I've argued rather extensively against religion on this website.

That was my impression as well, but when I went looking for those arguments, they were very difficult to find. Perhaps my Google-fu is weak. Help from LW readers is welcome.

I found plenty of places where you spoke disrespectfully about religion, and quite a few places where you cast theists as the villains in your negative examples of rationality (a few arguably straw-men, but mostly fair). But I was surprised that I found very few places where you were actually arguing against religion.... (read more)

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I found plenty of places where you spoke disrespectfully about religion, and quite a few places where you cast theists as the villains in your negative examples of rationality (a few arguably straw-men, but mostly fair). But I was surprised that I found very few places where you were actually arguing against religion.

The post you are looking for is Religion's Claim to be Non-Disprovable

2timtyler9yA "Truman Show"-style simulation. Less burdensome on the details - but their main application seems likely to be entertainment. How entertaining are you?
6Eliezer Yudkowsky9yIn lieu of an extended digression about how to adjust Solomonoff induction for making anthropic predictions, I'll simply note that having God create the world 5,000 years ago but fake the details of evolution is more burdensome than having a simulator approximate all of physics to an indistinguishable level of detail. Why? Because "God" is more burdensome than "simulator", God is antireductionist and "simulator" is not, and faking the details of evolution in particular in order to save a hypothesis invented by illiterate shepherds is a more complex specification in the theory than "the laws of physics in general are being approximated". To me it seems nakedly obvious that "God faked the details of evolution" is a far more outre and improbable theory than "our universe is a simulation and the simulation is approximate". I should've been able to leave filling in the details as an exercise to the reader.

Theists are wrong; is theism?

by Will_Newsome 1 min read20th Jan 2011539 comments

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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).

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