later on the same walk

R: Andy Gill posted to Tristero that the Enlightenment is over, and we’re heading into an age of superstition. It made me sad. Do you think he’s right?

J: Only in America.

R: Heh. Well, I don’t really care if I’m out of step with my world-historical moment. I like Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft, I approve of human rights and I’m going to live like a nineteenth-century liberal humanist even if there is no liberal humanism any more. If I believe in the scientific method really hard, it must be true, right?

J: The Enlightment! It’s shiny!

R: Actually the nice thing about the scientific method is that it doesn’t matter whether I believe in it or not. I guess I do have to have faith that mathematics really can describe the way the universe behaves, and that it’s not just all in our heads.

J: It’s one of those subtle philosophical questions: does pure maths really map onto physics, or do we just think it does because our brains evolved that way? Paul Erdös believed in maths. He liked to talk about The Book. He said that when mathematicians die, they get to read about how everything really works.

R: Oh, I like that. It’s like how when I die, I get to read the rest of Jane Austen.

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