It seems to me that the modern technocratic secular version of creationism is the simulation argument. Why does it not suffer the same logical fallacy of inverse probability that the god argument does?
The inverse probability mistake in the god-argument is this
- We can see that the world is ordered in an entropic universe where it is more likely that there should be chaos
- Suppose there is a god creator. It is more likely he would create an ordered universe than a disordered one
- Hence, it is more likely our ordered universe has a god.
This mixes up conditional probabilities. The logical argument breaks down at the inference, despite the 2 premises being close enough to validity ie propositions 1 and 2 are true. Since 2 is true, we can surmise that P(o/g) is high, ie Probability of an ordered universe given the existence of a god. But our observation is not of a god but of an ordered universe, so what we need to establish is P(g/o), the probability of god given an ordered universe. This is related to P(o/g) as P(g/o) = P(o/g)*P(g)/P(o).
By 2, we accept that P(o/g)>P(o/-g), then P(g/o)*P(o)/P(g) > P(-g/o)*P(o)/P(-g). This simplifies to P(g/o)/P(-g/o) > P(g)/P(-g). For 3 to be true (P(g/o)>P(-g/o)), it means that P(g) should be > P(-g), which is the prior probability of the existence of god, meaning the observation of order is basically irrelevant. In essence it’s like saying there is a god-jar with 9 black balls and 1 red ball (a chaotic universe just for fun), and a particle-physics-jar with 100 black balls and 5000 red balls. You see a black ball. From which jar has it come? The fact that god-jars have 90% black balls is irrelevant to you.
Enter the simulation argument.
There is a root jar with one black ball. But the root jar makes 1000 more jars with 1 black ball each. Each of those make 1000 more in turn. You see a black ball. How likely is it to have come from the root jar? Not too likely. But that’s because it’s being framed differently. Consider the alternate framing that is like the one used for the god-argument.
- We see an ordered universe
- Were we to have the capability to simulate universes, we would likely simulate them just like this one
- Hence, we live in a simulation
Again a case of mixed up inverse probabilities. Yes 1,2 are true. So P(o/s) > P(o/-s). But the conclusion suggests P(s/o)>P(-s/o) which again reduces, like the god-argument to P(s)/P(-s). Is P(s)>P(-s)? Is it more likely we attain the capability of simulation than it is that we don’t? In Nick Bostrom’s original hypothesis, this fact seems to be just glazed over as a given, and that once it is given it follows from the exponential growth of simulations that ours is one, totally ignoring the fact that this is irrelevant in an equation that only contains the prior probability.
Is P(s)/P(-s) very different from P(g)/P(-g)? Trying to play devil’s advocate, there are conceivably a few reasons to suggest it is different, but they’re either unsatisfying (best case) or (more likely) terrifying.
- s is a subset of g, and therefore P(s) is higher? It is true (s) is a subset, but that doesn’t make P(s) higher, because the argument isn’t that we will become god (m->g), if it were then admittedly m->s is a pitstop on the way to m->g and therefore P(s) more likely than P(g). But in our current conception of the problem these are two different things, so are we really closer to the ability to perfectly simulate than a theoretical entity is to becoming god? There is no reason to think this might be true
- (s) results in infinitely more black balls than g, so even if it is 1 jar against 1 million particle-physics-jars, it gets closer to total number of black balls by brute force such that a random black-ball has a higher chance of being P(s) than P(g). This is the pure-numbers argument that people like Elon Musk have parroted Nick Bostrom’s hypothesis, and the one I find most confusing. If the posited God is ontologically given the property of omnipotence, surely he could create more universes than we could create simulations? Every number-driven argument for a simulation without deferring to the prior probability of the ability to simulate is increasing P(g) at a faster rate than it increases P(s).
- Now to the terrifying. (s) has really really low standards. The black ball we expect from (g) is perfect, or at the very least the best of all possible black balls, which means there are no better balls than the one we are observing. This puts (g) in a difficult position. (s) has no standards. It can make a black ball out of foam or cardboard. It needn’t even be black. It needn’t even be a ball. It just needs a line of code saying ‘when you see this piece of paper, you will see a black ball’. This keeps cascading. The standards in each black ball get worse and worse until we’re all Jerry listening to Human music beepboop quite blissfully. This is horrifying, because we no longer have to prove that P(s) is high for simulating the sort of universe A we experience, we need to prove that P(s) is high for simulating a universe B that the simulatees believe is real. If you think this statement isn’t too worrying because for us to establish what constitutes belief in reality, we have no other standard except our own belief in reality so A=B for all practical purposes, then you haven’t met flat earthers, scientologists, and that guy who told me I was ruining democracy by refusing to vote. There is a huge range of what constitutes belief in reality, and while it may be difficult to simulate a universe that fools David Chalmers, we only have to prove the probability of simulating a universe that might fool David Beckham.
The thin consolation blanket I knitted rests on a feeble hope that since P(s)/P(-s) is the same question of P(g)/P(-g), which has never seemed to me likely enough to cause any undue stress, so neither should the idea of living in a simulation. While it is true that the very compelling case of numeric inevitability that Bostrom paints is logically fallacious, that doesn’t mean the conclusion necessarily is automatically fallacious enough to alleviate existential misery , especially since his argument assumes that P(s)/P(-s)>>1. I am, after all, allergic to hope. It seems exactly the sort of shoddy standards for what constitutes belief in reality that might result in a world where we are unsatisfied with reality so much that we would look for metaphysical answers in the form of an abstract god.