Open thread on episode 753 / Rally update

Today, Matt welcomes guest David Smalley, host of the podcast Dogma Debate. Pop that popcorn and settle in.

Also, our illustrious host should remember to remind everyone of my attendance at the Reason Rally, coming up very fast. (To think I fly out Thursday…what to pack!?) At the moment, I am leaning towards a Saturday morning, pre-rally breakfast for the AXP meetup. There’s already a bunch of stuff happening the previous night and immediately post-rally (that I want to go to too), so breakfast might be the best bet, except of course for folks only driving in that morning.

I am not flying out until mid-afternoon on Sunday, so another Sunday morning breakfast meetup may be possible if there are folks driving in on Saturday but not leaving until Sunday. I’m trying to accommodate as many of you as possible, but really, what I need is your feedback. So Rally attendees, please provide that here, and if you’re not attending, just talk/praise/gripe about today’s show in general. Cheerio.


  1. zzzzzing says

    Have been a fan of the show for years from here in AZ. Would love to say hi and shake your hand in thanks for your efforts. Sunday breakfast sounds like a great idea, just depends on where folks can congregate to do that. 🙂


  2. Alexis G says

    I, too, have been listening to the show for years and I currently go to Georgetown Law, so I’ll be at the rally. Please post info about breakfast beforehand, I’d love to meet you in person!!

  3. neatospiderplant says

    Hubby and I can make Breakfast on Saturday. As long as its not too late, we should be able to make a Sunday morning breakfast too, depending on the time.

  4. says

    It’s too bad. I’m sitting here in a hotel in downtown DC. I can’t control when I’m here, unfortunately.

    I am currently playing a game of “Hide the Bible”.

  5. says

    Gasp! There was a Gideon Bible in one dresser, and I just found a Book of Mormon in the other.

    I’m not sure how I’ll figure out how to hide both of them.

  6. TCSF says

    Good callers today. And you are doing something great, Matt and all the rest of you! –tcsf

  7. waspbloke says

    Regarding the first caller, I accept the possibility that the super-computers of the future will be able to run ever more complex simulations but it stretches credulity to assume that they might be able to generate billions of simultaneous “sentient” entities within the simulations.

    I think the argument that the caller was trying to make, was that *if* we take a truck-load of assumptions to get to his notion of universe simulators, that the programmer, from the POV of the entities within (assuming they have knowledge of or unfounded belief in the programmer,) would exist *outside* of their space-time. This would also be true from the perspective of the programmer as he could start/stop, pause, rewind etc. the simulation. Then, if we accept that we are more likely to be the product of a simulation than not, there must be a programmer who, from our perspective is timeless, changeless etc. etc. Once we agree to all that, it’s exactly the same as what God is proposed to be by WLC et al.

    Obviously there’s no evidence for any of that but even if we were to accept that as rational justification for belief in an all-powerful creator of the universe, we still hit a wall regarding the creator’s motives for doing so. Given the argument above, it’s far more likely that we are just side-effects of an experiment. The creator is not likely to have any interest in our internal lives and certainly can’t help us to exist beyond the execution of our individual code’s or past the decommissioning of the simulation.

  8. primalcurve says

    Johanan is well-known in these parts. He goes to a local university in Wisconsin. I am familiar with several graduate students in the physics department. He has attempted to complete fundamental quantum physics (1st year) many times unsuccessfully. If he talks about anything related to quantum physics, take it with a big grain of salt. He’s most likely full of it.

    He can’t do the math that he talks about. If he could, he would have passed already. Matt did a good job shutting him down.

  9. says

    That last caller, Gavin? He is typical of most of the Christians I know. They believe in XYZ because it makes them feel good. They are people that, when truly challenged in an intelligent manner, and on an intellectual level, are the most likely to become, at the very least, agnostic about their belief, and subsequently agnostic about their lack of belief. It is very possible that the Gavins of the world will one day cease to believe what they believe, once they start caring about the veracity of their beliefs. Those are the people I am most concerned about. Those are the people in whom I have the most hope.

  10. LD says

    Take bits and pieces of quantum mechanics, mix in a truckload of assumptions, add a dash of “random stuff I read somewhere on the Internet that may or may not even be true”, and you get the first caller.

    It’s fascinating to entertain the hypothetical scenario the first caller describes, but a misconstrued understanding of physics, logic and probability reduces the argument to just that: only a hypothetical scenario, for which this is no evidence.

    Reminds me of the “magic water” bit from the movie “What The Bleep Do We Know”. People with an incorrect understanding of science saying stuff without evidence but trying to pass it off as truth saying “oh this guy said that” and “oh the numbers add up”. More often than not, surprise, they don’t!

  11. George From NY says

    “Catholics are encouraged not to read the Bible.”
    (caller Joan, 36:50)

    Great Caesar’s ghost, what idiocy.

    Sometimes I don’t know what gives me a bigger migraine: What the RC Church actually teaches or what some pig-ignorant, self-described “Catholics” think it does.

  12. Mark Rosengarten says

    Martin, I’ll be in town Friday morning until after the rally. I would LOVE to attend a Saturday morning breakfast meetup. I’ll be attending the fundraising dinner Friday night…the possibility of actually meeting Prof. Dawkins merits the expense IMO. I wish I could get down to Austin and meet up with you guys after the show but I’m from upstate NY so a leisurely drive to El Arroyo is kind of out of the question. The opportunity to meet with one of you ACA folks is worth the drive to DC, no doubt.

    I can’t believe it’s the end of this week. Yes! 🙂

  13. says

    I’d suggest that if you’re planning on building up assumption upon assumption upon assumption ad nauseam, here’s a quick tip how to save a lot of time and streamline the argument:

    1. Assume there’s a god.
    2. Now that we assume there’s a god, demand that your opponent disproves that god.

    That is how these super complicated arguments play out anyway, so why not save a bunch of everyone’s time?

  14. says

    A general comment on the show, does it bother anyone else when the studio audience laugh at the callers’ comments? The callers do usually deserve it, but it does kind of make it seem like the show is ganging up to discourage the caller.

    And I realize that the nature of the show isn’t meant to be dead serious, it’s just something I’ve noticed other shows as well are using, like Keith Olbermann’s news show.

    It’s a minor annoyance, but I have this slippery slope kind of feeling that we’ll soon be hearing other comments from the audience, like “OH YEAH, YOU TELL ‘EM MATT!” 🙂

  15. Paul B says

    One interesting problem with the computer simulation analogy. There wouldn’t be a single programmer but a whole team of programmers for something as complex as a universe simulator. So rather than suggesting there is one god, this analogy suggests a team of gods and an entire civilization outside of time and space.

  16. lobster1234 says

    hey george from ny – so you know my history – is that what you are saying?? you went to church right beside, sat with me in cathecism and in parochial school??? let me guess you are an idiot theist

  17. lobster1234 says

    hi mark – i am flying into dc on thursday and staying til the following tuesday – i would love to meet for breakfast – where are you all planning on meeting? thanx for all your great work

  18. lobster1234 says

    never been a ‘self-described ” catholic – that honor was bestowed upon me by my parents…you sound like an idiot btw

  19. lobster1234 says

    i have called twice and never heard/hear the audience laugh until i listened the next day….for me anyway, waiting for your chance to speak all you can hear is the caller and the hosts – i actually never realized there was an audience until after the 2nd time i called – so for me – the laughing didn’t even factor into the equation…but all the same some of the nonsense the theists bring up is pretty laughable…hey i’m just sayin

  20. CompulsoryAccount7746 says

    This analogy also means waaaaay more test runs exist than stable ones, so we’re almost guaranteed to be in an a universe doomed to be arbitrarily shut down or fail at any instant.
    It’s not The Sims.
    This is the argument from Dwarf Fortress.

  21. Orlando says

    Some of us are meeting for breakfast Saturday morning, 8:30 on March 24 at Le Pain Quotidien, 979 F Street, NW, three blocks from Metro Center.

    FYI for non-locals: D.C. weather has been fabulous so far, in the 70’s and generally sunny. But hard to predict 5 days ahead in this area. I’ll try to post a weather update on Thursday night or Friday morning.

    Also, my wife is working on the War Against Women rally on the mall, later in the month I think, and has found that non-locals do not realize how big the mall is. So I suggest people meeting up really nail down a specific location, and not just “the mall.”

  22. Orlando says

    Martin, feel free to e-mail me for further info on this area. I live here, in Alexandria, VA. We will be joining up with CFI and NCAS (national area skeptics), as well as another, more obscure skeptics group.

  23. says

    Isn’t that basically just boiling down to solipsism? Whenever people do the whole “computers are awesome, therefore Matrix” thing it just makes me 9_9

  24. says

    Is there any possibility that the podcast / web-recording of these episodes includes the “after the broadcast” portion if the show goes long, a la “The Daily Show”?

    Occasionally Matt or whomever is hosting will mention to the last caller that “hey, we’ll take your call after the credits”, and sometimes I would actually like to hear that conversation. Can this happen?

  25. jacobfromlost says

    jukkalattu: does it bother anyone else when the studio audience laugh at the callers’ comments?

    Me: I believe the audience was larger for this episode, but I didn’t hear CRUEL laughter, only laughter at absurdity. I don’t think it is much different than Tracie’s reaction when someone like Eric, for example, says he has 7 premises that prove god, and when the hosts reject the first premise, he asks them if they can just accept it anyway so he can move on. Tracie’s reaction was priceless, and was exactly mine at home–and it wasn’t cruel. And I can’t see Matt allowing the studio audience to become the Jerry Springer audience.

    Regarding the first caller, I may be mistaken, but he seemed to assume that the continued goal of evolution is intelligence, and that over time intelligence will just keep increasing until far in the future you have this “super” intelligence.

    One, intelligence is only ONE strategy for survival, and there is nothing guaranteeing it will work over time (and it is not a “goal” of evolution in any case, so extrapolating it will increase over time is dubious). Two, even if there were this super intelligence far in the future, what motivation would it have to create a simulated reality? (Why would it care?) And three, he seemed to be relying on made up numbers–especially the 99% likelihood of living in a simulated reality. There is no way to know that! If this is an acceptable way to argue, Matt could have just as easily said there is only a 1 in a billion chance that the caller was right, and therefore he is wrong. (You could even assign random low probabilities to intelligence being the survival trait that makes it into the far future, that that intelligence would be “super”, that it would WANT to create a simulated reality, that COULD create a simulated reality, and that it WOULD create one that included exactly everything we see around us now including all of history and all of future history. Given all that, 1 in a billion seems rather generous…if we’re allowed to make up stuff.)

  26. jacobfromlost says

    It’s on the ustream recording. As far as I know, they always have been.

    This week’s episode is split in two, so the aftershow is included in the vid titled “The Atheist Experience 753 Part B”.

  27. John Kruger says

    It would be nice if the “after” conversations were included in the podcast. My general experience is that people do not mind long podcasts, since they can be stopped and picked up again as desired. Longer podcasts just mean more content to enjoy.

  28. Kazim says

    I’m actually made a bit uneasy about the audible audience laughter and applause, for exactly the reason you mentioned. I think it has become more noticeable as the audience gets bigger, but the audience is specifically mic’d when the producers set up the show, and I’m not really sold on it as a good feature myself.

  29. John Kruger says

    Why do theists insist on abusing probability and statistics? A statement like “there is a 99% chance we are living in a simulation” is totally nonsense. What exactly is the denominator of that fraction?

    Probability is a method for handling unknowns, and is dependent upon what information is available. If you are to guess a number I am thinking of, your chances are essentially zero since there are theoretically an infinite number of possible numbers to choose from. If I add information like “the number is between 1 and 100”, the probability jumps up considerably. More information can make the probability rise even more, like “one of the digits is a 9”. If I tell you the number is 69, the chances become 100% (unless you want to be cute and deliberately get it wrong). To talk about probability after the fact, the known information has to be explicit. After you know what yesterday’s lottery numbers are, the odds that they occurred are 100% unless you stipulate unknowns to establish a number to divide by.

    Probability is not necessarily a case for plausibility or implausibility; it can also be a case for a high or low amount of unknowns.

  30. says

    Generally speaking, our studio audiences are respectful and I don’t think they’d be dumb enough to shout catcalls. But when you have a studio audience (and yesterday’s was one of the largest at over 30 people), well, they’re going to do what audiences do, laugh at funny things and applaud at things they like. I personally wouldn’t mind the addition of a very excited studio audience (a la Stewart or Colbert) for our show.

  31. says

    What John said.

    I don’t always have the ability to “watch” or play the ustream feed (since it requires internet), but I can easily download the ogv/mp3 and listen to it on my smartphone / work computer / wherever. If you’re already recording that additional feed onto the ustream, can that just be replicated with the audio-only feeds?

  32. Dan says

    I was finishing an exam yesterday evening, so I’ll have to wait for the video to be uploaded.

    I was wondering, however, if there is a set date for when Matt will be speaking/debating in Binghamton, NY. My brother and I hope to attend, so I’d like to be able to plan ahead as much as possible.

  33. pedantik says

    Martin: My wife and I will be at the rally, and would like to attend breakfast with you. How will you let us know when and where you’re meeting? Will you provide the info on a new post, or on this thread?

  34. says

    If there’s going to be a bunch of atheists swarming into the DC area and staying in hotels, we really ought to organize the Great Biblical Vanishing of 2012.

  35. terrycollins says

    Actually, there is some truth to Catholics being discouraged from reading the bible, but it’s old school. Tracie confirmed this when she talked about her Catholic grandmother or aunt in emails I had with her a few years ago. Heck, it wasn’t too long ago that catholic masses were held in Latin, with the priest facing the alter, and his back to the congregation. In catholic school, we were taught that the bible as very open to interpretation (especially the OT), and the important part was to make Jesus part of your life. How exactly, was up to the individual.

    I have no idea exactly why reading of the bible was discouraged, but modern Catholics embrace science, so a literal readings may have promoted too many tough questions. Also, catholic school religion class was never bible study, like Protestant Sunday school. It was more about focusing on something ‘good’ Jesus did, and how we could emulate that behavior.

    another thought…

    On artificially intelligent NPCs. At what level of AI would it be unethical to kill one in computer game?

  36. Alex says

    The first caller was simply reciting from Nick Bostrom’s original paper “Are You Living In a Computer Simulation?”. Links to this paper (with all the mathematical equations) and subsequent work are available at

    IMHO, Bostrom’s argument is the best yet for an intelligent creator of our “reality”. The fundamental principles are grounded in what we already know, i.e.

    1. Our consciousness is simply a product of neurons firing in our brains. There is nothing magical or spiritual about it.

    2. Given sufficient computational power, it is in principle possible to replicate consciousness. Its after all a matter of computation.

    3. If its possible to simulate one consciousness, it is in principle also possible to simulate multiple, even billions, of conscious entities. Its only a matter of computational power.

    4. If we assume that the universe can give rise to technological civilizations able to build computers, then its inevitable that someone somewhere at one time or another would’ve done just that.

    From this point on, Bostrom’s equations are quite convincing and logical.

  37. jasper says

    I was raised in the “hippy” wing of the Catholic Church (folk guitars vs. pipe organs, birth control a-ok, social justice, no talk basically whatsoever about hell, etc).

    We were never encouraged to read the Bible, but we were never actively discouraged either. At mass, I think they just had a rotation of New Testament & Old Testament passages they read cyclically or something. In Sunday school it was all gospel Jesus stories, rewritten for consumption by children.

    I have pondered whether the “Old School” faction of the RCC currently wants things back in Latin just so almost noone in the pews will understand what they are talking about.

  38. lobster1234 says

    wouldnt that be a riot?? how long would it take them to notice they were all missing?????

  39. lobster1234 says

    was a full fledged catholic right outside of boston..went to church every sunday, to communion, parochial schools, cyo trips, de calores at my home..confession, etc etc the real deal ..never once in any of those situtions did i read a bible, hold a bible, or asked to describe anything in the bible…they did read passages of the pulpit and we heard the about the “big” events in the bible but that was it

  40. says

    But isn’t that basically just high-tech solipsism, and so ultimately just an exercise in mental masturbation?

    I think Matt’s response to solipsists in the past has been “so what?”

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume that we’re just in one giant computer simulation. What will you do with that information? Can you do the spoon trick and learn to fly or dodge bullets? If it’s a consistent computer simulation, then it should appear the same as if it were NOT a simulation.

    In other words: how does “reality is a computer simulation” differ functionally from “reality is a dream?”

  41. jacobfromlost says

    Alex: then its inevitable that someone somewhere at one time or another would’ve done just that

    me: Why? Why is it inevitable? Again, it seems as if there is some kind of tacit assumption that the goal of evolution is intelligence, and over time intelligence will just keep increasing in some population somewhere. There is no reason to think that is true, as 1) intelligence isn’t a “goal” of evolution (technological or otherwise), and 2) it is also intelligent to not expend massive amounts of energy building things that have no relation to your continued survival.

    What motivation could a “super intelligence” (technological, biological, or whatever) have to create such a huge simulation? Why would that action be intelligent? And how could we say it is likely (or not) if we are not anywhere near a point where we could even guestimate what such a superintelligence would do or not?

    It seems to take all of the worse assumptions of religious belief and put them in a a brand new shiny “intelligent/ technological” box. It puts intelligence (ie, us) at the center of this simulated existence, and suggests HUGE amounts of time and energy went into “creating” us and everything around us. It’s the same old dance, just a different tune. We are the center of everything, unimaginable effort went into making us, therefore we are special in the grand scheme of things…even if all the evidence around us suggests otherwise.

  42. John Kruger says

    Never mind that there is no example of a decent simulated consciousness yet. If you think “Sims” are approaching consciousness I just don’t know what else to say.

    I might grant 1 for being the simplest explanation of consciousnesses. 2, 3, and 4 are enormous assumptions that need more justification. Aaron has this pegged, it is just an argument about solipsism. Even if we could be in a massive simulation, there is nothing to show that we actually are.

    This also suffers from an infinite regress problem, but why beat a dead horse?

  43. says

    Hate to be a wet blanket, but I think neither the Gideons nor the hotels mind if you take the Bibles. That’s partly why they’re there. They supply them to the hotels for free, so the hotels don’t give a shit. They come by every once in a while and replenish as needed.

  44. waspbloke says

    Why would you (they) need to simulate consciousness? Put another way, the computational overhead that would be required to simulate the private thoughts, dreams etc. of billions of entities, would be necessarily massive compared to just skipping that in favour of rules based interactions based on probabilities.

    Also, there is a problem with recursion. A so perfectly simulated universe should ultimately lead to its simulated civilizations developing to the point of creating their own simulations. So are we in a simulation…within a simulation…within a simulation…!?! Anyway, having some programming experience myself, I know what happens to computers that go code-loopy – they crash!

  45. Gralgrathor says


    Even if you accept that there it is possible to construct a mathematical model showing the possibility of everything being a simulation, you’d still have to show that this condition actually *exists*, and that it applies to us.

    The problem is similar to most ontological/cosmological arguments: it tries to define a condition into being without establishing that it has any basis in physical reality.

    In fact, one could use any ontological argument to argue that it is extremely likely that a god exists that would never allow the condition of simulation to exist. And if you feel really silly, throw in some more “logically necessary” yet contradictory mythical beings, and publish a comic. Call it “Quantum Quibbles” or something like it.

  46. lobster1234 says

    wow – guess i am not as smart as i thought….never knew they were there for the taking…why didn’t my invisible friends tell me!!

  47. Gralgrathor says

    @John Kruger

    Because it’s fun, and it doesn’t kick back. Come on, you know that.

  48. zzzzzing says

    Martin, re breakfast meetup…
    I can do either Sat or Sun with a slight preference toward Sun.
    Not being a local, I do not have any really strong suggestions, but having stayed at the Hyatt two blocks from the Capitol, I can say that they had a great Sun. brunch buffet the last time I was there. It was also fairly reasonably priced for what you could consume :-). Since folks are also staying all over, it might be good to pick a place within a walk of the Mall or Union Station for ease of access. Do local folks have better ideas? Please chime in!

  49. NoApologetics says

    One criticism, and maybe I missed it. I never found out who David was and why he was there.

    guest host should be defined in beginning TV 101

  50. jacobfromlost says

    And also,
    1) Walking is hard work.
    2) Riding the horse is preferable.
    3) I want the horse to be alive so I can ride it.
    4) Kicking the horse might make it come back alive.
    5) If step 4 doesn’t work, refer back to steps 1-3. If you still don’t want to walk, and still want to ride the horse rather than walk, kick the horse again as it is the only logical course of action. In fact, NOT kicking it would be irrational because that would show you WANT to walk rather than riding the horse. Who wants to walk instead of riding a horse? Irrational people, that’s who.

  51. says

    I can confirm this. I, too, was raised in the Catholic Church and having parts of the Bible cherry-picked for you was a huge part: the priest would read the good parts of the Bible and never once did we learn about any of the evil, disgusting parts that most of us atheists know and love so much. 😛 But yeah, it was all spoon-fed to us, and that was how we were to take it… accept what we were told, and don’t bother looking in the Bible ourselves, because that’s what CCD (catechism, religious education) was for!

  52. says

    Yeah, I’d imagine the people you usually invite to the studio aren’t probably the type that’d resort to catcalling during the show. Not unless TAE starts shifting the format more towards something like an atheist version of Oprah or Jerry Springer 🙂

    I guess the real reason why this might sometimes seem a bit bothering is that the debate situations usually tend to be a bit awkward as the hosts and the caller don’t always even seem to share the same language. Then there’s the issue of tone and how to counter theist arguments, which is a whole different can of worms altogether.

    To put it mildly, I’m sure you’ve gotten a few suggestions along the years on how you could have handled some call better, and what arguments should and should not be used 🙂

  53. says

    As Matt has pointed out before, we’ll get an email slagging us for being assholes to a caller, and another email telling us how well we handled the very same caller. You can’t win! (sigh)

  54. Kazim says

    And vice versa, don’t forget. If we’re polite to a caller, we’ll get email saying “Perfect! You guys are so patient!” And then we’ll get other email saying “You guys were such huge pussies, that caller walked all over you!”

  55. George From NY says

    Idiot or not (Hint: not), I know what my ex-Church teaches and what it doesn’t teach.

    Shouldn’t we Skeptics actually care about what’s true?

    ‘Self-described’ applies to Joan because to truly be Catholic (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Spaghetti Monsterist…) in an accurate and meaningful way, you have to understand what your church is all about.

    If Joan thinks the RCC encourages people not to read the Bible, she doesn’t know the first thing about the church, its catechism and practices. She can call herself a Catholic just as you and I may call ourselves Martians. We aren’t. She isn’t.

    BTW, for more idiocy look up my calls to AIE on YouTube. I recommend the ones on Marcion, eschatology and evidential standards in apologetics. These videos of me conversing with Martin, Matt and Don will make it clear that I have no idea what I am talking about. 🙂

  56. George From NY says

    That guess would be about as accurate as the statement about the RC Church encouraging people against reading scripture.

  57. says

    Here’s the main problem with the first caller: Let’s say we are in a simulation. There’s no particular reason to assume the real world is like ours other than the possibility of simulations. However, logic is not contingent and holds regardless of what the universe is like. Logic dictates than any computer running a simulation must contain more information than the simulation itself as it must hold all the information in the simulation, plus some overhead. That means there are actually strong limits on the ability to create a simulation since the total information is all simulations would have to be less than the information in the real universe. Unless the simulations consume more resources than the people running them, this means the total population of the simulations would be less than the real world.

    The other flaw is that just because such simulations are theoretically possible doesn’t mean it’s likely they will actually be made. As I said, the more complicated it is, the more resource-intensive to run. Why would you do this?

  58. says

    Not necessarily. It could be a complex situation arising from relatively basic simple rules with the computer doing the heavy lifting. See the Game of Life, for instance.

  59. says

    Premise 3 is the problem. There’s a limit to how much computing power can exist. For instance, I can take my copy of Sonic Mega Collection Plus and put it in my Xbox 360 and play. The 360 will run an Xbox emulator and a Genesis emulator runs inside that. It all works great, but that’s because each machine is far less powerful than the up of the line. You couldn’t make a 360 emulator for Genesis and play Halo: Reach, even very slowly, because there simply isn’t enough memory. Any computer capable of running a simulation of our universe would have to be more complicated than the universe itself, because it has all of the information in the universe, plus whatever it takes to run the simulation.

  60. Alex says

    I said that “Bostrom’s argument is the best yet” because it does not invoke anything supernatural and its assumptions are IN PRINCIPLE possible, i.e. do not violate the laws of physics.

    There is no much point speculating about whether it’s feasible or technically possible because we do not know what may or may not be possible with more advanced technologies. And there is even less point speculating about motives or whether it’s rational; we have no idea how other minds work, and even our world is full of people doing irrational things.

    This is how I approach this argument. In the absence any evidence for or against, I’m going to apply Occam’s razor and choose to believe the version of reality that is the simplest; i,e, one that does not require the existence of a more complex parent universe.

    It’ll be interesting to see if Bostrom’s arguments can make any testable predictions. If so, I hope to live to see the outcome of any investigation.

    BTW, if there is any evidence suggesting that Bostrom may be right, then the fact any parent universe must be more complex (have more information) than our’s is not really a problem; it’s the same issue as the multiverse theories that are popular amongst cosmologists today.

  61. Paul B says

    Yes the game of life can be written by a single programmer but the game of life is far more simple than a universe. A modern computer game which is far more simple than a universe, requires a team of programmers, graphic artists, and what programmer has ever worked in complete isolation, having never learned from anyone else nor ever used anything created by anyone else?

    Even to write the game of life, you’re going to need to discover/develop a long list of technology before typing that first line of code, starting with harnessing electricity, to the vacuum tube to the transistor and so on. What programmer is going to do all that in isolation?

  62. MAtheist says

    This, in a nutshell, is exactly what I was thinking as that call went on. The more he talked of a quantum computer that would be capable of simulating the universe, the more I started thinking that we have one of those, it’s called the universe.

  63. jacobfromlost says

    Alex: BTW, if there is any evidence suggesting that Bostrom may be right, then the fact any parent universe must be more complex (have more information) than our’s is not really a problem; it’s the same issue as the multiverse theories that are popular amongst cosmologists today.

    Me: But my understanding is that the hypothetical multiverses do not (or cannot) interact with each other in terms of information. It’s not as if one universe is giving rise to another universe in a way that would make all the information from the parent universe hypothetically present (or available as material from which to make software/hardware) in the child universe.

    In essense, the multiverse hypothesis is completely natural (unguided by intelligence), while the “simulation” hypothesis would require some kind of shared existence in which a programmer, programming, hardware, and the simulation itself…would all have to co-exist. As far as I understand it, the multiverse hypothesis suggests the opposite–there is no overlap between universes in terms of information that would be required for “creation” of a simulation.

  64. InvincibleIronyMan says

    It is a war on sex, but it’s a war on women too. If Russell could justifiably claim that the conservatives *don’t know* that the contraception issue effects women more than men, then I would agree with him. Otherwise, one could propose arguments like this:

    “I have nothing against birds, it’s just that I only shoot animals with feathers”

    Which seems pretty laughable to me.

  65. InvincibleIronyMan says

    As a participant in Western Democracy, please forgive me if I don’t have the greatest faith in the ability of other people to represent me. I certainly wouldn’t look to a sixteen year-old girl to represent me, this isn’t Naboo, you know!

    Jessica Ahlquist is the exception. She can speak for me any time, I am sure she would do a better job of it than I can!

    I need to go buy an “Evil Little Thing”, forthwith. It’s almost criminal that I don’t have one already!

  66. says

    Yes, the parent universe would have to be more complex than ours. Presumably, quanta are a way of limiting the necessary computing power. However, there’s still the problem that unless we are far simpler creatures than the ones who created the parent simulation (like the difference between a human and a square in The Game of Life), they would have to use massive amounts of their resources to maintain such a simulation. At that point you’ve moved beyond established truths, like the existence of simulations, and into baseless speculation.

  67. Judy L. says

    Regarding the woman who called on episode 753 from Friendship Maine, baffled at the mean behaviour of people who call themselves Christians, I think an important explanation is that Christian identity isn’t about behaviour; it’s primarily about what you ‘believe’, which doesn’t have to demonstrated or proven through your deeds and acts. So not only are you guaranteed that your god will forgive you any transgression if you simply claim remorse and/or do a little worthless penitence, but the only thing you have to do to ‘be’ a Christian is make a claim of your belief, which something that you can’t and don’t have to prove.

  68. Butyrum says

    Just viewed this episode; hope it’s all right to post to an old thread.

    A simple way to summarize a large chunk of what Johanan gets wrong is to point out that he’s confusing a mathematical model with the actual thing the model is attempting to represent. He tries to make hay of the fact that time-independent models of some processes exist, implying that that means that the referents of the things in the model actually exist “outside of time” in some meaningful sense. He doesn’t seem to understand that the absence of a time variable in a particular equation just means that the time evolution of the system isn’t what’s of interest, not that it doesn’t happen. The fact that I can write down A=l*w in a geometry class, and not include a time variable, doesn’t imply any actual rectangular object can exist outside of time. That’s just a laughably childish impression of how language works.

    Similarly, the purported ability to model the universe as a quantum computer (if indeed this can, in some sense, be done) doesn’t mean that the universe actually is one.

    tl;dr: The map is not the territory.

  69. dan says

    Hi Niall

    Do you know where this comes from? A friend told me about it many years ago and I’ve been doing it ever since but have long forgotten the original source and can’t seem to find it on the internets.
    I’ve just found my first copy where somebody else wrote it.