A Short Note on Metaphysical Probabilities

There exists an ongoing argument between people with strong teleological, and dysteleological, views. They argue about “whether this could’ve happened by chance,” how likely it is to have happened on its own, what version of the anthropic principle one believes in, and so forth. So I’d just like to point out that the whole discussion is absurd.

In order to speak about probabilities, one must have an understanding of how likely the various outcomes of an “event” are. One can talk about die-roll probabilities because it is clear how likely it is for a particular number to show up on the face of a die. We have seen other numbers on faces of dice. We roll them all the time. But one cannot talk about the “probability” of existence altogether. We only have one universe to look at. The experiment cannot be repeated with a different result, it cannot be compared with anything, its frequency of occurrence is unknown, and its fundamental nature is unknown. One may look at the world and interpret it as being one thing or another, but one may not talk about chance. Even the mere notion of “chance” presumes the existence of a scenario upon which chance can operate, which in this case is to presume the conclusion.

So one cannot speak about probabilities here. It is more like a confidence interval, if it is like anything at all.

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2 Responses to “A Short Note on Metaphysical Probabilities”

  1. Can’t we at least get started?

    I can’t quote details as most of the subject matter is far beyond me, but here is a talk which seems like a good summary of “what we know”:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2010/08/25/google-talk/

    It’s a bit long but I found it interesting and accessible. You might be able to skip ahead to the part where he explains the whole “our universe popping out of another one” theory.

    This stuff does seem difficult or impossible to test but we often have to start with just theories. You can always keep asking, “Why? But why? OK and why is that?” and trap an analyst.

  2. That’s a different issue.

    This is not my attempt to shut down investigation into the origins of the universe. It’s simply my assertion that talk about “probabilities” is nonsense at this level.

    I do not think anyone, ever, can come up with anything that nullifies this point. It is true almost by definition, if one is willing to think about it.

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