This post is part of a series of responses to the comments on my ongoing series on math and morality.  You can check out previous posts in this series here. So having spent one post answering questions using my sight metaphor, I’m going to move away from it in this round of answers. (Remember, as George Box said, “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.”). Eitan said: [M]orality is clearly quite different than EVERYTHING else we know. If… Read more

Thanks so much for all the comments and challenges to yesterday’s post in the Math and Morality series. Rather than reply in the comment thread, I’ll be putting up response posts throughout the day. Please comment to clarify or bring up something I neglected!   I’m glad Anonymous linked to Steven Pinker’s NYT article on ”The Moral Instinct” and that J.C. linked to the article on how descriptions of color vary across cultures. Hopefully pairing these two can help me… Read more

This is the third post in a series about math and morality. Read about the uses and abuses of abstraction and metaphysics in the first two posts Long before I tried to find a way to justify that my belief in morality in some way corresponded with absolute truth, I found myself in the traditional freshman-in-intro-philosophy-class discussions at summer camp. “How do you know that any of this is real?” we would ask each other. “Surely the labels we assign… Read more

This is the second post in a series about math and morality. You can see all posts in the series here. I knew I’d get along with my soon-to-be friend Matt from our first discussion of theology. Matt was explaining why he saw paradox as the natural consequence finite humans trying to describe an infinite being, and he shifted right into the language of Flatland and topology. “So imagine one religious group claims that God is a rectangle. And a… Read more

  Reading Flatland changed my life The novella was published in 1884 by Edwin A. Abbott–an English schoolmaster. The novella is narrated by a square living in a two-dimensional world. One night, he is visited by a Sphere, or, rather, from his point of view, a Circle of varying diameter. The Sphere has come to explain to him that there is a dimension he knows nothing about—a dimension along a hereto unknown direction “Upwards, not Northwards.”  To help the Square… Read more

–1– Starting on Sunday, I’m going to be doing a series of six linked posts on how my exploration of mathematics gave me a framework for understanding and discussing absolute morality.  Posts topics will include how to be moral when you don’t have perfect knowledge of morality and the ways God is like a cylinder, and why that’s a problem. It all kicks off here on Sunday with a post on the superb Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions.   –2–… Read more

For an explanation of what Weatherwax Wednesdays are all about, read the introduction post.  This week’s Discworld quote comes from Witches Abroad, which is, among many other thing, a retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale. In the story, Granny Weatherwax and her companions are pitted against a more conventional fairy godmother, who is intent on scripting a happy ending for the characters. ‘We’re the other kind [of godmother],’ said Granny. ‘We’re the kind that gives people what they know they… Read more

Thanks to everyone who weighed in on last week’s Santa Claus debate.  I was very amused by how many other people had also tried to test Santa’s existence as children.  As always, if you’d like to respond to a Monday Call to Arms in longer form as a guest blogger, please email me at leah (dot) libresco (at) yale (dot) edu. The debate over whether Christians should pray for Christopher Hitchens in his fight against cancer has been raging across… Read more

  In a very schmaltzy YA book I read in middle school, a whole school bus load of middle schoolers died in a car accident and went straight to Heaven. I’m pretty sure the protagonist and his eventual girlfriend got to come back to life by the end because they had Unfinished Business back on Earth, but before they do, they get a preview look at Heaven as all their friends settle down for the rest of their afterlives. The… Read more

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments, and, of course, my greatest thanks are reserved for Deacon Michael who generously spent two hours chatting with me yesterday.  I really appreciated both his candor and his enthusiasm.  It’s always so encouraging to see people who are energized by disagreement and conversation, rather than frightened of it. I’m not going to do a beat by beat recap of our discussion for a variety of reasons.  The primary one is that I have… Read more

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