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Greg Egan writes,

I wish we had a good word in English that meant only “the shattering majesty of reality”, so atheists could make it abundantly clear that they’re aware of this majesty, but don’t imagine that it’s due to anything that resembles a person in any way. But what atheists absolutely should not do is say “Well, I’m going to use the word ‘God’ to mean ‘the awesomeness of the universe’”. This is helpful for selling lots of tenth-rate pop-science books with “God” in their titles, and for winning the Templeton prize, but even when it’s not plain venal and dishonest it’s linguistically sloppy.

This is why I describe quantum mechanics as Loki playing dice with the Universe. Come on, Loki may be subtle, but he’s not malicious, right?

We can take this one step further. There is a model of the early Universe called string gas cosmology, in which the reason why the Cosmos has three dimensions is essentially the same as the reason why knots can exist in three dimensions but not more or less. (In 2D, there’s not enough “room” for a string to overlap itself, and in 4D or higher, there’s too much room, and a knotted loop can always “slip free”, returning to a simple circle.) I wonder if the Templeton Foundation will pay me for declaring that the Cosmos is the way it is because Aphrodite likes to get tied up in knots?

(Hah! And you thought I was going to quote a passage from Quarantine, didn’t you?)


  1. Show your work.

    • Alistair Wall
    • Posted Sunday, 4 November 2007 at 16:27 pm
    • Permalink

    “Loki may be subtle, but he’s not malicious, right?”

    Who killed Balder?

  2. Hence the joke.