Tag Archives: The Last Faith

On the meaning of life

I am certain that there is no singular meaning of life that applies equally to everyone. There is a great parable of the six great Jewish prophets which supports my view:

  • In answer to the question: ‘where is truth?’, the meaning of life, the first Prophet, Moses, ‘who had revealed’ the one God to the people, pointed a finger up towards the sky;
  • the second prophet, Solomon, who was known for his great wisdom, pointed a finger to his head;
  • the third prophet, Jesus Christ, who had called the world to compassion placed his hand on his heart;
  • the fourth prophet, Karl Marx, who led the class struggle and the battle for survival, stroked his stomach;
  • the fifth prophet, Sigmund Freud, with his basic instinct pointed, naturally, a little lower.
  • Then came the sixth prophet, Albert Einstein, who declared that the answer to the question was relative and depended on a system of coordinates specific to the person concerned.

The parable above (author remains unknown) was quoted in the third part of “The Last Faith: a book by an atheist believer”.

Why “The Last Faith”?

Readers often ask me, “Why The Last Faith?” and I reply, it’s “The Last” because you can’t develop new theories in old age… I’m joking of course. It’s “The Last” because, in accordance with the principle of Occam’s Razor, the behaviour of all living matter can be reduced to two fundamental ‘laws’ of nature beyond which, no further reduction is possible. By “Faith” I mean faith in science based on experiments and the process of extrapolating observable patterns, not religious faith based on dogma.

Why faith and not knowledge? Let me explain: When Newton wrote his second law equation, he started with the experimental data available to him. Neither he nor anyone else checked the truth of F=ma across an infinite variety of experiments and phenomena. Nonetheless, we apply this equation in all areas of our life because we believe it to be valid. It’s a matter of faith, rather than knowledge.

That is probably why the equation was shown to fail at near-light speeds and in microcosms. When this was discovered, our faith was shaken and new knowledge became necessary, specifically, the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. We have faith in this new knowledge and will work with it until the discovery of exceptions to the rule once again dictates the need for developing new theories.

The Galilean principle is another example. Where and when in life have you seen a free body immune to the impact of other forces, moving endlessly at a constant speed and direction?

The answer is, nowhere, because it would be impossible to remove all surrounding disturbances or influences. Yet, still, we believe in the Galilean principle because we get ever closer to it the more we separate ourselves from external influences. So, in this instance, we are even willing to believe in something no-one has ever seen! We don’t worry about it too much though because all our experiments do in fact reflect the principle very nicely.

Even Darwin created his great theory of evolution by natural selection based on a small collection of experimental data relating to turtles and a few bird species inhabiting the Galapagos Islands. And we place our faith in his theory as a universal law because it provides a perfect explanation for the evolution of all living beings, whether Darwin observed their evolution or not.

All theories of natural science are created in the same way: observation, experimentation, regularity and generalisation, and every time an experiment throws up a discrepancy the theory is changed in part or totally re-written.

More on Natural Numbers

Translated from Russian original by Joanna Dobson

In the 21st conversation, when I am talking about the history of the emergence of natural numbers, I put forward the supposition, that before the appearance of natural numbers, early humans used different methods for counting different kinds of objects.

Just the other day, a fellow mathematician told me that he once read an ethnographic article about a primitive tribe living in the Amazon jungle still isolated from the outside world. Apparently, at the time the article was written, the tribe in question still weren’t using natural numbers. They had different counting systems in everyday use, one system for counting oblong shaped objects and another for counting round objects.