[Tutor] [OT] Confusion [was Re: A file containing a string of 1 billion random digits.]

Steven D'Aprano steve at pearwood.info
Tue Jul 20 02:57:12 CEST 2010

On Tue, 20 Jul 2010 01:42:51 am Richard D. Moores wrote:

> The formatting operations described here are obsolete and may go away
> in future versions of Python. Use the new String Formatting in new
> code.
> I hope that use of '*' does disappear. It's the most confusing thing
> I've recently tried to get my mind around! 

If you think that's confusing, you should try reading up on Monads.


> Before that, maybe, was the Trinity..

[Note: the following may be offensive to some Christians, in which case, 
remember that nobody has the right to not be offended, and nobody is 
forcing you to read on.]

The Trinity is simple to understand once you realise one thing -- 
despite all the obfuscatory pseudo-justifications for it, it is not 
meant to be understood, it's meant to be believed. It is a Mystery, 
something beyond human understanding. Not merely a small-m mystery, 
something which is possible to understand in principle, if we only knew 
enough. As Tertullian said (in a related but slightly different 

"It is certain because it is impossible". 

Or, to paraphrase, "I believe it because it is absurd".

Like many religious beliefs (e.g. transubstantiation and dietary 
restrictions), belief in the Trinity is a shibboleth. Belief in the 
Trinity distinguishes Us ("true Christians") from Them (heretics and 
pagans[1]). The more ridiculous and crazy the belief, the more 
effective it is as a shibboleth. Anyone can believe that the son and 
the father are different people, because that's just ordinary 
common-sense[2]. But to believe that the son and the father are one and 
the same while being different *at the same time* makes no sense. It 
is, as Tertullian would almost certainly have admitted, absurd and 
ridiculous and totally crazy. Tertullian would have believed it 
*because* it was unbelievable.

It really is frightening to realise that, essentially, the Chewbacca 
Defence has held such a grip on human society for so many centuries.


[1] Actually many pagans also believe in trinities. But they believe in 
the *wrong* trinity: the three-as-one nature of Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva,  
Ra/Horus/Osiris, Ceres/Liber/Libera, or (two-in-one) Apollo/Bacchus is 
mere pagan superstition, while the three-as-one nature of 
Father/Son/Spirit is self-evidently true, at least according to those 
Christian sects which believe in a trinity.

[2] So rare that it ought to count as a superpower.

Steven D'Aprano

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