A Theology of Computer Programming Languages

Elliott Slaughter

Session 1B, 11:20am, Room 112

Download: Podcast, Slides


Why did God create computer science? In this talk, I attempt to elucidate what might be called a “theology of computer science”,focusing in particular on computer programming languages. Like natural languages, programming languages are tools for communication, both between humans and computers. To futher this analogy, programming languages appear to embody social conventions chosen by particular communities with respect to how to communicate. Yet programming languages are clearly artificial, and in some cases can be traced back to the work of a single individual. If so, can they also be said to be created by God? I will argue that in some senses at least, the answer is yes. Based on our understanding of formal semantics, we do seem to catch glimses of some ultimate truth lurking beneath our own creations.


I am a Ph.D. student studying computer science at Stanford University. I have developed programming languages, compilers, and runtimes for high-performance systems, including ones used in the development of state-of-the-art techniques for simulating chemical processes in internal combustion engines. My research interests include parallel and high-performance programming systems and support software.

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