Re: Miracles, ETI, and rationality

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Tue, 02 Nov 1999 12:58:40 -0600

Jonathan Reeves wrote:
> The point Hal is trying to make ( and you are missing, or being
> deliberately obtuse) is this:
> Believing that Powers exist and are interacting with us is just as
> irrational as believing in Gods and miracles.
> Powers _may_ exist and _may_ be interacting with us but, given the
> available evidence, this is extremely unlikely and therefore we use
> Occams razor to dismiss this possibility.
> Gods and miracles _may_ exist, but rational people generally discount
> this possibility for exactly the same reason as above.

No, Hal didn't say that. Hal said that *admitting the possibility* was a horrible thing because then he couldn't go around saying that miracles were *absolutely impossible*. I'm the one advocating the view that you use Occam's Razor and probabilities.

> What Hal is saying (IMHO) is that accepting the premise of
> interventionist Powers leads on to a strong possibility that these
> same (or other) Powers have intervened in the past in ways just like
> have been 'reported' in the Bible and elsewhere.

If he's saying that, then he's wrong. Unless you can come up with a coherent (informationally compact) set of motives that would lead to a given set of interventions and non-interventions, then the fact that interventionist Powers exist certainly does not imply the possible existence of a particular kind of (humanly visible) intervention, much less the truth of any given set of accounts.

> He is, therefore pointing out the contradiction in people who strongly
> support one and strongly disagree with the other.

Once again: This is entirely possible; all it takes is Occam's Razor.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Running on BeOS           Typing in Dvorak          Programming with Patterns
Voting for Libertarians   Heading for Singularity   There Is A Better Way