Lately, I've debated a lot of people here about the validity of saying that a particular model of reality is superior to another. Many of you are wont to claim that religious ideas are non-sense or at least less sense than non-religious ideas, or scientific ideas (I distinguish the two because atheists are not always scientists). The reason I bother to debate this point at all is not even to assert a model of my own, but to illustrate that no idea should really be considered more or less realistic than another until we are certain that we have a model that accurately represents reality. Completely accurately. To me, anything less than complete accuracy is equivalent to complete inaccuracy. But a lot of you seem to disagree with that concept, so I wanted to explain it as a seperate post than the ones in which it has come up.
In several of my attempts to explain this, I have used an analogy of infinite numbers, saying that claiming something is almost correct is akin to saying a number is almost infinite. Anyone who has enough experience in math to have encountered infinite numbers knows that it is ludicrous to claim that a finite number is close to infinity. Any finite number, no matter how large, is still infinitely far from infinity. But using that analogy has not always made my point clear (or maybe it has and people still just disagree with me, lol).
I have also tried explaining by pointing to ideas like chaos theory, which enables computers to simulate complex models with billions or even trillions of interracting parts. Things like galaxy formations, baclkhole simulations, and models of the Big Bang are made using chaos theory. I use it as an example because the math of chaos theory illustrates that very tiny, seemingly insignificant differences in the input algorithms can produce vast differences in the output model because of the number of parts involved and the number of interractions occuring. I recently watched an attempt at simulating the beginnings of the universe, and the programmers were having trouble finding parameters that would actually produce a universe like our own. With only very minor adjustments to parameters like the number of protons, neutrons and electrons in the universe, hugely different sequences would be produced by the computers. Most of them simply did not create anything like the universe we observe until the programmers tweaked it to within very small margins, at which point galaxies began to emerge from the simulation that were similar to what we see when we look through a telescope. Yet, if you used the math from any of their failed attempts to try to measure something on the human scale, you would have gotten results accurate to degrees far exceeding anything that most of us ever need to measure. Just like Newtonian mechanics produces very accurate measurements (enough to launch a shuttle to the moon and bring it back), and is thus still taught in classrooms all the way up to college-level physics. And yet, scientists abandoned Newtonian mechanics over a century ago, in favor of relativistic and quantum mechanics. And in the future, the models we use today will likely be abandoned for some model that has even more accurate predictions.
The differences will seem tiny: right now, scientific models can predict the results of experiments to within tens-of-thousandths of degrees of accuracy. And the next model might only increase that to hundreds-of-thousandth of degrees. Newtonian mechanics was is accurate to within thousandths of degrees, a difference of just a few decimal places, yet the overall picture that it paints of reality is staggeringly different than the picture painted by relativistic and quantum mechanics. So, it cannot be said that Newton came "close" to describing reality. If you plugged Newtonian math into the simulators trying to produce models of the Big Bang, you would get results that were so totally alien that you wouldn't even recognize it as a universe. There would be no galaxies, no stars or planets, and certainly no humans. And because our current models do not produce 100% accurate results in experiments, they cannot be said to be close to describing reality either. Until the results are perfect, they are all still infinitely far away.
This is why I frequently challenge my fellow atheists here for saying that the ideas of theists are inferior to our own, or that they are deserving of ridicule and mockery. They are no further from the truth than our models, and for all we know, they may be just a small tweak away from being correct. When you are driving down a road that's a million miles long, a tiny turn of the wheel in your first mile will put you waaaaaaaay off track by the end. Perhaps that is what has happened to the ideas of theists. Many religions are thousands of years old. Perhaps in the beginning, they only took that one, small wrong turn away from accurately describing reality, but have now gone so far off course that the mistake seems huge to all of us looking at them today. But perhaps our theories have also taken a wrong turn here or there, and we only do not see it because the road is younger under our feet.
So unless you have a model of reality, be it science or your own unique model, that predicts everything that happens perfectly all the time, your ideas are just as far off as every other person who has ever walked the Earth. Your ideas may seem pretty close most of the time, but if you could extend your predictions far enough into the future, you would very likely find yourself way off course. I implore you all to keep this in mind the next time you want to ridicule a theist for believing something that you don't. We should not become the new oppressors of ideas, just because our ideas are newer. We should not now become the group that is so certain of itself that we disregard the opinions of others, or we are just as bad as those who do it in the name of God, or Allah, or Xenu.
Am I making sense to anyone?