Unitheist Fellowship
Faith By Reason Contents




Chapter 4 ~ Simplification

FROM Plato on, philosophers have been concerned with getting beyond the mere existence of things to reach their essence or truer nature, not only to try to reveal what is really important but to analyze complex structures, as well as propagate the race.

For even moderately complicated entities this usually involves a reductive process, a peeling away of outer layers in search of a less-temporal cigar, or skeleton.

The problem is that entities worthy of being subject to this— much less capable of doing it— are not in any way simple or elemental (Bill Clinton).

It’s extremely difficult to understand ourselves, harder still to make sense of other beings, even more challenging to perceive order in the multiplicities of our relationships and their interrelationships, and beyond that, to solve some puzzles without peeking at the answer.

Reduction to a revelatory simplicity is often necessary though just to bring involved or obfuscatory matters within range of comprehension.

This process can be dangerous, if for no other reason than that the difficulty of determining the variance between what is and is not uncompromisingly reducible can be as great as understanding the unreduced concept itself.

For example trying to fathom the exact nature of human consciousness. So far no cigar.


One example of less-difficult differentiation between what is possible to generalize and what isn’t lies in the area of scientific forecasting.

In an overall sense we’re already forecasting quite well. Meteorologists are able to announce say, that the chance of rain tomorrow is 40%, or a seismologist might calculate the odds of an earthquake of a specified magnitude or higher occurring in the next 25 years for a given area at 95%.

However we may never be capable of predicting that rainstorm or trembler to the precise instant, because of the limitations presently imposed by quantum physics, which in effect prevents perfect measurement, in turn preventing construction of the fully-detailed model, complete with individually-crafted shingles, necessary to make such a forecast.

Finally there’s the binary/analogue disjunction, or BAD for short. These occur when a binary output (on/off, yes/no) is required of an analogue (sliding scale) input, or vice-versa.

Besides cropping up in physical science (thermostats, digital recording) they’re another simplification danger, as when trying to render grey areas black or white— e.g. Jack Dawson good, Cal Hockley evil; Thomas Andrews good, J. Bruce Ismay evil; the ship good, the iceberg evil.

Faith By Reason Contents
Back to Chapter 3, Subjectivity On to Chapter 5, Supernaturalism
© 1999-2007 Warren Farr — revised 9/25