Thursday, August 30, 2007

Book Review

"The Probability of God" (Stephen Unwin) - This book is largely a gentle introduction to Bayesian probability math. It is also surprisingly funny (there is a good comparison between the anthropic principle and the "You are here" sign in a mall). I have never been a fan of Bayesian probability (I'm a Lotfian fuzzy logic fan). This book did more damage to my faith in Bayesian math than it boosted my faith in God :).

He does make an interesting proposition:
Belief(P) = Computed_Probability(P) + Faith(P)

Belief(P) < 100% (because if Belief == 100%, then Faith(P) = 1 - Probability(P), therefore Faith = Logical_amount_of_doubt, so Faith is unreasonable).

Unwin should stick to math. He goes on to argue that there is no basis for religious disagreement. That is because some statements must be taken on faith. His example:

P1 = Jesus is the Son of God

If someone does not have faith in this statement, it does not mean that they have faith that Jesus is not the Son of God at 100%.

True, at that level. But I would argue that you do not need to take each statement from the Bible on faith. All you need is:
1. Genesis 1:1 (therefore God exists)
2. Psalm 33:4 (God's Word is right and He works in truth)

There are other fortifying statements, but these make a good foundation. The rest of the Bible then logically follows.

Similarly, I would assume that a Muslim would only need take a few core statements from the Koran, and the rest should follow. So the Koran says (Sura 19.88-89):
"And they say: The Beneficent God has taken (to Himself) a son. Certainly you have made an abominable assertion"

Hmm. That seems kind of contrary. I mean, only one of us can be right, right? Either God has a Son or He doesn't.

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