Thursday, October 27, 2016

Dr. Robert G. Brown's view of the rest of "Pandeism: An Anthology"

[Of all the contributing authors whom I have communicated with over the course of this project, Dr. Robert G. Brown, Professor of Physics at Duke University, has always engaged me most thoroughly; I recently wrote to ask his opinion of the book, which has seen an author's edition circulated to the contributing authors in advance of publication. This was his response:]

I spent the last couple of hours reading the many entries.  I find that I disagree with nearly all of the arguments (of course, being an empiricist:-) but nevertheless found them reasonably entertaining.  I very much liked your "nested God" observation, which dovetails perfectly into my own argument and example with a bitstring -- even if a being exists that IS somehow sentient and omniscient of its Self and all of the visible Cosmos, it cannot ever be certain that it is not embedded in a still larger dimensionality, any more than six bits of a bit string can "know" the true value of an 8 bit string it is embedded in.
Similar recursive arguments have been made before (Turtles all the way down, or IIRC in Godel, Escher and Bach by Hofstadter) but these arguments do fail to take into account that in order for a hypothetical deity at some intermediate level to >>think<<, they require two things: time to think IN (and an entire dynamical system capable of change, as thought is a dynamic process) and entropy.  The latter >>requires<< that they be embedded in a larger, and unknown, dimensionality.

But this breaks the recursion.  In order for meaningful sentience to exist, the sentient being requires a source of entropy.  This is a provable statement in switch-based computation (including neural models):

To put it another way, "thinking" produces entropy at a very fundamental level, the level of the dynamical change within the switching systems themselves, and this entropy is irreducible relative to the thoughts encoded on the switching units.  In the case of our own sentience the entropy source/sink is obvious -- the unknown or imperfectly known state of everything that is NOT us.  There is no reason to think that a hypothetical God would be able to think, in meta-time, without a similar entropy source, which provides the "directed randomness" we associate with "free will" -- thinking thoughts that are not obviously Searlian Chinese Room entities produced by a lookup table.  But this means that true extensive omniscience and sentience are mutually exclusive -- an omniscient structure has zero entropy and hence cannot "think" in any useful sense of the term.

Hence if a very "large", "powerful" (in deliberate quotes), Cosmos-scaled being DOES exist AND can think, it cannot be omniscient because thinking is a process of ongoing discovery of previously unknown thoughts.  We are knowING right now, we are not knowING all times.  A being for whom "now" exists cannot be omni-whatever and hence cannot be God.  For example, suppose that we are actually not observing a real Universe at all with our senses, but rather we are playing in a very, very fine-grained virtual reality simulation being generated by a Game Computer that is, in turn, programmed or operated by an Artist that is crafting every scene.  That Artist (or the Game Computer) are not God, any more than the programmers of World of Warcraft are God(s).  They exist, think, design, plan, in an entropy-filled world one level up.  If you want to imagine a Game Computer one level up that DIDN'T require engineering or a programmer but that is providing my experience of reality as a simulation, well, that really takes something unlikely (the existence of an apparent Universe in which I have objective existence) and makes it EVEN LESS likely -- there is a Universe in which a Game Computer has objective existence that is creating the ILLUSION of a Universe in which I have objective existence.  And a programmer/designer of that computer less likely still.  And a Universe -- that isn't a simulation itself in which that programmer/designer can have thoughts in a nested set of simulations, each less likely than the one one before.

IMO it makes little sense to postulate even the first level of this recursion from the mere fact of our own sentient existences in what appears to be an objectively real Universe that is NOT a simulation presented to our senses by a still-more-complex computer.  So I do have a lot of difficulty with the assertion that a Creator god existed and "became" the Universe -- when did this happen (in some sort of time, because "becoming" is a dynamical process occurring in time)?  Where did it happen (in some sort of space with information structure capable of supporting thoughts and decision making and planning and all that)?

But now you have space, time, stuff capable of representing a dynamically changing state, and you are stuck explaining what Created >>that<<.  If the answer is "nothing", then space, time, and stuff -- all that we observe our own Cosmos to be -- doesn't logically require a creator.  If the answer is something, you shunt your problems up a notch AND introduce your meta-God where you have to (using your own argument) ascribe ever more complex properties to the one-notch up deity and explain why it created a Universe in which pseudodeities created one-notch down sub-Universes all the while thinking that THEY were the highest-level God -- or not.

A lot simpler to just assert that the Universe is what it is, no God (logically) necessary, no empirical evidence for a God, no DIFFERENCE in how things are if an unnecessary and unobservable God is lurking somewhere, so why bother with religion/God (pandeist or not) at all?

[At this juncture, I sent in response, the following:]

In short answer to your objection to the necessity of it, I would respond that Pandeism is more of an if/then proposition.... if ours is indeed an intelligently created Universe -- which surely can be assigned at least a nonzero probability -- then Pandeism offers the best explanation as to why it would exist.

[Dr. Brown replied:]

And there we definitely agree.  But it is very difficult to imagine what would constitute "evidence" for an intelligently created Universe, and according to the way I define Universe, it would be literally logically impossible because I cut off the nonsense involving recursive chains of pre-Universes that aren't really Universes but are only (at most) space-time continua IN a larger Universe by defining the word Universe to (correctly) refer to the whole thing, NOT just the apparent Cosmos (spacetime) we find ourselves in.

If one does that, one has no possibility of referring intelligence and design back to a higher order, and one has no possibility of "creation" as there is nowhere to be and notime to do preceding Universe.  That means that fundamentally, the Universe itself is NOT the result of intelligent design, and if our Cosmos is, it could only be because intelligence arose in the greater Universe without any intelligent design.

Now you are up against Mr. Ockham.  Why multiply (invisible) causes?  No argument you can make for intelligent design of the Cosmos will not equally well apply (at an even lower probability) to a super-Universe containing the Cosmos and supposed intelligent designer(s).  The Anthropic Principle presents us with a fait accompli either way, but believing in an intelligent designer of Cosmi that spontaneously arose in a superset Universe we have absolutely no evidence for leaves one with an enormous engineering problem (how exactly do you design and build a Cosmos?) PLUS the problem of figuring out why the designer -- faced with the same anthropic principle for its own intelligence in whatever Cosmos it is standing in in order to do be doing the job of designing and building -- is to be considered a "deity".

To me this is EXACTLY what you argued AGAINST in your article in the anthology -- trying to determine what color suspenders the hypothetical Creator wore when Creating our space-time using meta-physics in a meta-cosmos that supported the spontaneous evolution of its meta-intelligence WITHOUT INTELLIGENT DESIGN OR TUNING OF ITS COSMOLOGICAL CONSTANTS.  Why bother with all of that?  It is so very, very unlikely (given the evidence of our senses and a bit of reason). Not impossible, no, but however unlikely you think spontaneous evolution of intelligence, well-supported by empirical evidence galore, is in THIS Cosmos, it is that unlikely squared -- literally -- to have taken place one level up.

There is plenty of time to "waste" belief in the invisible when it becomes visible.  In the meantime, it just distracts us from building an ethical world with the entire responsibility for doing so resting on OUR shoulders, because there is no evidence whatsoever that we're going to get help from a deity, whether or not one "exists" or is a "creator" or just another really powerful transdimensional space alien with a hobby.

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