Fairy tales for adults

Richard Lightman richard at nezumi.plus.com
Thu Feb 13 08:09:12 PST 2003

* Steve Bougerolle <steveb at creek-and-cowley.com> [2003-02-13 11:11]:
> On Thu, 2003-02-13 at 17:22, Richard Lightman wrote:
> > I have said in previous posts that mathematicians have a different
> > tests for truth than scientists, and that both tests lead to useful
> > results. I have said in previous posts that there are limits to what
> > you can find out with science.
> I'm not so sure they are really much different.  But then I come from a
> branch of science which is closely related to mathematics.
The test of truth in science is an experiment.
The test of truth in mathematics is consistancy with with a chosen set
of axioms.

Very different tests, but despite this, mathematics is a vital tool
for science.

> > I have said in previous posts that different religions often agree on
> > certain things, so I suspect there is something in there to learn.
> > I have asked, and as yet not received clear answer:
> > 
> > What is the test of truth used in religion?
> I don't know.  In fact I've never really thought much about it because I
> don't see my own religion as making statements that need to be proven
> true or false.  That would imply a degree of simplicity quite
> incompatible with a system of belief that addresses major intangible
> issues.  
A couple of nasty examples:
* Does the christian's god exist?
* Can I really commit murder, repent and go to heaven?

> But for what it's worth, I'll speculate.  If a religion depends on
> verifiable logical statements then it can be proven true or false by
> logical rules.  This sort of thinking, to my mind, invalidates dualistic
> arguments where people believe there is an all-powerful god and a
> separate evil force like a devil.  The two ideas are incompatible and
> can't both be logically true. On the other hand you couldn't invalidate
> something like Zen Buddhism this way by noting that koans are
> paradoxes.  They are obviously not intended to be believed directly as
> stated and the validity of that religious view doesn't depend on them
> being true or false.
Logic is a branch of mathematics, and does not apply well to people,
relationships, and codes of behaviour, which is what (I think) people
are looking for when studying a religion.

> If a religion depends on direct historical claims then its truth or
> falsehood is subject to the same standards historians use to decide
> about any other bit of history.  Obviously that doesn't get one very
> far, though, since all history is questionable to some degree or other. 
> Christianity is often stated to be a historical religion that falls
> apart without the truth of the resurrection.  I don't quite agree with
> that, actually, but anyway there is so little written about it outside
> Christian tradition that it's pretty well impossible to prove or
> disprove its claims that way.
Not sure what you are after here. Possible examples:
1) The emperor has the right to rule Rome because he is (dubiously)
   descended from Zeus and Electra (by way of Aeneas).
2) Armies must be kept busy abroad or their commanders will attempt a

(1) is an example of a religion claiming a basis in history, but
Augustus ruled more because you could die horribly if you disagreed
publicly than because of the poem commissioned to legitimise his

(2) is something historians could find evidence for and against, and
perhaps reach a usefule conclusion, but it does not sound like religion
to me.

> If a religion makes definite predictions about what will happen in
> future, then you can judge its truth or falsehood by the accuracy of
> those.  This disproves the weird UFO cults that commit suicide the day
> before they expect the world to end.  On the other hand, one cannot use
> this rule to prove or disprove Christianity because of the visions in
> the Revelation, because it is extremely debatable how those should be
> interpreted and the essential of Christianity doesn't really depend on
> them anyway.
I have heard 'predictions' in the bible are proof the the religion is
more valid than say Islam. This is not something I find convincing.

Another popular reason for christianity (told to me by a born-again)
"I know in my heart that it is true". Good for her, but I don't know
any such thing.

Please take your time, and decide how you know what is true:
Peter 3:15
"be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a
reason of the hope that is in you"

Demons are a Ghouls best Friend.
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