The “God particle”

Michael Gerson gives the most lucid explanation I have found for what the Higgs boson–a.k.a. the “God particle”–is.  He also explores the implications of the strange fact that mathematics, which is a function of the human mind, can actually predict what things exist in the external world:

Modern physics can explain just about everything, except why anything has mass. The Standard Model of physics, which emerged four decades ago, employs an elegant mathematical formula to account for most of the elemental forces in the universe. It correctly predicted the discovery of various leptons and quarks in the laboratory.

But the equation doesn’t explain gravity. So the Standard Model requires the existence of some other force that seized the massless particles produced by the Big Bang and sucked them into physicality. The detection of Higgs bosons would confirm this theory — which is why scientists are smashing protons into one another in a 17-mile round particle accelerator and picking through the subatomic wreckage.

It will take a few more years for definitive results. But most scientists don’t seem to appreciate the glorious improbability — and philosophic implications — of the entire enterprise.

In 1928, theoretical physicist Paul Dirac combined the mathematical formulas for relativity and quantum mechanics into a single equation and predicted the existence of antimatter. Antimatter was duly discovered in 1932. But why should a mathematical equation — the product of brain chemistry — describe physical reality? It is not self-evident that there should be any correspondence between mathematical formulas and the laws of the universe. Modern physics does not consist of measured phenomena summarized in elegant equations; it consists of elegant equations that predict measured phenomena. This has been called “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.” However unreasonable, it led to the construction of the Large Hadron Collider along the border of France and Switzerland, the largest machine ever built by human beings.

Dr. Ard Louis, a young physicist teaching at the University of Oxford, recalls his first encounter with Dirac’s equation. “How can mathematics demand something so fantastical from nature? I was sure it couldn’t be true and spent many hours trying to find a way out. When I finally gave up and saw that there was no way around Dirac’s result, it gave me goose bumps. I remember thinking that even if I never used my years of physics training again, it would have been worth it just to see something so spectacularly beautiful.”

Louis describes a cumulative case for wonder. Not only does the universe unexpectedly correspond to mathematical theories, it is self-organizing — from biology to astrophysics — in unlikely ways. The physical constants of the universe seem finely tuned for the emergence of complexity and life. Slightly modify the strength of gravity, or the chemistry of carbon, or the ratio of the mass of protons and electrons, and biological systems become impossible. The universe-ending Big Crunch comes too soon, or carbon isn’t produced, or suns explode.

The wild improbability of a universe that allows us to be aware of it seems to demand some explanation. This does not require theism. Some physicists favor the theory of the multiverse, in which every possible universe exists simultaneously. If everything happens, it is not surprising that anything happens. But this is not a theory that can be scientifically tested. Other universes, by definition, are not accessible. The multiverse is metaphysics — just as subject to the scientific method as the existence of heaven.

One reasonable alternative — the one advocated by Louis — is theism. It explains a universe finely tuned for life and accessible to human reason. It accounts for the cosmic coincidences. And a theistic universe, unlike the alternatives, also makes sense of free will and moral responsibility.

via The search for the God particle goes beyond mere physics – The Washington Post.

I love that:  “sucked into physicality.”  Also the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.”  Also “Modern physics does not consist of measured phenomena summarized in elegant equations; it consists of elegant equations that predict measured phenomena.”

Intelligent design is not just predicated on one thing or another showing evidence of having been designed by a primal mind.  It seems to me to go much deeper than that.  Mathematics is mind, and that mathematics applies to nature is evidence of a mind behind nature.   Isn’t it?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    They looked into His eyes.

    They saw Him raise the dead.

    And yet they did not believe.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    They looked into His eyes.

    They saw Him raise the dead.

    And yet they did not believe.

  • James Sarver

    “He also explores the implications of the strange fact that mathematics, which is a function of the human mind, can actually predict what things exist in the external world:”

    A function of the human mind? So in a world without humans mathematics does not exist? A pretty narrow view from someone who attempts to explore the “philosophic implications — of the entire enterprise.”

  • James Sarver

    “He also explores the implications of the strange fact that mathematics, which is a function of the human mind, can actually predict what things exist in the external world:”

    A function of the human mind? So in a world without humans mathematics does not exist? A pretty narrow view from someone who attempts to explore the “philosophic implications — of the entire enterprise.”

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Actually, Steve is on to something there. Why must we try and put God in an “intellectual test tube”, add the “Divinty indicator”, see it turn Numinous Red, and say – “Yipeee, He exists!!” ???

    Why can’t people just be content to say – You must believe!, and if necessary, “Lord, help my unbelief!” For even when He was Here with us, many did not believe, even when He did perform miracles, raised the dead etc etc…..

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Actually, Steve is on to something there. Why must we try and put God in an “intellectual test tube”, add the “Divinty indicator”, see it turn Numinous Red, and say – “Yipeee, He exists!!” ???

    Why can’t people just be content to say – You must believe!, and if necessary, “Lord, help my unbelief!” For even when He was Here with us, many did not believe, even when He did perform miracles, raised the dead etc etc…..

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Also, I agree with James: Mathematics is not a construct of the human mind. The wikipedia defintion is actually quite beautiful –

    Mathematics (from Greek μάθημα máthēma “knowledge, study, learning”) is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change.

    There is some disagreement about mathematics as science – since it cannot be falisfied, and thus would not be a science according to Popper’s definition (not that Popper is the god of science, however). Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems did introduce the idea that maths is not “sola logica”, but that debate would take us far into the realm of mathematical philosophy.

    Personally, I am not a great fan of categorising anyway, and the application of reason and logic to, observation of and the collection of data from the world around us is all a worthy endevour, and I’m less concerned with is this a science, is this math, is this whatever, than by the rigour and the validity of the process.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Also, I agree with James: Mathematics is not a construct of the human mind. The wikipedia defintion is actually quite beautiful –

    Mathematics (from Greek μάθημα máthēma “knowledge, study, learning”) is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change.

    There is some disagreement about mathematics as science – since it cannot be falisfied, and thus would not be a science according to Popper’s definition (not that Popper is the god of science, however). Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems did introduce the idea that maths is not “sola logica”, but that debate would take us far into the realm of mathematical philosophy.

    Personally, I am not a great fan of categorising anyway, and the application of reason and logic to, observation of and the collection of data from the world around us is all a worthy endevour, and I’m less concerned with is this a science, is this math, is this whatever, than by the rigour and the validity of the process.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Anyway, the staement above “mathematics is mind” is only valid for a Vulcan after he/she has experienced Kolinahr, and only for so long as they maintain strict control. :)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Anyway, the staement above “mathematics is mind” is only valid for a Vulcan after he/she has experienced Kolinahr, and only for so long as they maintain strict control. :)

  • kenneth

    James

    The interesting thing about your comment of the philosophic implications of math understood as Platonic or physicality sucked out, “out there” are that human beings are somewhat monistic in the apprehensions of the world and the heavens. Perhaps there is a built in “brain chemistry” that is our sin nature in want of saving grace.

    So God has given us the needed data, the Bible, to realize reality or ultimate reality at some point in the eschaton. Now that is awsome and what a deliverence frome endless philosophying into a relationship with God in Christ, theology+++

  • kenneth

    James

    The interesting thing about your comment of the philosophic implications of math understood as Platonic or physicality sucked out, “out there” are that human beings are somewhat monistic in the apprehensions of the world and the heavens. Perhaps there is a built in “brain chemistry” that is our sin nature in want of saving grace.

    So God has given us the needed data, the Bible, to realize reality or ultimate reality at some point in the eschaton. Now that is awsome and what a deliverence frome endless philosophying into a relationship with God in Christ, theology+++

  • Rose

    Klasie,
    We limit God to our understanding of the natural world because it’s part of man’s ongoing rebellion.

  • Rose

    Klasie,
    We limit God to our understanding of the natural world because it’s part of man’s ongoing rebellion.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kenneth, you might want to rewrite your comment, because there is an element of “stream-of-consiousness” about it. I think I know what you ar attempting to get at, but your stream doesn’t quite reach it.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Kenneth, you might want to rewrite your comment, because there is an element of “stream-of-consiousness” about it. I think I know what you ar attempting to get at, but your stream doesn’t quite reach it.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rose: So you are saying we can test for God in a test tube (as it were), but we won’t?

    Is it me, or does anybody else see the proto-pelagianism in that approach?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Rose: So you are saying we can test for God in a test tube (as it were), but we won’t?

    Is it me, or does anybody else see the proto-pelagianism in that approach?

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@everywhere:

    On the one hand, I agree with you emphatically: the pursuit of a “god particle” is meaningless, and any attempts to discover the meaning and origins of the universe via the tools of mathematics and scientific inquiry are fruitless.

    On the other hand, I disagree. Mathematics does not exist apart from human inquiry. Mathematics is a “language” for making sense of physical (or abstract) phenomena, and, like all languages, it is thus a creation of the human mind. If human beings did not exist, for example, the quadratic formula would be meaningless. It is but an imperfect formulaic representation of certain phenomena our puny brains have been able to decipher in an imperfect fashion. Similarly, the number “2″ (or any other integer) does not exist somewhere in the texture of the cosmos. It is, again, a tool concocted by human minds to make sense of the universe.

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@everywhere:

    On the one hand, I agree with you emphatically: the pursuit of a “god particle” is meaningless, and any attempts to discover the meaning and origins of the universe via the tools of mathematics and scientific inquiry are fruitless.

    On the other hand, I disagree. Mathematics does not exist apart from human inquiry. Mathematics is a “language” for making sense of physical (or abstract) phenomena, and, like all languages, it is thus a creation of the human mind. If human beings did not exist, for example, the quadratic formula would be meaningless. It is but an imperfect formulaic representation of certain phenomena our puny brains have been able to decipher in an imperfect fashion. Similarly, the number “2″ (or any other integer) does not exist somewhere in the texture of the cosmos. It is, again, a tool concocted by human minds to make sense of the universe.

  • Fernando

    The “unreasonable effectiveness” issue goes back to physicist Eugene Wigner, but many mathematicians don’t quite buy it. I discussed some of the issues in a review of Livio’s book “Is God a Mathematician?” I wrote for First Things. One of the difficulties is that the idea that mathematics “is mind” is disputed. One could just as well argue that our mathematics ultimately derives from our experience of the universe, and so must correspond to the universe as we experience it. So while I certainly believe that God wrote the universe using mathematics as a sort of rhyme scheme (an idea I got from Vern Poythress), I don’t think one can effectively argue fron the usefulness of mathematics to some sort of theism.

  • Fernando

    The “unreasonable effectiveness” issue goes back to physicist Eugene Wigner, but many mathematicians don’t quite buy it. I discussed some of the issues in a review of Livio’s book “Is God a Mathematician?” I wrote for First Things. One of the difficulties is that the idea that mathematics “is mind” is disputed. One could just as well argue that our mathematics ultimately derives from our experience of the universe, and so must correspond to the universe as we experience it. So while I certainly believe that God wrote the universe using mathematics as a sort of rhyme scheme (an idea I got from Vern Poythress), I don’t think one can effectively argue fron the usefulness of mathematics to some sort of theism.

  • Cincinnatus

    Relatedly, Christianity cannot be proven. Evangelicals and other Christians miss the point spectacularly when the argue that the purpose of science is to corroborate intelligent design or to reveal the “nature” of God.

    Since Francis Bacon made his outrageous claims for scientific inquiry in the 1500s-1600s, Western science has labored under the delusion that it is an unstoppable, progressive force that will move from victory to victory, ever closer to the discovery of ultimate “Truth.” Kuhn’s prescient observations notwithstanding, this is a mythology that still permeates the world of science, both for its practitioners and the admiring public.

    But I’m going to make a prediction: within the next few decades, science is finally going to have to acknowledge that there are limits on its power. It cannot explain or discover everything and it cannot supply meaning to the cosmos or, more importantly, to human life. The human intellect, even taken in the collective, is finite; so too are its scientific tools.

  • Cincinnatus

    Relatedly, Christianity cannot be proven. Evangelicals and other Christians miss the point spectacularly when the argue that the purpose of science is to corroborate intelligent design or to reveal the “nature” of God.

    Since Francis Bacon made his outrageous claims for scientific inquiry in the 1500s-1600s, Western science has labored under the delusion that it is an unstoppable, progressive force that will move from victory to victory, ever closer to the discovery of ultimate “Truth.” Kuhn’s prescient observations notwithstanding, this is a mythology that still permeates the world of science, both for its practitioners and the admiring public.

    But I’m going to make a prediction: within the next few decades, science is finally going to have to acknowledge that there are limits on its power. It cannot explain or discover everything and it cannot supply meaning to the cosmos or, more importantly, to human life. The human intellect, even taken in the collective, is finite; so too are its scientific tools.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Fernando – yes!

    Cincinnatus – everywhere – yes! and no!

    Maths does exist independantly – we just “frame it” if you will, in our terms. π is π, whether we call it that or not, whether we exist or not. As to predictions – I’m always wary of grand ones. As I answered you the other day (unfortunately the answer was lost in a barrage of other questions and debates), there is only the Ultimate Ontological Question, from which all others derive. and that question cannot be answered by either science, or philosophy, or theology. But I do not want to derail an excellent discussion again – my full answer was at # 46 on this thread: http://www.geneveith.com/2011/12/13/can-science-explain-everything/#comments

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Fernando – yes!

    Cincinnatus – everywhere – yes! and no!

    Maths does exist independantly – we just “frame it” if you will, in our terms. π is π, whether we call it that or not, whether we exist or not. As to predictions – I’m always wary of grand ones. As I answered you the other day (unfortunately the answer was lost in a barrage of other questions and debates), there is only the Ultimate Ontological Question, from which all others derive. and that question cannot be answered by either science, or philosophy, or theology. But I do not want to derail an excellent discussion again – my full answer was at # 46 on this thread: http://www.geneveith.com/2011/12/13/can-science-explain-everything/#comments

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – but I strongly agree with your statement about the unproveability of Christianity. That is what I’ve been trying to get across in one form or another in various threads these past few weeks. If it was proveable, we should all become pelagians (I’ll leave it to you someone else to connect the dots there…)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus – but I strongly agree with your statement about the unproveability of Christianity. That is what I’ve been trying to get across in one form or another in various threads these past few weeks. If it was proveable, we should all become pelagians (I’ll leave it to you someone else to connect the dots there…)

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@13: Indeed, I agree with you regarding the potential of science to encounter the “UOQ,” as you deem it.

    But about mathematics. Are you suggesting that “pi,” for instance, is an independent entity that, say, exists in the “mind” of God or something? Perhaps this is a question that cannot be satisfied in any rigorous sense. But I’ll start by saying that I disagree with my understanding of your position.

  • Cincinnatus

    KK@13: Indeed, I agree with you regarding the potential of science to encounter the “UOQ,” as you deem it.

    But about mathematics. Are you suggesting that “pi,” for instance, is an independent entity that, say, exists in the “mind” of God or something? Perhaps this is a question that cannot be satisfied in any rigorous sense. But I’ll start by saying that I disagree with my understanding of your position.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Klasie,
    It’s curious that you would see semi pelagianism in an effort to find evidence for the belief in God. I think you are operating on some misnomer as to what Pelagianism is, what faith is.
    It is quite the opposite actually, demanding some one to believe in the absence or in the face of evidence makes faith into a work of man. The leap of faith that evangelicals talk about, that is semi-pelagianism. God gives evidence of his existence, to make use of that is not wrong.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Klasie,
    It’s curious that you would see semi pelagianism in an effort to find evidence for the belief in God. I think you are operating on some misnomer as to what Pelagianism is, what faith is.
    It is quite the opposite actually, demanding some one to believe in the absence or in the face of evidence makes faith into a work of man. The leap of faith that evangelicals talk about, that is semi-pelagianism. God gives evidence of his existence, to make use of that is not wrong.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    That is, you should really read Wolfhart Pannenberg on this in either the short little book, “the Apostles’ Creed” or his larger tome “Jesus-God and Man.”
    I’ve heard your arguments over and over, and not just from you, they don’t hold water, not if you want to consider anything scripture has to say on the matter of faith and belief. Was Thomas not a believer after he touched the side of Jesus? Was he a semi-pelagian or just a pelagian because evidence was provided to convince him?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    That is, you should really read Wolfhart Pannenberg on this in either the short little book, “the Apostles’ Creed” or his larger tome “Jesus-God and Man.”
    I’ve heard your arguments over and over, and not just from you, they don’t hold water, not if you want to consider anything scripture has to say on the matter of faith and belief. Was Thomas not a believer after he touched the side of Jesus? Was he a semi-pelagian or just a pelagian because evidence was provided to convince him?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus

    Cincinnatus,

    π, being the relationship between a circle’s diameter and it’s circumference, exists and doesn’t need humans to formulate it, merely to express it.

    A more natural example would be radioactive decay: It takes place in an exponential pattern. Now, we knew exponents long before we knew about radioactivity. But if you look at what actually happens when an element decays, you’d realise that the exponential description is going to fit – but before this gets too long, rather read the wikipedia article on radioactive decay, it is actually quite good. Basically, we are looking at something a lot more complicated that one elephant walking by itself, then being joined by another elephant, and now there are two elephants. But that is still 1+1=2. Similarly, exponential decay, is simply written as -dNb/dt = – λbNb.
    We are just expressing the mathematics that exists.

    Similarly, once again Gaussian distribution, the Binomial theorem, graph theory, Bifurcation theory, Fourier transforms etc etc are all just ever increasing complications, built by logical processes, expressing realities.

    It is a bit like the old, over-done question of “if a leaf falls in a forest, and nobody sees/hears it, did it fall?”. If an equation exists logically, but nobody describes it, is it still true?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus

    Cincinnatus,

    π, being the relationship between a circle’s diameter and it’s circumference, exists and doesn’t need humans to formulate it, merely to express it.

    A more natural example would be radioactive decay: It takes place in an exponential pattern. Now, we knew exponents long before we knew about radioactivity. But if you look at what actually happens when an element decays, you’d realise that the exponential description is going to fit – but before this gets too long, rather read the wikipedia article on radioactive decay, it is actually quite good. Basically, we are looking at something a lot more complicated that one elephant walking by itself, then being joined by another elephant, and now there are two elephants. But that is still 1+1=2. Similarly, exponential decay, is simply written as -dNb/dt = – λbNb.
    We are just expressing the mathematics that exists.

    Similarly, once again Gaussian distribution, the Binomial theorem, graph theory, Bifurcation theory, Fourier transforms etc etc are all just ever increasing complications, built by logical processes, expressing realities.

    It is a bit like the old, over-done question of “if a leaf falls in a forest, and nobody sees/hears it, did it fall?”. If an equation exists logically, but nobody describes it, is it still true?

  • Lou G.

    Dr. Veith: Yes, it is!
    Thank you for the post.

  • Lou G.

    Dr. Veith: Yes, it is!
    Thank you for the post.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Bror, I see it thus:

    What Rose propose, is that the human mind can find proof of God, independant of faith. Thus logic can work itself up to God is what she says. For me, and I will have to demostrate that to you, I guess, the corrolary is that if logic can work itself up to God, I can just as well work my way up to Heaven…. Faith becomes unnecessary. In a nutshell.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Bror, I see it thus:

    What Rose propose, is that the human mind can find proof of God, independant of faith. Thus logic can work itself up to God is what she says. For me, and I will have to demostrate that to you, I guess, the corrolary is that if logic can work itself up to God, I can just as well work my way up to Heaven…. Faith becomes unnecessary. In a nutshell.

  • Lou G.

    James, the way i read it: “A function of the human mind” does not mean that it is created by the human mind. It simply means that the human mind functions in such a way as to perform mathematics.

  • Lou G.

    James, the way i read it: “A function of the human mind” does not mean that it is created by the human mind. It simply means that the human mind functions in such a way as to perform mathematics.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus: But here is a question for you, while you prepare one for me. Do you agree that all of philosophy etc disolves in the face of the UOQ? And is the UOQ the origin of the Sensus Divinatus, as I’ve seen the term bandied about (I think Plantinga uses it?)?

    Sorry, two questions.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Cincinnatus: But here is a question for you, while you prepare one for me. Do you agree that all of philosophy etc disolves in the face of the UOQ? And is the UOQ the origin of the Sensus Divinatus, as I’ve seen the term bandied about (I think Plantinga uses it?)?

    Sorry, two questions.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Lou @ 21 – that could be a more useable statement, I agree.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Lou @ 21 – that could be a more useable statement, I agree.

  • Lou G.

    Hi Cincinnatus. I agree with:
    “science is finally going to have to acknowledge that there are limits on its power. It cannot explain or discover everything and it cannot supply meaning to the cosmos or, more importantly, to human life. The human intellect, even taken in the collective, is finite; so too are its scientific tools.”

    But I would also add that truly rational scientists have always understood this to be true. The material world can only provide so much data — although, the Bible is also clear that what can be known from nature clearly reflects the attributes and character of our Creator, to those who have not surpressed that knowledge!

    In this case, Math (and let’s not forget math’s child, Logic!) is more definitive, repeatable, declarative and resistant to twisting than mere empiricism/materialism.

  • Lou G.

    Hi Cincinnatus. I agree with:
    “science is finally going to have to acknowledge that there are limits on its power. It cannot explain or discover everything and it cannot supply meaning to the cosmos or, more importantly, to human life. The human intellect, even taken in the collective, is finite; so too are its scientific tools.”

    But I would also add that truly rational scientists have always understood this to be true. The material world can only provide so much data — although, the Bible is also clear that what can be known from nature clearly reflects the attributes and character of our Creator, to those who have not surpressed that knowledge!

    In this case, Math (and let’s not forget math’s child, Logic!) is more definitive, repeatable, declarative and resistant to twisting than mere empiricism/materialism.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Klasie,
    Wow, um you normally have a better grasp on things than you do here.
    For one, that people have come to believe in the existence of God, or of a god, apart from revelation is just a fact. Read Plato, read Aristotle. Two scripture itself says that creation attests to the existence of God, apart from revelation. Christianity has always recognized this.
    But it by no means follows that after you convince yourself there is a god, that you know anything of him, or believe in him the way a Christian believes, have the faith in him that Paul talks about as saving. Knowing that there is a god is still a far cry from Believing in the death and resurrection of Christ as atonement for sin. Of course as Wolfhart points out, believing that there is a god, goes a long way in convincing someone that Jesus is that God.
    I bet you could find his books at your library…

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Klasie,
    Wow, um you normally have a better grasp on things than you do here.
    For one, that people have come to believe in the existence of God, or of a god, apart from revelation is just a fact. Read Plato, read Aristotle. Two scripture itself says that creation attests to the existence of God, apart from revelation. Christianity has always recognized this.
    But it by no means follows that after you convince yourself there is a god, that you know anything of him, or believe in him the way a Christian believes, have the faith in him that Paul talks about as saving. Knowing that there is a god is still a far cry from Believing in the death and resurrection of Christ as atonement for sin. Of course as Wolfhart points out, believing that there is a god, goes a long way in convincing someone that Jesus is that God.
    I bet you could find his books at your library…

  • Lou G.

    Klasie,
    I also agree with you regarding the “unproveability of Christianity”, but would be interested in whether you think that that theism is provable? It sure seems that this article on mathematics is saying that physics is leading us in that direction.

    And I also agree with you on mathematics that:
    “Maths does exist independantly – we just ‘frame it’ if you will, in our terms”

    Same goes with language. The idea of language or math being social/cultural constructs is a postmodern phenomenon that I have written graduate papers against this postmodern point of view from a literary standpoint – one might even say: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!” (on the other hand, I know fairly little about physics, so….)

  • Lou G.

    Klasie,
    I also agree with you regarding the “unproveability of Christianity”, but would be interested in whether you think that that theism is provable? It sure seems that this article on mathematics is saying that physics is leading us in that direction.

    And I also agree with you on mathematics that:
    “Maths does exist independantly – we just ‘frame it’ if you will, in our terms”

    Same goes with language. The idea of language or math being social/cultural constructs is a postmodern phenomenon that I have written graduate papers against this postmodern point of view from a literary standpoint – one might even say: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!” (on the other hand, I know fairly little about physics, so….)

  • Lou G.

    Amen 25 Bror Erickson.

  • Lou G.

    Amen 25 Bror Erickson.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Bror – here’s the thing: Look at my UOQ discussion with Cincinnatus, and where that is leading. That is something else than saying, I see patterns in nature, therefore God exists. I am saying that the former could (and I’m still exploring that) lead at least (as in your answer at 25) to Theism, whereas the latter is something else. Does that help?

    Plato is helpful, but only somewhat, being stuck in a cave and all that ;)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Bror – here’s the thing: Look at my UOQ discussion with Cincinnatus, and where that is leading. That is something else than saying, I see patterns in nature, therefore God exists. I am saying that the former could (and I’m still exploring that) lead at least (as in your answer at 25) to Theism, whereas the latter is something else. Does that help?

    Plato is helpful, but only somewhat, being stuck in a cave and all that ;)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Lou – interesting that you also mention language there. I think the postmoderns have it part wrong and part right. Language is a cultural contruct, but reality is not. Culture is a group-dynamical, sociological phenomenon, and can be partly explained by biology (survival of one group over the other, etc etc). Thus language can be used as a weapon within the group. Of course, the postmodernists do the same, while pretending to be above it. Hence, conveniently, they forget that reality is not a cultural construct.

    Math, being pretty fixed in it’s use of terminology etc, by universal convention, is a little more difficult to use as weapon against others. Remember the hillarity of the Sokol affair? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Lou – interesting that you also mention language there. I think the postmoderns have it part wrong and part right. Language is a cultural contruct, but reality is not. Culture is a group-dynamical, sociological phenomenon, and can be partly explained by biology (survival of one group over the other, etc etc). Thus language can be used as a weapon within the group. Of course, the postmodernists do the same, while pretending to be above it. Hence, conveniently, they forget that reality is not a cultural construct.

    Math, being pretty fixed in it’s use of terminology etc, by universal convention, is a little more difficult to use as weapon against others. Remember the hillarity of the Sokol affair? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair)

  • Dust

    Here are some relevant videos:

    http://worldsciencefestival.com/videos/the_unreasonable_effectiveness_of_mathematics

    which is a clip from the full length feature:

    http://worldsciencefestival.com/videos/the_limits_of_understanding

    or you could go read a bunch of books :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    Here are some relevant videos:

    http://worldsciencefestival.com/videos/the_unreasonable_effectiveness_of_mathematics

    which is a clip from the full length feature:

    http://worldsciencefestival.com/videos/the_limits_of_understanding

    or you could go read a bunch of books :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    By the way, even if you don’t generally like my comments, am sure you will like the videos…am thinking, in particular, of you, Dr. Veith :)

    cheers!

  • Dust

    By the way, even if you don’t generally like my comments, am sure you will like the videos…am thinking, in particular, of you, Dr. Veith :)

    cheers!

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    Here is an orphan article I wrote a while back on the dependence of the epistemology of science on Christian metaphysics.

    Reclaiming Science as Worship “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
    to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” Proverbs 25:2

    Christianity has had children which have sprung from her home and blessed the larger world. One, is modern democracy, with its affirmation of God given rights. Another, is a culture of charity, which has in turn birthed hospitals and homeless shelters from Albuquerque to Zambia. Of course, these aren’t the result of Christian teaching alone, but they wouldn’t be anything like they are if it had not been for the book called The Book.
    Unfortunately, one of Christianity’s children, like the Janisarries of old, was kidnapped in infancy, raised to hate his parents, then, after he had grown, was sent out against his natural family to attack those who gave him birth. This child is modern science and this writing is an effort to reconcile parent and child. As in all reconciliations, both parties will have to come to believe that they are not enemies, but family.
    There are numerous factors that began and perpetuate this division, but one is especially influential because it is old and subliminal. Because it is old and subliminal we haven’t given it the criticism which it requires. Let us reach both back in time and deeply into ourselves and bring this idea into the sunlight. The Latin phrase is “Omne ignotum pro magnifico”, “Everything unknown is taken for magnificent.” When dealing with human beings, this idea is often true. At first the magician seems like a miracle worker, but upon closer examination, we find that under his hat is a trap door, and under the trap door the rabbit was there all along.
    Even when there is no element of deception this is the case. When we first encounter the work of a craftsman, we are in awe of his abilities. However, if we take it upon ourselves to learn the same trade, learn “the tricks of the trade” we may later look back and think that the original masterpiece wasn’t so awe inspiring after all. All this is because human beings are finite and fallen. None of our creations, industrial, artistic, or moral can withstand close and continuous observation. As the Bible says, “All flesh is grass.”
    Having experienced this, people have become justifiably suspicious of things wonderful, believing that were they to look too closely, then, the wonder would evaporate. In the pursuit of knowledge, wonder becomes an enemy, it becomes a pretender to be exposed and dethroned.
    However, when we turn from the works of man to the works of God, we find that this suspicion is misplaced. Unlike the works of man, the works of an infinite God never have their wonder exhausted by close scrutiny. In nature, the closer we look the more there is, always. Because of this, the affirmation of the creator should never be seen as a reason to end inquiry. Instead it is a guarantee that there will always be another discovery calling us onward.
    Take this example. Not very long ago the Sun was a mystery. What form of fuel could give out so much energy over such a long time? If the Sun were made out of some combustible fuel, say coal, oil or methane, it would have burned out long ago. Nothing in human experience could account for its power. It was a mysterious work of God and as such an object of wonder.
    Then we deciphered the secrets of the atom. We discovered fusion power, first theoretically then experimentally. We also discovered that the chemical composition of a distant untouchable object could be ascertained by passing its light through a prism and studying the bands of light on its spectrum. The Sun, we discovered, was a giant gravity powered nuclear reactor giving off energy as hydrogen atoms at its core fused to make helium atoms. (Helium is called “helium” because it was first discovered on the sun. “Helios” is Greek for “Sun”.)
    Now, here’s the question. Does this discovery enhance the wonder of God’s creation or diminish it? In our Christian heads we respond, “Enhances it of course!” And we are right to think so. And yet in our actions and opinions there still lurks Omne ignotum pro magnifico.
    Enter “The God of the Gaps”
    In the conflict between modern science and its parent Christianity, there lies the subliminal belief that when one mystery is exposed, God flees into another mystery as if God had been frightened away by the superior powers of observation and experimentation. We unintentionally affirm this misconception when we point to God’s power by pointing to the unknown instead of the known. We act as if, when a natural process has been explained, it then ceases to portray the power of God. We prefer to look at the inexplicable where God is hiding, instead of the explained where the hand of God is laid bare.
    When we portray God as one who hides in the shadows, we portray Him as in retreat. This witness is unpersuasive. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium, writes that, while he feels a sense of awe at the natural world, “I do so accepting that if I propose a God who graces our valley of unknowns, the day may come, empowered by the advance of science, when no more valleys remain.” (From Death by Black Hole, Norton page 352)
    People who are concerned for the advancement of scientific knowledge have a justifiable concern that an affirmation of God’s work will prevent future discovery. They fear that if we say. “God did it” then our enquiries will stop. Any scientist, biologist, chemist or astrophysicist would be out of business if the answer to “why?” is “that’s how God made it.” Rather than, “Let’s find out what God is up to.”
    I think that this concern accounts for much of the hostility that scientifically minded people have toward the doctrine of Creation. They fear that the affirmation of creation is a call to stop discovering, even a call to stop thinking. Unfortunately many Christians have affirmed these fears instead of allaying them. It is important to defend the Faith against poor science, incomplete science, and false science, but often Christianity is portrayed as being antithetical to science itself. When we do this, we are offering people a false choice between faith and the evidence that lies immediately before them. As though Jesus were saying, “Do you believe me or your lying eyes?”
    Sometimes this is done to a degree that embarrasses the church. I have before me a book written by a man learned in theology but with no expressed credentials in astrophysics. In his well intended (though I believe misguided) defense of the Bible, he makes the case that the most distant stars are only 6,000 light years away. Remember the magnitude of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Now imagine all of those millions of galaxies, with all of their stars, quasars, pulsars, and black holes, crowded into a little circle 12,000 light years across. The night sky would blaze like a furnace.
    The enemies of the Gospel delight in such absurdities and use them against us. They say in effect, “To become a Christian you must abandon your senses.” This is so frustrating, because the very evidence that science brings to us, speaks for God not against Him.
    This false choice has caused some to dismiss Christianity out of hand. For others, it has caused them to adopt a faith system so watered down that their beliefs reflect the wisdom of this world more than God’s unchanging Word.
    One approach in seeking peace between science and the Church is to counsel that the two should amicably part ways entirely. In a March,1997 article in Natural History, Stephan J. Gould said that religion and science should be regarded as having “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” meaning that they are two different areas of study with different concerns. Science is about the nature of the physical world, and religion is about spirituality and morals.

    Keeping science out of the Christian family would get both sides off the hook. The Christian could ignore any apparent discrepancy between new discoveries and old truths. He would be unburdened of the hard work of incorporating new information into the Christian world view, making his Bible study less of a wrestling match.

    The scientist could go on sifting data and constructing new theories without listening to the suspicion that there is someone holding it all together. He could ignore the nagging evidence in nature (some of which is astronomically high in its probability) which allow for a universe that can support life capable of worshipping God. (If you are curious about this, Google “Anthopic Principle”)

    However, this friendly parting would be finding peace at the sacrifice of truth. The Bible is God’s creation, but so is the natural world. He didn’t make either to be ignored. And more to the point, Bible study is supposed to be a wrestling match. Whether we are incorporating God’s Word with scientific discoveries, our private experiences, or our life changing choices, God is always wrestling with us as He wrestled with Jacob and renamed him Israel, “Because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” All profitable thinking has a passageway of disorientation, adjustment, and renewed equilibrium. If you ever feel that you must choose between peace of mind and truth, choose truth, because the Truth Himself will come to you and give you peace.

    Certainly faith informs us of truth that we do not see and “blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.” But believing without evidence is not the same as believing against evidence. On the contrary, God often condescends to the weak of faith by giving them empirical evidence, “Touch me, and see.” Christ said to Thomas. Gideon was twice given a fleece, wet or dry, to set aside his doubts. In the polemics of Paul and in the Psalms, the evidence of the natural world is marshaled to point us to the Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God” and the bigger the telescope, the more He is glorified. The Bible portrays all accurate empirical evidence as God’s evidence. After all, this is God’s world, fallen though it and we may be. Every dinosaur bone is God’s dinosaur bone. Every star is God’s star.
    Our faith gives us confidence that scientific enquiry will ultimately affirm God’s work and word. When our enquiries confound us, God is calling us to press forward and discover more, not to shrink back as if we were fearful (or worse, that God were fearful) of what lay ahead.
    We also come to understand God’s Word more fully as the natural world, and its order, is revealed to us. For instance, skeptics will often point to the miracles recorded in Scripture as proving that the Bible is an unreliable account. “Science reveals the laws of nature and miracles violate the laws of nature.”
    But this argument assumes the separation between the Biblical world view and her child science. In reality, they are mutually affirming. The communicative power of a miracle depends upon an understanding of the laws of nature. In a pre-scientific world where people commonly believe in magic, a miracle is just another trick. However, with a scientific understanding of the regularity of natural events, we recognize that a miracle is an act of the Creator Himself intentionally inserting Himself into nature as only He can. As Moses said when he was defied by Korah’s men in Numbers 16, “If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the Lord has not sent me, but if the Lord brings about something totally new….. then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”
    It is lamentably true that some people have modified their understanding of Scripture to fit whatever seemingly scientific view holds sway at the time. Thomas Jefferson infamously cut out every miracle in his Bible until all he had left was a booklet of moral platitudes. However, such disbelievers notwithstanding, it is not an act of faithlessness to enhance one’s understanding of God’s Word with one’s understanding of God’s World.
    God’s Word was revealed for all mankind, but it was also revealed to God’s people in a particular place and time. For instance, when Joshua prayed to God for more time, the Bible says that God made the sun stand still. To those who experienced this event and to many generations who read these words, this was an appropriate description. Since then, we have learned a lot about the movement of the planets and of our own planet. We now understand God’s words to mean that the earth paused in its rotation. Does this understanding diminish the truth or accuracy of the book of Joshua? Not at all, it increases our wonder of God’s miracle. The Earth’s mass (its resistance to a change of movement) is 5.98 ×1021 metric tons; arresting its momentum is a great miracle indeed! Our increased knowledge, far from chasing God into some mysterious gap, increases our appreciation of His power.
    Now, one may ask, ‘Why didn’t God describe the event originally as stopping the movement of the earth?” There would be some wisdom in doing so. By revealing what later would be discovered by other means, God would have given us an opportunity to say to doubters, “Look, God told you this so long ago. That proves the truth of Holy Writ.”
    However, imagine how this would play out in practice.
    Joshua: “God, please let the Sun stop in the sky so that I may pursue the enemy.”
    God: “Yes Joshua, but first I must explain to you that the Earth is a spherical object. It moves around the Sun in an ellipse. It is tilted 23.5 degrees relative to the Sun’s equator. As it rotates at a speed of 1,037.48 miles an hour…”
    When would it end? We would be asking God to give us a comprehensive account of the universe to communicate with the people living over three thousand years ago. Wonderful as this may seem, it is not what God is telling us, because it is not what we need to know. What we need to know is Jesus, the fellowship of His Cross, and the reality of His resurrection that provides a life that outlives the stars. God did tell us about Him, and ahead of time at that. So, we may still say to the doubters, “Look, God told you this so long ago. That proves the truth of Holy Writ.” Indeed, God has told us everything that we need to know “to be fully equipped for every good work”. One such work is the task of the scientist in his ever growing discovery of God’s world.
    A Two Way Street
    The reunification of the Church and science requires more than for Christians to welcome science back into the family. The scientist must realize that all along, he has been engaged in a religious activity.
    There is a litany of procedures that the scientist carefully follows and defends: the gathering of data in measurable form, the formation of an experiment that reveals the general phenomena and eliminates extraneous information, the reproducibility of his observation by others, and most importantly, the formation of conclusions on the basis of the evidence and never forming the evidence to fit a conclusion. These procedures, and others like them, are an effort to know and play by God’s rules, to meet God on His terms.
    These are not methods of a scientist’s own choosing, like the rules of some new parlor game he has invented. They are used under the belief that there is something out there, something that is consistent, knowable, and upon which future events can be predicted. In short, science presumes a metaphysic.
    This can easily be seen when we identify science’s antithesis, an antithesis that it shares with Christianity. Judging from the popular press, one would conclude that the great nemesis of science is Christianity with its dogma and traditions. But this conflict, as I have mentioned, is a family quarrel. In this family there are certain shared beliefs such as:
     There is an objective world albeit subjectively apprehended through human senses,
     That in this world the future will be like the past in a significant way that enables us to detect
    patterns in nature,
     That these patterns, once properly discerned, are universal i.e. E=mc2 in Oklahoma as well as in
    the Andromeda galaxy.
    These ideas are predicated on a monotheistic reality. An atheist can certainly perform good science, as many do, yet, by doing so his actions reveal at least a functional theism. (Granted, this functional equivalent of God needed for scientific enquiry is a very impersonal image of God, but the point I am making is that science is a subsystem of Christianity, not that it provides a comprehensive proof for Christian doctrine.)
    And more than mere monotheism is evident in the act of science. Science acts on the understanding that whatever it is that is out there, holding these patterns together (that which connects the math to the matter) that this Thing is not only there, but also, in at least a limited sense, comprehensible to the human mind. Since the Word not only exists but dwelt among us, we can look up at from whence He came and systematically piece together an ever expanding understanding of the universal. I suspect that this image of God as One Who has come down to His creation explains why systematic science as we know it in the West has not started in other civilizations, even those with monotheistic foundations.
    So, despite the disagreement about particulars, the truth is that Christianity provides science with its epistemological roots. The antithesis of this shared belief system is the one that opposes this understanding of objective reality altogether. I refer to the resurging respect for sophistry, the sophistry once opposed in both Athens and Jerusalem.
    This sophistry, now days called postmodernism, denies the assumptions upon which science has relied so successfully. The objective world is regarded as nonexistent or at least untouchable by our subjective minds. The past is held captive by this subjectivity; its existence is regarded as flexible and unreliable as the human memory. The patterns discerned by the scientist are regarded as arbitrary narratives born of cultural provincialisms. The current efforts to rehabilitate sophistry are an inevitable result of an abandonment of the scientific world view. To embrace nonsense, one must first lose one’s taste for sense.
    I lay particular blame for this abandonment on the division between the Church and science. A major cause for the current rebellion against scientific thinking is the absence of humanity in the scientific world view. Though science has made human life physically comfortable it has regarded man himself impersonally. The divorce of science from the Church has dehumanized science and irrationalized Christianity in the popular mind. Some people have turned from both in their hunger for something both meaningful and transcendent. Although much eating has been done, this hunger has gone unfulfilled because sophistry is intellectual junk food, imaginative and sometimes beautiful but lacking in substance, unreliable, having a wonder that vanishes under close examination. Like all man made things, Omne ignotum pro magnifico.
    It is my prayer that my son does not need to grow up thinking that he has to have faith in God’s Word despite the discoveries of science, when those same discoveries, ultimately affirm the God of revelation. When Christendom welcomes science back into the family, and when science confesses the God Who’s world it studies and Who’s consistencies have made empirical research possible, then the world will have a more compelling witness of the Logos. The Logos Who comes to us with His truth in His Word and in His world.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    Here is an orphan article I wrote a while back on the dependence of the epistemology of science on Christian metaphysics.

    Reclaiming Science as Worship “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
    to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” Proverbs 25:2

    Christianity has had children which have sprung from her home and blessed the larger world. One, is modern democracy, with its affirmation of God given rights. Another, is a culture of charity, which has in turn birthed hospitals and homeless shelters from Albuquerque to Zambia. Of course, these aren’t the result of Christian teaching alone, but they wouldn’t be anything like they are if it had not been for the book called The Book.
    Unfortunately, one of Christianity’s children, like the Janisarries of old, was kidnapped in infancy, raised to hate his parents, then, after he had grown, was sent out against his natural family to attack those who gave him birth. This child is modern science and this writing is an effort to reconcile parent and child. As in all reconciliations, both parties will have to come to believe that they are not enemies, but family.
    There are numerous factors that began and perpetuate this division, but one is especially influential because it is old and subliminal. Because it is old and subliminal we haven’t given it the criticism which it requires. Let us reach both back in time and deeply into ourselves and bring this idea into the sunlight. The Latin phrase is “Omne ignotum pro magnifico”, “Everything unknown is taken for magnificent.” When dealing with human beings, this idea is often true. At first the magician seems like a miracle worker, but upon closer examination, we find that under his hat is a trap door, and under the trap door the rabbit was there all along.
    Even when there is no element of deception this is the case. When we first encounter the work of a craftsman, we are in awe of his abilities. However, if we take it upon ourselves to learn the same trade, learn “the tricks of the trade” we may later look back and think that the original masterpiece wasn’t so awe inspiring after all. All this is because human beings are finite and fallen. None of our creations, industrial, artistic, or moral can withstand close and continuous observation. As the Bible says, “All flesh is grass.”
    Having experienced this, people have become justifiably suspicious of things wonderful, believing that were they to look too closely, then, the wonder would evaporate. In the pursuit of knowledge, wonder becomes an enemy, it becomes a pretender to be exposed and dethroned.
    However, when we turn from the works of man to the works of God, we find that this suspicion is misplaced. Unlike the works of man, the works of an infinite God never have their wonder exhausted by close scrutiny. In nature, the closer we look the more there is, always. Because of this, the affirmation of the creator should never be seen as a reason to end inquiry. Instead it is a guarantee that there will always be another discovery calling us onward.
    Take this example. Not very long ago the Sun was a mystery. What form of fuel could give out so much energy over such a long time? If the Sun were made out of some combustible fuel, say coal, oil or methane, it would have burned out long ago. Nothing in human experience could account for its power. It was a mysterious work of God and as such an object of wonder.
    Then we deciphered the secrets of the atom. We discovered fusion power, first theoretically then experimentally. We also discovered that the chemical composition of a distant untouchable object could be ascertained by passing its light through a prism and studying the bands of light on its spectrum. The Sun, we discovered, was a giant gravity powered nuclear reactor giving off energy as hydrogen atoms at its core fused to make helium atoms. (Helium is called “helium” because it was first discovered on the sun. “Helios” is Greek for “Sun”.)
    Now, here’s the question. Does this discovery enhance the wonder of God’s creation or diminish it? In our Christian heads we respond, “Enhances it of course!” And we are right to think so. And yet in our actions and opinions there still lurks Omne ignotum pro magnifico.
    Enter “The God of the Gaps”
    In the conflict between modern science and its parent Christianity, there lies the subliminal belief that when one mystery is exposed, God flees into another mystery as if God had been frightened away by the superior powers of observation and experimentation. We unintentionally affirm this misconception when we point to God’s power by pointing to the unknown instead of the known. We act as if, when a natural process has been explained, it then ceases to portray the power of God. We prefer to look at the inexplicable where God is hiding, instead of the explained where the hand of God is laid bare.
    When we portray God as one who hides in the shadows, we portray Him as in retreat. This witness is unpersuasive. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium, writes that, while he feels a sense of awe at the natural world, “I do so accepting that if I propose a God who graces our valley of unknowns, the day may come, empowered by the advance of science, when no more valleys remain.” (From Death by Black Hole, Norton page 352)
    People who are concerned for the advancement of scientific knowledge have a justifiable concern that an affirmation of God’s work will prevent future discovery. They fear that if we say. “God did it” then our enquiries will stop. Any scientist, biologist, chemist or astrophysicist would be out of business if the answer to “why?” is “that’s how God made it.” Rather than, “Let’s find out what God is up to.”
    I think that this concern accounts for much of the hostility that scientifically minded people have toward the doctrine of Creation. They fear that the affirmation of creation is a call to stop discovering, even a call to stop thinking. Unfortunately many Christians have affirmed these fears instead of allaying them. It is important to defend the Faith against poor science, incomplete science, and false science, but often Christianity is portrayed as being antithetical to science itself. When we do this, we are offering people a false choice between faith and the evidence that lies immediately before them. As though Jesus were saying, “Do you believe me or your lying eyes?”
    Sometimes this is done to a degree that embarrasses the church. I have before me a book written by a man learned in theology but with no expressed credentials in astrophysics. In his well intended (though I believe misguided) defense of the Bible, he makes the case that the most distant stars are only 6,000 light years away. Remember the magnitude of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Now imagine all of those millions of galaxies, with all of their stars, quasars, pulsars, and black holes, crowded into a little circle 12,000 light years across. The night sky would blaze like a furnace.
    The enemies of the Gospel delight in such absurdities and use them against us. They say in effect, “To become a Christian you must abandon your senses.” This is so frustrating, because the very evidence that science brings to us, speaks for God not against Him.
    This false choice has caused some to dismiss Christianity out of hand. For others, it has caused them to adopt a faith system so watered down that their beliefs reflect the wisdom of this world more than God’s unchanging Word.
    One approach in seeking peace between science and the Church is to counsel that the two should amicably part ways entirely. In a March,1997 article in Natural History, Stephan J. Gould said that religion and science should be regarded as having “Nonoverlapping Magisteria” meaning that they are two different areas of study with different concerns. Science is about the nature of the physical world, and religion is about spirituality and morals.

    Keeping science out of the Christian family would get both sides off the hook. The Christian could ignore any apparent discrepancy between new discoveries and old truths. He would be unburdened of the hard work of incorporating new information into the Christian world view, making his Bible study less of a wrestling match.

    The scientist could go on sifting data and constructing new theories without listening to the suspicion that there is someone holding it all together. He could ignore the nagging evidence in nature (some of which is astronomically high in its probability) which allow for a universe that can support life capable of worshipping God. (If you are curious about this, Google “Anthopic Principle”)

    However, this friendly parting would be finding peace at the sacrifice of truth. The Bible is God’s creation, but so is the natural world. He didn’t make either to be ignored. And more to the point, Bible study is supposed to be a wrestling match. Whether we are incorporating God’s Word with scientific discoveries, our private experiences, or our life changing choices, God is always wrestling with us as He wrestled with Jacob and renamed him Israel, “Because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” All profitable thinking has a passageway of disorientation, adjustment, and renewed equilibrium. If you ever feel that you must choose between peace of mind and truth, choose truth, because the Truth Himself will come to you and give you peace.

    Certainly faith informs us of truth that we do not see and “blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.” But believing without evidence is not the same as believing against evidence. On the contrary, God often condescends to the weak of faith by giving them empirical evidence, “Touch me, and see.” Christ said to Thomas. Gideon was twice given a fleece, wet or dry, to set aside his doubts. In the polemics of Paul and in the Psalms, the evidence of the natural world is marshaled to point us to the Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God” and the bigger the telescope, the more He is glorified. The Bible portrays all accurate empirical evidence as God’s evidence. After all, this is God’s world, fallen though it and we may be. Every dinosaur bone is God’s dinosaur bone. Every star is God’s star.
    Our faith gives us confidence that scientific enquiry will ultimately affirm God’s work and word. When our enquiries confound us, God is calling us to press forward and discover more, not to shrink back as if we were fearful (or worse, that God were fearful) of what lay ahead.
    We also come to understand God’s Word more fully as the natural world, and its order, is revealed to us. For instance, skeptics will often point to the miracles recorded in Scripture as proving that the Bible is an unreliable account. “Science reveals the laws of nature and miracles violate the laws of nature.”
    But this argument assumes the separation between the Biblical world view and her child science. In reality, they are mutually affirming. The communicative power of a miracle depends upon an understanding of the laws of nature. In a pre-scientific world where people commonly believe in magic, a miracle is just another trick. However, with a scientific understanding of the regularity of natural events, we recognize that a miracle is an act of the Creator Himself intentionally inserting Himself into nature as only He can. As Moses said when he was defied by Korah’s men in Numbers 16, “If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the Lord has not sent me, but if the Lord brings about something totally new….. then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”
    It is lamentably true that some people have modified their understanding of Scripture to fit whatever seemingly scientific view holds sway at the time. Thomas Jefferson infamously cut out every miracle in his Bible until all he had left was a booklet of moral platitudes. However, such disbelievers notwithstanding, it is not an act of faithlessness to enhance one’s understanding of God’s Word with one’s understanding of God’s World.
    God’s Word was revealed for all mankind, but it was also revealed to God’s people in a particular place and time. For instance, when Joshua prayed to God for more time, the Bible says that God made the sun stand still. To those who experienced this event and to many generations who read these words, this was an appropriate description. Since then, we have learned a lot about the movement of the planets and of our own planet. We now understand God’s words to mean that the earth paused in its rotation. Does this understanding diminish the truth or accuracy of the book of Joshua? Not at all, it increases our wonder of God’s miracle. The Earth’s mass (its resistance to a change of movement) is 5.98 ×1021 metric tons; arresting its momentum is a great miracle indeed! Our increased knowledge, far from chasing God into some mysterious gap, increases our appreciation of His power.
    Now, one may ask, ‘Why didn’t God describe the event originally as stopping the movement of the earth?” There would be some wisdom in doing so. By revealing what later would be discovered by other means, God would have given us an opportunity to say to doubters, “Look, God told you this so long ago. That proves the truth of Holy Writ.”
    However, imagine how this would play out in practice.
    Joshua: “God, please let the Sun stop in the sky so that I may pursue the enemy.”
    God: “Yes Joshua, but first I must explain to you that the Earth is a spherical object. It moves around the Sun in an ellipse. It is tilted 23.5 degrees relative to the Sun’s equator. As it rotates at a speed of 1,037.48 miles an hour…”
    When would it end? We would be asking God to give us a comprehensive account of the universe to communicate with the people living over three thousand years ago. Wonderful as this may seem, it is not what God is telling us, because it is not what we need to know. What we need to know is Jesus, the fellowship of His Cross, and the reality of His resurrection that provides a life that outlives the stars. God did tell us about Him, and ahead of time at that. So, we may still say to the doubters, “Look, God told you this so long ago. That proves the truth of Holy Writ.” Indeed, God has told us everything that we need to know “to be fully equipped for every good work”. One such work is the task of the scientist in his ever growing discovery of God’s world.
    A Two Way Street
    The reunification of the Church and science requires more than for Christians to welcome science back into the family. The scientist must realize that all along, he has been engaged in a religious activity.
    There is a litany of procedures that the scientist carefully follows and defends: the gathering of data in measurable form, the formation of an experiment that reveals the general phenomena and eliminates extraneous information, the reproducibility of his observation by others, and most importantly, the formation of conclusions on the basis of the evidence and never forming the evidence to fit a conclusion. These procedures, and others like them, are an effort to know and play by God’s rules, to meet God on His terms.
    These are not methods of a scientist’s own choosing, like the rules of some new parlor game he has invented. They are used under the belief that there is something out there, something that is consistent, knowable, and upon which future events can be predicted. In short, science presumes a metaphysic.
    This can easily be seen when we identify science’s antithesis, an antithesis that it shares with Christianity. Judging from the popular press, one would conclude that the great nemesis of science is Christianity with its dogma and traditions. But this conflict, as I have mentioned, is a family quarrel. In this family there are certain shared beliefs such as:
     There is an objective world albeit subjectively apprehended through human senses,
     That in this world the future will be like the past in a significant way that enables us to detect
    patterns in nature,
     That these patterns, once properly discerned, are universal i.e. E=mc2 in Oklahoma as well as in
    the Andromeda galaxy.
    These ideas are predicated on a monotheistic reality. An atheist can certainly perform good science, as many do, yet, by doing so his actions reveal at least a functional theism. (Granted, this functional equivalent of God needed for scientific enquiry is a very impersonal image of God, but the point I am making is that science is a subsystem of Christianity, not that it provides a comprehensive proof for Christian doctrine.)
    And more than mere monotheism is evident in the act of science. Science acts on the understanding that whatever it is that is out there, holding these patterns together (that which connects the math to the matter) that this Thing is not only there, but also, in at least a limited sense, comprehensible to the human mind. Since the Word not only exists but dwelt among us, we can look up at from whence He came and systematically piece together an ever expanding understanding of the universal. I suspect that this image of God as One Who has come down to His creation explains why systematic science as we know it in the West has not started in other civilizations, even those with monotheistic foundations.
    So, despite the disagreement about particulars, the truth is that Christianity provides science with its epistemological roots. The antithesis of this shared belief system is the one that opposes this understanding of objective reality altogether. I refer to the resurging respect for sophistry, the sophistry once opposed in both Athens and Jerusalem.
    This sophistry, now days called postmodernism, denies the assumptions upon which science has relied so successfully. The objective world is regarded as nonexistent or at least untouchable by our subjective minds. The past is held captive by this subjectivity; its existence is regarded as flexible and unreliable as the human memory. The patterns discerned by the scientist are regarded as arbitrary narratives born of cultural provincialisms. The current efforts to rehabilitate sophistry are an inevitable result of an abandonment of the scientific world view. To embrace nonsense, one must first lose one’s taste for sense.
    I lay particular blame for this abandonment on the division between the Church and science. A major cause for the current rebellion against scientific thinking is the absence of humanity in the scientific world view. Though science has made human life physically comfortable it has regarded man himself impersonally. The divorce of science from the Church has dehumanized science and irrationalized Christianity in the popular mind. Some people have turned from both in their hunger for something both meaningful and transcendent. Although much eating has been done, this hunger has gone unfulfilled because sophistry is intellectual junk food, imaginative and sometimes beautiful but lacking in substance, unreliable, having a wonder that vanishes under close examination. Like all man made things, Omne ignotum pro magnifico.
    It is my prayer that my son does not need to grow up thinking that he has to have faith in God’s Word despite the discoveries of science, when those same discoveries, ultimately affirm the God of revelation. When Christendom welcomes science back into the family, and when science confesses the God Who’s world it studies and Who’s consistencies have made empirical research possible, then the world will have a more compelling witness of the Logos. The Logos Who comes to us with His truth in His Word and in His world.

  • Dust

    Pastor Spomer…..you may be interested in this book – am going to put a link in here, rather than paste in the entire text of the whole thing :)

    http://www.amazon.com/Metaphysical-Foundations-Modern-Physical-Science/dp/1573924326

    cheers!

  • Dust

    Pastor Spomer…..you may be interested in this book – am going to put a link in here, rather than paste in the entire text of the whole thing :)

    http://www.amazon.com/Metaphysical-Foundations-Modern-Physical-Science/dp/1573924326

    cheers!

  • Paul

    As a mathematician by training and profession, I enjoy from time to time thinking about the nature of mathematics. What is mathematics? Is it a science? In what sense does it “exist?” Questions such as these, however, immediately take one outside the realm of mathematics (whatever that is)! They are not mathematical questions in the sense that “mathematics” cannot answer them. While I do know that there is an old and extensive branch of philosophy that addresses questions such as these, I must admit to being largely ignorant of it. What I can offer, though, is my perspective and opinion based upon my experience as a practitioner.

    First of all, I might address a bit how mathematicians typically think and talk about mathematics. What is the nature of mathematics? To the mathematician (excepting logicians, who seem to be a different breed) this question is largely irrelevant. Just as you do not need to understand the nature of music in order to compose, play, or enjoy listening to it, neither do you need to understand the nature of mathematics in order to do it. This brings us to an interesting linguistic point, which is that we mathematicians often speak of “doing mathematics,” .e.g., “I’m going to go to the coffee shop and do some math.” I suppose that there are similarities between this and other creative acts, like writing or composing. This is also to say that math research does require creativity and the ability to bring forth new ideas. Yet in spite of this, new mathematical insights are often described as being “discovered” rather than “invented” or “created.” It is as though they had always been there (my thoughts turn to Pr 25:2). Anyhow, I might finally add that an important part of becoming a mathematician is developing a good sense of aesthetics. I think that this is the aspect of mathematics that is oftentimes least well understood by those who do not practice it. Though it is enough for mathematical statements to be true in order to interesting, it is also very much desired that their expression and proof be beautiful. Yes—rigorous mathematical constructions and arguments can be beautiful. They can also have all sorts of other attributes that are commonly associated with descriptions of art. I know many mathematicians who were originally attracted to math not because of the fact that it is useful, but rather because it is beautiful.

    Non-mathematicians often like to ask me about the connections between math and music. While there are many, I might only mention here an obvious distinction that I think is noteworthy. Music seems to have deep and profound ties with emotion, whereas mathematics does not.

    Is mathematics a science? I suppose that the answer on gives depends upon how one defines science or answers the question, “What is science?” I prefer to distinguish the two. Mathematics certainly provides the right language for describing physics. It is also true that our observation of the natural world has inspired huge portions of mathematics. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Physics describes the laws that the heavens appear to obey, and mathematics is the language that articulates them. That the resulting mathematics is beautiful in its own right I believe also declares the glory of God.

    What I find interesting is that math seems to consist of certain “eternal truths.” It is not concerned with the “contingent.” It is generally accepted that all of mathematics can be built up from a handful of “simple” set-theory axioms plus mathematical logic. It is as though we are uncovering one gigantic truth table. It is also known that mathematics has limits (cf. the famous Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem). One of my teachers once told me that as a mathematician he is interested not in what is true, but rather what is provable.

  • Paul

    As a mathematician by training and profession, I enjoy from time to time thinking about the nature of mathematics. What is mathematics? Is it a science? In what sense does it “exist?” Questions such as these, however, immediately take one outside the realm of mathematics (whatever that is)! They are not mathematical questions in the sense that “mathematics” cannot answer them. While I do know that there is an old and extensive branch of philosophy that addresses questions such as these, I must admit to being largely ignorant of it. What I can offer, though, is my perspective and opinion based upon my experience as a practitioner.

    First of all, I might address a bit how mathematicians typically think and talk about mathematics. What is the nature of mathematics? To the mathematician (excepting logicians, who seem to be a different breed) this question is largely irrelevant. Just as you do not need to understand the nature of music in order to compose, play, or enjoy listening to it, neither do you need to understand the nature of mathematics in order to do it. This brings us to an interesting linguistic point, which is that we mathematicians often speak of “doing mathematics,” .e.g., “I’m going to go to the coffee shop and do some math.” I suppose that there are similarities between this and other creative acts, like writing or composing. This is also to say that math research does require creativity and the ability to bring forth new ideas. Yet in spite of this, new mathematical insights are often described as being “discovered” rather than “invented” or “created.” It is as though they had always been there (my thoughts turn to Pr 25:2). Anyhow, I might finally add that an important part of becoming a mathematician is developing a good sense of aesthetics. I think that this is the aspect of mathematics that is oftentimes least well understood by those who do not practice it. Though it is enough for mathematical statements to be true in order to interesting, it is also very much desired that their expression and proof be beautiful. Yes—rigorous mathematical constructions and arguments can be beautiful. They can also have all sorts of other attributes that are commonly associated with descriptions of art. I know many mathematicians who were originally attracted to math not because of the fact that it is useful, but rather because it is beautiful.

    Non-mathematicians often like to ask me about the connections between math and music. While there are many, I might only mention here an obvious distinction that I think is noteworthy. Music seems to have deep and profound ties with emotion, whereas mathematics does not.

    Is mathematics a science? I suppose that the answer on gives depends upon how one defines science or answers the question, “What is science?” I prefer to distinguish the two. Mathematics certainly provides the right language for describing physics. It is also true that our observation of the natural world has inspired huge portions of mathematics. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Physics describes the laws that the heavens appear to obey, and mathematics is the language that articulates them. That the resulting mathematics is beautiful in its own right I believe also declares the glory of God.

    What I find interesting is that math seems to consist of certain “eternal truths.” It is not concerned with the “contingent.” It is generally accepted that all of mathematics can be built up from a handful of “simple” set-theory axioms plus mathematical logic. It is as though we are uncovering one gigantic truth table. It is also known that mathematics has limits (cf. the famous Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem). One of my teachers once told me that as a mathematician he is interested not in what is true, but rather what is provable.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Dust, I love your comments!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Dust, I love your comments!

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    Thanks for the recomindation Dust. Looks like a great stocking stuffer.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    Thanks for the recomindation Dust. Looks like a great stocking stuffer.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Paul – I’m not mathemetician, but one (major) quibble:

    It is generally accepted that all of mathematics can be built up from a handful of “simple” set-theory axioms plus mathematical logic.

    If I’m not mistaken, that was Hilbert’s program, which was expressivel proven impossible by Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems.

    Other than that, I generally agree with your post.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Paul – I’m not mathemetician, but one (major) quibble:

    It is generally accepted that all of mathematics can be built up from a handful of “simple” set-theory axioms plus mathematical logic.

    If I’m not mistaken, that was Hilbert’s program, which was expressivel proven impossible by Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems.

    Other than that, I generally agree with your post.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Edit to #37: “…which was proven impossible…”

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Edit to #37: “…which was proven impossible…”

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Pastor Spoomer, some good ideas in your article, but I do have some basic quibbles with it as well.

    First the good points:

    1. I looked your approach to miracles – it mirrors what I tried to tell Todd the other day about miracles being singularities of a pedagogical nature.
    2. Your attack on the “God of the gaps” idea. Hate that idea.
    3. Your attack on the common notion, often displayed on these very pages, that one should “disbelieve your lying eyes….”.
    4. Your insistence that one should read the Scriptures within its historical, cultural context. Amen a million times over!!!

    Now some quibbles. I’m not convined that mere science should indicate to the atheist that “Something holds it all together”, and that that something must be singular, ie Monotheism is to be indicated. The atheist could simply deny the existence of the transcendtal altogether, and I cannot see science pointing him out (or for that matter, into) of that. When it comes to the question of the existence of (and let’s be generous here), the “Transcendent”, the logical answers are as follows:

    1. Yes (Let’s call these people Believers).
    2. No (Let’s call these people Non-Believers).
    3. I do not know (Let’s call these people Agnostics).

    The only answer “science” can give is (3) – namely, none. The other two requires a form of belief – in the case of (1) that belief is positive, hence the term Believers, and in the case of (2), that belief is negative, and we should more properly call them Atheists. Thus atheism requires just as much faith as any form of Theism or Transcendent belief.

    I happen to fall within the category of (1). Once that belief statement is made, veils are lifted, sure. But it would be a mistake tread Christianity (for instance) back into the scientific evidence, based on Logic and Observation (and maths :) ) alone.

    The other intersting path of enquiry though, and connected to this question of Transcendence, is the UOQ. To me, there are some real intersting possibilities there.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Pastor Spoomer, some good ideas in your article, but I do have some basic quibbles with it as well.

    First the good points:

    1. I looked your approach to miracles – it mirrors what I tried to tell Todd the other day about miracles being singularities of a pedagogical nature.
    2. Your attack on the “God of the gaps” idea. Hate that idea.
    3. Your attack on the common notion, often displayed on these very pages, that one should “disbelieve your lying eyes….”.
    4. Your insistence that one should read the Scriptures within its historical, cultural context. Amen a million times over!!!

    Now some quibbles. I’m not convined that mere science should indicate to the atheist that “Something holds it all together”, and that that something must be singular, ie Monotheism is to be indicated. The atheist could simply deny the existence of the transcendtal altogether, and I cannot see science pointing him out (or for that matter, into) of that. When it comes to the question of the existence of (and let’s be generous here), the “Transcendent”, the logical answers are as follows:

    1. Yes (Let’s call these people Believers).
    2. No (Let’s call these people Non-Believers).
    3. I do not know (Let’s call these people Agnostics).

    The only answer “science” can give is (3) – namely, none. The other two requires a form of belief – in the case of (1) that belief is positive, hence the term Believers, and in the case of (2), that belief is negative, and we should more properly call them Atheists. Thus atheism requires just as much faith as any form of Theism or Transcendent belief.

    I happen to fall within the category of (1). Once that belief statement is made, veils are lifted, sure. But it would be a mistake tread Christianity (for instance) back into the scientific evidence, based on Logic and Observation (and maths :) ) alone.

    The other intersting path of enquiry though, and connected to this question of Transcendence, is the UOQ. To me, there are some real intersting possibilities there.

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  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    One of the forgotten scandals of modern science is ‘Renormalization’. This technique is a gimme with no rationale for mathematical validity but it works so we pretend quantum theory is an accurate theory and not just an effective one (for phenomena we still really don’t understand).

    Modern physics is striking for how far from rationality and mathematical legitimacy it wanders.

    I’m struck by human limitations that box us in from knowledge of much of reality. We cannot experimentally answer fundamental scientific questions now or ever. As physics has progressed it seems to me that it uses math to handwave real gaps in our knowledge.

  • http://steadfastlutherans.org/ SAL

    One of the forgotten scandals of modern science is ‘Renormalization’. This technique is a gimme with no rationale for mathematical validity but it works so we pretend quantum theory is an accurate theory and not just an effective one (for phenomena we still really don’t understand).

    Modern physics is striking for how far from rationality and mathematical legitimacy it wanders.

    I’m struck by human limitations that box us in from knowledge of much of reality. We cannot experimentally answer fundamental scientific questions now or ever. As physics has progressed it seems to me that it uses math to handwave real gaps in our knowledge.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    SAL – it is not a scandal, but Dirac and others, notably Feynman, had reservations about it. One could view it as a mathematical procedure to handle certain difficult situations that arises in Quantum mechanics. Don’t forget that it is also useful in condensed matter physics, where it describes phase transitions.

    Is this an entirely satisfactory position? Probably not. But that does not mean that you can start thumping your lectern as in your last paragraph. Rememebr, if they do find the Higgs Boson, now or later, you are going to have a signficant amount of egg on your face. So if I were you, some hedging of bets would not be a bad idea.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    SAL – it is not a scandal, but Dirac and others, notably Feynman, had reservations about it. One could view it as a mathematical procedure to handle certain difficult situations that arises in Quantum mechanics. Don’t forget that it is also useful in condensed matter physics, where it describes phase transitions.

    Is this an entirely satisfactory position? Probably not. But that does not mean that you can start thumping your lectern as in your last paragraph. Rememebr, if they do find the Higgs Boson, now or later, you are going to have a signficant amount of egg on your face. So if I were you, some hedging of bets would not be a bad idea.

  • Dust

    Dr. Veith at 35…thank you very much, and right back at you and your wonderful website!

    Now, since you love my comments, am going to think about doubling them….unless you promise to watch the “Limits to Understanding” video :)

    Cheers!

  • Dust

    Dr. Veith at 35…thank you very much, and right back at you and your wonderful website!

    Now, since you love my comments, am going to think about doubling them….unless you promise to watch the “Limits to Understanding” video :)

    Cheers!

  • SAL

    #41 I’d prefer to have egg on my face than hedge my bets on something that seems mathematically illegitimate.

    Utility doesn’t prove legitimacy. Perhaps it’s unfair but QFT seems contrived compared to General Relativity.

    QFT may work out but I just can’t shake the intuition that the mathematical techniques it uses are hiding a fundamentally flawed theory. If the Higgs Boson is ever found I expect it may illuminate QFT in such a way as to make it less contrived.

  • SAL

    #41 I’d prefer to have egg on my face than hedge my bets on something that seems mathematically illegitimate.

    Utility doesn’t prove legitimacy. Perhaps it’s unfair but QFT seems contrived compared to General Relativity.

    QFT may work out but I just can’t shake the intuition that the mathematical techniques it uses are hiding a fundamentally flawed theory. If the Higgs Boson is ever found I expect it may illuminate QFT in such a way as to make it less contrived.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Sal @ 43 – maybe. Let’s see where the latest results go though. It could be really exciting. In the end, experimental results and observations should trump whatever theorists say… unless, of course, you prefer Sheldon Cooper over Leonard Hofstadter. In that case, I’ll have to phone your mother :)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Sal @ 43 – maybe. Let’s see where the latest results go though. It could be really exciting. In the end, experimental results and observations should trump whatever theorists say… unless, of course, you prefer Sheldon Cooper over Leonard Hofstadter. In that case, I’ll have to phone your mother :)

  • Fernando

    To Klasie re #37: No, that wasn’t Hilbert’s program. What Paul describes is indeed the majority opinion, and it doesn’t contradict Goedel. What follows from his work is that the axiom set in question is not complete, i.e., it won’t settle all questions, unless it is self-contradictory, which I think is very unlikely.

    It also follows that one can’t prove that the axiom system is self-consistent (that is closer to what Hilbert wanted to do). Most mathematicians aren’t very concerned about the possibility of inconsistency.

    Given the incompleteness, it is possible that at some point we will find some new assumption that needs to be added to the base axioms. So far, no one has found a persuasive reason to do that.

  • Fernando

    To Klasie re #37: No, that wasn’t Hilbert’s program. What Paul describes is indeed the majority opinion, and it doesn’t contradict Goedel. What follows from his work is that the axiom set in question is not complete, i.e., it won’t settle all questions, unless it is self-contradictory, which I think is very unlikely.

    It also follows that one can’t prove that the axiom system is self-consistent (that is closer to what Hilbert wanted to do). Most mathematicians aren’t very concerned about the possibility of inconsistency.

    Given the incompleteness, it is possible that at some point we will find some new assumption that needs to be added to the base axioms. So far, no one has found a persuasive reason to do that.

  • Fernando

    The discussion of renormalization is interesting. It does seem scandalous to a mathematician like me, but of course it’s not clear whether the physicists should care about that. And it does give very accurate answers.

    In contrast to Sal, my impression is that the flawed mathematics of QFT is hiding a correct theory in there somewhere, but we just don’t have the methods to extract that theory yet. Some of my colleagues are betting on ultra-fancy n-category theory to do that, and there are other ideas around too. As in the case of the Dirac delta function, when the physicists come up with a “mathematical” notion that seems nonsensical but is really useful, there’s usually some good mathematics that needs to be created.

    Of course, that’s even more evidence for the idea that mathematics is the genre in which the universe was written.

  • Fernando

    The discussion of renormalization is interesting. It does seem scandalous to a mathematician like me, but of course it’s not clear whether the physicists should care about that. And it does give very accurate answers.

    In contrast to Sal, my impression is that the flawed mathematics of QFT is hiding a correct theory in there somewhere, but we just don’t have the methods to extract that theory yet. Some of my colleagues are betting on ultra-fancy n-category theory to do that, and there are other ideas around too. As in the case of the Dirac delta function, when the physicists come up with a “mathematical” notion that seems nonsensical but is really useful, there’s usually some good mathematics that needs to be created.

    Of course, that’s even more evidence for the idea that mathematics is the genre in which the universe was written.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Fernando – as to Hilbert etc. indeed, I think my first response was a bit hasty.

    As to your comments re Renormilization – very interesting (and refreshing). May I ask what your background is?

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Fernando – as to Hilbert etc. indeed, I think my first response was a bit hasty.

    As to your comments re Renormilization – very interesting (and refreshing). May I ask what your background is?

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