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King James Bible, Book of Luke, Parable of the Prodigal Son
And he said, A certain man had two sons:

And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.

And he divided unto them his living.

And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.

And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.

And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

The word on the intertubes is that this parable is about being able to ask for forgiveness and it’s about God’s grace… But I think they got it all wrong.

It’s about love. That’s all.

Happy birthday, little son of mine.

Probabilities or Proof?

Bob just moved his blog and when I popped over to check it out, I noticed that he had been continuing our discussion about Belief in Belief without me 🙁
From his comments,

Since there is no proof of the existence AND THERE IS NO PROOF OF THE NON-EXISTENCE of God or FSM, any position taken on the matter, other than agnosticism, is pure faith. Without proof that God does not exist, it is possible that God might actually exist.

By a pleasant happenstance, I just read the chapter in Stephen Pinker’s How the Mind Works where he talks about scientific proofs and how inappropriate they are for everyday circumstances. According to Pinker, our ancestors on the savanna evolved sophisticated mental machinery for dealing with probabilities but formal proofs … not so much.

The number of domains outside of pure maths where proofs are appropriate, or even possible, is vanishingly small and only a logician would claim that belief in something completely improbable and disbelief in something completely improbable are in any way equivalent. Fortunately, most of the rest of us deal in probabilities and most of us would conclude that the possibility of an entity existing

  1. which violates many of the known laws of nature and
  2. for which there is absolutely no evidence

is so close to zero as to be not worth considering.

Bob seems to be asserting that, given a proposition that is almost certainly false, the only reasonable position to take is to say “I don’t know” and that any other position requires an unreasonable leap of faith.
I cannot prove that I am not brain in a vat. I cannot prove that you exist. I cannot prove that I existed this morning. I have no need to prove them. It would not be useful to prove them. The evidence to support those positions is overwhelming, is reasonable and requires no leap of faith. The opposite positions – that I am a brain in a vat or that you do not exist or that I did not exist this morning – require an unreasonable leap of faith.
There is no god. I am certain of it.