Thursday, March 4, 2010

All Knowing

I don't think I've ever written directly about my religious beliefs, one way or the other. In all the verbiage I spout, I challenge anyone to find any clear endorsement of a position on a transcendent deity. Mostly, this is because it's my business, not of interest to the world; but there's something very Jewish (I think) in discussing the issues I focus on without dragging divinity into it.

This post will be no different. The point I'm about to make is about logic, not belief.

The earliest computers were invented in the 1930s, I think. As a child in the early 1960s I heard the grownups talk about machines that were learning to think, though I doubt I'd ever met anyone who had actually seen such a machine (and they still haven't figured out how to think). If you can believe it, I completed my undergraduate studies on a portable typewriter, and never considered acquiring a PC until I was doing an MA. When in 1994 I stood in front of an audience of hundreds of researchers and said that the goal of the Yad Vashem archives was to put everything we had on the Internet, the startled audience erupted in applause. (Only later did I begin to think about the practicalities. Ouch).

70-some years after the first invention, The Economist has a special report on the super-abundance of data we're creating. (The report begins here; a single-page introduction is here). The thesis: Everything is being recorded, and the world is dramatically changing. The Onion spoofs the reality here.

If we allow our thoughts to run forward a few decades, to, say, the first centenary of the invention of the earliest computer, it's reasonable to expect there will be digital images of every inch of the globe viewable from any direction; there will be mountains of data on every human and much of their activities; every human thought which has ever been put into writing and survived until the late 1990s will be available somewhere in digital form; any and every human interaction which takes place in any format other than face-to-face talk will be recorded... and probably much more.

Whether you like it or not.

Now, assume a deity which has been around for longer than the first century of human digital recording. Is there any logical reason to assume that this deity doesn't have the abilities Man has so recently acquired? What's so implausible about a deity knowing everything about us all, always? We're well on our way there on our own, and just starting...

36 comments:

Bonde said...

Well, is there any logical reason to assume that this deity exists?

Nope, there is not.

Or maybe it is a car? After all, we produced cars already, so it is not impossible, is it? But when it comes to religion, I still go with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which points out the absurdity of religion in the most funny way.

Bryan said...

You're entitled to your beliefs (or lack thereof), Bonde, but ridiculing religion (instead of the people who misuse religion for their own ends) is unproductive. Religion brings joy and stability to millions of people every day.

Ilya said...

Don't know about this. What is changing is the ability to record information, not the information itself. There is as much information now as there was before. More importantly, it continues to be essentially dispersed such that no single human or supercomputer has access or ability to be truly all-knowing. Would all-knowingness not imply concentration rather than dispersion of information?

Anonymous said...

Bonde
being a non-believer or having been turned off believing by having been forced to look closely from toddler-age on on the nails on Christ's hands and feet (which constitutes child abuse in my book) I set out about 5 years ago to find out whether I am an agnostic or an atheist.

Helpfully around that time Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennet and Harris started their campaigns, Nigel Warburton chirped in from time to time on Philosophy Bites so I listened, I read (the internet offered galore of both also from dissenting voices) and it took little more than half a year for those atheists getting on my nerves in exactly the same way that is familiar to me from the pontificating pious ones.

The final point that made me conclude they had nothing worthwhile to give to me was their implicit claim that they hold no unverifiable/irrational/folksy/higher or whatever you want to call them beliefs.

Human nature being what it is and my life's experiences tell me that we all need beliefs and unsubstantiable assumptions to make it through the day, some of us are content/feel comfortable with an undefined medley of haphazard stuff, others want something more coherent. That's fine with me as long as they don't try to convert me/to save me/to better me.

Other than that I find speculation on who or what a supreme deity is like/is its nature and whether there are one or a group of them quite fascinating as long as any militancy is left out of it (look for the Paula Fredriksen lecture at Boston University - pure brain tickling delight)
- and militancy starts with me when I am subjected to group pressure in a way that forces you either to do what you do not want or make a spectacle of yourself. (Recent sight-seeing to an old church ended with the priest showing up "forcing" us to stand up and speak the "Glaubensbekenntnis" - belief confession - it made me feel quite livid with helplessness - I didn't speak but I did stand and I held my hand in an undefinable way and felt inadequate through and through - if I don't dare to make a spectacle of myself by walking out here where the worst to happen to me is sneers and queer looks what am I going to do if it should be about something serious)

Silke

Anonymous said...

"He counts the number of stars, and calls each one by name....His understanding has no limit (number)" Ps. 147.

There are more than 200 billion stars in the Milky Way and more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe.

What is 6.8 billion people?

Nycerbarb

Anonymous said...

Nycerbarb
the singer is Israeli and was a huge star together with her husband in Germany in the 70s
- enjoy
- and thanks for telling me that at least the beginning is taken from a psalm - the old ones sure knew how to tell immortal stories
Silke

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Db5R5p5ewPM

Anonymous said...

off topic but probably worth to listen in for those interested in the story of Livni vs Brits and lots and lots of what it relates to (I liked the man very much especially when during the Q&A he said I don't know yet or I haven't thought about that yet which emphasized even more what an entangled subject it is)
Silke
Michael Walzer, "Trying Political Leaders"
http://www.law.uchicago.edu/audio/walzer012010

Sergio said...

The problem with dealing with purely with logic is that logic doesn't, just by itself, says what is out there in the world. Logic is about sentences, valid reasoning (consistenty, contradiction, proof) and, in its more technical parts, it is a highly abstract branch of modern mathematics.
One can be very logical in Alice's Wonderland.

To say something with a bit of reliability about the world, logic is necessary but not sufficient. One has to make some ontological, epistemological and methodological commitments (that is, hypotheses), part of that old philosophical disciplined called metaphysics, a much derided subject but from which one cannot escape.

Now, modern science pressuposes there is a world out there made of complex entities (realist and materialist ontology); that can be known, though in a piecemeal, partial and incomplete way
(objective, fallibist and meliorist epistemology); and by using reason, disciplined imagination and empirical testability (scientific methodology).

Of course, this doens't mean one cannnot believe in (or be motivated by) God, The Flying Spagetthi Monster, Goblins or Incubus, but those beliefs won't/can't be used as evidence in science.

Moreover, there is no inch of evidence (or plausibility) for the existence of any kind of supernatural "deity" and it is up to the believers to either honestly say that it is just a matter of
faith (so, in a sense, an irrational belief, which for some is quite embarrassing) or try to provide evidence. Meanwhile,there none.

What about religion in all that? I agree with Paul Kurz's view that the domain of religion is evocative, expressive and emotive; that it presents aesthetic inspiration, moral poetry and rituals that dramatize the human condition and its need of purpose and meaning. Alas, as we all know, it can also be a source of fanaticism, perversity, obscurantism and despair. Moreover, religion is not the only possible way to find meaning (is there any, really?) in life.

End of rambling.

Best regards,

Sergio

PS: a good text about this issues can be found in Kurz's book "Science and ethics".

Anonymous said...

Sergio
"Alas, as we all know, it can also be a source of fanaticism, perversity, obscurantism and despair."
nice argument - only I am not so sure that if science would allow its history to be counted that they would look better - this is one thing that always gets me up in arms that they talk as if they were a new-born baby with no past sins.

is this "your" Paul Kurtz? (Link at end of rant)
if yes I've heard him more than once on that inquiry-podcast and he did neither convince me nor endear me into wanting to listen to him more. I stopped listening to their podcast after the feeling that they are so involved in their (I think - good) fight against the creationists that they become obnoxious to those (as yet) not hit by those.

None of all of them could convince me that either prove it or be willing to prove it or shut up is a valuable argument which as a nice side-effect implies that they are our stupid betters.

And as to being something there - I recently learned in the BBCs In Our Time that there are much more than the 4 or 5 dimensions I keep hearing about. So it may just be that designing a "God-Test" is not yet within our reach - just as a lot of other stuff could be imagined let alone be tested only after mathematics/technology had provided the tools.

Therefore in my book the most honest is to say "I feel sure that there is one or I feel sure that there isn't one or I feel sure that I can't know". All the rest is trying to make ourselves look smarter than we are.
Silke

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/paul_kurtz_a_kinder_gentler_secularism/

Sergio said...

Dear Silke,

Yes, that is the Kurtz I mentioned. He's the editor of the book I mentioned and I was referring to two essays about science and religion there.

Refering to science's "sins", I guess there is a common confusion between basic science, whose aim is to understand the world, and which is neutral; and technology, which is definetly not neutral. Even though technology nowadays makes heavy use of science, it's important to distinguish them. For instance, Einstein's famous discovery of atomic energy came out of studie on the relations of electromagnetism and mechanics, a purely theoretical and desinterested investigation; by a very complex chain of events, it was a basic input in the atomic bomb technology, though by no means enough: the bulk of the atomic bomb development was a mix of technology-engineering job.

What I argue is that, as far as we can tell, science gives us the best tools to understand the world, which is stunning, given that the world is incredibly complicated.

Moreover, science bows to logic and empirical tests, so it can and does progresses; it is basically non-dogmatic and thrives on constant scrutiny and criticism.

Now, there is no evidence at all for the existence of supernatural entities; and in fact, the existence of such is highly implausible (and incompatible with) what we currently know. But if one is a believer, who cares? The problem comes up when one tries to use science to give credibility to religion
(creationist try do that), which is hopeless and dishonest.

So, the onus of proof is on those that claim the existence of such an entity.

More to the question made by Yaakov, I think one cannot say there's a *logical* problem here, because logic doesn't make ontological claims. One can be logical in Wonderland.

Regards,

Sergio

Anonymous said...

(also dear) Sergio
though you are arguing in realms which are way beyond my possibilities I remain unconvinced
- Maybe the present atheism-conversation is so vexing because they have stepped into the trap the creationists have set them and thus sound more often then not either facetious or pompous (the creationists' lectures/book tour talks I have heard sounded to me like plain nut cases and in no way a match to those old ones who thought about "deity" Paula Fredriksen told me about). The creationists sounded to me like Goldstone: invent something, mix it with lots and lots of other stuff and then ask the others to prove that it is an invention and they fall for it and can't help themselves and become shrill and hyperbole.
As to your Einstein-example religious authorities have come up again and again with truths for the sake of truth and saw it turned into evil stuff. You have your true scientists and the others and they have the theologians and the others.
(BTW by now I am old enough that I have my doubts that progress has only upsides and no downsides - what happened to the verbal culture which likely existed before Gutenberg - I got a glimpse of what it may have been like on "my" Greek Island. Curious as we are we are probably hard wired to ask questions and strive for answers and so make progress and quite often we try to "sell" our answers for more than they are worth.)
Silke

could you please send some Brazilian sunshine over here? this year the winter is arrrgh

Sergio said...

Silke,

Thank God (oops!...), summer here is almost over. It was one of the hottest in years, with daily temperatures around 40 celsius!! Enough is enough. But, fortunately we don't have snow here.

In fact, there is this self-deprecating joke that Brazil is the God-blessed land,
with no earthquakes, vulcans, etc,...on the other hand, check our leaders! Good grief. I can't stand our president, friend of Castro, Chavez and now, Ahmadinejad.

All the best.

Sergio

Gavin said...

I think you're reading too much into it Sergio. From my end I read that there's two propositions here, ie: that there is a deity and that the deity has the capability to be all-knowing. Yaacov addresses the question of whether something can be all-knowing, not whether a deity exists or not.

There is a gap between the two of course; how would the deity get the information in the first place. Perhaps we're all wired into a subconscious internet and the deity is a ginormous supercomputer ;-)

Gavin

Sergio said...

Gavin,

Ok, but I tried to address Yaakov's
question: once you admit the existence of a supernatural being, he/it/she is beyond physical/chemical/biological constraints, so I don't see any logical problem of it/she/he holding all pdf files with information about everything.

We could as well be unwitting slaves of the Flying Spaghetti or Lasagna Monsters
(or both). Hey, you never know! :)

Sergio

Anonymous said...

Sergio
you reminded me of this because they emphasize the beneficial of the unintended consequences and if there were beneficial ones there also should have been evil ones - but either I am of such a positive mind that I don't remember them describing them with equal enthusiasm or they really didn't - other than that is the enthusiasm of the three mathematicians talking about their field very very endearing -

Silke (no book promotion allowed in that program)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00qj2nq
MATHEMATICS' UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Sergio said...

Silke,

Thanks, I'll take a look at that.

But, keep in mind the sage words of St. Augustine:

"The good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of Hell."

Methinks he didn't like maths...

Regards,

Sergio

Gavin said...

Sergio

I'm not sure if Yaacov intended it this way but what he's postulating is that a deity need not be beyond physical/chemical/biological constraints. Our own science has shown us that such mass storage is logically possible, and since the universe is unending the possiblily of other intelligence out there is also logically feasible. That leaves only the collection of information, and our science has shown it possible to monitor brain waves for example so that part is also not beyond reason.

Logically I'd propose that a deity can concevably exist within the framework of human reasoning rather than mere faith which tends to be an irrational construct. The lack of physical evidence of its existence doesn't alter the logic of it being possible.

Cheers, Gavin

Anonymous said...

Silke -

Thank you for the song. It was beautiful.

Nycerbarb

Sergio said...

Gavin,

Maybe I didn't get Yaakov's question straight...But I had the impression he was concerned about logical possibilities.

In any case I don't quite understand what is a deity which abides to natural laws: a lesser god?? And as far as we know, inteligence exists only in brains (though lots of brains out there display little inteligence).

If you are talking about physical constraints, then there are lot of issues: information is always partial and incomplete; some are inacessible due to space-time and or causal constraints; every real storage medium is subject to all kinds of stress, error and senescense (2nd law of thermodynamics). Besides, we are mortal and our brains are limited.

So, either a deity is free of natural constraints, and so anything goes in Wonderland; or it is a bounded deity, which is kind of lame. :)

Regards,

Sergio

PS: There is a lot of bruhaha about logical impossibilities in mathematical logic, linked to the famous work of Godel, but I don't think it has much relevance to these issues at all.

Anonymous said...

Bonde.
There are many logical ways to belief. In fact one of the nine constant Commandments is to know that there is a G-d (thou the Hebrew word Yada'at is much more than the English translation to know) Rambam says that you have to find a logical prove that there is a G-d.
In judaism there is no such a thing as blind belief, but it also says, that ones belief has to be a free will decision, therefore we won't find a complete prove of the existence of a all powerful, all knowing being not bind by space or time. If we found such a complete prove that none who thinks could deny, then our belief won't be a free will decision any more.

Therefore it says in the book of Exodus, Beshallach verse 21: "Moshe then raised his hand over the sea, and HASH-M drove the sea with a powerful east wind the whole night and turned the sea to dry land; and waters split."
What for did Hash-m drive a strong east wind that night, if He is all powerful he doesn't need a wind to split the sea. This question is answered: (I can't remember by whom) Hash-m drove this wind in order not to take our free will decision to belief. Even thou this was one of the biggest miracles that ever happened a non believer could have said, "what do you mean Hash-m split the sea, didn't you feel the wind that blew all night long, of corse this wind split it."

Another thought: if science is searching for truth and the Torah is truth they must come to the same results. The Ramchal writes in his introduction to Derech Hash-m that one could find his way to belief through science.

Regards,
Aron

Gavin said...

Sergio. we obvioulsy see things from different perspectives, I gathered the point was that we don't know. What he know at any given time is never definite, what seems unnatural today mey be discovered to be natural tomorrow. We'd be seen as gods if we went back 500yrs & took all our neat toys with us.

On the subject of natural & deities, I'd kinda figured the basic message of all religions was the deity followed natural laws & we're the mortals who keep doing stupid things that defy nature.

Anonymous said...

Sergio ... and Gavin ... and Aron
"And as far as we know, inteligence exists only in brains"
last thing I heard of plants communicate via chemicals, and/or via current, makes me wonder what exactly is intelligence? and if we take our kind of intelligence as measuring rod might we not miss something?

Your Augustine quote is exactly of the kind that gets me up in arms whenever I encounter it in everyday life: mixing apples and pears i.e. mathematics and predictions

But other than that you and Gavin have landed in exactly that dispute Paula Frederiksen describes so wonderfully in one of her Boston-lectures - I think it was an O...? from before Augustine who mused on how somebody immovable could move things.

and thanks to Aron who has given me a plausible explanation why Frederiksen with all her intense interest in Christians chose to convert and a much more (for me) memorizable and summary image of it than I remember from all the quotes (of Christians) she had.

last but not least a protest of mine against the "flying spaghetti monster" (one of Dawkins' favourite quips) you would tell no acquaintance who has obviously tried sincerely to doll herself up that she is looking ridiculous and I think the same courtesy should be extended to believers. One caveat once one or a group switches from telling me about their faith to trying to recruit me (obnoxiously) they are open game (an eye for an eye instead of the other cheek)
but I have met to many genuine good people who happened to be believers to not feel ashamed of every time I hurt their feelings with careless and facile atheist quips
Silke

Anonymous said...

Yaacov,

I suppose that it should have occurred to me that you played an important role in putting Yad VaShem's archives on the web. Thank you very much. A couple of years ago, I found the pages of testimony for my father's parents and other relatives who were killed in the holocaust. I showed them to my father, who passed away a year ago, and it meant a lot to him (and to me and to the other members of my family). I am certain that our experience has already been replicated many hundreds of thousands or even millions of times by now. It is hard to imagine a good deed that could bring such benefit to more people.

David E. Sigeti

Sergio said...

Some more comments.

Gavin: I thought that the whole thing about deities was they were beyond the laws of nature: that's why they can operate miracles, which are nothing but violations of natural laws!

I totally agree that we are ignorant of most things, for various reasons, and
as I mentioned, science is fallibilist and meliorist, i,e, it admits our knowledge is partial and indirect and sometimes wrong, *BUT* can be improved and progresses. The hypothesis of a deity is implausible because it is extremely strong, not even falsifiable, and incompatible with what we already know of the world so far. Moreover, and sorry if I offend (it is not personal), it is arrogant and egoistic, because it is impermeable to evidence (except the believers own faith).

Silke: though I have my qualms with Dawkins, Hitchens et caterva, I agree with them with the right to make fun of beliefs, particularly of religious beliefs. If one is sure about one's faith, why bother about jokes and cartoons? Islamists are so insecure and threathened by secularism and modernity, which is why they are so hysterically offended by everything. Christians, after the onslaught of the Enlighment, learned to accomodate much better. And Jews are so used to derision that they learned how mock others (and themselves), which in my view is quite healthy strategy.

regards

Sergio

Sergio said...

Some more comments.

Gavin: I thought that the whole thing about deities was they were beyond the laws of nature: that's why they can operate miracles, which are nothing but violations of natural laws!

I totally agree that we are ignorant of most things, for various reasons, and
as I mentioned, science is fallibilist and meliorist, i,e, it admits our knowledge is partial and indirect and sometimes wrong, *BUT* can be improved and progresses. The hypothesis of a deity is implausible because it is extremely strong, not even falsifiable, and incompatible with what we already know of the world so far. Moreover, and sorry if I offend (it is not personal), it is arrogant and egoistic, because it is impermeable to evidence (except the believers own faith).

Silke: though I have my qualms with Dawkins, Hitchens et caterva, I agree with them with the right to make fun of beliefs, particularly of religious beliefs. If one is sure about one's faith, why bother about jokes and cartoons? Islamists are so insecure and threathened by secularism and modernity, which is why they are so hysterically offended by everything. Christians, after the onslaught of the Enlighment, learned to accomodate much better. And Jews are so used to derision that they learned how mock others (and themselves), which in my view is quite healthy strategy.

regards

Sergio

Gavin said...

Science is just science Sergio, it doesn't have a viewpoint. Scientists themselves can be just as religious, fanatical, pig headed & extremist in their views as anyone else. Darwins theory of evolution is an example of how science & religion can seem the same. It's not a bad theory & very plausible but it's totally unproven with numerous fundamental failures of logic. The science community believe it because they want to believe it. It's more of a religious belief than a scientific one.

I don't agreee that it's ok to poke fun at others beliefs,
to do so is claim the mantle of perfection for oneself. None of us are perfect, we don't have the right to attack other people's faith. We can explore & perhaps criticise how people express their views; the way they behave towards others, but people's personal beliefs are no-one business but their own as long as they're not proselytizing or harming anyone. People like Hitchens & co are just preachers themselves, they only differ in their religion. They too are obsessed with their own self-righteousness.

Cheers, Gavin

Sergio said...

Gavin,

I never said scientis are perfect: like every other human being, they are fallible. And it is true that there are/were religious scientists. Big deal! The point is that their religious views are *totally* irrelevant to the validity of their work. You cannot begin a scientific paper saying: "In this paper we argue that the earth is flat, according to the Holy texts of..." Newton probably spent much more ink babbling nonsense about Biblical Chronology than in physics, but guess what is he remembered for?

My point is that science has a self-correcting principle, it is commited to facts and evidence-based criticism. If theory don't fit the facts, the theory has to change, improve or even be discarded altogether. That's the difference with religion and its dogmas.

Now, comparing Darwinism with religion, I am sorry, is completely baseless and betrays a lack of understanding of science and evolutionary biology.

Regarding the mocking thing, yes, we strongly disagree here too. Religion is not immune to jokes. Besides, no matter what one thinks of Hitchen's ideas, one cannot compare his influence to the power of institutionalized religions.

Cheers,

Sergio

Gavin said...

What I meant there Sergio was that for some people science becomes their religion. It's not an absolute, science doesn't have all the answers. Rejecting all other views in favour of science is tantamount to religious fervour isn't it.

I don't know why you're defending darwinism. A rational analysis of the theory of evolution results in only one conclusion. There's insufficient evidence to prove it. It's rational, it's reasonable, but it's still not proven. It's an enormous jigsaw with most of the pieces missing. The most obvious logical flaw in the theory is the differential between the way man has evolved against the rest of the animal world.

Mocking other peoples faith is practising the very principle you're criticising. Certainly we call all mock our own faith, why would you feel the need to scorn others? It's only the physical public expression of a faith which may warrant comment or criticism, actual belief really is no-ones business but the individual. If a person wishes to believe in God what is the problem? As long as they're not harming others they have as much right to their stance as you have to your creed of science.

Gavin

Sergio said...

Gavin,

Of course there are such people and they are misguided. And I recognized many times that science is not the panacea nor has all the answers. But it has a *lot* of *reliable* answers to previously untractable riddles. It is just the *best* that we have to obtain reliable knowledge of this incredibly complex world of ours.

I do reject views which are impervious to evidence, rational criticism and change. Ideologies and religions tend to be like that. Of course, people are entitled and free to practice their religion and profess whatever crazy beliefs they want. People are free to believe in Dwarfs, Angels, UFO's, God or whatever. I'm just saying those beliefs are not evidence-based and are incompatible with the bulk of science so far and I find it amusing when religious people try to use science to "base" their faith.

Regarding evolutionary biology, it is reaching a stage quite similar to the other sciences. And it is as "proven" as, say General Relativity or Black Hole physics. There is surely a long way to go, but since Darwin's time there were incredible discoveries and breakthroughs in genetics, biochemstry and molecular biology, that in general lines agree very well with Darwin's ideas. By the way, there is no evidence that man's evolution was in any way "special": this is an anthropocentric view with no basis in fact.

Of course, biological systems are much more complex than point particles pulling each other under gravity. And certainly Darwin made some mistakes and his theories were and are being modified accordingly. That's how science progresses. Even Newton's mechanics contains open problems! That's in the nature of things.

Best.

Sergio

Anonymous said...

Sergio
"... religion and its dogmas."
but the Byzantines of which I have recently read a close to 2000 page history changed and altered their views on the nature of Christ and the Holy Ghost all the time and I guess that triggered changes of dogma also

"..their religious views are *totally* irrelevant to the validity of their work"
their religious views will most likely colour their work as much as all the other factors that make up a person. The validity of their work is determined by how long-living it is. To find out whether Newtons religious writings have stood the test of time one would have to ask theologians. Scientists are not the only judges of what is worthy to be remembered and cherished.
Again and again I stumble over it that scientists seem to assume that they live only in the here and now - if Newton had been proved to be wrong by somebody scientists would by now call him a religious nut and not a great man and what about all that talk that Einstein and the Quantum people really can't manage to match their stuff though admit that both of it according to current knowledge is true?

"science has a self-correcting principle"
but to me it seems that the existence or assumption of existence of this automatic self-correcting principle gives permission to go after some pretty wreckless stuff wherever their fancy takes them and each time they tell us it's completely harmless and only beneficial because THIS TIME IT IS DIFFERENT and this time we have got it all figured out correctly and thought about all the consequences (the only corrective I have some trust in is competition)

"Religion is not immune to jokes"
I agree but one can make all kinds of jokes without calling a descent person a crank which the quip with the Flying Spaghetti Monster does.

and to Gavin of course the Darwin deifiers need to be objected to (Darwin would probably be the last who wouldn't want his theory to be tested again and again especially since I have learned that a theory can't be proved it can only be falsified which a lot of respectable scientists constantly do) but please beware of the creationists no matter which name or guise they chose to preach under and no matter how convincing they sound on first hearing. They are just as lofty and vacuous as Dawkins, Hitchens & Co. who impressed me at first quite a bit but the longer I listened the more "so what" their stuff sounded to me. Satiating stuff has more substance
Silke

Sergio said...

Silke,

Byzantines traded one nonsense with another. That was not evidence-based and rational analysis, but a truly byzantine hair-splitting over nothing.

Newton's work on biblical chronology is a fantasy trip. And theology is not science, though historical/anthropological research, on the bible or religions generally, is another issue altogether!

Again, I didn't say scientists are the judges of what is to be cherished or not, this is a major straw-man. Hey, I love the music of that deeply religious german lutheran genius, Bach; and music is art, not science!

But scientists (not theologians) are more qualified to judge scientifically sound knowledge from fantasy and/or pseudo-science.

Science, like any human enterprise, is not free from errors, nor did I say it works "automatically". Any proposal has to be carefully analysed and sometimes there is resistance to new ideas. And in fact, much new ideas tend to be rubbish, so it best to be prudent. But at least, science ethos includes the duty to scrutinize and test, test and re-test (as Darwin untiringly did) and,
if needed, to change under evidence.

And about poking fun at religion, though I like the Spaghetti Monster provocation and don't see any problem with that (or is God that old bearded guy), I prefer "Jesus and Mo"'s style. Check it out, it's excellent.
(www.jesusandmo.net/)

Yours truly,

Sergio

Anonymous said...

Dear Sergio,
thanks it looks like Jesus and Mo will cheer me up from now on
Silke

Gavin said...

Interesting discussion Sergio but I'm afraid I can't see the difference between your stance and that of a religious person. Science can only ever be a part of our life, it can never replace the intangible. Science can't give us morals & ethics, it can't control our emotions & instincts.

I enjoy reading many of Yaacovs epistles, there's no science in it other people would get no enjoyment from his writing. If Yaacov was to pronounce that he's a believer in God or the Meringue Man would I see fit to mock him? Would it take the enjoyment out of his story-telling?

There's more to life and humanity than science Sergio, it can never entirely replace religion... faith... morality... whatever you want to call it.

Cheers, Gavin

Anonymous said...

Sergio
while Byzantines may have traded on nothing but nonsense they certainly improved their ability to find the weak spots in another's argument and hone their own. So maybe that fine-tuning their brains/hair-splitting about nothing enabled them to invent Greek Fire ;-)

and as to ridiculing religion it depends on where and how and to whom I am doing it
- attacking an institution is different from hurting somebody's feeling one on one and sorry to insist:
Dawkins delivering his Flying Spaghetti Monster stunt is not funny but ridiculous and as he is the professor of public understanding or so I feel personally insulted when he thinks that my kind appreciates to be taught by a professor doing the silly one.

Silke

Yaacov said...

Well, that was quite an educative discussion! Thanks, folks! Most of it was quite above my head and I'm not going to re-engage, except to point out that Freudian psychoanalysis (and perhaps all psychoanalysis?) also seems impervious to empiric proof-or-disproof, yet has many adherents who regard themselves as rational.

Not to mention statesmen, diplomats, politicians, bloggers and pundits in general, who aren't remotely as measured and careful as theologians and scientists, yet they never stop taking themselves seriously. (Tho Sergio probably doesn't take them seriously, if I followed his line of argumentation. He's probably right on that).

Cheers, as Gavin would say.

Metternich said...

The experiment has already started. C. Gordon Bell, a researcher now at MS Research, is recording pretty much his entire life. Bell is a computer scientist with a considerable reputation.