Sunday, April 07, 2019

Secularity and teleology

1.  Introduction

In a previous post I advanced the hypothesis that the seemingly irreconcilable divide between religious and secular outlooks on life can be traced back to whether one chooses to begin one's philosophical inquiries with purpose or mechanism, i.e. whether one accepts teleology, the idea that our conscious experiences are indicative of some kind of purpose, as an axiom.  Jimmy Weiss responded to that (and also to some other points I raised) and here I want to respond to Jimmy.
I wonder if the reason Ron perceives an inordinate preoccupation with teleology among the faithful, is because he is accustomed to making so little of it?
I want to clarify that my hypothesis is emphatically not that the faithful have an "inordinate preoccupation" with teleology, only that they ask the question, "What is the purpose of subjective experience" before they ask the question "what is the mechanism behind subjective experience", whereas secular people reverse the order.  That's all.  The hypothesis is that both sides actually find answers to the respective question they started with, so that by the time they return to the other question they have already built up an intellectual framework into which the answer to the second question must fit.  So by the time a religious person returns to the question of mechanism they already know why they are here (or at least they think they do): God created them.  And any theory of mechanism that is inconsistent with that "fact" cannot possibly be true.  It would just make no sense.

Likewise, by the time a secular person returns to the question of purpose, they already know how their subjective experience works (or at least they think they do): subjective experience is an "emergent property" of brains, which were built by evolution.  Any theory of purpose that is inconsistent with that "fact" cannot possibly be true.  It would just make no sense.

And so the two sides are at loggerheads, and each side thinks the other side is populated by either morally rudderless heathens (in the case of the first group) or knuckle-dragging morons (in the case of the second).

It's just a hypothesis.  But it seems to fit the observed data.

If you're a secularist reading this, and you think this is a plausible hypothesis, then one of the practical consequences of this is that we could dramatically improve the effectiveness of our marketing if we had a better story to tell about teleology.  A lot of people yearn for purpose, and "life's a bitch and then you die, and that's just the way it is" is not a very attractive message.

2.  Why I reject Jimmy's wager

One of the interesting (to me) things about Jimmy Weiss's theology is that he is explicitly willing to admit that he could be wrong.  In our previous discussion on Reddit he put the odds at 5%, which is pretty substantial.  His argument for believing in God is not that God is a slam-dunk, but that it makes sense to believe in Him from a game-theoretical point of view: God promises an infinite reward in exchange for belief, and so if you crunch the "numbers" (I put numbers in scare quotes because infinity is not actually a number) it turns out that expected value of belief is infinite even if the odds of God actually existing are finite.

I think this argument is wrong on technical grounds, but one of the things I've learned is that geeking out about these things is very rarely effective.  Instead, the reason that Jimmy's wager doesn't work for me is that I believe that an infinite reward is fundamentally incompatible with human nature.  We are living creatures.  Being mortal is woven deep into the fabric of our being.  We're born, we mature, we have children, we raise them, and then we get out of the way and let them have their turn in the great circle of life.

The appeal of an infinite afterlife depends a lot, I think, on a failure to grasp just how big infinity is.  To paraphrase Douglas Adams, infinity is big.  Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.  I mean, you may think it's a long time waiting for Christmas morning to arrive, but that's just peanuts compared to infinity.  With infinite time you can read every book in the Library of Babel.  If you put an upper bound -- any upper bound -- on how long a book you're willing to read (100 million pages, say) you can read every one of those books an infinite number of times.  And if you spend even a little time browsing the Library of Babel you will see that reading most of those books is not going to be a lot of fun.

You can read every book, watch every movie, have every conversation that it is possible to have, see every sight, taste every taste, smell every smell, and do all of those things 100 millions times and still not put a dent in infinity.

I think I would be bored out of my mind after a mere trillion years.  I would yearn for oblivion.

So God's reward doesn't sound like a reward to me at all.  In fact, I can hardly imagine a worse fate than to be immortal.  This is not to say that I wouldn't like to live longer than I will.  Threescore and ten is a little shorter than I'd like.  But I'll take it over infinity.

3.  Towards a secular teleology

Here I'd like to address the second part of Jimmy's question, the "making so little of it" bit.  I don't make "so little" of it.  I want life to have a purpose.  But just because I'm not given a purpose by God doesn't mean I don't or can't have a purpose.  It's possible that I am given a purpose by nature, or it's possible that I can create my own purpose.  I think both of these are actually the case, and I think that idea-ism can serve as a basis not just for a secular morality but also for a secular teleology (for those who care about that sort of thing).  That could (and probably should) be its own post, but I'll just say this for now: I find it very fulfilling to learn about other people's ideas, and to come up with and promulgate ideas of my own (that's one of the reasons I write this blog).  But more than that, I think it's constructive.  I think it makes the world, at least in a small way, a better place.  If I write something that someone reads and enjoys, for whatever reason, then I've increased the net goodness in the world, and that makes me happy (that's why I like getting feedback).  There's also the chance that my words could outlive my body and give me a kind of immortality, one that won't actually turn into torture.

4.  Geeking out about the excluded middle

I don't quite understand why this is turning out to be such a big deal, but Jimmy keeps beating on the excluded middle so I feel the need to beat back, because I really do reject this:
Donald Trump either is, or he is not, a scoundrel.  One or the other must be true, if anything particular is meant by the word “scoundrel”.
The word "scoundrel" definitely has a meaning (it means "a dishonest or unscrupulous person") but that doesn't mean that the statement "X is a scoundrel" is either true or false.  Scoundrel-ness is a continuum, not a dichotomy (though Donald Trump seems to be to be a rather extreme outlier on the scoundrelly side of the scale, so perhaps that wasn't the best example).  But there are lots and lots of things like this where the truth or falseness of a statement doesn't turn on opinion or subjective experience, but rather on the lack of sharp dividing line (e.g. "A million dollars is a lot of money") or a counterfactual ("If the Russians had not meddled, Hillary would have won") or the lack of an objective referent ("Batman would beat Superman").

And, to give an example that I think falls afoul of more than one of these and is actually relevant to this discussion: "God is good."  Maybe I'll make that the topic of my next post.

Addendum

It is worth noting that, despite the fact that all of the above is part of an on-going discussion with a young-earth creationist, absolutely none of it had anything to do with the age of the earth.

46 comments:

Publius said...

Perhaps it's different

@Ron:
>In fact, I can hardly imagine a worse fate than to be immortal.

Perhaps you would find gazing upon the face of God more satisfying than you can comprehend.

Ron said...

@Publius:

> Perhaps you would find gazing upon the face of God more satisfying than you can comprehend.

That seems improbable. Exo 33:20. (Or was that Exo 33:11? I forget.)

Either way, it's going to take more than the say-so of someone who thinks that "truth is overrated" before I'm willing to wager eternity on it.

Publius said...

>That seems improbable. Exo 33:20.

Again making up unskilled religions.
If you’re in heaven:
1. You’re already dead
2. You have been purified and are without sin. You can therefore gaze upon God without harm.

>Either way, it's going to take more than the say-so of someone who thinks that "truth is overrated" before I'm willing to wager eternity on it.

You’re not wagering eternity, you’re wagering the rest of your mortal life. From that wager, you can gain eternal life. Or not. But the terms of the wager are pretty easy.

I don’t expect you to believe me. I figure you need God himself to tell you. Would that do it?

Truth is overrated. One day, you may understand the wisdom of this.

Ron said...

> If you’re in heaven: You’re already dead

No. You have *died* but that doesn't mean you're *dead*. You've been *reborn*. You are starting the after*life*.

> You have been purified and are without sin. You can therefore gaze upon God without harm.

Sez you.

> I don’t expect you to believe me.

Then why are you spending so much time on this? Seriously, I really want to know.

> I figure you need God himself to tell you. Would that do it?

I don't know. I think it would depend a great deal on what he had to say.

Ron said...

Oh, forgot an important point:

> You’re not wagering eternity

Of course I am. You're not paying attention. I'm saying that having eternal life sounds like a very unpleasant prospect to me. It might be fun for the first million years, or the first trillion, maybe even the first Graham's number of years. But I think that sooner or later the novelty will wear off. When that happens, you're screwed. Forever.

Publius said...

Ron's Anterior Cingulate Cortex

>> You have been purified and are without sin. You can therefore gaze upon God without harm.

@Ron:
>Sez you.

and:

>On the other hand, with regards to the question of whether or not God exists, the stakes couldn't be higher, so it's worth a lot of effort to get that one right. Hence, a lifetime of ongoing study.

Now this is telling. To to not know a href="https://tinyurl.com/y33zxuj8">fundamental teaching of Christianity means that your study of the subject has been shallow and cursory. You've probably read a few atheist books about bible verses, read Thomas Paine, and what atheists have to say about Christianity. Hence your focus on Old Testament Bible verses over New Testament ones.

Are you really performing a lifetime of ongoing study?
1. You consider the question of whether or not God exists to be one of high stakes, but reject William James justification of belief.
2. When presented with explanations of OT bible verses that are consistent with Christian faith -- say your favorite "baby eating" one -- you reject it.
3. When presented with studies by experts in ancient hebrew of the story of exodus, and how ancient hebrew usage differs from modern day, thus explaining the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, you reject it.
4. When presented with a way to obtain knowledge you don't have, you reject it.

It doesn't appear you're studying at all. You're just coming up with justification for your existing beliefs. After all, you'd expect that while studying, once in a while you'd learn something new and have to change your mind.


> I don’t expect you to believe me.

>Then why are you spending so much time on this? Seriously, I really want to know.

Naive realism and as a warning to others.

Plus I always learn something new when Luke shows up.

Publius said...

Can't lose what you don't have

> You’re not wagering eternity

>Of course I am. You're not paying attention. I'm saying that having eternal life sounds like a very unpleasant prospect to me. It might be fun for the first million years, or the first trillion, maybe even the first Graham's number of years. But I think that sooner or later the novelty will wear off. When that happens, you're screwed. Forever.

Isn't your daily mental experience that you will live forever?

Life after death either exists or it doesn't. How you live your life doesn't affect whether it exists, or not.

Two possibilities, then.

1. Life after death doesn't exists
You live as an atheist --> die --> nothing
You live as a Christian --> die --> nothing

2. Life after death exists
You live your life as an atheist --> die --> Hell
You live your life as a Christian --> die --> purgatory or Heaven


In Scenario 1 (no life after death), you don't suffer a loss by being a Christian. After you die, you don't exist, and entities that don't exist can't possess anything, and therefore cannot lose anything.

In Scenario 2 (life after death), how you live your life just affects your final destination in the afterlife.

Ron said...

> Are you really performing a lifetime of ongoing study?

Yes. Just because I haven't come to the same conclusions you have doesn't mean I haven't been studying.

> [You reject 1-3]

Yes, and I have explained why I reject them.

> 4. When presented with a way to obtain knowledge you don't have, you reject it.

I have no idea what you are referring to here.

> Isn't your daily mental experience that you will live forever?

No. I only experience the past, not the future.

> Life after death either exists or it doesn't.

Yes.

> How you live your life doesn't affect whether it exists, or not.

Sez you.

But you keep missing the point: even if life after death exists, if it lasts forever, I don't want it. I really don't. And neither will you after a few trillion years.

Jimmy Weiss said...

Hi Ron,

First, to clarify: I did not mean to imply that you have made little of teleology in general. Remember the context of that statement was in the way that naturalists interpret the appearance of design in nature. It appears to me that you have had to trivialize this particular manifestation of teleology, just as it may appear to you that religious people have overemphasized the appearance of design in nature.

With respect to your hypothesis to explain the divergence of beliefs:

Would you say that late-life conversions, in either direction, would falsify your hypothesis? If it were true, then it would seem that the vector-path of each individual's beliefs should be determined when they first begin to ask "why" questions, and then remain fixed based on whether they initially sought mechanistic or teleological explanations.

I could certainly get on board with a more general formulation, such as "teleological prioritization over mechanism is one of many metaphysical positions which can explain the divergence of beliefs about the real world and its origins." But, as stated, or as I have understood it, I don't think your hypothesis would stand up in real-world testing of the sort stated above.

Jimmy Weiss said...

RE: excluded middle

Yes, "scoundrel-ness" is a continuum. But again, what do you mean when you say "Donald Trump is a scoundrel?" Do you mean he is more of a scoundrel than most people? Well, either he is or he isn't, again, depending on how you define the point of reference. Or did you simply mean that he is sometimes dishonest or unscrupulous?" Well, either he is or he isn't.

This last case is a bit like the dichotomization of good and evil in theological contexts. If you say someone is a scoundrel, then that statement is true if you can find them anywhere along the spectrum of "scoundrel-ness", except for the extreme negative. A person who is never dishonest or unscrupulous is, be definition, not a scoundrel. Everyone else is. Yes, some scoundrels are more scoundrel-y than others, but that doesn't matter in the slightest if the test is the existence of one scoundrel-y act.

The only way you can say this statement is "neither true nor false" is if you didn't mean anything in particular by it. But that just means you are talking nonsense. And nonsense is never true, and always false.

Ron said...

@Jimmy:

> Would you say that late-life conversions, in either direction, would falsify your hypothesis?

Hm, that's a good point. There are other factors in play too. The single biggest predictor of what you will end up believing is what your parents believed. So the theory needs some revision, but I feel like it's on the right track. Yes, people do end up changing their beliefs, but it's not that common (you are a notable counter-example). So I think there's probably quite a bit of hysteresis at work (hence "get 'em while they're young") ;-)

> Do you mean he is more of a scoundrel than most people? Well, either he is or he isn't

No, that's not true. That assumes that scoundrel-ness can be quantified and at least partially ordered, and neither of those is true.

Here are a few more examples:

"The Constitution of the United States protects and individual's right to obtain an abortion."

"Julian Assange is a journalist."

"Superman is dead." (This is on my mind because I watched "Batman vs Superman" the other day, at the end of which (spoiler alert!) Superman dies.)

Ron said...

Oh, and if you want to geek out, the axiom of choice is another good example of a statement that is neither true nor false.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom_of_choice

Ron said...

Funny thing about the axiom of choice: you can, quite literally, just *choose* whether or not it is true (i.e. whether or not you accept it as an axiom) and either choice leads to perfectly sound mathematics. (Ironically, the "choice" in "axiom of choice" does *not* refer to the choice of whether or not to accept the axiom of choice!)

It just now occurred to me that the statement "Life has a purpose" is another statement of exactly this same sort: it is neither true nor false. You can just *choose*.

Luke said...

In your previous post, you rejected the law of the excluded middle. What happens when one doesn't prioritize either mechanism or teleology? What if one instead works with a dialectic between them? Here's a hypothesis for you: much of human psychology can be much better explained via teleology than mechanism at the present time, and so prioritizing mechanism occludes real, objective patterns. Declarations that the mind is 100% subjective, or answering "no" to the question Are there laws which govern minds?, could be an artifact of artificially (and kinda dogmatically) restricting oneself to a strict subset of all possible patterns.

One might connect teleology to 'downward causation', of the kind denied by Sean Carroll in his Discover magazine article Downward Causation. (more) But if downward causation is ontically denied, I'm not sure how science itself can be logically justified. A denial of downward causation seems like a commitment to epiphenomenalism. Without a "slippage plane" in the brain, whereby different concepts can be alternated between and then the clutch released to see if they drive and/or are driven by the phenomena without grinding gears, how could one possibly do science? And yet, unless some "I" which exists above the alternatives can truly choose between them and see how they differ, you have a situation like the gimballed kitten in the two-kitten basket experiment.

If you want a better story about teleology, I suggest looking at the fact that language has predictive power: it sets up expectations in your head which can be satisfied, exceeded, or dissatisfied. Advertisements do this, moral systems do this, religions do this. Predictions can be about facts or feelings—see affective forecasting, and then note that popular distinctions between 'reason' and 'emotion' are probably wrong, per work like Descartes' Error (29,000 'citations'). See also Yuval Harari's notion of "imagined realities" in Sapiens. Then perhaps consider how much of language today is used to set up false expectations in order to manipulate.

Too much use of language to deceive may actually destroy trust in any sort of teleology matching reality. Natural language, after all, is our best tool for extrapolating to the future. The fact that the OT often says that a prediction will come true "and then you will know that I am the LORD" gets a bit interesting in this light. But I think we have done far too much damage to language to really grasp that. Just consider how our most Enlightened people gloried in the possibilities of human nature prior to 1914, and how our most Enlightened nation (which most disregarded "icky texts" in the OT) went on to commit one of the most heinous things humans have ever done. We have some major prediction problems when it comes to human nature. It's almost as if we are incredibly deceived about ourselves. And we don't seem to want to really face this, head on, for very long.

Luke said...

> I think I would be bored out of my mind after a mere trillion years. I would yearn for oblivion.

You cannot envision becoming more and thus being able to imagine and do more? It seems to me that you're presupposing that a trillion years from now, you'd be pretty much you, but with more experiences in your data bank. But that isn't how I observe humans to work, unless they match the aphorism "You can't teach old dogs new tricks." But just like we've found that neuroplasticity exists in older brains, I have found that aphorism to fail with plenty of people much older than you. :-)

Ron said...

@Luke:

> You cannot envision becoming more and thus being able to imagine and do more?

More than what? I can envision having experienced every possible finite experience up to some finite bound -- having read and memorized every book less than 1 million pages, every movie less than one year long, every flavor and smell that is possible to create with molecules that are small enough to fit in my mouth. I can even do the math and figure out roughly how long all that would take. I don't know what the answer is, but I do know this: the result will be finite. So when I get to that point, where do I go from there? Start reading books that are 1,000,001 pages long? I suppose I could do that, but here's the thing: every single one of those books will start with a million pages that are identical to some book that I have already read. Worse, the million-and-first page will *also* be identical to the first page of some book that I have already read. In fact, every single page of every single book I ever read, no matter how long, will be identical to a *vast* number of pages in a vast number of books that I have already read. You will run out of variety long before you get to infinity.

There are other vexing questions about heaven as well. For example, can people have sex in heaven? On the one hand, sex is supposed to be for procreation, but that's obviously not possible in heaven. Having sex with no possibility of procreation is (I am given to understand) a sin. So it seems logical that there is no sex in heaven, in which case, what happens if you get horny?

On the other hand, if there's something wrong with that reasoning and there is sex in heaven, is adultery still a sin? What about masturbation? If you were married on earth, are you still married in heaven? If you came from a polygamous culture and married more than one spouse on earth, are you still married to all of them in heaven? If you were gay on earth, will you still be gay in heaven? Is gay sex still a sin in heaven? If you were never married on earth, can you get married in heaven? Is gay marriage allowed?

Is there alcohol in heaven? Pot? Meth? Caffeinated coffee?

Luke said...

> More than what?

I'm thinking logical possibility space, with the proviso that my current imagination can hardly scratch the surface of that logical possibility space.

> So when I get to that point, where do I go from there? Start reading books that are 1,000,001 pages long? I suppose I could do that, but here's the thing: every single one of those books will start with a million pages that are identical to some book that I have already read.

This isn't the way we think about writing software: we don't think about continuing to use extant languages to write 1,000,000,000 line programs. Instead, we find more and more compact ways to do what we want. New books would make use of the old books you've mentioned, so that perhaps a paragraph would really refer to an idea developed in one or more books of a thousand pages, each. The same happens with jargon developed in any given specialty.

Now, if I had to continue writing in extant programming languages, I think I would get quite tired of it. So perhaps you are currently extrapolating to infinity from a fixed programming language, as if that were the only or best way to write code.

> Worse, the million-and-first page will *also* be identical to the first page of some book that I have already read.

When I read books, I generally find that any given page only has full meaning when embedded in the section and often, the whole. Is your experience different?

> On the one hand, sex is supposed to be for procreation, but that's obviously not possible in heaven.

I don't see why we could not continue to create and procreate in heaven.

> On the other hand, if there's something wrong with that reasoning and there is sex in heaven, is adultery still a sin?

I'm not sure how this and subsequent questions are relevant to the topic at hand. We could chase them down the rabbit hole, but could you reveal where you think that conversation would probably go and how it'd be relevant to whether an infinite existence would necessarily be boring?

Ron said...

> I don't see why we could not continue to create and procreate in heaven.

Really? What happens to a person born in heaven? Can they sin? Can they die? Do they grow up?

> I'm not sure how this and subsequent questions are relevant to the topic at hand.

Because the topic at hand is whether everlasting life in heaven is a thing to be desired. The prospect of getting bored is only one reason why it might not be. If I can't have sex in heaven that would be kind of a show-stopper for me, completely independent of the question of whether or not I would get bored.

Luke said...

> Really? What happens to a person born in heaven? Can they sin? Can they die? Do they grow up?

I don't know, but I don't see any reason to think that this is in principle impossible. Maybe when we learn to be less terrible to each other as humans and to the environment, we might have better intuitions for making guesses in this realm. As it is, I see a world filled with humans who think they are much better than the consequences of their actions indicate.

> Because the topic at hand is whether everlasting life in heaven is a thing to be desired. The prospect of getting bored is only one reason why it might not be. If I can't have sex in heaven that would be kind of a show-stopper for me, completely independent of the question of whether or not I would get bored.

Well the sex thing is one reason I stopped on adultery instead of on sex. But I guess I left open the possibility that I hew to the Catholic position that the telos of sex is procreation and so one must not engage in sex if you intentionally frustrate that telos. I'm not Catholic and I see insufficient reason to buy their line of reasoning. There are many, many more ways to agapaō than having more children.

If you want to talk about triggering sufficient endorphins, I suggest we talk about Nozick's experience machine. I myself have felt bursts of creativity which seemed, frankly, better than sex. They are rather less frequent than sex can be, but they seem incredibly worth it. I think that as we find more and more things of value to do, we will obtain larger and larger rushes.

As I understand it, addiction comes from trying to get the same high (or something analogous for depressants) in the same way, repeatedly. As I understand it, the brain adjusts, decreasing the effect produced by the same quantity of substance or behavior. We can therefore either just add more and more and more until our bodies can't take it, or we can realize that maybe we thrive much better on ever-increasing diversity of experience and action. The latter seems the best option to me, but I know there are many impediments to this as an option. I've done some exploring of those impediments and I think they can be overcome, if enough people are willing to face reality for long enough. But it will be hard—overcoming addiction is always hard.

Ron said...

> > What happens to a person born in heaven? Can they sin? Can they die? Do they grow up?

> I don't know

Well, this is kind of important. If people born in heaven can't sin (which seems reasonable since if there could be sin in heaven then it would be corrupted just like earth has been), then that kind of makes a hash of the foundational Christian argument that sin exists because of human free will. If humans have free will on earth and this leads them to sin, then why would not the exact same dynamic play itself out in heaven?

On the other hand, if humans can be born in heaven and not sin (for whatever reason) then why permit anyone to be born on earth, where they will inevitably sin? Why not allow *all* humans to be born in heaven and not sin? It seems horribly unjust to arrange things so that some people are destined to sin and require Jesus's salvation while others get a free pass.

> I myself have felt bursts of creativity which seemed, frankly, better than sex.

That may be just because you haven't had good enough sex ;-)

> I think that as we find more and more things of value to do, we will obtain larger and larger rushes.

Or you might discover that even the high you associate with bursts of creativity is subject to the hedonic treadmill.

The problem is that if this turns out to be true, but you only learn it after you achieve immortality, then you are totally fucked.

Luke said...

> Well, this is kind of important.

On exactly which issues must I have answers to [right now], vs. issues that can be like abiogenesis (where you cannot [yet] give an answer)? But for a sketch of an answer: it is different to have a past where humans sinned, were forgiven, and repented—than no past whatsoever or a past where no sin ever happened. Rather vaguely, I see enough such former history finally providing enough reason to not choose to sin. But maybe it happens a different way.

> That may be just because you haven't had good enough sex ;-)

Possibly. It seems rather difficult to empirically test. I'm definitely not going to engage in adultery to test it.

> Or you might discover that even the high you associate with bursts of creativity is subject to the hedonic treadmill.

I've come to see feelings as measuring derivatives rather than absolute values for some time, now. I don't think humans were designed to be content with any fixed finitude. Were we to start taking larger and larger steps forward, I expect it would feel better and better. Once we stagnate, we won't feel so good. I think we're largely stagnating, these days.

> The problem is that if this turns out to be true, but you only learn it after you achieve immortality, then you are totally fucked.

If God is that evil, I'm already totally fucked.

Ron said...

> On exactly which issues must I have answers to [right now], vs. issues that can be like abiogenesis (where you cannot [yet] give an answer)?

The ones that tilt the scales towards deciding whether or not spending eternity in heaven is a good thing or not. Right now it seems like a diabolical trap to me.

> I'm definitely not going to engage in adultery to test it.

Adultery is not the only option here :-)

> If God is that evil, I'm already totally fucked.

Only if He actually exists. Lord Voldemort is evil too, but he can't hurt you.

Luke said...

> The ones that tilt the scales towards deciding whether or not spending eternity in heaven is a good thing or not. Right now it seems like a diabolical trap to me.

I don't understand this trap. Why would any entity capable of granting you eternal life need to entrap you?

> Adultery is not the only option here :-)

Glad to hear it! But I was responding to adultery upthread.

> Ron: Or you might discover that even the high you associate with bursts of creativity is subject to the hedonic treadmill.
>
> The problem is that if this turns out to be true, but you only learn it after you achieve immortality, then you are totally fucked.

> Luke: If God is that evil, I'm already totally fucked.

> Ron: Only if He actually exists. Lord Voldemort is evil too, but he can't hurt you.

I thought the whole discussion presupposed the existence of some entity capable of granting you eternal life. Were you instead keeping open the option that there might be some very different laws of physics or a regime of current laws we didn't know about, which would enable eternal existence with no possibility of suicide?

Ron said...

> Why would any entity capable of granting you eternal life need to entrap you?

I have no idea. I do not presume to know God's motives.

> I thought the whole discussion presupposed the existence of some entity capable of granting you eternal life.

That depends on what you mean by "this whole discussion." There's a branch of the discussion where I take seriously the proposition that God can grant us eternal life and think through the logical consequences of that. The conclusion that I come to is that *even if* it were true, it's not something I would want. In fact, it turns out to be pretty much the most horrible fate I can imagine for myself. So I reject Christianity not only because I don't believe it's true, but also because if it were true I think it would be *horrible*, even on its own terms.

I think anyone who thinks that eternal life is desirable has not come to grips with just how long eternity actually is.

Luke said...

> I have no idea. I do not presume to know God's motives.

I'm talking raw capability, not motive. Why would such a being need your consent to screw you over? (N.B. Consenting only because you were deceived is not true consent; it's manipulation.)

> So I reject Christianity not only because I don't believe it's true, but also because if it were true I think it would be *horrible*, even on its own terms.

You seem to be rejecting particular Christianity and by that, I mean a subset of remotely [small-o] orthodox Christianity. Jesus warned us about there being shitty Christianity btw. The more truth one has access to, the shittier one can be to one's fellow beings.

> I think anyone who thinks that eternal life is desirable has not come to grips with just how long eternity actually is.

Or, they have gone through life and found that the more they go through, the more they can appreciate. Extrapolating this to infinity seems reasonable to me. Now if you stop growing in wisdom and knowledge and ability—maybe if you stop in just one of those—the extrapolation to infinity would look very different.

I certainly wouldn't want to code in assembly for eternity. Or C#. Or Haskell. Fortunately, I have seen enough to be able to extrapolate beyond those and I see no upper limit for what could be done—and done with great enjoyment. And this is just in programming land.

Ron said...

> Why would such a being need your consent to screw you over?

I have no idea. Who am I to question the ways of the Lord?

> You seem to be rejecting particular Christianity and by that, I mean a subset of remotely [small-o] orthodox Christianity.

I thought I was very clear about the kind of Christianity I am rejecting here: I am rejecting Jimmy's wager. See the OP.

> Or, they have gone through life and found that the more they go through, the more they can appreciate. Extrapolating this to infinity seems reasonable to me.

Yeah, and I think that's because you have failed to grasp how big infinity is. Check back with me in a few trillion years and tell me I was wrong.

(Actually, check back with me when you're 50.)

Luke said...

> I have no idea. Who am I to question the ways of the Lord?

I'm not sure how this is a rational response to the line of discussion. You're worried about being duped into a really bad eternal life. I want to know how it makes sense to worry about being duped. If you can be duped, I say you're fucked already because it makes no sense that the entity would have to dupe you in order to realize the goal of fucking you over.

> I thought I was very clear about the kind of Christianity I am rejecting here: I am rejecting Jimmy's wager. See the OP.

My bad & my apologies. If there's a way I need to repent, do let me know.

> Yeah, and I think that's because you have failed to grasp how big infinity is.

What I know is that the more I grow, the more I can imagine. I see no logical reason this has to stop. You, apparently, do. And yet, you haven't explained that reasoning to me. What am I supposed to do, if I follow the --religion-- __way of life__ of EE&R?

> (Actually, check back with me when you're 50.)

Reminds me of the second Veritas Forum discussion between N.T. Wright and Peter Thiel. I was given the job of researching Thiel to see what would make him even want to do a second debate (I was told he wasn't super-happy with the first), and that helped cement in my mind the "pathetic imagination hypothesis". I ran with this and maybe—I can't know for sure—it helped shape the second discussion such that Thiel very much enjoyed it. Anyhow, there was an interesting disparity between Thiel, who wanted life-extension ad infinitum, and Wright, who was ok with dying at a ripe, old age. I can sense what it would be like to life with my characteristic weaknesses forever—it would royally suck. And yet, when I look at my father—who can learn new tricks by the dozen—I'm not convinced that weaknesses must persist. So I wonder how much of aging is optional. I'm being mentored by a 77-year-old sociologist who is excited about learning about graph databases and how representing sociological data in such a manner would allow querying which is rather hard with any other representation. And I wonder: is the sky perhaps the limit, for those who choose not to limit themselves?

Ron said...

> You're worried about being duped

No, I'm not. I don't believe in God, remember? I can't be duped by a non-existent thing.

> it makes no sense

I couldn't agree more. But this isn't *my* theology, it's *yours*. (Well, OK, it's Jimmy's, but you both self-identify as Christians and I'm not going to split that hair.)

> I see no logical reason this has to stop.

If the argument I've presented hasn't convinced you then I don't know what else to say.

Unknown said...

>The appeal of an infinite afterlife depends a lot, I think, on a failure to grasp just how big infinity is.

You are the first person I have read framing infinite reward as a bad thing. Very thought provoking! I've never really thought about infinity being bad...or good. I think in this respect, I find Hinduism beliefs intriguing. Re-living life over as another animal actually sounds exciting. It would certainly be another viewpoint. Or flying as a bird! As opposed to reading the Library of Babel...

Luke said...

> Ron: Right now it seems like a diabolical trap to me.



> Luke: You're worried about being duped

> Ron: No, I'm not. I don't believe in God, remember? I can't be duped by a non-existent thing.

In that case, I have zero idea what you meant by "diabolical trap". I thought we were talking about a hypothetical scenario, but apparently I have no idea what we were talking about.

> I couldn't agree more. But this isn't *my* theology, it's *yours*. (Well, OK, it's Jimmy's, but you both self-identify as Christians and I'm not going to split that hair.)

You know I am not a young earth creationist and yet you're going to put me in the same group with the same causal powers? You proposed that faith reduces existential angst while I said the opposite is the case with me, and yet you're going to put me in the same group with the same causal powers? This is really "splitting hairs" to you? For this page, I'll try to hew to Jimmy's theology—but I don't have much to go on.

> If the argument I've presented hasn't convinced you then I don't know what else to say.

I tried to cross-examine it; you didn't seem very willing. Or perhaps I'm a bad cross-examiner. Here's one more question: how does your argument mesh with "(If you mean induction, I reject that unconditionally. I'm a Popperian.)"? It seems that your argument is predicated upon extrapolation, which is predicated upon induction.

Ron said...

@Unknown:

> You are the first person I have read framing infinite reward as a bad thing.

Yeah, I think the idea may actually be original with me. Spread the word! It's a trap! :-)

@Luke:

> Ron: No, I'm not. I don't believe in God, remember? I can't be duped by a non-existent thing.

> Luke: In that case, I have zero idea what you meant by "diabolical trap".

*I* think God is fictional, so the possibility of being trapped by Him doesn't keep me up at night.

But I could be wrong. If God is real, and if he's luring people into believing in Him by offering an infinite reward, and if that reward is actually real, then it's a diabolical trap (IMHO). It's a trap because once you're in it there's no way out, and it's diabolical because you won't realize it's a trap for a very, very long time. (But by the time you do realize it you will be stuck there for a much, much longer time.)

> It seems that your argument is predicated upon extrapolation, which is predicated upon induction.

Arrgh, where is Elliot Temple when you need him?

No. You are deeply confused about this. Go read "The Fabric of Reality" chapter 7.

Luke said...

> If God is real …

I thought that was presupposed for the hypothetical. And so when you wrote "I don't believe in God, remember? I can't be duped by a non-existent thing.", that seemed to be a red herring for purposes of discussing the hypothetical.

Now, "If God is real", then why would you worry about a trap? It makes no sense to me that God would need to entrap you in order to fuck you over. Can you tell a coherent story of God needing to entrap you in order to carry out his diabolical plan? It's not like it's an accomplishment for an omniscient, omnipotent being to deceive a being like you or me.

> > It seems that your argument is predicated upon extrapolation, which is predicated upon induction.

> No. You are deeply confused about this. Go read "The Fabric of Reality" chapter 7.

So you weren't predicating your argument on the future being like the present, but numerically larger? It looked like that to me, but apparently I'm deeply confused.

All I see in TFOR chapter 7 is selecting the best extant hypothesis, while waiting for an even better hypothesis. By its very nature, this "explanation" cannot talk about what the future will be like. And yet, here you are talking about what an infinite afterlife would be like!

A major reason to ditch inductivism in justifying scientific theories is that we keep finding out that the future is more complex and different from what we thought in the past. Inductivism fails by its own standards: future scientific theories are not like past scientific theories, except in an unpredictable way. It's not like we're simply adding terms to a Taylor expansion. And so instead of talking about theories being "true", we merely talk about them being the best current [known] option, while we wait for future, better options. Am I in error, here?

Ron said...

> > If God is real …

> I thought that was presupposed for the hypothetical.

Yes, but a hypothetical God does not instill in me any real fear, and I don't really care about hypothetical fear.

> Can you tell a coherent story of God needing to entrap you in order to carry out his diabolical plan?

I can't tell a coherent story about God *at all*. I have never even *heard* a coherent story about why God does the things that He is purported to do. That's exactly why I don't believe in him.

> So you weren't predicating your argument on the future being like the present, but numerically larger?

No. Either you are being incredibly obtuse, or I am doing an incredibly bad job of explaining my position. The *whole point* here is that eternity is NOT like the finite existence we are experiencing here on earth. It is FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT, and not in a good way.

> All I see in TFOR chapter 7 is selecting the best extant hypothesis, while waiting for an even better hypothesis.

You need to read more carefully. Search for the word "disease."

Luke said...

> Yes, but a hypothetical God does not instill in me any real fear, and I don't really care about hypothetical fear.

Ok, in that case you have provided no reason to believe that God would spring a "diabolical trap" on you and thus I see it as a dead hypothesis. It simply makes no sense.

> I can't tell a coherent story about God *at all*. I have never even *heard* a coherent story about why God does the things that He is purported to do. That's exactly why I don't believe in him.

Do we have a 100% coherent story about how the laws of nature work? (And work as a 100% unified whole.) You seem to have set a bar which scientists themselves cannot reach. Our knowledge of reality actually seems to be a lot more fragmentary, and yet we can still make progress. But somehow, only scientists get to work this way?

> > So you weren't predicating your argument on the future being like the present, but numerically larger?

> No. Either you are being incredibly obtuse, or I am doing an incredibly bad job of explaining my position.

Now, we read books which are hundreds, maybe thousands of pages. You talked of reaching books a million pages long. And then you talked about what would happen after you've read all the million-page long books. How is that not an instance of "being like the present, but numerically larger"?

> > All I see in TFOR chapter 7 is selecting the best extant hypothesis, while waiting for an even better hypothesis.

> You need to read more carefully. Search for the word "disease."

Here are three aspects of what I said:

(1) We are in the business of selecting the best extant hypothesis. [Addendum: this means running experiments until only one hypothesis is left standing.]

(2) We are open to there being a better hypothesis than any of the extant ones. [Addendum: anomalies are very helpful, here.]

(3) Of the extant hypotheses not refuted by any evidence, we have ways of judging some to be superior to others.

Do you disagree with any of (1)–(3)? Did you want more detail on any of them? Do you think there's an important (4), (5), …?

Ron said...

> It simply makes no sense.

I could not agree more.

> Do we have a 100% coherent story about how the laws of nature work?

Nope. But we're converging (though we will never fully converge).

> Now, we read books which are hundreds, maybe thousands of pages. You talked of reaching books a million pages long. And then you talked about what would happen after you've read all the million-page long books. How is that not an instance of "being like the present, but numerically larger"?

Ah.

The only reason I extended the limit to a million was in anticipation of the argument that to forestall boredom you could just keep reading longer and longer books. If it makes you happier, make the limit 1000 pages or so. It doesn't matter. The time it takes to read all of the N-page books M times, as a fraction of infinity, is exactly the same for any finite value of N and M: 0.

Luke said...

> > It simply makes no sense.

> I could not agree more.

So what were you doing (in saying "Right now it seems like a diabolical trap to me."), if you weren't engaged in making sense?

> > > I can't tell a coherent story about God *at all*. I have never even *heard* a coherent story about why God does the things that He is purported to do. That's exactly why I don't believe in him.

> > Do we have a 100% coherent story about how the laws of nature work?

> Nope. But we're converging (though we will never fully converge).

So given that you don't require 100% coherence, what is that that you object to when lacking coherence about God? You've exaggerated enough times before with statements like "*at all*" that I'm not sure how seriously to take them. Permit me to suggest an area to build the kind of partial coherence we can achieve with science.

I have repeatedly asked, in many venues, whether humans today merely need more power over creation and creatures—including humans. I don't ever recall getting a "yes"; by now I think we see that science and technology has permitted us to manipulate creation and creatures to incredible degrees and, separated from something non-manipulation-based, the damage threatens to soon outweigh the good. I say our biggest problems today are hypocrisy, self-righteousness, hardness of heart†, and so forth. Are these not primary foci of the Tanakh and NT? Might God want to tell us what we most need to hear, but are least willing to hear? Does that make coherent sense?

† As best I understand, the ancient Hebrews understood 'heart' to mean something like "seat of the understanding". A hardened heart is therefore not open to change or growth.

> The only reason I extended the limit to a million was in anticipation of the argument that to forestall boredom you could just keep reading longer and longer books.

I don't see how that changes anything; the form of your argument still seems to be: "The future will probably be like the present, except greater in number." There seems to be a presupposition that variety of reality is finite and infinite existence would exhaust it. This, despite your philosophy of science taking seriously that for a long time, scientific discoveries massively overturned what was thought before—including huge ontological shifts which destroyed all continuity but the thinnest mathematical convergence.

Ron said...

> So what were you doing (in saying "Right now it seems like a diabolical trap to me."), if you weren't engaged in making sense?

I was exploring the consequences of taking Jimmy's Wager *on its own terms* and seeing where that led. And where it leads is that I reject Jimmy's wager *even if* God is everything that Jimmy says He is and will do everything Jimmy says He will do.

I reject Jimmy's wager because an infinite reward is a *logical* impossibility if we assume some very basic things about human nature (I'll have more to say about that in a subsequent post -- stay tuned).

> So given that you don't require 100% coherence, what is that that you object to when lacking coherence about God?

Sorry, that question doesn't parse. Did you mean: "Why do I not accept theories about God, notwithstanding that they lack coherence?" or something like that? It's because theories of God are much worse than incoherent. The problem with God as a theory is that the God theory doesn't *explain* anything. It explicitly places no constraints on God, so God can do anything, no not matter what you observe you can always "explain" it by saying "God did it." But that's not an explanation.

Incoherence is forgivable. Failure to explain is not.

(Note too that not all incoherence is created equal. The incoherence between QM and GR is of a very different character than the incoherence between the OT and the NT, or between Calvinism and Arminianism, or between Catholic and Protestant.)

> Does that make coherent sense?

No. Not even close.

> Are these not primary foci of the Tanakh and NT?

No. Not even remotely.

> There seems to be a presupposition that variety of reality is finite

No, not reality. *Experience*. The variety of possible *experience* is finite. And that's not a presupposition, it's a consequence of the laws of physics and the way our brains work.

Luke said...

@Ron (1/2)

> I was exploring the consequences of taking Jimmy's Wager *on its own terms* and seeing where that led. And where it leads is that I reject Jimmy's wager *even if* God is everything that Jimmy says He is and will do everything Jimmy says He will do.

Ok; it seems to me an instance of "garbage in, garbage out". I personally try to stop if I hit the point where I can no longer extend the charity of coherence which approximately matches my best achievement of coherence.

> > So given that you don't require 100% coherence, what is that that you object to when lacking coherence about God?

> Sorry, that question doesn't parse. Did you mean: "Why do I not accept theories about God, notwithstanding that they lack coherence?" or something like that? It's because theories of God are much worse than incoherent. The problem with God as a theory is that the God theory doesn't *explain* anything. It explicitly places no constraints on God, so God can do anything, no not matter what you observe you can always "explain" it by saying "God did it." But that's not an explanation.

I meant that you are willing to work with something less than 100% coherence when it comes to science, and so lacking 100% coherence cannot be a good reason you take issue with God—on pain of double standards. You have now left me searching for a word rather different than 'coherence' to summarize your objection; intuitively that word is terrible for the job, but maybe there isn't a better one.

You claim that there are "no constraints on God"; how then do you explain the Hittite suzerainty treaty form employed in YHWH's covenant with Abram in Genesis 15? I'm not sure there could be a more explicit setting of constraints. Walking through the bisected animals means this: "If I violate the terms of the treaty, may this be done to me!" I say the better way to frame the matter is to first accept that "we are the instruments with which we measure reality", and then ask whether there are any limits on how evil we can become and how much we can distort concepts such as 'temple of the LORD'—which had become 100% perverted in Jeremiah's time. (Jeremiah 7:1–15)

Another explicit constraint shows up in Deut 12:32–13:5, where miracle power was declared 100% epistemologically worthless. You know this from The Oven of Akhnai. What this established is that worship of power is 100% wrong. The fact that some being is powerful is 100% irrelevant to his/her claims of goodness, his/her claims of knowing which god(s) are best to worship. This is quite the restriction on God's use of omnipotence!

As to "God as a theory", are you aware of Sean Carroll's 2013 lecture God is not a Good Theory? I've only watched a bit and am considering having it machine-transcribed. Anyhow, if God is attempting to make us into something much better than what we currently are, "theory" seems to be the wrong category. For "theory" is focused exclusively on what is, not what ought to be. If God does wish to describe what is but also wants to talk about what ought to be, then "theory" is a category mistake—unless one chooses to embrace 100% subjectivity about all things to do with goodness and aesthetics. (If one does, then can that position be falsified?)

Luke said...

@Ron (2/2)

> Incoherence is forgivable. Failure to explain is not.

Plenty of Christians eschew god-of-the-gaps reasoning. That it might be popular is as much interest as the plenitude of shite atheist blather. Humans want to have things explained in their mind and will grasp at whatever resources are available to do so.

> (Note too that not all incoherence is created equal. The incoherence between QM and GR is of a very different character than the incoherence between the OT and the NT, or between Calvinism and Arminianism, or between Catholic and Protestant.)

Sure, but what of the incoherence in the social sciences? Could it be that we are simply very primitive when trying to understand such domains? I know it's fashionable to simply declare much to be "inexplicable", based on "emotions" and "irrationality". This is simply the secular version of god-of-the-gaps. It's a throwing up of the hands, an abandonment of disciplined investigation.

> > I have repeatedly asked, in many venues, whether humans today merely need more power over creation and creatures—including humans. … Does that make coherent sense?

> No. Not even close.

So the first sentence of the paragraph makes no sense to you? When I said "need", you could think of various quality metrics and get confused, but I figured you could at least presuppose "survival" and perhaps include "survival of civilization".

> > I say our biggest problems today are hypocrisy, self-righteousness, hardness of heart†, and so forth. Are these not primary foci of the Tanakh and NT?

> No. Not even remotely.

Is this claim falsifiable? In some sense, this is a matter of leading a horse to water but not being able to force it to drink. Maybe you're Ernst Mach and this is modern atomism before Brownian motion. I am asking you to "try on" a very different hermeneutic, but I can't force you to do it. At best, down the line I could simply demonstrate the Tanakh and NT being of powerful use to pierce façades of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. But I'm not sure that would do it for you, either.

> The variety of possible *experience* is finite. And that's not a presupposition, it's a consequence of the laws of physics and the way our brains work.

We could not become more than we are, now? I don't see any reason that the computing power of our universe must be bounded by a constant number. That seems like absolutely wild extrapolation and I'm reminded of something DD says in TFoR: "There is indeed no logically necessary connection between truth and explanatory power." (142)

Ron said...

> I personally try to stop if I hit the point where I can no longer extend the charity of coherence which approximately matches my best achievement of coherence.

Well, this is one of your problems. The way the scientific game is supposed to be played is this: one person advances a theory and presents it for criticism. Then someone else criticizes it. Then the proponent of the theory either acknowledges the validity of the criticism or advances their own meta-criticism to show that the criticism of their theory was mistaken. And so it goes, back and forth, until one party or the other says, "You know what? You're right. I have no response for that." And that's where things stand until someone comes up with a better idea.

Jimmy Weiss gets my respect because he participates in this process. He's put a theory out there. He's invited criticism. He's answered that criticism. You have never done that. I've repeatedly invited you to write up your own theory of the world and present it for criticism. You've repeatedly refused on the grounds that it's too hard, would take too long, whatever. Instead you snipe from the sidelines. It got tiresome a long time ago.

> I meant that you are willing to work with something less than 100% coherence when it comes to science, and so lacking 100% coherence cannot be a good reason you take issue with God—on pain of double standards.

The reason we have incoherence in our current best theories is not that incoherence is *acceptable*, it's that no one has yet figured out how to make it go away. Fame and Nobel prizes await whoever succeeds. Incoherence is a *problem*. But problems are the starting point of progress.

QM and GR are incoherent, but they are less incoherent than any of the currently known alternatives. Some day that will change.

> how then do you explain the Hittite suzerainty treaty form employed in YHWH's covenant with Abram

The Bible is a work of fiction, and the author decided to use that form. No big mystery there. Authors of fiction get to invent their own rules. They can even invent their own laws of physics.

(When I said "There is no constraint on God" I intended this simply to be a restatement of the theory that God is all-powerful. From my perspective, this statement only has content in a hypothetical world where God exists. "God is all-powerful" has the same epistemological status as "Voldemort has a pet snake.")

> I don't see any reason that the computing power of our universe must be bounded by a constant number.

The finiteness of computation follows from these fundamental facts:

1. The amount of mass/energy in this universe is finite.

2. No physical process can occur on a time scale faster than the Planck time.

3. There is a finite amount of time between the big bang and the heat death of the universe. (This follows from conservation laws and the second law of thermodynamics.)

You can actually do the math and figure out the maximum number of computations which are possible in this universe even in principle. It's a worthwhile exercise. The result is a surprisingly small number.

Luke said...

> Jimmy Weiss gets my respect because he participates in this process. He's put a theory out there. He's invited criticism. He's answered that criticism. You have never done that. I've repeatedly invited you to write up your own theory of the world and present it for criticism. You've repeatedly refused on the grounds that it's too hard, would take too long, whatever. Instead you snipe from the sidelines. It got tiresome a long time ago.

My apologies; somehow I never understood what you found so annoying. I don't really know what would constitute a "theory of the world"; can you point me to what you think best exemplifies such a thing, both in your own writing but also out there in the world? My best understanding is that no human has ever done a remotely good job of this (Hegel tried). And so I've taken a much more fragmentary approach. While I would like something more unified, I don't know how to get there other than the method I've chosen. Indeed, in the course of criticizing fragments of atheists and having fragments of mine criticized, I think I've gained the ability to shred just about anything which gets anywhere close to "theory of the world". And yet evidence of this—said "snipe from the sidelines"—is apparently not a positive thing.

> The reason we have incoherence in our current best theories is not that incoherence is *acceptable*, it's that no one has yet figured out how to make it go away.

Yes, my paragraph above is an acknowledgment of that. Things get fantastically worse as one goes from physics to chemistry to biology to psychology to sociology and the other social sciences. There's nothing remotely like a grand theory which has stood up to criticism. Sociologists were hoping for this around the time of Talcott Parsons, but all such attempts crashed and burned. There are a plethora of research paradigms in psychology, as can be seen by skimming the the table of contents of Luciano L'Abate's 2011 Paradigms in Theory Construction. So why should I expect that any "theory of the world" I generate will make an advance on what millions of scholars and scientists would desperately like to do? (Actually, I bet that by now, most have given up.)


Do you think the above is unreasonable? Do you think your "theory of the world" is actually quite robust?

Ron said...

> I don't really know what would constitute a "theory of the world"; can you point me to what you think best exemplifies such a thing, both in your own writing but also out there in the world?

https://blog.rongarret.info/2003/07/hello-world.html

https://www.legacyoflewis.com/2019/03/a-bottom-up-defense-of-christianity-not_30.html

> why should I expect that any "theory of the world" I generate will make an advance on what millions of scholars and scientists would desperately like to do?

Your theory doesn't have to be original. It's perfectly fine if you want to point to someone else's work and say, "I endorse this." That's what I mostly do. Hardly anything I believe is original with me. The vast majority of what I believe is just an endorsement of mainstream science.

Publius said...

Matthew 7:23

> I figure you need God himself to tell you. Would that do it?

@Ron:
I don't know. I think it would depend a great deal on what he had to say.

Expect to hear this:

"I never knew you."

Ron said...

> "I never knew you."

To which I would reply: so all that business about you being all-knowing was a lie after all? What else did they get wrong about you?

Ron said...

Even better:

> "I never knew you."

You never answered my calls.

Ron said...

The spirit of the staircase is strong tonight.

> "I never knew you."

You never read my blog?