Religion: Self Fulfilling Prophecy?

This is a continuation of this string of posts.

Consider this hypothetical story. Thousands of years ago, some guy writes a book from his imagination that starts a religion. He doesn’t have any reason to believe it’s anything more than a complete work of fiction, but he wants other people to believe it so he is careful to exclude any elements from his religion that would be falsifiable. Despite this, his religion catches on and spreads around the world. For thousands of years it is a popular belief, though it is merely a product of one man’s imagination. Eventually, we reach the posthuman age and some devout follower of this religion decides to create a large number of simulations where his religion is fact.

People who find themselves in a time period his simulations cover are likely in a simulation. Of course, they would not be aware that these simulations would be created so they wouldn’t know to follow the religion.

A long time ago Blaise Pascal argued that one should believe in God basically because it is a low risk high reward situation. The potential gains of correctly believing in God, even if it is vanishingly unlikely, would outweigh the losses of being wrong. Later thinkers argued that there are an infinite number of unfalsifiable potential deities so the probability of choosing the correct deity out of an infinite set was 0. Since an arbitrarily large payout earned with 0 probability has 0 expected value, this is more of a low risk no reward situation and it doesn’t make sense to believe in God. In fact, for every deity who would reward you for certain behavior, there exists an unfalsifiable potential deity in the infinite set that would punish you for that behavior so it makes even less sense to pick a random deity to believe in.

One of the problems with this reply to Pascal’s Wager is that it relies on the idea that all potential deities are equally likely since we have no evidence that favors any of them. From this we get the 0 probability. With this religious simulation idea we have a clear path to a situation where a given deity would exist. For example we would need the religion to stay popular until the posthuman age, for humans to reach the post human age, for simulations to be possible, and for many simulations to be made simulating my time. It’s not clear that any of these probabilities are 0 or can’t all happen, thus we should be able to assign a finite probability that we are in a simulation where god is real and Pascal’s Wager would be a good reason to believe in God (assuming the benefits were sufficiently large).

This general process of creating many simulations can be used by an individual to do a lot of stuff. I will write more about this another time.

Listening to: Crown of Love – The Arcade Fire

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5 Responses to “Religion: Self Fulfilling Prophecy?”

  1. Han Says:

    These are valid points, but first of all, the issues such as “for humans to reach the post human age, for simulations to be possible, and for many simulations to be made simulating my time” are almost identical for all different religions simulating things so that does not differ significanlty across religions. The only thing is that a religions stays popular until the post human age which is an unknown quantity but still very similar probabilities thus it is still only marginally better to believe in a God because even say there is 5 religions that can make it to post human stage, there is a 1 in 6 chance for being wromng and being punished, if you choose reality you get no benefit for being right so its marginally better to choose to believe in some random religion

  2. darren Says:

    If we are in a simulation then presumably that simulation has a finite time span until it is somehow destroyed (by the end of the universe it resides in). So even if there is some heaven/hell programmed in to the simulation no matter what you do, you will eventually cease to exist right?

  3. cheap bulk candy Says:

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  4. God of Dave Says:

    It is impossible to prove that God exists. You must rely on written history, faith, and personal feelings (sometimes mathematical and unsolved mysteries). None of this provides the substance for proof since no discovered written history provides anything more than “proof of history” (at best). And, of course, no faith or personal feeling can be used without blowing your credibility out the window. Also unsolved mathematical anomalies and physical/scientific mysteries do not provide proof since a “lack” of proof for one argument doesn’t provide proof for the other side.

    The only thing we can prove about religion and God is that there is a LOT of time wasted on trying to prove or disprove it all.

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