Re: The Unfathomable

D.den Otter (
Tue, 02 Nov 1999 22:15:15 +0100

> From: M. E. Smith <>

> Obviously, I am not the only one who is
> frusted by those who seem to equate all
> religious thought with fundamental
> Christianity. Aarrgh! What century do
> you think this is?

Almost the 21st, and religious fundamentalism is still quite common in many parts of the world. Aarrgh! indeed.

> We all know that there is no "God" in the
> sense of some huge all-powerful man with a
> beard who created us and gets upset when
> we have sex for any other reason than
> procreation. Among intelligent people, which
> probably includes anyone on this list, these
> arguments have been won a long time ago. As
> Nietzche said; that God is dead.

He may be dead to us, but to many others he's alive and kickin'.

> The "God" that is harder to vanquish is the
> ineffable one that the mystics talk about, the
> one that is defined as undefinable. This "God"
> will never be disproven, for the same reason
> that a child can always say "Why?" to
> whatever explanation you give him. Like
> "infinity", this "God" is a symbol and a useful
> meme. To get upset when this symbol is used
> is like getting upset when someone says
> "infinity".

No, "god" can't be compared to a relatively neutral meme like "infinity"; it is firmly (and IMHO duly) linked to things like ignorance, irrationality and oppression. It's a meme that carries a lot of (often unpleasant) historical baggage. That's why atheists get upset when you use it.

> If you're so lacking in a poetic sense
> that you cannot appreciate this "God", that's
> no reason to verbally abuse those that do.

The undefinable is the undefinable, the universe is the universe, infinity is infinity. Using the term "God" to describe any or all of these things is simply not very practical.

> Would you insult Douglas Hofstadter when
> he uses the word "God" in this sense?

Not openly, but I'd certainly respect him less for it.

> I don't find it hard to imagine an advanced SI
> with a brain the size of a planet thinking,
> analyzing, constructing and testing mental
> models, expending the energies of whole stars,
> for countless terateraflops, trying to understand
> the universe, why it's here, and ultimately giving
> up, realizing it'll never know, and at that moment
> feeling a great awe.

....or frustration. Personally, I don't think a SI would *ever* give up completely, though it may give the search for absolute understanding of everything an increasingly lower priority.