Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More on global nuclear war

The most surprising and important event of the second half of the 20th century was the nonoccurrence of a global nuclear war. In an earlier post, I suggested that the probability of such a war was fairly high given naturalism and fairly low given theism, and hence the nonoccurrence of such a war is evidence for theism. I want to add one more thing to that line of thought: the nonoccurrence of a global nuclear war was probably the most prayed-for event of the second half of the 20th century. All the prayers for world peace were first and foremost prayers for peace between East and West, prayers that there be no global nuclear war. And there is peace between East and West, and there was no global nuclear war.

9 comments:

Sebastian said...

Very interesting observation. However, it could also be taken as an indication that the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is likely true and we cannot therefore experience death.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Ah, Global Nuclear War. The threat and fantasy of which I grew up with. I enjoyed reading "Star Man's Son" by Andre Norton when I was in the 9th grade. I quite liked Fors and his hunting cat, Lura and their adventures in a post nuclear world. Lura was just cool. In the 9th and 10th grade with the Cold War going on, I was certain that the US and Russia would nuke each other off the map and that my Irish Setter and I would get to see it. Would we live through it was another question. Would we want to live through it? I remember daydreaming away in class back then about people surviving in the post nuclear war world and their adventures complete with mutants. What would a post nuclear world be without mutants? Thanks for bringing back some fond memories.

Richard Davis said...

Sebastian, supposing that global nuclear war is objectively probable, would the many worlds interpretation (combined with naturalism) predict that we wouldn't experience nuclear war at all, or only that each of us would experience the war and yet barely manage to survive it while witnessing most other human beings dying? I was thinking that the many worlds interpretation + naturalism got you the odd result that each person would watch everyone else die while, subjectively, seeming to buck the trend and miraculously live on and on.

Sebastian said...

Richard, your scenario does happen according to MWI, but vastly more branches lie along the world we are experiencing: A world where nuclear annihilation simply did not happen. I recommend you avoid thinking about this stuff too long, it's really depressing, and I don't believe it to be true.

Richard Davis said...

Hey Sebastian, since I'm neither a mind-body monist nor a naturalist, the many-worlds interpretation loses its sting for me. MWI + the soul's existence imply that it's astronomically more likely that I'd experience the destruction of my body, with my soul going on to the next life, than that I'd experience the 'bucking the trend and living perpetually' scenario.

I agree, though, that MWI + naturalism is really quite a terrifying hypothesis. Doesn't it plausibly imply that I'd eventually be reduced to a sort of almost-comatose, barely conscious state for all perpetuity? In that case, I wouldn't be actively suffering to any significant degree nor even cognitively aware that I had been reduced to a psychic puddle. So I'd lose my selfhood.

I wonder whether such an outcome is better or worse than perpetual suffering in hell. In hell, I actively suffer but perhaps retain my selfhood. In MWI + naturalism, I am reduced to a mere psychic jelly but do not actively suffer.

It seems to me that the argument for the Many-worlds interpretation is rather good, so I am most glad there's also strong evidence for the disjunction of theism and mind-body dualism!

Sebastian said...

Richard, I never considered MWI and dualism... that would be really strange! The MWI with monism and naturalism is the depressing concept, because it really leads to hell, quite like you describe. I think selfhood would be retained though, pain too. It's really horrific. If I make it to 110 I'll begin to worry. Some types like Tipler and Deutsch see light at the end of even this immensely depressing tunnel: They think that while the individual vegetates in his decrepit body, the society around him will eventually invent some superduper quantum computer that will then absorb his consciousness and unite all threads of existence into some Omega point. Tipler apparently even thinks this squares with Christianity.

Alexander R Pruss said...

The Albert and Loewer many-minds interpretation of Everett seems to me to be most at home in dualism.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Dagmara:

Yeah, I was terrified as a kid. I remember seeing a map in a realtor's office with concentric circles marking what would happen at what distance in the Ottawa region assuming a nuclear hit on Parliament Hill. I was glad we lived in one of the outer circles, but even in the outer circles it wasn't going to be cheery.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Alex:

I remember those concentric circles drawn around a typical major city too. They were quite scary. Somehow they always used the center of the downtown area as ground zero. When I was in the third grade, my parents got me the World Book Encyclopedia. I was always reading it before my night time prayers. There were important things in there like how to do archery, ride a horse and go snorkeling (from that activity I got a bad case of swimmer's ear). Then one evening I came across this article on "Fallout". From my 9 year old reading comprehension, "fallout" was this really horrible stuff which required a special shelter that you had to build because fallout was so very dangerous. We didn't have one, and from the article it looked like our basement wouldn't suffice except maybe if we all squeezed into the cabinet my grandfather made under the stairs. It appeared from the article that you'd be in there for a very long time, but the article never said how long. I don't remember any nightmares, so the prayers must have worked. The next day I asked my dad about this. He was a research chemist and knew all the science stuff. He told me that fallout was when radiation fell from the sky. I asked him what it looked like, and he said that you couldn't see it. Now that was very scary.