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Summary

The Doomsday argument is a family of arguments about humanity’s likely survival. There are mainly two versions of the argument discussed in the literature, both of which appeal to a form of Copernican principle (or principle of typicality or mediocrity). A first version of the argument (endorsed by, e.g., John Leslie) dictates a probability shift in favor of theories that predict earlier end dates for our species assuming that we are a typical—rather than atypical—member of that group.

The other main version of the argument is sometimes referred to as the ‘delta-t argument,’ and it has provoked both outrage and genuine scientific interest. It claims to allow one to make a prediction about the total duration of any process of indefinite duration based only on the assumption that the moment of observation is randomly selected. A variant of this argument, which gives equivalent predictions, reasons in terms of one’s rank in a sequential process.

Key works An early version of the Doomsday argument, referred to as the 'Carter catastrophe', appeared in Carter & McCrea 1983. The Doomsday argument was then popularized by John Leslie 1990. The 'delta-t argument' was put forth by Richard Gott (1993, 1994). Several attempts to block the conclusions of this argument have been offered. In order to counter the consequence of what he called the 'self-sampling assumption,' Nick Bostrom 2002 suggested to adopt the 'self-indicating assumption.' In order to avoid conclusions that are entirely dependent on our reference class, Radford Neal 2006 argued that we ought to appeal to fully non-indexical conditioning to block the conclusions of the Doomsday argument. Benétreau-Dupin argued that only imprecise probabilities can avoid the conclusions of all versions of the Doomsday argument.
Introductions See Bostrom 2002 (§6-7) and Richmond 2006 for reviews. See Monton & Roush ms for Gott's version of the Doomsday argument.
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103 found
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1 — 50 / 103
  1. What, Precisely, is Carter's Doomsday Argument?Randall G. McCutcheon - manuscript
    Paying strict attention to Brandon Carter's several published renditions of anthropic reasoning, we present a ``nutshell'' version of the Doomsday argument that is truer to Carter's principles than the standard balls-and-urns or otherwise ``naive Bayesian'' versions that proliferate in the literature. At modest cost in terms of complication, the argument avoids commitment to many of the half-truths that have inspired so many to rise up against other toy versions, never adopting posterior outside of the convex hull of one's prior distribution (...)
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  2. A Meta-Doomsday Argument: Uncertainty About the Validity of the Probabilistic Prediction of the End of the World.Alexey Turchin - manuscript
    Abstract: Four main forms of Doomsday Argument (DA) exist—Gott’s DA, Carter’s DA, Grace’s DA and Universal DA. All four forms use different probabilistic logic to predict that the end of the human civilization will happen unexpectedly soon based on our early location in human history. There are hundreds of publications about the validity of the Doomsday argument. Most of the attempts to disprove the Doomsday Argument have some weak points. As a result, we are uncertain about the validity of DA (...)
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  3. The Vulnerable World Hypothesis.Nick Bostrom - 2018
    Scientific and technological progress might change people’s capabilities or incentives in ways that would destabilize civilization. For example, advances in DIY biohacking tools might make it easy for anybody with basic training in biology to kill millions; novel military technologies could trigger arms races in which whoever strikes first has a decisive advantage; or some economically advantageous process may be invented that produces disastrous negative global externalities that are hard to regulate. This paper introduces the concept of a vulnerable world: (...)
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  4. Perspective Reasoning and the Solution to the Sleeping Beauty Problem.Xianda Gao - 2018
    This paper proposes a new explanation for the paradoxes related to anthropic reasoning. Solutions to the Sleeping Beauty Problem and the Doomsday argument are discussed in detail. The main argument can be summarized as follows: -/- Our thoughts, reasonings and narratives inherently comes from a certain perspective. With each perspective there is a center, or using the term broadly, a self. The natural first-person perspective is most primitive. However we can also think and express from others’ perspectives with a theory (...)
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  5. How Unlikely is a Doomsday Catastrophe?, With Max Tegmark, Published In.Nick Bostrom - manuscript
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  6. Self-Locating Priors and Cosmological Measures.Frank Arntzenius & Cian Dorr - 2017 - In Khalil Chamcham, John Barrow, Simon Saunders & Joe Silk (eds.), The Philosophy of Cosmology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 396-428.
    We develop a Bayesian framework for thinking about the way evidence about the here and now can bear on hypotheses about the qualitative character of the world as a whole, including hypotheses according to which the total population of the world is infinite. We show how this framework makes sense of the practice cosmologists have recently adopted in their reasoning about such hypotheses.
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  7. The Quantum Doomsday Argument.Alastair Wilson - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2).
    If the most familiar overlapping interpretation of Everettian quantum mechanics is correct, then each of us is constantly splitting into multiple people. This consequence gives rise to the quantum doomsday argument, which threatens to draw crippling epistemic consequences from EQM. However, a diverging interpretation of EQM undermines the quantum doomsday argument completely. This appears to tell in favour of the diverging interpretation. But it is surprising that a metaphysical question that is apparently underdetermined by the physics should be settled by (...)
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  8. A Dilemma for the Doomsday Argument.Robert Northcott - 2016 - Ratio 29 (3):268-282.
    I present a new case in which the Doomsday Argument runs afoul of epistemic intuition much more strongly than before. This leads to a dilemma: in the new case either DA is committed to unacceptable counterintuitiveness and belief in miracles, or else it is irrelevant. I then explore under what conditions DA can escape this dilemma. The discussion turns on several issues that have not been much emphasised in previous work on DA: a concern that I label trumping; the degree (...)
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  9. The Bayesian Who Knew Too Much.Yann Benétreau-Dupin - 2015 - Synthese 192 (5):1527-1542.
    In several papers, John Norton has argued that Bayesianism cannot handle ignorance adequately due to its inability to distinguish between neutral and disconfirming evidence. He argued that this inability sows confusion in, e.g., anthropic reasoning in cosmology or the Doomsday argument, by allowing one to draw unwarranted conclusions from a lack of knowledge. Norton has suggested criteria for a candidate for representation of neutral support. Imprecise credences (families of credal probability functions) constitute a Bayesian-friendly framework that allows us to avoid (...)
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  10. Blurring Out Cosmic Puzzles.Yann Benétreau-Dupin - 2015 - Philosophy of Science 82 (5):879–891.
    The Doomsday argument and anthropic reasoning are two puzzling examples of probabilistic confirmation. In both cases, a lack of knowledge apparently yields surprising conclusions. Since they are formulated within a Bayesian framework, they constitute a challenge to Bayesianism. Several attempts, some successful, have been made to avoid these conclusions, but some versions of these arguments cannot be dissolved within the framework of orthodox Bayesianism. I show that adopting an imprecise framework of probabilistic reasoning allows for a more adequate representation of (...)
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  11. The Role of the Protocol in Anthropic Reasoning.Joseph Y. Halpern - 2015 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 2:195-206.
    I show how thinking in terms of the protocol used can help clarify problems related to anthropic reasoning and self-location, such as the Doomsday Argument and the Sleeping Beauty Problem.
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  12. Assessing the “Bayesian Shift” in the Doomsday Argument.Ben O’Neill - 2014 - Journal of Philosophy 111 (4):198-218.
  13. The Doomsday Argument and the Simulation Argument.Peter J. Lewis - 2013 - Synthese 190 (18):4009-4022.
    The Doomsday Argument and the Simulation Argument share certain structural features, and hence are often discussed together. Both are cases where reflecting on one’s location among a set of possibilities yields a counter-intuitive conclusion—in the first case that the end of humankind is closer than you initially thought, and in the second case that it is more likely than you initially thought that you are living in a computer simulation. Indeed, the two arguments do have some structural similarities. But there (...)
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  14. Utility Conditionals as Consequential Arguments: A Random Sampling Experiment.Jean-François Bonnefon - 2012 - Thinking and Reasoning 18 (3):379 - 393.
    Research on reasoning about consequential arguments has been an active but piecemeal enterprise. Previous research considered in depth some subclasses ofconsequential arguments, but further understanding of consequential arguments requires that we address their greater variety, avoiding the risk of over-generalisation from specific examples. Ideally we ought to be able to systematically generate the set of consequential arguments, and then engage in random sampling of stimuli within that set. The current article aims at making steps in that direction, using the theory (...)
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  15. Four Problems About Self-Locating Belief.D. Bradley - 2012 - Philosophical Review 121 (2):149-177.
    This article defends the Doomsday Argument, the Halfer Position in Sleeping Beauty, the Fine-Tuning Argument, and the applicability of Bayesian confirmation theory to the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics. It will argue that all four problems have the same structure, and it gives a unified treatment that uses simple models of the cases and no controversial assumptions about confirmation or self-locating evidence. The article will argue that the troublesome feature of all these cases is not self-location but selection effects.
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  16. The Longevity Argument.Ronald Pisaturo - 2011 - self.
    J. Richard Gott III (1993) has used the “Copernican principle” to derive a probability density function for the total longevity of any phenomenon, based solely on the phenomenon’s past longevity. John Leslie (1996) and others have used an apparently similar probabilistic argument, the “Doomsday Argument,” to claim that conventional predictions of longevity must be adjusted, based on Bayes’ Theorem, in favor of shorter longevities. Here I show that Gott’s arguments are flawed and contradictory, but that one of his conclusions—his delta (...)
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  17. A Complete Theory of Everything (Will Be Subjective).Marcus Hutter - 2010 - Algorithms 3 (4):329-350.
    Increasingly encompassing models have been suggested for our world. Theories range from generally accepted to increasingly speculative to apparently bogus. The progression of theories from ego- to geo- to helio-centric models to universe and multiverse theories and beyond was accompanied by a dramatic increase in the sizes of the postulated worlds, with humans being expelled from their center to ever more remote and random locations. Rather than leading to a true theory of everything, this trend faces a turning point after (...)
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  18. A Note on the Doomsday Argument.Peter J. Lewis - 2010 - Analysis 70 (1):27-30.
    I argue that the Doomsday argument fails because it fails to take into account the lesson of the Sleeping Beauty puzzle.
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  19. Cosmic Confusions: Not Supporting Versus Supporting Not-.John D. Norton - 2010 - Philosophy of Science 77 (4):501-523.
    Bayesian probabilistic explication of inductive inference conflates neutrality of supporting evidence for some hypothesis H (“not supporting H”) with disfavoring evidence (“supporting not-H”). This expressive inadequacy leads to spurious results that are artifacts of a poor choice of inductive logic. I illustrate how such artifacts have arisen in simple inductive inferences in cosmology. In the inductive disjunctive fallacy, neutral support for many possibilities is spuriously converted into strong support for their disjunction. The Bayesian “doomsday argument” is shown to rely entirely (...)
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  20. How and How Not to Make Predictions with Temporal Copernicanism.Kevin Nelson - 2009 - Synthese 166 (1):91-111.
    Gott (Nature 363:315–319, 1993) considers the problem of obtaining a probabilistic prediction for the duration of a process, given the observation that the process is currently underway and began a time t ago. He uses a temporal Copernican principle according to which the observation time can be treated as a random variable with uniform probability density. A simple rule follows: with a 95% probability.
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  21. Past Longevity as Evidence for the Future.Ronald Pisaturo - 2009 - Philosophy of Science 76 (1):73-100.
    Gott ( 1993 ) has used the ‘Copernican principle’ to derive a probability distribution for the total longevity of any phenomenon, based solely on the phenomenon’s past longevity. Leslie ( 1996 ) and others have used an apparently similar probabilistic argument, the ‘Doomsday Argument’, to claim that conventional predictions of longevity must be adjusted, based on Bayes’s Theorem, in favor of shorter longevities. Here I show that Gott’s arguments are flawed and contradictory, but that one of his conclusions is plausible (...)
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  22. The Doomsday Argument Revisited.Ruth Weintraub - 2009 - Polish Journal of Philosophy 3 (2):109-122.
    Leslie’s doomsday argument purports to show that the likelihood of the human race perishing soon is greater than we think. The probability we attach to it, based on our estimate of the chance of various calamities which might bring extinction about, should be adjusted as follows. If the human race were to survive for a long time, we, livingnow, would be atypical. So our living now increases the probability that the human race will end shortly. In this paper, I criticize (...)
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  23. The Doomsday Argument.Nick Bostrom - 2008 - Think 6 (17-18):23-28.
    A recent paper by Korb and Oliver in this journal attempts to refute the Carter-Leslie Doomsday argument. I organize their remarks into five objections and show that they all fail. Further efforts are thus called upon to find out what, if anything, is wrong with Carter and Leslie’s disturbing reasoning. While ultimately unsuccessful, Korb and Oliver’s objections do however in some instances force us to become clearer about what the Doomsday argument does and doesn’t imply.
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  24. Infinitely Long Afterlives and the Doomsday Argument.John Leslie - 2008 - Philosophy 83 (4):519-524.
    A recent book of mine defends three distinct varieties of immortality. One of them is an infinitely lengthy afterlife; however, any hopes of it might seem destroyed by something like Brandon Carter's 'doomsday argument' against viewing ourselves as extremely early humans. The apparent difficulty might be overcome in two ways. First, if the world is non-deterministic then anything on the lines of the doomsday argument may prove unable to deliver a strongly pessimistic conclusion. Secondly, anything on those lines may break (...)
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  25. Apocalypse Now Does The Matrix: Anthropic Adventures From Doomsday to Simulation: Richmond Anthropic Adventures.Alasdair Richmond - 2008 - Think 6 (17-18):29-40.
    Following on from Nick Bostrom's discussion of the Doomsday argument, Alasdair Richmond considers how anthropic reasoning can lead from Doomsday to some odd conclusions about computation and our place in reality.
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  26. Doomsday, Bishop Ussher and Simulated Worlds.Alasdair M. Richmond - 2008 - Ratio 21 (2):201–217.
    This paper attempts three tasks in relation to Carter and Leslie's Doomsday Argument. First, it criticises Timothy Chambers' 'Ussherian Corollary', a striking but unsuccessful objection to standard Doomsday arguments. Second, it reformulates the Ussherian Corollary as an objection to Bradley Monton's variant Doomsday and Nick Bostrom's Simulation Argument. Finally, it tries to diagnose the epistemic/metaphysical problems facing Doomsday-related arguments.1.
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  27. Sorting Out the Anti-Doomsday Arguments: A Reply to Sowers.Tom Adams - 2007 - Mind 116 (462):269-273.
    claim that his thought experiment shows that a currently living person is not a random sample is refuted. His thought experiment is reduced to a probability model, and is shown to be identical to one previously developed by Dieks. The status of the Doomsday Argument is left unresolved, since Dieks's refutation attempt is disputed in the literature.
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  28. Bayesianism And Self-Locating Beliefs.Darren Bradley - 2007 - Dissertation, Stanford University
    How should we update our beliefs when we learn new evidence? Bayesian confirmation theory provides a widely accepted and well understood answer – we should conditionalize. But this theory has a problem with self-locating beliefs, beliefs that tell you where you are in the world, as opposed to what the world is like. To see the problem, consider your current belief that it is January. You might be absolutely, 100%, sure that it is January. But you will soon believe it (...)
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  29. Reasoning About the Future: Doom and Beauty.Dennis Dieks - 2007 - Synthese 156 (3):427-439.
    According to the Doomsday Argument we have to rethink the probabilities we assign to a soon or not so soon extinction of mankind when we realize that we are living now, rather early in the history of mankind. Sleeping Beauty finds herself in a similar predicament: on learning the date of her first awakening, she is asked to re-evaluate the probabilities of her two possible future scenarios. In connection with Doom, I argue that it is wrong to assume that our (...)
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  30. Cartesian Knowledge and Confirmation.Joel Pust - 2007 - Journal of Philosophy 104 (6):269-289.
    Bayesian conceptions of evidence have been invoked in recent arguments regarding the existence of God, the hypothesis of multiple physical universes, and the Doomsday Argument. Philosophers writing on these topics often claim that, given a Bayesian account of evidence, our existence or something entailed by our existence (perhaps in conjunction with some background knowledge or assumption) may serve as evidence for each of us. In this paper, I argue that this widespread view is mistaken. The mere fact of one's existence (...)
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  31. Philosophical Implications of Inflationary Cosmology.Joshua Knobe, Ken D. Olum & And Alexander Vilenkin - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (1):47-67.
    Recent developments in cosmology indicate that every history having a non-zero probability is realized in infinitely many distinct regions of spacetime. Thus, it appears that the universe contains infinitely many civilizations exactly like our own, as well as infinitely many civilizations that differ from our own in any way permitted by physical laws. We explore the implications of this conclusion for ethical theory and for the doomsday argument. In the infinite universe, we find that the doomsday argument applies only to (...)
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  32. How to Predict Future Duration From Present Age.Bradley Monton & Brian Kierland - 2006 - Philosophical Quarterly 56 (222):16-38.
    The physicist J. Richard Gott has given an argument which, if good, allows one to make accurate predictions for the future longevity of a process, based solely on its present age. We show that there are problems with some of the details of Gott's argument, but we defend the core thesis: in many circumstances, the greater the present age of a process, the more likely a longer future duration.
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  33. The Doomsday Argument.Alasdair Richmond - 2006 - Philosophical Books 47 (2):129-142.
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  34. No Doomsday Argument Without Knowledge of Birth Rank: A Defense of Bostrom.D. J. Bradley - 2005 - Synthese 144 (1):91-100.
    The Doomsday Argument says we should increase our subjective probability that Doomsday will occur once we take into account how many humans have lived before us. One objection to this conclusion is that we should accept the Self-Indication Assumption (SIA): Given the fact that you exist, you should (other things equal) favor hypotheses according to which many observers exist over hypotheses on which few observers exist. Nick Bostrom argues that we should not accept the SIA, because it can be used (...)
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  35. Nick Bostrom, Anthropic Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy, Routledge, New York, 2002, Xiii +224 Pp. Price US $69, Hardcover, ISBN 0415938589. [REVIEW]W. Meijs - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 36 (3):586-589.
  36. John Leslie Infinite Minds . Pp. X+234. £27.50 , £14.99 . ISBN 0 19 924892 3 , 0 19 924893 1.Neil A. Manson - 2004 - Religious Studies 40 (4):499-502.
    Due to his laborious efforts, there are two strands of contemporary philosophical literature with which John Leslie is closely identified. The first concerns cosmic fine-tuning, the design argument, and the anthropic principle ; the second, the so-called ‘Doomsday Argument ’ to the effect that we have good grounds for expecting the human race soon to perish. In this book – just released in paperback – Leslie concentrates on ideas he first began pursuing over thirty years ago, most notably in Value (...)
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  37. Immortality and Doomsday.Alasdair Richmond - 2004 - American Philosophical Quarterly 41 (3):235 - 247.
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  38. The Mysteries of Self-Locating Belief and Anthropic Reasoning.Nick Bostrom - 2003 - The Harvard Review of Philosophy 11 (1):59-73.
    1. How big is the smallest fish in the pond? You take your wide-meshed fishing net and catch one hundred fishes, every one of which is greater than six inches long. Does this evidence support the hypothesis that no fish in the pond is much less than six inches long? Not if your wide-meshed net can’t actually catch smaller fish...
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  39. The Doomsday Argument and the Self–Indication Assumption: Reply to Olum.Nick Bostrom & Milan M. Ćirković - 2003 - Philosophical Quarterly 53 (210):83-91.
    In a recent paper in this journal, Ken Olum attempts to refute the doomsday argument by appealing to the self–indication assumption (SIA) that your very existence gives you reason to think that there are many observers. Unlike earlier users of this strategy, Olum tries to counter objections that have been made against (SIA). We argue that his defence of (SIA) is unsuccessful. This does not, however, mean that one has to accept the doomsday argument (or the other counter–intuitive results that (...)
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  40. Monty Hall, Doomsday and Confirmation.Darren Bradley & Branden Fitelson - 2003 - Analysis 63 (1):23–31.
    We give an analysis of the Monty Hall problem purely in terms of confirmation, without making any lottery assumptions about priors. Along the way, we show the Monty Hall problem is structurally identical to the Doomsday Argument.
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  41. The Doomsday Argument Without Knowledge of Birth Rank.Bradley Monton - 2003 - Philosophical Quarterly 53 (210):79–82.
    The Carter-Leslie Doomsday argument, as standardly presented, relies on the assumption that you have knowledge of your approximate birth rank. I demonstrate that the Doomsday argument can still be given in a situation where you have no knowledge of your birth rank. This allows one to reply to Bostrom's defense of the Doomsday argument against the refutation based on the idea that your existence makes it more likely that many observers exist.
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  42. An Empirical Critique of Two Versions of the Doomsday Argument – Gott's Line and Leslie's Wedge.E. Sober - 2003 - Synthese 135 (3):415-430.
    I discuss two versions of the doomsday argument. According to "Gott's Line", the fact that the human race has existed for 200,000 years licences the prediction that it will last between 5100 and 7.8 million more years. According to "Leslie's Wedge", the fact that I currently exist is evidence that increases the plausibility of the hypothesis that the human race will come to an end sooner rather than later. Both arguments rest on substantive assumptions about the sampling process that underlies (...)
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  43. Leslie, John. Infinite Minds: A Philosophical Cosmology.Carl N. Still - 2003 - Review of Metaphysics 57 (1):154-155.
  44. Anthropic Bias: Observation Selection Effects in Science and Philosophy.Nick Bostrom - 2002 - Routledge.
    _Anthropic Bias_ explores how to reason when you suspect that your evidence is biased by "observation selection effects"--that is, evidence that has been filtered by the precondition that there be some suitably positioned observer to "have" the evidence. This conundrum--sometimes alluded to as "the anthropic principle," "self-locating belief," or "indexical information"--turns out to be a surprisingly perplexing and intellectually stimulating challenge, one abounding with important implications for many areas in science and philosophy. There are the philosophical thought experiments and paradoxes: (...)
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  45. A Third Route to the Doomsday Argument.Paul Franceschi - 2002 - Journal of Philosophical Research 34:263-278.
    In this paper, I present a solution to the Doomsday argument based on a third type of solution, by contrast to, on the one hand, the Carter-Leslie view and, on the other hand, the Eckhardt et al. analysis. I begin by strengthening both competing models by highlighting some variations of their original models, which renders them less vulnerable to several objections. I then describe a third line of solution, which incorporates insights from both Leslie and Eckhardt’s models and fits more (...)
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  46. From Typical Areas to Random Sampling: Sampling Methods in Russia From 1875 to 1930.Martine Mespoulet - 2002 - Science in Context 15 (3):411-425.
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  47. The Doomsday Argument and the Number of Possible Observers.Ken D. Olum - 2002 - Philosophical Quarterly 52 (207):164-184.
    If the human race comes to an end relatively shortly, then we have been born at a fairly typical time in the history of humanity; if trillions of people eventually exist, then we have been born in the first surprisingly tiny fraction of all people. According to the 'doomsday argument' of Carter, Leslie, Gott and Nielsen, this means that the chance of a disaster which would obliterate humanity is much larger than usually thought. But treating possible observers in the same (...)
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  48. The Demise of the Doomsday Argument.George F. Sowers Jr - 2002 - Mind 111 (441):37-46.
    A refutation of the doomsday argument is offered. Through a simple thought experiment analysed in Bayesian terms the fallacy is shown to be the assumption that a currently living person represents a random sample from the population of all persons who will ever have existed. A more general version of the counter argument is then given. Previous arguments that purport to answer this concern are also addressed. One result is determining criteria for the applicability of time sampling arguments, i.e., under (...)
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  49. The Demise of the Doomsday Argument.George F. Sowers Jr - 2002 - Mind 111 (441):37 - 45.
    A refutation of the doomsday argument is offered. Through a simple thought experiment analysed in Bayesian terms the fallacy is shown to be the assumption that a currently living person represents a random sample from the population of all persons who will ever have existed. A more general version of the counter argument is then given. Previous arguments that purport to answer this concern are also addressed. One result is determining criteria for the applicability of time sampling arguments, i.e., under (...)
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  50. The Doomsday Argument Adam & Eve, UN++, and Quantum Joe.Nick Bostrom - 2001 - Synthese 127 (3):359-387.
    The Doomsday argument purports to show that the risk of the human species going extinct soon has been systematically underestimated. This argument has something in common with controversial forms of reasoning in other areas, including: game theoretic problems with imperfect recall, the methodology of cosmology, the epistomology of indexical belief, and the debate over so-called fine-tuning arguments for the design hypothesis. The common denominator is a certain premiss: the Self-Sampling Assumption. We present two strands of argument in favor of this (...)
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