Wednesday, 14 September 2005

Fewtril #25

In explaining the vast improbability of our existence, we have tended to settle on one of two unprovable propositions: either that this is one universe amongst an infinite number of universes; or that there is a God. The first has the explanatory virtue that it does without God. The second, that it does without an infinity of universes.


dearieme said...

"Improbability" concerns events that are hypothetical or yet to happen. We have happened: we are certain; probability 1, in fact.

Deogolwulf said...

I do not know which word you suggest I use to describe what appears to be, well, the improbability of our existence. A reduction in the rate of expansion of the universe, for instance, by one part in a million million would have led to a collapse of the universe, whereas a slight increase would have meant that the universe could not have contained stars and galaxies etc. Either way, life could not have evolved. As it is, from this prior point of view, our existence seems vastly improbable. To describe our existence as having a probability of 1, however, is to speak of a mystical prior certainty, about which I know nothing. Don’t probabilities after all describe the state prior to the existence of a thing? (As you say, "improbability" concerns events that are hypothetical or yet to happen, and "improbability" is an expression of probability, is it not?) Thus, it makes no sense to describe an actuality as having a probability of 1 unless its existence was always certain to come about - because this probability describes not an actuality or a fact but a prior state or hypothetical. It does make sense, however, to describe an actuality as having a low probability; for one is describing not its present existing state, but rather its probability of achieving that state.