Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Power of Experiment and the Limits of Logic

I am reading a book by James Gleick, called The Information" A History, a Theory, a Flood.  For a book about information, it spends  a lot of time on the limitations of information and reasoning. For example, we know that mathematical proofs cannot prove everything that is true to be true. Mathematician Kurt Goedel, showed that mathematically in 1931.  This is just like computer genius Turning showing that there were some problems a computer could not solve.  
This is surprising because science and its logical methods have worked so well in advancing technology for  the last 130 years. 

On the other hand, application of logic to religious problems seems to lead to mass murder like when Anders Behring Breivik killed 88 Norwegian kids because their parents did not agree with his notions of racial purity. Breivik had 1500 pages of seemingly logical arguments for so-called Christian terrorism and racial purity. 
The powerful thing about science is not the theory, but rather the experiments. It is hard to run experiments in religion or philosophy.  In science we can test whether our reasoning is true; in morality, or epistemology, or theology, experiments are hard to come by. 

Consider evolution, where science is validated by experiment, and creationist bible interpretations are not. Many believers also believe in evolution because of the evidence, but many do not because of Faith. I have nothing bad to say about Faith, because as mentioned above logic can only get us part way. 

On the other hand, building a castle of logic on top of a faith-oriented belief can get twisted around. I am reminded of "Let the children come to me ... for to such as these belong the kingdom of God." [Matt 19:14]  Implying that getting too complicated isn't the way to the kingdom of God.