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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Democrats are Out of Touch -- Update

Surely you have seen that the Democrats are pushing to put same-sex marriage into their platform for this year's election. I hope they do. Not because I support the plank, but because it shows just how out of touch they really are.

Even as the economy continues to tank, the Senate has yet to formulate a budget since 2008 and Obama has offered absolutely no leadership on the issue. Check out this graph based on Obama's prediction of the unemployment rate with and without the stimulus package. The stimulus package passed. The unemployment rate remains intolerably high. And what is the solution? More stimulus. More taxes. Pushing forward with a health plan that is doomed to fail and wreak more havoc in the economy, and that few people really want in its present form.

Meanwhile, tensions are rising between Israel and Iran, the situation in Syria is decaying, Eric Holder remains in office, the White House appears to be leaking sensitive information to make the president look good, the president is out campaigning. While America burns.

With this backdrop, we see the priorities of the Democrats. Gay marriage. Chick-Fil-A boycotts. Check out this 2008 presidential election map by county. The blue areas are mostly cities. The rest of the country is red. Look at Texas. Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio are blue. And the border areas with high Hispanic populations. Look at Wyoming. Jackson Hole and Cheyenne are the only places that are blue.

The Democrats are becoming more and more myopic. More and more self-focused. More and more "everyone thinks like us" because they are surrounded in their little urban utopias by like-minded people.

Sorry. Gay marriage -- whatever your position on the issue is -- is simply not one of the more pressing issues facing our country. The fact that the Democrats want to make it an issue means they are not really paying attention to the rest of us, or if they are, they hold us in disdain that we think differently than they do. If we don't want gay marriage, it's because we're bigots who should not be allowed to open businesses or hold jobs or run for public office. It we don't want Obamacare, it's because we want sick people to suffer and die with neglect. If we don't like Social Security, it's because we want old people to starve and freeze to death. And so on.

I wrote a couple of years ago that I'm not a liberal today because modern American liberalism pushed me away. I've been recently accused (if "accused" is really the right word) of being a libertarian, which I'm not. Well, if I seem like I'm way to the right, it is only because the left has gone further and further left, while I've stayed pretty much in the same spot I was in for the 1980 election. It's been 32 years -- 32 years! -- and the Democrats have been pushing me away this whole time.

No wonder people like me seem like extremists to them. But it is they who are out of touch.

UPDATE: Proof of what I'm saying is that Obama is on the verge of losing a very important constituency, African-Americans. Black religious leaders are exceedingly upset with the prospect of the gay marriage plank. This is a demographic that Obama should win 90% of or more. Tried and true Dems are becoming sick and tired of this leftward drift. As Rev. Owens said, "And I didn’t march one inch, one foot, one yard for a man to marry a man and a woman to marry a woman." Check out the whole video. This particular demographic has been vocal on this issue since before Prop 8 out in California, and was vocal this past spring. Dems are so out of touch they do not understand what is happening.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rahm Emmanuel and Chicago Values

The Mayor of Chicago has banned Chick-Fil-A from opening new outlets in his realm. He says that Chick-Fil-A values are not Chicago values.

I just want to say that when I lived out west and drove east to visit family, we'd pass by ol' Rahm's area. I was struck by the number of billboards for escort services, strip joints, and other similar businesses. I was also struck by how high the price of gas was (I quickly learned to gas up before Illinois), and how run-down the area looked. You can see it all from I-80.

I guess we know what Chicago values are.

And you gotta wonder about a guy who goes from being the president's right hand man to being mayor of Chicago.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Proper Role of Government

A lot has been in the news about Obama's remarks to business owners. I have to admit, the more conservative news outlets have made it sound that Obama is giving credit to government for the success of private businesses, which is not precisely what he said. He was pointing out that businesses succeed when governments help facilitate the process.

But what is Obama really arguing for? That America needs to have a government? Who would say, No? America has very few anarchists, and most of them are a little nuts from what I understand. Is he arguing that government should step in when major projects -- highways, for instance -- are not easily or efficiently achieved by private persons or small communities? Again, who would say No to that? Even hardened libertarians agree that governments are good for something, and things like interstate infrastructure and national defense and things of that nature are precisely the sort of thing the federal government should be focusing on.

But what is he arguing for? He's arguing for higher taxes to pay for the things government does so that businesses can be successful.

If only our taxes went only to such things.

Obama has never seen a budget get passed during his administration. Do you realize that? Now, over at Politifact.com there is an article from a couple of months ago that describes the modern process of federal budgeting. Yet it nitpicks on terminology and fails to describe the Constitutional process accurately. According to the Constitution, is it Congress who has the responsibility of determining the budget. It has become a custom, not required by the Constitution, that the sitting president offer an opinion, and nowadays Congress tends to use that as a starting point, as the article says. But the budget, officially speaking, originates in Congress, specifically in the Senate. Still, the president has a role in making sure that Congress does its job. And while it may be true that a budget passed by Congress does not require the president's signature, budget-related appropriations bills do. The Democrat-controlled Senate has not passed a single budget during the Obama administration.

So, the government is spending money hand-over-fist on God knows what, and Obama is asking people and businesses to pay taxes for it all. Everyone agrees that it is hemorrhaging, and one way to deal with it is to increase taxes. But no one really knows what the budget is, or what is in it!

The questions being begged are these: What does Obama want the money for? What in his view is the role of government in the life of this nation?

It seems to me that he's saying, "Look, you couldn't have your success without the infrastructure and key services that government provides with your tax money. And we need more money to keep the infrastructure and services functioning so you can continue to be successful. So, all we're asking is that the folks with more money to pay more taxes. That's fair, right? And isn't it what businesses need after all." Well, that would be fine if all he were talking about were essential government activities. But the reason the government is spending so much money is that it is spending way too much on the wrong things.

So, here's what I hear Obama saying: "You're dependent on the government, and that's a good thing. The dependency of business on government is what makes business work. So, what we need is more government dependency, and in fact, Americans in general should all become more dependent on government. For education, food, rent, medicine, doctor's visits, preschool, after care, and now also jobs. It's what American success is built on, so what we need is more of it."

Now, does any of this have a bioethical dimension?

Not really. Just letting off some steam in an election year.

And I'm not saying Romney is wonderful in all of this -- I'm saying I'm philosophically opposed to Obama. And even if conservatives have somewhat misrepresented his words, I think his underlying message is way more controversial and dangerous than the superficial stupidity the conservatives are accusing him of.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Fourth of July and Bioethics

On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed. Let's take a look at the key paragraph of this singular document, one which states the principles by which the American colonies felt justified in separating themselves from Great Britain -- principles they realized that reasonable men across the world would recognize and agree with.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Self-evident truths. One of the reasons I have this blog is to argue for self-evident truths, and to use them as the basis for ethical reasoning. And the reason for that is that bioethics in America today has no basis in any truths that are either recognized as self-evident or even reliably true. The reigning moral system, if it can be called either moral or a system, is relativism: "It is wrong to force your idea of what is right or wrong on others." This is the closest thing to a self-evident truth at work in bioethics today. Yet, it is neither true nor self-evident (since it contradicts itself).

All men are created equal. Say what  you want about inconsistencies in American life regarding this statement, the signers nonetheless made it. A beggar is as much a human being and a subject of rights as is a king. All human beings are equally human. Today, we argue about the word "person" and try to define the word in a way that lets us get around this principle, this self-evident truth. See what I mean? The plain fact of "this is a living human being" is questioned as to whether or not that individual is a subject of rights and has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How in the United States of American can there EVER be a discussion about the permissibility of infanticide or euthanasia or even abortion? I'll tell you how: When we've abandoned our founding principles, and reject the notion of self-evident truths.

Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. Being created by GOD, and in being created as a human being, having unalienable rights that are from GOD, is a self-evident truth. This was not subject to debate; only a fool would be stupid enough to try to deny it. Being created by God with rights is the very basis of human equality: We are the same because we are made that way. Also, our rights do not come from the government or the Constitution -- we cannot invent rights that do not exist (say, the right to kill a newborn or a sick person or even oneself). Rights are not a matter of what the law says; rather, the law should articulate itself with respect to rights in order to be a just law. Nor can we remove rights that inhere in the person -- we can abuse, ignore, deny, and violate rights through the law, but we cannot actually change the self-evident and true reality that human beings have rights given them by God. Governments and laws must respect these rights, because they are prior to and superior to any government. A distinction: Some rights are unalienable, some can be conferred. The right to vote or run for office, for instance, is conferred and in being conferred is regulated, and is dependent upon the nature of the government where voting and politicking are part of the process.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The right to LIFE. It is the first right. Abortion denies human equality and the right to life, and makes both subordinate to the right of the abortionist to kill. I do not speak of the woman's choice here, because I have compassion on women facing an unwanted pregnancy; but I do not have compassion on the physician who seeks to exploit her desperation to make money. It is the physician's right to perform the procedure that is really at stake in our current abortion laws. Follow the money. Where does the money go in the abortion industry? Right. The repeal of prohibition -- was it about the people's right to drink alcohol? No, it was about the right of the manufacturers to make and sell it. Follow the money. Liberty is not license, nor is it freedom to do as one pleases, nor does the pursuit of happiness extend to harming others or acting in a way detrimental to society at large. With these rights comes responsibility.

Just powers from the consent of the governed. The government should have limited power, and its power is ordered to justice. That is to say, implicit in this phrase is acknowledgement that some governments can attain powers that exceed justice. And they may attain unjust powers through the consent of the governed -- for example: Obamacare. So the people have a responsibility to know what justice is, to understand and recognize self-evident truths as they relate to government, and to act with integrity and honesty in their civic duties of discerning candidates and voting. Or else, they deserve a hegemonic government that buys their votes with "free" stuff and eventually controls their whole lives.  If they could see us now, the Signers of the Declaration would think we've institutionalized the very thing they revolted against.

OK, I think that's enough. Personally, I think this next election is day is our chance to re-establish American government on our founding principles.

Hopefully, bioethics will follow suit.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Another inept attempt at solving the problem of evil

From an atheist of sorts. Giulio Prisco is a European rocket scientist, undoubtedly talented and brilliant in his field. But philosophy and theology are not rocket science. Prisco is out of his element and it shows.

In a recent article posted at Turing Church (an organization dedicated to proselytizing for the religion of scientism) and reposted at IEET (the first E ironically standing for “ethics”) called The Physics of Miracles and the Problem of Evil, Prisco advances the idea that perhaps we are all bots that live in a computer simulation game, and what we call “God” is really a meta-human (he uses “post-human” but that would not be correct, for reasons I explain below) player who has the power to alter the rules of his game, to intervene in our reality in a way that looks to us like a miracle.

I thought it would be instructional to take his text and critique it. Now, I am not a rocket scientist, so I recognize my limitations in terms of advanced math and physics and computer engineering and the technical aspects of artificial intelligence. I will not dispute Prisco’s expertise in these areas.

I will simply give you his text, and then insert comments, which will be in square brackets and italicized for clarity that it's me speaking.

Begin Prisco:
We may be bots in a reality-wide simulation, and perhaps the player(s) from above can violate our simulated physics when they want. [Descartes said something similar, supposing perhaps that everything present to his mind was a grand illusion perpetrated by some being with the power to do it. Welcome to the 17th Century, Dr. Prisco. Actually, Descartes thought it through a little more than Prisco does. He reasoned that the only thing he could be reasonably sure wasn’t an illusion was his own existence. Everyone else he encountered could be, in his view, an illusion. And since “I” cannot get into another person’s head, I can never be sure anyone else is real like I am. The presumption that everyone is as sentient as I am is not borne up by my experiential data, given the ability of someone else to give me an adequately sophisticated illusion. So it might not be that "we" are all bots, but that "I" am among bots and whether or not "I" am a bot, too, is subject to debate.] In a more popular formulation of the same concept, called Religion, the player(s), called God(s), created our reality and can perform miracles.
[So, he’s basically setting up a technological explanation for what we call supernatural events. Pretty much what Christianity has faced since people first called Christ a magician.]
The two formulations are equivalent for all practical purposes. Many religions assume that Gods are omnipotent and benevolent, but then we have the problem of evil: how can omnipotent and benevolent Gods permit evil and suffering? [The question comes up in the fact of a deficient concept of God, of evil and suffering, and of man. He basically defines "benevolent and omnipotent God" as "that which would not permit natural and moral evils." And since we have natural and moral evils, God cannot exist. But what if that definition is wrong? What if the meaning of "benevolent and omnipotent" is not "what I in my limited human knowledge and wisdom think God should do, or what would do if I were God," but something else? Indeed, that is the case -- the working definition of God in Prisco's argument is faulty in the extreme, and he as a brilliant scientist has no excuse for taking on faith this lame definition that he's heard from others.]
[We could simply stop here and not read the rest because he has identified himself as someone who simply does not know what he is talking about, and his argument ends up being severely and fatally flawed. But keep reading and see what mischief ignorance and misinformation can cause in an otherwise intelligent mind.]
If omnipotent and benevolent Gods permit evil and suffering, then they are either not omnipotent, or not benevolent, or neither, or perhaps they don’t exist at all. [See, I was right about his definition of "omnipotent, benevolent God." There are other possibilities Prisco cannot even fathom. What if God made humans with free will and, in order not to violate that freedom, permits evil? And what if there are greater goods than those lost in suffering, and God has the power and the justice to make up for suffering in an infinitely abundant way? I’m just asking.] In fact, the problem of evil is one of the main reasons why former believers become atheists. [Another main reason is, apparently, intellectual weakness and/or dishonesty.] It turns out that the problem of evil has a simple solution. [Keep that in mind: A simple solution.]
The picture [in the original post] is a screenshot taken in the popular computer game Half Life 2 by Valve Software. The people in the picture are bots, or Non-Player Characters (NPCs). They have a limited “intelligence” and can respond to a limited range of situations that can arise in the game, for example if you go near the guards they will beat you.
The “intelligence” of bots in computer games is still light years behind real intelligence. However, I am persuaded that real, self-aware AI of human and higher-level will be achieved someday, perhaps by the computer gaming industry itself, and perhaps in the next couple of decades. Then, computer games will contain sentient, intelligent persons [programs] like you and I. [Yes, the games will contain sentient persons who are slaves of the user, created to be toys, with no destiny other than the entertainment of the user. If Prisco is right in the reality-is-a-computer-game model, then we have a chance to avoid committing the very evil that “god” has apparently perpetrated on us, namely, having made us not with our own being and our own free will but simply as entertainment slaves. But the only way to do that is to not pursue AI any further than what we have already.]
If computer game bots can be intelligent and sentient, perhaps we are sentient and intelligent computer game bots. Do we live in a computer simulation? This is a frequent discussion topic in transhumanist interest groups, and a matter of scientific investigation. Who is running the simulation? Perhaps unknowable aliens in another level of reality have invented our world and us. A frequent assumption (see The New God Argument) is that future humans run our reality as a historically accurate simulation of their past (our present). [Impossible because it would result in an infinite regression of simulations within simulations within simulations, with no assurance that the future humans are themselves not a simulation already.]
[This is all part of the simple solution of evil. Simple.]
In a 1992 essay entitled Pigs in Cyberspace, Hans Moravec formulated (in modern terms) the idea of our reality as a simulation. “The very moment we are now experiencing may actually be (almost certainly is) such a distributed mental event, and most likely is a complete fabrication that never happened physically,” he says, implying that observers living in simulated realities may vastly outnumber observers living in original physical realities.
Bishop George Berkeley thought that the reality we perceive, and ourselves in it, exist in the mind of “that supreme and wise Spirit, in whom we live, move, and have our being“: God. In other words, we are thoughts in the Mind of God. It is easy to see that Berkeley and Moravec say very similar things (actually, the same thing), each in the language of his philosophy and age.
Apparently, there is an important difference between Berkeley and Moravec: As a 18th century Christian and a representative of the Church, Berkeley believed in supernatural phenomena, in principle not understandable by science, while Moravec, as a modern engineer, believes reality is fully understandable and explainable by science. [Actually, Berkeley would say that the physical world is explainable by science fully to the same degree as Moravec would. The difference is that Berkeley believes there is part of reality beyond the physical world, which Moravec cannot accept because it is beyond his science to detect and measure. Yet, as a consequence, Moravec proposes a fully anthropomorphic “god” – the simulation designer in this case – whose existence he cannot prove, whose attributes he cannot know, and whose purposes are inscrutable. Funny, huh? In order to accept reality without God, he had to invent a god in his own image, whose existence and properties are even more unlikely and unattractive than God’s.] Future engineers within the framework of future science will develop Moravec’s simulated realities [within the framework of future science in our simulation reality, a game in a higher-level reality that itself is most likely a simulation. Indeed, we could have a multiplicity of simulations running within our reality, which might be only one of a multiplicity of simulations in a higher-level reality, which itself could be one of a multiplicity of simulations within another, and so on]. If our reality is a simulation, everything in our universe can be understood in terms of the physical laws of the higher-level reality in which it is simulated [and whose physical laws are defined by the next-higher-level reality in which it is simulated, and so on.]
But… this does not mean that it [the simulation that is our reality] must always be understandable in terms of our own physical laws: Moravec’s simulation cosmology may contain supernatural phenomena, because the reality engineers up there may choose to violate the rules of the game. Yes, as Richard Dawkins says, they are creatures [=things created, implying a creator] naturally evolved in their physical universe [or rather programmed to inhabit a simulation universe like ours by an even higher computer engineer] and they cannot violate their physics [because Dawkins knows these things, and he’s always right; but of course the designer-users of that computer simulation world can. And so on, and so on…], but they can violate ours if they want [but only because they were designed to have that power by someone else.]
[Ok, let’s use our imaginations, shall we! Because we have been well grounded in logic and reality so far, and it’s just good to think outside the box a bit. Let’s propose that we are on the bottom rung of an immense ladder. Each rung represents the computer-simulation-reality game of the rung above (making us the bottom rung, but working on building a rung below us). Naturally, as we go up the rungs, we encounter increasingly superior and advanced and evolved computer simulation engineers. Well, why should there not be a being who is so advanced, so evolved, so superior at the top of the ladder that he doesn’t need computers, but simply has to think and his thoughts become reality? Not simply thoughts in his mind, but these thoughts having their own true, real existence. The “simulated reality” whose “bots” think they are living in a computer simulation would actually be real beings living in a true reality, albeit one thought up and made real by this superior intelligence. And the theory rampant among them that they are living in a computer simulation would be mere superstition of their religion of scientism, but an expected one, considering their limited intelligence and their arrogance borne of the knowledge of their own superiority to other things they encounter, such that they suppose anything superior to them has to be like them and equally dependent upon technology.

At any rate, if “we” are in a computer simulation, then our “reality engineers” are quite likely to be in one too, and so are their reality engineers, and theirs, onward either to an infinite progression (which is logically impossible) or to one Supreme Engineer who is in a real reality and in whose creation all of the lower rungs of the ladder exist, down to our bottom rung. Why is so far-fetched to think that such a Supreme Engineer can make a real universe without the use of technology? The Supreme Post-Human, no? And then all the levels between the Supreme Post-Human and us become unnecessary to suppose.]

Make this simple experiment [you mean try this simple exercise]: Run a Conway’s Game of Life program, choose an initial pattern, and let it evolve for a while. Now, stop the program, flip a cell, and resume the program. You have just performed a miracle: something that goes against the physical laws (the simple cellular automata evolution rules of Life) of the lower-level reality that you are simulating. Of course simple Life patterns are not complex enough to be sentient observers, but hypothetical observers within Life would observe an event that cannot be understood in terms of the physical laws of their universe. A miracle.
In the short movie CA Resurrection below [imbedded in the original], made with a Game of Life program, the protagonist pattern is doomed to certain death by interaction with a very unfriendly environment (sounds familiar?), but is copied before death and restored to life [he means the copy is pasted] in a friendlier environment. This (scientifically plausible) computational resurrection is equivalent to the religious concept of resurrection in Heaven. [Analogous in a certain sense, perhaps, but not equivalent by any means, unless you have a deficient understanding of our earthly environment, death, resurrection, and heaven. Oh, right, yes, I forgot. Perfectly logical that he thinks it’s equivalent. And, given the existence of God -- properly understood, which excludes Prisco -- religiously described resurrection is also scientifically plausible.] I am a pattern doomed to certain death by interaction with a very unfriendly environment, and I hope to be copied and resurrected. [So here are some ways they are not equivalent. When we die, we are not copied and pasted, not even analogously. Death is not really death in the absolute sense, but rather death of the body, for there is a continuity of life and consciousness and experience and identity in terms of the soul, whose existence of course Prisco would probably deny. However, he posited resurrection and heaven, even if just for the sake of argument, which would be unintelligible if he also posited for that argument the non-existence of the soul. At any rate, it is not copying while still alive, letting the original die in its hostile environment, and then pasting the copy somewhere else. If it is a copy, then it is not the original. The life of the pasted copy in a friendly environment is not resurrection, but simply the life of a copy pasted in a different place from where the original met its demise. It’s more like a clone than a resurrection. Resurrection, on the other hand, is not a copy and paste job, but a restoration of “this” body that I’m in right now.]
If we admit the possibility of a God who created our reality (or a post-human player who runs the simulation that is our reality, but the two concepts are really one and the same), able to perform miracles, we must face the Problem of Evil: a benevolent and omnipotent God would not permit evil, so since evil exists, God is either not benevolent, or not omnipotent, or neither.
[We’ll get to the problem of evil. Eventually. For the simple solution. Here is that word, post-human, which I promised to explain. A post-human by definition is somehow derived from us, “after” us, either as a “more evolved” (so-called) biological descendent of ours or as a human-created thing either biological or AI that becomes our successor or some combination of these. However, “god” as used by Prisco is not post-human but prior to us because it is the one who created that program in which we are mere bots. I would give Prisco the benefit of the doubt and say, “aw, you know what he means,” but instead I’m going to hold him to higher standards and say that to call the “god” that created our computer simulation reality a post-human is just plain inane.]
[What follows would also get, like, a D in Intro to Philosophy 101 at a community college.] The medieval philosophers, who were as smart as contemporary philosophers and thought a lot about these things, knew that “omnipotent” is a concept that needs to be defined and limited. [A link to Wikipedia rather than, say, a medieval philosopher.] Could an omnipotent being create a stone so heavy that even he could not lift it? If he could lift the rock, then it seems that the being could cease to be omnipotent, as the rock was not heavy enough [this does not make sense]; if he could not, it seems that the being was not omnipotent to begin with.
But a rock so heavy that it cannot be lifted by an omnipotent being cannot exist, because an omnipotent being is defined as a being who can lift all rocks [say it with me, kids!]. The rock is a contradiction in terms and a logical impossibility, like a triangle with four sides (a triangle is defined as a polygon with three sides).
No God can ever draw a triangle with four sides, because a triangle with four sides cannot exist by definition. [And the implications of the fact he enunciates elude him. If a four-sided triangle cannot exist, it is not because of definitions or logic or defects in the power of the one drawing it. It is because it is impossible for a triangle to have four sides. It is impossible for a triangle. The triangle is the thing with defective power, totally unable to have anything other than three sides. If God cannot make a four-sided triangle, it is because of the triangle. There is no doubt that God can make a four-sided figure; but no four-sided figure can be a triangle. The defect of power is in the thing’s inability to exist in a certain way that, if it did exist in that way, would annihilate it as the thing that it is.] I don’t believe in the supernatural [ha!], but I can believe in natural Gods [if they’re natural in the sense he means, they’re not gods], and I can believe that natural Gods created our reality [but nothing stops those “gods” from being computer simulations created by something else, which is probably not what he means by “natural” since they’d be synthetic]. A natural God is only omnipotent in the sense that he is much more powerful than us, but still has necessary limitations. [That depends on how far up the ladder you go, which Prisco’s mind has not considered. His argument is this. Triangles cannot have 4 sides. God cannot make a 4-sided triangle. Therefore, God is not omnipotent. Ridiculous. Human languages are capable of nonsense -- just look up the lyrics of Oh Susanna -- and the rock "paradox" is one such combination of words. By the way, some people hold that the immovable stone that God has created is the human heart once the human has darkened and frozen it by sin and arrogance.]
[This is all part of the simple solution to the problem of evil, by the way. Remember, simple.]
If reality is a computation, it is probably [probably] an incompressible computation with no shortcuts: the only way to know what happens at time t, is to run the computation until time t. Besides some very simple initial configurations, the Game of Life is incompressible: if you want to know what happens at time step t, you must run the program through all intermediate time steps.
It makes sense to assume that reality is an incompressible computation, and the universe is the fastest computer that can compute itself [the universe is both the computer and the program. Nice.]. In other words, a 100% complete and accurate prediction of tomorrow’s weather cannot be done in less than 24 hours, and the only way to predict the future with complete accuracy is waiting for the future to happen. [From our perspective, anyway. It is arrogant to think our perspective is the only one. Note the way he defines the situation: The ONLY way FOR US to predict the future IN OUR REALITY with 100% COMPLETE ACCURACY.]
[Another imagination exercise. Let’s imagine a computer program so sophisticated that it can account for every sub-atomic particle’s behavior in the universe, every motion of every blade of grass in the breeze, the relationship of every grain of sand to every other as the waves crash upon the beach and of every hydrogen molecule in the infinite space between the stars. But, let’s imagine that this highly sophisticated program and the machinery and the brilliant user who developed it have no reliable predictive capacity or tools, no ability to project based on, say, lower level computer simulations that at least let the user anticipate a range of likely future events.]
This assumption makes sense [uh-huh] because the existence of a faster-than-the-universe computer within the universe would lead to logical contradictions. [So? We’ve had a few of those already. And this applies only to OUR ability to predict our future in our simulation reality, not the User/god's ability to predict our future in HIS reality.] Suppose you could compute the state of the universe tomorrow faster than the universe itself. The results of the computation will include the color of the shirt that you will wear tomorrow. Then you can invalidate the prediction by simply wearing, tomorrow, a shirt of another color.
[Invalidating a prediction is not a logical contradiction, but a demonstration of human freedom and the limitations of the prediction program. If you could change the color of your shirt, then the most logical conclusion is that the prediction was wrong, not that you caused temporal rift or “changed the future” – this is a difficulty with the 100% complete accuracy criterion. The prediction would a) not be infallible; b) not be a determinant or cause of the future, but only a reader of one likely outcome; c) inherently be only of limited utility because only the User/god’s computer can really run the universe program rightly, and it is already a contradiction in terms to say that a subroutine within the universe program can run the whole universe program faster than the computer running the universe program. Ridiculous actually. Also, Prisco sets up a time-t snapshot here, not a video of all day tomorrow. If at time t tomorrow I am predicted to have on a red shirt, I could think I’d be thwarting the future by wearing a blue one all day; but what I don’t know is if I will encounter circumstances requiring me to change my shirt at t minus some amount of time and end up in a red shirt anyway.]
The life of the prisoners brutalized by the guards in the Half Life 2 scene in the picture above is very ugly, and if they were sentient they would suffer a lot. [And they would have no choice. If the guards were also sentient, maybe they’d not be so brutal. Maybe the prisoners wouldn’t even be in prison. If the prisoners were sentient but the guards not, they should be able to work out their escape. If. If. If. If.] Unfortunately, similar [in a certain, limited, nuanced sense] things have happened in our reality, for example in the 1930s, and millions of sentient persons have been brutalized by evil regimes, and suffered a lot. Surely a benevolent and omnipotent God would try to do something to avoid that.
[Two things to say here. One is, well, we really don’t know what God did, now do we? In theory, God could be constantly – and without us ever able to know – averting for us evils and horrors far greater than what we’re experiencing, while respecting the freedom of human individuals, and realizing that earthly suffering isn’t really the worst thing that could happen to someone. But that takes a clear and relatively complete understanding of God, man, freedom, and evil that is utterly lacking here. And Two, the Holocaust and getting smacked by a guard are not the same thing. The Holocaust was not a sudden event, and Auschwitz or something like it, could easily have been predicted by a wise User/god, years (in our time) before it happened.]
But there are no computational shortcuts [that he is aware of]. The only way to predict with complete accuracy that certain events would lead to, say, Auschwitz, is to let the computation unfold until Auschwitz. [OK, if we cannot predict the emergence of a particular Nazi death camps, we might -- given the level of knowledge that User/god would undoubtedly have -- be able to predict that sort of thing with fair reliability. But what Prisco is trying to say is that what people of religion call “God” is unable to see the future and powerless to do anything about it; therefore “god” cannot be an omnipotent supreme being, but only some fallible, limited creature, underscoring the likelihood that “god” is User/god.]
But wait a sec — you may be thinking — can’t God [he means User/god, not God in the common sense] just use a faster computer to make the prediction? After all, we can predict the evolution of a Game of Life on our computer, by running it on a faster computer. If we see (on the faster computer) that something bad will happen to our favorite pattern, we can stop the game and try to flip some cells to ensure it doesn’t happen in our game.
Well, no, it wouldn’t work. Remember that these computations contain sentient beings. If God uses a faster reality simulator to predict Auschwitz before it happens in our reality simulator… Auschwitz will happen in the faster simulator, and people will suffer in the faster simulator. [So some copies are different from the originals, except when pasting a copy is resurrection, then they’re the same.]
[Besides which, after running the program for a while and finding an Auschwitz, he would have to run, oh, about INFINITE what-if scenarios, to find out what happens if he prevents Auschwitz – doesn’t this rocket scientist watch Star Trek? In averting a horrible evil by saving Joan Collins’ life, Kirk would let the Nazis win the war and dominate the world and he would eradicate the future in which he and his pals live. So he has to let her die instead.]
This “solves” [HAH! Note the use of scare quotes] the Problem of Evil [and it's a simple solution, is it not?], because God is unable to predict the future with complete accuracy and can only work with incomplete resources and information, like us. [So User/god is not omnipotent -- but then again, neither is he benevolent, and indeed he is intentionally cruel!]
OK, that's it for Prisco's piece. What do you think of the conclusion? Satisfying?

Not much of a solution if you ask me. One objection is the necessity of having “complete” accuracy in predicting the future – and I speak here as granting Prisco’s notion that we’re in a computer simulation with a User/god. What a moron the User/god must be that he can make such a complex and sophisticated program and not be able to foresee the horrors of the Holocaust, or stop it when only, say, millions had been killed with no sign that it was gonna stop soon. Even if User/god cannot predict a sudden evil, he should at least do something about habitual and growing evil, which he would know from the past, not the future. This is really goofy reasoning.

Another is this: What if User/god DOES have complete prognostic accuracy, but LIKES the game the way it is? Clearly User/god is not at all benevolent, but rather far more defective and cruel than the traditional notion of God. It’s cruel, in the extreme. User/god programmed the universe full of sentient beings and intentionally included unavoidable evil, knowing he'd enjoy causing untold suffering.

Why not create a universe in which there are no natural disasters, no diseases, no accidents, and no moral evil? I'll tell you why. BORING. This is a game for User/god, with no purpose but his entertainment. How totally DULL a game with no evil would be! Also, the only way to do that is to make the ostensibly sentient bots without free will, unable to choose what User/god calls evil.

Actually, it's probably a multi-player game, with natural and moral evils simply tactical ploys of the different players in the attempt to win. THAT is a more likely explanation of evil than limited prognostic accuracy.

As far as how a theist would explain the existence of evil, given the existence of God, I leave it to you to look into.