The lesson to be learned from the paradoxical St. Petersburg game and Pascal’s Mugging is that there are situations where expected utility maximizers will needlessly end up poor and on death’s door, and hence we should not be expected utility maximizers. Instead, when it comes to decision-making, for possibilities that have very small probabilities of occurring, we should discount those probabilities down to zero, regardless of the utilities associated with those possibilities.
I argue that the wave function ontology for quantum mechanics is an undesirable ontology. This ontology holds that the fundamental space in which entities evolve is not three-dimensional, but instead 3N-dimensional, where N is the number of particles standardly thought to exist in three-dimensional space. I show that the state of three-dimensional objects does not supervene on the state of objects in 3N-dimensional space. I also show that the only way to guarantee the existence of the appropriate mental states in (...) the wave function ontology has undesirable metaphysical baggage: either mind/body dualism is true, or circumstances which we take to be logically possible turn out to be logically impossible. (shrink)
In this paper, we show that presentism -- the view that the way things are is the way things presently are -- is not undermined by the objection from being-supervenience. This objection claims, roughly, that presentism has trouble accounting for the truth-value of past-tense claims. Our demonstration amounts to the articulation and defence of a novel version of presentism. This is brute past presentism, according to which the truth-value of past-tense claims is determined by the past understood as a fundamental (...) aspect of reality different from things and how things are. (shrink)
The fundamental constants that are involved in the laws of physics which describe our universe are finely-tuned for life, in the sense that if some of the constants had slightly different values life could not exist. Some people hold that this provides evidence for the existence of God. I will present a probabilistic version of this fine-tuning argument which is stronger than all other versions in the literature. Nevertheless, I will show that one can have reasonable opinions such that the (...) fine-tuning argument doesn’t lead to an increase in one’s probability for the existence of God. (shrink)
I argue that space has three dimensions, and quantum mechanics does not show otherwise. Specifically, I argue that the mathematical wave function of quantum mechanics corresponds to a property that an N-particle system has in three-dimensional space.
One's inaccuracy for a proposition is defined as the squared difference between the truth value (1 or 0) of the proposition and the credence (or subjective probability, or degree of belief) assigned to the proposition. One should have the epistemic goal of minimizing the expected inaccuracies of one's credences. We show that the method of minimizing expected inaccuracy can be used to solve certain probability problems involving information loss and self-locating beliefs (where a self-locating belief of a temporal part of (...) an individual is a belief about where or when that temporal part is located). We analyze the Sleeping Beauty problem, the duplication version of the Sleeping Beauty problem, and various related problems. (shrink)
Adam Elga takes the Sleeping Beauty example to provide a counter-example to Reflection, since on Sunday Beauty assigns probability 1/2 to H, and she is certain that on Monday she will assign probability 1/3. I will show that there is a natural way for Bas van Fraassen to defend Reflection in the case of Sleeping Beauty, building on van Fraassen’s treatment of forgetting. This will allow me to identify a lacuna in Elga’s argument for 1/3. I will then argue, however, (...) that not all is well with Reflection: there is a problem with van Fraassen’s treatment of forgetting. Ultimately I will agree with Elga’s 1/3 answer. David Lewis maintains that the answer is 1/2; I will argue that cases of forgetting can be used to show that the premiss of Lewis’s argument for 1/2 is false. (shrink)
The question of how to interpret spontaneous collapse theories of quantum mechanics is an open one. One issue involves what link one should use to go from wave function talk to talk of ordinary macroscopic objects. Another issue involves whether that link should be taken ontologically seriously. In this paper, I ague that the link should be taken ontologically seriously; I argue against an ontology consisting solely of the wave function. I then consider three possible links: the fuzzy link, the (...) accessible mass density link, and the mass density simpliciter link. I show that the first two links have serious anomalies which render them unacceptable. I show that the mass density simpliciter link, in contrast, is viable. (shrink)
Peter Lewis () has recently argued that the wavefunction collapse theory of GRW (Ghirardi, Rimini and Weber ) can only solve the problem of wavefunction tails at the expense of predicting that arithmetic does not apply to ordinary macroscopic objects. More specifically, Lewis argues that the GRW theory must violate the enumeration principle: that 'if marble 1 is in the box and marble 2 is in the box and so on through marble n, then all n marbles are in the (...) box' (, p. 321). Ghirardi and Bassi () have replied that it is meaningless to say that the enumeration principle is violated because the wavefunction Lewis uses to exhibit the violation cannot persist, according to the GRW theory, for more than a split second (, p. 709). On the contrary, we argue that Lewis's argument survives Ghirardi and Bassi' s criticism unscathed. We then go on to show that, while the enumeration principle can fail in the GRW theory, the theory itself guarantees that the principle can never be empirically falsified, leaving the applicability of arithmetical reasoning to both micro- and macroscopic objects intact. (shrink)
There is a philosophical tradition of arguing against presentism, the thesis that only presently existing things exist, on the basis of its incompatibility with fundamental physics. I grant that presentism is incompatible with special and general relativity, but argue that presentism is not incompatible with quantum gravity, because there are some theories of quantum gravity that utilize a fixed foliation of spacetime. I reply to various objections to this defense of presentism, and point out a flaw in Gödel's modal argument (...) for the ideality of time. This paper provides an interesting case study of the interplay between physics and philosophy. (shrink)
The doctrine of intelligent design is often the subject of acrimonious debate. Seeking God in Science cuts through the rhetoric that distorts the debates between religious and secular camps. Bradley Monton, a philosopher of science and an atheist, carefully considers the arguments for intelligent design and argues that intelligent design deserves serious consideration as a scientific theory. -/- Monton also gives a lucid account of the debate surrounding the inclusion of intelligent design in public schools and presents reason why students' (...) science education could benefit from a careful consideration of the arguments for and against it. (shrink)
Suppose that God exists, and that God does not violate the laws of nature he created for the world. God can nevertheless act in the world, by acting at the indeterministic quantum level. This chapter makes two specific points about God’s quantum action. First, on some ways of understanding quantum mechanics (specifically, the GRW theory, and the associated Continuous Spontaneous Localization theories), God’s actions are almost unlimited, contrary to those who say that God would be quite constrained in his action, (...) if he only acted at the indeterministic quantum level. Second, on these ways of understanding quantum mechanics, God’s actions in the world need not be episodic, contrary to what for example John Polkinghorne has claimed about God’s quantum action. This discussion builds on discussions by Al Plantinga about noninterventionist special divine action. (shrink)
In reply to the problem of evil, some suggest that God created an infinite number of universes—for example, that God created every universe that contains more good than evil. I offer two objections to these multiverse theodicies. First, I argue that, for any number of universes God creates, he could have created more, because he could have created duplicates of universes. Next, I argue that multiverse theodicies can’t adequately account for why God would create universes with pointless suffering, and hence (...) they don’t solve the problem of evil. (shrink)
The doctrine of intelligent design is often the subject of acrimonious debate. _Seeking God in Science_ cuts through the rhetoric that distorts the debates between religious and secular camps. Bradley Monton, a philosopher of science and an atheist, carefully considers the arguments for intelligent design and argues that intelligent design deserves serious consideration as a scientific theory. Monton also gives a lucid account of the debate surrounding the inclusion of intelligent design in public schools and presents reason why students’ science (...) education could benefit from a careful consideration of the arguments for and against it. (shrink)
It has sometimes been suggested that backwards time travel always incurs causal loops. I show that this is mistaken, by describing worlds where backwards time travel occurs and yet no causal loops occur. Arguments that backwards time travel can occur without causal loops have been given before in the literature, but I show that those arguments are unconvincing.
This paper addresses the question: how should the traditional doxastic attitude of agnosticism be represented in a Bayesian framework? Bas van Fraassen has one proposal: a Bayesian is agnostic about a proposition if her opinion about the proposition is represented by a probability interval with zero as the lower limit. I argue that van Fraassen's proposal is not adequate. Mark Kaplan claims that this leads to a problem with constructive empiricism; I show that Kaplan's claim is incorrect.
Metaphysicians sometimes appeal to physics to establish claims about the fundamental nature of the world. But given the current state of inquiry in physics, where there are two most fundamental theories that are incompatible, such arguments of physics-based metaphysics are problematic. I support this line of thought by focussing on two sorts of problematic arguments, special-relativity-based arguments against presentism and big-bang-based arguments in favor of the existence of God. I am not arguing that physics-based metaphysics can’t be done; I am (...) just arguing that extant examples of physics-based metaphysics are flawed. I close by considering various ways that future versions of physics-based metaphysics could potentially be successful. (shrink)
In the case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., Judge Jones ruled that a pro-intelligent design disclaimer cannot be read to public school students. In his decision, he gave demarcation criteria for what counts as science, ruling that intelligent design fails these criteria. I argue that these criteria are flawed, with most of my focus on the criterion of methodological naturalism. The way to refute intelligent design is not by declaring it unscientific, but by showing (...) that the empirical evidence for design is not there. (shrink)
The Carter-Leslie Doomsday argument, as standardly presented, relies on the assumption that you have knowledge of your approximate birth rank. I demonstrate that the Doomsday argument can still be given in a situation where you have no knowledge of your birth rank. This allows one to reply to Bostrom's defense of the Doomsday argument against the refutation based on the idea that your existence makes it more likely that many observers exist.
It is often thought that presentism is incompatible with time travel. I will argue that this common view is incorrect. Speciﬁcally, I will argue that presentism is compatible with some stories that involve closed timelike curves, and that some of these stories are time-travel stories.
I defend Pascal's Wager from a particular way of evading it, the mixed strategy approach. The mixed strategies approach suggests that Pascal's Wager does not obligate one to believe in God, because one can get the same infinite expected utility from other strategies besides the strategy of believing in God. I will show that while there's nothing technically wrong with the mixed strategy approach, rationality requires it to be applied in such a way that Pascal's Wager doesn't lose any force.
The physicist J. Richard Gott has given an argument which, if good, allows one to make accurate predictions for the future longevity of a process, based solely on its present age. We show that there are problems with some of the details of Gott's argument, but we defend the core thesis: in many circumstances, the greater the present age of a process, the more likely a longer future duration.
Pascal’s Wager holds that one has pragmatic reason to believe in God, since that course of action has infinite expected utility. The mixed strategy objection holds that one could just as well follow a course of action that has infinite expected utility but is unlikely to end with one believing in God. Monton (2011. Mixed strategies can’t evade Pascal’s Wager. Analysis 71: 642–45.) has argued that mixed strategies can’t evade Pascal’s Wager, while Robertson (2012. Some mixed strategies can evade Pascal’s (...) Wager: a reply to Monton. Analysis 72: 295–98.) has argued that Monton is mistaken. We show that Monton is correct, highlight the crucial assumptions that he relies on, and shed some light on the role of mixed strategies in decision theory. (shrink)
This paper delves into McTaggart’s metaphysical account of reality without time, and compares and contrasts McTaggart’s account with the account of reality given by modern physics. This comparison is of interest, because there are suggestions from contemporary physics that there is no time at the fundamental level. Physicists and philosophers of physics recognize that we do not have a good understanding of how the world could be such that time is unreal. I argue that, from the perspective of one who (...) is trying to understand modern physics, McTaggart’s metaphysical views do provide some insight into how reality can be timeless at the fundamental level, but the insight that they provide is limited. (shrink)
We argue that any superluminal theory T is empirically equivalent to a non-superluminal theory T*, with the following constraints on T*: T* preserves the spacetime intervals between events as entailed by T, T* is naturalistic, and all the events which have causes according to T also have causes according to T*. Tim Maudlin defines standard interpretations of quantum mechanics as interpretations 'according to which there was a unique set of outcomes in Aspect's laboratory, which outcomes occurred at spacelike separation', and (...) Maudlin claims that standard interpretations must be non-local in the sense that there are superluminal influences. We show that Maudlin's claim is false. (shrink)
It is argued that, given certain reasonable premises, an infinite number of qualitatively identical but numerically distinct minds exist per functioning brain. The three main premises are (1) mental properties supervene on brain properties; (2) the universe is composed of particles with nonzero extension; and (3) each particle is composed of continuum-many point-sized bits of particle-stuff, and these points of particle-stuff persist through time.
Physicist J. Richard Gott uses the Copernican principle that “we are not special” to make predictions about the future lifetime of the human race, based on how long the human race has been in existence so far. We show that the predictions which can be derived from Gott’s argument are less strong than one might be inclined to believe, that Gott’s argument illegitimately assumes that the human race will not last forever, that certain versions of Gott’s argument are incompatible with (...) Bayesian conditionalization, and that Gott’s argument is self-refuting. -/- *****Note: For Bradley Monton's up-to-date thoughts on Gott's argument, see his _Philosophical Quarterly_ paper co-authored with Brian Kierland, "How To Predict Future Duration from Present Age".*****. (shrink)
There is a connection between moral facts and personal identity facts: morality grounds personal identity. If, for example, old Sally enters a teletransporter, and new Sally emerges, the fundamental question to ask is: is new Sally morally responsible for actions (and omissions) of old Sally? If the moral facts are such that she is morally responsible, then Sally persisted through the teletransporter event, and if not, Sally ceased to exist.
I present a new thermodynamic argument for the existence of God. Naturalistic physics provides evidence for the failure of induction, because it provides evidence that the past is not at all what you think it is, and your existence is just a momentary fluctuation. The fact that you are not a momentary fluctuation thus provides evidence for the existence of God – God would ensure that the past is roughly what we think it is, and you have been in existence (...) for roughly the amount of time you think you have. I don’t have a definitive way for the atheist to refute this argument, but I give one suggestion that relies on physics-based simplicity considerations. I close with an epistemological discussion of self-undermining arguments. (shrink)
We grant that anthropic reasoning yields the result that we should not expect to be in a small civilization. However, regardless of what civilization one finds oneself in, one can use anthropic reasoning to get the result that one should not expect to be in that sort of civilization. Hence, contra Ken Olum, anthropic reasoning does not conflict with observation.
How are inferences to design affected when one makes the (plausible) assumption that the universe is spatially infinite? I will show that arguments for the existence of God based on the improbable development of life don’t go through. I will also show that the model of design inferences promulgated by William Dembski is flawed. My model for design inferences has the (desirable) consequence that there are circumstances where a seeming miracle can count as evidence for the existence of God, even (...) if one would expect that type of event to naturalistically occur in a spatially infinite universe. (shrink)
We discuss the cable guy paradox, both as an object of interest in its own right and as something which can be used to illuminate certain issues in the theories of rational choice and belief. We argue that a crucial principle—The Avoid Certain Frustration (ACF) principle—which is used in stating the paradox is false, thus resolving the paradox. We also explain how the paradox gives us new insight into issues related to the Reflection principle. Our general thesis is that principles (...) that base your current opinions on your current opinions about your future opinions need not make reference to the particular times in the future at which you believe you will have those opinions, but they do need to make reference to the particular degrees of belief you believe you will have in the future. (shrink)
The idea of self-measurement by a quantum-mechanical automaton is presented, and the conclusions that are typically reached about what we can come to know from doing self-measurements are shown to be mistaken. Specifically, it is shown that, while we are capable of _predicting_ and _measuring_ the values of two incompatible observables, we are incapable of _knowing_ both these values simultaneously. This is an example of the interesting limitations quantum mechanics places on knowledge.
Bas van Fraassen endorses both common-sense realism — the view, roughly, that the ordinary macroscopic objects that we take to exist actually do exist — and constructive empiricism — the view, roughly, that the aim of science is truth about the observable world. But what happens if common-sense realism and science come into conflict? I argue that it is reasonable to think that they could come into conflict, by giving some motivation for a mental monist solution to the measurement problem (...) of quantum mechanics. I then consider whether, in a situation where science favors the mental monist interpretation, van Fraassen would want to give up common-sense realism or would want to give up science. (shrink)
It seems improbable that life would exist in a naturalistic universe. But if the universe were spatially infinite, then seemingly improbable events would be expected to happen; life would be expected to exist. It follows that the existence of life provides evidence that the universe is spatially infinite.
Did God create life? Or did life arise via naturalistic processes, along the lines of random mutation and natural selection as suggested by Darwin? Intelligent design proponents attempt to use William Dembski’s design inference to argue that the existence of intelligent life is due to design. I will argue that the design inference is flawed, because it does not take into account the fact that the universe is spatially infinite.
There are interesting parallels between some of McTaggart’s metaphysical views and developments from contemporary physics. Can McTaggart’s positive metaphysical views provide guidance in understanding how reality can be timeless at the fundamental level? I argue that the guidance McTaggart actually provides is limited – though not by any means useless.
This paper addresses two main questions. How does one determine that something has the features it does as a result of design, as opposed to for example chance? How are inferences to design affected when one makes the assumption that the universe is spatially infinite? I will show that arguments for the existence of God based on the improbable development of life don’t go through under the supposition that the universe is spatially infinite. I will also show that the model (...) of design inferences promulgated by William Dembski is flawed, because it has the consequence that one can never infer design in a spatially infinite universe. My model for design inferences has the consequence that there are circumstances where a seeming miracle can count as evidence for the existence of God, even if one would expect that type of event to naturalistically occur in a spatially infinite universe. (shrink)