Re: Seely's Views 2

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Sun Sep 12 2004 - 01:44:07 EDT

GRM: A 10% error in the transmission channel means that only 50% of the
communication actually gets across!

DFW: People can often have a good idea of what is being shown on a TV screen even when it's very noisy. I can't quantify this, but I'd guess people can follow the story of a movie, for example, when errors from noise are much larger than 10%. (Psychologists long ago observed that people--unlike electronic devices--see patterns rather than bits.) And making a good picture perfect helps very little in communicating a story. So the important part of the communication persists even in the presence of very high noise, and eliminating the noise completely doesn't improve communication if the picture is already fairly good. What would Shannon say to this?

I have a hard time seeing how Shannon applies to ordinary interpersonal communication, and you chose not to address this when I raised the issue earlier. Communication among humans obviously occurs despite high noise levels. Communication from God to humans likewise. Even animals with no capability for speech communicate effectively. I'd compare God's communication to a picture with some fuzziness: We can get the important part of the message despite the noise. Your argument that the picture is totally untrustworthy because it has some noise puzzles me, because that's not true to life.

GRM: One can only
judge that communication has been successful through Christianity by
previously assuming that Christianity is correct.

DFW: Not me. I was born into Christianity, and like all such people I assumed as a kid that it was the correct way. Eventually this religion led me to very powerful personal experiences of God, which were in some sense instances of communication, on a daily basis over a period of 20 months. (What does Dora claim for her contacts with Lenin? Maybe Shirley Maclaine would be a more compelling example!) Ultimately these personal experiences became psychologically far more dominant than all my previous Christian education, so I felt empowered to keep or reject anything I'd learned previously about Christianity. I had started out as a YEC fanatic, but the YEC understanding of the world did not seem consistent with my experiences of God, so I rejected it--while I was a private in the US Army--long before I went into science. Thus at that time I did not assume that anything I'd previously learned about Christianity was necessarily correct. Over a period of years, after contemplating the various Christian doctrines and comparing them with my experiences of God, I arrived at a view of Christian doctrine that wound up being fairly traditional in some respects.

Bottom line: At some point I did not assume that Christianity was correct, but after much contemplation I concluded that God had indeed communicated his love for the world dominantly through that religion. Of course, I was biased: Christianity had led me to God, so chances were better than even that I would eventually conclude it was the best religion.

GRM: Once we allow
accommodation and error into the information stream, at the receiving
end, it is not safe to assume that communication has occurred. There is
nothing one can do to reconstruct the correct message.

DFW: The picture is fuzzy, but we can still pretty well make out what it's supposed to be; and our ability to do so indicates that communication has occurred. We don't know in fine detail what the picture is supposed to look like, but that's not important. What's important is that the communication has been adequate for God's purposes, one of those purposes NOT being to convey lots of interesting but unimportant facts.


Received on Sun Sep 12 02:09:39 2004

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