Response to a New God Argument Critique by Timothy Killian
by Lincoln Cannon on 17 October 2016
Timothy Killian authored a critique of the New God Argument (NGA). Entitled “An Analytic Review of Lincoln Cannon’s ‘The New God Argument’”, the critique includes some interesting thoughts about NGA’s assumptions. The critique also includes numerous mischaracterizations of NGA, the Simulation Argument (SA), and their relationship. And the critique includes numerous logical errors.
Because Killian’s critique is weak, I initially hesitated to post a response publicly. But after consideration, I thought this response may help others produce stronger critiques. Also, because the critique is public, this public response may stop some persons from carelessly thinking that an apparent absence of response could mean that I think the critique is strong.
Killian: “It’s important to have a basic understanding of SA before we can fully and fairly analyze NGA, which leverages SA for foundation, assumptions and structure.”
This mischaracterizes the relationship between NGA and SA. NGA relies on SA for the foundation and structure of one assumption. There are four other assumptions that are related to SA only to the extent that they are all part of NGA.
Killian: “Whereas Bostrom tends to tamp down any assertion of truth claims derived from SA, NGA makes strong and novel truth claims.”
This mischaracterizes differences between NGA and SA. Killian would like to distinguish between “strong” truth claims made by NGA and those made by SA – I put “strong” in quotes because he doesn’t appear to be talking about logical strength in the technical sense. Attempting to support the mischaracterization, Killian’s first example is that NGA claims to be a logical argument. However, SA makes the same claim explicitly, by calling itself an “argument” and in the form of its presentation, which incorporates both formal and informal reasoning.
Several of Killian’s subsequent examples are that NGA purports to be a logical argument or proof for various propositions like “faith in God,” “superhumanity is probably more compassionate than we are,” and “superhumanity probably created our world.” However, SA also implies such a claim, in that it too purports to be a logical argument for a proposition, which in its case is a trilemma that purports to be true necessarily (one or more of its component propositions must be true).
Moreover, like SA relies on assumptions for reaching its trilemma conclusion, so NGA relies on assumptions for reaching its composite conclusion. As it would be technically accurate to characterize SA as a trilemma conclusion resulting from a set of assumptions, it would likewise be technically accurate to characterize NGA as a composite conclusion resulting from a set of assumptions.
These examples do not support Killian’s interest in distinguishing between SA and NGA. Rather, if anything, they demonstrate a similarity between SA and NGA: they both purport to be and present themselves as logical arguments.
Killian: “God = superhumanity + compassion + creation”
This mischaracterizes NGA. As noted on the NGA website, a compassionate creator of our world may qualify as God in some religions. The word “may” and the phrase “in some religions” both qualify NGA in ways that Killian’s formulation does not reflect.
Killian: “Human potential for advancement may require faith in this God.”
This mischaracterizes NGA. NGA is not about causation. It is about logical implication. This is an essential difference.
For example, consider a common misunderstanding of Descartes’ famous argument: cogito ergo sum. Some assert that Descartes’ argument is false because, as they believe, the fact of being causes the fact of thinking, and not the other way around. While they may have the science right, they have misunderstood the argument. The argument is not about causation. It is about logical implication. Descartes’ point is that the fact of thinking logically entails the fact of being.
To understand why, consider a simpler example of clouds and rain. Causally, it may be true to say that clouds cause rain. However, it would be false to reason: clouds therefore rain. We’ve all seen clouds without rain. What we may be able to reason, truly, is: rain therefore clouds. Note that this doesn’t mean the rain causes the clouds. It means only that the rain logically entails the clouds.
Returning to Descartes, we can see that, at least arguably, he was right to claim that thinking logically entails being. And he’s not making any claim about causation one way or the other.
Applying this to NGA, we can see that, at least arguably, it may be right to claim that trust in our own superhuman potential may entail faith in God. But it’s not making any claim about causation one way or the other. It’s not claiming, as Killian suggests, that human potential for advancement may require faith in God. It is surely possible to pursue human potential for advancement without recognizing all of the logical implications of such a pursuit, particularly within the context of some theologies.
Killian: “Atheists may be required to distrust human potential.”
This mischaracterizes NGA for the same reason as above. Based on NGA, atheism may entail distrust in our superhuman potential. That’s actually nothing more than one of the logical consequences of the previous claim, properly understood as a logical implication and not as a causal relation. It’s like pointing out that the logical implication of “rain therefore clouds” is “not clouds therefore not rain.” If the first is true, the second is necessarily true. But it’s not claiming, as Killian suggests, that atheists may be required to distrust human potential. It is surely possible to be an atheist without recognizing all of the logical implications of the position. And it is surely possible to be an atheist that pursues human potential for advancements without recognizing all of the logical inconsistencies in such a pursuit, particularly within the context of some theologies. Logical oversights do not have narrow practical ramifications in human thought and behavior.
Killian: “SA, for example, seems not to make claims about being a logical argument.”
This mischaracterizes SA. SA explicitly claims to be an argument. In its presentation, it uses both formal and informal reasoning to various extents. By implication of its name and presentation, SA is a logical argument. This should not be a controversial observation.
Killian: “SA does not assert more than very general claims; it makes no truth claims beyond that one of its three propositions may obtain.”
This mischaracterizes SA. SA relies on the truth of several other assumptions to reach its trilemma conclusion. Bostrom’s paper on the subject calls out one of those assumptions explicitly with a section header that reads, “The Assumption of Substrate-Independence.” That assumption does not appear in the trilemma conclusion, but it is essential to the argument. There are other stated assumptions in Bostrom’s paper. And there are also unstated assumptions, which may or may not be controversial. Such is the case with the presentation of all logical arguments. None reaches back to an assumption-less origin.
Killian: “This is notable due in part to the foundational reliance that NGA has on SA. And yet, they make significantly different types of claims.”
This mischaracterizes both NGA and SA and their relationship. Only one of five assumptions in NGA is founded on SA. Both NGA and SA work from assumptions to conclusions that depend on the application of standard logical operations to those assumptions.
Killian: “With F1, NGA introduces its first premise in the structuring of the logical argument. It does so by asking us to assume that disjunctive (1) of SA obtains.”
This mischaracterizes NGA. F1 negates only the first disjunct of SA. That leaves two disjuncts. F1 does not assume that either of the remaining two disjuncts obtains. If we agree that F1 is true, and if we apply F1 directly to SA, then we’re still left with the following from SA: “(2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.”
Killian: “I’ll note here that there may be a problem of circularity in that F1, The Faith Assumption, is asking us to assume ‘faith’ in a proposition which may be core to the conclusion of the argument; that we should have ‘faith’ in God.”
This mischaracterizes the relation between F1 and the conclusion of NGA. There is no circularity. NGA purports to demonstrate that faith (defined as “trust” or “belief that something is reliable or effective for achieving goals”) in our superhuman potential may entail faith in God (defined as “superhumanity that is more compassionate than we are and that created our world”). NGA would be circular if and only if “our superhuman potential” and “superhumanity that is more compassionate than we are and that created our world” are the same thing. They are not. One purports to be in our future. The other purports to be in our past. While both purport to be compassionate and creative, one purports to be the creator of our world and the other purports to be the creator of other possible worlds. NGA is not circular. Referencing “faith” in both an assumption and a conclusion is no more circular than using English in both an assumption and a conclusion.
Killian: “F1 asks us not simply to have faith that some lifeforms somewhere may bypass extinction; but that we, you and I, our specific race will bypass extinction.”
This mischaracterizes F1. As defined on the NGA website, the humanity referenced in F1 is “all organisms of the homo sapiens species.” This corresponds with Bostrom’s use of “human species” in SA.
Killian: “Cannon seems to be saying the odds are 1:1 that our race will make it; or at least to accept that on faith.”
This mischaracterizes NGA. The argument itself says nothing about the probability of F1 being true, and the argument may remain true if the probability of F1 is anything above zero. There may be probabilistic reasons to think F1 is true. There may also be practical and moral reasons to think F1 is true. However, all of those reasons are tangential to the argument itself, and any one of them may be sufficient in itself.
Of course there will be disagreements about the truthfulness of this assumption. It’s controversial. Perhaps only radical Transhumanists and Apotheists will embrace it fully. Persons who don’t like the conclusion of NGA may have emotional incentive not to embrace F1, despite other reasons. In any case, the entire argument depends on F1 intentionally. NGA is an exploration of the logical ramifications if F1 is true. If F1 is false, other parts of the argument may still be true, but that would be outside the scope of NGA.
Killian: “What matters here is that F1 is a significant part of the entire basis for NGA, and Cannon asks us to simply assume it is true. As he states in the summary of F1 ‘the proposition may be false.’ This has implications for the claim that NGA is a logical argument.”
This mischaracterizes NGA. The fact that F1 may be false has no implications for the claim that NGA is a logical argument. NGA is a logical argument, even if it’s a false logical argument.
Killian: “F1 is assumed true as a matter of faith by Cannon, with weak probabilisitic certainty if not assumed.”
Killian offers only a particular interpretation of the Doomsday Argument for his assessment of the probability of F1. He does not acknowledge that his application and interpretation of the Doomsday Argument may be insufficient grounds for confidence in the improbability of F1. There may be other reasons to assume the probability of F1 is high. Transhumanists and Apotheists are among those who are likely to have reasons for supposing the probability of F1 to be high.
That aside, even if the probability of F1 is low, we may have moral or practical reasons to assume it’s true. An important class of truths is created, and an important class of created truths is dependent on intentionality. Given that the truth of F1 must be determined in the future, and given that our intentions may influence that future, those who see practical or moral value in the eventual truth of F1 will also see practical or moral value in assuming that it may become true, even if it is presently improbable. Conversely, those who assume it must be false may be inadvertently decreasing the probability of making it true.
Killian: “This likely triggers the Fallacy of Unwarranted Assumption, which can be characterized as arguments based upon questionable, although sometimes popular, principles or assumptions.”
This is irrelevant at best and may also be practically detrimental. Presently, it may be more popular to assume that humanity will become extinct before evolving into superhumanity. From the perspective of a Transhumanist or Apotheist, that assumption is questionable. From the perspective of someone who recognizes probabilistic, practical, or moral reasons to embrace F1, Killian is committing the fallacy of unwarranted assumption. I say this only partly in jest.
In seriousness, what one person considers warranted and another does not in matters of future probability, or in matters of practical or moral hope, is controversial. To simply discard the controversy as an unwarranted assumption is to privilege skepticism, which may have the practical consequence of being a self-fulfilling negative prophecy in such matters.
Killian: “Additionally, F1 likely triggers the sub-set fallacy known as Ad Ignorantiam, or the argument from ignorance, which states that a specific belief is true because we don’t know that it isn’t true. Again, reference the summary where Cannon states ‘to the extent we do not know it to be false, we may have practical or moral reasons to trust that it is true.’”
This mischaracterizes NGA. NGA does not merely state that F1 or any of its other assumptions are true. It acknowledges any or all of them be false. Supporting information on the NGA website suggests reasons why we might believe the assumptions to be true.
NGA website points out that practical and moral reasons for trust in the truth of some proposition cannot and should not override knowledge of the truth of that proposition. That is not the same thing as claiming that something is true because we do not know it to be false.
Killian: “If we can’t know that F1 is likely, indeed if we know that F1 is probably unlikely, then we can’t know that any of the conclusions of NGA are likely. All logical arguments are only as strong as their weakest premise.”
This accurately characterizes NGA, but it does so in a manner that undermines sufficiently serious consideration. The strength of NGA generally and F1 in particular does not rely merely on one’s assessment of the probability of F1. It relies just as much or more on one’s assessment of the desirability of F1, to the extent one may have the ability and motivation to make it true. So F1 and NGA may remain momentous even for some who suppose F1 to be improbable.
Killian: “Take the following example, where I ask you to assume that A1 is true: • A1: Assume we will cure cancer 50 years from today • P2: Bob is a man living 60 years from today • C: Therefore, Bob is cancer free. This argument is logically valid because it is structured such that the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises. But If I were to call this the New Cancer Free Bob Argument and suggest that I am telling you something actual or likely to be true, based on the premises provided, you’d be forced to conclude that my argument is simply invalid relative to the truth claims. I can’t know A1, and therefore, I can’t make any claims about Bob …”
This mischaracterizes and misuses logic in several ways. First, C does not follow from A1 and P2, so it is not valid and not structured such that the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises. Second, if it were valid, no amount of optimistic or pessimistic speculation about the future would change that validity, even if it were false. Third, one actually can say something reasonable about Bob in the future to the extent one makes reasonable assumptions about Bob and the future. Whether or not a given assumption is reasonable is of course a matter to debate. But there’s nothing wrong or inherently illogical about that.
Killian: “I do not know whether the Doom Argument presents us a valid measure of the probability of extinction (remember, Bostrom said we must give high credence to DOOM); the point is, nobody really knows or can in any way measure such a likelihood.”
This may be an overstatement. Some scientists, cosmologists, and philosophers have been and are working to develop ways to measure the probability of human extinction. The Doomsday Argument is an example of that, and there are others. While no one seems to know infallibly or even with high reliability the probability of human extinction, it seems to be an overstatement to say that no one knows or can measure it “in any way.”
Killian: “So there is no logical ‘extent to which we do not know it to be false.’”
This is false. There really is an extent to which we do not know F1 to be true or false. And to that extent, it’s entirely reasonable and perhaps even morally or practically mandated to have hopes and to work toward their realization.
Killian: “After the first premise, F1, of NGA, NGA cannot be considered a sound or cogent logical argument.”
This is a false generalization. While Killian may believe F1 to be false or probably false for various reasons, others believe F1 to be true or possibly true for various reasons, and Killian has not demonstrated that the other reasons are insufficient. That doesn’t in itself mean the other reasons are sufficient, but it also doesn’t in itself mean the other reasons are insufficient.
Killian: “By not providing argumentation to accompany CO, Cannon introduces the logical fallacy known as Shifting the Burden of Proof. This, also known as an ‘argument from ignorance,’ occurs when either a proposition is assumed to be true because it has not yet been proved false or a proposition is assumed to be false because it has not yet been proved true. This has the effect of shifting the burden of proof to the person criticizing the proposition.”
This misrepresents NGA and misapplies burden of proof and argument from ignorance. For each assumption in the NGA, the NGA website provides a set of links to information that purports to support that assumption. Certainly it would be valuable to provide additional elaboration on why and how I or others believe the information supports the assumptions.
However, that shortcoming is not a logical fallacy. No one is telling Killian that the argument is demonstrably true merely because he (or anyone else) cannot prove to the contrary. If we’re claiming NGA is true, it’s for other reasons – not for an absence of Killian’s reasons. On the other hand, if Killian is asserting that the argument is demonstrably false merely because he did not find the elaboration or thought it insufficient in quantity then it is he that would be committing the fallacies he is concerning himself with.
Killian: “Cannon may consider CO1 so self evident as to not require argumentation and support.”
I do not consider CO1 self-evident. That is why the NGA website offers links to supporting information. And that is why I agree CO1 (and all of the assumptions in NGA) would benefit from additional elaboration, despite the fact that a significant about of elaboration is available via links from the NGA website.
Killian: “I can posit alternate explanations that are not covered in the disjunct. All that would be required to show that CO3 does not hold would be a single plausible alternative.”
It’s true that CO1 would be a false assumption if there’s even a single plausible alternative. I’m sure Killian can propose supposed alternatives. But whether they are actually alternatives would be a matter for interpretation and debate.
Killian: “It’s tempting here to list some, but doing so plays into the very fallacy we are discussing …”
Again this misapplies logical fallacies. No one is claiming that NGA is necessarily true merely because Killian cannot prove it to be false. If we’re claiming NGA is true, it is for other reasons. If we’d like to persuade Killian, evidently we should make those reasons more available and understandable. However, this simply is not a logical fallacy of any kind.
Killian: “The next problem is another fallacy known as Affirming the Disjunct. This fallacy lies in concluding that one disjunct must be false because the other disjunct is true; in fact they may both be true.”
This mischaracterizes CO and suggests a misunderstanding of propositional logic. CO does not conclude that one disjunct of CO1 is false because another is true. CO assumes a trilemma, uses F1 to negate one of the disjuncts, and makes an additional assumption to negate a second disjunct. That results in one remaining disjunct, which is necessarily true if the assumptions are true. There is no logical mistake.
Killian’s proposal of a logical mistake suggests that he may not understand how propositional logic works with disjuncts. As he points out, it’s perfectly possible for multiple disjuncts in a trilemma to be true. However, he seems not to know that it’s logically necessary for the remaining disjunct to be true if the other two disjuncts are false. There is nothing whatsoever legitimately controversial about the logical structure of CO (or any other part of NGA), even if Killian does not understand that. The only legitimately controversial aspects of CO (and NGA in general) are whether or not the assumptions are true.
Killian: “Part of the weakness of CO1 is that we are positing for a future instantiation of the human race. We have no way of knowing what that race is like, how they think and what their social constructions are.”
This is an overstatement. While it may be difficult or even practically impossible, we cannot be certain that there is no way of knowing anything about the future of humanity. Based on contemporary science and technological trends, it’s entirely reasonable to speculate and seek to substantiate those speculations with reason and observation over time. Indeed, it appears that human intelligence may be highly adapted to the goal of predicting our future, even if we’re not nearly as good at it as we might like to be.
Killian: “An actual argument would include a discussion as to why competing theories are weak and specific evidence, documentation and probably mathematical support for why the conclusions chosen by Cannon hold.”
Killian and others may appreciate the discussions related to CO and other aspects of NGA at links under the “Commentary” heading on the homepage of the NGA website. However, I agree more elaboration would be valuable, even if Killian’s suggestion of logical fallacy is spurious.
Killian: “Note what I am doing here: I am countering arguments that I assume Cannon intends in support of CO. But those arguments do not yet exist. Which brings us back to the fallacy of shifting burdens.”
Killian cannot know whether those arguments exist. He can know only that he did not find them. The latter is a useful criticism. The former is an exaggeration. Moreover, as explained before, the charge of logical fallacy in relation to this matter is spurious. The repetition of this spurious claim suggests that Killian may misunderstand the fallacy.
Killian: “By asking us to take CO2/CO3 on assumption without providing argumentation, Cannon is asking us to fill in the gaps with something akin to magic (faith?); he’s asking us to know things we can’t know.”
This mischaracterizes CO. CO3 is not an assumption. It is a deduction from CO1, CO2, and F1, which are assumptions. As a deduction, CO3 is necessarily true if the assumptions are true. The assumptions may or may not be true.
The NGA website offers links to videos and documents, including discussion and argumentation, for each of the assumptions and the argument as a whole. Some of the assumptions may not be worth considering true without reasoned evidence. At least one of the assumptions, F1, may be worth trusting in, for moral and practical reasons, to the extent we do not know it to be false. This is explained more above.
Killian: “It is not enough for Cannon to claim that the truth claims in CO are possible, if he then intends this to be support for the truth claims of NGA. ‘Possible’ does not provide sufficient evidence to be able to make the truth claims NGA makes. There is no bright line here; but generally speaking, if an argument intends to prove truth claims, the gap in the assumptions should have a probability approaching 1. If the probability is significantly less than 1, our confidence in the conclusion is significantly diminished. I am not persuaded that CO2 has a probability approaching 1.”
This is subjective. Some feel that any possibility of NGA being true is momentous. Some feel that only something approaching certainty of NGA being true would be momentous. Killian does not reasonably speak for everyone on this. For example, if there’s presently even a tiny fraction of a chance that humanity will not become extinct before evolving into superhumanity, that’s momentous for me. It’s enough to motivate me to work toward increasing that chance, and to encourage others to work toward increasing that chance. I am not alone in this. Arguably, due to the practical consequences of expectations, I should not be alone in this, to the extent others value such a possibility on moral or practical grounds. Whether or not we should value such a possibility on any grounds is worth debating, but Killian’s insistence on high probability is controversial at best.
Killian: “What I don’t understand about CO is why Cannon has bothered with CO1 and CO2 at all. Both are premised on the reader simply accepting assumptions F1 and CO2.”
This mischaracterizes CO. CO1 does not depend on F1 or CO2. CO2 does not depend on F1. This criticism is incoherent.
Killian: “Realistically, CO is really F2; another faith assumption. It is not logically derived from true premises, but simply asked to be assumed.”
This mischaracterizes CO. While one may assume CO3, CO does not. CO offers a deductive argument from two other assumptions to arrive at CO3. Those other assumptions may or may not be true. The NGA website does clearly indicate that they are assumptions. However, it does not stop there. It does not simply ask that the reader assume them. The NGA website provides links to videos and documents that discuss each assumption and the argument as a whole. Killian may not find them sufficiently persuasive, but that it quite different from his claim that CO merely asks that the reader assume CO3 to be true.
Killian: “While CO may be structurally valid, the conclusion is necessarily unsound.”
This is false. The conclusion of CO is not necessarily unsound. This criticism is spurious. Moreover, if Killian is not engaged in hyperbole, this criticism suggests that he does not fully understand what it means for an argument to be unsound. Even if his mischaracterization of CO were accurate, even if CO consisted of a single assumption, such an argument consisting of a single assumption would be sound if the assumption were true.
Killian: “Since I don’t agree that CO3 follows necessarily from CO1 and CO2 due to a lack of sufficient confidence in the premises …”
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of logic. CO3 does in fact necessarily follow from CO1 and CO2, even if they are all false – even if they all lack evidence. This is not at all controversial.
Killian: “NGA cannot be considered a Deductive argument, because CO3 claims to derive probabilistically, rather than necessarily, from its premises.”
This is false. CO3 does in fact derive necessarily from its premises. CO3 does not claim to derive probabilistically.
Killian: “CO2 posits that superhumanity will be more compassionate than we are.”
This is false. CO2 is the assumption that “superhumanity probably would have more decentralized destructive capacity than humanity has”.
Killian: “Cannon has provided no argument for the claim other than presenting it and asking us to assume it holds.”
This is false. The NGA website provides links to videos and documents with supporting information and discussion for each assumption as well as the argument as a whole. Evidently, it is not sufficient to persuade Killian, but that is different than Killian’s claim.
Killian: “CR is Bostrom’s Simulation Argument, with substitution of a few words.”
This mischaracterizes CR. CR is a generalization of SA for any feasible creation mechanism. For example, the creation mechanism may be computation, but it may also be cosmoforming or terraforming among other possibilities – although I happen to consider computation the most feasible. This is not a trivial difference between CR and SA. It broadens the applicability of the argument. During the process of formulating NGA, as a courtesy to Bostrom, I confirmed with him that my generalization in CR maintains all of the logical and probabilistic features of his formulation of SA. He confirmed that and updated the FAQ on the SA website to reflect that confirmation.
Killian: “Bostrom explicitly claims that SA does not and cannot be used to predict which of the three disjuncts would obtain.”
This is true, but SA is not exhaustive of reasoning and observation that we may use to confirm or reject its disjuncts. There may be reasons outside the scope of SA, whether probabilistic or practical or moral, to accept or reject each of the disjuncts. Bostrom has his reasons for thinking each of the disjuncts more or less probable. Others have reasons for thinking each of the disjuncts more or less probable. The various reasons for different perspectives are worth debating.
Killian: “In contravention to SA, Cannon is asking us to assume that P3 of SA obtains.”
This mischaracterizes CR. CR does not assume that CR3 (which corresponds to a generalization of SA3) is true. CR assumes (and provides related reasons) that CR1 and CR2 are true. From those assumptions, in combination with F1, CR deduces CR3.
Killian: “Here, in CR, we have explicit proof, through the argumentation of SA, that CR3 cannot hold, due the limitations of the argument.”
This is false. Killian appears to believe that only SA in itself could provide reason to accept or reject its disjuncts. However, SA is not our limit of reasoning and observation. There may be many other reasons to argue for or against the disjuncts in SA.
Killian: “We have explicit proof of the inability of CR to hold, because we have explicit proof that this logical argument cannot predict which disjunct obtains.”
This mischaracterizes CR. CR is not limited to the chosen scope of SA, which does not purport to argue for or against the probability of any of its disjuncts. The NGA website offers various reasons to suppose its other assumptions, beyond the generalization of SA into CR1, may be true. They are all worth debating.
Killian: “It is unreasonable of Cannon to ask us to assume that CR1:P3 obtains.”
This mischaracterizes CR. CR does not assume that the third disjunct of CR1 obtains. CR uses two other assumptions to deduce that the third disjunct of CR1 obtains. For each of those assumptions, the NGA website suggests reasons why it may be true.
Killian: “Whereas  SA provides proof of its inability to predict which of 3 disjuncts obtain; and whereas  CR is built on the same premises as SA; and whereas  CR relies on CR1:P3 obtaining, in contravention to evidence presented in SA, Therefore  CR Fails”
The premises of this argument are false. Regarding #1, SA does not prove its inability to predict its disjuncts, although its author points out that SA in itself does not prove any one of its disjuncts. Those are different things. Regarding #2, CR is not built on the same premises as SA. Only CR1 is built on the same premises, which CR1 generalizes. Regarding #3, SA does not prove other arguments’ inability to predict its disjuncts.
Killian: “The only place [claims about God] are mentioned is in the summary.”
This is false. The NGA website includes many more references to and explanations of claims about God, in addition to those in summaries. Notably, the homepage of the NGA website provides a definition of “God” for the argument: “superhumanity that is more compassionate than we are and that created our world.”
Killian: “Paraphrasing, Cannon says ‘because someone somewhere may consider this god, we can therefore label it God.’”
This mischaracterizes theology related to NGA. I and many others would consider compassionate creators of our world to be God, whether or not they also correspond with others’ requirements for that title. NGA does not pretend to apply to all theologies. It simply contends to apply to any theology within which such beings may qualify as God.
Killian: “Here are common definitions of God held by major religious organizations, none of which are compatible with the definition of god posited by Cannon: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (mormons): God the Father is the Supreme Being in whom we believe and whom we worship. He is the ultimate Creator, Ruler, and Preserver of all things. He is perfect, has all power, and knows all things. He ‘has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s’”
This implies a mischaracterization of the relation between Mormon theology and NGA. Nothing in this description of God is necessarily incompatible with NGA, although some interpretations would be incompatible. The NGA website provides a long list of quotes from Mormon authorities that support theosis, also known as divinization or deification: the idea that humanity should become God.
Killian: “Here are common definitions of God held by major religious organizations, none of which are compatible with the definition of god posited by Cannon: … The Catholic Church teaches that God is All-Perfect; this infinite Perfection is viewed, successively, under various aspects, each of which is treated as a separate perfection and characteristic inherent to the Divine Substance, or Essence. A certain group of these, of paramount import, is called the Divine Attributes.”
This implies a mischaracterization of the relation between Catholic theology and NGA. Nothing in this description of God is necessarily incompatible with NGA, although some interpretations would be incompatible. The NGA website provides a long list of quotes from Catholic authorities that support theosis, also known as divinization or deification: the idea that humanity should become God.
Killian: “The Argument Against Superhuman Compassion P1: Humans, including children, experience a great deal of suffering; and P2: Any advanced race of intelligent beings capable of creating human simulations would have the ability to either eliminate or significantly reduce human suffering; and P3: Any being who would choose to instantiate severe suffering into a program meant to simulate human life cannot be considered compassionate; therefore: C: Any such beings cannot be considered compassionate.”
If there is at least one compassionate reason for creating a world like the one we now experience, P3 is false. Arguably, it may be impossible to create more genuinely compassionate creators without a process that includes a world like the one we now experience. And it may be compassionate to pursue that opportunity along with the risk of suffering.
Killian: “[The problem of consciousness] becomes much more acute in NGA …”
This is false. NGA does not rely exclusively on creation by computation as SA does.
Killian: “Cannon has built the foundation of NGA on the back of five unwarranted assumptions …”
This is worth debating. Killian overstates his case against the assumptions.
Killian: “NGA offers no new facts or argumentation beyond what is contained in Bostrom’s SA …”
This is false. NGA extends well beyond the scope of SA, which is the basis of only one assumption in NGA. Even that one assumption extends beyond the scope of SA by generalizing it for any feasible creation mechanism. In addition, the NGA website provides abundant information related to its assumptions. Killian hardly scratched the surface in his critique.
Killian: “NGA tells us nothing more interesting than this: • Assume that P3 of SA Obtains. • Call the resulting species God.”
This mischaracterizes NGA. Even if NGA did not extend beyond the generalization of SA in CR1, that alone would be a valuable contribution. But NGA also offers reasons to consider four other assumptions, as well as a formulation of valid logic that ties them together into what constitutes a momentous conclusion if the assumptions are true. Again, the assumptions may or may not be true. That is worth debating.