God and information in political belief

Submitted by rudy on Wed, 08/26/2020 - 14:04

There's a sad old saying that only atheists take the bible literally - and what's hiding behind that bit of reality is that progressives tend to categorize entire groups as stupid or immoral if one or more members of the group argue for a position or action progressives consider stupid or immoral. Thus all republicans are widely vilified for Mike Huckabee's pro-creationism, anti-abortion, positions because liberals have sold themselves on the idea that these positions are stupid and immoral.

Reality is not a big player in this behavior - the same progressives who regard abortion as the natural fate of black babies refuse to see it as today's expression of the eugenics ideas favored by well known republicans like Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Karl Marx, and various Kennedys. Similarly the same progressives who are too smart and too educated to accept creationism will tell you that the universe "just is" and only those too stupid to understand that time started with the big bang want to know where the big bang came from.

In reality, of course, both Huckabee and Hawking are creationists in that both invoke a combination of magic and the limitations of merely human intelligence to avoid asking what came before the proximate cause of what is: before God in one case, and before the temporal compression cycle in the other. In reality, therefore, the key differences are not in the two origin stories, but in their behavioral consequences with Huckabee's making the individual responsible to an external judge for his or her actions where Hawking's makes going along to get along the always moral choice.

We know, however, that the universe exists because, even if that existence amounts to programmed illusion or shadows on a cave wall, something has to cast the shadow or facilitate the illusion - and because that same logic applies to all forms of the information hypothesis these can explain the receding images of mirrors in mirrors, but neither the mirrors themelves nor the light that makes the trick work. To the limited extent to which this comparison holds, the same is true of God: we may not be able to prove, or disprove, the existence of any God as variously conceptualized across the ages, but it is easy to see those conceptualizations reflected in human actions and human concerns - and it is precisely because those actions and concerns are clearly and obviously real that progressives rail against Christianity, reject Judaism, and applaud Islam.

We do not know where the universe came from, but we know it works. Thus some answers are pretty simple: the whole magic number business (we couldn't exist if Planck's constant was different etc etc), is, for example, easily understood: the universe works. If it didn't work; it wouldn't exist, and if minor changes in some of these ratios had produced a significantly different but workable universe we would have evolved to fit that universe and think those values magical. Imagine the universe as a monte-carlo style simulation and it's obvious that only combinations that work with complete consistency continue. Ours continues, not by magic or intent, but it because it is self-consistent and so cannot do otherwise.

A nice way to look at this is to decide apriori that "events" considered as actions an outside observer, whether real or imaginary, can categorize as real (there is a point at which something happens) or not real (the event does not happen) exist. In this construct an event has a probability of one if it happens, zero otherwise, and is real (happens) if and only if all the events that must be real for it to happen are real.

In other words: P(E|ei)=1 if and only if P(ei)=1 for all i.

At first glance this may seem to require time with each event characterized by one or more probability estimates ranging from strictly greater than zero to strictly less than one during the period before the yes/no information is known, a transition state during which it happens or doesn't, and a later period during which the outcome is known.

However, if event E is fully determined by some set of events ei, then knowledge of all ei is equivalent to knowledge of all (ei AND E).

In other words knowledge of all ei means you don't have to wait to find out about E, and because ei is just a set of events the same logic applies to every event in it.

What this means is that the first event to happen determines all other outcomes and an outside observer with perfect oversight would not need to invent or perceive time to see everything.

Notice, however, that while there is no need to inject time into the set of events under observation, the observer has to place the act of observation in an ordered sequence including a before and after - meaning that Hawking's variation on Wheeler's multi-verse cannot be imagined without also imagining such an observer.


Notice too, please, that quantum indeterminacy does not invalidate this interpretation. We know enough about the behavior of many quantum scale phenomenon to assign apriori probabilities to the emergence of more than one end state - and we know from real world testing that we can act, during the time between the beginning of the process and its end, as if all of its possible end states exist concurrently. In fact, however, only one end state emerges - and the reason this works is that we're modeling the behavior - before, during, and after - of whatever is involved, not the thing itself.

Notice too that Wheeler's multiverse hypothesis requires at least one event to both happen and not happen and that's not possible - while Hawking's variation sidesteps the first event and so amounts to little more than turtles all the way down.

More subtly, this interpretation means that causality in general, and statistically inferred causality in particular, is chimerical. Thus P(E|ei)=1 does not mean that the P(ei) cause E, it only means that the events in ei are the necessary and sufficient conditions for E.

Think in terms of an analogy to a coin flip: in reality the outcome is fully determined by the forces acting on the coin, but in practice it's so hard to do the measurements needed to predict the outcome that we usually just model the process using p(heads)=0.5 as an estimate - and this estimate, which actually means that means we have no information about the outcome, is usually good enough for use in practical calculations involving bar bets and other real world matters.

We don't have perfect knowledge or anything even close to it, so while we can improve our estimate of the probability that E is real (happens) by improving our knowledge of the events ei, and so of their probabilities, we generally don't know enough about the events in i even to list the more proximate ones, never mind predict their probabilities with certainty. As a result we generally can't know whether E happens or not until after it does or doesn't.

But that's just us responding according to our limitations: an intelligence with perfect knowledge of all the events needed for a decision on action or inaction will know whether I'm going to eat, in the next ten minutes, the apple fritter sitting on the corner of my desk here - but, in a fully deterministic universe, my illusory free will is indistinguishable from the real thing, because I didn't know until just now.

So does such an intelligence exist? No current theory answers the question because there has to be a first cause but saying God created the first event in our universe (or the axioms of mathematics) leads to obvious questions about God's origins; while breathlessly asserting that the last domino in the universal event cycle knocks over the first one can be made to seem profound but actually raises exactly the same questions. Thus, for now at least, the real bottom line is only that the universe works as it does under either hypothesis, but human believers tend to act differently from non believers and it is easy to argue that those differences matter a great deal.

It is, for example, the nature of these behavioral differences that distinguishes one religion from another with old testamentary religions like Islam rewarding behaviors tending to toward despotic forms of social organization and both Judaism and Christianity requiring personal responsibility and thus the American style of government.