On 4/15/2010 8:01 PM, rexallen...@gmail.com wrote:
Let's assume that our best scientific theories tell us something true
about the way the world *really* is, in an ontological sense.  And
further, for simplicity, let's assume a deterministic interpretation
of those theories.

In this view, the universe as we know it began ~13.7 billion years
ago.  We'll set aside any questions about what, if anything, preceded
the first instant and just draw a line there and call that our
"initial state".

Given the specifics of that initial state, plus the particular causal
laws of physics that we have, the universe can only evolve along one
path.  The state of the universe at this moment is entirely determined
by two, and only two, things:  its initial state and its casual laws.

But this means that the development of our scientific theories *about*
the universe was also entirely determined by the initial state of the
universe and it's causal laws.  Our discovery of the true nature of
the universe has to have been "baked into" the structure of the
universe in its first instant.

By comparison, how many sets of *possible* initial states plus causal
laws are there that would give rise to conscious entities who develop
*false* scientific theories about their universe?  It seems to me that
this set of "deceptive" universes is likely much larger than the set
of "honest" universes.

Haven't you heard? Almost all scientific theories are false; that's why we keep changing them. In fact a survey (that included medical research) found that 90% of the published, peer reviewed papers were contravened within ten years (I expect that excluding medical research would look better - but the trend would still hold).

What would make universes with honest initial conditions + causal laws
more probable than deceptive ones?  For every honest universe it would
seem possible to have an infinite number of deceptive universes that
are the equivalent of "The Matrix" - they give rise to conscious
entities who have convincing but incorrect beliefs about how their
universe really is.  These entities' beliefs are based on perceptions
that are only illusions, or simulations (naturally occurring or
intelligently designed), or hallucinations, or dreams.

It seems to me that it would be a bit of a miracle if it turned out
that we lived in a universe whose initial state and causal laws were
such that they gave rise to conscious entities whose beliefs about
their universe were true beliefs.

I think you need the concept of "approximately true", otherwise you will conclude there are no true beliefs whatsoever - in which case "true" loses all meaning. The approximation can be both in scope and accuracy. Then I think it might be possible to show that all conscious entities arising through deterministic evolution of the universe must have approximately true beliefs.

Note that a similar argument can also be made if we choose an
indeterministic interpretation of our best scientific theories.


Except in a stochastic universe another form of "approximately true" is introduced: approximation in probability. Note that even if a universe is deterministic, it may be strictly unpredictable because at any give time only a portion of the initial state can have affected us due to the finite speed of light. So new and unpredictable information continually reaches us. So this is operationally equivalent to inherent randomness.

Brent

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