A place to rant.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Biblical Ruminations

I just finished reading Ender's Shadow (Orson Scott Card). This great book ends with a Biblical quote from the parable of the prodigal son: "Drink and be merry. for my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." It made me realize that this book, primarily the story of a somewhat cold-hearted but super-intelligent child, is littered with these Biblical references. How funny it is, I thought, that such a non-religious text should contain so many religious quotes.

But then it occurred to me: regardless of one's beliefs about the existence or nature of God, or of his historical or modern-day followers, there's a great deal of wisdom in that holy book. Indeed, it embodies the collective wisdom of an entire society (one which, today, has been quite successful by most standards).

But a lot of that wisdom is overlooked today. Many people, especially young people, have not read any significant part of it. Many are turned off by those who preach its lessons. I think a primary reason for this is that those who preach the Word of God believe their interpretations to be complete, correct, and infallible, but I think that's an immature belief. Their attitude often comes off as arrogant and foolish, and causes many intelligent people to brush them aside.

I believe one must interpret Biblical stories as parables — rules of thumbs for life. But they're not hard, fast rules. They're not without exception; if they were, life would be too simple. Making the right decision would be easy and deterministic. But if that were the case, what kind of life would our God expect us to have? Why would he endow us with gifts like intelligence and free will, if there were really only one correct way to live?

I don't claim to understand the Meaning of Life. But I think a large part of it is the experience itself, and the learning process we undergo. If the Bible dictated right decisions, then the ideal human life could be modeled with automata; it could be emulated with computers. And as much credit as I give computers, I don't think they're comparable to people, either in intelligence or any other metric of complexity.

The gray area is the spice of life! The controversy, the discussion, and the thought that goes into human decision making is the essence of life. There isn't a single set of rules which governs good decisions. That's why while the Bible provides vicarious experience through which we can learn to make better decisions, it cannot serve as an infallible, undebatable key to life.

But once one realizes this, man, there are a lot of good ideas in there.


  • At 8/03/2005 2:39 AM, Anonymous scott said…

    haha, some interesting thoughts - and they appear to contradict your support for AI, hmm. anyways time=late => scott in bed


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