Faith-based mathematics

4 05 2008

Robert Ingersoll on the Trinity:

Christ, according to the faith, is the second person in the Trinity, the Father being the first and the Holy Ghost third. Each of these persons is God. Christ is his own father and his own son. The Holy Ghost is neither father nor son, but both. The son was begotten by the father, but existed before he was begotten–just the same before as after. Christ is just as old as his father, and the father is just as young as his son. The Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father and Son, but was equal to the Father and Son before he proceeded, that is to say, before he existed, but he is of the same age as the other two. So it is declared that the Father is God, and the Son and the Holy Ghost God, and these three Gods make one God. According to the celestial multiplication table, once one is three, and three time one is one, and according to heavenly subtraction if we take two from three, three are left. The addition is equally peculiar: if we add two to one we have but one. Each one equal to himself and to the other two. Nothing ever was, nothing ever can be more perfectly idiotic and absurd than the dogma of the Trinity.

Via Squirrel Island and Freethought Radio.

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23 responses

4 05 2008
ninglun

Good heavens, AV: my father used to read Dr Ingersoll, his generation’s Richard Dawkins! 😉

4 05 2008
The Lazy Aussie

It’s easier if you think of God as The Moe, Jesus as the Larry and HlyG as the Curly, nyuk nyuk

5 05 2008
umlot

This take on the topic of the Trinity doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m sorry. Whether or not you admit the truth of the Trinity, you are describing the church’s belief and then disowning it. I repeat, you are describing a spiritual fact and then applying human (the mortal, non-spiritual) logic to it.

There is a disturbing break from one point to the next then, if you can cross that gap without a bridge (logically and metaphorically speaking).

I won’t argue or give fact upon fact, but it is impossible to disown the Truth with or without logic–nobody will ever truly prove Him wrong and that’s the way the world is. If disproving the Trinity still seems possible because truth is relative and will be found, I encourage a look at the reality and objective truth of bodily, physical death. Again, a gap without a bridge to adequately cross it in intellect or thought.

5 05 2008
Gerry Rzeppa

The past is time. The present is time. The future is time. All three are one. All three are different. All three are the same. Time. All past moments were once present and future; all present moments were future and will be past; all future moments will be present and past. All are the same, all are different. And we find analogous cases in our normal conceptions of space (length, width, and depth) and matter (solid, liquid, and gas). Fundamental, unavoidable, undeniable Tri-unities everywhere.

What kind of God would create such a place?

5 05 2008
Gerry Rzeppa

Another thing Mr. Ingersoll fails to take into account is that arithmetic works differently — and rather unintuitively — when infinite things are involved. Any mathemetician will tell you, for example, that the set of odd integers, and the set of odd and even integers together, have the same cardinality.

And so we see from both common experience (my previous pose) and advanced mathematical theories that trinities and unusual arithmetical concepts are not necessarily as “perfectly idiotic and absurd” as Mr. Ingersoll may think.

5 05 2008
jesusblogger

I have not read anything else on your blog. I do not know if you are Christian or Atheist. However, I do share your beliefs that the Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity does not make sense. I believe in One God. I believe God is the Father. I believe that the Father was dwelling in the Son, to redeem mankind. I believe God operates in the world by His Spirit (Holy Spirit). The notion of God as 3 eternal, co-equal persons runs contrary to the God described in the Bible.

6 05 2008
AV

umlot:

Whether or not you admit the truth of the Trinity, you are describing the church’s belief and then disowning it. I repeat, you are describing a spiritual fact and then applying human (the mortal, non-spiritual) logic to it.

In other words, the doctrine of the Trinity is illogical (i.e. you can’t apply to it “human logic”–is there another kind?). Which is precisely Ingersoll’s point.

Gerry Rzeppa:

The past is time. The present is time. The future is time. All three are one. All three are different. All three are the same.

How can these concepts be different and the same and still be useful to us? “Past,” “present” and “future” are only points of reference: e.g. “Relative to the present, the Battle of Hastings occurred in the past,” or “relative to now, the Beijing Olympics will happen at x time in the future.” To claim that “the past,” “the present” and “the future” are somehow both different and the same would be to claim that the Battle of Hastings and the Beijing Olympics are both discrete and simultaneous events. That simply doesn’t make sense.

And we find analogous cases in our normal conceptions of space (length, width, and depth)

Tautology, since “our normal conception of space” is that it is three-dimensional. So you’re basically telling me that three-dimensional space has three dimensions. No argument there. 🙂 I’m neither a mathematician nor a physicist, but modern physics sees three-dimensional space as embedded in 4-dimensional space-time (Minkowski space), and in geometry it is possible to work with even higher dimensions of space.

and matter (solid, liquid, and gas).

Again, in modern physics there are more states of matter than these (namely plasma and Bose-Einstein condensate).

What kind of God would create such a place?

Obviously a God who wasn’t interested in helping out those who would seek to prove his “trinitarian” nature by looking for patterns of threes in the descriptive models we apply to the natural universe.

Fundamental, unavoidable, undeniable Tri-unities everywhere.

This is where you go askew. There is nothing “fundamental” or absolute about scientific knowledge regarding the universe. It is what it is, given the information we have, and it is subject to alteration when new information/evidence comes in. If you seek to prove your theological concept by looking for analogies in science, you’re bound to go astray, since: (a) scientific knowledge is constantly subject to revision, or (b) on closer inspection, on a given topic, science says something different than what we (as laypersons) expected it to say (e.g. it is common among so-called psychics to appeal to the notion that “we only use ten percent of our brains”–even though this is in fact a myth with no basis in science).

6 05 2008
Sean the Blogonaut

Man did you just wave your woo stick or what AV? 🙂

6 05 2008
AV

I believe it’s called a “divining rod,” not a stick, Sean. 🙂

6 05 2008
Gerry Rzeppa

AV says, To claim that “the past,” “the present” and “the future” are somehow both different and the same… simply doesn’t make sense.

I reply, But they ARE both different and the same. Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. The Battle of Hastings is past to me, but it was future to the participants the day before it happened.

God, like time, is beyond our understanding. But God, like time, can be partially understood. And like time, is best understood as a trinity.

AV also says, “If you seek to prove your theological concept by looking for analogies in science, you’re bound to go astray…”

I reply, I wasn’t trying to prove anything in that way. I was suggesting that if God wanted to reveal certain things to men, He would probably employ aspects of reality that are common and obvious to everyone. Whatever mathematical model of time and space the current crop of scientists are enamored with, we all THINK of time and space, and DEAL with them, in the usual ways. Words like left and right, forward and back, up and down — as well as before, now, and after — are understood by small children and Einsteins in exactly the same way. It is to THESE fundamentals that I appeal.

6 05 2008
AV

The Battle of Hastings is past to me, but it was future to the participants the day before it happened.

Of course, but you’re shifting the goalposts by talking about two different points of reference: A, before the Battle of Hastings, and B, after the Battle of Hastings. The Battle of Hastings is indeed in the future relative to point A, and in the past relative to point B, but it is not both in the future and in the past relative to point A, nor both in the future and in the past relative to point B.

I was suggesting that if God wanted to reveal certain things to men, He would probably employ aspects of reality that are common and obvious to everyone.

Except what is “common” and “obvious to everyone” does not always align with the facts, and is itself subject to change as new scientific knowledge is assimilated by the culture. The eclipse of geocentrism, both in science and in the cultural “consciousness” (so to speak), is a case in point. Also the notion that we can grasp intuitively that there are different states of matter is highly questionable. Do you really think, for instance, that a child, or someone without some training in science, would be able to grasp intuitively that gold has a boiling point of 2807 degrees celsius?

In any case, if God wanted to leave clues about his trinitarian nature for “men” to discover, surely this class of “men” includes scientists? What does it mean, then, that science has discovered that spacetime has four dimensions (not three), and that there are five (not three) states of matter? Does the doctrine of the Trinity mean that the scientists are wrong?

6 05 2008
arthurvandelay

(OT: To my regular visitors–yes, all three of you–if the name “Gerry Rzeppa” rings a bell, here’s why.)

7 05 2008
Gerry Rzeppa

AV says, “…but you’re shifting the goalposts by talking about two different points of reference…”

I reply, Right. And it’s valid to do so. I can’t really understand time unless I allow myself a look from different perspectives. And I can’t really understand God unless I allow myself the same kind of latitude. God is a unity in some senses, a threesome in others. Things as big as God and time can’t be reduced to a formula or a simple assertions.

AV asks, “If God wanted to leave clues about his trinitarian nature for “men” to discover, surely this class of “men” includes scientists?”

I reply, Yes it does include scientists — when scientists are thinking as men NORMALLY think. Consider:

Einstein, speaking as a scientist: “People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Einstein, speaking as a man: “You said that BEFORE, but I’m tired NOW. Can we talk about this LATER?”

Note that one can live his whole life as a man; but that no one can live, at all, as a mere scientist. The universe — and God — won’t allow it. Even the most brilliant and dedicated scientist must go up, down, left, right, forward and back; and always into the future, from the past, through the present. There’s no escape, whatever model he may dream up.

AV asks, “Does the doctrine of the Trinity mean that the scientists are wrong?”

I reply, Of course not. They’re just looking at things in UNUSUAL ways. Sometimes helpful, sometimes not. But they admit to the NORMAL view of things every waking minute of every day. They breath gasses, drink liquids, and sit on solids — even when they’re telling us such things are illusions!

7 05 2008
Bruce

There is a difference between changing mode of thought for different types of problems, based on genuine epistemological concerns, and changing mode of thought to arrive at predetermined conclusions. Gerry, you aren’t going to find many people here that mistake the latter for the former so I’d give up if I were you. Most of the regulars here are both intelligent and perhaps more importantly, honest.

7 05 2008
AV

I reply, Yes it does include scientists — when scientists are thinking as men NORMALLY think.

Cite the studies, the research that demonstrates how people “normally” think. It’s one thing to make assertions; its another to substantiate.

And I can’t really understand God unless I allow myself the same kind of latitude.

How do you know?

God is a unity in some senses, a threesome in others.

How do you know? (I mean, I realise this is a theological claim, but how do you know that it is true? Why should I or anyone else accept it as true?)

Einstein, speaking as a scientist: “People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Einstein, speaking as a man: “You said that BEFORE, but I’m tired NOW. Can we talk about this LATER?”

There is no contradiction between the claim that past, present and future are illusory, and the use of “past,” “present” and “future” as manners of speech.

You have not given us any good reasons to privilege the latter (the so-called “normal” view) over the former (the scientific view). All you have done is assert that we should.

They breath gasses, drink liquids, and sit on solids — even when they’re telling us such things are illusions!

Who said anything about gases, liquids and solids being illusions? You claimed that there were only three states of matter, and that this is in some sense a “clue” to God’s trinitarian nature. I refuted that claim by pointing out that there are in fact five states of matter. You then shifted the goalposts and asserted that, whatever the facts of the matter, people “normally” think there are three states of matter. Why this should make any difference is beyond me, but in any case, the notion that someone without any kind of science education can look at a piece of solid matter–say, a lump of gold–and expect it to be liquid or gaseous at certain temperatures, is highly questionable, and requires substantial justification.

7 05 2008
Gerry Rzeppa

AV says, “You have not given us any good reasons to privilege the latter (the so-called “normal” view) over the former (the scientific view). All you have done is assert that we should.”

I haven’t asserted that we SHOULD give the so-called “normal” view privilege. I’ve asserted that we DO. All of us. All the time.

AV says, “Cite the studies, the research that demonstrates how people “normally” think.”

I need to cite a study before you’ll agree that people perceive time as past, present, and future? That they’re inescapably confined to motion in three dimensions? Bye.

7 05 2008
AV

I need to cite a study before you’ll agree that people perceive time as past, present, and future?

I haven’t made any assertions about how people “normally” think. You have. I’m asking you to properly substantiate your claims.

7 05 2008
Bruce

He’s already straw manned you and run, AV. Similar to the offer money-for-challenge-based-on-loaded-question-and-run-when-called-on-it-stratagem. 😉

Actually, I’d like to see precedent set in court where one of these loaded question challenges obligates the one giving the bounty to pay up if people can demonstrate that the question is loaded. I.e. solving the illogic of the problem.

Creation science would go bankrupt!

8 05 2008
AV

That they’re inescapably confined to motion in three dimensions?

Are you claiming that people don’t move through time (the fourth dimension) as well? Motion through spacetime obviously implies motion through time, doesn’t it?

He’s already straw manned you and run, AV.

To be honest, the notion that people “ordinarily” or intuitively think about time in terms of past, present and future is probably uncontroversial. What would be controversial is the idea that past, present and future are grasped–intuitively or otherwise–as discrete ontological entities that are somehow simultaneously parts of the same entity. The notions of pastness, presentness and futureness derive from an intuition about time as being linear in nature. But these notions are not ontological entities–in the sense that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are taken to be entities–but merely ways of describing the relationships between discrete points along the “timeline” (so to speak). It might be argued that the analogy with the theological doctrine of the Trinity therefore fails, were it not for the fact that when it comes to matters of theology and apologetics the apologists pretty much get to make it up as they go along. Maybe God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit turn out to be ways of describing relationships between discrete points on some meta-entity, the existence of which (alas) will be posited but not substantiated. The power of Christ can move goalposts as well as mountains.

8 05 2008
Bruce

…were it not for the fact that when it comes to matters of theology and apologetics the apologists pretty much get to make it up as they go along.

Sounds like an easy job. If only we could all be so unproductive. 😉

8 05 2008
Gerry Rzeppa

Bruce says, “Similar to the offer-money-for-challenge-based-on-loaded-question-and-run-when-called-on-it-stratagem.”

I reply, as a clarification: My offer to Dr. Dawkins is essentially a speaking fee. ANY response he cares to give to my question at the public event — even “No comment” — will be acceptable and will result in his collecting the $64,000.

8 05 2008
Bruce

Ah… I was speaking more generally actually. Including a couple of pseudo skeptics that I had in mind who despite being IMO right in their conclusions, have been shifting the burden in debates with genuine skeptics. Some of James Randi’s crowd I’m referring to, after someone pointed out an error in one of his assumptions underlying one of his challenges (for cash).

9 05 2008
Spend Gerry Rzeppa’s Money « Five Public Opinions

[…] Rzeppa assures us that his gauntlet is being thrown down in good faith: My offer to Dr. Dawkins is essentially a […]

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