...a high probability to it being omniscient and omnipotent, a fair probability to it being omnibenevolent...

I realize this is a necromancer post, but I'm interested in your definitions of the above. How do you square up with some of the questions regarding:

  • on what mindware something non-physical would store all the information that is
  • how omniscience settles with free-will (if you believe we have free will)
  • how omniscience interacts with the idea that this being could intervene (doing something different than it knows it's going to do)

I won't go on... (read more)

On another note, I buy the typical compatibilist ideas about free will, but there's also this idea I was kicking around that I don't think is really very interesting but might be for some reason (pulled from a comment I made on Facebook):

"I don't know if it ultimately makes sense, but I sometimes think about the possibility of 'super' free will beyond compatibilist free willl, where you have a Turing oracle that humans can access but whose outputs they can't algorithmicly verify. The only way humans can perform hypercomputation is by having faith in t... (read more)

-1Will_Newsome8yNote that I was pretty new to theology a year ago when I made this post so my thoughts are different and more subtle now. To all three of your questions I think I hold the same views Aquinas would, even if I don't know quite what those views are. How does Platonic mathstructure "store information" about the details of Platonic mathstructure? I think the question is the result of a confused metaphysic, but we don't yet have an alternative metaphysic to be confident in. Nonetheless I think one will be found via decision theory. My answer is the same as Nesov's, and I think Aquinas answers the question beautifully: "Free-will is the cause of its own movement, because by his free-will man moves himself to act. But it does not of necessity belong to liberty that what is free should be the first cause of itself, as neither for one thing to be cause of another need it be the first cause. God, therefore, is the first cause, Who moves causes both natural and voluntary. And just as by moving natural causes He does not prevent their acts being natural, so by moving voluntary causes He does not deprive their actions of being voluntary: but rather is He the cause of this very thing in them; for He operates in each thing according to its own nature." I think my answer is the typical Thomistic answer, i.e. that God is actuality without potentiality, and that God cannot do something different than He knows He will do, as that would be logically impossible, and God cannot do what is logically impossible.
5Vladimir_Nesov8yKnowing your decisions doesn't prevent you from being able to make them, for proper consequentialist reasons and not out of an obligation to preserve consistency. It's the responsibility of knowledge about your decisions to be correct, not of your decisions to anticipate that knowledge. The physical world "already" "knows" everyone's decisions, that doesn't break down anyone's ability to act.

Theists are wrong; is theism?

by Will_Newsome 1 min read20th Jan 2011539 comments


Many folk here on LW take the simulation argument (in its more general forms) seriously. Many others take Singularitarianism1 seriously. Still others take Tegmark cosmology (and related big universe hypotheses) seriously. But then I see them proceed to self-describe as atheist (instead of omnitheist, theist, deist, having a predictive distribution over states of religious belief, et cetera), and many tend to be overtly dismissive of theism. Is this signalling cultural affiliation, an attempt to communicate a point estimate, or what?

I am especially confused that the theism/atheism debate is considered a closed question on Less Wrong. Eliezer's reformulations of the Problem of Evil in terms of Fun Theory provided a fresh look at theodicy, but I do not find those arguments conclusive. A look at Luke Muehlhauser's blog surprised me; the arguments against theism are just not nearly as convincing as I'd been brought up to believe2, nor nearly convincing enough to cause what I saw as massive overconfidence on the part of most atheists, aspiring rationalists or no.

It may be that theism is in the class of hypotheses that we have yet to develop a strong enough practice of rationality to handle, even if the hypothesis has non-negligible probability given our best understanding of the evidence. We are becoming adept at wielding Occam's razor, but it may be that we are still too foolhardy to wield Solomonoff's lightsaber Tegmark's Black Blade of Disaster without chopping off our own arm. The literature on cognitive biases gives us every reason to believe we are poorly equipped to reason about infinite cosmology, decision theory, the motives of superintelligences, or our place in the universe.

Due to these considerations, it is unclear if we should go ahead doing the equivalent of philosoraptorizing amidst these poorly asked questions so far outside the realm of science. This is not the sort of domain where one should tread if one is feeling insecure in one's sanity, and it is possible that no one should tread here. Human philosophers are probably not as good at philosophy as hypothetical Friendly AI philosophers (though we've seen in the cases of decision theory and utility functions that not everything can be left for the AI to solve). I don't want to stress your epistemology too much, since it's not like your immortal soul3 matters very much. Does it?

Added: By theism I do not mean the hypothesis that Jehovah created the universe. (Well, mostly.) I am talking about the possibility of agenty processes in general creating this universe, as opposed to impersonal math-like processes like cosmological natural selection.

Added: The answer to the question raised by the post is "Yes, theism is wrong, and we don't have good words for the thing that looks a lot like theism but has less unfortunate connotations, but we do know that calling it theism would be stupid." As to whether this universe gets most of its reality fluid from agenty creators... perhaps we will come back to that argument on a day with less distracting terminology on the table.



1 Of either the 'AI-go-FOOM' or 'someday we'll be able to do lots of brain emulations' variety.

2 I was never a theist, and only recently began to question some old assumptions about the likelihood of various Creators. This perhaps either lends credibility to my interest, or lends credibility to the idea that I'm insane.

Or the set of things that would have been translated to Archimedes by the Chronophone as the equivalent of an immortal soul (id est, whatever concept ends up being actually significant).