Re: Re[2]: Simulation argument in the NY Times

From: Tom McCabe (
Date: Mon Aug 27 2007 - 15:25:16 MDT

--- Norman Noman <> wrote:

> On 8/26/07, Matt Mahoney <>
> wrote:
> > --- Norman Noman <>
> wrote:
> > > If there was a magic word that made people turn
> into frogs, I would have
> > a
> > > hard time considering that a natural feature.
> >
> > No you wouldn't. Miracles are miracles only
> because they are rare.
> No, they're not. They're miracles because they're
> rare and they can't be
> explained. It's really rare for a movie to be made
> that's based on an
> amusement part ride, but it does happen occasionally
> and nobody considers it
> a miracle.

"Rare" covers a very large spectrum of probabilities,
from 10^-1 to 10^-100000000000000 (and so on). In
order for something to qualify as a "miracle", its
probability would have to be so low that the event
provides enough Bayesian evidence to overturn our
current model. Eg, if we saw Mount Everest
spontaneously levitate several hundred meters in the
air, this would require a new model of physics. If we
saw a large chunk of rock spontaneously break off of
Mount Everest, it would be rare, but it would not
qualify as a miracle because it wouldn't require new
laws of physics to explain.

> If people could be turned into frogs, we would
> adjust our scientific
> > theories to fit the
> > facts. We do it all the time.
> Conservation of mass (adjusted)
> The mass of a closed system of substances will
> remain constant, regardless
> of the processes acting inside the system, except
> when people are being
> turned into frogs.
> Yes, I can see how after a few years, that little
> wrinkle would be all
> ironed out.

The laws of physics as we now understand them don't
work like that. If we discovered a violation of CoM,
it would probably be a violation that occurs
everywhere, but is simply too small to notice under
normal circumstances.

> I thought I was making my case rather bluntly, but
> apparently it was blunt
> enough. Let's say in addition to the frog word,
> there's a magic word that
> makes the names of the programmers scroll upwards
> across the sky in giant
> letters of fire, accompanied by a pleasant MIDI
> file, and after they're done
> scrolling there's a blinking message that says THIS
> Would that be distinguishable from a feature? Mr.
> Smart Guy?

 - Tom

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