# The Argument from Mathematics Doesn’t Add Up to God

The Argument from Mathematics Doesn’t Add Up to God February 7, 2015

World famous Christian apologist William Lane Craig is back with a new argument. The universe is describable by math, and this cries out for designer. He’s impressed by “the uncanny effectiveness of mathematics.”

It was very evident to me that [naturalists are not] able to provide any sort of an explanation of mathematics’ applicability to the physical world.…

The theist has explanatory resources that are not available to the rationalist.

So mathematics does impressive things; therefore, God?

I’ll resist the temptation to respond for the moment. Let’s first fill out the argument.

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics

Uncharacteristically, Craig brought expert backup this time. He points to a 1960 paper by Nobel Prize-winning physicist and mathematician Eugene Wigner, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.” Wigner says, “Mathematical concepts turn up in entirely unexpected connections.” More to Craig’s point, he says:

The enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural science is something bordering on the mysterious and there is no rational explanation for it.

Some examples of the applicability of math to the physical world include the ideal gas law, PV = nRT; the inverse-square law; Ohm’s law, V = IR; Newton’s law of gravity, F = Gm1m2/r2; and Maxwell’s equations:

These and myriad other examples illustrate math’s power in describing nature. Wigner concludes:

The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.

Wigner points to the mystery but only hints in the religious direction. It’s Craig who is determined to resolve the mystery with God.

Meta observations

This Argument from Math is just a variant of the Transcendental Argument (discussed at length here), which in turn is just one of many arguments where Christian apologists can only hope to provoke the reaction, “Say, that is curious!” These are caltrop arguments—they succeed not because they’re correct but because they’re confusing. A successful argument instead follows Hoare’s Dictum: you can make your argument so simple that there are obviously no errors, or you can make it so complicated that there are no obvious errors.

Note also that this Argument from Math is just a deist argument. If you found it convincing, you could only justify becoming a deist. At that point, you’re no closer to Christianity than to Pastafarianism.

The puddle problem

We may find ourselves in the situation of Douglas Adams’ puddle that thought that its hole was made to fit it perfectly, rather than the other way around.

Reality is what it is, and the math adapts as necessary. If one formulation of a law does a poor or incomplete job of explaining the physics (say, when Newton’s law of gravity didn’t work perfectly in environments with extreme gravity), the math can be changed (in this example, by adding corrections to account for General Relativity).

Wigner said, “The only physical theories which we are willing to accept are the beautiful ones.” Here again, this may not be nature giving us miraculous math but scientists being trained by reality what works (and is therefore beautiful) and what doesn’t.

What is surprising?

Wigner said that Newton’s law of gravity “has proved accurate beyond all reasonable expectations.” But what are these reasonable expectations? That the universe is mathematically describable is surprising only if we expect it to be otherwise (I’ve discussed a related topic here). Should we expect the same laws of nature but different fundamental constants? Different constants in different parts of the universe? Different laws? Or maybe a structure so chaotic that no equation would be accurate for more than an instant?

Why are any of these possibilities more expected than what we actually have? What’s unreasonable about how math works in our world? Once we study hundreds of other universes, we’ll get a sense of what they look like to compare with our own, but without this data, we have nothing to go on, and we have no grounds on which to formulate “reasonable expectations.”

That’s a big burden on Craig’s shoulders, which he doesn’t even acknowledge, let alone respond to. “God did it” is simply a synonym for “we don’t know” and explains nothing.

Concluded in Part 2.

The most incomprehensible thing about the universe
is that it is comprehensible.
— Albert Einstein

Image credit: Gatag, CC

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• Ann Kah

“The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.”

Mathematics can be used to describe the good, the bad, the ugly, and the indifferent, the laws of physics by which we now operate, and any set of imaginary set of laws of physics with which a sci-fi writer might toy. If Wigner’s description of this as a “miracle” speaks volumes to Craig, I’m sure he would be equally delighted to find out that “god” has given me legs just the right length to reach the ground.

• Blizzard

The theist has explanatory resources that are not available to the rationalist.

Indeed. Not many non-theist rationalists would say Jesus created rainbows so that nobody would have to worry about a flood anymore. Chalk one up for theists’ more explanatory resources I guess.

• Blizzard

The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.

Craig is probably going, “Nya nya nya he said ‘miracle’ and ‘nor deserve’ nyuk nyuk nyuk.”

• Pofarmer

I just watched the ISS streak overhead. That was awesome. Keep your theology, I’ll keep my science.

• Pofarmer

We need smrnda on this one, who, I believe, is an actual mathematician.

• MNb

No, we don’t really smrnda here. The simple version is good enough.
You will remember that Plato insisted that “a perfect circle” had to refer to a real object, which can’t be found in our reality and hence must exist in a transcendental reality (I paraphraze, so please save me any nitpicking). Hence dualism, which makes room for god. Add causality (the formulas describing a perfect circle must come from somewhere) and there you are. WLC just pulls off a variation of this one and knowing him he claims he has gained a revolutionary insight.
The problem of course is that it assumes what it tries to prove, namely a transcendental reality, which in this case has to be perfect as well.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/platonism-mathematics/

I haven’t checked it, but I bet my ass that Karl Udy’s “pure mathematics” is a variation of platonism as well. Strictly speaking you can’t prove or disprove any of both views (platonism vs. materialism, to keep it simple). But the problems with platonic math are basically the same as with all dualism.

• smrnda

The problem with platonic math is… where *is* this world of ideal forms? You might as well say ‘Valhalla’ for all that means.

• MNb

Obviously I agree, but I’d like to point out that saying “Valhalla” or “Heaven” is what the believer does. The popular term these days is “transcendental reality”. It’s all some pies in a pot, of course. It’s all about dualism.

• smrnda

Yeah, whatever the word it seems to be the same thing. Perhaps the new words emerge since stating ‘heaven’ would be a debate losing strategy, but ‘transcendental reality’ isn’t such a familiar term. It also sounds more academic.

• smrnda

Speak of the devil….

I am a mathematical formalist. Mathematics is the study of axiomatic systems invented by humans. Given that human beings live in the physical universe, it is not surprising that these axiomatic systems were designed in a way that makes them applicable to the physical universe. “Geometry” means ‘to measure the earth’ and you’ll find it useful when deciding to build a house.

But… we could ask what geometry? We have Euclid, and then we have non-Euclidean geometry which dispenses with Euclid’s; in fact, we have non-Euclidean geometries. Which one of these geometries describes the physical universe? I am not a physicist, but a physicist I knew told me that *all* are consistent with Einstein’s theories. (That is the extent of my knowledge here.)

I can also take a page from my own career. Most of my published results were about infinite graphs. I can *define* and infinite graph, and prove theorems about such a graph, but these graphs do not exist anywhere and cannot exist anywhere in the real world. This clearly shows that mathematics is a kind of game with abstractions, not real things. Mathematics is not a science. I did not do experiments.

Going beyond that, we could take Godel’s work to show that mathematics seems flawed, or at least shows a flaw in which we end up with meaningful statements (like the Continuum hypothesis) which cannot be proven “true” or “false.” So, this tends to blow another hole in mathematical Platonism, since in some *good ideal world of mathematics* would this be happening?

That mathematics is useful is no surprise – it emerged to solve real world problems, and then it became an end in itself. Pure mathematics was called that since it was seen as being not applicable. However, number theory is useful in cryptography, so it’s perhaps just a matter of time before *pure* mathematics becomes another field driven by the needs of real world applications.

*note – I’ve been busy taking a cat to the vet. Haven’t been posting as often. And I’m dealing with a EU visa application for a spouse.

• Pofarmer

Hey, thanks!

• James Guillory

“At that point, you’re no closer to Christianity than to Pastafarianism.”

Consider this athiests, when I boil a pot of water for pasta the water knows exactly where to go to fill the pot. EXACTLY!!!111!!! The molecules don’t just fill the left side, or the right side, they fill the ENTIRE pot exactly in its contours. Even if the pot is dented, the molecules are sent to the right place to fill the pot.

Did you know that there are more than 6.02X10^24 molecules of water in the pot? That 6 million, million, million, million molecules. That all know exactly where to go to fill the exact contours of the pot. Every. Time. I. Make. Pasta.

If that isn’t proof for the Flying spaghetti monster, I don’t know what is.

• cag

You must be working in a pasta restaurant. Ten litres of water to baptise the FSM, most of us use two litres or so.

• Speedwell

Well, naturally, Jim must be a priest of FSM with a good temple job. 🙂

• TheNuszAbides

or a large household?

• wtfwjtd

And…have you ever noticed how planets look just like meatballs, and comets are like spaghetti and other stringy pasta? Now this couldn’t just be a coincidence. That leaves Pastafarianism as the only reasonable explanation!

If math is designed, then math was designed with some obvious flaws, like numbers that have no representation as fractions, and no representation as real numbers. Math is incomplete and contains unsolvable paradoxes.

But the Christian god is perfect, and thus the math we have could not have been created by such an almighty, all knowing perfect being.

But math does describe our observations of the universe rather well! I wonder why? Perhaps that’s because we invented math for that very purpose?

• HairyEyedWordBombThrower

Hadn’t thought of that…I’ll keep it on hand, could be *useful* 😉

• davewarnock

the Christian default to anything that God was supposed to have created that isn’t perfect is… wait for it….THE FALL! Sin entered the world and corrupted everything. Another unfalsifiable argument

Even though “the fall” is a bogus argument, it’s most definitely not applicable to math. If Christians were few in number and didn’t live in a culture surrounded be other Christians inventing numerous rationalizations why the the obvious contradictions in their religion and god can be ignored, their deconversion would be rapid. Of course, if there were only a few Christians we’d not be having this conversation….

• Greg G.

In three body orbital mechanics, it is impossible to predict how many revolutions each will make before one is ejected from the system. Even ignoring the problem of measurement of the mass of the bodies, the result varies erratically with the number of significant digits used for the calculations.

• MNb

Nonononono.
God in his omnivolence recognizes that man is not capable of handling perfection, so he deliberately designed math with its imperfections or man could not have grasped it. Trust me, as soon as you have entered perfect Heaven because you have understood that god’s math doesn’t apply to Jesus’ resurrection and other miracles you will be able to learn the perfect version of math.

• smrnda

Godel showed us some ‘flaws’ of mathematics. Turned out some undecideable propositions weren’t just obscure problems – the continuum hypothesis (one of David Hilbert’s problems to solve) was undecideable (proof by Paul cohen.)

• Pofarmer

So, if humans had never developed Math, their would be no God?

• wtfwjtd

I guess WLC is trying to say that “god” gave math to man. But, with that logic, one could just as easily say that “god” also gives babies malaria, causes mental illness, gave mankind cancer, etc. If it works one way, then it logically works the other way, too.

• Pofarmer

Why did God wait so many years for us to use math when he gave us malaria and tuberculosos and cancer from the beginning? It wasn’t uncommon for people to die of a toothache up into the modern age.

• MNb

Well, malaria and tuberculosis and cancer were given because metaphorical Adam and Eve were metaphorically naughty and because they were naughty they acquired the not metaphorical ability to learn but that ability has to be nurtured and not be overloaded so god waited until the not metaphorical offspring of the metaphorical Adam and Eve were mentally ready to use math.
Pray a bit more and perhaps god will be so benevolent to give you the spark to explain superconductivity at relatively high temperatures, but only when you (or mankind, whatever) are ready. Don’t forget to thank god when you receive the Nobel Price.
Does it make a bit more sense now?

• TheNuszAbides

definitely at odds with the loopier editions of Pre-Fall and/or Purity-of-Ze-Ancients accounts of the mental prowess with which we were Originally Invested: e.g. extrapolating from “gave everything Names” to “spoke The Original Unadulterated Language of Heaven”* to “knew Ultimate Maths, of which we puny mortals have only a shadow of a fragment of a glimpse”, etc. etc.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Ricerca_della_Lingua_Perfetta_nella_Cultura_Europea

• MNb

Not for apologists.

• wtfwjtd

“The theist has explanatory resources that are not available to the rationalist.”

What’s this? Is WLC finally admitting that theists are incompatible with rationality?

• Dys

It’s just a convoluted way of saying that theists can resort to “It’s magic!” as an explanatory resource, ignoring the fact that it’s complete shit.

• davewarnock

Da Biibel

• RichardSRussell

As I’ve previously pointed out in my essays on “How We Decide”, the only time anybody ever hauls out faith as an “explanation” is when all superior methods of coming to the desperately desired conclusion have turned out to be complete and utter failures (IE, only when it’s almost certainly dead wrong).

• Greg G.

Of course God designed the universe mathematically. That’s why Jesus had to be nailed to a plus sign to redeem everybody.

• Pofarmer

Ya know, somewhat seriously. How do you get from the God that organized all the laws of the universe, the God that created light, and stars and radiation and life. The God that designed orbitsl mechanics and gravity, to the God who is worried about the skin in the tip of my dick? The God that thought the best way to show mankind his beneficent goodwill and love was to impregnate a Virgin with himself to give birth to himself just to have himself killed in some podunk backwater without even writing anything down? I mean, how could these even be the same deity?

• Neko

Well, the first people who attributed divinity to Jesus operated within a religious paradigm where a (“willing”) human sacrifice could actually make sense.

If we take Paul as indicative of early Christian thought the scheme is as follows:

The First Adam was not divine but aspired to be God and in rebellion ushered sin and death into the world (Eve’s complicity and role as whipping girl is shoved aside for the moment due to secondary human status);

The Second Adam “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil 2:6) and in obedience overcame sin and death and ushered in the promise of eternal life.

It’s logically coherent. The problem for Christians today is that the Adam & Eve story, obviously mythical and untenable, is the foundation of the salvation drama. That is why perfectly rational and intelligent people cling to it, absurdly. My view is that the Adam & Eve myth uses a coming of age story to describe the dawn of consciousness. It describes reality by way of creation myth: people have a capacity for wrongdoing, sex is fraught, women suffer and die in childbirth, we all die, we (or some) feel estranged from divine origins. Life in 6th or 5th century BCE Palestine (or in exile) could be pretty harsh, so it’s no wonder God was envisioned as a rather mercurial and vindictive tyrant who also happened to have created the universe.

The apologetics surrounding the mother of Jesus are all designed to ensure that Christ’s incarnation was free from the taint of human sexuality, which is of course an effect of the Fall. Though for all we know, Jesus may have been married as a young man and lost his wife and baby in childbirth, as so often happened in the 1st century.

• Greg G.

The Fundamentalists can’t give up Adam and Eve because that would mean that Jesus “died for a metaphor”. If a person were to give up Adam and Eve, then why not accept Jesus as a metaphor as Hebrews seems to do in chapter 7 or so.

As I say, even Philippians 2:6 is in terms of the OT.

Philippians 2:6
who [Jesus Christ, from previous verse], though he was in the form of God, (Isaiah 52:14b his form beyond that of mortals) did not regard equality with God
(Isaiah 9:6b he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.) as something to be exploited, (Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.)

The whole Philippians Hymn seems to come from passages in Isaiah except for the crucifixion bit which Paul explains in Galatians 3:10-13 by quoting four verses from the Septuagint. The NIV footnotes tell which four verses he used.

• Neko

No doubt the early Christians (and their descendants) believed such passages in the Hebrew scriptures, particularly Daniel and Isaiah, foreshadowed and referred to Jesus Messiah.

It’s curious to me that fundamentalists wouldn’t seize upon the option that Jesus was almost certainly crucified for claiming to be, or for others (“Judas”?) accusing him of claiming to be, a future King of the Jews. That would get God off the hook for being the kind of monster whose only Son’s gruesome death was all part of the Plan. Though consider the parents of young people who sign up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq on behalf of the United States (or what have you). Their children often suffer gruesome deaths and are honored as martyrs to the nation. The Passion is a metaphysical enactment of this all-too-human tragedy, extended to “all nations.”

• davewarnock

well, after he made the stars and light and all that, he got a little bored and figured that maybe penile foreskin might be fun to play around with; in that he couldn’t find anything more obscure than that. And hey, let’s fuck with everyone and have a virgin get pregnant! Good times

• Greg G.

“Let’s destroy two cities and if anybody looks back, we’ll turn them into a pillar of marble.. no that’s too hard… a pillar of talc… no that’s too soft… I got it, a pillar of salt!”

• davewarnock

Also, if we did marble, that would last too long and people could see it many years later and verify this story. That’s not how we roll!

• MNb

Via the Jolly Bubble.

• Greg G.

If maturbation is morally wrong, why isn’t getting yourself off as difficult as tickling yourself? God must have really despised self-titled to desensitized it while wanting the end of your Dickinson trimmed instead of just making it not grow like that.

• I guess circumcision is easier than human sacrifice.

• MR

Masturbation is morally wrong? But, but…, Ray Comfort says: The banana and the hand are perfectly made one for the other. You’ll find the maker of the banana, almighty God, has made it with a non-slip surface….

I think he got the part wrong about what happens when you pull the tab, though.

http://youtu.be/2z-OLG0KyR4?t=17s

• Dys

Unless I’m very much mistaken, this is just an attempt by Craig to reiterate the rather lame “the universe operates by discoverable laws and is comprehensible, therefore god” argument. But like Bob said, the God Craig is trying to defend (because God is apparently too impotent to defend himself) isn’t one that any Christian actually believes in.

To be fair though, Craig debuted the silly “math, therefore God” argument around the same time he was failing miserably to defend his statements on animal suffering by using his unqualified friend’s summary of scientific research. So maybe he was having an off day.

Christian apologists aren’t attempting to convert nonbelievers – that’s not really their goal. They’re just trying to provide a veneer of respectability to a convoluted belief system that simply doesn’t make sense.

• MNb

“the universe operates by discoverable laws and is comprehensible, therefore god””
Never mind that those comprehensible discoverable laws are usually probabilistic, while creation is supposed to be a causal event, you mean? Well, apologetics is not about consistency, last many times I checked.

• Speedwell

“the universe operates by discoverable laws and is comprehensible, therefore god”
An undiscoverable, incomprehensible God, by definition, to be sure.

• FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion

Premise 1: If God exists, then there would be no apologists.
Premise 2: There are apologists.
Conclusion: Therefore, God does not exist.

• Pofarmer

That is at least as convincing as Bruggencate.

• FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion

Premise 1: It is reasonable to believe that which is true.
Premise 2: It is true that there is no god.
Premise 3: It is true that Sye ten Bruggencate is a sad, delusional nutcase.
Conclusion: Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that there is no god and that Sye ten Bruggencate is a sad, delusional nutcase.

How do I know this? It has been revealed to all of us in such a way that we know it to be absolutely true.

• Pofarmer

You should email that to Dillahunty. Lol.

• FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion

The only way to shut down a presupp is to become an even bigger presupp – use all their lines, and you’ll steal their thunder.

• TheNuszAbides

sadly, i don’t see that happening. if you don’t inevitably have Ze Bible propping it up, that’s their trump; if you do, they just Know you’re Reading it Wrong.

• FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion

Or just say you’re God and the Bible presupposes it and they absolutely know in their hearts that it is true and they are just suppressing it. Being a bigger presupp would stop them right in their tracks.

• Greg G.

I like that. “I’m God and you know it because I wrote it on your heart. You are suppressing it and I will not interfere with your free will but you will pay for it when you are dead.”

“Now, gimme ten percent of your paycheck!”

• TheNuszAbides

well played!

• JT Rager

Seriously? The ideal gas law is a demonstration of some deity’s existence? As a chemical engineering student who has taken 4 different thermo classes and seen the gas law derived in at least 4 different ways, it’s no coincidence. You can arrive at the behavior in many ways by making a couple assumptions without even having to test if that gas law works. That is to say, it’s just as coincidental that you can determine that 11 boxes of a dozen doughnuts will give you 132 doughnuts, with more advanced mathematical techniques used.

• Greg G.

The ideal gas law is an approximation that works best on Hydrogen. Therefore God.

• MNb

“by making a couple assumptions”
And who made those assumptions valid?
God.
Like “I see something I don’t get, feel awe, hence god”.

• TheNuszAbides

oh crap, you beat me to it. oh well, late to the party as usu.

• Neko

Frankly I think William Lane Craig’s defense of Yahweh’s command to slaughter the Canaanites should disqualify him as a member of decent society. Didn’t he also profess to have sensed an “aura” around Sam Harris? Good grief!

This math thing sounds like a feature of the objective reality apologetic. Math, like morality, is objective and therefore external to us and not created by us therefore it must be created by a creator not us. I think that’s how the argument goes.

• Greg G.

What do you mean by “objective” with respect to morality? If a species of spiders had the intelligence of humans, it would be immoral for a female to not kill and eat her mate as he would be a threat to their offspring and his body may as well feed the eggs. Morality happens to be beneficial for social creatures which we happen to be and we determine morality as it relates to our social well-being. But 2+2=4 even if you are a spider.

But you are spot on in the first paragraph.

• Neko
• johzek

It may have been in reference to the slaughter of the Canaanites that you mention that I recently heard of William Lane Craig described as the Johnnie Cochran of apologists.

• Neko

Perhaps that’s a bit unfair to Johnnie Cochran…

• johzek

For sure, when all else fails an appeal to the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit is probably not going to be too effective in a murder trial. Best to stick with that glove thing, what is called real evidence.

• Neko

Well, I was thinking perhaps of the difference in scale and kind between defense of purportedly divinely-commanded genocide by a tenured (?) professor and defense of a single killer by a criminal defense lawyer operating within the adversarial US justice system.

• TheNuszAbides

maybe that’s the real excuse for the whole hand-on-bible/”…so help you god” thing in court? masonic/deist Founding Fathers heading off the wholesale rejection of procedure by fundamentalist hysteria?

• Greg G.

I’m sorry, I see that I misunderstood the second paragraph.

• Neko

Not at all; odds are always good I’ve been unclear.

• Greg G.

It’s not you, it’s me. 80)

As I replied to HairyEyedWordBombThrower, I think I was in a different mindset.

• TheNuszAbides

i’m not alone!

• Do you argue that objective morality exists? And that it’s reliably accessible by humans?

• Neko

No, I don’t, but I’m not fluent in the classical Aristotelian arguments. So my opinion is uninformed.

• OK. All the Christian bloggers that I engage with demand it, but I keep wondering what evidence they imagine for it.

• Neko

Edward Feser is a conservative Catholic (his Catholic blogroll is hair-raising) and former atheist, who in the following post briefly covers the Aristotelian-Thomistic arguments for natural law and by extension objective morality:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/does-morality-depend-on-god.html

I’ve read through this a couple of times and remain unsympathetic. However, I’m predisposed to reject “natural law” not only for its essentialist tenets but because natural philosophy is used by the Catholic teaching authority to argue that: “woman” is essentially generative, “homosexual persons” are “intrinsically disordered” and contraception is “gravely evil.” So no.

That said, I’ve no background in philosophy so can’t properly argue the issue on philosophical grounds.

• TheNuszAbides

i’m sad to say that at this point in my intellectual development, RAW is almost never ‘dry enough’ for my taste, but perhaps this will help nevertheless:

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/robert-anton-wilson-natural-law-or-don-t-put-a-rubber-on-your-willy.html

• HairyEyedWordBombThrower

I think the last paragraph was describing the opposing viewpoint, not condoning it?

• Greg G.

Thanks. I had been interacting with the other Greg and may have been in that train of thought.

Ah, “God.” That wonderful, ineffable deity that explains nothing but purports to explain everything. It’s all well and good to say “God did this,” but how? Until the theists can answer that, they have nothing.

Do you claim we can have no maths, morals, logic, or meaning without God? Well, either God’s decisions are arbitrary (hardly absolute except by means of cosmic bullying), or they’re reasoned based on what *must* work and/or benefit mankind (how atheists try to determine these things). The second option has the plus of knocking God down a peg, so take that, omnipotence! Ultimately, God explains nothing. Invoking the supernatural is like adding unnecessary salt to an already perfect stew.

I love the Euthyphro Dilemma. It applies to almost any Christian claim with equal gusto. Like the atheists’ pocket knife.

• KarlUdy

Was math invented or discovered?

• Kodie

It’s a language to describe our environment.

• KarlUdy

It’s more than that. And your statement still doesn’t answer my question.

• Kodie

How is it more than that? How doesn’t that answer your question?

• KarlUdy

Although some branches of mathematics “describe our environment”, others do not. And languages could be discovered or invented.

• Kodie

What language is discovered? You mean like dolphins?

• KarlUdy

eg DNA

• Pofarmer

Dna isn’t a language.

• KarlUdy

As DNA is a method of communicating information from a source to a recipient, I think it qualifies as a language.

• Greg G.

By observing the absorption bands in starlight, we can ascertain information about the relative speed of the stars, their chemical makeup, and infer the age of a star or galaxy. Information is communicated from the source to the recipient. Does that qualify starlight as a language?

Photons are exchanged between parts of atoms to bind the electrons to the atoms, to resist the strong nuclear force, to align electron shells, and to form chemical bonds. Atoms are drawn to or repelled from other atoms by the information in the momentum of the photons. Does that qualify as a language? That is the mechanism by which DNA works.

• Dys

And since DNA is not arbitrary, you’re wrong. Language is not a mere transference of information.

• Greg G.

When I stub my toe on a chair, what I say doesn’t transmit information to the chair but it does qualify as language. A Deepak Chopra utterance qualifies as language but no matter how profound it sounds, it relays no actual information beyond the cascades of molecular movements involved and mediated by quantum processes.

• Neko

LOL!

• MNb

Biologists think you’re wrong. I rather rely on biologists than on ignorant you.

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB180.html

• Susan

Biologists think you’re wrong. I rather rely on biologists than on ignorant you.

Thanks, MNb. I was going to suggest to Karl that he not use that argument again as it has been thoroughly eviscerated more than once.

It’s the product of apologists (who shamelessly equivocate to support their positions, because it works on people who don’t know any better).

It’s a terrible argument and Karl needs to find a good one.

• Pofarmer

There aren’t any good ones.

• Susan

There aren’t any good ones.

(sigh) I know.

Each belief system (mormons, protestants, muslims, catholics, and many others) has apologists. These apologists work full time to justify beginning with their conclusions.

They utilize terrible logic rife with logical fallacies in order to keep their followers convinced.

If Karl engaged with a muslim, he would be sent around the same carousel of bad arguments that he has accepted for his own belief system. But the thing about compounds is they are designed to keep a person away from that and on the rare occasion that they run across people from other compounds, they have been told ahead of time why these people are wrong. That goes for all of them. This is where faith special pleading comes in.

Back to the topic of the post, I liked Sean Carroll’s phrase about math. “The consequences of axioms.”

It has given us an impressive tool that, when applicable to reality, has proven to be extremely useful.

The rest is the very worthwhile work of developing and honing the tool.

• MNb

“These apologists work full time to justify beginning with their conclusions.”
Well, yes, believers are left without any hope if they have to abandon all teleology. Science has done so about 200 years ago; from this angle science and belief are incompatible indeed.

• Susan

believers are left without any hope if they have to abandon all teleology.

They get away with it because humans are predisposed to seeing agents where they don’t necessarily exist.

They don’t have to show their work. Hence, all the gods of the gaps, which have never been useful in any way and have obstructed knowledge every step of the way.

As long as you can get most humans to assume agency a priori without having to justify it (a simple trick with humans), you can vacuum them into your cult’s version of an unevidenced agent if you can apply the right psychological tricks. .

• KarlUdy

These scientists at University of Washington seem to think of DNA as a language http://www.washington.edu/news/2013/12/12/scientists-discover-double-meaning-in-genetic-code/

• Greg G.

The article says:

UW scientists were stunned to discover that genomes use the genetic code to write two separate languages. One describes how proteins are made, and the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long.

So now you are saying DNA is two languages? They are using the term “language” loosely to express an analogy. A language is symbolic representation of concepts with grammar and syntax. DNA is a molecule that can reproduce itself and create new versions using chemical reactions.

Saying DNA is a language as an argument is equivocation. Using the word “language” as an analogy to express the behavior of complex chemical reactions to a wide audience is a teaching method.

BTW, I think Dr GS Hurd in the comments section is (or was) a denizen of talk.origins.

• MNb

If I got a dime for every time a believer takes a scientific metaphor literally I would be a billionaire.

Hey, I have another one for you! Stephen Hawking is a theist! You know why? He ended his book A Brief History of Time with “It would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.” And he can only do so when god exists. Ergo: Modern Physics proves god. As history proves the Resurrection all atheists immediately should convert to christianity. Bingo!
As you might actually take this seriously I will add:
[/sarcasm]

• smrnda

DNA is a physical thing that has a function. You can think of it as a language if you want.

mathematical ideas do not correspond to physical things. that is why I say they are invented.

• Kodie

DNA is our language to describe genetics.

• KarlUdy

Who invented DNA?

• Kodie

So you’re a creationist.

• KarlUdy

Non sequitor

• Kodie
• Neko

Non sequitur.

Sorry, I’m a hopeless pedant, especially since I’m quite sure I have no idea as to the origins of creation.

• Greg G.

That reminds me of a reply from “Steven J.” years ago on talk.origins where he made such a correction with something like “It’s (whatever the correction), if we want to be pedantic, and who doesn’t?”

I still use it about once a year.

• KarlUdy

Thank you for the correction, Neko.

• Neko

You’re welcome, and thank you for being gracious.

• TheNuszAbides

heck, if we can’t even pin down the origins of creationism, what chance do we have? 😉

• MNb

No Non sequitur. See

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB180.html

“DNA is a language hence god” is a creationist argument – it tries (and fails) to conclude that some god created a language called DNA.

• KarlUdy

It is a non sequitur. Kodie accepts DNA as a language based on her earlier post. My asking whether it is a discovered or invented language bears no relevance on whether or not I am a “creationist”, which, further, bears no relevance on the issue being discussed (the nature and origin of mathematics and its relationship to the existence or otherwise of God).

• Kodie

You asked who invented it, implying the material and the language were one and the same.

• MNb

It does and the talkorigins links shows it. Either you haven’t read

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB180.html

and especially

“The genetic code is a language in the normal sense of the term, since it assigns meaning to arbitrary symbols. Language is obviously a non-material category of reality; the symbolic information is distinct from matter and energy. Therefore, life is a manifestation of non-material reality.”

or you’re dishonest. No surprises here.

• KarlUdy

I have not read the article you mention. I think you’re chasing down a blind alley here. Kodie’s statement “So you’re a creationist.” bears no relation to my previous posts, and is in all likelihood an attempted ad hominem argument. You are forgetting an important point – that Kodie said earlier in the conversation, “DNA is our language to describe genetics.”, so the status of DNA as a language was not being debated.

Ironically there has been precious little debate over whether mathematics is a language or not. After all, the real issue here is related to mathematics, not DNA

• Kodie

Let’s try to keep you honest, Karl – you brought up DNA because I asked you for examples of languages that were discovered rather than invented. Your answer to my statement was in the form of a question “who invented DNA?” Don’t say that me calling you a creationist came out of nowhere, or we’re the ones dwelling on DNA. You should try to be honest and answer questions in one go instead of over several installments, so you can remember what you said. WE remember what you said, why can’t you?

• KarlUdy

From my point of view it is very simple. I don’t see how you could come to the conclusion that I am a creationist from anything I said. It seems a completely irrelevant statement. You might think it didn’t come out of nowhere, but I can’t see where else it could have come from.

• MNb

“I don’t see”
Let me correct this for you:

“I don’t want to see how …..

You implied something only creationists claim:

“DNA is a language hence god”
or with exact quotes:

Kodie: “What language is discovered?”
You: “eg DNA” and “Who invented DNA?”, implying some god.

As I have shown twice above and as you have deliberately neglected twice this is typical for creationism.
So Kodie did not commit a non-sequitur. She still might be wrong, but then you have to show how this creationist claim does not make you a creationist.

• KarlUdy

You are inferring too much into my questions. Kodie could have responded to “Who invented DNA?” with “No one”. In fact, that is what I expected. The conversation then would have gone down a much different (and probably more interesting and profitable) path.

• Kodie

You’re trying to play “gotcha!” games instead of have a discussion, so I just cut to it. There was no more interesting path you were trying to go down.

• KarlUdy

I’m not trying to play gotcha games. I’m just trying to go one step at a time because it reduces the chance of misunderstanding.

As I see it the problem with this discussion is that you have come into it with the misapprehension that you already know what I’m thinking and that there are hidden motives behind my questions and that you also know what they are. You’re wrong on all counts, and it makes it next to impossible to have a meaningful discussion with you. Thanks and goodbye.

• Kodie

Horseshit, Karl. It’s impossible to have a meaningful discussion pulling teeth to get you to say anything, you’re just asking one question at a time, deliberately to play games. Have we never dealt with you before or have we?

• When you ask a single context-free question at a time, it looks precisely like you’re playing gotcha games.

My suggestion is to lay out whatever argument or point you’re trying to make. You’ve made thought-provoking arguments before. Can’t you just do it like that?

• TheNuszAbides

pretty easy to narrow this down to (a) this show is for the benefit (read: misleading) of newcomers or very occasional visitors who read this exchange having not seen your comments before, or having not discerned from your previous appearances that you have any specific ‘skin in the game’ ideology/Tradition-wise…
and/or (b) you’re just bored and wanting to yank chains.

if there were no ‘gotcha’ element, why would you lead with a short, open-ended question without clarifying – for the benefit of people who know damn well they have had substantial differences of opinion with you previously – that your intention is other than what they can reasonably assume from what is on-record in these very pages?

• KarlUdy

if there were no ‘gotcha’ element, why would you lead with a short, open-ended question without clarifying – for the benefit of people who know damn well they have had substantial differences of opinion with you previously – that your intention is other than what they can reasonably assume from what is on-record in these very pages?

It was a short *closed* question, and my intention was to avoid the discussion going off on rabbit trails and sticking to the discussion of the nature of mathematics and what that has to do with the ‘God’ question.

But it seems that some people would much prefer the rabbit trails, even when I try to avoid giving any outlet for them.

• TheNuszAbides

true enough, it’s not easy to hit the reset button and keep the field clear.

• MNb

Then you should learn to formulate your questions better.
But I’m always willing to give people a second chance.
No one invented DNA.
Now what?

• KarlUdy

So DNA was discovered. Agree? Now back to mathematics; was it invented or discovered?

• MNb

Now what?

Moreover also above I asked you a counterquestion. Was English invented or discovered? You didn’t answer either of my comments, which confirms Kodie’s suspicion that you are playing games.

• MNb

Thanks for confirming Kodie is right by not adressing the point I made.
Of course you haven’t read the article I linked to. The fun is that you don’t need to – I gave the relevant quote in my previous comment and you totally neglect it. That’s telling, Karl, it’s telling a lot.

“You are forgetting an important point”
I am not forgetting any point at all. In the first place the quote you deliberately and dishonestly neglect begins with “”The genetic code is a language …..” At the moment I’m not disputing that either.

In the second place this is not about Kodie, it’s about you and the conclusion you draw from “The genetic code is a language”.- which you gave away with your question above “Who …..?”. That conclusion is a creationist one. It’s your conclusion, not Kodie’s.

Hey, Karl, is it so difficult for christians like you to be honest? Why don’t you try it just for once? You might like it. To push you a bit in the right direction I’ll repeat the relevant quote.

“The genetic code is a language in the normal sense of the term, since it assigns meaning to arbitrary symbols. Language is obviously a non-material category of reality; the symbolic information is distinct from matter and energy. Therefore, life is a manifestation of non-material reality.”

Do you agree with this quote, yes or no?
If yes then you’re a creationist.
If no then your question “Who invented DNA” is an inappropriate question.
If you refuse to answer you’re a liar.

What will it be, Karl?

• MNb

DNA is not a language.
But even if it were you’re not where you want to be.

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB180.html

• HairyEyedWordBombThrower

what part(s) of mathematics DON’T describe our environment? Citation(s), please?

• KarlUdy

Pure mathematics.

• HairyEyedWordBombThrower

I could be tempted to say that they don’t describe our environment *yet* because we’re still discovering things 😉

• KarlUdy

You might be so tempted. Although if that were the case, there would be branches of mathematics which were discovered/invented which just happened to correlate to real world discoveries that do not yet exist. It then could not be the case that mathematics is simply a tool to describe the real world.

• Pofarmer

Why? We discover things that don’t have immediate applications all the time.

• smrnda

mathematics is the exploration of axiomatic systems invented by humans. My career was spent on infinite graphs; they do not and cannot exist in any physical sense, but they do have properties.

• Hans-Richard Grümm

Large cardinals

exotic 4-manifolds and spheres
Stone-Cech compactifications etc. etc.

As Bob S. points out, many fields of mathematics were developed and intensively studied for the very reason that they contained very good models for some natural systems (geometry, partial differential equations …). But they are by no means the only ones.

• HairyEyedWordBombThrower

I did a quick survey over the list of topics presented, and what I checked were *systems* of using mathematics, which have to square with reality (the environment) or they’d fail and be supplanted.

• smrnda

Infinite graphs do not actually exist in a physical sense.

• MNb

Was English discovered or invented?

• smrnda

good point. I published theorems about the properties of infinite graphs, which cannot and do not exist in any physical sense.

• johzek

At least at the most basic level math is like a language because just as the words of a language represent concepts, numbers themselves are concepts. A concept most simply put is a general identification based on particular instances. It is an idea in our minds of a class whose members share a certain criterion of similarity, which in the case of a number is that each member (group of things) of the class can be put into a one to one correspondence with every other member (group of things) of the class.

Although a concept is an idea in our minds, if it is based on our observations of the things we perceive it is nonetheless objectively based. As far as numbers are concerned neither invention nor discovery seem to me to be an apt description. But numbers, being economical identifications of what we perceive, are certainly useful in describing the environment we inhabit.

• Kodie

What I was thinking was that numbers and shapes describe our environment and how it can be counted or measured or described. Karl calls something “pure mathematics,” which I would understand to be problems that don’t relate to anything, i.e. 2+2=4 doesn’t tell you what you’re adding up, but it is still a useful language for describing the process we use when counting and adding things we’ve counted. You can’t hold a triangle (forget about the musical instrument so-called because of its shape), but you can hold or point to something that is triangular in shape (like the instrument), and you can measure it. If you are told to draw a triangle, is that a “triangle”? Or is that a drawing in the shape of a triangle? We need this language to navigate and progress through our environment. Word problems are the students’ nightmare, but math is kind of a hobby without real puzzles to apply it to. Like, is a book a story or does it contain a story?

Now having said that, I do understand that there are facets of math that go outside this realm, but I would still put them in the useful category. Adding abstract numbers is an applicable skill for learning how these relationships work and what to call them when we find the solution. Abstracting it even further, as far as I can tell, still has a useful application in describing relationships between relationships that relate to what exists and can be measured. It’s still related to something that is real, even if it can’t be applied to anything that’s real. So it is like saying 2+2=4 without having any items to count. I hope I am just being simplistic and not completely off-track, but I could not figure another way Karl meant “pure mathematics.”

• RichardSRussell

AFAICT, “pure mathematics” involves Platonic ideals that don’t exist in the real world, whereas “applied math” is the sort of “close enuf for government work” standard employed by engineers and carpenters. It’s the latter I prefer to hire.

• KarlUdy

• Kodie

Seems to be pretty much what I thought.

• FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion

How much do you God?

• smrnda

As a former mathematician, mathematics is the exploration of axiomatic systems invented by people. Any connection to the real, physical world is purely accidental 🙂

• TheNuszAbides

never known Karl to argue with someone in their actual field. (hope springs eternal?) sure he can dazzle fellow faithful with his intellectual dilettante card, though.

• HairyEyedWordBombThrower

I vote for developed, to describe consistent phenomena of nature. As parts are proven either wrong or insufficient, experimentation has eventually developed an explanation that better describes the phenomena in most if not all cases.

• Dys

Invented.

• RichardSRussell

I’m gonna go with “The real numbers were discovered, the integers and rationals were invented.”, which is sort of hand-waving, cut-the-baby bullshit-speak for “damned if I know”. (I’m trying to audition for a job as a Christian apologist. How did that come off?)

• MNb

Developed.
Was English invented or discovered?

• smrnda

Invented. I’m a mathematical formalist. Invented all the way.

• TheNuszAbides

i’m pretty sure if i ever get around to an even slightly-below-the-surface, personal, at-my-own-pace, reverse-order, survey of History of Maths, i will be more than happy to stop at Euler.

• I think I read that Euler was still publishing 50 years after his death. IIRC.

(Other mathematicians mined his notes for publishable material for all that time.)

• TheNuszAbides

a whole book on ‘Euler’s Vultures’ alone!

• Whiskyjack

One problem with this line of argumentation is the plasticity of mathematics. This relates not just to underdetermination of theories by observation, but to the very nature of using mathematics as a tool for scientific explanation.
There are seemingly infinite numbers of mathematical solutions that can be formulated to conform to most observations. Non-mathematical principles like Ockham’s Razor must be appealed to in selecting a preferred solution. Certainly, mathematics provides scientists with very powerful explanatory and predictive tools, and I do not mean to diminish that aspect. I just don’t think that there’s anything supernatural about it.

• Marv B.

I ‘m off subject here, more simple but why hasn’t some one use math to prove you can’t have the billions population today with 2 people in 6 thousands years or Noah’s family in 4 thousand. If we were like rabbits and no deaths it would be possible.

• Greg G.

Creationists have used math to show that it is entirely possible to get billions of people from eight people of the course of 4000 years. However, they have been refuted by the math that shows that they can’t get to the population levels in the first few hundred years to get the early stories to make sense.

• powellpower

Don’t mind if you could share some links? I’m interested to find out more 🙂

• Greg G.

Where are all the people? is an example of advanced creationism arithmetic. Batten tried to combat the problem of a steady rate of growth by increasing the rate in the early years. He has no data to base it on so he must choose whatever figures he can pull out of his analysis. The commenter, Justin S., points out that there would not be enough people to build the Tower of Babel. Batten points out that it could have been as late as 340 years later. But even then he would need to increase the growth rate by a factor of 8 or so. No wonder he doesn’t show his work.

Professor Brian Blais’ Blog (Creationist Math) addresses a different article but a commenter brings up the above page that Blais addresses here:

Scientific Knowledge Do We Really Have Faith?

• powellpower

Thanks!

• RichardSRussell

First off, it’s not at all surprising that Eugene Wigner, the one mathematician that Craig “uncharacteristically brot along”, is 20 years dead and in no position to object to the use that his work is being put to. I’d’ve been more impressed if Craig could have cited some living, 21st Century mathematical theorist.

Second, we have this observation, remarkable only for its utter blandness:

Wigner said, “The only physical theories which we are willing to accept are the beautiful ones.”

Oh, yeah. Big whoop. Just different clothing on Occam’s Razor: All else being equal, prefer a simple explanation to a complicated one. Do not multiply entities beyond necessity. Kind of a bedrock principle of science. Has been since William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347) came up with it back in the 14th Century.

As a predictive tool for describing planetary motions, Ptolemaic epicycles got the job done — and would still be getting the job done today if Johannes Kepler hadn’t come along with the observation “Hey, you could do the same job with simple ellipses.” Cue the mass exodus from epicycles.

The other thing to consider is that the simple, elegant explanations are the easiest — and thus earliest — ones to find. (“Water always seems to run downhill”, remarked Eve, in Mark Twain’s Diaries of the Adam Family. “Somebody had to be the first one to discover that fact, but today everybody takes it for granted and never gives Adam enuf credit for it.”)

We may one day have a plainly stated, easily understood, beautiful explanation for how DNA interacts with epigenetics, but right now it’s hellaciously complicated. Which doesn’t make it false, despite the Universe’s assumed preference for simple explanations, as the hardly disinterested W. L. Craig asserts. I guess sales of his old books were tailing off, and he needed some new gimmick to refresh the cash flow.

• TheNuszAbides

“All else being equal, prefer a simple explanation to a complicated one. ”

it makes baby Ockham cry when many theists and non- alike play fast and loose with the “all else being equal” component…
not unlike the oft-parroted-but-conveniently-unheard (and awfully conveniently placed, IMO) “unusual” in “cruel and unusual” or “due” in “due process”…

• Speedwell

I spent many fruitless minutes today with an acquaintance who also collects mineral specimens (“crystals”). OK, yes, I have dozens of “crystals”. Without a fair layman’s knowledge of mineralogy and such, I would not enjoy them nearly as much. The poor woman had asked me on Facebook, “How does Nature know how to form perfect cubes out of rocks?”. After telling her about, and sending her a couple excellent links on, crystal formation and crystal habit, she said, “Oh, yeah; people have tried to tell me about that, but I didn’t understand”. Seeing that as a further teaching opportunity, I explained more simply about atomic and molecular bonds, crystal lattices, sphere packing, and how under uncomplicated conditions they all lined up like people holding hands. The woman responded, “You really know a lot of science, but you don’t know anything about the perfection of Nature”. It is to facepalm.

Don’t overmysticize mathematics. There’s evidence that what exists, exists because of quantum fluctuations in the vacuum, that is to say the universe sloppily fails to maintain a state of pure nothingness. 🙂 The cosmos may just simply be made of math. My laptop is held off the floor by electrical interactions between its particles and the particles of the desk, and the electrical interactions arise from things that I don’t understand about how matter and energy turn into each other. But that’s not mystical, it’s reality itself.

I always thought it was more right than wrong to say that math is to the universe as attributes are to an entity. What we describe, using the tools and symbols of the art of mathematics (I stop short of calling it a language per se), is what the universe is.

• RichardSRussell

I love seeing the Universe described by math.
I also love seeing it described by Michelangelo and Beethoven.
I’m appalled at seeing it described by William Lane Craig and Ray Comfort.

• FaithIsGlorifiedDelusion

Michelangelo and Beethoven’s pubic hair had more talent than WLC and Raymond. Don’t ask me how I know though…

• Uh oh. Another entry into the Good Quotes pile.

• Greg G.

Richard was in fine form today. Most any of his quotes are collectible.

• Neko

You wrote:

There’s evidence that what exists, exists because of quantum fluctuations in the vacuum, that is to say the universe sloppily fails to maintain a state of pure nothingness.

If this is reality, I find reality mystical.

• Speedwell

But not supernatural, to be sure. 🙂

• Neko

Since it’s clearly natural, it can’t be called “supernatural.”

• Speedwell

Yes, that’s just what I meant. That faint sound you hear is all of my Wiccan and lightworker friends screaming that I am once again failing to recognize that the mystical and the spiritual and the supernatural are the same thing. Blarg.

• RichardSRussell

Well, of course, the mystical and the spiritual and the supernatural are the same thing. You can throw “the null set” in there as well.

• Speedwell

I think the idea that the landscape of meaning is defined by quantum language events, and that the existence of imaginary numbers and various sorts of mathematical transforms means that transformative hermeneutics and Jungian analysis have been scientifically validated, has been adequately covered by jokers like Jacques Derrida and Alan Sokal.

• Neko

Say what? : )

• Speedwell

I’m being playfully sarcastic with postmodernism. If you want a huge laugh, Google “The Sokal Affair”. I bought Sokal’s book. Good, if dry, reading.

• RichardSRussell

Alan Sokal deserves some kind of Nobel-scale award for his monumental public service in exposing the vacuity that is postmodernism for the content-free psychobabble that it truly is.

• Neko

Oh, yeah, I remember that! Forgot that Andrew Ross was involved, however. Oh dear.

That reminds me of the “Secret Mark” controversy, still raging.

• MNb

So do most physicists last 100, 120 years.

• Greg G.

When my wife and I were traveling, a shop had some beautiful sculptures, crystals, and geodes. They had some ceramic “bonsai trees” with polished stones and crystals attached by copper wire. My wife asked me which I liked best. Even though I thought the one with the bright red stones was strikingly beautiful, I liked the one with a variety of stones because it was geologically more interesting. I usually prefer practical utility over aesthetics but I discovered that “interesting” also comes above aesthetics.

• Neko

Practical utility is an aesthetic. Form follows function?

• Greg G.

That’s what I say. I miss my old pick-up truck.

• “It’s better to rumble like the rocks than jingle like the jade.”

— fragment of one translation of the Tao Te Ching (or a commentary thereon)

• MNb

“Don’t overmysticize mathematics.”
As a teacher math I only can agree.

“(I stop short of calling it a language per se)”
Why? I don’t. Math has a grammar. Just google “grammar and language of math”.

• Speedwell

Well, you may be right. Turing machines and everything; if a program can speak, then what it’s speaking is language even if it’s nothing but long sets of wiggles on a ticker tape. I think my gut reaction comes from the knowledge that music, which many people claim is mathematical (it is and it isn’t; it’s actually processed by the same part of the brain that processes reaching for things or throwing a ball), is actually not processed at all by the part of the brain that processes language. Are you aware of any similar studies done by cognitive mathematologists (I made up that term in imitation of ‘cognitive musicologists’, sorry)?

• MNb

I haven’t read all the reactions yet, so apologies if I just repeat.
Wigner was not religious. According to Wikipedia, note 10 he was more or less an atheist.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Wigner

If anything this argument of WLC shows his dishonesty. It’s well known that physicists (think of Einstein; Hawking the same in A Brief History of Time) were so amazed by all the new developments that they used religious language to express their feelings. That does not mean they “found god” by means of their research.
More dishonesty is displayed when WLC omits that his Argument from Mathematics is incompatible with his beloved Cosmological Argument. See, the math used in Modern Physics is thoroughly probabilistic.
BobS’ link to Wigner’s article says it all.

“In the same vein, I would say that mathematics is the science of skillful operations with concepts and rules invented just for this purpose.”
Invented by whom? Well, not by god. Personally I prefer “math is a language developed by humans (like all languages) to accurately describe what we observe”. Heck, math is not even universal. It can’t be used in all sciences. Does WLC claim that English came from god? No? Then why math?

• Derrik Pates

William Lane Craig? Dishonest? But the 10 Commandments speak out against that, and we all know no believer in Gawd and Jeebus would ever break any of those.

Good day sir. I said good day!

Deepak Chopra makes a similar argument in “The Future of God.” Idolatry by any other name…

• avalon

Two questions:
1) If God is the cause of “the uncanny effectiveness of mathematics” to the physical world, then why isn’t there one simple formula to describe the universe?
and
2) If God is such a savvy mathematician, why didn’t he let the Hebrews know about the number zero (a very useful number)?

• powellpower

Cuz zero is the spawn of satan (obviously)

• Saeed Baig

1) Maybe there is. Maybe there’s a Theory of Everything that describes everything in 1 equation and we just haven’t figured it out yet (big maybe, obviously).

• Chuck Johnson

William Lane Craig is just stroking his dick again. He is a professional jerkoff. – – –

But such a wonderful collection of degrees on his wall !

• ningen

So wait. Did God choose the math first and then create physical reality to match? If so, couldn’t an omnipotent God have created a more mathematically elegant (and mathematically simpler) universe? (hey, I’ve been down this road before with the argument from suboptimal design!)

Or maybe God chose the physical reality first, and then “created” mathematics so that it just happens to describe it. (is this even coherent? This is like saying God first created two trees and only then made it so that 1+1=2.)

• smrnda

As a mathematical formalist, I find this absolutely absurd.

Mathematics is the exploration of formal axiomatic systems invented by humans. Not surprisingly, observations from the physical world influence them (take Euclid’s axioms.) No shit they are applicable, it’s like being amazed that a lever or a wheel has function.

• TheNuszAbides

Or maybe a structure so chaotic that no equation would be accurate for more than an instant?

therein lies the particular beauty of the Ideal Gas Law.