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God Is the Machine
Wired ^ | December 2002 | Kevin Kelly

Posted on 11/21/2002 8:14:40 PM PST by FreetheSouth!

God Is the Machine

IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS 0. AND THEN THERE WAS 1. A MIND-BENDING MEDITATION ON THE TRANSCENDENT POWER OF DIGITAL COMPUTATION

At today's rates of compression, you could download the entire 3 billion digits of your DNA onto about four CDs. That 3-gigabyte genome sequence represents the prime coding information of a human body — your life as numbers. Biology, that pulsating mass of plant and animal flesh, is conceived by science today as an information process. As computers keep shrinking, we can imagine our complex bodies being numerically condensed to the size of two tiny cells. These micro-memory devices are called the egg and sperm. They are packed with information.

That life might be information, as biologists propose, is far more intuitive than the corresponding idea that hard matter is information as well. When we bang a knee against a table leg, it sure doesn't feel like we knocked into information. But that's the idea many physicists are formulating.

The spooky nature of material things is not new. Once science examined matter below the level of fleeting quarks and muons, it knew the world was incorporeal. What could be less substantial than a realm built out of waves of quantum probabilities? And what could be weirder? Digital physics is both. It suggests that those strange and insubstantial quantum wavicles, along with everything else in the universe, are themselves made of nothing but 1s and 0s. The physical world itself is digital.

The scientist John Archibald Wheeler (coiner of the term "black hole") was onto this in the '80s. He claimed that, fundamentally, atoms are made up of of bits of information. As he put it in a 1989 lecture, "Its are from bits." He elaborated: "Every it — every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself — derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely from binary choices, bits. What we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes/no questions."

To get a sense of the challenge of describing physics as a software program, picture three atoms: two hydrogen and one oxygen. Put on the magic glasses of digital physics and watch as the three atoms bind together to form a water molecule. As they merge, each seems to be calculating the optimal angle and distance at which to attach itself to the others. The oxygen atom uses yes/no decisions to evaluate all possible courses toward the hydrogen atom, then usually selects the optimal 104.45 degrees by moving toward the other hydrogen at that very angle. Every chemical bond is thus calculated.

If this sounds like a simulation of physics, then you understand perfectly, because in a world made up of bits, physics is exactly the same as a simulation of physics. There's no difference in kind, just in degree of exactness. In the movie The Matrix, simulations are so good you can't tell if you're in one. In a universe run on bits, everything is a simulation.

An ultimate simulation needs an ultimate computer, and the new science of digitalism says that the universe itself is the ultimate computer — actually the only computer. Further, it says, all the computation of the human world, especially our puny little PCs, merely piggybacks on cycles of the great computer. Weaving together the esoteric teachings of quantum physics with the latest theories in computer science, pioneering digital thinkers are outlining a way of understanding all of physics as a form of computation.

From this perspective, computation seems almost a theological process. It takes as its fodder the primeval choice between yes or no, the fundamental state of 1 or 0. After stripping away all externalities, all material embellishments, what remains is the purest state of existence: here/not here. Am/not am. In the Old Testament, when Moses asks the Creator, "Who are you?" the being says, in effect, "Am." One bit. One almighty bit. Yes. One. Exist. It is the simplest statement possible.

(Excerpt) Read more at wired.com ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: alanturing; computers; digitalcomputation; edfredkin; god; isaacasimov; stephenwolfram
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Universe has encountered an problem. Would you like to send GOD an error report?
1 posted on 11/21/2002 8:14:40 PM PST by FreetheSouth!
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To: FreetheSouth!
IMHO, there is only analog pretending to be digital.
2 posted on 11/21/2002 8:17:28 PM PST by Abcdefg
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To: FreetheSouth!
I just had a great thought. Maybe instead of this maddening diet I'm on, I can just somehow squeeze my corpulent self into a much slimmer "Zip" archive?
3 posted on 11/21/2002 8:21:23 PM PST by Illbay
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To: Abcdefg
IMHO, there is only analog pretending to be digital.

Bucky did some research on microscopic bubbles and found out that the circumference of a microscopic bubble is actually a series of straight lines.

Sorta sounds like digital pretending to be analog. ;>)

/john

4 posted on 11/21/2002 8:22:07 PM PST by JRandomFreeper
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To: Illbay
I can just somehow squeeze my corpulent self into a much slimmer "Zip" archive?

Sorry, it's like trying to compress a .jpg. You are stored at the optimum compression. Further compression results in a larger file size. ;>)

/john

5 posted on 11/21/2002 8:24:09 PM PST by JRandomFreeper
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To: Bitwhacker; lepton
!gnip
6 posted on 11/21/2002 8:24:50 PM PST by JRandomFreeper
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To: FreetheSouth!
In the movie The Matrix . . .

Oh, now I get it.

7 posted on 11/21/2002 8:33:57 PM PST by cornelis
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To: Illbay
Nope, you’re stuck with weight lossy compression.
8 posted on 11/21/2002 8:35:08 PM PST by FreetheSouth!
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To: FreetheSouth!
Would you like to send GOD an error report?

He already knows about the errors (original sin), pre-planned for it, and has coded the resolution (man chooses God over sin; God saves man).

Just remember, God is not linear. He has no beginning, and no end. He exists outside our time dimension. Only he can fix the program.

SFS

9 posted on 11/21/2002 8:44:19 PM PST by Steel and Fire and Stone
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To: FreetheSouth!
If nature computed, why not the entire universe? The first to put down on paper the outrageous idea of a universe-wide computer was science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. In his 1956 short story "The Last Question," humans create a computer smart enough to bootstrap new computers smarter than itself. These analytical engines recursively grow super smarter and super bigger until they act as a single giant computer filling the universe. At each stage of development, humans ask the mighty machine if it knows how to reverse entropy. Each time it answers: "Insufficient data for a meaningful reply." The story ends when human minds merge into the ultimate computer mind, which takes over the entire mass and energy of the universe. Then the universal computer figures out how to reverse entropy and create a universe.

According to my recollection of the story, at the point where the universe/computer figures out how to reverse entropy, it proclaims the answer to the "final question" in this manner: "Let there be light!"

10 posted on 11/21/2002 8:46:43 PM PST by FairWitness
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To: FairWitness
You wouldn’t happen to be a Bob Heinlein fan, would you now?
11 posted on 11/21/2002 8:53:47 PM PST by FreetheSouth!
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To: FairWitness
Cool article.
12 posted on 11/21/2002 8:55:08 PM PST by Ciexyz
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To: FreetheSouth!
I'm in no way a Heinlein "expert", like some Freepers I've observed, but I have read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Friday and, of course, Stranger in a Strange Land. I've read a lot more of Asimov than of Heinlein, including The Final Question that is cited in the article above.
13 posted on 11/21/2002 9:03:36 PM PST by FairWitness
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To: JRandomFreeper
>>I can just somehow squeeze my corpulent self into a much slimmer "Zip" archive?

>Sorry, it's like trying to compress a .jpg. You are stored at the optimum
>compression. Further compression results in a larger file size. ;>)

I've tried to reduce myself on a number of occasions, but I keep encountering a loss of resolution.

14 posted on 11/21/2002 9:04:56 PM PST by Erasmus
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To: Erasmus
Me too, usually around Jan. 20th
15 posted on 11/21/2002 9:34:27 PM PST by FreetheSouth!
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To: Erasmus
I've tried to reduce myself on a number of occasions, but I keep encountering a loss of resolution.

Perhaps, there is no problem with resolution: maybe the prescription for your glasses ran out?

(I am paraphrasing S. Wright).

16 posted on 11/21/2002 9:37:28 PM PST by TopQuark
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To: FairWitness
I’ve read about all of them, but Robert Heinlein holds a very special place in my heart and bookshelf.
17 posted on 11/21/2002 9:38:27 PM PST by FreetheSouth!
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To: JRandomFreeper
That explains a LOT.
18 posted on 11/22/2002 2:26:40 AM PST by Illbay
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To: JRandomFreeper
.jpgs can be compressed...it just starts taking more and more proccessing power, and varying algorithms. You could theorhetically compress down to a single bit and a set of decompression instructions...it's merely impractical. :)
19 posted on 11/22/2002 7:06:01 AM PST by lepton
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To: JRandomFreeper
Bucky did some research on microscopic bubbles and found out that the circumference of a microscopic bubble is actually a series of straight lines.

Rather like the old attempts to solve for Pi. Given that bubbles are made of atoms and molecules, any attempt to define it would have to appear as a series of lines connecting the probability centers of the atoms and molecules. That, however, doesn't prove the point in the article. The article assumes that 1) there are minimum increments to everything, and 2) that a point where you can get an agreement between digital models and analogish symbolism is the proper place to stop enlarging. The latter seems much like an argument Dr. Sowell makes in pointing out statistical analysis flaws.

20 posted on 11/22/2002 7:12:00 AM PST by lepton
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To: FreetheSouth!
Should have been: .w8 lossy compression.
21 posted on 11/22/2002 11:07:39 AM PST by FreetheSouth!
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To: FreetheSouth!
the blue screen of death
and you have not saved your file
no one hears your screams
22 posted on 11/22/2002 11:16:31 AM PST by Mr. K
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To: Steel and Fire and Stone
If we are just programs, then is the use of freewill already determined?
23 posted on 11/22/2002 11:20:06 AM PST by stuartcr
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To: stuartcr
The model here is that complex results, arise from simple algorithims. Domesticated Primates tend to be Chaotic process!
24 posted on 11/22/2002 11:38:45 AM PST by Leto
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To: Leto
Was that an answer?
25 posted on 11/22/2002 11:45:27 AM PST by stuartcr
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To: stuartcr
If we are just programs, then is the use of freewill already determined?

Our bodies are like the computer hardware (for many of us "older bodies", it's like the IBM px/xt computer model, exotic at one time, but pretty worn out by now ). Our souls are the software programming. Out bodies will perish, the media containing our information may perish, but the information that represents our souls will live forever.

Men are not just the sum of inanimate programming. God gave man sentience, and within certain parameters, a "free will". Freedom always comes with constraints. We may operate as if that is not true when discussing philosophy or religion, but we betray that contention in the way we live our limited lives.

Your argument on "freewill" is the juxtiposition of the famliar rant that occurs with every disaster, rape, or murder, e.g. "How could a loving God allow this to happen to innocents?!" The answer is: "How could a loving God NOT allow man that freedom. We'd be robots! Robots can never sentiently chose to love God.

Freedom is a double edged sword, i.e. the same freedom that produced the Good Samaritan also allowed the thugs who beat and rob the victim in the first place. God is the ultimate "pro-choicer". Man can't blame God for "acts of God" AND for constraining freedom simultaneously. The problem of chaos and evil in this world is due to the sin of mankind.

However, God also promises accountability and reward. God's states clearly: All have sinned (i.e. HUGE error dump!!), and will be doomed because of our choice.

God's solution: There is only one who has not sinned, who is absolutely good. There is only one who has already paid the price, who has paid YOUR price. There is only one way to be saved from the corruption that sin has wrought. Jesus Christ. Those who accept Him as their Lord and Savior will have the reward of eternal life.

Wise men who earnestly seek wisdom, order, and goodness will find it in Christ.

God Bless.. SFS

26 posted on 11/22/2002 1:04:11 PM PST by Steel and Fire and Stone
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To: Steel and Fire and Stone
Sorry, but your assumptions are incorrect and your answer is too simplistic.

Whether or not you posit the existence of God, there is still a "free will vs. determinism" problem.

For example, if it turns out that it is possible for me to travel into the future, and there is a fixed future for me to travel into, then it would seem I have no free will. No matter what I do I will end up at the same future.

Of course there's a bunch of thought regarding parallel universes, etc. but none of this touches on the "problem of evil" which is entirely different.

If you lined up all of the arguments on one side or the other, the arguments stating that there is no free will pretty much whomp on those in favor of free will.

Still, I believe passionately in free will regardless. I was most likely predestined to do so!

27 posted on 11/22/2002 1:22:41 PM PST by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: stuartcr
If you want to completely amaze yourself and then ultimately become quite depressed, really start to try and answer the question of "free will vs. determinism".

There are a number of ways to approach this problem: assuming God's existence, or assuming no God. Thinking about a single universe, multiple unrelated universes, or multiple related universes. Limited God vs. infinite God. Materialism vs. Idealism, etc.

Most of the good arguments are in favor of predestination. Your (and my) own intuition is in favor of free will.

I believe there will be an answer to this question and I don't believe that the Calvinists or other simple-minded folk have come up with the answer ... although they love to self-righteously trumpet the supposed fact that they have solved this problem ... or that they read it in some King James Bible somewhere (with special magical glasses of course that other interpreters don't seem to have access to.)

P.S.: Let the flames begin. I need some practice for when I get to go skinny-dipping in the fiery lakes.

28 posted on 11/22/2002 1:28:46 PM PST by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: stuartcr
If we are just programs, then is the use of freewill already determined?

Nope, just preknown. We experience time as linear, and can only go forward.
God on the other hand lives out side the 4 dimensions we can know,
and can see the beginning and the end. Hard concept for me for sure,
but about the only way I can make any sense of it.

Some wag said I think, you have to be crazy to understand quantum theory.

Check here for some good stuff on this subject. khouse.org

29 posted on 11/22/2002 1:29:07 PM PST by itsahoot
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To: itsahoot
If God lives outside the 4 dimensions we can know, how can you know this?
30 posted on 11/22/2002 3:56:10 PM PST by stuartcr
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To: FreetheSouth!
bump
31 posted on 11/22/2002 4:43:50 PM PST by FreetheSouth!
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To: stuartcr
Apparently we can only know 4 dimensions, modern physics now
predicts or claims that there are at least 10 other dimensions, logically
from that there is no other explaination, but that God resides outside the ones we can know.

No mass, no time. Jesus was able to recreate his earthly body inside
a closed room, when he appeared to the deciples. They thought he>br> was a spirit. But "doubting" Thomas placed his hand in the wound
in His side, proving that he was flesh and bone. Not by the way
"Flesh and Blood"

Does a thought have mass, time dimension? If not what is it?
Where does it go, when we die?

32 posted on 11/22/2002 6:08:23 PM PST by itsahoot
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To: who_would_fardels_bear
Sorry, but your assumptions are incorrect and your answer is too simplistic.

Oh, well, thanks for setting me straight. Nothing like having an arrogant expert to help out a poor dunderhead like me.

You have "problems" about free will, the existence of God, and determinism. I have answers, informed by God's Word the Bible, and consistent with the world as we find it. I am completely content to live and die in my faith in these simplistic answers.

I thank God that I never finished up that PHd in Philosophy, otherwise I might be an arrogant expert with lots of problems too.

FReegards, SFS

33 posted on 11/23/2002 3:20:44 AM PST by Steel and Fire and Stone
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To: itsahoot
Why do you assign the traits of our earthbound logic to God? Is not God beyond our logic?
34 posted on 11/23/2002 6:50:18 AM PST by stuartcr
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To: Mr. K
Nice haiku
35 posted on 11/23/2002 7:32:46 AM PST by FreetheSouth!
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To: FreetheSouth!
lol!

Im the Beginning was Information

36 posted on 11/23/2002 6:26:03 PM PST by Terriergal
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To: Erasmus
I've tried to reduce myself on a number of occasions, but I keep encountering a loss of resolution.

LOL you guys are so punny!

37 posted on 11/23/2002 6:28:02 PM PST by Terriergal
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To: FreetheSouth!
Bump
38 posted on 11/23/2002 6:29:31 PM PST by Tribune7
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To: stuartcr
If we are just programs, then is the use of freewill already determined?

Some Christians believe so.

39 posted on 11/23/2002 6:30:28 PM PST by Terriergal
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To: stuartcr
If we are just programs, then is the use of freewill already determined?

Some Christians believe so.

Oops - here:

Is Calvinism Inconsistent with Free Will? - Loraine Boettner

40 posted on 11/23/2002 6:32:13 PM PST by Terriergal
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To: RnMomof7; MacDorcha; Cyrano; Tennessee_Bob; dorben; shaggy eel; RobRoy; EternalVigilance
ping - intriguing discussion!
41 posted on 11/23/2002 6:33:07 PM PST by Terriergal
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To: who_would_fardels_bear; stuartcr
Still, I believe passionately in free will regardless. I was most likely predestined to do so!

LOL!

To me those questions are somewhat academic exercises. I have a hard time, like you, believing that predestination is what Calvin thought it was. I think God predestines us at the moment of salvation to heaven, but that he doesn't micromanage our lives, - which is different from saying he doesn't KNOW beforehand about each detail of our lives. But if I am predestined, who am I to argue with a being so far beyond me as to have created all this *for* *us*?

As it regards predestination what matters is looking at our perception of time as compared to God's perception of time.

I think CS Lewis said it well in _Mere Christianity_ :

Time and Beyond Time

Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He need not listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call ten-thirty. Ten-thirty—and every other moment from the beginning of the world—is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.

That is difficult, I know. Let me try to give something, not the same, but a bit like it. Suppose: I am writing a novel. I write "Mary laid down her work; next moment came a knock at the door!" For Mary who has to live in the imaginary time of my story there is no interval between putting down the work and hearing the knock. But I, who am Mary's maker, do not live in that imaginary time at all. Between writing the first half of that sentence and the second, I might sit down for three hours and think steadily about Mary. I could think about Mary as if she were the only character in the book and for as long as I pleased, and the hours I spent in doing so would not appear in Mary's time (the time inside the story) at all.

This is not a perfect illustration, of course. But it may give just a glimpse of what I believe to be the truth. God is not hurried along in the Time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world.

The way in which my illustration breaks down is this. In it the author gets out of one Time-series (that of the novel) only by going into another Time-series (the real one). But God, I believe, does not live in a Time-series at all. His life is not dribbled out moment by moment like ours: with Him it is, so to speak, still 1920 and already 1960. For His life is Himself.

If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn. We come to the parts of the line one by one: we have to leave A behind before we get to B, and cannot reach C until we leave B behind. God, from above or outside or all round, contains the whole line, and sees it all.

....

Another difficulty we get if we believe God to be in time is this. Everyone who believes in God at all believes that He knows what you and I are going to do tomorrow. But if He knows I am going to do so-and-so, how can I be free to do otherwise? Well, here once again, the difficulty comes from thinking that God is progressing along the Time-line like us: the only difference being that He can see ahead and we cannot. Well, if that were true, if God foresaw our acts, it would be very hard to understand how we could be free not to do them. But suppose God is outside and above the Time-line. In that case, what we call "tomorrow" is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call "today." All the days are "Now" for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them, because, though you have lost yesterday, He has not. He does not "foresee" you doing things tomorrow; He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him. You never suppose that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow's actions in just the same way—because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have done it: but then the moment at which you have done it is already "Now" for Him.

42 posted on 11/23/2002 7:02:09 PM PST by Terriergal
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To: who_would_fardels_bear
I don't believe that the Calvinists or other simple-minded folk

LOL watch it there! ;-)

No, I'm not a Calvinist!

43 posted on 11/23/2002 7:04:05 PM PST by Terriergal
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To: stuartcr; itsahoot
If God lives outside the 4 dimensions we can know, how can you know this?

Ahah, here comes stuartcr weilding the socratic method like a club again!

how can you know this?

A little bird told me.

44 posted on 11/23/2002 7:06:53 PM PST by Terriergal
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To: OrthodoxPresbyterian; Jerry_M; the_doc; CCWoody; Matchett-PI; JesseShurun; gdebrae; Jean Chauvin; ..
bump
45 posted on 11/23/2002 7:06:56 PM PST by RnMomof7
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To: who_would_fardels_bear
I believe there will be an answer to this question and I don't believe that the Calvinists or other simple-minded folk have come up with the answer ..

No but the Bible does..and if you do not read the Bible all you have is your opinion..which is worth?????

46 posted on 11/23/2002 7:09:05 PM PST by RnMomof7
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To: Terriergal
To me those questions are somewhat academic exercises. I have a hard time, like you, believing that predestination is what Calvin thought it was. I think God predestines us at the moment of salvation to heaven, but that he doesn't micromanage our lives, - which is different from saying he doesn't KNOW beforehand about each detail of our lives. But if I am predestined, who am I to argue with a being so far beyond me as to have created all this *for* *us*?

You are predestined before you were born..Is micro managing knowing how many hairs will be on your hair brush tomorrow? :>)))

Interesting discussion Terri

47 posted on 11/23/2002 7:12:42 PM PST by RnMomof7
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To: Abcdefg
IMHO, there is only analog pretending to be digital.

Analog == Digital. Any distinction made in engineering is essentially artificial, as both formats can interchangeably be treated like the other. "Analog" and "Digital" are merely descriptive names for encoding formats that humans invented. The universe doesn't make this distinction -- it just has "information".

The only time Analog is not equivalent to Digital is when you get into the realm of the impossible, like infinitely large signal-to-noise ratios.

48 posted on 11/23/2002 7:15:23 PM PST by tortoise
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To: FairWitness
You've read Heinlein but you haven't read "Time Enough For Love"? Shame on you! TEFL was arguably his greatest work and the one against the others should be judged; Stranger In A Strange Land pales in comparison.
49 posted on 11/23/2002 7:18:29 PM PST by tortoise
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To: stuartcr
Is not God beyond our logic?

Yes, he is, because his logic is perfect... because he not only knows the truth, he *is* truth. We have some of that capability, but it is corrupted. That does not mean that we cannot think logically in spurts. Some people more than others.

How do we know when we are being logical and when we are not? That is something that has to be experienced, much like the relationship with him you demanded I prove.

The truth is, I cannot prove God to you in the way you demand. None of us can and we admit that. Only God himself can soften your heart to the point that you can choose him.

We have all seen stories where the man loves the woman but she will not believe it and continually rejects him. We on the outside can see plainly that he loves her, she cannot accept it because it doesn't look exactly like she has previously decided love would look like. Now, hopefully we have a happy ending and the man's love is finally requited. But we don't know the end of the story yet, for each individual. I hope that someday you will requite God's immeasurable love for you, stuartcr.

50 posted on 11/23/2002 7:22:08 PM PST by Terriergal
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