Computer Science and Christianity: a modeling Approach

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Computer Science and Christianity: A Modeling Approach

  • Gene B. Chase

  • 29 March 2001

“Thank you for not using 666 in your papers”

Three Approaches to Integration

  • Incarnational Approach: Who am I?

  • Incompleteness Approach: What do I not know?

  • Imago Dei: What do I know?

I. Incarnational: Who am I?

  • Lynn Arthur Steen. “The Science of Patterns.” Science, 240, 29 April 1988, pp. 611-616.

  • “I am a scientist, and I am a Christian. The integration takes place in me, not in the subject matter.”

Apply this to Computer Science?

  • In the CS workplace, I will model virtue.

  • In worship I will praise God for the beauty that I see in CS.

Lutheran View

  • St. Olaf College

  • Dr. Richard Hughes, President of California Lutheran University: “The Lutheran vision never seeks to superimpose the kingdom of God onto the world . . . Lutherans seek to bring the world and the kingdom of God into dialogue.”

Lutheran View

  • At Lutheran Valparaiso University one department chair said: “Show us what Lutheran economics is and we'll see if we can find a Lutheran economist who can teach it.”

Advantage & Disadvantage

  • Advantage: It addresses the “so what” question.

  • Disadvantage: It doesn’t seem to be pursuing integration, just letting it happen.

II. Incompleteness: What don’t we know?

  • Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem (1931): For any mathematical system S strong enough to do addition and multiplication of integers, the consistency of that system, Con(S), cannot be proven within the system.

Gödel Numbering

  • g(x)=2, g(y)=3, g(()=5, g())=7, g(+)=11, g(*)=13, g(0)=17, g(1)=19, g(2)=23, ...

  • g(x*(y+21))=

  • 2g(x)3g(*)5g(()7g(y)11g(+)13g(2)17g(1)

  • g(statements)=

  • 2g(st1)3g(st2)5g(st3)7g(st4)11g(st5)3g(st6)

Incompleteness Results

  • J. R. Lucas: Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem suggests that humanity is not the measure of its own meaning.

  • Chase: “Skolem’s Paradox and the Predestination/Free-Will Discussion”

  • Chase: “What Does a Computer Program Mean?”

Incompleteness in CS

  • Alan Turing (1937). The Halting Problem: No computer program U can be written which receives as input a program P and its input I, and returns true if P halts on input I, but returns false if P loops infinitely on input I.

  • Kurt Gödel (1956). P=NP?

Is P=NP?

  • P=solved in polynomial time.

  • NP=checked for correctness in polynomial time.

  • Optimists: P=NP, or maybe PNP.

  • Pessimists: P=NP can’t be known.

  • Ecc. 3:11: God “has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

  • - 10000 = 

Advantage & Disadvantage

  • Advantage: A sense of humility, awe, and mystery before a great God.

  • Disadvantage: This view has a “god of the gaps” feel to it.

Calvinist View

  • Creation mandate: To “subdue the earth” (Gen. 1:28)

  • The Fall affected our ability to reason, not just our ability to be moral.

III. Imago Dei: What do we know?

  • Parables.

  • Donald MacKay. The Clockwork Image, IV Press 1974. A marquee of flashing lights:

  • Physics explanation.

  • Information-processing explanation.

III. Imago Dei: What do we know?


  • Information-processing complements Physics

  • Waves complement particles

  • “Complementarity as a Christian Philosophy of Mathematics”

Deciding on a Career

Roger Penrose

Big Ideas of CS

  • Abstraction

  • Hierarchy

  • Virtuality

  • Global versus local

  • Parallelism

  • Time/space tradeoff

  • ...

Analogies in CS

  • Sofware

Parables as Analogies

Social Relationships About God in Jesus’ Parables

  • Father / Mother

  • Friend

  • Husband

C. S. Lewis

  • The metaphor is backwards: It is not God who is like our earthly fathers; it is our earthly fathers who should strive to be like Father.

  • Similarly, CS is not the reality and our faith the metaphor; our relationship with God is the reality and CS can only provide metaphors.

Advantage & Disadvantage

  • Advantage: We are at home in the universe.

  • Disadvantage: Multiple perspectives can too easily lead to relativism.

Anabaptist View

  • Love more important than doctrine (John 13:36)

  • “We see a poor relfection in a mirror” (I Cor. 13:12)

Anglican View

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