On Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 11:01 PM, rexallen...@gmail.com
> 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.
> 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.
Note that Gottlob Ernst Schulze made a similar point in Aenesidemus (1792):
“Where do the representations that we possess originate, and how do
they come to be in us? This has been for a long time one of the most
important questions in philosophy. Common opinion has rightly held
that, since the representations in us are not the objects themselves
being represented, the connection between our representations and the
things outside us must be established above all by a careful and sound
answer to this question. It is in this way that certitude must be
sought regarding the reality of the different components of our
As determined by the Critique of Pure Reason, the function of the
principle of causality thus undercuts all philosophizing about the
where or how of the origin of our cognitions. All assertions on the
matter, and every conclusion drawn from them, become empty subtleties,
for once we accept that determination of the principle as our rule of
thought, we could never ask, ‘Does anything actually exist which is
the ground and cause of our representations?’ We can only ask, ‘How
must the understanding join these representations together, in keeping
with the pre-determined functions of its activity, in order to gather
them as one experience?’”
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