Monday, January 21, 2008

God meets calculus

Reprinted from a comment thread without the permission of the author, because it made me chuckle:
[T]his reminds me of the day I disproved God with calculus, in calculus class, at a Catholic high school. Let me see if I remember it...

Let {C} be the set of all possible truth claims that might fill a particular gap in our knowledge. If we have no reason whatsoever to choose one possible claim over another, the probability of each claim being true is 1/n (where n is the number of truth claims).

The believer makes the mistake of assuming that n = 2 (i.e. "Jesus" and "Something Else"). But the elements of a set must be discrete: "Something Else," unlike "Jesus," is not a discrete claim. "Something Else" is itself a set of discrete possibilities, all of which must be counted individually among the truth claims of {C}.

If the believer cannot introduce any reasons (i.e. arguments) to narrow the set of possible claims, then the membership of {C} is limited only by our imagination. As Vishnu piles upon Odin, as telepathic koalas who control the weather bump into the invisible leprechauns who tuned the Universal constants, n quickly approaches infinity — and the limit of 1/n, the probability of any one claim being true, falls to zero.

Q.E.D. ......?
I really don't remember my high school calculus class too well--I'm one of those people who can honestly say I won't ever need calculus for my job. I get about as far as n = , so 1/n becomes infinitely small, and then I get lost.