Hello, all...  My cousin is a post-doc in computer science.  He is a Christian, specifically a Quaker.  A while ago, he and I got into a discussion about atheism, religion, etc.  He claims that the existence of the supernatural (he didn't go so far as to say "god" or "the Christian god") is provable.  Here's what he had to say below...

You're going to have to do some serious reading here, but if you're actually interested in challenging your faith and embracing free thinking, here is where you should start:

"An Introduction to Formal Languages and Automata" by Peter Linz
ISBN-13: 978-0763737986

Mizzou probably has it in their University book store. You need this to understand the fundamental limits of computation. Once you get this, I'd suggest the following shorter reads:

"An Unsolvable Problem of Elementary Number Theory" by Alonzo Church
"On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem" by Alan Turing

You can find copies of these at the following locations for free:

Don't even attempt these until you understand Linz's book, however, as you lack the f...undamental background required at the moment.

Also, and probably better than jumping right into Church/Turing is to read

"Introductions to Automata Theory, Languages, and Computation" by Hopcroft, Ullman, etc (they add new authors each addition)
ISBN-13: 978-0321462251

This also should be obtainable from Mizzou's bookstore and/or library. It's a pretty standard text book.

Chomsky's original paper on language models might also be helpful and can be found here:

Once you finish this set, come back to me and we'll talk about how to link this with the concepts I'm talking about if it hasn't become apparent already. Turing connects a lot of it for you, but there are several other authors who build up...on it.

There is not, to my knowledge, an accessible to laymen guide to these concepts.

So I'm hoping that someone on here has read some of these titles/also has a degree in computer science and can help this layman try to figure out exactly what he's talking about and where he might be drawing his conclusions from so that I can actually try to competently refute him..

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sounds like he is giving you more homework then you are willing to do so that he never has to explain anything to you. Probably in the hopes that you will take at face value that he can prove god.
I have a feeling he is trying to pull the wool over your eyes and insult your intelligence. If such "proof" were substantial in any form, it would be more mainstream and all the xtians would be blasting it from foghorns mounted to the steeples of the church.

I would tell him that the burden of proof lies on him, if he can't actually explain his proof in a reasonable and understandable manner then you have already won.
See that's what I figured, too, but if I say something like that then he'll come back with something to the effect of I'm willing to read books written by atheist writers, but I'm not willing to do the academic legwork for something that conflicts with my fundamentalist philosophy...
His unwillingness to even begin to explain anything to you untill you read a librarys worth of books makes him come across as a fraud and an eletist asshole. I'd ask him to give me a basic explination of what he is talking about just so you can get the jist of it. Most people who are excited to make the claim that they are right will go to great lingths to explain it to anyone who is willing to listen, they will explain the theory or claim as simple as they possibly can, then give the books as reference. Someone who isnt so sure of what they claim or has no proof will often do as your friend did, they will bury ideals under mountains of references etc in hops to "bull shit" (for lack of a better word) you into thinking, oh he can spout off references so he must be right. IDK sounds fishy and since he didn't even try to explain it to you he probably doesn't even want to debate it in the first place.

Furthermore if he is really just saying that numbers and equations are perfect therefore god exists, i'd remind him of how utterly imperfect our human bodies are compaired to those of animals (i.e. the eye) which were supposed to be his masterpiece.
The only thing I've been able to weasel out of him in terms of a simpler explanation is that it has something to do with the Halting Problem, but that's all I can get him to say...

And yes, he does have a tendency to be an elitist asshole at times while playing it off as if he is the reasonable and enlightened one. My mom has even commented that sometimes he makes her think of Sheldon on Big Bang Theory.
My mom has even commented that sometimes he makes her think of Sheldon on Big Bang Theory
I would have to shoot him. If he had anything that established the existence of god he should be able to articulate it without laying out a summer reading program on you. I think he's blowing smoke up your skirt. He has the earmarks of a pompous asshole.
Right, obscure references to support an inflated claim in the existance of a supposedly self-evident gawd. Why would the creator of the universe hide from rational view for thousands of years? Is he/she/it ashamed of the mess they made, or are they wanking it on their throne of corpses to the tune of the global snuff film they made of our existence?
Sounds like your cousin might be an ass who should be confronted from the perspective of the vile nature of his supposed creator. You dont need to read a lot of books to say "the god of the bible is an evil prick".
Like James Beckerleq said earlier, sounds like the piling-on-the-homework tactic.

- Cite books and/or authors, but never a specific passage/page.

- Proofread well and sound authoritative.

- Goal: Your audience won't have the patience to look up your sources and will assume from your authoritative sound that you must know what you're talking about.

- If anyone challenges you, bully them. Insult their intelligence. Talk to them as you would a child, and reiterate that "Lots of scholars" agree with you. Again; many will be so impressed with your authoritative voice they'll never notice that you've never sourced your material beyond "Read this book, you little person you" (or if you don't feel like reading the entire book, just take my word for it).

Yes, it can be argued that some concepts are pretty big to be summed up in a couple of easy quotations. Say, if I had a Theist asking me about evolution, genuinely interested in it but genuinely not having the first clue. But even then, I could manage a few paragraphs and a few starter links/citations to at least show that the science has solid backing.
I've a feeling this challenge falls somewhere between the twin horns of number 29 and 36 of
Schopenhauer's "Thirty - Eight Ways to Win an Argument" - all of them deceitful.
That page is awesome Richard.
Great link Richard!
You cousin sounds like a bit of a jerk. But two can play that game. Give him a long list of books by atheist writers and fellow scientists, then refuse to discuss the subject until he's read them all. Honestly, computer science is a field of study that only deals with human constructed devises. If astronomy, biology, botany and other sciences which study things that are not human made and they have not been able to prove the existence of god, how in the world can an entirely human made science do it? In other words, I can see no reason his PhD in computer science gives him special insight into the existence of god.

NORAD tracks Santa, but has never tracked god. The argument NORAD tracks Santa, therefore, Santa must be real is just as valid as his that god must be real because mathematics exists.


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