Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I couldn't have said it better myself

If I am ever able to write even one tenth as well as Douglas Adams I will be a very happy man. Here is a transcript of a speech he gave which starts out shredding religion and then goes on to say why it is indispensable. It's much the same point I've been trying to make, but he does it much better than I could ever hope to. It's very long but well worth the time.

1 comment:

asdf said...

Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors. It never occured to me until recently (or maybe I'd forgotten) that someone would associate an idea with a person. Adams seems to be claiming that if people didn't exist, then money wouldn't exist -- that it would be a fiction.

I would have said it the other way, that money is a (people dependent) manifestation of a grander body of truth, call it a type of communication. Is law fiction or do we all have in our minds a sense of right and wrong that we attempt to model our legal system after? Adams talked about how Feng Shui attempted to model design principles upon the grander "constraints" of comfort and aesthetics. Human languages are models of communication principles, government and economic models attempt to find the best solution to maximize human efficiency. I think there are constraints that are probably independent of opinion and therefore must be included in any model, and some parts of the models are arbitrary. I think it is the arbitrary parts of these "fictions" that make them models.

But what about math? Is math fiction? If there's nobody to do algebra, does it exist? I like the math illustration best. I would argue that math is real because it is independent of opinion -- that the researcher doesn't get to decide what the formulas are, he has to discover what they are. If it was a decision, then I would say that math was fiction. Perhaps this is just semantics. But I think there's an important point that can be raised. Is it possible to model math? I would claim that because there are no "constraints" that are arbitrary, there is no such thing as a model of math. I think this means that there is an identity relation between math and math reality, that math is entirely nonfiction.

So I now have two categories. Well actually, I only have one since I think I can strip away any of the arbitrary parts of the first category and then place it into the second category. What about religion? Obviously parts of it are arbitrary, but what if we could (objectively) strip all those away? What would remain? If there is no residue, then Adams is wrong -- there was no "baby" in the bathwater to begin with. But what would we have to do with what was left? I'll have to think more about how to proceed with this line of reasoning.