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21 December 2004

Comments on Formalization of "Sin"


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Selected comments on: Towards a logico-mathematical formalization of "sin": Fundamental memetic organization of faith-based governance strategies (2004)


Lynnclaire Dennis, Founder, Mereon
12 December 2004

My understanding is that at its most fundamental level, 'sin' simply means to 'forget'...

it seems to me that remedying this, is the core issue facing humanity...

our world has been turned inside out by millennia of being told that those on the outside have the key to what is on our inside...

that the divine is an absentee landlord 'watching us from the distance'...

for too long our quest as been to 'get', find, or acquire, searching outside of ourselves for god, matter or approval...

tragically, the politics of religion and religions based politics has too long wrought havoc on the planet, its Janusian nature now being more fully revealed. My dynamic believing is that the knowledge to reverse this, has been revealed whether we deserve it or not; for any mere mortal to be the messenger of such, is certainly a significant part of the 'whether we deserve it or not' equation. Mereon's complex geometry with the knot being the simple path of the dynamics of these three embedded spheres is without reservation revealing new understanding regarding the authentic nature of life and the dynamics of our universe. Thus, it is most certainly revealing something of the individual spirit; how all matter is linked via a common Pattern, energy emitted from the Energy of a single Source, a Universal Soul.....

Perhaps Mereon is here to cut us a new key, one that will release us from 'sin'... here to help us remember what we have forgotten... who we are... humankind. What we are... light. Our purpose for being here... to free ourselves by unfreezing our light. How to do this.... by first turning inward and then returning in the light of authenticity, compassion and justice. Only by honoring our uniqueness and celebrating our sameness can we re-member and appreciate the bond that connects us, One and all. in the light of remembrance there is abundance, light and water for all

Response from Tony Judge:
12 December 2004

I have no disagreement with your take on the matter.

The question is how to empower people to remember. I have a concern that people easily slip into articulating *motherhood cliches* that encourage them to think that they and others have done all the remembering they need to do.

The sin thing sharpens the focus -- because few of us fail to forget most of the time. Hence my text.

On the other hand, within your own framework, my concern is the bridge between the structures in which we respectively delight and the anchoring of their insights in operational organizations that reflect those insights in new modes of action. Here I see little in practice and much in principle.

My saying of the week for myself is: We can eat without recipes -- whether well or badly. But we cannot eat recipes. Unfortunately much of what we all do is write new recipes without relating them to the food to which people have access.

Please understand that I am talking to myself -- which is why it is my saying of the week!

Patrick A Heelan (Gaston Professor of Philosophy Georgetown University Washington, DC ):
19 December 2004

Tony, This is fascinating stuff. In my opinion it is not so much related to sin in the best Christian sense, but rather that it is related to failure, disorder, chaos, etc. and all the things that catastrophe theory talks about, which, as natural events, are subject to human questioning and to scientific modeling and exploration.

  1. From the philosophical/scientific point of view, the question catastrophe theory is answering is: What is the role of failure or 'perceived failure' (relative to the possibility of human control) within the economy of nature and human life? How is it to be described (as formally non-describable?); Is it possible that some forms of chaos have a formal explanatory structure such as, say, that given by catastrophe theory? However, these questions/answers can be extended (metaphorically) to the moral and religious orders.
  2. From the moral and social points of view: What relation have different kinds of faults, failures, etc. to human responsibility?
  3. From the religious point of view, How could a good God make such a fault-ridden (physical) cosmos, and fault-ridden (moral) human species?
  4. From a biblical viewpoint, it would seem (on some theological interpretations) that some works of man (and fallen angels) are to be described as religious as well as moral faults -- i.e., as sins -- about which the Bible (Old and New Testaments) are concerned and for which God's Son, Jesus, paid the high price as an atoning sacrifice on the Cross.

I see catastrophe theory as applicable literally only to A. Attempts to apply it to B, C, and D are in my opinion just interesting metaphors, or metaphoric narratives (myths) grounded in catastrophe theory models. However, these myths and metaphors are not uninteresting, and seem to be veritable translations of some popular (even some intellectual) traditions according to which the Bible has been (mis)interpreted in the West. Such traditions in my opinion tend to be pragmatically oriented and miss the core central point of the Judeo-Christian tradition which is:

  1. that the cosmos and everything in it is good (e.g., Augustine, Aquinas, ...); moral faults have to do with the character of human intentions (whether and to what extent actions are motivated by a deviation from the love of God and the neighbor and are recognized in conscience to be such). The only real evil in the world is the freely chosen refusal to follow the divine call as experienced and understood in life and as culturally organized. Natural 'evils,' physical and moral harm caused by human actions, etc. are not absolute evils, but challenges to human social and personal intelligence, responsibility, and personal and social change from which may flow progress or decline, each relative to long-term or short-term consequences (see below). The existence and good functioning of religious institutions is presumed because these are the cultural repertories of religious resources -- but the presumption may fail from time to time.

  2. that the messianic message of the Judeo-Christian tradition is about God's love in history (and culture, human and social development, etc.) to bring all mankind to perfection in the model of the human Jesus who in history has shown mankind the "Way, Truth, and Life," namely, how to love God and one another (as children belonging to God's family) even in a fault-ridden society and a contingent fault-ridden natural universe. This message is about hopeful (long-term) progress towards this goal and possible/probable short-term declines. Which directs our inquiry to history? ... and more!

However, I found your Internet links fascinating and could enjoyably spend hours following them through. But alas! these hours are limited in this fault-ridden society and I surely will not live to experience the fulfillment of the Judeo-Christian Redemption.

P.S.: There is much discussion among Christians about the proper interpretation of the term 'sacrifice' that was introduced only late into Christian theology. It now seems best to be interpreted as a supreme act of love for God and mankind in a fault-ridden world rather than as a sacrificial death offered by Jesus and us with the intention of equalizing the scales of justice in the sight of God relative to sinful mankind.

Response from Tony Judge:
21 December 2004

I would emphasize that the different approaches to the formalization of "sin" have been collected and presented as pointers without any particular preference.

But in response to your point concerning the essential "goodness" of the cosmos, I would have liked to distinguish between the "good" that we can understand (being in opposition to the "evil" that we understand) and the "good" that encompasses both that we are much challenged to understand. It is the latter I point to as a plenum that is disrupted by various ways of separation and disconnection -- of dis-remembering, here to be understood as "sins".

Catastrophe theory is then a way of holding such distinctions -- however simplistically as stories or metaphors -- and suggesting how they may be engendered by distortions of a more complex space. Given the challenge in understanding catastrophe theory, this suggests care in claiming understanding of that space.

In this light I would not disagree with your comments but the exercise, however "tongue in cheek", was an effort at formalization of matters on which verbal interpretation leads to much misunderstanding.

Paul Caron: Consultant
(21 December 2004)

Thanks for including me in this very interesting exchange. I can't help but want to say more. So here goes.

If evil can be mathematically defined and the same for its "opposite" good, I would be surprised. I take math as mathematicians speak of it, that is, a certain deductive rigour and quantification. However, if we wish to use math as a metaphor then we have gained a new language or tool to explore relationships.

Assuming that there is any finite "reality" and assume it priorities itself to all other finite entities i.e. favors in choice itself against anything "other", then we have a closed system or a particularity.

If (and again probably using it as a metaphor) we apply Gödel's conclusions as to systematic, deductive thought then we know, by its nature, that it is incoherent in some sense. The finite nature demands assumptions, axioms or givens (which by their definition wall or protect or define) its finite aspects. Is it from them or their existence that Gödel's proof develops?

Also we know that closed systems are entropic. They degrade.

The definition of evil, for me then, is the decision or intention to be "prioritaire" or first in an all-inclusive way. With finite beings whose intentions center upon themselves in reality, we see the results.

If we view the other pole, we assume our finite nature, we accept it, but as open systems, willing to accept "the other". The interesting point here is that there must be introduced the concept or idea of the infinite, or we would have a cascade of finite open systems -- Russian dolls. Some might be tempted to say that that is OK with them or really the situation. I can't accept that emotionally.

The infinite needs no axioms or assumptions. Without referring to all the 19th century math work on infinite numbers, one can go back further in the history of thought to Nicolas of Cusa or others who dealt with the infinite in theological terms.

We could add that the infinite of all infinities, God, contains all possibilities (or forms), in other words, not limited as to being, as we are. The opposite is that a finite entity is filled with certain possibilities but to a limit. Many possible changes and growth etc, but a limit and with that limit a focus to achieve the forms desired and possible.

One interesting point is that it appears that if the finite is closed, then from a deep fundamental need, control is necessary. I don't know why, but it does seem that way. Perhaps relative to the "being" there is a need to focus and therefore maximize what is possible. Hence controlling.

Whereas, the God that I believe, does not need control because infinite, but rather wishes (almost in a mathematical sense) the realization of all the potential that each may have. In other words, decentralised reality (the incredible complexity of it all) is beautiful, brilliant and fun, but can only exist because it is tied together by a infinite message of love, one that asks that all flower.

Response from Tony Judge:
21 December 2004

Well mathematics is supposed to be the ultimate study of relationships. And the dis-relationship with God is one of the most fundamental non-relationships. As to "if we wish to use math as a metaphor then we have gained a new language or tool to explore relationships", I would say let us see where it may lead without expecting miracles.

"The definition of evil, for me then, is the decision or intention to be "prioritaire" or first in an all-inclusive way". I would argue that this lends itself to mathematical description. It is prioritizing a particular "local" over the "global".

It would be interesting if the potential profundities of the self-other relationship could be given a mathematical formaization.

I have no problem with your emphasis on the infinite. The article endeavours to point to this in terms of plenum -- a multidimensional plenum would be the limit of our current ability to provide any formal description.

As to the finite being closed, this of course surely depends on the dimensionality through which the finititude and closure is perceived -- possibly precluding understanding of how it is open. Whether this is to be associated with some form of control does not seem to be an issue -- that would have to do with the curvature of that space which makes the finite a form of gravity-well

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