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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fun with David Berlinski: The Devil sketches what we do not know

In The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, mathematician David Berlinski takes on the shape of what we do not know:
We know better than we did what we do not know and have not grasped. We do not know how the universe began. We do not know why it is there. Charles Darwin talked speculatively of life emerging from a "warm little pond." The pond is gone. We have little idea how life emerged, and cannot with assurance say that tit did. We cannot reconcile our understanding of the human mind with any trivial theory about the manner in which the brain functions. Beyond the trivial, we have no other theories. We can say nothing of interest about the human soul. We do not know what impels us to right conduct or where the form of the good is found.

On these and many other points as well, the great scientific theories have lapsed. The more sophisticated the theories, the more inadequate they are. This is a good reason to cherish them. They have enlarged and not diminished our sense of the sublime. (p. xiii-iv)

One pictures the devil sitting opposite, turning over his now-empty glass ...

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