— A priest in a little country church in Normandy, France
— From The Master Algorithm – How the Quest for the ultimate learning machine will remake our world by Pedro Domingos P. 63
In his Pensées, published in 1669, Pascal said we should believe in the Christian God because if he exists that gains us eternal life, and if he doesn’t we lose very little. This was a remarkably sophisticated argument for the time, but as Diderot pointed out, an imam could make the same argument for believing in Allah. And if you pick the wrong god, the price you pay is eternal hell. On balance, considering the wide variety of possible gods, you’re no better off picking a particular one to believe in than you are picking any other. For every god that says ‘do this,’ there’s another that says ‘no, do that.’
the practical consequence of the ‘no free lunch’ theorem is that there’s no such thing as learning without knowledge. Data alone is not enough. Starting from scratch will only get you to scratch. Machine learning is a kind of knowledge pump: we can use it to extract a lot of knowledge from data, but first we have to prime the pump.”
From Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
One sunny afternoon, when he wasn’t feeling well, Jobs sat in the garden behind his house and reflected on death. He talked about his experiences in India almost four decades earlier, his study of Buddhism, and his views on reincarnation and spiritual transcendence.
“I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God,” he said. “For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.”
He admitted that, as he faced death, he might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in an afterlife.
“I like to think that something survives after you die,” he said. “It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.”
He fell silent for a very long time.
“But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch,” he said. “Click! And you’re gone.”
Then he paused again and smiled slightly.
“Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.”
— Steve Jobs
— Will Durant From “Fallen Leaves: Last words on Life, Love, War, and God” P. 53
Religions are not made by the intellect, else they would never touch the soul or reach the masses, or achieve longevity. A successful religion without incredible elements would be incredible; the imagination must be stirred, some vision or poem must be superimposed by a creative faith upon an existence so dulled with drudgery and prose, so weighted with suffering and defeat. We cannot expect religion to be a body of scientific propositions.
We may, however, ask that a religion shall soften the heart of man, that it shall inspire courage, conscience, and charity, that it shall make the strong a little more generous to the weak, that it shall mitigate the rigor of competition and brutality of war. Since the only real progress is moral development, a religion faithful to these aims would (other things being equal) be the best faith and antidote for this factious and warring world.”
From “10 Things Your Pastor Wants to Tell You.” P. 7
Religion deals with what theologian Paul Tillich called ‘ultimate concerns’ — abstract philosophical questions such as what the nature of life is and why we are here. Religion seeks meaning, purpose, and moral truth, not physical knowledge.
Science, on the other hand, seeks to understand the natural, observable world around us. Unlike religion or philosophy, the claims of science are falsifiable. That is to say, they are capable of being proven or disproven. Scientific progress is only made as its hypothesis are rigorously tested, analyzed, and refined.
While science asks us to accept nothing on faith, religion asks little else. No one can prove whether there is one God or many gods or whether God’s spirit is alive in a particular human being, but we can most certainly prove whether the earth is six thousand years old or six billion years old. In short, science is an essential tool to understanding the world in which we live. Science cannot, however, tell us how to live or answer our ultimate questions.
As dominant as science has become in our world, we might be tempted simply to discount anything that is impervious to its probing finger, including religion, but that would be a mistake. The truth is that the things we care about most deeply — starting with love — lie beyond the reach of science.
Consider again the question of origins. If, for example, scientists are able to take us back to a big bang, nagging questions remain. Why did it all happen in the first place? For what purpose? What does it all mean? How should we then live? Only the philosophers and theologians can help us here.
Occasionally scientists venture outside their discipline and into the realm of theology. Carl Sagan was guilty of this when he opined that the cosmos ‘is all there was, is, or ever will be.’
Says who? Or, better yet, prove it!
When scientists give in to the temptation to address ultimate concerns, the result is ‘scientism’ — philosophy masquerading as science. Sagan’s statement is no more scientific than that of the fundamentalist preacher who claims that God created the universe in six twenty-four hour days.
Similarly, religion can masquerade as science. Consider the Christians who ask public schools to give ‘balanced treatment’ to creationism and evolution. Creationism is not an alternative scientific theory. It is a nonfalsifiable claim that a divine being intervened in the natural order to create life. Calling a cow a billy goat doesn’t make it one, and calling creationism ‘intelligent design’ doesn’t make it any less religious. It’s still a nonfalsifiable claim that a supernatural force (which by definition is one coming from outside the natural order) accounts for life on earth. Intelligent design is just creationism in a suit.
When science and religion stick to their respective realms, all of society benefits. Science helps us understand the world around us, and religion helps us make sense of it all.
In this case, good fences really do make good neighbors.”