Rational Religion

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Game Theory for a Very Young Ape


Once again, we keep playing these games wherein we don't understand the rules.


It's part of our constructing our own stories about how the universe works, combined with our cat-killing curiosity. 


We want to do thus-and-so, so we tinker until we've got a gadget that almost works.  This usually necessitates rewriting our script a few dozen times to bring it in line with objective reality.  Once it's sputtering along, we tend to proof it on the fly, like a computer program.   This breaks stuff and kills people.  We have come up with marvelous machines and structures, some of which have held up for thousands of years, but we've made some humongous messes in the process.


In one sense everything we have ever invented is still in beta. 


Murphy's Law is no joke; it's the inevitable consequence of writing all these human narratives which don't quite fit into the laws of physics and the natural world. 


"If something can go wrong, it will," is an attempt at rueful laughter over the fact that any human endeavor must proceed with incomplete  information.  There are always unknown variables; even the known factors force us to operate to exacting tolerances. Their rules are strict and the consequences harsh.


The automobile has been with us for a hundred years.  We take it for granted.  Is it in any sense perfected?  Not with ordinary human beings maintaining and operating it.


It's a monstrous killing machine; way beyond our capabilities to control. Most of the time it's running it's split seconds from bloody disaster.  We put up with its dangers and imperfections because it's so damned handy.   It's a tradeoff.  We are willing to gamble life and limb in return for unprecedented mobility.


But can we pretend it really works?


So what can we do to make sure we aren't screwing up our corner of the universe beyond our ability to live in it?


Do we all become Kaczynskian Luddites, squashing every attempt at innovation because it might make the species extinct?


Well, hell no!   What's the use of being a species if we can't get a little fun out of it?  The second law of thermodynamics tells us we aren't going to be around forever, anyway. Paleontology tells us we are probably going to check out as a species long before universal entropy. 


But we might spend a little more time learning the rules, and be in a bit less of a hurry to make a buck.  The best species evidently have had a few million years, which means we aren't even out of infancy.   Embryonic, yet.