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Re: [ontolog-forum] Dennett on the Darwinism of Memes

To: <tara_athan@xxxxxxxxxx>, "[ontolog-forum] " <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Kathryn Blackmond Laskey <klaskey@xxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 2 May 2013 07:35:39 -0400
Message-id: <D8721D5D-EA5B-4F41-9E21-5F451456C2BF@xxxxxxx>
On May 1, 2013, at 9:04 AM, Tara Athan wrote:

On 5/1/13 8:43 AM, Kathryn Blackmond Laskey wrote:
Occam does not constitute scientific disproof
Proofs (and "disproofs") are possible in mathematics, but not in
science. At best, there is more or less evidence to support a hypothesis
relative to its alternatives.


Certain Bayesian methods incorporate Occam's razor
mathematically by, in effect, applying a penalty to models with a
greater number of parameters. (I provide a Wikipedia reference as a link
to further resources, not as a reference

Also agreed.

Pat hypothesizes a "supreme being who created the universe" which he finds unparsimonious as compared with, I suppose (although he doesn't say explicitly), a Big Bang that just happened without assistance from a supreme being.  Pat's "supreme being who created the universe" is an "incredibly large and powerful creature." (It seems funny to me to call the supposed creator of all a "creature."  Who created this "creature"?) Pat's extravagantly anti-Occam "creature" cares specifically about our tiny rock, having a "keen eye" to even find us here, and has "plenty of time on His hands" to wait around till we appear.

I agree that the hypothesis Pat sketches is (1) not terribly unlike the view of God put forward by some vocal Christians; (2) extravagantly unparsimonious; and (3) contrived to a degree far surpassing any epicycle hypothesis.  Pat's hypothesis (if laid out fully) would be extraordinarily improbable a priori under a Bayesian model with, say, some kind of minimum-description-length prior. I agree that it stretches credulity as a serious scientific hypothesis.  

With minor variations, these ideas are apparently sincerely believed by a clear majority of adult Americans and a large fraction of the population of Europe.

Apparently you think nearly all people who identify as believers conceive of God as a  large and powerful creature who cares specifically about our tiny rock and has plenty of time on his hands to attend to us.  I'll grant you that something akin to this view is sincerely believed by a vocal minority of believers.  As to whether a majority of believers subscribe to that view, I'm skeptical.  Religion is very diverse. 

The rabbi I quoted in my earlier email would consider this hypothesis just as improbable as Pat does. Pat's hypothesis is not what the rabbi means by God.  He discourages seekers to think along these lines, making it clear that the majority view among Jewish theologians does not regard Pat's hypothesis as credible.  In fact, the majority view among Jewish rabbis is to discourage seekers from boxing God into definitions that are scientifically testable.  That's not the role God plays in Jewish thought.  Nor is it the role God plays for large numbers of people who call themselves believers.


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