The Raving Theist

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Faith in Numbers

October 3, 2006 | 57 Comments

Three squared plus four squared equals five squared (9+16=25). The mathematician Euclid proved that there are an infinite number of these Pythagorean triples, i.e., sets consisting of three integers wherein the square of one of the numbers is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two.

This doesn’t work, however, when you’re working with cubes. There isn’t an infinite number of sets of triplets — there’s not even one. Play around all you want, you won’t ever be able to find two cubed numbers which, when added together, equal a third. Five cubed (125) plus six cubed (216) equals 341 and thus comes pretty close to seven cubed (343), but that’s as close as it ever gets. As it turns out, the problem isn’t just with cubes. If you’re raising pairs of numbers to any power equal or higher to three and then adding them together, the sum will never be precisely equal to a third number raised to that power. In other words (or symbols) an+bn ≠cn where n>2. It doesn’t matter whether n is 4 or 81,122,212,183 or 2,654,059,139,565,867,038,254,524,039,331,751 or anything up to infinity.

In 1637, the mathematician Fermat claimed that he had “a truly marvelous proof of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain.” In fact, he probably didn’t. Fermat’s Last Theorem wasn’t solved until 1995 and Andrew Wiles’ solution required 150 pages of complex 20th century mathematical techniques including a proof of the Taniyama Shimura theorem. You’ll never understand the summary of the reasoning, much less the proof itself. Not even Wiles did, at first — he announced the solution in 1993 but backed down after some (later-repaired) flaws were identified.

Is your belief in the non-existence of a Fermat triplet mere faith? If you are an atheist, would you say that your disbelief in God involves more faith or less faith than your believe in the truth of Fermat’s Theorem? Is your certainty regarding the truth of the proof is greater or lesser than your belief regarding the existence of God? How about your belief in the truth of Euler’s yet-unproven conjecture that there are no four integers such that a4+b4+c4=d4?

Comments

57 Responses to “Faith in Numbers”

  1. Anon
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 1:52 am

    You´re right! The tooth fairy must exist!

  2. Jim
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 2:09 am

    “You are a strange, sad little man” – Buzz Lightyear.

  3. Choobus
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 2:23 am

    and to add to RA’s argument, sometimes my excrement smells so bad I want to puke, but other times I find myself waiting a few moments before I flush because, well the aroma, it intrigues me. Therefore abortion is wrong; there is no way to know in advance whether the kid will be a stench monger or not. Also, Plato is dead and mathematics makes jesus cry.

  4. defanatic
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 4:44 am

    *sniff*

    The Raving Atheist’s name is lying to me.

    *hugs choobus*

  5. AnActualAtheist
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 7:03 am

    The fact that the proof is complicated does not imply that it must be taken on faith. If I so choose, I could spend some time (decades probably) getting tuition in the relevant fields, understanding the maths at each step, and then examine the proof for myself. It is true that most people simply accept Wiles’ work on trust, but the important point is that it is disprovable by anyone (if it is wrong), and many eminent mathematicians have tried (and failed).

    On the other hand, assertions about God are usually non-disprovable. There is no process I could go through that would get me any closer to the truth. Accepting such assertions is forever an article of faith.

  6. Erik
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 7:05 am

    Jesus Puking Christ in a Piss-bag, RA, not one so-called proof of god runs through the rigors of mathematical theorems. Also, no one claims that belief in Fermat’s Last Theorem will get you special favors in the after-life. Finally, if the inability to understand something that you think is true constitutes faith, then I’ll appreciate it if no theist ever tries to tell me anything ever again about the “nature”of god. By this equation, they simply do not know what they are talking about.

  7. Kate B.
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 7:53 am

    I guess I’d be a 2 on the Dawkins scale of Fermat belief.

  8. Snap Crafter
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 7:56 am

    ‘Bout time he admits to being christian.

  9. The Power of Greyskull
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 8:07 am

    No diggedy, no doubt.

  10. severalspeciesof
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 8:33 am

    I’ll give a sane answer here, (though I do enjoy the answers so far given…) belief in god is not the same as belief in the truth of Fermat’s Theorem. God is an “it” (a horribly inept “it” but an “it” all the same) while Fermat’s Theorem (as is ALL of MATHEMATICS) is a description, not an “it”. I have no reason to worry about the truth of Fermat’s Theorem. It would be like worrying whether or not circles can be square, or 4 + 0 = 2,123,456…..

  11. Thorngod
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 8:44 am

    I have a great deal of confidence in Fermat and Eucler, and very little in the inscient and very superstitious seers of the stone age.

  12. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 9:22 am

    Those god damned FANATICAL MATHEMATICIANS. How could anyone believe such lunatics. For centuries they’ve taunted us with their silly beliefs … pi=3.14159265 to the millionth fuckin place … blah blah blah … they cram their algebra, geometry and calculus down our throats and expect us to believe all that silly trash.

    Where’s the proof I ask you ?

    Next thing you know one of them is gonna kill someone over disagreements on some kind of theorem!

  13. hagiograph
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 9:31 am

    Bravo, AnActualAtheist!

    In addition I’d like to say that if you have to have 20th century extremely high level mathematical skills (or the theological equivalent thereof) to believe in God then Heaven will be filled with about 15 people at the end of time.

    THAT’s what I call Infinite Love/Infinite Mercy!

    I can conceive of that being than which none more likely to be the sum of 3 cubed numbers can be!

    Selah! Praise god!

  14. baron_thredkil
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 9:35 am

    OOOOhhh “Argumentum ad Ignorantum”! If I, personally, don’t understand it, I HAVE to accept it! If I do accept it but then disbelieve something else I don’t fully understand then I am a hypocrite and I will roast in hell!

    Does that mean if I don’t fully understand Gravity that I will fly off the earth? Is THAT the “Rapture”?

    Yay Logic!

  15. Andy Holland
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 10:06 am

    If a random process is defined such that:

    Any Input -> random process -> random outcome

    No process exists, or set of processes whereby the any set of random processes can produce an ordered outcome. So Dawkins is flat wrong – natural selection has to have something to select on, and some basis upon which to select.

    Of course, is anything truly random? Chaotic systems appear to be random except but can be grouped in sets in accordance with their generating functions (Fermat’s theorem being one).

    If one orders or groups a system through logos (logical word), then in theory:

    Word -> chaous -> ordered outcome

    Which provides something to select on. When the Woodpecker’s beak evolved, the spongy material in the back of the brain did so at the same time so the brains would not be damaged, and the bony structure in the back of the head so that reactant forces would counter-balance. Anyone who has designed anything, even through automated processes and genetic algorithms, understands that a great deal of logic is needed in the “power” of the algorithm to assure that valid design criteria are met (the Woodpecker system must retain an instinct to peck through wood, and have all systems to support such an operation + the ability to fly as it evolves).

    This may be why ancient people (who were not stupid) believed it was through Word by whom all things were made.

    St. Gregory of Nyssa’s theological explanation for a necessity of evolution (ascendance) in “On the Soul and the Resurrection” and the “Origin of Man”, predating Darwin 1300+ years, are worth reading. But as the English reformers burned the books 400-500 years ago, one has to either read poorly translated phrases, or learn ancient Greek.

    andy holland
    sinner

  16. nkb
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 10:24 am

    Whether I believe a mathematical theorem to be correct or not does not influence my life.
    There is no math book written by Fermat or anyone else that tells me how to live my life.
    And, finally, there are no fundamentalist math geeks threatening me with eternal hell if I don’t believe in the existence of a math theorem.

    Apples and oranges, Raving Theist.

  17. bob barker
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 10:36 am

    There is no math book written by Fermat or anyone else that tells me how to live my life.

    Mathbooks tell you how to do math. Religious books tell you how to do life.

    And, finally, there are no fundamentalist math geeks threatening me with eternal hell if I don’t believe in the existence of a math theorem.

    Not believing in the existence of a math theorem has consequences like failing grades, losing your job or perhaps death. The threat doesn’t come from a fundamentalist, but then again religious threats don’t come from fundamentalists either. They come from god. I guess the math threats come from the math god.

    Apples and oranges.

  18. "Q" the Enchanter
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 11:12 am

    The nonexistence of God is more immediately apparent to me than the reliability of a highly complex proof (or the reliability of the expert consensus regarding the reliability of that proof). To that extent (a very trivial extent), my “faith” in the former is more robust.

    Why do you ask?

  19. "Q" the Enchanter
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 11:12 am

    The nonexistence of God is more immediately apparent to me than the reliability of a highly complex proof (or the reliability of the expert consensus regarding the reliability of that proof). To that extent (a very trivial extent), my “faith” in the former is more robust.

    Why do you ask?

  20. "Q" the Enchanter
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 11:12 am

    The nonexistence of God is more immediately apparent to me than the reliability of a highly complex proof (or the reliability of the expert consensus regarding the reliability of that proof). To that extent (a very trivial extent), my “faith” in the former is more robust.

    Why do you ask?

  21. ocmpoma
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 11:19 am

    “You’ll never understand the summary of the reasoning, much less the proof itself.”

    I thought you weren’t going to insult people or be condescending anymore.

  22. Thorngod
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

    Good try, Bob, but there are a zillion books that tell us how to “do” life, and it’s a damned rare one that makes sense all the way through. I try to be selective…a little of this, a little of that.

    As for the threats of hell and hopes of paradise. . . . Now, I happen to have this bridge you might be interested in….

  23. Jamaal
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 1:15 pm

    Mathematics are a system of rules made up by people by analogy to counts and measures. Fermat’s Last Theorem is an ordered arrangement of these symbols, and the proof is a series of accepted transformations of these symbols by experts in the field. All of this is within the realm of human symbology. It is grounded in the fact that it can be transformed back into counts and measures.

    My objection to your line of questioning is your assumption that I actually do believe in the non-existence of a Fermat triplet. I actually only believe in the expertise of the whole of mathematicians to manipulate the set of symbols that they made up by the set of rules that they made up, and I only believe in that because I see no motive for them to decieve us laypersons.

    The existence of God is just as substantive as the Theorem, except grounded in nothing and unable to be checked by anyone. Theology has very complicated rules for manipulating symbols (though not as strict), but instead of starting with a useful metaphor, they start with ‘the gaps.’ When you reduce their conclusions to their origins, you end up with nothing but air.

  24. UberKuh
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

    If faith is defined as belief without reason, then it is unreasonable to place faith in anything.

  25. bob barker
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 1:46 pm

    “there are a zillion books that tell us how to “do” life, and it’s a damned rare one that makes sense all the way through.”

    Yes, and there are zillions of math books too. Just as there are religious people who understand their sophisticated books, there are math people who understand their sophisticated books.

    Do you understand all areas of math such as the solution to Fermat’s? Do you understand all religions? Just because you don’t understand one or the other does not make it true or false.

    So what makes the solution to Fermat’s true and all religions false? I assume you think this way. Don’t rely on somebody elses ability to demonstrate one of them true or false because they might be wrong and you just don’t know enough to catch the error. I think that’s RA’s question.

  26. hagiograph
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 1:59 pm

    Andy,
    You stated: “So Dawkins is flat wrong – natural selection has to have something to select on, and some basis upon which to select.”

    I think you need to read more Dawkins. Dawkins clearly outlines the fact that evolution is far from a random process. This is a false dichotomy: “design or random chance”. In reality evolution is anything BUT random chance.

    Then later you state: “St. Gregory of Nyssa’s theological explanation for a necessity of evolution (ascendance) in “On the Soul and the Resurrection” and the “Origin of Man”, predating Darwin 1300+ years, … But as the English reformers burned the books …, one has to either read poorly translated phrases, or learn ancient Greek.

    Thank goodness it’s not so hard to get to the original word o’ God from the Bible! I’m glad God wrote it so clearly and without need for translation.

  27. Los Pepes
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

    This post reminds me of “The Chewbacca Defense”

  28. DamnRight
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

    My family believes that if they can shed doubt on evolution, I will return to “faith in Christ”… this seems to be a prevalent thought amongst Christians…
    … since I didn’t base my non-belief on evolution, why would it be turned by any arguments on the subject…
    … my lack of belief is more a result of loss of faith in the Bible as “the Word of God”… that was something I had truly based my faith on…
    … you Christians don’t buy into the Book of Mormon do you?… why not?…
    … so, till someone can reestablish my faith in the Bible, what value is there in attempting to downplay things like science & mathematics…
    … so, how about some good solid evidence that the Bible is “the Word of God”… stop playing games…

  29. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 2:47 pm

    One can only hope that Raving Antiabortionist’s recent metphysical ramblings will snap him back to sensible judgment !!!

    Reminds me of David Plotz’s “Blogging the Bible” at Slate

    http://www.slate.com/id/2141050/

    He clearly recognizes that much of what he has read is ridiculous.
    Yet I suspect that when his project is complete – he will still be a believer !?!

    Puzzling – simply puzzling!

  30. Thorngod
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 2:54 pm

    Bob, it’s the errors you speak of (or the lack therof) that tend to sway me one way or the other. When a theory is riddled with obvious errors, absurdities, and self-contradictions, I simply cannot bring myself to put any faith in it.

    And by the way, I think the zillion math books are in virtually total agreement.

    Andy, you must be having too much fun. You sure do seem to sin a lot. If fun is an activity such that fun > sin, but sin has mass 1 ± : sexual content, what are your odds of escaping •• ?

    It may well be that the woodpecker’s shock-absorbing skull evolved more or less concurrently with its wood-chiseling beak, but I’d bet on the beak having taken a head start. In either case, both developments were responses to demands, not to commands. Conjectures to the contrary remain totally unsupported and rather suspicious in their origins.

  31. Andy Holland
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 3:16 pm

    If you defy Gravity, and decide to jump from a cliff, your in for a fall according to the laws of Gravity. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Whether you violate the laws of man or the laws of God, there are consequences.

    I’ve read Dawkins “arguments” and the problem is that he defends an incomplete and undefined mechanism. If the mechanism is incomplete, it is insufficient, and if it is insufficient, it may not even be necessary. There is no randomness in it, but it must act in a chaotic system that is indeed random, and from it produce non-random output. Therefore there is no basis for him to speak of “origin” unless he is constructing a religion – he has no data to back the claim of origin (first cause). He only has a faith in naturalism, and there is nothing for him to pin that faith on.

    In Genesis, there is a mechanism of judgment (selection) that comes from a selfish desire for materialism – it is called the fruit (result) of knowing good and evil – judgment. God curses the ground (leaves it) for man’s sake (asking where Adam is, because where he is God cannot go as God is good, and disobedience is evil). So Adam who is dust and ashes constructs a fig leaf of excuses and accusations to cover his nakedness, his own judgment and his own pretending to be god (“the woman you gave me….”)

    Unfortunately, you read into science so much and there is nothing there but dust and ashes. And with all that sophistication you read the Bible as if it were written by and for idiots. You read poetry literally, and you read literal data poetically!

    All our materialism has yielded is wars, murder, lies, abortion, thefts, sexual immorality, environmental disasters and a host of spiritual diseases, even as every reasonable material desire imaginable is fulfilled. The Bible is indeed correct, if you read it correctly.

    But there is a tree of life, and life is the light of men – but when your light is darkness; that is when you see life in terms of judgment, of materialism, of selfishness – then great is that darkness. So that light becomes darkness, and the darkness light; good becomes evil, and evil becomes good.

    That is why Pilot says, “What is Truth” – he isn’t asking, he’s telling. You make your belly god, and “objectivity” or materialism “reality”, and then wonder why the world is a toilet of injustice.

    To have justice and mercy, you have to believe in justice and mercy – and justice and mercy are spiritual, they do not stem from the gut, nor do they satisfy it. But if you trust your judgment; your judgment is a fig leaf of dust and ashes because you live a very short life on a very small planet, in a small solar system in an immense universe now over 100 billion light years in diameter – but hey, you ‘know” enough to conclude there is no God. If your reasoning powers are so great, then indeed there must be a God.

    andy holland
    sinner

  32. bob barker
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 3:39 pm

    Bob, it’s the errors you speak of (or the lack therof) that tend to sway me one way or the other. When a theory is riddled with obvious errors, absurdities, and self-contradictions, I simply cannot bring myself to put any faith in it.

    If one math geek proves Fermat’s theorem and another disproves it, who do you believe? You say ‘obvious errors’, but I have to ask you: Obvious to who, you or the math geek that knows more than you?

    And by the way, I think the zillion math books are in virtually total agreement.

    They should be in total agreement, not a virtual total agreement. In both math and religion, it’s the disagreements that we’re interested in, right?

  33. Andy Holland
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

    I happen to believe evolution is relatively fast, and significant change occurs even within a generation to pass on to the next in accordance with environmental factors that actually enhance certain gene expression (observable nowadays). That might account for the design balance problem.

    There is more to it than a selection process of trial and error, which is far too slow (inherently random). The woodpecker example is but one real example – there are no “simple” changes in nature – all have real consequences for survival and for the ecosystem in total. So it is not selection that is deterministic, there seems to be a force of will in play within each generation as well as environmental factors that shape the next generation. But all happen with an extremely powerful underlying machinery that is clearly structured so that when a fin appears, it appears at 90 degrees rather than 47.5 and so on.

    When you design real electro-mechanical machinery using automated processes you quickly realize how much logic and criteria one can throw at a problem, and evaluate, to get a good functioning system – even for a minor “evolutionary” change or “improvement”.

    In real life, flight, balance, coordination, cooperation, communication, and good design functions are non-trivial. If biologists wish to pose a theory of origin for electro-mechanical machinery (biological systems), then to be complete they better understand each and every process before they claim “origin.”

    Also there is allot more to real economy than Malthus, and there is allot more on the economic side of thinking for the cooperative, communicative systems we see in the real world. For example, in the real economic world of business, the worst thing you can do is put your competitor out of business. It lowers the stock price of the industry, and lowers expectations for investment. The 19th century economic ideas that drove allot of evolutionary “theory” and “thought” are insufficient today – they are poor approximations of a complex reality. So the theories have to evolve.

    Insisting that the theory goes to origin actually reduces it to an indefensible religion – one that is clearly wrong and has disasterous consequences.

    There is a reason religion itself has evolved, and its highest form includes justice, mercy, forgiveness, self sacrifice, humility, goodness, patience and love that are very real and very important for real life.

    Darwin had a theory, and then murdered it by trying to make it go to “origin.” The silliness of naturalism is that it poses as science- but if you really want to find out the scientific truth, visit the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury on Orthodox Christmas, and the Church of the Holy Wisdom on Holy Saturday, read the Scriptures with an ounce of sophistication and intelligence, seeking honestly for the truth – and admitting your own shortcomings and earnestly seeking to overcome them with God’s help. Then you’ll know there is God, and realize you have little faith in the knowing.

    andy holland
    sinner

  34. Thorngod
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 4:38 pm

    Holy shit! My head is spinning!

  35. gordonliv
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 6:23 pm

    We’re in danger of mixing up the sugar with the salt here.

    Come up with arcane mathematical formulae and ask a bystander if they’re true or not, and you’ll get bewilderment.

    Ask a bystander about the existence or otherwise of a creator-god and you’ll get polarised opinion.

    You’re not comparing like with like. Everyone knows about God. Not everyone knows about arcane mathematical formulae. I agree that God is utter bollocks and that mathematical formulae are relevant scientific data, but you can’t defeat religious dogma with that fact. Maths won’t stop people flying planes into scyscrapers. Unfortunatley.

    It ought to, but it won’t.

  36. Professor Chaos
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 8:01 pm

    The mathematical formula that gives me the most trouble is this:

    Raving + Atheist = Theist

    How does that work?

  37. Axolotl
    October 3rd, 2006 @ 9:46 pm

    Andy, Andy, Andy –

    Please keep your pontifications to one subject per comment.

    You are causing our poor ol’ ignorant atheist brains to ache!!

    (Can you at least tell us what you’re smoking, so we can get some too????)

  38. AnActualAtheist
    October 4th, 2006 @ 8:37 am

    Andy Holland said, ‘I’ve read Dawkins “arguments” and the problem is that he defends an incomplete and undefined mechanism. If the mechanism is incomplete, it is insufficient, and if it is insufficient, it may not even be necessary.’

    This chain of reasoning is meaningless.

    Newton’s theory of gravity is an incomplete description, but it makes very accurate and useful predictions about the motions of the planets and stars. Verifiable predictions are necessary if you are to make sense of the world and, for example, navigate a ship around the world or through the Solar System. I would rather rely on an almanac than prayer to get me home and, I’ll bet, so would you.

    Einstein’s theory of gravity is a complete replacement for Newton’s but has a much wider domain of applicability – solving problems where Newton’s failed. Einstein’s theory is also incomplete and will in time be improved upon. The point is that incomplete explanations are still useful explanations. In fact, even Newton’s is still useful today because it is a good deal easier to work with and differs hardly at all from Einstein in the domains that matter to most people.

    On the other hand, the God Hypothesis is not necessary because all it does is transpose one difficult question (where did life come from?) into another (where did God come from?). It does not make useful predictions, and explains nothing.

  39. Andy Holland
    October 4th, 2006 @ 8:41 am

    Dear Axolotl,

    What I am smoking is prayer and reading the Bible as it is meant to be read – not a literal document written by fools for fools, but as a very sophisticated book that can help save souls (when read in a real Church).

    If God is not real, how do you account for the prophecies of II Esdras, or Psalm 22 (KJV numbering) or any other numerous prophecies that in fact came true – especially in Isaiah? Have you ever heard the libretto of Handel’s messiah – telling the story of Jesus with mostly Old Testament readings.

    It seems the pure atheist can only account for them by reading the Bible as if it were written by murdering lunatics, reading an Eastern document with western literalism, all the while dismissing something of profound substance, truth and intelligence.

    Then the atheist reads into math, science and mechanics something that is beyond the capacity of science to understand; origin, why, who and those things that people in positions of responsibility in the world (army officers, business leaders, politicians, even football coaches) know are most vitally important, even in a material worldly sense.

    Its a shame allot of good people are being led down the wide path of destruction.

    andy holland
    sinner

  40. Andy Holland
    October 4th, 2006 @ 9:01 am

    Dear AnActualAtheist

    Newton did not pose a theory of ORIGIN – he did not write the Origin of Physics, he wrote the Principles of Physics and it was clear that there was a definite limit. Einstein’s theory is not complete, there are probably allot more than 4 dimensions to reality. Origin has a meaning beyond the limits of science to apprehend – and any good scientist should know it.

    My objection is purely to the extension of what could of been a very good theory (evolution) to a gross over-extension/arrogation to Origin and ultimately to a psuedo religion that actually limits science. For instance, you don’t look at intragenerational evolution or more complex explanations of organization and cooperation between species, nor are they often studied in environmental context. Rather, the standard approach seems to be to mostly rip things appart – reductionism.

    To ask where God came from is irrelevant. God in the Eastern sense is very close to the God you apprehend and search for in physics and science; that is simple yet compound – but unknowable in essence and eternal. Even in physics, we have hit the unknowable in essence wall with much of particle physics.

    Physics cannot be random, because all randomness yields randomness, otherwise it is not random.

    You cannot find God through materialism and science because God encompasses person; for as the universe gave rise to human person, person is real and eternal just as the God is simple, compound, eternal, and uncreated – the Origin; beginning and ending.

    There is no before the beginning and there is no after the ending – therefore God is eternal.

    God is not a hypothetical either, He has proven Himself in such a way that those who wish to find Him can easily do so, while those who do not wish to do so can just as easily forget about Him.

    That is the mystery, beauty and profound truth of the gift of “free will”; God does not compell us to know Him, He asks us to seek Him. He puts up a veil of parables, allegory and only occasionally does something “super” natural, and even when He does do the super natural, He hides it in such a way that one must either diligently seek, or can just as easily dismiss.

    That is one reason (beyond hard mathematical observational limits) why you’ll never find God strictly through science, but at some point you’ll have to humble yourself to ask a shepherd to point the way.

    andy holland
    sinner

  41. nkb
    October 4th, 2006 @ 9:23 am

    [i]Not believing in the existence of a math theorem has consequences like failing grades, losing your job or perhaps death.[/i]
    That’s pretty weak, Bob.
    I am an Electrical Engineer, and, trust me when I tell you that whether or not I accept Fermat’s theorem has had absolutely no impact on anything in my life. I have neither received a failing grade, nor lost my job, nor died because of a non-belief in an obscure example of theoretical math.

    Yes, like I said, apples and oranges.

  42. meep
    October 4th, 2006 @ 9:32 am

    Jeez, and atheists wonder why they’re not popular at parties. Why not go take your comments over to Scott Adams’ Dilbert blog, where at least he isn’t vicious in his jibes at theists. You might also have some fun at my friends livejournal post (http://purplebob.livejournal.com/18404.html) who is also an atheist, but not a pain in the ass about it.

    Just for a moment, might I mention that RA may be trying to show you guys that theists aren’t necessarily unreasonable and/or irrational people, as opposed to staking a tent in the theist camp? I used to defend various evangelical preachers to my friends, trying to explain that no, they didn’t actually hate the people they were preaching to, and that they were trying to convert people to their way of thinking because they actually believed these people were on the road to Hell. No, I didn’t agree with these preachers, but how nice are the people who think you’re on the way to Hell and don’t try to do anything about it?

    The point is that there are limits to rationality. Just because one group of people has decided to go on the side of the existence of a God, or a very particular God, doesn’t mean they’re idiots, crazy, or whatnot. Just as those who lump for the nonexistence of God aren’t being necessarily closer to the truth, for all their vaunted rationality.

    RA is talking about a very concrete example, but one can also call up Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which shows that there are limits to pure logic. One cannot achieve all true statements, period, through “pure logic”. You have to jump outside the system from time to time. Luckily for humans, we’re not bound by propositional logic and can recognize certain statements as true even though we cannot formally prove them, and this we call belief. Most people have recognized that there is no logically conclusive proof for the existance of a God or a particular God. This does not make the possibility untrue.

    I can understand why some people would be atheists, and that does not make them evil, stupid, irrational, or otherwise (not even necessarily people who go out of their way to insult the beliefs of others), though I know there are some religious people who would say so. Some of us theists would like the atheists to give us the same courtesy.

  43. nkb
    October 4th, 2006 @ 9:34 am

    Andy,
    I agree with you, we don’t know the origin, we can only postulate and theorize, based on observations.
    But, at the end of the day, even if every scientific approach has been completely debunked (for the sake of argument), that in no way lends any kind of credibility to the fairy tale of a god. How is that logically consistent?

    If there are any inconsistencies in the theory of evolution, it is painfully obvious that my tabby cat did it (who is really the feline incarnation of God, she told me so herself).
    Prove me wrong!

  44. nkb
    October 4th, 2006 @ 9:42 am

    meep, are you serious? Do you realize that you are on an atheist site, and you’re telling atheists to go post somewhere else?

    And, wow, what a misrepresentation of Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem. I think you need to read up on this mathematical theorem a little more before you go abusing it in the name of theism.

  45. bob barker
    October 4th, 2006 @ 10:20 am

    whether or not I accept Fermat’s theorem has had absolutely no impact on anything in my life. I have neither received a failing grade, nor lost my job, nor died because of a non-belief in an obscure example of theoretical math.

    In the right situations these things will happen to you. Just as in the right situations if you fail to believe in gravity you may break a leg or even die. That’s all I’m saying.

  46. nkb
    October 4th, 2006 @ 10:30 am

    Bob,
    I don’t have to believe in gravity, it is a phenomenon that I know exists, and can be readily demonstrated.

    Please elaborate on how this in any way relates to not believing in a complex theoretical math concept that has absolutely no bearing on everyday life.

  47. Godthorn
    October 4th, 2006 @ 11:46 am

    Andy H, what is this recurrent jab at “Origin”? The phrase you are apparently mocking is “Origin of Species”; it is not “Origin of Life” or “Origin of Everything.” There is not (nor was) an origin.

    Also, I don’t think God is playing “hide and seek” with us. His games (assuming “God” to be a reality) are far more serious. And he sure seems to have inflicted a serious wound on you.

    Finally, we humans know nothing about “God,” and, in any case, he is (presumably) Almighty, and needs no help from us. Your and my business is with this mortal world, and we’d do well to tend to our own damned business.

  48. bob barker
    October 4th, 2006 @ 11:57 am

    nbk:
    I was just commenting on your statement:

    “Whether I believe a mathematical theorem to be correct or not does not influence my life.”

    It does influence your life. Choosing to disbelieve in something that is true can yield unfortunate consequences under the right circumstances.

  49. Godthorn
    October 4th, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

    Meep, your sentiments are generous and reasonable, but the reason why so many atheists are bitter and vindictive is largely because of the deceptions and tribulations foisted on them by (admittedly well-meaning) servants of Yahweh. One never fully heals from the wounds of the Great Lie.

    You may well be right about RA’s motive, and if that’s the case, I have no quarrel with it. We could sure as hell use more tolerance on both sides. But the problem is finally insoluble, because religious faith cannot submit to reason and reason cannot embrace the irrational.

  50. Andrew
    October 4th, 2006 @ 3:03 pm

    “Is it reasonable for an Objectivist to believe in Fermat’s Last Theorem — that X^n + Y^n = Z^n has no non-zero integer solutions for x, y and z when n > 2? Well, some mathematician allegedly proved it in 1995, and there’s supposedly almost no doubt about it, although there’s always some room for doubt with proofs of this complexity. Here, you just pretty much have to take the guy’s word for it. I think it would be unreasonable to believe the theorem is false, and possibly more reasonable to believe it’s true, even though I’ll never understand why either way.”

    The Raving Atheist, 9/21/02
    http://ravingatheist.com/archives/2002/09/god_and_the_objectivists.php

  51. Choobus
    October 4th, 2006 @ 11:40 pm

    A shitstain called meep wrote

    “Jeez, and atheists wonder why they’re not popular at parties.”

    What the fuck are you talking about dickwad? Maybe atheists are not popular at theist parties, but that’s like saying snoop dogg is not popular at a clan meeting. We have our own parties where retarded clowns such as yourself are not even invited.
    Being unpopular at a party simply for being a theist means a priori that that party is a sticky clump of dog jism. Go fuck yourself cretin.

  52. Choobus
    October 4th, 2006 @ 11:41 pm

    oops, obviously it should be atheist not a theist!

  53. AnActualAtheist
    October 5th, 2006 @ 9:51 am

    Dear Andy

    >> Newton did not pose a theory of ORIGIN

    What Newton did was provide a scientific explanation for some phenomena observed in nature. What Darwin did was provide a scientific explanation for some observed phenomena in nature. There is no difference. You only have a problem because Darwin conflicts with the Bible, but Newton does not.
    Has it ever occurred to you that the Bible might be in error? Even if God exists, the Bible was written by Man – poor old fallible, gullible Man.

    >> My objection is purely to the extension of what could of been a very good theory (evolution)

    So you accept that evolution is a good theory. If that is the case, do you accept that lions and tigers are both evolved from a now-extinct commmon ancestor? It is not a large jump to conclude that all species are ultimately evolved from a single common ancestor, and this conclusion is supported by a great deal of evidence, right down at the molecular level.

    The question of where that original ancestor came from is much harder to answer, but that does not mean it is forever unknowable. It just means we don’t know today. Just because we don’t know something, that does not imply that God did it. Such an answer is no answer at all.

    >> To ask where God came from is irrelevant.

    Really? How convenient for you not to have to answer the question. I would say it was rather pertinent.

    >> Physics cannot be random, because all randomness yields randomness, otherwise it is not random.

    Right… and your point is what?

    >> God is not a hypothetical either, He has proven Himself in such a way that those who wish to find
    >> Him can easily do so

    Please explain what experiment I can perform. I would love to meet God. I have a few bones to pick with him. For someone who wants to be found – and was a doddle to find in Biblical times – he has gone to extraordinary lengths to hide his existence.

  54. nkb
    October 5th, 2006 @ 10:17 am

    Bob,
    I understood your point the first time, but I’m saying that your argument is a horrible analogy.

    Not believing that Fermat’s Theorem is true is like not believing that blue has a wavelength of 475 nm. It has NO impact on my life.
    I may be wrong, but my well-being is in no way affected, unless I am a theoretical mathematician (which I am not).

    If you insist on continuing your pathetic argument, please outline the “right circumstances” under which my life would be influenced (keep in mind that I am not a mathematician).

  55. Some Guy
    October 5th, 2006 @ 11:20 pm

    Maybe not math. But can’t you make a valid (not necessarily true) argument that God exists using logic?

  56. Godthorn
    October 8th, 2006 @ 4:46 am

    I have never encountered one.

    There have been countless attempts.

    Are you composing another?

  57. Tom
    October 8th, 2006 @ 9:44 pm

    “If you are an atheist, would you say that your disbelief in God involves more faith or less faith than your believe in the truth of Fermat’s Theorem?”

    Is there no room for an individual who is both an atheist and an a-Fermat’s Theoremist?

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