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mtraven comments on Excluding the Supernatural - Less Wrong

37 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 12 September 2008 12:12AM

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Comment author: mtraven 12 September 2008 07:40:03PM 0 points [-]

Mathematical entities are material? Do tell. What are they made of? How do you determine their position and mass? Why do you say that you find people who are certain they know what 'god' means amusing, then make it clear that you believe you know what 'god' means?

I thought I made it clear that I don't, but my apologies if I expressed myself in too subtle a fashion for you.

Let me try again. People deploy the term "god" in different ways and mean different things by it. I'm distinguishing two different broad classes of meaning. One set of meanings, employed by both religious fundamentalists and atheist fundamentalists, posits a god that acts in various ways that contradict the findings of science. This is not a meaning that I myself am interested in, for what I hope are obvious reasons. The other kind of meaning, employed by people who are sane, intelligent, and nevertheless religious, means something else that is hard to define, certainly hard to define in the context of a blog flamewar, but does not contradict the findings of science.

Despite the squishiness of this second set of meanings, it is an undeniably true fact that there are many practicing scientists who have religious beliefs of that sort, such as Francis Collins. So the social facts demonstrate that religion and science are not inherently incompatible, no matter how much they seem so to you.

I myself am not very religious at all, but I find it a lot more interesting to take religious statements (or discourse from other fields that I am not conversant with) and try to imagine what it is that they could be true of, rather than dismissing them as nonsense.

Do you find yourself amusing, then, and in error? Quite often, to both parts of your question.