[FoRK] The Anti-Memes spread...

Stephen D. Williams <sdw at lig.net> on Wed Oct 24 08:59:29 PDT 2007

Jeff Bone wrote:
> On Oct 23, 2007, at 11:23 PM, Stephen D. Williams wrote:
>> Via 3quarksdaily, here is Richard Skinner (”poet, writer, qualified 
>> therapist and performer”) elaborating on Why Christians should take 
>> Richard Dawkins seriously. [1] I would argue that they should take 
>> him seriously because much of what he says is true, but that’s not 
>> Skinner’s take.
> I had to take exception with something Dawkins floated recently.  On 
> Edge the question was recently asked "What is your formula?  Your 
> equation?  Your algorithm?"  The answers were collected as a series of 
> images of whiteboards, notes, slides, etc. from folks randing from 
> Dawkins to Lisa Randall to Craig Venter:
>     http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/serpentine07/serpentine07_index.html
> Dawkins' offering was a tribute to the explanatory power of evolution, 
> cf.
>     http://www.edge.org/images/Dawkins_large.jpg
> (Tangent:  he and I apparently have similar tastes in Keynote 
> templates... ;-)
> There's a small problem with this.  He's handed the opposition --- the 
> religious irrationalists --- a massive weapon with the first 
> equation.  He says:
>     Power of a theory = number of things it explains / number of 
> things it needs to assume
> Unfortunately god-theorists will (mathematically correctly) argue that 
> this means that god-theories belong to the class of most powerful 
> theories possible --- indeed, they are by Dawkin's formula infinitely 
> powerful, as they (will be claimed to) explain everything while 
> assuming only one thing.
You are right, that wasn't worded properly.  I think it is much more like:
Power of a theory = number of things it explains / (number * "size" of 
things it needs to assume )
Where size is exponentially proportional to how much "faith" vs. 
testable fact is involved.

In other words:
Power of a theory = number of things it explains / (number of things it 
needs to assume * how much of a leap of faith those are)
God is an infinite leap of faith.  You do the math.

> I've pointed this out to him...  we'll see how he responds.  I suspect 
> that the argument against this is that god-theories are not theories 
> at all, however, that relies on an understanding of science and what 
> is meant by "theory" that is unlikely to be shared with the religious 
> in any case.
> $0.02,
> jb
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Stephen D. Williams 703-371-9362C 703-995-0407Fax 20147 AIM: sdw

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