Serious The Atheism/Agnosticism thread

http://qntm.org/responsibility

Again, I feel I need to ask what it means for something to exist. I suppose this depends on how your epistemology works. If different people mean different things by words like "truth" and "existence" then they'll just talk past each other, just like mattj and I talked past each other essentially because we have different notions of what's fair. If you base your epistemology off of empirical falsifiability (i.e. two statements about reality can only be meaningfully distinguished by a test) then essentially a universe and a simulation of a universe are "the same", and a proposed consciousness whose existence can't be tested is meaningless and not well-defined.

The statement that we probably live in a simulation makes assumptions about matters that can't possibly be tested. We could consider a countably infinite string of universe simulations, where each simulation simulates the next, and try to conclude that we're "probably" not simulation 0 (the original). But what if there is a set X of originals all making chains of simulations? What's the cardinality of X? Does it make sense to try to define probability in such a scenario? We could think up arbitrary scenarios where we're probably a simulation or we're probably not a simulation.
 

Hipmonlee

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OK, here is my best effort.

A conscious experience of the universe is an experience similar to my own. Explaining this in any other way seems futile. Hopefully, you will get what I mean from this, otherwise you can ask questions, but maybe you have no soul or something?

If a computer simulation can generate a conscious experience of the universe, since a computer simulation is just information, it suggests that information alone can generate a conscious experience of the universe.

If information alone generates a conscious experience of a universe then no computer simulation truly generates the conscious experience of the universe because the information exists before the simulation simulates it. The information exists in the code and input and the simulation is really only a method for presenting the information for human consumption.

Multiple representations of the same information creating separate consciousnesses is an odd concept.. Of course this is outside of the realms of verifiability, but it just kinda sounds silly. In the short story you linked there, modifying the universe is a change in input, you now are dealing with different information. If the information is the source of consciousness then you havent actually changed the first universe, you are just now dealing with some other universe. If the representation of the information is the source of consciousness then perhaps you have changed the universe..? I dunno, it sounds silly..
 

mattj

blatant Nintendo fanboy
I've been seeing the idea that our universe could be a "hologram" or "computer simulation" in google news and a few times on the Discovery Channel and others lately. I personally write it off pretty quick because I can't find anyone who can provide any evidence (so far) to support the idea. But what strikes me as odd is that the people who have been talking about it on TV and a few news stories, I recognize them as generally agnostic or openly atheist. Wouldn't a crazily complex computer simulation... you know... pretty strongly imply a creator?
 

Jorgen

World's Strongest Fairy
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That consciousness is present even where we'd traditionally expect it to be is difficult to demonstrate either a priori or a posteriori, and it's not at all helped by the fact that it's not a particularly consistently-defined property. Most people seem to either revel in the nebulousness of it all and talk past each other, or they dismiss discussions of it entirely. So, naturally, discussions of whether a machine could generate conscious thought are even more of a clusterfuck.

Perhaps the best (read: only) attempt I know of to actually devise some measure of consciousness is done by Giulio Tononi, who is apparently well-regarded in general, but considered a hack by most of the neuroscientists I've talked to (and that's putting it charitably). This Wikipedia article is basically his work in a nutshell, and no doubt comes straight from the horse's mouth (and yes, his papers on the topic are just as nebulous and fluffy as this wiki, which is completely agonizing). A couple notable points are that:

-he considers consciousness to be the result of a network of maximally synergistic information-processing nodes. This is kind of contradicted by the high redundancy of information in sensory cortices that give rise to perception and the fact that epileptic patients can have large chunks of frontal cortex removed with little to no functional deficit. It's problematic for other reasons, too, like the fact that this definition is supported exclusively by thought experiments that seem directed toward ensuring that machines cannot be assigned consciousness

-he considers consciousness to be a graded quantity (so animals = less conscious than humans). This is pretty different to the naive interpretation of consciousness being a binary thing (e.g., rock = not conscious, person = conscious)

As for the simulation thing, I was going to say it doesn't matter if the two are indistinguishable, but then I considered perfect clones and how I would never fucking use a Transporter or perform the Ultimate Illusion even if an outside observer would never be able to tell whether the "original" Jorgen were still alive. So I don't really know, I'm tired of trying to wrap my amateur head around this, I just hope whoever is running the simulation doesn't pull the plug.
 

Hipmonlee

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Yeah, unemployed as I am, there is no way I am reading through that monstrosity.
-he considers consciousness to be the result of a network of maximally synergistic information-processing nodes. This is kind of contradicted by the high redundancy of information in sensory cortices that give rise to perception and the fact that epileptic patients can have large chunks of frontal cortex removed with little to no functional deficit. It's problematic for other reasons, too, like the fact that this definition is supported exclusively by thought experiments that seem directed toward ensuring that machines cannot be assigned consciousness
From a comp-sci perspective this sounds like bs to me. Turing complete is turing complete, hardware is only a matter of efficiency. The internet can do anything your brain can do, just poorly.

As for the simulation thing, I was going to say it doesn't matter if the two are indistinguishable, but then I considered perfect clones and how I would never fucking use a Transporter or perform the Ultimate Illusion even if an outside observer would never be able to tell whether the "original" Jorgen were still alive. So I don't really know, I'm tired of trying to wrap my amateur head around this, I just hope whoever is running the simulation doesn't pull the plug.
If the ultimate illusion is the prestige thing then that really just isnt a very good idea. But teleporters I wouldnt have much problem with. Provided I was confident enough it would work, which might take some convincing. Probably to the point where it could be a thousand times safer than taking a car and I would still feel uncomfortable about it.

How would you feel about unplugging the simulation if you knew that it would be backed up at the instant it stopped and could easily be restarted?
 
One thing I dislike about theism is that there's almost a duty for a theist to be locked into specific positions on metaphysics and ethics. For example, Plantiga's free will defense is one of the strongest responses to the problem of evil, but it presupposes the libertarian position on the nature of free will. The thing that really bothers me is that people are so stuck onto such positions that they see nothing wrong with making a claim that's essentially equivalent to saying that Inferno is a better move than Heat Wave.
On a personal note, do you think I tend to be locked into this tendency that most theists tend to be locked into?
In my personal experience, most devout theists do not have a strong interest in philosophy nor have an inclination to engage in deep philosophical inquiry concerning the existence of God outside of the confines of Church dogma and scripture. If my Catholic peers are interested in exploring this issue, they tend to focus on doctrinal differences in between other Christian sects (while emphasizing that the Catholic Church as the "fullness of truth" in both its doctrine and in the sacraments) and liturgical differences between other rites, but not any potent secular arguments and perspectives. For instance, some would interpret John 6 to adduce scriptural evidence that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ while addressing Protestant objections and theology.

Most are not informed in modern philosophy or have demonstrated competence in any domain of natural science; they would unlikely understand concepts such as the principle of falsifiability, a normal distribution, statistical significance, anthropic principle, and exaptation – concepts that would likely arise in a theological debate. Understanding science is integral, since, obviously, science, at least to some degree (and that’s an understatement!), has been successful in elucidating our understanding of natural phenomenon with considerable predictive power and practical utility. Even the most devout zealot implicitly acknowledges the success of science; since they can appreciate that they live a technological milieu where almost every facet of modern life has been tangibly shaped by the fruits of scientific knowledge.

The epistemology of science -- consisting of its methodology, social institutions, and theoretical models -- provides a nice contrast between the epistemology of faith, which relies more on faith, dogma, and revelation as opposed to empirical inquiry and experimental testing. Naturally, one who is competent in science would ask whether religious claims warrant the same credibility and esteem that one grants to the many contemporary scientific theories. Also, one wonders whether the methods of science can also be employed in assessing the veracity of theological claims, and how disconnected the domains of theology and science are or whether there is some potential intersection between them.
===
Here are some positions that the Catholic Church (to my knowledge) holds that I philosophically find indefensible:

(1). God's existence can be proven through the light of human reason, without the aid of divine revelation (although the Church does maintain that one's needs God's grace for salvation). My quote summarizes my objections to this position.

(2). Design is apparent in nature.

(3). Abortion can be demonstrated to be "wrong" using secular ethical reasoning.

(4). Suffering is not senseless and pointless and it should be embraced because it gives us merits and graces

I still find secular utilitarian arguments permitting abortion quite compelling, and I believe that the only way one can consider abortion to be considered "wrong" is if one ascribes to the fetus a transcendent (spiritual) property that confers it more “value” than its neurological, psychological, and physical properties and faculties. From my particular perspective, the latter refers to my belief that each individual human is created for God’s glory, but that requires either revelation or divine grace. Most Catholics are against abortion because they are immersed in a culture that condemns it, and often their opposition of abortion is a part of their religious and political identity and expressing vociferous opposition to it is an opportunity to demonstrate moral righteous in the presence of their peer group. As an autistic who is largely immune to peer pressure and a person not reared in a Catholic environment since I am a convert, I am unaffected by this group dynamic and apathetic concerning sectarian opposition to abortion. (It is “sectarian” because the issue is nary presented in an abstract, detached philosophical way.)

Admittedly, there are times were my nominalist instincts impel me to flippantly disregard some aspects of Christology us that Jesus is “homoousios” to the Father (my more politically realist nature sees the Council of Nicaea as a means to create polarization in early Christendom and to alienate the Arian barbarians) due to its focus on the dubious metaphysical concept of “substance”. Even though my intellect has been cultivated by skepticism and nominalism and primed to reject such doctrines, still, regarding this doctrinal issue, my intellect does not consider it to be a foreign antigen, and any immune response is not triggered (unlike my immune system which decimated my beta cells in my islets).

I find scholasticism as grandiloquent obscurantism.

Another one of my pet peeves that is prevalent among most of my Catholic acquaintances is the facile attribution that a large portion the events that transpire in their lives – whether it is triumph, strife, trials, or adversity – as a part of God’s will. There is sparingly consideration for the probability or desirability of the occurrence of counterfactual scenarios that are within the realm of possibility; they just focus on what has occurred and accept it as God’s providence. Even for minor and mundane occasions of good fortune, not something that is indubitably good and improbable (such as Yusei Fudo drawing five Tuners for Shooting Star Dragon’s effect against Placido), God receives praise and thanks for allegedly precipitating the event. It is pervasive teleological thinking that interprets all personal events as having enormous significance as opposed to being the consequence of a fundamentally random phenomenon. I regard this attitude as rather naïve and inane, since it reflects a lack of understanding of probability and statistical reasoning, and it is a form of intellectual laziness that is averse to analyze the occurrence of events based on prior experience. In contrast, I see the many of the events throughout the world as the aleatory outcome of impersonal probabilistic processes; the outcomes of these processes can be statistically modeled if one possesses a sufficient amount of data to find, within a reasonable margin of error, the parameters of a statistical model (such as the frequency, mean, variance, number of trials, and independence of the trials) that can generate the distribution of outcomes of the events. For instance, one could arrive at a probability for smokers developing lung cancer using epidemiological data. Of course, such a rigorous and formal analysis is not necessary when considering the probability of mundane events, precisely because they are mundane and uneventful to be worth the subject of one’s intellectual energy. Or there may be an insufficient data to infer any conclusions about a given process or the outcome, but any application of statistical reasoning is often eschewed just to give glory to God instead of the pondering the possibility that such an event is just the outcome of a stochastic process. It is difficult to see a given process as the consequence of a probabilistic process, especially if it involves theoretical variables (‘theoretical’ roughly means ‘inaccessible to direct sensory experience’), such as the probability that a carcinogenic molecule would react with a region in the genome that encodes an oncogene, that cannot be readily observed nor understood. These theoretical variables not overtly probabilistic in the sense that a dice roll and coin flip are because the latter’s distribution of outcomes correspond to known, simple, uniform probabilistic distributions.

Yes, I have a predilection for frequentist as opposed to Bayesian statistics.

To me, the world is a macrocosm of the stochastic, molecular world of statistical mechanics, where there are innumerable probabilistic events occurring at any moment. A certain molecule, for example, has a given instantaneous probability of undergoing a chemical reaction. (This is proportional to exp(-E/rT) where E is the activation energy of the reaction, r is Boltzmann’s constant, and T is the absolute temperature. This probability is independent of the state of other molecules not in the molecule’s vicinity since it is unaffected by them as they cannot react. Other factor are the availability of reactants in the system, which is proportional its concentration, and the mechanism of reaction, which determines the “order” of the reaction.) In the world of statistical mechanics, while each individual event is fundamentally random, the operation of random processes on large number of molecules renders certain macroscopic outcomes inevitable, such as a dynamic chemical equilibrium in a chemical system when the rates of formation of the reactant and product become equal or the uniformity of temperature of a fluid at equilibrium.

Some more canny individuals may argue that a personal God can work through stochastic processes (as opposed to enacting “miracles” which involve violations of what are considered to be the laws of nature) due to his transcendental nature. This “transcendental” quality of God prevents him from being comprehended as the “alternative hypothesis” who is in competition against a designated “null hypothesis” and can be dismissed by a statistical inference [edit: when the p-value is smaller than some alpha threshold of significance]. This view, however, wields no explanatory or predictive power since, regardless of the outcome, any event can be ascribed to God’s will. Furthermore, one could always look for redeeming qualities and mitigating factors in ostensibly undesirable outcomes to make the outcome seem to be an ultimately salutary event that is part of God’s plan. But again, that is just one imposing their subjective biases with their limited perspective in one’s interpretation of personal events to prevent one from seeing oneself as a hapless individual under the influence of impersonal random processes.

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I've been seeing the idea that our universe could be a "hologram" or "computer simulation" in google news and a few times on the Discovery Channel and others lately. I personally write it off pretty quick because I can't find anyone who can provide any evidence (so far) to support the idea. But what strikes me as odd is that the people who have been talking about it on TV and a few news stories, I recognize them as generally agnostic or openly atheist. Wouldn't a crazily complex computer simulation... you know... pretty strongly imply a creator?
"hologram" may refer to the holographic principle in fizzicks (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AdS/CFT_correspondence). and if I dumb down and twist my already dumb superficial understanding, it is basically saying the universe is basically like one of those 2d toy trick cards that appears 3d when you tilt it or at certain angles. except a lot bigger. and if it is physics, and especially since it is physics that can be twisted to be "meaningful", mainstream media is pretty much a non-source. they can't even report "basic" scientific discoveries correct or without exaggeration. imo if you want to read about hologram/simulation stuff the best source would be a blog written by an expert in the field. they are often directed at an educated but lay audience and there is an incentive for the author not to exaggerate or make ridiculous claims. plus they probably won't be straight up making shit up.
 
I suppose one could distinguish an object from the idea of an object (or at least try to). You could distinguish a conscious experience of the universe from the idea of a conscious experience of the universe, and information could generate the latter but a computer simulation would generate the former. Yet, you could also give the computer simulation that treatment. An instance of a computer simulation (a machine) can generate a conscious experience of the universe, but the idea of the computer simulation (the code, I guess) could generate the idea of a conscious experience of the universe.
If you regard this as a problem then I'm not sure you fully understand what an agnostic is, or even what the standard definition of a theist is.
#notalltheists
Yeah, the subject of what theists might believe is really difficult to talk about in a manner that doesn't trip over nuances, because the notion of "God" is so ill-defined between one person and another that it's inaccurate to say in general that a theist is more similar to another theist than to an atheist. Maybe someone identifies as "religious" but her conception of "God" is essentially metaphorical and she doesn't use the idea to try to talk to a magical sky daddy (and if she does, that ritual is metaphorical as well) or as an excuse to value her opinions above others'. Maybe even the religious leader that she regularly goes to is little more than a glorified motivational speaker. That said, the labels (e.g. God, theism, religion) themselves have tremendous power over people when they identify with various groups. People will end up arguing fiercely against each other and hating each other simply because they identify with "opposing" tribes, or agreeing to some extent with each other simply because they identify with the same tribe. The most frightening tendency for me is for people to adopt ideas that they'd otherwise recognize as being complete garbage bordering on psychopathy, just so that their tribal belief system has a definite existence separate from the beliefs of the outsiders. The theist that doesn't fall for all this to some extent is a rarity.

Ignorance of alternative positions is, if anything, a driving force in this. Our biology compels us to think in certain ways, and that makes some garbage easier for an uninformed citizen to chew on than other garbage. The ignorant can reject the theory of evolution, or insist on an unrealistically extreme conception of free will, not in spite of ignorance but because of it. And of course this is a danger for all tribes, not just religions (it's just that this is the atheism/agnosticism thread soooo...). Ignorance of the details of free will alone is IMO responsible for many political positions and constructs influencing society today that I find rather psychopathic and backwards. myzozoa listed a few examples and there are many more that can be rattled off if one tries. I completely agree with him when he talks about political positions that "wear all the guises of christianity without the God, and that was also part of colonialism, genocide etc." (My issue with that part of his post is simply his use of the term "science", and maybe this is a #notallscience complaint but I don't see a contradiction between saying that science has generally improved society greatly, and acknowledging that the fruits of science (i.e. technology) can be and has been used for tremendous evil, though in most if not all cases the primary driving force is some form of pseudoscience and people generally being jerks.)
 
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I've been seeing the idea that our universe could be a "hologram" or "computer simulation" in google news and a few times on the Discovery Channel and others lately. I personally write it off pretty quick because I can't find anyone who can provide any evidence (so far) to support the idea. But what strikes me as odd is that the people who have been talking about it on TV and a few news stories, I recognize them as generally agnostic or openly atheist. Wouldn't a crazily complex computer simulation... you know... pretty strongly imply a creator?
I would consider myself agnostic as to the possibility of being in a computer simulation for the same reason I'm agnostic as to the existence of god. It's impossible to know for certain, so claiming certainty is foolish. In this sense, I find the comparison extremely applicable.

However, I see atheism as a different claim. Atheism, to me, is a rejection of absolute values set by the majority of major and minor religions. An analogy to your example would be a person, believing he lived within a simulation, attempting to infer what the programmer was attempting to solve and changing his lifestyle substantially to fit with the inferences. As of yet, I don't think I've heard of anyone doing this.
 

mattj

blatant Nintendo fanboy
If you regard this as a problem then I'm not sure you fully understand what an agnostic is, or even what the standard definition of a theist is.
You don't see any inconsistency with saying both "Our universe is a simulation in a physical computer" and "Our universe either has no creator or we can't know whether or not it does"? I couldn't care less whether the "standard" definition of "theist" includes a blurb about "using a computer to create the universe".
I would consider myself agnostic as to the possibility of being in a computer simulation for the same reason I'm agnostic as to the existence of god. It's impossible to know for certain, so claiming certainty is foolish. In this sense, I find the comparison extremely applicable.

However, I see atheism as a different claim. Atheism, to me, is a rejection of absolute values set by the majority of major and minor religions. An analogy to your example would be a person, believing he lived within a simulation, attempting to infer what the programmer was attempting to solve and changing his lifestyle substantially to fit with the inferences. As of yet, I don't think I've heard of anyone doing this.
I can see how being unsure of whether or not the universe is a simulation is compatible with agnosticism. But not being sure, or even being mostly sure. I'm not even sure I can believe it could be compatible with honestly considering the idea as possible.

I don't know about the atheism part though. Whether or not he's the classic Western, white robed, bearded, glowing, old guy on a floating throne in the clouds or not, if our universe is a simulation it had to have had a creator. Unimaginably massive supercomputers don't build themselves and crazily complex programs don't write themselves. That meets any definition of "god" that I know of.

The idea of these people discussing it as a serious possibility just seems hypocritical to me. "Of course the idea of a god is stupid. But hey, did you hear that we really might be just bits of programming in some grand supercomputer?"
 

Myzozoa

to find better ways to say what nobody says
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idk I feel like 'all that (we know) exists is a computer simulation' is kind of like... oxy-moronic, I think it's the word 'simulation' that throws me off. What is the case is the case, we only know what we know, and experience is what we experience. I just don't see anywhere for the line of thought to go:

1. Suppose for a moment, as I never would, that material objects can be understood separately from that which perceives the object. If this is the case, then both experience/perception and 'simulation of experience/perception' are similar in that they do not necessarily yield true information about material objects.

2. If 'the universe' is a simulation, does our consciousness persist if the simulation ends? would we 'wake up from it' if someone turned it off? Would we retain all the experiences we had from the simulation once we find our perceptions are focused back in the 'real material world'? If we would retain our experiences from the simulation within the real world, and those experiences have consequences for how we act in the 'real' reality, then those simulated experiences turn out to form a causal chain with reality even after the simulation has ended. In this sense, the simulation was part of the real, and in being part of the real, the simulation is real. So why bother calling it a simulation at that point? On the other hand, if we will 'die'/cease to exist if the simulation is 'turned off', then it seems the simulated universe is the only universe we can, or will ever, know. Thus, all that exists for us would be simulated, it is a condition for existence, but then reality for us can only simulated, thus making a distinction between simulated and real becomes the same as distinguishing the possible from the impossible, but

"
Do we deliberate about everything, and is everything a possible subject of deliberation, or is deliberation impossible about some things? We ought presumably to not call both what a fool or a madman would deliberate about, AND what a sensible man would deliberate about, a subject of deliberation. Now about eternal things no one deliberates, e.g. about the material universe or the incommensurability of the diagonal and the side of a square. But no more do we deliberate about the things that involve movement but always happen in the same way, whether of necessity or by nature or from any other cause, e.g. the solstices and the risings of the stars; nor about things that happen now in one way, now in another, e.g. droughts and rains; nor about chance events, like the finding of treasure. But we do not deliberate even about all human affairs; for instance, no Spartan deliberates about the best constitution for the Scythians. For none of these things can be brought about by our own efforts.

We deliberate about things that are in our power and can be done; and these are in fact what is left. For nature, necessity, and chance are thought to be causes, and also reason and everything that depends on man. Now every class of men deliberates about the things that can be done by their own efforts. And in the case of exact and self-contained sciences there is no deliberation, e.g. about the letters of the alphabet (for we have no doubt how they should be written); but the things that are brought about by our own efforts, but not always in the same way, are the things about which we deliberate, e.g. questions of medical treatment or of money-making. Deliberation is concerned with things that happen in a certain way for the most part, but in which the event is obscure, and with things in which it is indeterminate. We call in others to aid us in deliberation on important questions, distrusting ourselves as not being equal to deciding.

what is last in the order of analysis seems to be first in the order of becoming. And if we come on an impossibility, we give up the search, e.g. if we need money and this cannot be got; but if a thing appears possible we try to do it. By 'possible' things I mean things that might be brought about by our own efforts; and these in a sense include things that can be brought about by the efforts of our friends, since the moving principle is in ourselves. The subject of investigation is sometimes the instruments, sometimes the use of them; and similarly in the other cases- sometimes the means, sometimes the mode of using it or the means of bringing it about.
"

How would we ever verify that we are waking up in the true non-computer simulated reality? Why does it matter?

3. Just because it might be possible to conceive a computer capable of simulating our universe (btw this is position of some contention too, there is not a consensus, but rather a series of addendums, disclaimers, and constraints have been attached to this stance), does not mean our universe is ACTUALLY a computer simulation.

So yeah my first two thoughts are trying to suggest that there are no consequential (ethical, scientific, etc) differences between real experience and simulated experience. There is no consistent way of distinguishing between the two, and thus I would say it's not worth wasting breath over. like other 'metaphysical claims' i feel it's an empty debate, something not worth deliberating about, something not even completely understood by those deliberating, as they find that even the words of the discussion are empty.


but fuk teleporters srsly, theyre probably murder.
 
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Hipmonlee

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So I gotta agree with you, this is a fairly pointless conversation. But it appears to be an utterly pointless conversation that people are prone to having, but that is based on an assumption about the nature of what a computer simulation actually is that is fundamentally wrong. The simulation is merely a different representation of the data contained in the input and code. It isnt creating anything, its just representing it in a more human friendly form.

But another consequence of this argument is that I am pretty sure that Mary learns something when she experiences the universe in colour. What she learns may not be expressible as information however.

So, you cant have information that is inherently self explanatory. It has to be interpreted. Our experience of the universe definitely is real and is in some manner an interpretation of information we receive. That interpretation may not provide any new information about the state of the universe, but once we can codify the information our consciousness actually receives (which seems plausibly achievable) we can infer something about how our consciousness interprets that information, which is definitely information. I am not sure whether meaningful conclusions would be able to be drawn from that---like, how the interpretation of that information by a conscious thing is able to feed back into the information of our experience---but if it could, it would be really interesting to know how...

This has some potential practical moral implications,like how turning off the simulation in capefeather's story is not a big deal and we should all embrace teleporter technology when it is invented cause it definitely isnt murder.
 
I consider myself Ignostic, and don't find the position incoherent or pretentious. I would argue that most people have unique interpretations of God, and that in most fora, the particularities aren't fully discussed. Some common attributes (e.g.: God is a creator, God is benevolent) also have original interpretations, and are often left to be assumed. Ignosticism, as I follow it, would coincide regularly with atheism when discussing monotheistic religions. If there is a sufficiently well defined God (with sufficiently well defined properties) then I would be able to reject it.

It differs with atheism in regards to deism, or where god is defined more loosely (e.g.: where god can be defined as morality, or logic, or the laws of the universe, or as clouds of dust). In some cases, again where god is sufficiently well defined, god could be falsifiable or even a logical certainty. Atheism would state that these are not gods, or classify them under a different label.

There is also the case where god is poorly defined: do you think god created the universe?

Which God? What does create mean? Is god part of the universe in this context?

Atheism jumps to the first paragraph and assumes properties of god based off previous discussion threads. Ignosticism asks for clarification.
 

Crux

i want it...
So your problem is just that people haven't defined their terms properly. I fail to see how that is different to any of your other positions or why you require another term to describe your pretentiousness or obtuseness depending on the day and can't just ask for clarification. Everything I said in my earlier post applies.

EDIT @ Below:

OK that's fine it's better than what the other bloke defined it as I will support you here william martin ills III
 
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I hate arguing terminology. I'm atheist/agnostic/ignostic/anti-theist/secular/whatever. Each term means something different (from each other, and often between people), but there's substantial overlap. I was just explaining the difference between ignostic and atheist as I apply it. The only substantial distinction is how deism is characterized between the two.
 
Words gain their meaning from the specific context in which they are used, that context is usually easily discernable, and you just have to stoop from your grandiose intellectual heights and ask what that context is in order to be on the same level as the person you are having a discussion with.
But that also applies to this very discussion. It can't be assumed that any one person actually is coherently taking a theist position as opposed to a deist/pantheist/panentheist one, and even in debates involving philosophers, the positions are often conflated. Hell, even in this thread they're repeatedly conflated. That's why the term "ignosticism" exists: to call those people out on their shit and stick to the coherent definitions.

As you probably know (and this post was originally intended as a response to mattj and/or Super Mario Bro so I guess you could call this the "point" of this post), there's a pretty unambiguous distinction between theism and deism (the whole reason the two words exist to begin with). The theist god does things like reveal herself to people and intervene in her creation in tangible ways - falsifiable claims. The deist god does not do any of that; it's basically just an abstract concept that's completely beyond the reach of any test (e.g. the universe being some jerk's computer simulation). Theism versus deism versus atheism was a compelling narrative back in the 17th century, when Voltaire duked it out with d'Holbach et al over matters about the universe that could not be verified. Nowadays, though, scientific observation is pretty much limited only by the mathematical limits inherent in modern physical theories, and our understanding of logic is much more sophisticated, to the point that we're not even really sure that there is a meaningful difference among the not-theist positions. It's kind of sad from our modern perspective that Voltaire and d'Holbach have gotten such contrasting treatments after death, when their beliefs were pretty much the same. But y'know, people will continue to claim that America was founded as a Christian nation or whatever.

(Also I realized that my previous definition of "falsifiable" looks ambiguous and could be interpreted as logical positivism or Popper's falsifiability criterion. By "test" I mean something one can do to demonstrate that at least one of the statements is false.)
 
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Crux

i want it...
No, that is holding people to a reasonable standard of debate, it isn't an intellectual position. Everything I said still stands.
 
But then what is an "intellectual position"? It seems even that is dependent on the context of how the people in the discussion look at epistemology. People identify with arbitrary in-groups for arbitrary reasons, and their efforts to rationalize their in-group associations impact heavily on their epistemology. So for someone to say "your in-group associations are inconsistent" could be called a "position". At the very least, it has potential to expose the opponent to a different way of thinking, causing him/her to question his/her in-group associations.

(I know this is kind of a necro but I haven't gotten to post here in ten days and I felt that this needed to be responded to.)
 

Crux

i want it...
None of that in any way conflicts with what I said. All of that is resolvable with a simple "pls clarify x" and to make a separate subcategory of atheism to describe it falls into any number of the traps I outlined above and just makes you look like a tosser, because you're probably being one.
 
But it's not a subcategory of atheism. I don't think that anybody even said that. There was a point around the time I joined Smogon where my take on the religion debate could have been described as religious ignosticism, and there was a point earlier than that where my beliefs could have been described as pantheism. The two positions at least felt different and I took them for different reasons. Hell, the term apparently originated from a Jewish rabbi.

Honestly, I agree that the term "ignosticism" is kind of useless as a description of a generalized intellectual position. But that doesn't make me pretentious for adopting it at least in contexts where it makes sense. I suppose I could say, "This debate doesn't make sense," without making that into an entire label. But if I find I have to take that approach in many discussions on religion, then how is it pretentious for me to use a label that says exactly that? Would you rather have me go around telling people they're basically atheist, or whatever other questionable slogans I've heard from emphatic atheists on the internet?
 

Crux

i want it...
the term starts any debate on terms where it is at least perceived that one of the parties is less intellectual than the other, when you could achieve the same outcome just by asking for clarification. im just repeating myself and this is a dumb discussion, if you feel the need to reply go back and read my original post because my answer is probably there.
 
And that is what I disagree with. It doesn't have to start a semantic debate on terms, nor does it have to imply that one party perceives itself more intellectual than the other (whatever that means), nor does the word even have to be uttered in a specific discussion. You're confusing the label with the behaviour it describes. I say, "I am an ignostic," meaning in a discussion about religion I will tend to ask for clarification. It's not like I identify as, say, atheist in lieu of making an argument. I identify as such to describe (vaguely, in atheism's case) how I approach a certain type of argument. Ignosticism is the same way. A thread like this is inevitably going to switch between arguments and descriptions of arguments.

Honestly you're just really difficult to reply to because of your really weird interpretations where you ask me to do what I already described that I do. It doesn't help that you're being so irritated about it. It seems rather petty to me.
 

Crux

i want it...
the point was more, who cares this is a facile argument about the definition of terms. i think it is trivially true that the terms that you use shape the way that people perceive you, i don't care what you choose to call yourself. this argument is actually pointless, so you can continue it if you want to but don't expect a reply.
 
Indeed, I was just kind of confused as to why Super Mario Bro's now-deleted post was reacted to with anything other than "sure why not", if it was supposed to be a pointless thing to argue about to begin with. But whatever, I'm glad we seem to agree that this is just linguistics.
 
I've been seeing the idea that our universe could be a "hologram" or "computer simulation" in google news and a few times on the Discovery Channel and others lately. I personally write it off pretty quick because I can't find anyone who can provide any evidence (so far) to support the idea. But what strikes me as odd is that the people who have been talking about it on TV and a few news stories, I recognize them as generally agnostic or openly atheist. Wouldn't a crazily complex computer simulation... you know... pretty strongly imply a creator?
Why would the creator have to be supernatural? The creators of such a simulation could be humans or aliens with advanced technology. Unless your definition of god is "creator/s of this reality", then you won't run into any inconsistencies. One could have a naturalistic world view and still believe that a computer simulation of the universe is possible. Depending on your definition of god, the creators of the simulation wouldn't actually be gods, since they only created a program, not the actual universe.
 

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