Thursday, February 06, 2014

Questioning the Poker Gods

Have been kind of vaguely following this whole creationism “debate” a little bit over the last couple of days, reading a few articles and noticing all of the references whirring past to the big online event on Tuesday featuring Bill Nye ("The Science Guy") and Ken Ham, president of something called the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky where the event took place.

Apparently around 3 million people tuned in to watch the pair square off over evolution and creationism, thus explaining all of the response. Here’s a link to the full program over on YouTube, if you’re curious. Sounds like many appreciated Nye’s defense of the scientific method, including several of those writing the articles I read.

I’ve mentioned before here how my Dad is a physicist, which probably explains my own appreciation of science and reason as means to explain the world as well as to explore it further. But I also respect those who find that faith helps give their lives meaning, especially when that faith helps encourage them to treat others well.

As I say, I didn’t watch the program and so am not going to try to comment on it. But I did want to share one item from a response I noticed today, something by Phil Plait, an astronomer who writes for Slate.

He had written an initial response yesterday titled “The Creation of Debate” that raised some questions about the whole idea of “debating” evolution and creationism. Then today Plait followed that up with another article in which he took some time to answer 22 questions creationists have of Nye and those who share his views regarding how the world originated and evolved, questions that were posted over on Buzzfeed.

One of the questions was “How can you look at the world and not believe someone created/thought of it? It’s amazing!!!”

Plait agrees that the world is amazingly complex, but “that complexity can arise naturally through the laws of physics.” Again, I’ve been influenced by my Dad here, I know, to agree with that point of view. He then interestingly evokes poker to illustrate how “it doesn’t take very complex rules to create huge diversity.”

“Look at poker,” writes Plait, “a simple set of rules creates a game that has so many combinations it’s essentially infinite to human experience.”

It’s a point that to me seems more directly to prove human limitations than anything else, but the analogy is easy enough to follow. Just because something strikes us as overwhelmingly complicated or beautiful or awesome doesn’t necessarily mean it cannot be explained by science.

I mean, poker is complicated, sure. But the fact that its complexity can exceed our capacity to comprehend it utterly doesn’t mean the game was created by some deity, does it?

Of course, someone hitting a two-outer against you to win a pot after all the chips go in is another matter entirely.

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