Re: [asa] Many Worlds Interpretation and ID

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Tue Aug 14 2007 - 17:45:14 EDT

At the risk of blowing my 4 posts a day limit ...

I wasn't myself trying to promote MWI over Copenhagen & not sure if I
believe MWI anyway. I'm trying to get my brain round the thought that
suppose instead of permanent loss of consciousness, the gun is an
anaesthetic dart that gives you a temporary loss of consciousness, say puts
you out for 10 hours.

One of the things that seems interesting is that one of the strongest
atheists I ever met was a firm believer in the MWI & I wonder if there is a
strong philosophical commitment to MWI-of-the-Gaps, because it can explain
anything, even miracles, without the need of God?

For example "survival of the fittest" isn't clear-cut with probability 1.
Better adapted species are more likely to reproduce/ propagate genes etc.
But in some universes the arguably less fit will still outnumber the more
fit. That way highly implausible evolutionary sequences become possible.

So even if we can't answer the question as to how such-and-such evolved (
and I think we should pursue the question and not give up), there is still
the comforting (for the atheist) thought that even if there is no plausible
answer, the necessary transformation did happen in some universe or other,
without having to invoke God.

But by the same token, is it logical to reject MWI because you find
theological problems with it? In what way does this differ from Young
Earthers rejecting Evolution because they have theological problems with it?

Copenhagen has its own problems. What do you mean by an "observation"? Why
does it collapse the wave-function. Does it have to be an observation made
by a conscious being?


On 8/14/07, Chris Barden <> wrote:
> Iain,
> I rather think the question of consciousness is the real bugbear of
> the experiment, since without the observer we cannot collapse the
> wavefunction. If MWI were true, then our consciousness would be
> something like haecceity. As such, we could entertain such
> possibilities as possible worlds in which the physicist refused the
> experiment, or was not a physicist at all, or (as Plantinga once did)
> was an alligator. But to have such a malleable definition of "me"
> seems hard to apply consistently.
> What's more, I see a theological problem with MWI. If it is true, the
> ontological argument still holds for God's existence but not his
> justice. After all, suicide has been considered by the church to be a
> mortal sin. What does it mean for 999 physicists to commit such a sin
> and not bear its consequences, since their consciousness immediately
> accrues to the 1 who is left?
> As interesting as MWI might be, I'll stick with Copenhagen.
> Chris
> On 8/14/07, Iain Strachan <> wrote:
> > Hi, Chris,
> >
> > I think in the case of the Quantum Suicide experiment you are right -
> the
> > universe where the physicist repeated the experiment is unlikely (to the
> > tune of 10^(-300) ) to be the one in which "we reside".
> >
> > However, there's a lot hidden in "we reside" & in a MWI framework I'm
> not
> > sure how you interpret it. Every time the universe splits (due to
> multiple
> > possible quantum outcomes happening), there become two copies of every
> > living conscious person, and their consciousness would exist separately
> in
> > each universe. Each would have exactly the same memories, but their
> futures
> > would diverge. You're then stuck with the question "which one is the
> real
> > me?". But one of our conscious selves would see the physicist surviving
> > 1000 suicide attempts.
> >
> > [Aside]. There was a web page that told you how to use this concept to
> win
> > the lottery jackpot. It is a very simple strategy. You buy a lottery
> > ticket and arrange to have yourself killed if you don't win the Jackpot.
> > Your consciousness continues in a universe where you win the
> jackpot. (But
> > how do you know it's the "real you", and what does that mean in this
> > context?)
> >
> > However this argument about being "very lucky" to be in a universe where
> the
> > extraordinary event of 1000 suicide attempts happens is subtly from the
> > evolution vs ID argument.
> >
> > Even if we are extremely lucky to be in this universe where intelligent
> life
> > has evolved ( say the ID people are right and p < 1e-150 ), in a MWI
> > scenario that event, if it has finite probability, will occur in some
> > universes (actually astronomically many, though a tiny fraction of all
> > universes). At this point the Anthropic Principle arises and the reason
> for
> > it being the one in which we reside is because such universes are the
> only
> > ones in which the question is asked in the first place.
> >
> > MWI-of-the-gaps doesn't explain anything anymore than God-of-the-gaps,
> but
> > it could be seen to be an alternative explanation to the Design question
> > that doesn't involve Design. Neither explanation is any more scientific
> or
> > valid than the other, of course ( both are completely untestable ), but
> it
> > does raise the point that low-probability doesn't necessarily involve
> > Design.
> >
> > I don't think I believe in the MWI; it seems there are other
> insurmountable
> > paradoxes (look up Quantum Immortality on Wikipedia - the other paradox
> of
> > MWI is that it seems you never die, but are doomed to live in limbo at
> the
> > point of death, dependent on a quantum event that will always not happen
> in
> > certain universes). However, MWI appears to be a mainstream
> interpretation
> > among physicists.
> >
> > Iain
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > -----------
> > After the game, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.
> >
> > - Italian Proverb
> > -----------

After the game, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.
- Italian Proverb
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Received on Tue Aug 14 17:45:40 2007

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