Protestants Trading Acausally

post by Martin Sustrik (sustrik) · 2024-04-01T14:46:26.374Z · LW · GW · 4 comments

Protestants believe in predestination. The God has already decided on who's going to get to hell and heaven.

This feels like a terrible incentive structure. If you are already predestined to get one of those places, why care? Why try to be good?

In reality though it works pretty well. Protestants are trying to be good to convince themselves (and others) that they've been predestined to go to heaven.

It may even work better (protestant work ethic etc.) because if you haven't been predestined, it always feels like there's still time to change your ways and eventually achieve salvation. With predestination it doesn't work that way. There's no changing of the decision in play. If you are behaving badly today it's a sign that you've been already predestined for hell. Too bad for you.

This is a funny example of an acausal trade. In particular because it does not assume an intelligent actor, an actor who knows game and decision theory and can act accordingly, which is traditionally an assumption for an acausal trade. A simple artisan or merchant in XVI. century may have done the acausal trade with God although the game or decision theory did not yet exist.


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comment by Dacyn · 2024-04-01T22:44:29.612Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Calvinists believe in predestination, not Protestants in general.

comment by Gordon Seidoh Worley (gworley) · 2024-04-02T22:26:19.205Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've always felt "predestination" is a funny way to phrase it. I get why it was chosen (the destination of your soul is already determined), but I think "deterministic" is better. It's a really useful frame to understand that what will happen is what was already going to happen, and it's just that you subjectively don't yet know what the future will be and couldn't compute it with certainty even if you tried (that's why we give probability estimates for things!)

comment by g-w1 · 2024-04-03T01:06:56.301Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wrote a similar post [LW · GW].

comment by Epirito (epirito) · 2024-04-01T22:40:36.706Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's no more surprising than the fact that XVI century merchants also didn't need to wait for economics to be invented in order to trade.