Fortune favors...

Fate protects fools, little children, and ships named Enterprise.1

We had planned to leave Friday morning to drive to Texas to see the grandkids. On Thursday night our daugther-in-law informs us that she has tested positive for COVID. We quickly shift gears to spend a few days at Myrtle Beach. I then realize that I hadn't yet refilled my prescription medicine. Had we left Friday as planned I would have been without my blood pressure medicine.

Walking on the beach this morning, having turned around at the half-way point of 4,600 steps, I noticed a piece of trash on the shore. As I bent down to pick it up, I noticed that it looked like a room keycard. It was a room keycard. Mine. It must have fallen out of my pocket one of the times when I checked my phone.

Last night we ate at
Pizza Chef Gourmet Pizza which is near the Seawatch Resort where we are staying. It's a little hole-in-the-wall place that we ate at the last time we were here (pre-COVID). The pizza crust is one of the best I've ever had.

[1] William T. Riker, "Contagion", ST:TNG S02E11

Evidence for Christianity

Apologists for Christianity and anti-apologists for atheism both assume that there is an objective proof for/against the existence of God. That is, given a set of premises that are universally recognized as true, then God's existence/non-existence can be conclusively shown. That this approach doesn't seem to work is advanced by Oppy [tbd] and by me.

At some point, it pays to stop beating your head against a wall and see if a fresh approach doesn't yield a new way to look at the problem.

The theory of computation shows that computation is certain behaviors on meaningless symbols (cf. the Lambda Calculus). We know, from the Lambda Calculus, how to derive logic. Once we have logic, we can derive meaning. From there, we can derive math, morality, and everything else for a human level intelligence. One can replace the meaningless symbols with physical atoms and show how neurons implement computation. And we know from computability theory, that how the device is implemented isn't what's important - it's the behavior.

We know that human level sentient creatures have a sense of self. It is something we are directly aware of, but outside observers cannot measure it objectively. Our thoughts, our ego, are "inside" the swirling atoms in our brains. An outside observer can only see the behavior caused by the swirl of atoms. Certainly, we can hook electrodes up to brains and measure electrical activity. But we cannot know what that activity corresponds to internally, unless the test subject tells us. It is only because we share common brain structures that we can try to predict which activity has what meaning in others.

The swirl of atoms in our brains, the repeated combination and selection of meaningless symbols, is a microcosm of the swirling of atoms in the universe. If our brains are localized intelligence, the case can be made that swirl of atoms in the universe is a global intelligence. But this is a subjective argument. This is why the Turing Test is conducted where an observer cannot see the subject. Seeing the human form biases us to conclude human intelligence. But for a non-human form, an observer has to recognize sentience from behavior. Why might that not be the case?

First, because there is a lot of randomness in the behavior of the universe and it is a common idea that randomness is ateleological. It lacks meaning and purpose. Unfortunately, this philosophical stance is without merit, since randomness can be used to achieve determined ends. The fact of randomness simply isn't enough to move the needle between purpose/purposelessness and meaning/meaninglessness. One could argue that human intelligence contains a great deal of randomness. But an observer looking on the outside cannot objectively see which is the case.

Second, because the behavior of the universe doesn't always comport with our desires. Our standards of good and evil are not the universe's standards of good and evil. If one holds to an objective morality, one will miss the possible sentience of someone who behaves very differently from ourselves.

Third, we want to think that there is only one objectively right way to view the universe. But the universe doesn't make that easy. We have the built-in knowledge of infinity (an endless and therefore unmeasurable process). There is no consensus whether infinity is "real" or "actual" and, since we can't measure it, I don't think consensus will ever be achieved. There is also the question of whether matter produces and moves the mind or mind produces and moves matter. Neither side has achieved consensus.

Into this mix comes Christianity which states that there is an extra-human intelligence "inside" the existence and motion of the universe, who has a sense of right and wrong that is different from ours, where what has been made is a strong indication of that sentience, and who calls people to itself. Because sentience is a subjective measurement, it must be made on faith - which is one of the bedrock tenets of Christianity. This picture of local intelligences inside a bigger intelligence is consistent with "in Him we live and move and have our being." Yet in spite of this connectedness, we remain disconnected, not recognizing our state. Which is yet another teaching of Christianity.

Much more can, and must, be said. But the immateriality and incommensurability of infinity; the subjectivity of sentience and morality; and the ability to build thinking things out of dirt are all a part of both Christianity and natural theology.