On 5/11/2010 4:18 PM, Rex Allen wrote:
On Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 11:01 PM, rexallen...@gmail.com
<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.

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
knowledge.

[...]

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?’”

I'm confused about your theory of this, Rex. You talk about "honest" vs "dishonest:" universes and how the initial conditions must determine what theories we have about the universe and since there are a lot more dishonest ones than honest (a point not in evidence) we have no reason to believe our theories of the universe. But then you cite Schulze and Kant who contend that you have no reason to think there is a universe or causal laws or anything except your cognitions. You can't draw any conclusions about probability from that. Before you can count up the infinite number of "Matrix" universes and Boltzmann brains, you need to suppose there is something beyond your own thoughts. And I doubt you've had an infinite number of thoughts about anything.

Brent

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