Wednesday, August 29, 2007


God and Free Will

It is desirable to believe in "Free Will" if you want to use science, because if we don't have free will there is no point to doing experimentation. Free will expands the history of the universe in a transverse direction: at any decision point we will have an assortment of responses that are consequent to a particular stimulus, and each of those will act as a stimulus to the environment, producing an assortment of behavioral events that act as stimuli for the next opportunity to show free will. We only observe one trajectory in behavior space because we cannot perceive any events that happen in the future, and we can only observe one sequence that came from the past to the present. We know, however, that there are a large number of possible paths leading from the present into the future, and a large number of paths that might have arrived at the present but started from pasts that we don't remember as "our" past.

There is no reason why God should have the same limits of perception as an ordinary human being. There is no reason why God couldn't perceive all the possible futures that spring from a particular decision point, and all the possible pasts that might have led up to it. There is also no reason why God shouldn't be able to perceive that kind of mega-trajectory associated with every decision point. We can call those bundles of trajectories "The Meta-History Of The Universe". All that requires is for God to be omniscient.

Is God omnipotent? God already perceives every behavioral event that has happened, will happen, might have happened in the past or might happen in the future. There is no point in God changing the outcome of any particular event because that event already exists somewhere on the Meta-History of the Universe as God perceives it. So an omniscient God has no need for omnipotence because what we might ask God to do with that omnipotence has already been done, in God's perception.

Conversely, if we create a God in our imaginations who can be bribed or pursuaded to make some change in the Meta-History of the Universe, that God has a limited perception and is just an idol with clay feet. The reason that we still have Gods like that around is that Gods were invented in the Neolithic, and many of us have not progressed in our imagination since then.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007



It is necessary to have a religion because to "tell the truth" we would have to describe the history of the universe every time we said anything. What we do is talk in terms of abstractions, and the particular way we create our abstractions implies a set of beliefs and values that implicitly define a religion. The most effective kind of religion is produced by the method we call "science" which tries to be consistent with our objective experiences, consistent with itself, and not parochial. A particularly useful technique is mathematics, because it is self-consistent and not parochial in itself, so it is merely necessary to find a mathematical structure that is consistent with some collection of objective observations. It is even better if the mathematical description of a particular set of objective observations is consistent with the mathematical description of other sets of objective observations that describe similar phenomena.

It has always to be remembered that observations that can be defined by a label containing a finite amount of information (say a description couched in a finite number of words) is an abstraction, an incomplete designation for the observed phenomenon that is "good enough for practical purposes" but isn't the complete designator that God might use. Those kinds of observations can be gathered into sets that are "the same for all practical purposes" even if they are unique in terms of their placement in the history of the universe as seen by God. That kind of editing out of details that may not be equally shared by the membership of the set allows us to describe the actions of members of a set of things that are "the same" that ignore their individuality.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Natural Ecologists

If you are an egalitarian ("All persons are equal"), and a non-wastrel ("meet your physical needs without waste"), then you will be likely to be a believer in natural ecology. The trick will be to use surplus organic material that is naturally produced in natural ecosystems as a raw material in automatic factories that produce foodstuffs. There is no reason to believe that that can't be done because there was a long period in our evolutionary lifetime where we lived by gathering. All we need to do is gather that surplus that the earth produces that is surplus to reproducing an equilibrium ecosystem, which can be done using robots, and converting that into tasty and healthful foodstuffs. We developed farming as a way to allow us to increase our population, but that had unintended byproducts like stratification, war, religion, and the like. It also caused us to grow things that were easy to produce in quantity, like grains, to the detriment of soils; and to produce things like animal flesh, that were costly to produce and thus suitable for status symbols. If we don't have profit or stratification as a motive we can invent ways of creating food from the surplus of whatever grows.



I started rereading a biography of Bernard Shaw. Interesting that the socialists of the1880s were much like the progressives of today. They lectured everyone else, including each other, but they didn't seem to look beyond whatever the immediate crisis is. And the last thing they would think of doing is to try to figure out why "now" happened the way it did, so they could see what was going to happen if nobody listened to them.

I find that slightly disappointing because it would be interesting to talk to someone who had put in some time thinking about the future. Especially a future that wasn't just the present in funny hats.

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