Re: The inevitability of death, or the death of inevitability?

From: Josiah Draper (
Date: Sat Dec 29 2001 - 13:49:02 MST

Faith... is not the idea that "some things should not be rationally questioned", but if you have faith in something I would say it is more like knowing something is true or will happen although you don't have all the proof it wil. For example : the sun will rise next morning. You know it will happen, but you can't prove it or can you?
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Ben Goertzel
  Sent: Friday, December 28, 2001 7:46 AM
  Subject: RE: The inevitability of death, or the death of inevitability?

  About "faith" and whether Eli's gotta have it or not... (I really love these
  endless threads dissecting Eliezer's psychology. We haven't gotten onto his
  potty training yet for some reason; I guess there's a paucity of Freudians
  on the list...)

  Anyway, I partly agree with Samantha here, actually.

  But only partly!

  Of course, as Hume observed back when I was in diapers, the problem of
  induction is
  unsolvable. *Purely* rational inference about the universe is not possible.
  Even highly-refined probabilistic inference engines like your own brain have
  to make some a priori assumption about the background probability
  (to cast Hume in Bayesian terms).

  Call it faith, call it intuition, or call it Caledonia Mahogany's Elbows,
  there's something in addition rational calculation going on when we make
  judgments, particularly in such data-poor domains as the end-state of
  the cosmos!

  I also agree with Eli's point that our physical models of the universe are
  very unstable and not to be taken that seriously in the "big picture."
  I think the problem of induction show itself rather clearly in this
  The time series of physical models of the universe is really not very long,
  there's a lot of faith/intuition/assumption in extrapolating it *or* even in
  estimating its variance as Eliezer is implicitly doing...

  BUT -- I guess the problem with the word "faith", Samantha, is that it often
  goes along
  with the idea that *some things should not be rationally questioned.* If
  you have
  faith in life after death, you should not even consider rational arguments

  This is not the same as the kind of a-rational intuition that must underly
  assumption of background probability distributions. The mind must make some
  underlying, biased assumptions in order to reason; but it can be flexible
  about what
  these assumptions are. "Faith" implies a forced lack of flexibility in this
  which is surely NOT optimal in terms of maximizing cognitive power (though
  it may
  well be optimal as a mechanism of spreading a certain assumption throughout

  -- Ben G

> "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" wrote:
> > Perhaps. Understand that I do not have "faith" that immortality is
> > possible. I am simply stating that before we get all emotional
> about this
> > issue - that is, before we begin making value judgements or
> philosophical
> > assumptions based on it - we should remember that the model the
> prediction
> > is based on is a model which historically has often changed and
> currently
> > is still in flux.
> Faith may be a word that has fallen into disrepute in some
> camps. However, if I did not have "faith" that X (SI,
> singularity, immortality) was possible I wouldn't spend any time
> at all working towards actually producing such. In short, some
> questions are not effectively tackled by armchair cogitations.
> They can only be resolved, to the extent they are resolvable, by
> taking a working hypotheses and proceeding to check whether it
> is or can be made real.
> We know so very little about what "the universe" is and includes
> that it is extremely hubristic to claim that the universe simply
> does not allow X or that there is no way for anything that was
> part of the universe to survive the "death" of said universe or
> certain types of transformation thereof.
> - samantha

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