Wednesday, May 9, 2007

King of Kings and Form of Forms

I got a shiny new DVD player the other day and as it ingests the disc, it displays "LOAD" with that nasty LED segment font that was really made for displaying only numbers, not letters. Whenever I see that "LOAD" there is a tiny second when my brain malfunctions and I think it is saying "LORD" because the A looks like an R. For fun I fancy that the player doesn't have motors or lasers or any other technology but rather, whenever a disc is inserted it sends a prayer to God: "Lord, make yonder television display the contents of this disc." (Yes, I'm getting help!)

We're talking about designing a form we could fill out that would let us describe, in detail, what something is, how it works, etc. Is there any advantage to having a form that allowed descriptions like the above? Descriptions involving "spirits?" I think so. For one thing, many many people use such descriptions everyday and a form that couldn't refer to spirits might be written off as scientific hubris. For another thing, allowing spirit language may make claims about religion provable or falsifiable; something both scientists and believers should be happy about.

So here is the BIG question: What will our forms look like? What is the form of a form? We want to set our requirements high, so let us say that our forms will be able to record ANYTHING, including God or a spirit, that could possibly affect anything else. I need an example. Think about a pencil. It has a color, a shape, length, hardness... lots of 'properties.' Can a pencil's color affect anything? Yes, it can affect my eyes and I can detect differences in color. I could say "I'll paint this pencil green if the British are coming by sea but red if they are flying in." In other words, color can be used to store information. Now, let's say that a certain pencil has a property like color, but that property is completely undetectable by anyone, including God. Well, it isn't much use to talk about it, eh? Even if only a spirit could detect it, it would be worth tracking, because the spirit might tell us what it is. Notice what happened there: first I said that the property could not affect us, but that it could affect a spirit who could tell us what it was. Well, that means that the property COULD affect us, doesn't it? I mean, the route by which I learned about it involved ghosts, but I still learned about it.

On to the formation of our forms! So far our forms look basically like this:

Color = {
amount of red______;

amount of green____;
amount of blue_____;

If we want to describe something using this form, we think of all the different modes or "states" that the system we are describing can be in. We will include any state that can possibly affect anything, even if that has to be through God telling us. Then we make a form which lists all those possibilities just like the form above lists the possibilities for all the different colors.

Looking at that format, I really feel a sort of disgust. Maybe it is an acceptable start, but it would be an ugly finish. It reminds me of a pretty version of a computer language called XML. I may explain how awful XML is sometime, but suffice it to say that, like the format for colors given above, XML isn't even close to good enough for our purposes. Neither XML nor the format above meet the level of detail that we talked about in "Discovering a Miracle." What goes in the blanks? How do the ways that something changes get recorded? How would we talk about the past or the present? History counts as knowledge too! We're just going to have to do better.

Until next time!


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