Sunday, November 9, 2008


Below is an interesting dialogue I read from Greg Mankiw's blog. One of my Christian friends once made a similar remark. In talking to group of Christians, he remarked how you cannot say that, "religion is unscientific", because that very phrase "religion is unscientific" is not a scientific statement. He and his audience thought it made perfect sense.

I, however, was perplexed. A phrase is language, a means of communication. Language works if it communicates the intended information, regardless of the fact that it did not undergo a peer reviewed process or hypothesis testing.

I always thought I misunderstood him, but Mankiw's narrative below suggests I did not. Their arguments are either sophistry, or my mind works differently from theirs. It may be the latter. I tried reading about Zen Buddhism several times but found it silly.

From Greg Mankiw's blog on Nov 8, 2008.

I have been rereading Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This passage really sticks with me:
After a while he says, "Do you believe in ghosts?"
"No," I say.
"Why not?"
"Because they are un-sci-en-ti-fic."
The way I say this makes John smile. "They contain no matter," I continue, "and have no energy and therefore, according to the laws of science, do not exist except in people’s minds."
The whiskey, the fatigue and the wind in the trees start mixing in my mind. "Of course," I add, "the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people’s minds. It’s best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science. That way you’re safe. That doesn’t leave you very much to believe in, but that’s scientific too."

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