I have joined the legion of people who have decided to write a book. I have had an interest in the God-conversation since I started university in 2007 and that’s basically meant 7 years of pontification and research; I reckon I’m more knowledgeable on God than I am my own degree: Geography. (That said, I have a second book idea that would be about Geography.) The book is currently operating under the working title “Treatise on God: how gods cloud our ideas of true and good”, but that is set to change in time to something more snappy.
Writing a book is a very odd process. I get the pernicious feeling that I am writing too much and digressing from the issue. That hinders my appetite for sitting down with the book and writing more. The book has already taken on a life of its own, as it is more about reasoned thinking than God directly. That is something that I have come across many times in reading advice about writing a book: let the book live. It’s not easy advice to follow, because I had a plan. However, the book has developed as using God as a prop up for something bigger.
The cornerstone of the book is Asimov’s Relativity of Wrong and, many thanks to Fourat, Deutsch’s good explanations and fallibilism. Reasoned thoughts, fast becoming the real topic of my book, succumb to criticism and that shapes them as ever less wrong (and so ‘more right’) models of reality. I am currently writing a small subchapter contrasting that against faith. I have done a section looking at faithful and successful scientists through history to examine to what extent faith was a key player in the development of their ideas. I assume it comes as no surprise that faith plays no role in that whatsoever. I am using two case studies now to expand that idea of faith as a methodology: homeopathy and acupuncture. The idea is that these ideas have survived to the modern day on faith alone. The question is whether there are kernel’s of truth in them and whether the method of using faith is the reason for any kernels of truth (so many ideas have fallen to the wayside–like alchemy–because they lacked even the slightest kernel of truth, which is ironic considering our modern knowledge of nuclear fusion). The answers is that homeopathy is absolute bunk; it is one of the few things that is actually fractally wrong: it’s mechanisms don’t make sense, the results are conclusively no better than a placebo. Acupuncture is slightly different. Evidence for acupuncture is starting to form from fMRI scanners. There does seem to be a kernel of truth in this ancient Chinese medicine. However, it is shrouded in claims of qi and meridian lines, which I am currently trying to understand.
The hypotheses that underpin modern acupuncture are several fold: pricking of the skin may release endorphins, gentle stimulus of the nervous system may dampen pain signals, or it could be a placebo (thinking it will work makes it work). The idea that it is a placebo doesn’t seem that strong: we are not talking about subjective reported pain sensations, we are talking about fMRI scans. But it would be interesting to see whether “sham acupuncture” gets the same results as acupuncture.
Sham acupuncture would be the placebo, where needles are inserted into the skin in places that do not reflect the ancient Chinese belief in Meridian lines (e.g. needles in the inner foot cure liver issues). Given that acupuncture does seem to be an effective pain reliever, I am now interested into whether the mechanism by which that works bears any relation to Meridian Line Theory.
Then, we apply Deutsch’s rules of fallibilism to chip away at the body of nonsense claims and are left with that kernel of truth and better explanation. Then, finally, a discussion on what role “faith” plays in the modern rendition of acupuncture (if any at all).
Anyway, I though I’d let you know what I’m doing. All advice and research papers and possible reading lists will be received with gratitude and a sigh of yet more to read.