Re: irrational atheists

Damien Broderick (
Mon, 11 Jan 1999 15:14:04 +0000

At 11:49 PM 1/10/99 +0000, Nick wrote:

>I used to say that I was an atheist, but I've changed my mind and now
>I'm just an agnostic. This is partly because of the possibility that
>our world is a simulation; the posthumans running the simulation
>could well be said to be gods.

I doubt it, at least not in any sense of deity recognized by modern theologians (although it might fit with the plural and anthropomorphic gods of Greek, Roman and Norse mythology, not to mention Xena and a lot of Star Trek eps). If you build a snazzy alife sim and its GAs construct intelligent CAs, you'd be a kind of bridging `first cause', and might even have the power to intervene in their lives - even obliterate their entire experienced cosmos - but that wouldn't make you a god in any interesting sense. Gods are ontologically distinct from creatures, or they're not worth the paper they're written on.

>There is also the possibility
>that all possible worlds exist; then gods would exist since there are
>gods in some possible worlds. Or if the universe is spatially
>infinite, which it is on the simplest topology if it is open (which
>it seems to be) then random fluctuations should lead to the
>existence of godlike physical creatures somewhere (but would these
>be real gods?).

Again, I think this is an abuse of language. In an infinite universe there would be very powerful beings by that path; there could not (I think, but my set theory isn't remotely up to this) be a quantum fluctuation that yielded an infinite volitional entity coextensive with *all* those infinite worlds. And even with Gott-like (ha) closed timelike curves, I doubt that there could be a fluctuation that took the form of the logically earliest volitional entity that *preceded* itself and its own ontic context (unless it is the universe in toto).

Moreover, I suspect this line of thought is self-refuting: shouldn't there also be (1) an *infinite* number of distinct gods so produced; and (b) at least one catastrophic transcendental event, perhaps accidental, perhaps done by a Mad Mind, that obliterates all these infinite universes? Or would such obliteration, like a vacuum catastrophe, have to proceed from a center outward at the speed of light? If so, any god postulated as its cause is crucially limited, and fails the definition accepted by most (Western) theists.

>And there is the possibility that there might be a
>kind of neoplatonistic god, a "creative principle" which might
>explain why the world exists (though I think that looks highly

This sounds something like the array of current sub-theological representations of deity (as far as I know; I'm hardly an expert in gods) that is adduced by scientists such as, say, Paul Davies. I don't see how it makes sense as a proposition (so I guess I'm a noncognitivist in Max's terms, although it sounds like a nasty label to accept), but that might be a limitation of imagination.

Damien Broderick