identical, but similar to saying 'Why should I trust the science of today as having the truth about the world, when the history of science is just one long list of refuted ideas and soon-to-be refuted ones?' Someone can always say, "Well, these claims are different and better supported." Well, so too are these religious claims and/or gods."

The situation is very different, for several reasons, but I'll briefly mention:

1. Actually, science usually gets it right, and when it doesn't, it corrects itself. That goes for chemistry, biology, etc.
Yes, it's true that some ontological interpretations of some models in physics have been proven wrong to different degrees, with suggest caution with that.
While I don't think the issue is comparable, if science made up stories without evidence to back them up like religions, sure that would make it very unreliable.

2. Let's consider what we're talking about. It's not that religions regularly come up with mistaken theories. It's that the make up whole stories about non-existent beings, falsely claiming that the beings in question showed up, did this or that, etc..
That's not at all like positing a wrong ontological interpretation or a model; it's not even at all like even making an error in accepting a model as very probably without sufficient evidence. It's akin to scientists falsely claiming that a UFO landed at their doorstep, the aliens talked to them and told them some truth about a distant planet we've not observed.

"More than that, the line of thinking has nothing to do with religion itself. My argument doesn't depend on any religious claims whatsoever, at least in the sense of my saying 'such and such religion is correct' - in fact, it's tied more to philosophy and technology, which is another reversal."
I wasn't talking about your point. I was saying that the fact that we can tell that all those religions made up all those stories would still be an interesting point for some of us.

"Sure it is, further down the line. I mean, you can turn up your nose and say 'Even if Mormonism is true, that doesn't necessarily impact ontology'. But A) the number of atheist who give a crap about ontology (or theists, frankly) is thin, and B) for it to turn out that the more popular atheist worldviews are downright supportive of what would be associated with the most primitive polytheism would be humbling if it were realized. And what's wrong with a little humility? "
But of course, saying that even if Mormonism is true, etc., apart from false, would have nothing to do with what I said.
As for A), actually, the vast majority of them do care about what exists and what does not, since that's what the debates usually are about. It's true that sometimes, some people (many) get confused, unconsciously use labels as group identification markers, etc.; but that does not affect my point.
B) I would ask for evidence that the most popular "atheist worldviews" (which ones?) support that. But if that were the case, of course that would be very relevant in the context of these kind of debates...which would not change the fact that the question about the meaning of the word 'god' that we're considering wouldn't be relevant for the issue of ontological discussions. What would be relevant is what kind of entity is supported by the worldviews in question.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "What, his ability to direct elecricity? When will humans ever master that feat, I wonder. Seriously, probably the best you'll be able to mention here is his swan trick.

I really suggest you don't play the particular card you're doing here, namely 'mastery over environment', because that automatically sets you up for failure. You're basically pitting Zeus' feats against modern technology - I'll see your mighty spear and raise you a camera controlled atom bomb. "
Thanks, but my card is fine. Readers can make their own assessment, but let's consider your claim here.

With that criterion, then even we are more powerful than Zeus, and given that you said that Zeus' level of power is enough to make a being a god under the usage of 'god' that you have in mind and claim is traditional, that would mean that we are gods, according to the traditional usage, which clearly is not the case.

Crude: "Get inside a simulation and tell me that again. Keep in mind what's meant by simulation here: a world in principle entirely like the one you experience, populated with beings, etc. With programmer power over it. That's *more* power than Zeus had relative to humans. "
Actually, the world is not like ours. The simulation is very limited, and even though the programmer's power over the conscious programs is greater than that of Zeus in his environment, the general power of the programmer in his environment is much less.

Cruce: "ET? Exactly that. 'Being not from earth.' I suppose if you pressed me I may say 'Embodied being not from earth' or 'Embodied being from some other planetary body.'"

I was asking for their usage of 'alien' n the context that you have in mind when you say that they say "they're not gods, they're aliens".

Do you think that they just mean to say "they're not gods, they're beings not from Earth"?
If you do, please let me know. In that case, if you're correct, then I would say that those people (whom do you have in mind? I'd like to ask if this is about anyone in particular, please) are trivially making a mistake, regardless of whether the meaning of 'gods' changed at all.


Crude: "I think we had a miscommunication. I haven't been advancing Bostrom's simulation hypothesis here, because it's not necessary to my case. When I said Bostrom-style simulation, I was using it as shorthand for, basically, 'A simulated universe populated by mindful beings', etc. So no, I'm not tying this to humans specifically, but he at least does explain some relevant features of what I mean. "
Okay, it's a different simulation.

In that case, I'd ask for an argument showing that under the premises defended by some atheists (who? I'd like to know some names to evaluate the matter better, please), some simulation (which one? I'd ask for some specifics here as well) would happen, or would probably happen, or [insert whatever you would like to claim follows]

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Even for Bostrom's definition, your conclusion would probably not work. That guy's a transhumanist, and I doubt he'd say his simulation argument fails to apply for the post-human."
He does not claim so, but he suggest that possibility in his paper (though even in the case of post-humans, he still is talking about 'ancestor simulations'; his paper has problems apart from the ones I mentioned, though, but leaving that aside).
Remember, the simulation is not a universe; it's a deceit.
The available computing power isn't enough to simulate the whole universe or anything remotely like that, so whenever someone is about to do something that would make the simulation obvious, greater detail is given. Computers in the simulation need to work, though, so that requires dedicating some real, not fake computing power from real computers to simulated computers.
So, simulating a post-human civilization may well be too costly to be doable (though he does not take a stance on that, apparently).

Angra Mainyu said...

Me: To be clear, the point you're arguing for is that the meaning of the words 'god' and 'atheism' has recently (when?) changed among some subsets of atheists in response to scientific and/or philosophical progress challenging their views (in addition to other changes), correct? (if not, please let me know).

Crude: "It's broader than that. Yes, among some, there's a reluctance to regard these things as gods, because then gods become a live option and the world gets a lot more scary - that's one contention. Another contention is that historically, these things I'm speaking of are what would have been called gods in any other time and place, and there's no good reason for the change - save, perhaps, for some people wanting to think of their views and ideas as having nothing to do with The Enemy's. And some of that isn't exclusive to atheists - it's not like typical theists are thrilled at the prospect of gods like these existing. It's unsettling.

To put another spin on it, there's that old (Clarke?) quote - sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I think that works in both ways. Sufficiently grasped magic is indistinguishable from technology. "
Two brief points first:
a. Who are the people you're accusing, specifically?
b. Do you have examples, evidence of these events, etc.?


Regarding how people use the word 'god' today, to summarize (also for other readers), my position is mainly as follows:

1. People learn to use the word by reading/watching examples of entities called 'gods' in different religions and/or fictions; the categorization is not based on some kind of entities that we actually encounter (e.g., dogs, cats, etc.), let alone based on some perception or intuition widely shared in our species (e.g., illness).
2. Different people read/watch from different sources, with entities of considerably different characteristics (Even entities that go by the same name are very different in different fictions (for instance)), and get different usages as a result, though usage within a group might reduce differences in some cases.
3. As new stories involving entities called 'gods' develop, and as old stories are reinterpreted in the case of religions, usages change.
4. Usages might also change for an assortment of other causes.
5. I do not see why people who use the word 'god' today according to present-day usages should use it in a way that was predominant in the past, if there was one. Moreover, and regardless of what changes happened in the past or why, people who live today and use the word 'god' (or 'atheist') today are not familiar with past uses; they learn to use the word as it's used today (in its vague and varied usages), and that's how they use it.
6. In the context of philosophy, the word 'god' (and 'atheist', and to an even greater extent 'supernatural') is very often just too vague. It's generally much better to define, in terms clear to the intended audience and precise enough, the kind of beings one is going to talk about.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "I don't think that can easily be maintained. It's not like everyone forgot about Zeus or these old gods."
They don't have to forget. They just need to grow up with a larger pools of examples of non-gods (how many supervillains call themselves gods, but then the heroes say 'they're false gods', and go on to defeat them), or even with representations of Zeus that are not like the original ones (e.g., movies), etc.
An analogy (only in the change in meaning, nothing more) would be the word 'cow'. In the past, it was applicable to a much smaller number of species (bovines). No one actually forgot about all those cows, but the word now is applicable in a much wider context.
It's a distant analogy since the causes of change are different, but the point is that words can change meaning and sometimes do so without people forgetting of anything (I've already outlined my take on that, so I'll leave that aside).

That said, if you want to accuse some atheists of changing the meaning of the word 'god' deliberately, I would ask:

a. Who did it?
b. How did they change the way so many others use the words?
c. What's your evidence?

Crude: "Because the latter sentence seems to indicate something along the lines of what I proposed: that all of the definitions fail. They are invalid. So what in the world are you talking about? Do you even know? You can give me a definition, but you're saying every definition you'll give me will be flawed and fail."
I'm saying all definitions of 'human', 'horse', or similar words I've encountered so far do not close the question semantically (i.e., they do not match the meaning of the word). If you think otherwise, I already provided you with a way to test this, in the case of 'human'.
That does not mean that all definitions are useless, since they give a general idea of what one is talking about, but if you ask me what I'm talking about when I say 'human', I can do much better. I can point to many humans (or write a list, etc.), and say, well, human is 'one of those', and 'one of those', etc., until you grasp the meaning.

But as I said, if you think I'm mistaken, I'm listening to definitions of 'human'.

Crude: "Then again, maybe the problem is 'reduce it analytically'. Maybe there's truths that aren't subject to analytical expression. Crazy thing, I'm sure. "
That 'Crazy thing, I'm sure' sounds like sarcasm, which would be particularly out of place since I'm actually the one raising the problem while you keep trying to argue against my points saying that having such-and-such power is not a necessary condition, that a god might be puny with respect to others, etc.

Okay, yes, of course I agree that the problem may well be that.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "I don't think that can easily be maintained. It's not like everyone forgot about Zeus or these old gods."
They don't have to forget. They just need to grow up with a larger pools of examples of non-gods (how many supervillains call themselves gods, but then the heroes say 'they're false gods', and go on to defeat them), or even with representations of Zeus that are not like the original ones (e.g., movies), etc.
An analogy (only in the change in meaning, nothing more) would be the word 'cow'. In the past, it was applicable to a much smaller number of species (bovines). No one actually forgot about all those cows, but the word now is applicable in a much wider context.
It's a distant analogy since the causes of change are different, but the point is that words can change meaning and sometimes do so without people forgetting of anything (I've already outlined my take on that, so I'll leave that aside).

That said, if you want to accuse some atheists of changing the meaning of the word 'god' deliberately, I would ask:

a. Who did it?
b. How did they change the way so many others use the words?
c. What's your evidence?

Crude: "Because the latter sentence seems to indicate something along the lines of what I proposed: that all of the definitions fail. They are invalid. So what in the world are you talking about? Do you even know? You can give me a definition, but you're saying every definition you'll give me will be flawed and fail."
I'm saying all definitions of 'human', 'horse', or similar words I've encountered so far do not close the question semantically (i.e., they do not match the meaning of the word). If you think otherwise, I already provided you with a way to test this, in the case of 'human'.
That does not mean that all definitions are useless, since they give a general idea of what one is talking about, but if you ask me what I'm talking about when I say 'human', I can do much better. I can point to many humans (or write a list, etc.), and say, well, human is 'one of those', and 'one of those', etc., until you grasp the meaning.

But as I said, if you think I'm mistaken, I'm listening to definitions of 'human'.

Crude: "Then again, maybe the problem is 'reduce it analytically'. Maybe there's truths that aren't subject to analytical expression. Crazy thing, I'm sure. "
That 'Crazy thing, I'm sure' sounds like sarcasm, which would be particularly out of place since I'm actually the one raising the problem while you keep trying to argue against my points saying that having such-and-such power is not a necessary condition, that a god might be puny with respect to others, etc.

Okay, yes, of course I agree that the problem may well be that.

Crude said...

Angra,

1. Actually, science usually gets it right, and when it doesn't, it corrects itself. That goes for chemistry, biology, etc.
Yes, it's true that some ontological interpretations of some models in physics have been proven wrong to different degrees, with suggest caution with that.


Usually gets it right? According to who? Again, the history of science is one big list of once popular explanations that eventually were superseded, in field after field. In some areas, it's pretty damn bad.

Second, no, science 'corrects itself' in an idealization. In practice, the corrections are often social and cultural revolutions, not just 'more science'. Hence the Max Planck quote: "A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

How many theories have been disproved over the years? Heck, how many popular theories were disproved over the years? How many were accepted as being disproved more by a cultural change than anything else? How many were disproved thanks to an increase in technology?

2. Let's consider what we're talking about. It's not that religions regularly come up with mistaken theories. It's that the make up whole stories about non-existent beings, falsely claiming that the beings in question showed up, did this or that, etc..

That's not 'religion', man, that's human beings, period. And it's question begging to assume that all the stories of (say) Christianity or Judaism or the like are false, to say nothing of the others - not to mention false in a relevant sense, or in a way specific to religion.

You can even come up with scientists, on scientific principles, believing all kinds of things that later turned out to be wrong. Canals on mars, the inability of rockets to do what they later could demonstrably do, etc.

I wasn't talking about your point. I was saying that the fact that we can tell that all those religions made up all those stories would still be an interesting point for some of us.

First, that's your contention, not 'what you can tell'. Second, claims about God are not restricted to 'stories' - there's a swarm of arguments and evidence, etc. Hell, the entire course of this conversation is me pointing at some inevitable theistic consequences of some popular scientific and philosophical theories. Yes, you'll say 'Yes well I think all the arguments and evidence are wrong'. Color me unimpressed.

As for A), actually, the vast majority of them do care about what exists and what does not, since that's what the debates usually are about. It's true that sometimes, some people (many) get confused, unconsciously use labels as group identification markers, etc.; but that does not affect my point.

Actually, it does affect your point. Jerry Coyne (to use one example) admitted he has to look up what epistemology and ontology are when he gets in discussions. Most people simply aren't concerned about the higher philosophical or metaphysical ramifications of these things. They care about gods. Deities. Creators. In fact, they hardly care about said deities as opposed to the religions in question.

I would ask for evidence that the most popular "atheist worldviews" (which ones?) support that.

We're discussing that now.

Crude said...

With that criterion, then even we are more powerful than Zeus, and given that you said that Zeus' level of power is enough to make a being a god under the usage of 'god' that you have in mind and claim is traditional, that would mean that we are gods, according to the traditional usage, which clearly is not the case.

That is a complete, and in my view intentional, misrepresentation of what I said. It's not like I've been assigning a numerical power list and, oops, looks like we've gone past it. I was replying to your claim that humans are 'puny'.

My standard has been consistent throughout this discussion: a being capable of creating a world populated by beings, etc. In response you said that wouldn't count because, in addition to having that power, Zeus had power over his environment and that we're puny. I pointed out that THAT variety of power is a relative case, and that no, we're not 'puny' in comparison to Zeus.

I invite anyone reading this, in the unlikely event, to read what I've said throughout this discussion and see as much for themselves. My 'traditional usage' did not hinge on a vague reference to power, but a particular act.

Your card here, fails.

Actually, the world is not like ours. The simulation is very limited, and even though the programmer's power over the conscious programs is greater than that of Zeus in his environment, the general power of the programmer in his environment is much less.

Incorrect on two counts: first, the simulation is 'not very limited' in the context I'm discussing. Two, I've disputed that the 'general power of the programmer in his environment' would be much less, especially where multiverses are concerned. Hell, I pointed out that that's a terrible move for you to make because the only way to cash it out is in terms of relative power over the environment - and relative power over the environment is addressable varies.

Or are you going to concede that if a given being creates a simulation AND happens to be quite powerful with regards to his surroundings, that he's a god? By all means, open that door.

Do you think that they just mean to say "they're not gods, they're beings not from Earth"?

I think that many people tend to think of aliens or gods as an either-or proposition, wrongly.

In that case, I'd ask for an argument showing that under the premises defended by some atheists (who? I'd like to know some names to evaluate the matter better, please), some simulation (which one? I'd ask for some specifics here as well) would happen, or would probably happen, or [insert whatever you would like to claim follows]

You cannot be serious. First off, with regards to atheists, my point has been that atheists trivially grant that Zeus, etc, are gods, while often granting two particular points which, if granted, would absolutely lead them to conclude that gods do exist, given what I think is the definition of 'god' you have left over from analyzing those who they do accept as gods. As for simulations, I've spelled out, clearly, just what I'm talking about. Are you truly saying that the meaning of the word 'simulation' still eludes you, despite talking about it with me at length for days now?

Remember, the simulation is not a universe; it's a deceit.

Untrue. Nothing about a simulation entails 'deceit' in and of itself. A simulated universe is a simulated universe.

Crude said...

The available computing power isn't enough to simulate the whole universe or anything remotely like that, so whenever someone is about to do something that would make the simulation obvious, greater detail is given.

Also incorrect on several counts.

First, you assume that investigation would make it 'obvious' that someone is living in a simulation. That requires them to be able to take a given anomaly and conclude 'Ah, I'm in a simulation!' Good luck trying to find an anomaly that would force that conclusion, as opposed to 'that's a weird fact of nature' or the like - other than a highly contrived example.

Second, there's no requirement on the part of the simulated beings that they even be aware of what a simulation is.

Third, computing power varies depending on the universe in question - so 'not enough' is unsupported.

Fourth, 'a universe' is not something that you can judge by (say) mass, such that it needs at least X amount of mass or it's not 'really' a universe.

Computers in the simulation need to work, though, so that requires dedicating some real, not fake computing power from real computers to simulated computers.

There's no barrier to stacked simulations, so there's no problem here either.

That said, if you want to accuse some atheists of changing the meaning of the word 'god' deliberately, I would ask

I'm not saying that there was a grand conspiracy theory in play. I'm pointing out that given A) people accepting gods like 'Zeus', etc, to be gods, B) given what we know about said gods, and C) given the sort of reality that would be in play given these simulations, that D) it's obvious, if they're going to call Zeus a god for non-arbitrary reasons, these beings would be gods as well.

It's a little like jaywalking. Someone may jaywalk and not know it's against the law. But when you tell them jaywalking is against the law and they do so anyway, or they try to BS, they're in a different position of culpability.

That 'Crazy thing, I'm sure' sounds like sarcasm, which would be particularly out of place since I'm actually the one raising the problem while you keep trying to argue against my points saying that having such-and-such power is not a necessary condition, that a god might be puny with respect to others, etc.

Actually, you've been saying that a being creating whole populated worlds of conscious beings, over whom he has ridiculous power, is not a god if he's 'puny' - and I've been pointing out the obvious problem that Zeus was entirely capable of being beaten up/tricked/etc (tricked by humans, no less), and that 'puniness' is a terrible measure to use, given technological advances both current and future.

My point about reduction to analytical claims actually isn't related to this conversation - obviously, since you've been devoting most of your time to disputing what I think is obvious. Really, the better route for you to go would be to deny that Zeus is a god, on the grounds that he was humiliated or beaten up multiple times, and gods shouldn't have such experiences.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Usually gets it right? According to who? Again, the history of science is one big list of once popular explanations that eventually were superseded, in field after field. In some areas, it's pretty damn bad."
We have computers, smartphones, have nuclear reactors, etc.; we know about exoplanets, common ancestors between humans and chimpanzees (or all sorts of things), and so on.
So, yes, usually science gets it right. Certainly it's not in the business of making stuff up and claiming it happened. When someone does that, it's called fraud, and eventually they get busted if they made up results to back up a false claim.
But it's true that some areas get it wrong more often, which actually is a good reason to be less confident about them, though in the end, the results tend to be pretty good over time.

In the case of religion, we have that historically there have been thousands of them, all based on completely fabricated stories, and all of them eventually abandoned.


Crude: "That's not 'religion', man, that's human beings, period. And it's question begging to assume that all the stories of (say) Christianity or Judaism or the like are false, to say nothing of the others - not to mention false in a relevant sense, or in a way specific to religion."
It's not question begging. We observe a common phenomena. In most societies, we found widely accepted claims about interventions of greatly powerful beings, which were completely made up. Those claims form the basis of a number of social practices relevant to the way people deal with and understand the world around them. The point is pretty solid.

Side note: While not needed, in the case of Judaism or Christianity, historically we find the same. While you can claim that that's not the right interpretation, not part of the dogma, etc., the fact is that the claims about events like the creation story, or the universal Flood, or Yahweh given the law to Moses, or parting the Red Sea were traditionally accepted without question.

Let me put it this way.

Crude: "First, that's your contention, not 'what you can tell'. "
That's sufficiently obvious. There is a chasm between sophisticated theological arguments and the original claims of Judaism, or even Christianity.

Crude: "Actually, it does affect your point. Jerry Coyne (to use one example) admitted he has to look up what epistemology and ontology are when he gets in discussions. Most people simply aren't concerned about the higher philosophical or metaphysical ramifications of these things. They care about gods. Deities. Creators. In fact, they hardly care about said deities as opposed to the religions in question."
No, it does not affect my point. I'm not talking about people knowing about what 'ontology' means, or even having heard of the word, but about being concerned about what actually exists, interacts with us, etc., in other words, you don't need to have heard about ontology to be concerned about ontological matters.
So, yes, people do care about creators, and about all sorts of powerful beings. The matter of what the word 'god' means and what actually exists, interacts with us, etc., are separate ones.

Crude said...

Also, time to rally some Dawkins.

With emphasis added by me. Any spelling errors, likely due to me.

Whether we ever get to know about them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century. Imagine his response to a laptop computer, a mobile telephone, a hydrogen bomb or a jumbo jet. As Arthur C. Clarke put it, in his Third Law: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.' The miracles wrought by our technology would have seemed to the ancients no less remarkable than tales of Moses parting the waters, or Jesus walking upon them. The aliens of our SETI signal would be to us like gods, just as missionaries were treated as gods (and exploited the undeserved honor to the hilt) when they turned up in Stone Age cultures bearing guns, telescopes, matches, and almanacs predicting eclipses to the second.

In what sense, then, would the most advanced SETI aliens not be gods? In what sense would they be superhuman but not supernatural? In a very important sense, which goes to the heart of this book. The crucial differences between god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn't start that way. Science-fiction authors, such as Daniel F. Galouye in Counterfield World, have even suggested (and I cannot think how to disprove it) that we live in a computer simulation, set up by some vastly superior civilization. But the simulators themselves would have to come from somewhere. The laws of probability forbid all notions of their spontaneously appearing without simpler antecedents. They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution: some sort of cumulatively ratcheting 'crane' as opposed to 'skyhook', to use Daniel Dennett's terminology. Skyhooks - including all gods - are mgic spells. They do no bona fide explanatory work and demand more explanation than they provide. Cranes are explanatory devices that actually do explain. Natural selection is the champion crane of all time.


Some observations.

1: "But the laws of probability..." And in an infinite multiverse with the right variation, the laws of probability are skunked.

2: The gods 'coming from somewhere' is not a concern. Remember: Zeus was a third generation (I believe) entity, whose ancestors were ultimately spawned from chaos.

3: So much for puny: Dawkins apparently doesn't agree. In fact, in this section, he refuses to make the argument that the properties are relevant. It's the provenance. And that distinction, I maintain, is pretty damn arbitrary.

There's a lot more wrong with this little snippet of Dawkins' book, but those are the points I'll focus on.

So what's Dawkins' move? He seems to concede right away the existence of god-like beings, who would seem godlike to us, in *this* universe. Putting aside questions of his credulity, he suggests that the key distinction that would make them 'not gods' is provenance: 'They had to come from somewhere.'

But so did Zeus. So did Odin. So did plenty of other gods.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "That is a complete, and in my view intentional, misrepresentation of what I said. It's not like I've been assigning a numerical power list and, oops, looks like we've gone past it. I was replying to your claim that humans are 'puny'."

There is no deliberate misrepresentation of what you said. Your claim was about Zeus' powers over his surroundings, which you obviously compared negatively to ours. Also, your first point about the threshold (various powers, capabilities, etc), was vague enough. Given that, I was saying that that level of power would make us gods. It was a reasonable interpretation, even if I may have got it wrong.

Crude: "My standard has been consistent throughout this discussion: a being capable of creating a world populated by beings, etc. In response you said that wouldn't count because, in addition to having that power, Zeus had power over his environment and that we're puny. I pointed out that THAT variety of power is a relative case, and that no, we're not 'puny' in comparison to Zeus."

That was your second proposal, this time about a specific threshold, which was apparently a sufficient but not necessary condition (e.g., you accept Loki, who does not meet the standard).

But alright, let's take a closer look at that threshold ("an example of a typical threshold I think one could and would use to establish a god: a being who is capable of creating populated planets and worlds like our own").

1. The programmers in the Bostrom scenario do not meet that threshold (at least, it does not follow from their capability for making the Bostrom simulation), since they're not creating planets and worlds like our own. They're creating a deception. For example, the simulated people believe that they can see the microscopic structure of their world, but that's just because the computer adjusts a little and creates the microscopic details when someone is about to attempt to look.
Yes, now you'd said that you have a different simulation in mind. As I said, I would ask you to please describe the simulation, who has beliefs that support it, and explain why those beliefs support it.

2. While you mentioned sometimes having power inside the simulation, that was not part of that threshold, as you originally proposed it. You even offered Deism as an example, obviously implying that a deistic creator would be a god in the sense you have in mind. But you added that the power that the god in question might have in his own realm would not prevent him from meeting it, so any level of power (even human power in his environment) would do. Yet, deism does not require that God has power inside the universe, either.

So, given that, it seems that if, in the future, some human scientists found a way to make a universe", with planets, beings and all, then humans too would become gods, by your standard.

Given 1. and 2., the Bostrom scenario seem an irrelevant issue, when it comes to assessing godhood by your proposed criterion.

Crude: "Incorrect on two counts: first, the simulation is 'not very limited' in the context I'm discussing."
Well, then please explain what your simulation is, which premises support it, and who has them. But let me point out that you brought up Bostrom simulations, and those do not imply having any great power in their universe.
Then again, in light of 1. and 2. above, it seems it's a moot point.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "I think that many people tend to think of aliens or gods as an either-or proposition, wrongly."
Yes, I do get that you think that.
I'm asking whether you think that if they say "they're not gods, they're aliens", in the context in which you considered that, they just mean to say "they're not gods, they're beings not from Earth"
I guess that may be so, but in that case, their error would appear completely transparent. Still possible, though.

Crude: "First off, with regards to atheists, my point has been that atheists trivially grant that Zeus, etc, are gods, while often granting two particular points which, if granted, would absolutely lead them to conclude that gods do exist, given what I think is the definition of 'god' you have left over from analyzing those who they do accept as gods."
You haven't even proposed a definition of 'god'. You have proposed a sufficient criterion, and a vaguer also sufficient criterion. Your criterion does not seem intuitively plausible to me.

Crude: "As for simulations, I've spelled out, clearly, just what I'm talking about. Are you truly saying that the meaning of the word 'simulation' still eludes you, despite talking about it with me at length for days now?"
You brought up Bostrom scenarios, but later you said that what you meant is "A simulated universe populated by mindful beings".
However, a simulated universe is not a universe; Bostrom simulations are simulations, but they're deceptions, not universes, even if the deceptions are populated by mindful beings. It's more like The Matrix.
The programmers of the Matrix do not seem to meet your threshold, but then, you did not offer a necessary condition for godhood, but only a sufficient one. Would you call the programmers of the Matrix 'gods', by the usage of 'god' that you defend?

Crude said...

There is no deliberate misrepresentation of what you said. Your claim was about Zeus' powers over his surroundings, which you obviously compared negatively to ours. Also, your first point about the threshold (various powers, capabilities, etc), was vague enough.

Considering I've been stressing, this entire conversation, a primary emphasis on world creation at the least, I don't think I've been unclear on that front. Even in the very context of that conversation, I was addressing your 'puny' objection, not sacrificing the world building criterion.

That was your second proposal, this time about a specific threshold, which was apparently a sufficient but not necessary condition (e.g., you accept Loki, who does not meet the standard).

I accept Loki and point out others accept Loki. I was giving a sufficient condition for godhood in this conversation, and that sufficient condition is the same I've been suggesting throughout this conversation.

The programmers in the Bostrom scenario do not meet that threshold (at least, it does not follow from their capability for making the Bostrom simulation), since they're not creating planets and worlds like our own. They're creating a deception. For example, the simulated people believe that they can see the microscopic structure of their world, but that's just because the computer adjusts a little and creates the microscopic details when someone is about to attempt to look.

Incorrect.

1) Re: Worlds like our own. It's question begging in this context to assume our world isn't simulated itself. Further, 'like our own' doesn't mean a 1:1 correspondence. If the world lacks an Angra, it doesn't suddenly not qualify. I think what I've meant by simulations is clear.

2) It's not a deception, and your example helps demonstrate that. The inhabitants account for their observations in terms of a theory, and that theory may be wrong. But that doesn't make their observations 'deceptions'. It simply makes them wrong.

As I said, I would ask you to please describe the simulation, who has beliefs that support it, and explain why those beliefs support it.

I've been doing this throughout the conversation: I've made it clear what I meant by a simulation, I've explained why said simulation would qualify, I've pointed at relevant historical standards. I've even rallied Dawkins for partial support in terms of properties.

While you mentioned sometimes having power inside the simulation, that was not part of that threshold, as you originally proposed it. You even offered Deism as an example, obviously implying that a deistic creator would be a god in the sense you have in mind. But you added that the power that the god in question might have in his own realm would not prevent him from meeting it, so any level of power (even human power in his environment) would do. Yet, deism does not require that God has power inside the universe, either.

I used the deism example as historical support for the claim that a being who creates a populated world is a deity, even while details about that deity (Does the deity care? Is he alone, or did he work as a team? What was his origin? Is he still around? Etc) were unsettled.

You are asking me to provide a definition of deity - but I don't need an exhaustive definition for the purposes of my argument. I simply need to explain the threshold and defend it. I've done so.

Crude said...

So, given that, it seems that if, in the future, some human scientists found a way to make a universe", with planets, beings and all, then humans too would become gods, by your standard.

You've already asked this, I've already answered. If you want to ask more questions, feel free, but this is simply not a new inquiry.

You haven't even proposed a definition of 'god'. You have proposed a sufficient criterion, and a vaguer also sufficient criterion. Your criterion does not seem intuitively plausible to me.

As above, I don't need an exhaustive definition - the criterion does the trick. You say the criterion isn't plausible to you intuitively - that's fine. I think your intuition should be trumped by the historical considerations and the context. If it's not, so be it - I never get into these discussions where 'convince the other person' is the make or break.

However, a simulated universe is not a universe; Bostrom simulations are simulations, but they're deceptions, not universes, even if the deceptions are populated by mindful beings. It's more like The Matrix.

This is like saying that a multiverse is technically a single universe, just with a larger scale and different features than originally conceived. Technically true, in practice irrelevant.

The programmers of the Matrix do not seem to meet your threshold, but then, you did not offer a necessary condition for godhood, but only a sufficient one. Would you call the programmers of the Matrix 'gods', by the usage of 'god' that you defend?

Depends. Are the inhabitants of the Matrix exclusively embodied beings who were put in there via a neural hookup? Grey area. Are there inhabitants of the Matrix who exist wholly in the simulation and are mindful beings, etc? Then sure - that's just a Bostrom simulation with additional inhabitants.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Also incorrect on several counts.

First, you assume that investigation would make it 'obvious' that someone is living in a simulation. That requires them to be able to take a given anomaly and conclude 'Ah, I'm in a simulation!' Good luck trying to find an anomaly that would force that conclusion, as opposed to 'that's a weird fact of nature' or the like - other than a highly contrived example."
Well, obvious to some of those in the simulation, but I was explaining Bostrom's scenario.
If you want to change the argument, include beings who can't figure it out, etc., fine by me; now I get you have a different scenario in mind.
But the point remains that even if they can't figure it out, the simulation is hardly a universe. It's more like the Matrix.

Crude: "Third, computing power varies depending on the universe in question - so 'not enough' is unsupported."
I was going by Bostrom's scenario (though he does seem to make an error; I think the scenario is self-defeating, but then, not my scenario).
So, okay, now I see you have in mind another simulation. But how does it follow from the premises of some atheists (who?) that those simulations would exist?


Crude: "Fourth, 'a universe' is not something that you can judge by (say) mass, such that it needs at least X amount of mass or it's not 'really' a universe."
A deceitful simulation does not seem to be one, but then, no definition of 'universe' was provided, either. Do you have any definition in mind?

Crude: "There's no barrier to stacked simulations, so there's no problem here either."
I was explaining Bostrom's scenario, and actually, there is a barrier to stacked simulations, which is computing power in the base universe.

Crude: "I'm not saying that there was a grand conspiracy theory in play. I'm pointing out that given A) people accepting gods like 'Zeus', etc, to be gods, B) given what we know about said gods, and C) given the sort of reality that would be in play given these simulations, that D) it's obvious, if they're
going to call Zeus a god for non-arbitrary reasons, these beings would be gods as well. It's a little like jaywalking. Someone may jaywalk and not know it's against the law. But when you tell them jaywalking is against the law and they do so anyway, or they try to BS, they're in a different position of culpability.
"
1. The category 'gods' seems to be arbitrarily defined, by similarity to some beings (like Zeus), in some environment. You've not provided reasons to conclude that that wasn't the case in the past.
2. But now you don't seem to be making a claim about a shift in meaning, but rather, a claim that the use of the word 'god' is somehow contradictory? (I'll ask for clarification). I do not know exactly what you mean there, but it's not clear at all that the arbitrariness of the definition is a recent development, or in any way related to atheists.
3. Let me make give an example. If Alice learns how to use the word 'god' by looking at some paradigmatic examples of gods (e.g., Zeus, Yahweh) and powerful non-gods (supervillains, Q,), then there is a pretty good chance that she will not regard programmers evolved from something like humans and who make a Matrix-like simulation gods, regardless of whether she believes in the existence of some powerful being.
4. Obvious to whom?
It's a very often a mistake to infer intent by thinking that what looks obvious to one will be obvious to others. For instance, it's obvious to me that Yahweh does not exist, and it looks obvious to me even if I try to put myself in the head of my Christian interlocutors (i.e., given what they seem to know, believe, etc.).
It's clear, however, that that does not look obvious to them.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Actually, you've been saying that a being creating whole populated worlds of conscious beings, over whom he has ridiculous power, is not a god if he's 'puny' - and I've been pointing out the obvious problem that Zeus was entirely capable of being beaten up/tricked/etc (tricked by humans, no less), and that 'puniness' is a terrible measure to use, given technological advances both current and future."
1. The programmers of a Bostrom simulation of course can be so tricked, since they have no computing power in their brains to run the simulation, let alone do so consciously of all that's happening. Their gigantic computers can 'see' everything, but they can't.

2. Yes, you have a different simulation in mind, but there is no condition (you didn't specify) that they can't be tricked.

3. Again, comparing humans in our environment with Zeus in his, we're way puny. But I guess it's a moot point now.

Crude: "My point about reduction to analytical claims actually isn't related to this conversation - obviously, since you've been devoting most of your time to disputing what I think is obvious. Really, the better route for you to go would be to deny that Zeus is a god, on the grounds that he was humiliated or beaten up multiple times, and gods shouldn't have such experiences."
Leaving aside your claim about what I devoted my time to, your suggestion of a 'better route' reveals that despite repeated clarifications, you're still attributing intentions and beliefs to me, which are not remotely related to the ones I have (also, unfortunately, this also gives more evidence to me that you actually believe that the debate is actually going your way, which makes the changes of an end in a reasonable amount of time diminish, unless I leave).

Again, I do not care about the word 'god'. I dispute some of the points that are unsupported, or false. Obviously (to me), what looks obvious to me does not look not obvious to you. And vice versa.
Also, again, I use the word 'god' when others use it, but I would rather use more precise terms myself. I do not care much whether there was a shift in meaning in the way you say it. But you're making unsupported (or just false) claims, and we're stuck in this debate it seems.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Also, time to rally some Dawkins."
Which claims of yours you're trying to support by quoting him?

Crude: "Some observations.

1: "But the laws of probability..." And in an infinite multiverse with the right variation, the laws of probability are skunked."


a. Could you please explain what kind of actually proposed multiverse, other than a Tegmark level 4 multiverse, skunks them, and why?

b. If the laws of probability are skunked, it's game over; belief in such infinite multiverse is epistemically suicidal. There is no need to go further, investigating gods.

Crude: "2: The gods 'coming from somewhere' is not a concern. Remember: Zeus was a third generation (I believe) entity, whose ancestors were ultimately spawned from chaos."
Reminds me of some science fiction stories.
A more or less recent example:

The Ori (Stargate) had millions, or billions of worshipers. The heroes of the story told some of those people that the Ori weren't gods because they evolved from something like humans. Most people didn't believe it. One guy did, concluding they weren't gods. Similar claims were made earlier in the series about other beings.
Perhaps, the writers didn't have Zeus in mind. Or perhaps, the feel of a Zeus-like universe is different (who knows; the category 'god' is picked arbitrarily; it's 'something like that guy in that place, but not like that other guy, but like that other guy, etc.').

Crude: "3: So much for puny: Dawkins apparently doesn't agree. In fact, in this section, he refuses to make the argument that the properties are relevant. It's the provenance. And that distinction, I maintain, is pretty damn arbitrary."
I did not say that my intuitive usage matched Dawkins theory about the meaning, if he meant to propose one.

Crude: "There's a lot more wrong with this little snippet of Dawkins' book, but those are the points I'll focus on.

So what's Dawkins' move? He seems to concede right away the existence of god-like beings, who would seem godlike to us, in *this* universe. Putting aside questions of his credulity, he suggests that the key distinction that would make them 'not gods' is provenance: 'They had to come from somewhere.'

But so did Zeus. So did Odin. So did plenty of other gods."
He does not make a mistake about what exists. If he's making a mistake on this particular issue (i.e., why they're not gods), it's about his theory about the meaning of 'god', assuming he's proposing such a theory. But if you're suggesting he's deliberately changing the meaning of 'god' from the way he understood the word before (or even changing it at all, deliberately or otherwise), you have a lot of work to do to support the claim.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Considering I've been stressing, this entire conversation, a primary emphasis on world creation at the least, I don't think I've been unclear on that front. Even in the very context of that conversation, I was addressing your 'puny' objection, not sacrificing the world building criterion."
Again, you never claimed that to be necessary. And you don't do it now, either. There was no need to sacrifice the criterion.

Also, again, your first point about the threshold (various powers, capabilities, etc), was vague enough.

But no point in going in circles about who misrepresented whom and when. It's all on record.

Crude: "Incorrect.

1) Re: Worlds like our own. It's question begging in this context to assume our world isn't simulated itself. Further, 'like our own' doesn't mean a 1:1 correspondence. If the world lacks an Angra, it doesn't suddenly not qualify. I think what I've meant by simulations is clear. "
No, it's not, since we do not live in a Bostrom simulation; I'm discussing the consequences of a scenario, not accepting it as a serious possibility.

Crude: "2) It's not a deception, and your example helps demonstrate that. The inhabitants account for their observations in terms of a theory, and that theory may be wrong. But that doesn't make their observations 'deceptions'. It simply makes them wrong."
That's like saying that putting someone in a holodeck and make her believe she's outside it (as in many 'Star Trek' scenarios) is not a deception. But clearly it is. The simulation is programmed to deliberately make them see things that aren't there, and hold false beliefs even in the absence of epistemic error. Tricking someone into having false beliefs is a deception.

Crude: "I've been doing this throughout the conversation: I've made it clear what I meant by a simulation, I've explained why said simulation would qualify, I've pointed at relevant historical standards. I've even rallied Dawkins for partial support in terms of properties."
Okay, you're saying that Dawkins beliefs support the simulation, or apparently, the creation of universes like ours by some beings. I do not see how you derive that. His position seems to be agnostic about it, but if you think some of his beliefs entail it, okay, please proceed.

Crude: "I used the deism example as historical support for the claim that a being who creates a populated world is a deity, even while details about that deity (Does the deity care? Is he alone, or did he work as a team? What was his origin? Is he still around? Etc) were unsettled.

You are asking me to provide a definition of deity - but I don't need an exhaustive definition for the purposes of my argument. I simply need to explain the threshold and defend it. I've done so. "
No, sorry.

a. You made it very clear that the deistic creator was a god in the traditional sense you have in mind, regardless of how puny he was in his own universe. For instance, you said "Hume was able to be skeptical of many things about the creator of the world - imperfect, possibly immoral, possibly unlike us, possibly too much like us, possibly numerous rather than singular - but, from what I recall reading, at no point did he say 'and who knows, maybe the deity/deities created this world aren't deities'.

b. Again, the condition you gave was that "Here's an example of a typical threshold I think one could and would use to establish a god: a being who is capable of creating populated planets and worlds like our own."

The conclusion is clear, from that criterion. If, in the future, some human scientists found a way to make a universe", with planets, beings and all, then humans too would become gods, by your standard.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "You've already asked this, I've already answered. If you want to ask more questions, feel free, but this is simply not a new inquiry. "
Answered how?

Again, my point is that the conclusion is that, by your standard, human scientists would be gods if they make a universe.
What is your answer?

Crude: "As above, I don't need an exhaustive definition - the criterion does the trick. You say the criterion isn't plausible to you intuitively - that's fine. I think your intuition should be trumped by the historical considerations and the context. If it's not, so be it - I never get into these discussions where 'convince the other person' is the make or break."
1. My intuition comes from present-day usage, not past usage.
2. Still, historical considerations do not support your claim, given that a situation in which human scientists make a universe was never considered. If Hume were asked about human scientists making a universe, would he say they'd be gods, using the word as he understood it?

Crude: "This is like saying that a multiverse is technically a single universe, just with a larger scale and different features than originally conceived. Technically true, in practice irrelevant. "
No, it's like saying that if Star Trek scenarios in which people are put on apparent 'planets' in a holodeck, and deceived into believing they're on an actual planet (they're on a ship) is a deception, not a planet.

Crude: "Depends. Are the inhabitants of the Matrix exclusively embodied beings who were put in there via a neural hookup? Grey area. Are there inhabitants of the Matrix who exist wholly in the simulation and are mindful beings, etc? Then sure - that's just a Bostrom simulation with additional inhabitants."
1. Grey area?
Okay, I'd say clearly no gods as I use it.
2. The scenario is as in the movie. Of course, there are beings who have no human bodies...but of course, their 'brains' (computers) exist outside; they create the simulation, or are part of it.
In the Bostrom case, they do not exist 'wholly in the simulation'. Their 'brains' (computers) are not there; they're made of different stuff, but hooked in a deception one way or another.

Crude said...

Angra,

Well, obvious to some of those in the simulation, but I was explaining Bostrom's scenario

It's not obvious even in Bostrom's scenario. Bostrom deals specifically with ancestor simulations (I need not be as specific as that), but it's not 'obvious' to some of them, just as it wouldn't be 'obvious' to us, as per Dawkins.

But the point remains that even if they can't figure it out, the simulation is hardly a universe. It's more like the Matrix.

It's enough like a universe to get Brian Greene devoting a chapter to it in his book about multiverses. It's a simulated universe, granted.

I was going by Bostrom's scenario (though he does seem to make an error; I think the scenario is self-defeating, but then, not my scenario).

Even in Bostrom's universe, the resources available are unclear. He openly speculates about an infinite stack of simulations, with no 'top level'.

A deceitful simulation does not seem to be one, but then, no definition of 'universe' was provided, either. Do you have any definition in mind?

There's nothing deceitful about such a simulation in and of itself. As for a definition of a universe - for the purposes here, 'a seemingly distinct and/or isolated world'.

I was explaining Bostrom's scenario, and actually, there is a barrier to stacked simulations, which is computing power in the base universe.

That's assuming there's a base universe. Even with a stacked universe, it's only a barrier insofar as there's enough processing power required against a lack of computing power - and even then, a slow-running simulation wouldn't seem slow-running to the inhabitants necessarily.

Crude said...

The category 'gods' seems to be arbitrarily defined, by similarity to some beings (like Zeus), in some environment. You've not provided reasons to conclude that that wasn't the case in the past.

I've pointed out what people accept as gods, what has been uncritically accepted as gods and deities in the past, and pointed out that there's no good reason offered to call various things that meet extremely similar criteria to be 'not gods'. Your response has been to say your intuition is different, or that simulators don't count because they're 'puny'. I don't find either reply compelling.

But now you don't seem to be making a claim about a shift in meaning, but rather, a claim that the use of the word 'god' is somehow contradictory?

Where, at any point, did I say the use of the word 'god' was somehow contradictory?

The programmers of a Bostrom simulation of course can be so tricked, since they have no computing power in their brains to run the simulation, let alone do so consciously of all that's happening.

I didn't say they couldn't be tricked. I pointed out that even Zeus could be tricked. I was making a point about Zeus' power, while he was still recognized as a god.

Again, comparing humans in our environment with Zeus in his, we're way puny.

No, we're not. Disagree? Take it up with Dawkins.

this also gives more evidence to me that you actually believe that the debate is actually going your way, which makes the changes of an end in a reasonable amount of time diminish, unless I leave

Yes, I do think this debate is going my way - not that that matters at all, since I'd be glad to continue it even if I didn't. Were you waiting for me to concede? You really shouldn't let it be known that you approach these things with an eye on winning or outlasting who you're talking with - rather makes the whole thing seem little petty timewasting.

But you're making unsupported (or just false) claims, and we're stuck in this debate it seems.

That's frankly untrue, and a misrepresentation on your part. I've supported my claims about what qualifies as a god by multiple historical references from Zeus to deists to Hume to otherwise. Aside from the Tegmark case, your response has been to make what I consider to be some pretty lame objections (see: puniness), and keep falling back onto your intuition. That, plus demanding definitions exhaustively, then peppering me with limit cases, since you're convinced you can always defeat definitions.

But if you want bravado, I'll give you some in turn: you lost on Tegmark. You're losing on all other multiverse scenarios with hopeless objections and stalling, and you've tipped your hand by implying you were hoping I'd just kind of get frustrated at the length of this and drop it by now.

a. Could you please explain what kind of actually proposed multiverse, other than a Tegmark level 4 multiverse, skunks them, and why?

Because judging an event to be very unlikely to ever take place stops mattering when you're given infinite chances.

Crude said...

If the laws of probability are skunked, it's game over; belief in such infinite multiverse is epistemically suicidal.

Stop misinterpretations like this, please.

Reminds me of some science fiction stories.

Well, this wasn't a secret for Zeus. In fact, it wasn't a secret for plenty of gods. Especially with polytheism, most of them have some kind of origin and were themselves created, often out of chaos or primordial matter-stuff. And yet, they were gods.

I did not say that my intuitive usage matched Dawkins theory about the meaning, if he meant to propose one.

Sure, but again, I'm not trying to convince you. Are you trying to convince *me*? But I think it's some measure of support that Dawkins, not exactly a biased in my favor observer here, rejects the puny charge. In fact he rejects it to the point where he wants to discard properties talk as the standard. Do you think that's reasonable?

But if you're suggesting he's deliberately changing the meaning of 'god' from the way he understood the word before (or even changing it at all, deliberately or otherwise), you have a lot of work to do to support the claim.

It doesn't even need to be deliberate, as I've repeatedly said. I think his standard is silly, and represents a strange break from the past. The fact that Dawkins talks about how those gods would need explanations, indicating he doesn't even realize most gods did, is enough to indicate some ignorance on his part. Ignorance isn't intentional misleading, but hey, again - not necessary.

Again, you never claimed that to be necessary. And you don't do it now, either. There was no need to sacrifice the criterion.

I never claimed it was necessary. I expressly said I was using this particular standard of world creation/control because, even though the bar was possibly higher than it needed to be for a being to qualify as a god, it would keep things focused. I don't need to quibble about whether, say, non-world-creating-being X is a god, when my focus is on world-creating-beings.

But no point in going in circles about who misrepresented whom and when. It's all on record.

Yes, it is. And in the unlikely event someone goes and reads through this entire conversation, they'll see my statements supported.

No, it's not, since we do not live in a Bostrom simulation; I'm discussing the consequences of a scenario, not accepting it as a serious possibility.

You don't have to - but it's not a question of what you accept. Nor do you know we don't - really, even Dawkins admits he doesn't. Even Bostrom admits he doesn't. If you insist you've devised a test, I suppose that's quite nice.

Crude said...

That's like saying that putting someone in a holodeck and make her believe she's outside it (as in many 'Star Trek' scenarios) is not a deception. But clearly it is.

Not at all, and your mistake is 'putting someone on a holodeck', which implies taking someone and purposefully fooling them. But creating beings in a simulation who are 'natives', and who develop theories and ideas about their world? That'd be like saying the world was intentionally deceiving geocentrists. No, there was no deception involved in such a case - just people who made a mistake.

Even your own example requires intention on the part of the simulators to trick the simulated inhabitants - 'Heh heh, they think they're in reality, but they're not!' But that's not required at any point. The simulation, in principle, just *is*.

Okay, you're saying that Dawkins beliefs support the simulation, or apparently, the creation of universes like ours by some beings. I do not see how you derive that.

I didn't say that at all. I said I used Dawkins for partial support in terms of properties.

No, sorry.

Apologies, but yes.

The conclusion is clear, from that criterion. If, in the future, some human scientists found a way to make a universe", with planets, beings and all, then humans too would become gods, by your standard.

So, yes, I did establish a criterion. And by Hume's standard and many others, yes, they would be. Now, throughout this conversation I've pointed at having programmer-control over those beings as a major point in my argument. I also pointed out on this question that said beings may have front-loading capability with their universe, which gives them some serious indirect control.

But I did say it was a live option that gods could come to exist even in our universe, so that's hardly a surprise.

Again, my point is that the conclusion is that, by your standard, human scientists would be gods if they make a universe.
What is your answer?


Already answered, but since you apparently need to hear it again: yes, it's possible. I'm willing to raise the bar higher and qualify that said beings should be able to have some control over that universe - hence my focus on simulations - but by Hume's standard, that's not necessary.

Still, historical considerations do not support your claim, given that a situation in which human scientists make a universe was never considered. If Hume were asked about human scientists making a universe, would he say they'd be gods, using the word as he understood it?

Of course they support my claim. Hume already was willing to entertain that the creators were far from perfect, that they were numerous, that they were no longer around, etc. But he never questioned their being deities. What you're asking is if Hume would change his mind - but alas, those sorts of questions can't be answered. Maybe in the next life.

Or you can make a good simulation. ;)

In the Bostrom case, they do not exist 'wholly in the simulation'. Their 'brains' (computers) are not there; they're made of different stuff, but hooked in a deception one way or another.

It's not a deception. Read some Chalmers for an extended argument, but really, I suspect you'll just say 'my intuition is different' and that'll be that.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "It's not obvious even in Bostrom's scenario. Bostrom deals specifically with ancestor simulations (I need not be as specific as that), but it's not 'obvious' to some of them, just as it wouldn't be 'obvious' to us, as per Dawkins."
Not obvious to all of the ancestors, which is one most of the time there is no simulation of microscopic properties, distant stars have no detail, etc.; the computer only adapts before they engage in some kind of scientific experiment that would reveal the simulation to them.
In any case, the simulation is meant to look to the simulated people like their universe looked to the ancestors of the programmers, down to the microscopic level and up to distant stars and galaxies, but without simulating those things most of the times.

Crude: "It's enough like a universe to get Brian Greene devoting a chapter to it in his book about multiverses. It's a simulated universe, granted."
To the Bostrom scenario?
If so, I've not read that book, but I'm pointing out that it would be a deceit like a holodeck or the Matrix, and explaining why. Explanations beat authority, but you're welcome to quote Greene on this if you think that he gives reasons supporting the idea that it was a universe.

Crude: "Even in Bostrom's universe, the resources available are unclear. He openly speculates about an infinite stack of simulations, with no 'top level'."
True, but he does not claim that that is supported by what we know about physics.

Crude: "There's nothing deceitful about such a simulation in and of itself. As for a definition of a universe - for the purposes here, 'a seemingly distinct and/or isolated world'."
Of course, it's deceitful.
Purely for example, there is an intent to keep the people in it believing (for instance) that there are microscopic viruses that cause different illnesses, whereas in reality the computers are making some of them feel ill, and made an image of a virus appear only when they're using a microscope.

Crude: "That's assuming there's a base universe. Even with a stacked universe, it's only a barrier insofar as there's enough processing power required against a lack of computing power - and even then, a slow-running simulation wouldn't seem slow-running to the inhabitants necessarily. "
You could adjust the scenario to remove a barrier, but you need a number of additional assumptions for that, like no base universe like our own, or that self-awareness can exist at any processing speed.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "I've pointed out what people accept as gods, what has been uncritically accepted as gods and deities in the past, and pointed out that there's no good reason offered to call various things that meet extremely similar criteria to be 'not gods'. Your response has been to say your intuition is different, or that simulators don't count because they're 'puny'. I don't find either reply compelling."
1. You claimed that some things would have been accepted in the past, but that's not the same as showing it.
2. There is no good reason to pick some over others in the past, either, other than the arbitrary categorization of their time. I already pointed out that Michael and Lucifer were usually not accepted, but Loki was. A number of other entities are called 'spirits' or 'monsters', etc., in other religions, despite having similar levels of power.
3. A more plausible criterion would be something like 'a god is something more or less like that one, that one, that one, that one, etc...., but not like that one, that one, etc.', where two long lists are given. The differences might or might not be based on power.

Crude: "Where, at any point, did I say the use of the word 'god' was somehow contradictory?"
When you said "it's obvious, if they're going to call Zeus a god for non-arbitrary reasons, these beings would be gods as well.", that gives me the impression that you're saying that they're using the word in a contradictory manner. But if not, okay. What was the point of that claim?

Crude: "I didn't say they couldn't be tricked. I pointed out that even Zeus could be tricked. I was making a point about Zeus' power, while he was still recognized as a god."
Okay, but no one suggested that gods cannot be tricked, so what's your point?
In any case, Zeus is still far more powerful in our environment than we are in ours.

Me: "Again, comparing humans in our environment with Zeus in his, we're way puny."
Crude: "No, we're not. Disagree? Take it up with Dawkins."
1. Fine, then, I disagree with Dawkins too, if that's what he meant. So?
2. Your claim that we're not puny in our environment compared to Zeus in his only leads more evidence to the conclusion that by your proposed criterion for godhood, if human scientists in the future manage to create a universe like ours but over which they have no control, they would be gods.
Why not?

Crude: "Yes, I do think this debate is going my way - not that that matters at all, since I'd be glad to continue it even if I didn't. Were you waiting for me to concede? You really shouldn't let it be known that you approach these things with an eye on winning or outlasting who you're talking with - rather makes the whole thing seem little petty timewasting. "
I'm not waiting for you to concede, but for the debate to eventually end; refraining from insisting in some lines of argumentation, whether it's repetition of claims already addressed or further accusations of misrepresentation, is not the same as posting a concession, which I would never expect.
And yes, going back and forth, rebutting very similar claims, etc., does look kind of like a waste of time.

Crude: "That's frankly untrue, and a misrepresentation on your part."
Whether you're making unsupported or false claims can be assessed by reading the debate carefully, so I need to go no further on that.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "I've supported my claims about what qualifies as a god by multiple historical references from Zeus to deists to Hume to otherwise. Aside from the Tegmark case, your response has been to make what I consider to be some pretty lame objections (see: puniness), and keep falling back onto your intuition. That, plus demanding definitions exhaustively, then peppering me with limit cases, since you're convinced you can always defeat definitions."
Now that is a misrepresentation of the debate. But I believe you believe it. Which is part of what makes the whole thing kind of hopeless.

Crude: "But if you want bravado, I'll give you some in turn: you lost on Tegmark. You're losing on all other multiverse scenarios with hopeless objections and stalling, and you've tipped your hand by implying you were hoping I'd just kind of get frustrated at the length of this and drop it by now. "
You mean more bravado?
It's another set of misrepresentations.
1. I did not lose anything on Tegmark.
I said that if (conditional) what Tegmark means by a level 4 multiverse is what you believe he does, then there would be gods on a number of conceptions. That is not a loss, since I never claimed otherwise.

2. I'm actually winning on other scenarios (the case of human scientists making a universe in the future is an obvious case).

3. I didn't 'tipped my hand' by implying any of the sort; I did not imply that, either.
I said I got more evidence that you believe you're winning, which is nothing like saying that I was hoping you would get frustrated, but rather that my hopes that you would eventually desist because you have no case further diminished.

Side note: Perhaps, if you didn't like my reply, you should have refrained from making more accusations of deliberate misrepresentation. I'm still keeping the tone civil enough, but I'm definitely not amused.

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Because judging an event to be very unlikely to ever take place stops mattering when you're given infinite chances."
Mattering how?

You said that the laws of probability are skunked, but I already explain that if our universe has infinitely many galaxies, it's still extremely improbable that my neighbor quantum tunneled into my room.

Or are you saying that what happens is that what's utterly improbable to have happened in connection to us would happen somewhere, in some universe?


Crude: "Stop misinterpretations like this, please."
Stop accusing me, implicitly or explicitly, of deliberately misrepresenting what you said.
If you've been unclear (the 'skunked' part, in this case), you can always clarify; if I misunderstood due to my mistake, you can also clarify.

But I've not claiming that you claim what you didn't. You misrepresented my positions repeatedly and even after clarification (readers: that's on record), and I still wouldn't accuse you of doing that deliberately. You have enough experience in internet debates to reckon that miscommunication is rampant.

Crude: "Well, this wasn't a secret for Zeus."
Not my point, but that Dawkins' objection to godhood is a common one; there seem to be plenty of different usages of the word.

Crude: "Sure, but again, I'm not trying to convince you. Are you trying to convince *me*?"
No, I'm just entertaining your points since you seem to want to argue for a thesis about the meaning of 'god' and we were already debating.

Crude: "But I think it's some measure of support that Dawkins, not exactly a biased in my favor observer here, rejects the puny charge."
In the sense that he disagrees that those aliens would be puny, not about whether we are puny, or about whether puny entities like us would be gods.
If someone were to present to Dawkins a scenario in which, say, 20 years from now, human scientists create a universe over which they have no control, I think he would not say that they would be god-like to us.

Crude: "In fact he rejects it to the point where he wants to discard properties talk as the standard."
Rejecting that a certain amount of power is sufficient for them to be gods is not the same as rejecting that a certain amount of power is necessary.

But that aside, you're supposing that there is a standard, which is somehow related to power. It may be that having some amount of power in combination with some other conditions is enough, but not without them. But as I mentioned, my impression is that 'god' is more like 'similar to that one, etc.'.

Crude: "It doesn't even need to be deliberate, as I've repeatedly said. I think his standard is silly, and represents a strange break from the past. The fact that Dawkins talks about how those gods would need explanations, indicating he doesn't even realize most gods did, is enough to indicate some ignorance on his part. Ignorance isn't intentional misleading, but hey, again - not necessary."
Okay, so no charge of deliberate attempts.
I'd still ask for evidence that he (or some other atheist) is the one who came up with that idea, causing a shift (as opposed to just learning from examples that aliens who evolved from something like us aren't gods).

Angra Mainyu said...


Crude: "Not at all, and your mistake is 'putting someone on a holodeck', which implies taking someone and purposefully fooling them. But creating beings in a simulation who are 'natives', and who develop theories and ideas about their world? That'd be like saying the world was intentionally deceiving geocentrists. No, there was no deception involved in such a case - just people who made a mistake."
1. That's not the point. If you create people in a holodeck, and make it a point to deceive them into believing that they're not in a holodeck, that's a deception.

2. No, the world was not deceiving geogentrists. There was no deception, since deception requires a deceiver, someone who deliberately is trying to get them to have false beliefs.


Crude: "Even your own example requires intention on the part of the simulators to trick the simulated inhabitants - 'Heh heh, they think they're in reality, but they're not!' But that's not required at any point. The simulation, in principle, just *is*."
But of course there is intent.
They want their simulated ancestors not to believe that they're in a simulation. They want them to believe that there are (say) viruses that cause disease, and which are not just images that disappear the moment they're not looking through a microscope, etc.

It's an obvious deception.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "So, yes, I did establish a criterion. And by Hume's standard and many others, yes, they would be. Now, throughout this conversation I've pointed at having programmer-control over those beings as a major point in my argument. I also pointed out on this question that said beings may have front-loading capability with their universe, which gives them some serious indirect control."
You mentioned programmer controlled in some occasions, but that was not your original 'universe-creation' criterion, nor is it compatible with what you said in many posts.

Moreover:

1. When you offered the standard about creating a universe with planets, etc., you did not qualify it with conditions about programmer-control power within that universe.

2. You offered deistic creators as evidence in support of a claim that the level of power an entity had over his own environment was not a requirement for godhood, in the understanding of the word 'god' that you allege is the historical one. It's implicit in your offering deistic beings as evidence that deistic creators were gods by that usage.
In fact, it would not have made any sense for you to offer that example unless you believed that deistic creators were god by that usage.
But deistic creators need not have power inside their creation.

3. In addition to that, now you have said that we're not puny in our environment compared to Zeus in his; I disagree, but that also shows that you believe that having the level of power that we have in our environment does not preclude a being for being a god by your threshold.

4. As for indirect control, sure, we may say that the human scientists who in the future create a universe have considerable control over the initial conditions.

Given all of the above, it seems clear that it follows from the standard proposed that if human scientists, in the future, manage to create a universe over which they have no control, then they would be gods.

That said, the fact that deists did not specify a minimum level power over their surroundings does not mean that any level (like ours, for instance) would have been accepted, by their usage. It simply did not occur to them to entertain the possibility of a human making a universe, but it may well be that they would have rejected entities with as little power as a human, or as a programmer in the scenario described by Bostrom. But that is not what you said, or the standard you proposed.

Crude: "But I did say it was a live option that gods could come to exist even in our universe, so that's hardly a surprise."
Fair enough, my point is that if human scientists, in about 20 years, were able to make a universe, the vast majority of people would not deem them gods, under their intuitive grasp of the word 'god', and I see no reason to assume that the matter would have been different by Hume's usage of the word.

By the way (for another sci-fi example), I recall an episode Piccard convinces the inhabitants of a planet that he's not a god by taking them on board the Enterprise, etc., eventually, it's clear he's humanly weak, and they accept he's not a god. My point is that these usages are common.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Already answered, but since you apparently need to hear it again: yes, it's possible. I'm willing to raise the bar higher and qualify that said beings should be able to have some control over that universe - hence my focus on simulations - but by Hume's standard, that's not necessary."
Some questions:
a. To be clear, you're talking about control beyond initial conditions, right?
b. What is the evidence in support of the claim about Hume's standard?
c. Do you think that if someone had proposed the scenario in which humans scientists make a universe, he should have deemed them gods?
d. Since you say that the traditional standard (which you think was Hume's) did not require that, and since you defend this allegedly traditional concept of 'god', why would you change the standard?
Are you using your own intuitive understanding of 'god' to conclude that they weren't gods, and then try to match that usage, rather than the one you attribute to Hume? If not, please clarify, because it looks like that to me.


Crude: "Of course they support my claim. Hume already was willing to entertain that the creators were far from perfect, that they were numerous, that they were no longer around, etc. But he never questioned their being deities. What you're asking is if Hume would change his mind - but alas, those sorts of questions can't be answered. Maybe in the next life."
But Hume never considered a scenario in which the creators are nothing but human, so I was asking whether you considered that even in that scenario, under his usage of the word they would be gods (regardless of whether he would actually accept it), and if so, what your evidence for that is.

Anonymous said...

350 iterations of the same old program.... sigh.

Anonymous said...

Crude,
“Uh, yeah. In other words - he disagreed.”

It’s akin to someone posting about depression being a mental illness and how saying “Just snap out of it” is condescending, useless information, and just enrages the person that the comment is pointed towards and then someone in the comments posts “Just snap out of it.” A reply such as “Oh, really, was that my problem, I’ll just think myself out of a mental illness, thanks for the advice, jerk” would be appropriate. Sure, it’s rude, but it will show the person who said the comment how inappropriate it was; tit for tat. Sure, the commenter may disagree that it’s not terrible advice, but they are completely ignorant about the issues involved and have just been told that it’s horrible advice. On the other hand, it’s just what a troll would do. It’s the old age dilemma, is the offender ignorant or malicious. Since they were just told how ignorant it is, malice tends to be the better explanation.

Actually, there wasn't that much disagreement in the thread since they later admitted that their comment was condescending, trivial since everyone knew it, intentionally provocative, and didn't accurately describe their position (playing the ol' devil's advocate). In other words, a troll was banned, sad day for him. What’s the big deal?

“Oh, better yet, your additional point: 'That's okay, because PZ's in this for the money too.' Not exactly a brilliant defense.”

I didn’t ascribe a motive to PZ. That’s what “for whatever reason” means. I was pointing out that blogs may not have the same dynamics when you change their size. Don’t read into more than what I said in my post. There are plenty of reasons to restrict the audience and limit discussion, even for academic reasons.

“The example is fine. That you don't agree with it isn't a concern. If anything, your reaction just illustrates my point further.”

I disagree with it because I probably would have agreed with him and I wouldn’t have said what he said. He derailed the discussion to make a trivial point, a point that is both condescending and insulting. A lot of blogs have comment policies regarding going off-topic so the fact that he was banned isn’t all too surprising in terms of blogging practices. I’m questioning whether you even have a point since the example doesn’t show someone being banned for mere disagreement. Just look at the thread; there are other people who disagreed who didn’t get banned. Also, picking someone who admitted that they “wanted to stir up the hornet’s nest” by playing devil’s advocate (i.e. trolled) and monopolized the thread (contra comment policy) doesn’t really help your case either.

“In fact, CC - multiple people disagree with you right now. Who's cursing you out? Who's screaming 'Victor, ban this troll!' merely because you disagree? Yes, you've been told that you don't understand what you talk about before. Why, people even have mocked your name a bit. It's never even approached what goes on at Myers' crappy little outpost, daily.”

Do you think four lettered words make the difference? Just to let you know, atheists don’t typically grant them a special category for offense. Just because the people here use substitutes doesn’t make the verbal barrage any different.

Not to mention that your overarching criticism may be obsolete since PZ has since updated his comment policy to include: “TET will become [Lounge]. It is still the same: an open thread, talk about what you want, but I’m going to be specific: it is a safe space. Discussion and polite disagreement are allowed, but you will respect all the commenters, damn you. No personal attacks allowed at all.” If you want earmuffs, he has threads for that, if not, then he has threads for that as well.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I put my comment in the wrong thread, please disregard the previous comment.

Anonymous said...

I was just on Loftus's site, and I mentioned the possibility that the physical constants were originally variables that evolved to their present values. No need for either God or the multiverse.

Loftus deleted my comment and banned me. So much for the outsider test!!!

Shea Kang said...

Don't stop when you are tired.STOP when you are DONE ;). I really had a great time reading your article, please read my article also imarksweb.net
imarksweb.net . GBY :*

«Oldest ‹Older   201 – 355 of 355   Newer› Newest»