When I read my news feed every day, so many of the hot stories have a subtext of ages-old clashes between religions, or between religion and science. Afghanistan and Brexit (the Ireland question especially) are examples of the former. The coronavirus vaccine debate stokes the latter cleft. The nasty American red-blue political divide is an example of both.
I have studied a lot of math in my life and I have studied many of the world’s theologies in depth. I have long found it interesting how those theologies, which attempt to define some “eternal realities” about our place in Creation, rarely address the “prophetic” capabilities of most disciplines of math and science. These academic endeavors make forecasts of future events which often come true, handily beating the prediction percentage of most religious seers throughout history.
This gap is understandable. The first language humans used to describe their world was “God language,” with all unknown causation attributed to some greater supernatural power. The ancient Greeks came as close to bridging the divide as any of those theologies. From them we got the mythology of Fate, which I like to present as an early form of probability theory. John Calvin’s 16th-century conjectures on divine predestination, of which I am less a fan, presaged the 20th-century debate by the great physicists over determinism versus free will.
I often write in this blog about human religions exploring two interwoven “threads in the fabric.” One thread is the ethical, which sets a path for how people should live in community with one another. Much of this ancient language has its modern expression in psychology, sociology, and neuroscience, and often the two views of reality are not that much in conflict. The second thread I call dogma, where humans have conjectured for thousands of years, with little progress or agreement, about what happens when we die – who wins and who loses the cosmic wars. Many human wars have been fought over dogma, and here remains the greatest gulf with science.
And because I can’t help it, this blog occasionally dives into politics, which is, in my “positive days” definition, the process by which “good people disagree.” In my “bad days” definition, politics is the odorous pit from which nasty people try to exploit their power over the rest of us.
The math in this blog is usually held to as accessible a level as I can make it (with the risk of being technically inadequate at times). The theology tries to be as non-sectarian and historical as possible. And I try to keep the political commentary to the perspective of a “concerned sane person,” with a soft spot for the people who have historically borne the brunt of the “nasty ones.”
The title of this blog comes from a comment credited to Albert Einstein, that “God does NOT play dice with this world.” This phrase is typically used out of context, and is widely misunderstood by religious believers. In addition his intended meaning is probably wrong from the perspective of modern physics. My perspective is that we live in a world that is probabilistically random, at least real enough that insurance actuaries can make a living off of the odds. We would all do better, I assert, understanding the “bets” that we make every day of our lives.
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A number of posts sequentially develop my concept of probabilistic randomness, theodicy, volition/choice, and a resultant view on ethics, linked through the icon below. You can click on it now and follow the icon’s links through a sequential thread, or browse this set of posts at “The Story So Far…”
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