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PastorEd: First of all unless you direct your comments to me, I generally won't read it. I chanced upon your comments.

Ed, Jon's post was not directed to you. Read it again: it is about a general class of people so innumerate they cannot understand simple matters of scale. You were the exemplar, not the target of Jon's remarks.

So I will direct you to a master mathematician who concluded that the best mathematical decision he ever made was coming to Christ. They named the computer language after him... Pascal, so as a programmer you might appreciate his intelligence since you obviously disrespect mine.

Jon has addressed this point, but I want to back up his brief comments with some solid evidence.

Pascal lived in the 17th century, 1623-1662. If you can name even one European mathematician or scientist of that century that was an atheist, I will be very surprised. Even Pascal's intellectual sparring partner, the ultra-rationalist Rene Descartes, was a Christian.

Pascal simply had no scientific or logical basis for disbelief in the Christian God. Neither science nor modern logic existed in his era, and all math was pre-calculus. Let's take a look at what has been learned since Pascal's time:

1. Isaac Newton invented calculus in 1665 and used it to revolutionize mechanics and optics, and to explain gravity and why the orbits of planets are elliptical. This was the major break with the "science" of Aristotle and the ancient Greeks. Modern physics and our ideas of the nature of cause and effect begin here, five years AFTER Pascal wrote Pensees (1660).

2. Chemistry in the 17th century was still in the Dark Ages. The periodic table of elements was unknown, no one knew what fire or burning or oxidation really was, and alchemists were still looking for the philosopher's stone.

3. Geology did not even exist, and no one had reason to believe that the timetable of events in Genesis might be laughably wrong.

4. Linnaeus had not yet invented his scheme for understanding the categories of biological life: species, genera, families, phyla, kingdoms, etc. In fact, vitalism reigned supreme: the doctrine that life sprang into existence from raw materials (e.g. mice could be created simply by wrapping wheat in old rags and leaving it undisturbed for a week).

5. Genetics did not exist, not even as an inkling. Mendel was still two hundred years in the future.

6. Microbiology did not exist, the microscope not having yet been invented. Bacteria, viruses, all were unknown and unsuspected.

7. The germ theory of disease was unknown to Pascal, as was its predecessor, the zymotic theory of disease (the idea that bad air and miasmas were the root cause of diseases like cholera, yellow fever, and malaria). He had no notion of physiology, or pathology, and very little of anatomy. The circulation of blood, the function of the brain, the Krebs cycle, how respiration works, how temperature is regulated: all of these were unknown. He had no concept of a science of medicine, because it did not yet exist.

8. Telescopes did exist, and so did astronomy, but people were just beginning to come to grips with the idea that the stars were not fixed onto a transparent rotating surface several hundred meters above the earth. The scale of the solar system was known, more or less, to a few astronomers, but the idea that the sun might be a star was not. Galaxies were utterly unknown. The "universe" consisted of the sun and the planets out to Jupiter -- that was it.

9. Almost all of what we know as logic was discovered in the last 200 years. Pascal knew only the logic of Aristotle and some medieval propositional logic. Predicate logic didn't exist, nor did axiomatic set theory, model theory, or proof theory. Set theory was unknown. The absence of predicate logic meant that most formal reasoning, even mathematical reasoning, was deficient in ways that we would find unacceptable today.

10. Probability was in its infancy, helped along by Pascal himself. Statistics, on the other hand, did not exist as a discipline. Consequently no one could test hypotheses using data, as we do today. Since statistical methods are part of the core of science, allowing us to reject inadequate hypotheses while simultaneously guaranteeing a known maximum probability of error in making that rejection, it is fair to say that Pascal had essentially no concept of modern scientific methodology.

11. Energy, entropy, information, thermodynamics: all of these lay deep in the future. Pascal knew no more about the Laws of Thermodynamics than you do [I base this judgment on your pathetic attempts to make thermodynamic arguments].

12. Almost none of modern algebra was known to Pascal. He had a lot of number theory and some exposure to solving polynomials up to the fourth degree, and that was about it. Linear algebra, vectors, tensors, categories, functors: none of this was known to him, and it is now thought by many to be the heart of mathematics. Calculus of real functions, real and complex analysis, topology, algebraic geometry: all of these were unknown to him. Essentially the entire apparatus with which we understand the physical world was entirely missing: he simply had no way of understanding physics, let alone cosmology and astrophysics.

13. Finally, Pascal had no knowledge or concept of optimization theory, including what we now call the genetic algorithm. Unlike ourselves, he had never seen a computer algorithm optimize a genetic code for survival, or reproduction, or anything else. If he had seen such a thing, commonplace to our eyes today, he would certainly not have agreed with your idea that evolution is somehow impossible without intelligence.

Well, I could go on and on. The important point is that Pascal and his contemporaries had not been exposed to any of the enormous body of evidence that the natural world is much richer than imagined by any medieval European (or any resident of Palestine two thousand years ago). Of course they were religious -- there was no reasonable alternative. Today, on the other hand, we have a viable alternative. By suggesting that Pascal's Christianity in some way justifies yours, you call into question your knowledge of history, science, math, and yes, perhaps even your own native intelligence.

If your mind cannot grasp what scientists are trying to tell you, then it would be smart to just leave it alone. If you make reckless statements on subjects you do not understand, like thermodynamics for example, then you risk making quite a fool of yourself.

Loren Cobb
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