Thursday, January 12, 2012

Opposite Conclusions from the Unity of Nullity

I came up with the following at 3 AM one night, and I wrote it down again, eight hours later, to see if it stood up to morning-light.

It starts with a cosmological argument I heard, regarding the 'ontological puzzle', namely, why is there something rather than nothing? Some cosmologists cite probability. There are many infinitely many ways for there to be something, and only one way for there to be nothing; so by the law of averages, somethingness is far more probable than nothingness. So by this reasoning, there is something rather than nothing for statistical reasons.

This closely resembles another argument that yields an opposite conclusion. Namely; there are infinitely many ways for there to be one god, and an even higher order of infinity of ways for there to be infinitely many gods, but only one way for there to be no god. Probability would therefore favor a pantheon; but gods are characterized by their improbability and singularity. A pantheon would be too natural; only godlessness would be miraculous enough to defy nature.

***

Both arguments use the following reasoning:
There is only one way for there to be no X; infinitely many ways for there to be one X; and an even higher order of infinity of ways for there to be infinitely many X. Therefore probability favors the existence of infinitely many X, and practically rules out there being no X.

In the case of worlds, we add that worlds are natural, and hence tend to follow statistical laws. The numbers rule that there is probably at least one world, and even more probably an infinity. Thus statistics favor a multiverse as the only natural outcome.

Statistics do not apply to divinity, for the divine is miraculous, improbable, and singular. But a pantheon would be probable, not miraculous. Even a single god would be more likely than none. Only godlessness is singular enough to be truly divine.

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Note that I double-reverse the usual logic of atheism; which usually insists that a god is less likely than no-god, hence natural probability logic favors no-god. But I note that gods are neither natural, probable, nor logical, nor intended to be; and that, by the numbers, no-god is less likely than a god; hence supernatural improbable illogic favors no-god.

These arguments have one core and two branches. The core argument is the Unity of Nullity; there is only one way for there to be no X, hence no-X is the least likely, and most singular, possibility. The branch arguments are Natural Probability and Supernatural Singularity; that nature is likely and the supernatural is exceptional. The Unity of Nullity and Natural Probability solves the ontological puzzle; for no-world would be unlikely, hence unnatural. The Unity of Nullity and Supernatural Singularity decrees atheism; for many-gods, or even one-god, would be likely, hence unexceptional.

Note that a natural multiverse, ruled by statistics, necessarily has all the Disillusionment Theorems, such as Murphy's Law, Sturgeon's Law and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The supernatural is by definition not disillusioning; there would be no Murphy's Law in Heaven. But existence is too mundane (and Murphed) for Heaven; so Heaven is above existence; so Murphy wins again.

***

Thus concluded my 3 AM reasoning! Here is a friend’s critique, and my reply:

DSL:
By definition, the natural is not only probable, it is what actually is (100% probable, in other words); and, equally, the super-natural is, by definition, what is NOT possible (0% probable). These limiting cases, I think, make a hash of your (otherwise amusing) argument by double-reverse.

Again, I refer you to the logic of Hume's argument against miracles: whatever actually does happen (no matter how improbable) cannot be super-natural; and ONLY (but not necessarily all of) what does not actually happen can be super-natural.

NH:
A coin flipping heads is only 50% probable. Is a coin-flip of heads therefore only 50% natural? A round square is impossible; would it be supernatural? A free lunch, an honest politician, and (as you well know) a rational Randian are also impossible; they too require a miracle to exist; so would they be supernatural?

Some theists might quibble with your definitions. You and Hume seem to be defining the natural to be the existent (or, to be more precise, the evident) and the supernatural to be the nonexistent (or, to be more precise, the unevident). Some might call such a definition biased. For instance, a naive theist might point to a burnt taco, say that it has a picture of Jesus on it, that this is a miracle, and evidence for God's existence.

Mind you, a more sophisticated theist will scoff at such pareidolia, and indeed deny that any physical evidence can prove the existence of God. Hume and the taco-worshipper agree that you need evidence to assert an existence; the Jesuit and Hume will agree that God is not evident; and the taco-worshipper and the Jesuit will assert that God exists. Between the three of them, a voter’s paradox!

Japes aside, I do tend to agree with Hume, and add that to be 'supernatural' is not only to be 'above' the sentimentalized Nature of woods and meadows, but to be 'above' having a nature; that is, to be supernatural is to transcend veracity.