The Argument from Mathematics Doesn’t Add Up to God

The Argument from Mathematics Doesn’t Add Up to God January 12, 2019

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

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? And if the theist has useful “explanatory resources,” I wonder if they’re built on evidence.

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 too 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 the hole, and math is the puddle—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).

We don’t start with math and then marvel that the universe comports to it; instead, we see what the universe does and then invent stuff (tensors, quaternions, differential equations) that economically describes what we see. Math is a description of reality.

Also note that math has been tuned by reality to be simple. Mathematicians came across matrix operations so often that they developed shorthand versions—the del operator (∇), for example. Expand that out into a more elementary formulation, and it’s not so simple anymore. Or, replace an advanced mathematical idea with its explanation (“What does ‘integral’ mean?”), and you’ve got a textbook chapter—again, not so simple. It’s simple only in its terse form, unhindered by explanations that we laymen would need, but that hides the complex mountain on which it’s built.

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 to see what works (and is therefore beautiful) and what doesn’t.

Physicist Max Tegmark responded to Wigner’s idea. He said that a question like “Why is math so good at describing reality?” is like “Why is language so good for conveying ideas?” Language was tuned and adapted to be good for what we need it to do, and the same is true for math.

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). What then should we expect? 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. I doubt he has even thought of the problem, and he certainly doesn’t respond to it.

“God did it” is simply a synonym for “we don’t know.” That explains nothing.

To be concluded in part 2.

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

.

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 02/07/15.)

Image from stuartpilbrow, CC license

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Yes, that was always my thought here too: how do they calculate the fact this universe exists as it does if the nature of any other is unknown?

  • ThaneOfDrones

    I am currently reading Mathematics: the Loss of Certainty by Morris Kline. (2011 edition, 978-1435136069) It is all about how the sentiment covered in the opening post is now obsolete. The major blow was Gödel incompleteness theorems, but that was just the coup de grace of a growing problem.

  • Michael Neville

    It’s simple only in its terse form, unhindered by explanations that we laymen would need, but that hides the complex mountain on which it’s built.

    Here’s Russell and Whitehead’s proof that 1+1=2.

    https://i.stack.imgur.com/cZyOW.jpg

  • Doubting Thomas

    He said:

    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.

    I never cease to be amazed at apologists inability to differentiate between “I made something up” and “I know the correct answer.”

    No matter how many times it’s shown to be wrong, they always jump to the conclusion “You don’t know, therefore god.”

    • I keep forgetting that they’re playing to an audience that’s not me. So it doesn’t need to make sense. I guess.

      • Almost everything that comes from apologists is just preaching to the choir, to reinforce their faith and see themselves as special. What is not, is to convert people with little knowledge of science, etc. -that’s one of the reasons why most evangelicals I see around -most inmigrants- attempt to convert other inmigrants and leave alone the locals-.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    “has proved accurate beyond all reasonable expectations,”

    Unless you’re attempting to understand Mercury’s orbit. That had to wait another few hundred years for Einstein to come along and build on top of it.

    Or if you’re talking about quantum theory, where it doesn’t seem to work at all.

    Right-wingers and apologists do this all the time. For instance, you’ll sometimes see them argue against universal healthcare by saying asking for you to name “successful” countries with it. When you name, for instance, Israel, you get “that’s not a successful country” when by any reasonable metric, Israel is successful. But the problem is, you never asked them to define what they meant by “successful” — a decent GDP, a decent GNP, a strong economy, a highly educated population, you know the drill.

    It’s honestly impossible to argue with these people because they aren’t constructing arguments — they’re regurgitating talking points. Arguing with them is like trying to argue with a Chinese room. They’re using words and they don’t understand what those words mean, but because they’re emotionally invested in being correct and proving liberals wrong, and they’re addicted to that self-righteous indignation, they cling to said talking points anyway.

  • Herald Newman

    Physicist Max Tegmark to Wigner’s idea. He said that a question like “Why is math so good at describing reality?” is like “Why is language so good for conveying ideas?” Language was to be good for what we need it to do, and the same is true for math.

    No matter how much I try to point this out to those who propose that the universe is somehow beholden to math and logic, it doesn’t seem to sink in. Why theists don’t seem to understand that mathematics and logic are simply a highly formalized languages, that we invented, to help us describe reality. Logic and math are no more the metaphysical makeup of reality than English! I really do find these types of arguments to be the most frustrating bits of crap apologetics out there today. It’s so completely wrong that it’s hard to fix the errors.

    What seems to be worse is that theists don’t seem to want to listen to any counter points to their nonsense. I think the strangest reply I’ve ever gotten was: “The statement “your chair is not both a chair and an airplane.” is a true statement because your chair is subject to the laws of logic.” I can only shake my head.

    • Michael Neville

      I’m annoyed by the theist argument “Gawd is the source of logic”. Formal or philosophical logic was invented independently by the Greeks, the Chinese and the Sanskriti Indians. While the three systems are similar and all are valid, they are not identical. Mathematical logic is a different system again but is also valid. Nothing supernatural was required for some very intelligent people to devise various logical systems.

    • You could ask for a demonstration in a universe where the laws of logic are different.

    • Rudy R

      It’s not that theists are not capable of listening to counter points to nonsense, but it’s difficult for them to process those counterpoints, because they did not come to their beliefs using reason and logic.

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    Someone never told Craig that all mathematical laws are wrong. General relativity breaks down when black-holes evaporate, Newtonian gravity is wrong when Mercury’s orbit precesses. The conservation of energy is wrong when the universe accelerates in expansion and the standard model of particle physics is wrong when neutrinos have hidden sterile modes.

    Mathematics is not unreasonably effective at describing physics, when it breaks down and becomes paradoxical (singular) trying to describe how the universe works in real situations.

    • Michael Neville

      Physics itself is only an approximation. Consider the old joke with the punchline: “Assume a spherical cow.”

      • Joslyn Renfrey

        I mean, talking about physical ‘laws’ is problematic, because laws in a human context are made by decree, but physical laws are actually only descriptions.

        • Illithid

          Yeah, I have learned to head that one off at the pass. If the term “law of physics” looks like it’s about to come up, I jump on it before they can.

    • Jack the Sandwichmaker

      And he mentions the “Ideal Gas Law” which fails spectacularly when not dealing with “Ideal Gasses”. That is, it doesn’t work (beyond some explaining general trends) on any real gasses.

    • I Came To Bring The Paine

      Yep because they’re all models. Models are not reality, but illustrations/representations of reality.

  • It’w amazing for the worst that apologists are unable to grasp that a deity able to create something as arcane as quantum mechanics, not to mention those that could exist beyond it, would be at light-years of that Middle East Bronze Age war and weather deity

    • Greg G.

      Able to leap black holes in a single bound but can’t deal with iron chariots.

  • Castilliano

    The math argument has always puzzled me, even when a Christian (who loves math BTW).

    Now that I’m not, I’ve had a chance to reflect on why math describing the universe shouldn’t surprise us: Because math was invented to describe the universe (and sometimes the universe’s nature has been used to argue which direction to go with higher math). Couple that descriptive purpose with extrapolation and we’re equipped with endless descriptive options.
    Hence, we can find good matches…eventually.
    Heck, that also leaves plenty of room for patterns & mathematical poetry as well, but such is the nature of complex lingual systems. That doesn’t mean the ugly portions go away. (I’m looking at you, 56!)

    We may marvel at the simple formulae of basic physics, yet a few advanced courses will show that much of the math gets quite complex, arguably strained. Even beautiful correlations took great effort to derive. We had to manipulate math to make much of science work, even invent new math in the case of the String Hypothesis. Pointing at the elegance of some descriptions while ignoring the long strings of gobblygook (to layfolk) required for other descriptions ignores a large portion of the data WLC’s referencing.

    In brief, the argument that a god must exist because mathematics describe the universe well is as flimsy as saying a god must have invented language because it’s so linguistic. (And yes, I have heard that argument. *sigh*)

    • Greg G.

      Because math was invented to describe the universe (and sometimes the universe’s nature has been used to argue which direction to go with higher math).

      I saw a meme on Facebook a few years ago that said, “Mathematics can describe any universe. Science describes our universe.”

      It just occurred to me that the girl who posted it was a physics major at the time but she ended up with a degree in math.

      • I Came To Bring The Paine

        Nice quote!

    • Max Tegmark, mentioned above, has a classification of Universes and the highest (and most unfalsifiable one) are those that would basically use mathematics more or less different of the ones that describe ours.

    • Apologists who say that math’s explanatory ability is marvelous probably don’t appreciate how much effort it takes (that is: how not straightforward it is) to become skilled enough to contribute. They seem to imagine that someone just tips over a rock and–whaddya know?!–there’s another beautiful, simple, easy-to-understand scientific law.

  • skl
    • Zeta

      Yeah, nature also anticipated the arrival of the immoral, orange inveterate liar to whom a Fibonacci spiral fits so well:

      https://knowyourmeme.com/photos/1054836-donald-trump

      This is incontrovertible mathematical evidence that he must have been sent by your god to Make America Great Again!

    • Lex Lata

      Wizards are able to generate spirals like nautilus shells that don’t actually conform to the Golden Ratio, despite the common misapprehension to the contrary? Seems like a rather useless spell.

      http://nautil.us/issue/0/the-story-of-nautilus/math-as-myth

      • skl

        “While the significance of phi has sometimes been exaggerated, this does
        not negate a basic truth: The golden ratio, like mathematics in general,
        is found in many places all around us, and there is amazing power in
        the mathematical. From the equations describing the ellipses traced by
        the planets’ orbits, to the inverse square law of gravitation that
        connects gravity and distance, to the Dirac equation that explains much of physics at everyday energies, mathematics does an impressive job of providing a logical structure to our universe. As far as we know, the universe didn’t need to conform to the kind of equations we write down, but it does.”

        • You’re saying that in a godless universe, we wouldn’t see the universe have the properties that it has?

          Tell me more.

        • Philip Rand

          A godless universe would have the property of being a random universe.

          Can you find an example of randomness in our universe?

        • Susan

          A godless universe would have the property of being a random universe.

          Define “god” and “random” and explain why you made that statement.

          :

        • Philip Rand

          Randomness is no information, i.e. chaos.

          Therefore, the inferential trajectory from no information defines godless, i.e. something that is not identical with itself.

        • Susan

          Randomness is no information, i.e. chaos

          No. Weather is chaotic and is loaded with information.

          Therefore, the inferential theory

          No. No inferential theory. You’re bullshitting.

          I hope the man in the hat makes good on his promise soon.

          You’re not here to discuss anything.

          You’re a troll. Pure and simple. .

        • epicurus

          He got banned over at Randal Rauser’s site just a little while back, he was was extremely rude and obnoxious there to everyone.

        • Susan

          extremely rude and obnoxious there to everyone.

          Rude and obnoxious to everyone there? Imagine that.

          Can you find him on this graph?

          https://www.google.com/search?tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=Z0I9XPOpFOTcjwTA-J1o&q=character+archetypes+internet+troll&oq=character+archetypes+internet+troll&gs_l=img.3…17229.19905..20147…0.0..0.158.1323.10j4……0….1..gws-wiz-img…….0j0i24.v-aYWmtn5TQ#imgrc=5luyoC1rg137zM:

        • Greg G.

          Can you find him on this graph?

          I looked at all of them, looked away for few seconds, then looked back, and it leapt right at me.

        • epicurus

          I can only hope his face to face interactions with people are better than his online ones.

        • Ah, so it’s not just me then.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Randomness is no information, i.e. chaos.

          Wrong. Randomness will *occasionally* deliver a very organized set…that’s part of what random means…even *chaos* will occasionally deliver an organized set.

          You’re making assertions you can’t support.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          i guess he means *meaningful* information and not something like the notion of information used in information theory (wikipedia), where randomness is very much not no information, and by “chaos” he could mean something like the ancient greek notion of chaos (wikipedia), not deterministic chaos in nonlinear dynamics/chaos theory.

        • Greg G.

          Creationists like to use information as any distortion is a loss of information. The original lifeforms were perfect so any mutation is a loss of information, even though the parent and siblings still retain the original “information” and they ignore that the mutated line out-competes the original line.

          Under that theory of information, any distortion of starlight is a loss of information. The loss of frequencies absorbed by the molecules atoms of the star itself is a loss of information but it tells us what elements are in the star, which tells us what generation of a star it is.

          Shifts in frequency is a loss of information, but those absorption lines identify the shifts in frequency to determine it relative velocity to us and then the temperature of the star.

          There are so many ways to equivocate with the word “information”.

          Edited

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          “distortion of starlight” makes me think of adaptive optics and holography. even encodings could be interpreted as as a distortion of the original message, but it’s used in coding theory to recognize and correct errors. i guess deliberate distortions don’t count.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Meaningfulness is a function of a mind, IMHO.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          claude shannon was very pragmatic about meaning (of messages) in his paper “a mathematical theory of communication”:

          “The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point. Frequently the messages have meaning; that is they refer to or are correlated according to some system with certain physical or conceptual entities. These semantic aspects of communication are irrelevant to the engineering problem. The significant aspect is that the actual message is one selected from a set of possible messages. The system must be designed to operate for each possible selection, not just the one which will actually be chosen since this is unknown at the time of design.”

        • RichardSRussell

          A godless universe would have the property of being a random universe.

          That which is adduced without evidence may safely be ignored without regret.

        • epeeist

          Can you find an example of randomness in our universe?

          Radioactive decay.

        • Grimlock

          Whatever do you mean by a “random universe”?

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          i am no physicist but my understanding is that over all decay rate is relational but the actual instance of a single atom decaying is random (unpredictable), looks to me like you are making a category error

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          A godless universe would have the property of being a random universe.

          Citation needed.

        • epeeist

          Actually for the decay of an α particle the transmission coefficient (the probability of a partially bound particle within a finite potential well appearing as a free particle on the other side) is given by:

          T = exp(−2/ℏ . ∫ [Ro, r1] √(2m |E -V(r)|) dr)

          where R0 is the atomic radius, E is the energy of the particle and r1 is the radius at which E = V (r).

          Oh and “If the constant p(t) is small”, how can be p(t) be a constant given that in your equation it appears to be a function of time? Oh, and the probability of detecting a particle is not necessarily the same as the probability of a decay.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

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

    LOL! So a hypothesis concocted specifically to explain something deserves credit for the fact that it actually explains it? That’s a perilously low bar for self-gratification.

    OK, Bill, how about we take this hypothesis out for a test drive? What evidence suggests your explanation for the efficacy of math is better than another? What test can we do to falsify your potential explanation? Remember, math is what you derived your hypothesis from, so you can’t circle back and use that as the support for these questions.

    More importantly, what predictions can we make according to your explanation?

    Anyone can pull an explanation out of their ass, Bill. And mere sufficiency is no help at all. As a scholar, it seems this should not be news to you. Then again, “scholar” is too generous a label, isn’t it?

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

      As does the mental patient who thinks he’s Napoleon.

      If math is so effective, perhaps WLC can step in and help resolve some current challenges. Example: is string theory correct? It may be untestable, but that shouldn’t bother him if math is the language of nature.

      • Philip Rand

        Example: is string theory correct?

        Possibly… Nachmanides in the 13th century came to the conclusion after studying Genesis that reality comprised 10 dimensions.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Links?

        • Greg G.

          I found a couple:

          https://believersweb.org/view.cfm?ID=932
          http://www.yashanet.com/studies/revstudy/rev4.htm

          Isn’t it obvious? Genesis says “And God said” ten times, therefore there are ten dimensions.

        • Michael Murray

          “They are dimensions Jim. But not as we know them.”

          Sounds like all those OT prophesies that Jesus fulfilled. X said “blah, blah” which clearly meant that Jesus would be nailed to a cross. So if you go and read X you discover that “blah, blah” had nothing to do with Jesus being nailed to a cross. The pea is always under the thimble marked “clearly”.

    • RichardSRussell

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

      So do astrologers soothsayers, and mediums. And their track record is generally about as good as the theists.

  • Rudy R

    Theists need to propose what properties comprise a non-creator universe in order to prove we live in a creator universe. If they’re going to use science to justify their claim, they’ll need to employ falsifiability to their hypothesis. Otherwise, they need to pack up their pencils and paper and leave the adult table.

  • Philip Rand

    Bob you conclude with:

    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.”

    But, you are invoking number to be the sole arbiter, right?

    Therefore your a priori assumption is that numbers don’t lie, right?

    Where did that idea come from?

    It would appear from your article that you are saying that mathematics is used to prove mathematics.

    You have tabled in a previous posts that science cannot prove anything.

    You are stating that science is going to use the certainty of numbers to formulate a reasonable expectation that numbers don’t lie with no possibility of error, i.e. your thesis is a contradiction.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      “Numbers don’t lie” is statistically demonstrable as the most likely explanation.

      Do you have sufficient counter evidence to gainsay it?

    • Joe

      therefore your a priori assumption is that numbers don’t lie, right?

      No, it’s an a-posteriori acceptance of centuries worth of mathematics.

      You have tabled in a previous posts that science cannot prove anything

      Math can prove things though.

      • Philip Rand

        You state: No, it’s an a-posteriori acceptance of centuries worth of mathematics.

        You are confusing historical origin with logical nature. There is no attempt at completeness in your comment.

        Therefore, your comment proves my assertion concerning the fact that Bob Seidensticker’s article is a contradiction.

        • Joe

          No I’m not. There’s a body of mathematical work that stretches back centuries, if not millennia, that’s readily accessible to anyone if they want to test it’s efficacy.

        • Michael Neville

          Euclid devised his geometric axioms c. 300 BCE. It appears that you’re confused about the historicity of logical nature.

      • Susan

        Math can prove things though.

        The consequences of axioms

  • I Came To Bring The Paine

    So Billy Craig gets his creator god exactly how he gets his Christian god – by quoting from a book the personal opinions of a man he never met.

    These are caltrop arguments—they succeed not because they’re correct but because they’re confusing.

    Confusing arguments don’t succeed, convincing arguments succeed. Confusing arguments usually go unchallenged.

    • Greg G.

      Confusing arguments usually go unchallenged.

      That is success in apologist world.

      • I Came To Bring The Paine

        Right because the existence of apologetics is not to convince outsiders to come in, but to convince insiders to stay in. But the very existence of apologetics is damning and is itself evidence that there aren’t any gods for if there was confirmation of any gods, then apologetics wouldn’t exist and nobody would need persuasion to maintain belief in a god.

        • epicurus

          I think the genuine intention of apologists is to convince outsiders to come in, as well as helping insiders stay in – that is, I think they really believe they have good arguments and evidence.

        • MR

          I don’t know about that. Maybe if you parse out professional apologists and your average Joe Blow apologist (is that capitalized?), but look at our conversations here; they’re more willing to accuse me of hating God or “wanting to be an atheist” than they are of convincing me with their arguments. (Edit to add:) I’m not sure they consciously distinguish.

        • epicurus

          Well, going by my experience as an evangelical in bygone days as well as current ones I still know, many believe that the rebellion thesis is true – that ultimately it is pride and rebellion that are the deep down reasons people don’t believe. This comes in part from the Bible in Paul’s writings where he thinks what he believes is so obvious that a sin clouded mind must be the only explanation for disbelief. Throw in a few cherry picked old testament versus and you wind up an attitude that the reasons to believe Christianity or even just theism are clear but rejected for reasons of the heart rather than the intellect.

          Of course there’s lots of issues with that – what do you do when you believe that, but then have it used against you by another religion. I’ve heard Mormon’s say it about evangelicals. And Muslims about Christians.
          And I think that it also smacks of Calvinism, which is ok if you are one, but most people nowadays are not, at least from surveys and statistics I’ve read.

        • ildi

          I think they really believe they have good arguments and evidence.

          I don’t think that’s the case with Craig. Somebody linked a google docs in another thread that covered all the deliberate misrepresentations he’s made of scientists’ statements and positions even when he’s been corrected several times.

          He reminds me of this weird thing my brother used to do when he was trying to pull me back into the Catholic fold; some examples: he asked me if I wanted to watch a Roberto Rossellini film that turned out to be The Flowers of St. Francis or if I wanted to go hear folk music at a coffee shop that turned out to be a church social “coffee shop.” I.e., say whatever it takes to save people. If people are convinced there’s evidence to bolster their faith, that’s what matters, disingenuousness be damned. We’re talking about eternal salvation here!

        • epicurus

          Ten years ago I used to listen to Craig’s podcast where he discussed stuff with the host or co host, Kevin something. I never got the impression he was trying to be deceitful or tricky, He really seemed to believe that he was following the evidence. Of course, that’s just my take, maybe I totally misread him or maybe he has changed.. My opinion is that he, like many apologists, has built a mental world for themselves where they make the evidence fit what they believe, and make the bar lower for their evidence that other beliefs, but somehow to them it seems like they are applying a high bar and rigorous objectivity.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          “Sincerity is critical. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made!”

          –Somebody other than me…

        • Michael Neville

          Lane Craig relies on the “Holy Spirit” as evidence for his faith:

          …it is the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit that gives us the fundamental knowledge of Christianity’s truth. Therefore, the only role left for argument and evidence to play is a subsidiary role… The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel… and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel. In light of the Spirit’s witness, only the ministerial use of reason is legitimate. –W.L. Craig Reasonable Faith pp. 47-48

          So yeah, nothing would change Craig’s mind. He is not the champion of arguments and evidence he presents himself as. He is immune to arguments and evidence.

        • There is no apologetics equivalent for science.

        • MR

          Nice. Science isn’t always pretty; it doesn’t rely on that buffering layer.

        • Philip Rand

          Yes there is. In 1995 Richard Dawkins was made chair of The Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          There’s a difference between explanation & excuses.

        • Scifry

          Indeed. Excuses attempting to do for apologists what explanations actually do for scientists.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Gravity is self-documenting…

      • Kit Hadley-Day

        this is because they see no difference in some one being convinced and some one walking away in disgust, they see argumentation as a battle not a method to attempt to explore reality.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I think they use argumentation because they know it’s the only game they’ve got. I mean, what else are they going to do? It’s not like they are going to demonstrate their god acting on the real world. It’s not like they are even trying to test their “god did it” hypothesis.

          They use arguments because words can be imprecise and confusing which can be useful if you’re trying to make a dumb idea sound smart.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          quite, heap on top of the obvious imprecision of language the deliberate equivocation which is the apologists stock in trade and they have to know they are not exploring the possible but defending the indefensible. it why i have so little respect for apologists, they are are either ignorant about their own arguments or just out right con men, i don’t believe any other category is possible,

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          One thing apologists are good for is showing us where our definitions aren’t sufficiently specific…not that they’re trying to do us a service, it’s a side effect.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          very true, which is why my first question in any discussion with a theist is to define the terms we are discussing, funny how often they can’t or wont do that.

        • Jonathan Vlietstra

          Naw, it’s because they don’t care whether you believe because they had a good argument, or because they tricked you. As long as they get their end result.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          very true, seeing as how just threats don’t get the job done anymore they are willing to try anything to get people to bend the knee

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Christian apologetics: stunting rational discourse for 2,000 years and counting.

  • RichardSRussell

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

    Man, don’t ever turn this guy loose on biology. It’s messier than hell.

    • Grimlock

      Hasn’t there also been a bit of a shift since the 60s, where one has been compelled by empirical observations to accept less beautiful theories?

    • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

      well, this is supposedly a quote or paraphrase from einstein:

      “The observation which comes closest to an explanation for the mathematical concepts’ cropping up in physics which I know is Einstein’s statement that the only physical theories which we are willing to accept are the beautiful ones. It stands to argue that the concepts of mathematics, which invite the exercise of so much wit, have the quality of beauty. However, Einstein’s observation can at best explain properties of theories which we are willing to believe and has no reference to the intrinsic accuracy of the theory. We shall, therefore, turn to this latter question.”

      wigner does mention biology:

      “A much more difficult and confusing situation would arise if we could, some day, establish a theory of the phenomena of consciousness, or of biology, which would be as coherent and convincing asour present theories of the inanimate world. Mendel’s laws of inheritance and the subsequent work on genes may well form the beginning of such a theory as far as biology is concerned. Furthermore, it is quite possible that an abstract argument can be found which shows that there is a conflict between such a theory and the accepted principles of physics.”

    • epeeist

      Beauty is probably the wrong word, but the TofE is both simple and elegant.

      I recommend you don’t read Frank Wilczek’s A Beautiful Question.

      • ThaneOfDrones

        A lot of areas of biology look like accidents.
        If you pick something like cell signaling, it looks like a train wreck. How many phosphatases and kinases does one cell need to get by?

        • Michael Neville

          Biology is messy because evolution doesn’t produce maximally efficient processes and structures, it produces “this works marginally better than what came before but only for a limited set of circumstances”.

        • epeeist

          Oh agreed, but you can’t blame the theory for of the messiness of the actual biology.

  • Grimlock

    This is a weird argument. If I were to put it in a slightly more structured format, maybe it’d be something like this,

    1. Mathematics is very good at describing physical reality.
    2. It is more probable given theism than given naturalism that (1).
    3. All else being equal, theism is more probable than naturalism.

    Let’s dig in.

    What, precisely, could be meant by (1)?

    1.1 Much of mathematics is very good at describing physical reality.
    1.2 Much of physical reality is accurately described by mathematics.

    At first glance, (1.1) seems patently absurd. A first step towards justifying such a premise would be to map all possible mathematics and then proceed to demonstrate that there is a physical reality matching this. (Good luck.)

    Formal mathematics is based on axiom systems, and there is a metric shitload of possible axiomatic system. In terms of “all mathematics”, it would be a case of assuming the conclusion if we only considered the axiomatic systems that we use (because we use them precisely because they’re useful for describing physical reality).

    What about (1.2)? It seems less implausible. There are a couple of potential objections that seems relevant.

    First, that this only something that could be easily justified for the part of physical reality with which we are familiar. We don’t know how much of physical reality with which we are unfamiliar.

    Second, is physical reality described by mathematics, or is idealized scenarios that model physical reality described by mathematics? Some clarification would be helpful here.

    Third, consider the distinction between numerical solutions and exact solutions. We can model a lot of physics, but in a lot of the more complicated cases, we do not have exact solutions (meaning that we don’t know how to describe the phenomena with an equation). Instead, we can model what happens one “step” further. If we make each step small enough, we can often model something to an a arbitrary level of accuracy. However, some problems (like some Navier-Stokes equations) might not even have a possible exact solution.

    This seems to take the accuracy of mathematics down a peg.

    Still, (1.2) seems like the most sensible approach.

    How, then, to justify (2)? This seems to require that one demonstrates that (1.2) has a compelling explanation given theism, and lacks one given naturalism.

    How would one do that on theism? Without resorting to handwaving, one would add some new properties or motivations to the god of theism. This is fair enough, in a sense, but it should be noted that this makes theism less simple, thus reducing its prior probability. (In other words, it increases the burden of proof of the theist.)

    How would one argue against naturalism providing an explanation for (1.2)? Perhaps by considering the “best” explanations, and refuting these. But that’d take quite a bit of effort, and I’ve yet to see anyone have a proper go at it.

    In short, not a promising argument. No obvious premises, and a justification for the second premise increases the burden of proof for the theist. But hey, it’s not that much worse than other apologetic nonsense.

    • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

      Formal mathematics is based on axiom systems,…

      keep in mind that the emphasis on formal mathematics and formal axiomatic systems is a rather recent thing. zermelo published his axioms in 1904 (which then became the basis for ZFC). this overly formal attitude became very prominent during the 20th century in large part due to the work of bourbaki (wikipedia).

      wigner himself doesn’t support (1.1) or (1.2), i think, and has a few things to say about axioms and formal systems. i guess he’d find it even more “unreasonable” if by merely playing with formal systems and arbitrary axioms we managed to describe reality, especially if we only invented/discovered a small part of all of (formal) mathematics.

      here are a few relevant quotes from wigner’s article:

      “In the same vein, I would say that mathematics is the science of skillful operations with concepts and rules invented just for this purpose. The principal emphasis is on the invention of concepts. Mathematics would soon run out of interesting theorems if these had to be formulated in terms of the concepts which already appear in the axioms. Furthermore, whereas it is unquestionably true that the concepts of elementary mathematics and particularly elementary geometry were formulated to describe entities which are directly suggested by the actual world, the same does not seem to be true of the more advanced concepts, in particular the concepts which play such an important role in physics.”

      “it is true, of course, that physics chooses certain mathematical concepts for the formulation of the laws of nature, and surely only a fraction of all mathematical concepts is used in physics. It is true also that the concepts which were chosen were not selected arbitrarily from a listing of mathematical terms but were developed, in many if not most cases, independently by the physicist and recognized then as having been conceived before by the mathematician. It is not true, however, as is so often stated, that this had to happen because mathematics uses the simplest possible concepts and these were bound to occur in any formalism.”

      “The present writer had occasion, some time ago, to call attention to the succession of layers of “laws of nature,” each layer containing more general and more encompassing laws than the previous one and its discovery constituting a deeper penetration intothe structure of the universe than the layers recognized before. However, the point which is most significant in the present context is that all these laws of nature contain, in even their remotest consequences, only a small part of our knowledge of the inanimate world. All the laws of nature are conditional statements which permit a prediction of some future events on the basis of the knowledge of the present, except that some aspects of the present state of the world, in practice the overwhelming majority of the determinants of the present state of the world, are irrelevant from thepoint of view of the prediction.”

  • RichardSRussell

    Q: How could [curious thing] possibly be that way?

    A (theist): The only possible explanation is “God did it.”

    A (rationalist): Nobody knows.

    • Dan Hunter

      Realist: First ask if “it is” before asking “how it is.”

    • brent7777

      A more rational theist would not argue for “the ONLY POSSIBLE explanation” , but rather for “the BEST explanation”. And the reply, “Nobody knows” (in the strong sense of not having demonstrable proof), would be true of virtually everything we take ourselves to know, making the reply rather trivially true (since it would apply to nearly everything). But if I were to take that sort of argument as successful against the theist, then I would also have to take the argument as successful against most of what we consider knowledge generally, as there is very little that we can say that we “know” in the sense of having demonstrable proof. However, a rational discussion of arguments regarding the fit of theories to the data (broadly considered) are generally a good thing and worth having, imo. 🙂

  • Helen LIpson

    What I have never understood is how believers explain THE EXISTENCE OF GOD him/her/it/themself? Why does God exist? Why would God create our world? Is it that this is a question people’s religion’s have trained them is wrong to ask – as opposed to how other things came to be, which they think they need an answer to?

    • brent7777

      It seems to me that anyone, no matter their worldview, is rationally obliged to acknowledge that something (whatever that something might be) exists fundamentally and necessarily. And whatever exists fundamentally/necessarily/essentially/eternally can, in principle, have no further explanation of its existence. In other words, the explanatory buck must stop somewhere. The debate largely regards where we think that explanatory regress should, rationally speaking, finally find its natural end (or beginning depending on how one is looking at it 🙂 ).

      • Michael Murray

        In other words, the explanatory buck must stop somewhere.

        Why?

        • brent7777

          …because the idea of a completed infinite entails the self-contradiction of a completed incompletable.

        • Michael Murray

          Sorry but you’ll have to render that into english I can understand. I’m a research mathematician if that helps. I’m not a philosopher. Thanks.

          If it helps here are some examples I am thinking of. What if we are a simulation run by other beings and they are a simulation run by other beings and it goes on like that: “simulations all the way up”. Or what if we are one aeon in an infinite Penrose cyclic universe. Or what if the explanations just go on forever.

        • brent7777

          I think the two examples you mention are logically possible only insofar as they don’t entail an actually completed infinite sequence. But barring such an entailment, I have no logical or in-principle problem with them. (And, in case it helps, I think classical/traditional theism also falls short given this same entailment.)

        • Michael Murray

          I don’t know what you mean by an “actually completed infinite sequence”. The Penrose cyclic universe as I understand it isn’t a sequence. It’s one whole space-time so all points exist as well as any other points. There is no infinity. But it goes on forever into the both the past and future.

        • brent7777

          What I mean is that no infinite sequence (or series or set) can be literally – fully and exhaustively – specified or instantiated, since, by definition, an infinite has no end or completion…but continues indefinitely without possibility of completion.

          Of course this in no way precludes us from reasoning in logically consistent and well-defined ways about the types, properties, and relations among the various conceptual infinites (eg, transfinite math, etc).

          To take the simplest example, we have a conceptually complete and well-defined understanding of the infinite sequence of counting numbers {1,2,3,…}, wherein we understand that by definition the “…” indicates that the sequence is infinite — ie, that it continues forever without end or possibility of (literal or non-conceptual) completion.

          Or if we take the concept of a mathematical limit (fundamental to calculus), we understand that a limit can only be forever “approached”, that the limit is never actually reached, for it has no literal completion, but only a type of conceptual completion involving a logical shortcut (ie, proof) that allows us to arrive at a correct answer for what WOULD have been the case IF it had been possible to complete (say) the infinite summation (which of course is not possible in a literal sense).

          As for the Penrose theory (CCC), if the theory does not rule out, by strict logical necessity, the possibility of there having been a first cycle in the sequence of cycles, then I see no logical problem with it.

        • Michael Murray

          Thanks. I’m still struggling with what “completion” means. What would it mean for the infinite sequence of counting numbers {1, 2, 3, …} . They are what they are. What would them being conceptually or literally complete mean ?

          My understanding is that the Penrose CCC theory would extend infinitely into the future and past. There would be no beginning and no end.

        • brent7777

          In this context “completion” would mean something like “full and exhaustive specification or instantiation.” So there is no coherent sense in which an infinite sequence could be literally complete (ie, fully and exhaustively specified or instantiated).

          There is however another sense in which an infinite sequence could be said to be “complete”, ie, in the sense of conceptual completeness. For example, the counting numbers are conceptually complete in that they are an infinite sequence that is heuristically well-defined.

          With regard to the Penrose’s CCC, I agree that that is a standard posit. However, I know of nothing in the theory that logically necessitates that posit or necessarily rules out the possibility of a first cycle. (I think the posit functions, per usual, mainly as a conceptual convenience that avoids the messy issues around parsimony and apparent arbitrariness that would otherwise arise.) So, insofar as the possibility of a first cycle is not logically ruled out by the theory, I see no logical problem with it (since a first cycle avoids the implicit incoherence of positing a literally completed infinite sequence of past cycles).

        • Michael Murray

          I don’t see the difference between what you are calling “conceptually complete” and
          “full and exhaustive specification”. If I give you the properties of the counting numbers {1, 2, 3, …} via something like the Peano axioms and a model of them in set theory like {}, {{} } , etc then I don’t see that there is anything else you need to be able to say.

          What frame work do these words you are using fit into. Is this philosophy, metaphysics …. ?

        • brent7777

          There is of course nothing “else you need to be able to say” in order to have a theoretically robust, conceptually complete theory of the counting numbers (or any other heuristically well-defined infinite sequence/series/set for that matter).

          But having a conceptually sufficient theory of the counting numbers (or any infinite) is not the same as the “full and exhaustive _instantiation_” of each and every individual counting number (which is a logical/analytic impossibility).

          Note the function of “…” and “etc” in your previous reply. Such indicators entail (by definition) that the set/series/sequence continues indefinitely, without end or possibility of literal completion (which is to say without possibility of full and exhaustive instantiation of each and every member). Thus any notion which entails the full and exhaustive instantiation of an infinite entails the self-contradiction of a completed incompletable and is therefore necessarily false.

          But perhaps the ambiguity in the meaning of “specification” (when I previously said “full and exhaustive specification or instantiation”) might have been was a source of misunderstanding (as you only included “specification” and left out “instantiation” when you quoted me). So dropping the word “specification” for clarity, would you agree that the counting numbers are incapable, in principle, of being “fully and exhaustively _instantiated_”?

          If not, please explain how it is logically possible for each and every member of an infinite set to be literally and exhaustively instantiated (such that no further members of the infinite set would remain to be instantiated).

          (PS: Sorry for the delayed reply…I thought I had already replied, but just now saw my response was still sitting here unsent.)

        • Michael Murray

          would you agree that the counting numbers are incapable, in principle, of being “fully and exhaustively _instantiated_”?

          I couldn’t agree without understanding the meaning of “fully and exhaustively instantiated”. Probably “instantiated” would be a good place to start.

        • brent7777

          For X to be “instantiated” just means that there is an actual instance of X (as opposed to merely the idea of X, assuming of course that X is not merely an idea).

          For example, the sequence of counting numbers less than 6 is literally and exhaustively instantiated here: {1,2,3,4,5}. By contrast, the phrase “the sequence of counting numbers less than 6” is not itself a literal and exhaustive instantiation of the sequence (though it does conceptually point to it).

          Any finite sequence is, in principle, logically capable of literal and exhaustive instantiation. However, no infinite sequence is, in principle, logically capable of literal and exhaustive instantiation (since, by definition, there must always be more).

        • Michael Murray

          So from your perspective is the positive number x which squares to 2 instantiated ? Or would you want to see the entire decimal expansion ? What about one-third which doesn’t have a finite decimal expansion ?

          I don’t understand why you would want things to be instantiated like this. You aren’t by any chance a constructivist ?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_(philosophy_of_mathematics)

        • brent7777

          I take it to be necessarily the case (by definition and logical necessity) that neither “the positive number which squares to 2” nor “one-third” can be literally and exhaustively instantiated in decimal form.

        • Michael Murray

          Thanks.

          So going back to the beginning we started with you saying

          In other words, the explanatory buck must stop somewhere.

          So why cannot the explanatory buck go backwards for ever ? Or why can the Penrose cyclic universe not go backwards “in time” for ever. I’ve put “in time” in quotes because I’m not sure there is a notion of time in that model at every point.

          I’m assuming your objection is logical not physical.

          PS: 1/3 in base 12 would be instantiated I guess as it is 0.4 ? So the notion is “cannot be instantiated as a decimal expansion” I guess.

        • brent7777

          If, for any theory, it is the case that the “explanatory buck going backwards forever” necessarily entails a literally and exhaustively instantiated infinite sequence of past (or future) states, then I am logically constrained to reject such a theory for the same reason that I am logically constrained to reject the possibility of the square root of two being literally and exhaustively instantiated in decimal form (ie, it’s a logical impossibility by definition). The same logical consideration would apply to any notion that necessarily entails the literal and exhaustive instantiation of each and every member of an infinite sequence/series/set.

        • epeeist

          …because the idea of a completed infinite entails the self-contradiction of a completed incompletable.

          Assume for the moment that general relativity is substantially correct. Some of its solutions are closed, time-like curves. This would of course allow our descendants to go back and create the universe.

      • Grimlock

        It seems to me that anyone, no matter their worldview, is rationally obliged to acknowledge that something (whatever that something might be) exists fundamentally and necessarily.

        I don’t see why we shouldn’t be open to other possibilities. Such as ontologically non-contingent but metaphysically contingent entities. Do you?

        • brent7777

          I see no reason not be open to another possibility, per se. However, I also see no reason to think that another possibility (that would deny that something exists necessarily) is fully coherent.

        • Grimlock

          Well, I haven’t provided a reason for why it is coherent. But then, neither have you for the idea that a metaphysically necessary and ontologically non-contingent entity is coherent. And since the latter has all the properties of the former (and more), it certainly doesn’t seem like your favored position is more sensible.

          Note also that the idea of metaphysically contingent and ontologically non-contingent doesn’t deny the idea of something metaphysically necessary. It merely has the potential to make it redundant.

  • EllyR

    Theists should stick to mythologies to”prove” their point and gods. Being ridiculous is much better than being a joke… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f8228b28d1b217aa3d243bf100accfc044c426c2e7c27692825dd0cbbdc71418.png

    • Scifry

      I don’t just rely on Marvel Comics regarding Spider Man’s existence. I saw him with my own eyes just a couple of months ago (near the end of October). I also believe Spider Man has extraordinary superpowers since I saw him in two distant locations (both times on foot carrying a heavy sack) within a few short minutes of other sightings.

  • MadScientist1023

    The thing that gets me is that all of these equations have a constant in them. Take the gravitational constant, for example. The function of the gravitational constant is to translate the rest of Newton’s equation into something that works when observing the effects of gravity between two massive bodies. Nearly every law of physics has some kind of constant that translates math into something real. If the universe were really designed to be mathematical, why would we need these constants? We should be able to translate what’s seen in the world directly into an equation.

    • brent7777

      Didn’t you answer your own question when you referred to “[constants] that translates math into something real”? Without constants of particular magnitudes, only a set of abstract relations would remain — a sort of abstract “template” for possible worlds — which would require constants having particular values in order to represent a particular world. For the maths to represent an actual/concrete world, the maths must contain such actual/discreet/specific/finite values. Otherwise, the equations could only represent a theoretical set of abstract worlds rather than representing a particular concrete world (such as ours).

      • MadScientist1023

        And?

        Thank you for restating the problem, that math has no independent relationship to the real world. It has to be twisted to fit what is actually present in the real world, and even then it requires a conversion factor which can only be derived from empirical observation before it can be applied to anything. Math on its own is meaningless. To use it as justification to say the world is designed is foolish. Math and physical laws are obviously made to describe the world, not the other way around.

        • brent7777

          The general idea, as I understand it, is the fact that the cosmos can be well described by mathematics demonstrates that the cosmos is logically ordered (as opposed to merely random), which entails, as the ancients referred to it, that some sort of intrinsic “Logos” or rational principle is fundamental to reality as we know it. But why rationally ordered as opposed to merely random? On what theory is the rational, law-like order we observe around us us best explained?

        • MadScientist1023

          In other words: Nature has laws, therefore God?

        • brent7777

          No, that’s a non sequitur (or at least would require careful elaboration).

        • MadScientist1023

          It’s a simplification, but it seems to be the essence of the argument. The argument is that there are natural laws which a) govern the universe and how it runs and b) can be described mathematically, therefore suggesting someone put that into place.

          Of course, math only describes the laws and twists itself into whatever shape it needs to in order to describe those laws. It isn’t actually predicting anything. The fact that the laws of nature can be described and understood by beings of a certain level of intelligence says nothing remarkable about the laws themselves. Therefore point b essentially cancels itself out.

          What your left with is the argument that there are laws of nature governing the universe and how it runs, suggesting someone put it in place. Since most of point a is just pontificating on what a natural law is, most of it can be gutted. And since the “someone” suggested in the conclusion can only be a god, you are ultimately left with:
          Nature has laws, therefore God
          There’s about as much reasoning going into the statement above than the entire argument from mathematics. I’m just stripping out the meaningless BS from it.

        • brent7777

          Well, there are no doubt theists who would think about the issue in the overly simplistic way that you’ve portrayed…but I don’t think that portrayal rises to the level of a good argument, at least not one that I would recognize.

          Also, it’s not (and hardly ever is) a question of demonstrable proof, but rather of asking what general theory of reality is best able to explain the data of experience (broadly considered). I hinted above at how a more reasonable and modest version of such an argument might go…

        • Michael Murray

          How do you get from reality being to some extent consistent and regular to anything like God though, let alone the Christian God etc, etc. I would have thought there was an anthropomorphic response. If the nature wasn’t regular etc you wouldn’t get life intelligent enough to be having this conversation. Of course how chaotic it could be before there would be nobody here to have a conversation I have no idea.

    • epeeist

      If the universe were really designed to be mathematical, why would we need these constants?

      They are merely a reflection of our system of units. One could always set the speed of light, gravitational constant and reduced Planck’s constant to unity, this gives you Planck units.

  • Catherine Spencer-Mills

    The argument holds for logic and math – humans made them up to fit reality. Been saying it for years. My other thought was that WLC and others have never taken an introductory college level physics course with lab. We ran some of those experiments. The answers you get are more often NOT the theoretical result, and may not even be in the statistical ballpark. I learned how to dry lab from a fellow student and saw my grades go way up.

    • Dan Hunter

      Just so I understand, a dry lab is where you do not have to deal with the actual reality of squishy messy stuff and just use mathematical models instead?

      • Catherine Spencer-Mills

        Sounds good, but not quite. Dry lab is when you know what the theoretical answer is given all those nifty constants, so you come up with experimental numbers that are not perfect, but pretty close. Not so close as to reveal you are making it up, but closer than your actual experimental results. Definitely cheating. But freshman physics lab equipment is very elderly, not the most up to date, and pretty inaccurate.

        My lab partner that year who taught me how had a master’s in economics from a university in the USSR and had been granted asylum. He said that all economic figures the Soviets released were dry lab – except they were deliberately manipulated to look positive for the government. He was going for a master’s in computer engineering granted by a US university. He said it would have more impact with employers here.

        • Dan Hunter

          Thank you very much for explaining that part to me. I am not sure if it is better or worse than I imagined. It might be better because it means the students understand that reality is frequently inaccurate, but worse for several other reasons I suspect.

        • Catherine Spencer-Mills

          I would say reality does not conform to neat little formulas. It’s one of the reasons scientists and engineers are not comfortable with precise answers. Give me a confidence interval – we are x% confident this is the correct number – or, the exact number is between x and y with 95% confidence – any day.

          I think realizing that nothing is perfect or precisely quantifiable is a good lesson. Learning how to give someone what they think they want — I’m conflicted on that one. But then, I worked in IT and a lot of the job is determining what is needed, not what is wanted.

        • Dan Hunter

          Yes, I think we might be on the same page even though I am a construction tradesman. Measurement is a common problem whether using a tape measure to do layout or precision scales in a lab.

        • Michael Neville

          I once gave someone what they needed instead of what they wanted. He moaned and whined and so I took back what I gave him and gave him exactly want he asked for. After a while he sheepishly came back and apologized because he realized that what he wanted didn’t do him any good.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Similar. The team I worked with would just hide the stuff people were complaining about, not displaying it, until they realized we were right.

    • brent7777

      I find it interesting to observe that logic (from which math derives) and existence itself are in some sense inseparable, ie: “Everything is what it is” is at the same time a fundamental truth of existence as well as logic (ie, the first law of logic), which may correspond to the ancient observation of “the Logos” — the rational principle which underlies or pervades reality as we know it.

  • Dan Hunter

    I find the idea that math is amazingly useful in making descriptions of quantitative measurements of how the real world behaves very mundane and of little interest philosophically at all. I find the idea of a physicist claiming it is unreasonable for math to be so effective shocking. I can almost forgive Lane for such a claim, but I can only condemn Wigner for making such remarks about how miraculous math is at explaining reality. Tegner’s comment on Wigner’s statement is very clear.
    (I added this next bit as an edit.)
    One of the things about mathematical laws in nature is they are limited in how well they describe reality. Newton invented a force called gravity because his laws of motion required a force to explain how planets did not move in straight paths. When Einstein described it gravity became the measure of how curved space was and objects were traveling in what would be straight lines through it. Newton’s description was wrong by a small amount when measured by the deflection of light going past a heavy object. For most mathematical laws, like the law of elasticity (Hooke’s law) the limit the law can be counted as valid is much more limited.

  • I Came To Bring The Paine

    I have yet to hear an argument from an apologist saying that mathematics is proof that Heaven/Hell/the Supernatural exists.

  • Dan Hunter

    Of course this argument also fails to note how much of what we observe has no explanation at all, not even mathematically.

    • I Came To Bring The Paine

      Apologists play both sides: “What we observe cannot be explained mathematically, therefore, God did it!” “What we observe can be perfectly explained mathematically, therefore, God did it!”

      • Dan Hunter

        which I understand as a total absurdity. Is there not an argument in logic that opposite proofs prove something can’t be?

        • epeeist

          Is there not an argument in logic that opposite proofs prove something can’t be?

          Are you thinking of the Principle of Explosion?

          EDIT: Still no proper styling of links by Patheos

        • Dan Hunter

          That is the one! Thanks. Fitting name for it too.

  • E.A. Blair
  • C_Alan_Nault

    “The Argument from Mathematics Doesn’t Add Up to God”

    Maybe it could IF the person making the argument can actually show me a number. Let’s use the number 7 as the example. Now, can anyone that uses this argument show me an actual number 7?

    NOT a symbol to represent the number 7 ( such as seven…or 7… or VII … or 0111 if you use binary).

    NOT 7 pebbles or 7 marbles or 7 gumdrops to represent the number 7.

    An actual number 7.

    • Michael Neville

      In one of his science essays Isaac Asimov told how when he was an undergraduate he listened to a philosophy professor describe mathematicians as mystics because they used imaginary numbers. He told the professor that imaginary numbers were just as real as any other type of number. The professor showed a piece of chalk and said, “Give me √-1 piece of chalk.”

      Asimov replied, “Okay, I’ll do it if you give me half a piece of chalk.”

      The professor broke a stick of chalk in two and gave one piece to Asimov. He said, “This isn’t half a piece of chalk, it’s one piece of chalk.”

      The professor said, “It’s half a piece of regular chalk.”

      “Now you’re springing an artificial definition on me. But even if I accept it, can we be sure it isn’t .48 or .52 of a regular piece of chalk? You’re hardly the person to talk about imaginary numbers when you appear to be shaky on fractions.”

      • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

        He told the professor that imaginary numbers were just as real as any other type of number.

        “That this subject [imaginary numbers] has hitherto been surrounded by mysterious obscurity, is to be attributed largely to an ill adapted notation. If, for example, +1, -1, and the square root of -1 had been called direct, inverse and lateral units, instead of positive, negative and imaginary (or even impossible), such an obscurity would have been out of the question.” – carl friedrich gauss

        “Now you’re springing an artificial definition on me. But even if I accept it, …”

        that’s an odd objection. of course one has to define what’s the unit of some quantity. even euclid knew that:

        “A unit is that by virtue of which each of the things that exist is called one.” – elements, book VII, definition 1

        • Greg G.

          Rational and irrational numbers are like that, too. I learned about them in 7th or 8th grade but the terms didn’t make sense to me but the concept did, so I seem to have put the definitions in a verbal memory place. Then sometime after college, I saw “irratoinal” and when I mentally corrected the typo it finally hit me that the root was “ratio”, not “rational”, so it wasn’t like they were sane and insane numbers.

        • C_Alan_Nault

          An irrational number? That’d be the number of people that voted for Trump. j/k

        • Kevin K

          Sad! But true…

      • C_Alan_Nault

        LOL

    • epeeist

      Plato would argue that numbers do actually exist, but all we get to see is some shadow of that existence.

      • C_Alan_Nault

        I would say numbers are a metaphysical concept

        Metaphysical: Based on abstract reasoning.

        that have real world applications. We can’t show an actual number 7 but we can show a physical representation of what we mean by the word 7.

    • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

      this is only the tip of the iceberg.

      besides different bases, units (pebbles, marbles, gumdrops) and symbols one can also ask if 7 is meant to be a natural number, an integer, a rational number, a real number, a complex number, and so on (7, 14/2, 6.999 …, 7+0*i).

      it’s surprisingly difficult to pin down mathematical objects once and for all, even if one doesn’t confuse them with physical objects.

      nowadays, mathematicans often only define things “up to isomorphism”. for example, the real numbers are supposedly a subset of the complex numbers, but the complex numbers are often introduced as pairs of real numbers (the same with rational numbers as pairs of integers). then it’s helpful when 7 is not necessarily one particular set (like 7 = {0,1,2,3,4,5,6}).

      • C_Alan_Nault

        Sure. But it still boils down to the fact that while we are able to present something that represents the number 7, we cannot show anyone an actual number 7.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          yes, 7 is an abstract object. this alone means that we cannot show anyone an “actual number 7”.

          that there is more than one way to represent this number is somewhat of a red herring. one could make the same kind of argument for (visible) physical objects.

          you can see objects in different perspectives, distances and light (“to look at it in a different light”). we still think there is an actual unique marble, say, even if it looks different in the evening than it did in the morning.

          it’s not symbolic, maybe, but it’s already an act of abstraction and our perception of it is a bit removed from the “actual marble” (btw, “marble” is “murmel” in german).

          here is feynman’s response to a question related to this:

          “question: when you are looking at something do you see only light or do you see the object?

          feynman: The question of whether or not when you see something you see only the light or you see the thing you’re looking at is one of those dopey philosophical things that an ordinary person has no difficulty with.

          even the most profound philosopher, when sitting and eating his dinner, hasn’t any difficulty in making out that what he’s looking at perhaps might only be the light from the steak, but it still implies the existence of the steak which he is able to lift by the fork to his mouth. The philosophers that were unable to make that analysis and that idea have fallen by the wayside through hunger.”

        • epeeist

          yes, 7 is an abstract object.

          The question then being, “Do abstract objects exist?”. Platonists would say “Yes”, nominalists would say “No”, conceptualist nominalists would say “Yes, but only as concepts in the mind”.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          yes, i know. philosophy is like a buffet (of -isms). i don’t find this very satisfying.

        • epeeist

          So how do you decide whether abstract objects exist or not (assuming you even think it is a useful question to ask)?

          In Peter van Imwagen’s book Metaphysics he states that there are no philosophical answers, no philosophical knowledge. What you do get are starting points for other kinds of investigation, as happened with natural philosophy (now physics) and the philosophy of man (now anthropology) and is now happening with philosophy of mind.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          well, it wasn’t really my decision to think that abstract objects (mathematical ones in particular) exist. the way my teachers (and later mathematicians) talked about math is as if it’s something real (“for all eps > 0 there exists a delta > 0 …”, *existence* proofs).

          i realized that there is something funny going on, maybe even before i learned this particular ism (platonism). there was an obvious difference between geometrical objects and drawn figures, for example. numbers were less abstract for me, interestingly, maybe because i had difficulty divorcing numbers from their decimal representation (or numbers and units).

          later i was for a short while a formalist (after learning about ZFC). i thought it circumvents those squishy philosophical questions: it’s all just symbol manipulation according to fixed logical rules and everything else is pretence, human imagination.

          this wasn’t satisfying either, especially after i read a bit more about the historical development of mathematical ideas (including ZFC itself). it’s very different to the more formal/logical development of mathematical theories in the text books. now i’m back to mathematical realism.

        • epeeist

          I wonder how much your experience was similar to mine, at postgraduate as well as undergraduate level.

          My teachers were happy to present material on, for example, the quantum treatment of two slit experiments but they all seemed to be from the “Shut up and calculate” school of QM. They had either never thought about or didn’t want to consider the foundational problems of QM.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          in another comment i mentioned bourbaki. here what one of its members had to say about foundations:

          “On foundations we believe in the reality of mathematics, but of course when philosophers attack us with their paradoxes we rush to hide behind formalism and say, “Mathematics is just a combination of meaningless symbols,” and then we bring out Chapters 1 and 2 on set theory. Finally we are left in peace to go back to our mathematics and do it as we have always done, with the feeling each mathematician has that he is working with something real. This sensation is probably an illusion, but is very convenient. That is Bourbaki’s attitude toward foundations. – jean dieudonnè

          ZFC is a successful foundation of mathematics, so successful that many mathematicians (and students) no longer need to worry about those things if they don’t want to (especially if your interest or specality isn’t logic or axiomatic set theory). joke: “a working mathematician is a platonist on weekdays, a formalist on weekends.”

        • Gary Whittenberger

          The evidence for Platonism is very weak, perhaps as weak as the evidence for God.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          it doesn’t really matter if you think platonism is correct or not, as long as your philosophical bias one way or the other doesn’t prevent you or anybody else from discovering/inventing interesting new (maybe even useful) mathematics.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          It does matter if you think Platonism is correct or not. It matters to developing a correct model of reality.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          it also does not matter if i think platonism is correct or not, because i will not develop “a correct model of reality.”

        • Gary Whittenberger

          So you’ll develop an incorrect model of reality?

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          i already have. it’s not difficult.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          That’s what I thought. It is too bad you are apathetic about it.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          i’m realistic about it. i have some idea of what my limitations are (i’m no einstein and he failed to find his “unified field theory”).

        • Greg G.

          Everybody has an incorrect model of reality. There is no reason to think it is possible for a human to acheive one.

          The best we can hope is to hold a model of reality that we can survive, IOW, one that is good enough. Eliminating parts that are false helps.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          So everyone has a model of reality. Nobody has a model that is completely correct, but everyone has a model that is partially correct. We should strive to improve our models and make them as correct as possible.

          I don’t think Platonism is part of a correct model of reality. The support for it is weak.

        • Greg G.

          Plato wrote “The Cave” to explain away that objection.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          The Cave is an analogy, and as support for Platonism it is very weak. You aren’t convinced, are you?

        • Greg G.

          I am somewhere between a nominalist and a conceptualist nominalist. I am not convinced that the ability to speak of something as a noun counts as existence. I can describe a bachelor as married but it is a contradiction.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Thoughts, concepts, or abstractions are real. They exist. They just aren’t part of what we call “objective reality” or “physical reality.” Maybe they are just part of “mental reality.” I don’t mean this in terms of any ubiquitous universal mind, but just minds attached to brains of persons.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Yes, only as concepts in the mind.

        • Greg G.

          I think Platonists would argue that you cannot mentally conceive of things that do not exist. We can conceive of a perfect circle even though we cannot see one in our universe, therefore they must exist in another realm, which we can only detect in concepts.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Platonists might argue that way, but I think they would be mistaken. We can create new thoughts about new things which do not correspond to anything in objective reality.

          If that argument of the Platonists were correct, then God would exist. You don’t buy it, do you?

        • Greg G.

          I see Platonism as another form of solipsism.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          I tend to agree with you on that.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          or anamnesis (wikipedia): you know about perfect circles from before you were born, maybe, and now you only remember those perfect circles (i don’t think many modern platonists would subscribe to this idea).

        • Gary Whittenberger

          But just because there are concepts and abstractions doesn’t mean God exists, despite what William Lane Craig proposes.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          i think so, otherwise i wouldn’t be an atheist.

        • C_Alan_Nault

          “is somewhat of a red herring.”

          My point was that trying to argue that god exists using mathematics is doomed to fail because the numbers used in mathematics are only representations of something that doesn’t actually exist & is only an abstract concept.

          Now, if someone wants to argue that the god (they are trying to prove using mathematics )doesn’t actually exist & is only an abstract concept, they are free to do so.

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          i didn’t listen to craig (i cannot stand this guy), but i would be very surprised if he’d argued that god is one abstract “object” among many.

          also, there is a possible tension between the usual conception of god and vanilla platonism. god is supposed to be the creator of everything, but if abstract objects are necessary, uncreated and eternal too (according to platonism) and you wouldn’t need god to create them.

    • Gary Whittenberger

      7s don’t exist as objects in nature. 7 is just a concept.

  • ildi

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

    Huh-reminds me of this blog I came across last summer (above my pay grade but interesting): http://backreaction.blogspot.com/

    Here is a review of her book published this past summer on the topic, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/how-physics-lost-its-way/

  • underdog6

    Biblical math is nonsense. How could an inerrant god not know the true value of Pi? The sloppy math of Sollomon’s temple tells us the ratio of circumference of a circle to diameter is 3 instead of 3.14…….

    • Jack the Sandwichmaker

      1+1+1=1

  • Natureboi

    A God that is real wouldn’t need to rely on math to prove its existence.
    A real God could easily do that.

    Next idiotic excuse for God’s existence, please.

    • Gary Whittenberger

      If God exists, he doesn’t rely on math to prove his existence. But William Lane Craig does.

  • Michael Murray

    A decade or so ago when computers weren’t so great I was amused by how the backgrounds in many of my kids games used some form of tiling with some regular repeated shape to create the pattern without using too much computing power. I imagine the hyper-dimensional beings running the simulation we call reality have similar issues to deal with — on a somewhat grander style. I suspect our observations of the use of mathematics so intensely in the programming is just an indication of how they have dealt with these issues.

    • Gary Whittenberger

      Hyper-dimensional beings? Please provide evidence that they exist.

      • Ignorant Amos

        That’s right, you don’t do sarcasm very well, do ya?

      • Michael Murray

        My post was not meant to be taken too seriously. It was just to indicate that the fact that the universe exhibits some regularity and consistency can be explained in other ways than some sort of deity. Personally my explanation would be some sort of anthropomorphic argument. If the universe didn’t have some regularity and consistency life probably wouldn’t exist. I’ve not thought that through particularly though.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          Ok, you just presented a speculation or hypothesis, but you don’t have any strong evidence to support it and you don’t yet believe it.

          I believe it is just a brute fact that the universe has some regularity and consistency and explanation of that fact is unnecessary. That’s just the way it is. Occam’s Razor applied.

  • Michael Murray

    So remind me again about how 3 = 1 ?

  • Gary Whittenberger

    Wigner: 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.

    GW: Wigner may be a good physicist and mathematician, but he is a lousy philosopher. Mathematics is not an event and thus cannot be a miracle. To assume that miracles occur is to assume that God exists, and is thus begging the question. Mathematics is an invention of human beings, not a gift from God which can be deserved or undeserved.

    BS: Reality is the hole, and math is the puddle-reality is what it is, and the math adapts as necessary.

    GW: That’s right, Bob!

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

    GW: Beauty is just a psychological reaction. There is no beauty inherent in the equations. Some physicists react to the equations with a beauty psychological reflex.

    BS: That the universe is mathematically describable is surprising only if we expect it to be otherwise…

    GW: Yes. We discover through experience that the universe is somewhat orderly, and then we develop and use math as an orderly tool to describe the universe in a succinct way.

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

    GW: An evolutionary biologist would disagree. The universe is somewhat orderly. It is comprehensible to us because big brains which can model the orderliness had survival and reproductive value.

  • Ignorant Amos

    I thought the “answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” was 42.

    • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

      Yes, but what’s the question? Can’t answer that one, can you?

      • Michael Murray

        6 x 7 ?

  • Kevin K

    The problem with that is … at present, the universe is not describable with math.

    Until the Grand Unifying Theorem is constructed and validated, that’s a false statement.

  • The author of this article does not get what Wigner and others have said about the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics”.

    Mathematics is not a tool devised by man to describe natural phenomena. If it were a mere tool to describe nature it would not be possible to discover laws of nature by its mere use. Einstein discovered Relativity by doing math; not observations. The discovery of Riemman geometry, mid 19th century, was done with pencil and paper through the use of reason and not to describe a phenomena in nature which, in any case, is not even visible or even imaginable; only mathematically workable. Yet it perfectly described curved space needed in Relativity.

    As Wigner very well argues; there are countless examples like these that point towards the idea the mathematics is more than a mere “language” to describe phenomena and more like the hidden code itself of nature.

    • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

      Math can be used to model nature. Math doesn’t inherently describe anything.

      • uaswitch

        If math is used to model nature, then the model is describing nature in a *quantitative* manner, up to some error margin. Your two sentences seem to contradict each other (because you really need the word ‘inherently’ in the second sentence). I would also disagree. For instance, the fundamental theorem of finitely generated abelian groups is math, and inherently classifies the structure of all finite abelian groups up to isomorphism. Mathematics is full of classification theorems: describing which types of ‘irreducible’ mathematical structures of a given type are possible. Most mathematicians would argue that their papers are describing *something*. They would agree that would the theorems describe are not part of some mathematical model describing reality.

        However, Luis is right. Wigner’s main point is that theoretical mathematics often finds later application in physics, not *just* that mathematical language is useful for describing physics. More recent examples would include quantum groups (Hopf algebras), or quantum field theories (involve a lot of category theory). Outside of physics, Elliptic curves found quite a bit of application in cryptography in recent decades, and algebraic geometry is now used for robot motion planning. I remember once attending a talk by Carina Curto applying algebraic topology to studying place cells in rat brains! Where or not I agree with Wigner is irrelevant: Craig is misrepresenting Wigner, and the OP either also doesn’t understand Wigner’s main thesis, or has chosen not to address it.

        Granted, here is another quote, from Gelfand, that ruins Craig’s argument:

        Eugene Wigner wrote a famous essay on the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in natural sciences. He meant physics, of course. There is only one thing which is more unreasonable than the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in physics, and this is the unreasonable ineffectiveness of mathematics in biology

        Granted, mathematics has found more use in biology (like Carina Curto’s work involving neuroscience). However, the statement still remains that not all of reality appears to be describable using mathematical models. So Craig’s argument fails anyways, because mathematical language is *not* always useful for describing reality. And even when it is, the resulting mathematics is *not* simple. and sometimes the models are wrong, and have to be modified, making them very complicated. At which point we discover the rational explanation for the effectiveness of mathematics as Craig understands it: math is effective because when the model doesn’t work, we replace the model.

        • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

          Math can be used to model nature, but math itself does not need to have anything to do with reality.

        • Greg G.

          Math can model many possible realities but science is required to determine which mathematical model fits our reality best.

        • Which further argues that math is a tool, nothing more.

        • After further thought, I’d like to expand on my last comment: imagine a Christian going on and on about how marvelously mathematical God’s creation is. The first challenge might well be to demand to see a clear indication of this in the Bible–God declaring that the universe is mathematically precise and showing how math can be used to understand it. Hell, the costume of the priest gets a chapter, so you’d think that math as a window into God’s mind would also get a little airtime.

          But the second challenge could be to demand that math (alone) be used to solve some current riddle in nature without science to direct it. Rather, it’s as you say: math is brought in after science finds the data to explain and then afterwards, math helps make sense of it.

        • MR

          <

          Hell, the costume of the priest gets a chapter,

          Hell, the census gets a book. Sweet Jesus, shoot me now.

        • Yes, and the sciences cannot exist outside of the Church as the Church founded them.

          I posted this on another blog (“primate’s progress”) who conceded the point and then banned me immediately after:

          The Church created the sciences, and the sciences cannot be justified outside of the Church.

          This is because the foundational statements of the sciences are:
          1) the earth is not Divine
          2) all is intelligible

          Since we know God is ipsum esse subsistens, therefore we know that God is not in creation as He is uncreated and uncontingent. We can only study through observing contingency, and therefore meaning we can only study other created, contingent things like us. That God is not in His creation as a created thing means that we can study all of creation.

          That we can know things from creation is that we have the same creator and therefore can know things about the stars as we can about ourselves. Technically all material things are siblings to us, far lesser siblings but siblings nonetheless.

          The Church created the term “evolution” originally to mean how things change over time by watching God work before us in real time. This feeds back into God being ipsum esse subsistens (the subsistent act of “to be” itself) as God is so above and outside His creation that we may only know of him by the interaction of His paintbrush on our universe.

          That man is Made in the Image of God comes to us by implicit knowledge of God and that we are not made for this world as we are far greater than it. Not to mention God informing this to Moses during their meetings in the tent; Moses’ book containing this information is the Book of Genesis.

        • the sciences cannot exist outside of the Church as the Church founded them.

          You’re a funny guy. Amuse us—tell us how the Chinese invented gunpowder and paper, the Arabs invented algebra and chemistry, and the Indians invented the zero, all without the Church.

          I posted this on another blog (“primate’s progress”) who conceded the point and then banned me immediately after

          I’m not surprised. The Dark Lord that I worship can’t stand the light of the wisdom of Jesus. I’m sure you’d quickly blow apart any atheist’s shaky worldview.

        • How does one invent nothing?

          Mathematics and some rudimentary attempt at the sciences existed with the pagans. It is the Church who gave them a foundation and therefore a genuine basis to grow and stand upon. Also, the Arabs were Christian until forcibly conquered; even the mohammedan architecture was stolen from the Christian Arabs pre-600.

          And I already did destroy your shaky worldview. Why else respond so desperately and with such a newfound fury like I hurt you?

        • Ignorant Amos

          How does one invent nothing?

          Not another one that can’t read for comprehension. You do know that what you are doing is both dishonest and disingenuous, right?

          The concept of the mathematical term “zero” and the philosophical term of “nothing” are not the same thing.

          Tell me, when was there “nothing” and how you know?

          We know the people of the book had no concept of the before the beginning.

          “And the earth was without form, and void.” Genesis 1:2

          How can something be without form and be void?

          This is evident in the book of Job…he can’t answer the question in Job 38:4

          “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding.”

          As for the mathematical “zero”…it was invented independently around the world and none of them involved Christianity, or the Abrahamic God. They were products of necessity when communicating in written form.

          Christians weren’t using proper numbers until they got them off the Muslim Moors in Spain in the 11th century.

          Mathematics and some rudimentary attempt at the sciences existed with the pagans.

          Before Christianity and not part of Judaism…that these things were later developed in a part of the world were most folk were Christian, is academic. Education was only for the religious wealthy and being not Christian could be detrimental to ones health.

          The Christian world took stuff from all parts and further developed the different concepts that came prior to Christianity. Those concepts were being developed outside the Christian world at the same time. And it was only when Christianity lost it’s teeth, that all these things really took off. Today, it’s mostly non-Christians doing all the important stuff. So the fact is, there is no correlation to advances in human endeavor and the religion of the surrounding culture.

          It is the Church who gave them a foundation and therefore a genuine basis to grow and stand upon.

          Absolute nonsense. You display a lot of ignorance. For a Thomist, you seem to lack knowledge of who had the greatest influence on Aquinas’ philosophies.

          Also, the Arabs were Christian until forcibly conquered; even the mohammedan architecture was stolen from the Christian Arabs pre-600.

          More unsupported poppycock.

          The Arabs weren’t Christians until forcibly conquered and converted to Islam. The Arabs of the Arabian peninsula were Pagans. There were some Christians and Jews, but the early Muslims were converted Pagans. The inhabitants of Mecca were, by and large, polytheists.

          “Mohammedan architecture”, was stolen from the Christian Arabs pre-600…wtf?

          Where do you pull all your rubbish from?

          The Muslims took on the architecture of the places they consolidated. None of the good stuff was Christian in origin. Christian architecture came from where exactly? That’s right, the Pagan cultures they conquered. Ironically, it was the Christians that stole Mohammedan architecture.

          From the ninth century, then, the pointed arch was in constant use. It prevailed in Palestine as well as in the adjacent countries for two centuries before it reached the West, and there can be no doubt that it was there seen by the Western Crusaders, and a knowledge of its use and an appreciation of its beauty and convenience were brought back to Western Europe by the returning ecclesiastics and others at the end of the First Crusade.

          It makes me laugh when I see such nonsense. Your God must’ve been sitting around scratching it’s balls while other folks gods were influencing them to do stuff. Then suddenly, Christian god comes along and everything great happens…but not all of a sudden, or without consequence.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_world_contributions_to_Medieval_Europe

        • Pofarmer

          I’ll give the church a little backhanded credit. I think the scientific method was developed at least in some capacity to keep the guys studying things from being burned at the stake for heresy.

        • Ignorant Amos

          On the shoulders of giants.

          Aristotle, 384–322 BCE. “As regards his method, Aristotle is recognized as the inventor of scientific method because of his refined analysis of logical implications contained in demonstrative discourse, which goes well beyond natural logic and does not owe anything to the ones who philosophized before him.” – Riccardo Pozzo

          Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), 965–1039 Iraq. A polymath, considered by some to be the father of modern scientific methodology, due to his emphasis on experimental data and reproducibility of its results.

          Johannes Kepler (1571–1630). “Kepler shows his keen logical sense in detailing the whole process by which he finally arrived at the true orbit. This is the greatest piece of Retroductive reasoning ever performed.” – C. S. Peirce, c. 1896, on Kepler’s reasoning through explanatory hypotheses.

          Galileo Galilei (1564–1642). According to Albert Einstein, “All knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it. Propositions arrived at by purely logical means are completely empty as regards reality. Because Galileo saw this, and particularly because he drummed it into the scientific world, he is the father of modern physics – indeed, of modern science altogether.”

          I can’t give give any church credit, they don’t really deserve any. Churches will take undeserved credit from people actions when it suits them, but when it doesn’t suit them, people and their actions, are on their own.

        • Ignorant Amos

          We get that you believe all that hogwash of a word salad in your blockquote, but unless you can substantiate it as anything other than bag of fallacies, that’s all it is, hogwash of a word salad.

          Which “Church” are you talking about?

          When you say “science” and the “sciences”, what do you mean?

          How did the particular “Church” you have in mind, create what you mean by “science” and the “sciences”?

          This “God” you talk about, which one is it, define what it is, then explain to us what method you use to verify its existence?

          Since we know God is ipsum esse subsistens, therefore we know that God is not in creation as He is uncreated and uncontingent. We can only study through observing contingency, and therefore meaning we can only study other created, contingent things like us. That God is not in His creation as a created thing means that we can study all of creation.

          “We” know nothing of the sort. The regular folk around here don’t buy into Thomist crap, because that is all it is, unsubstantiated Thomist crap.

          That we can know things from creation is that we have the same creator and therefore can know things about the stars as we can about ourselves. Technically all material things are siblings to us, far lesser siblings but siblings nonetheless.

          Absolute meaningless verbal diarrhea.

          The Church created the term “evolution” originally to mean how things change over time by watching God work before us in real time.

          Blatant lie.

          Not that it even matters, if it were indeed true. Words are defined by their use in common parlance. That is not how the word is used in common parlance. So not only is that nonsense you wrote untrue, it is a non sequitur, so pah!

          This feeds back into God being ipsum esse subsistens (the subsistent act of “to be” itself) as God is so above and outside His creation that we may only know of him by the interaction of His paintbrush on our universe.

          Woooo there Hoss, you are getting away ahead of yerself. You haven’t demonstrated the existence of this thing you call “God”…ya know, like, with convincing evidence. You don’t get to run before you can take the first baby step.

          That man is Made in the Image of God comes to us by implicit knowledge of God and that we are not made for this world as we are far greater than it.

          Nope. That is pure religious mumbo jumbo, other religions have their mumbo jumbo that they take just as seriously as you take your mumbo jumbo. When you’ve figured out why it is that you don’t take seriously all other religions mumbo jumbo, then you’ll maybe figure out the reasons why us lot here don’t take yours anymore seriously than that.

          Not to mention God informing this to Moses during their meetings in the tent; Moses’ book containing this information is the Book of Genesis.

          Nope. That’s just a story made up to explain where a clan of desert nomads who didn’t know where the Sun went at night got their mythical book from. Scholars doubt Moses even existed. Genesis is a clusterfuck of a book cobbled together from the thoughts of a number of authors and much of it plagiarized from earlier cultures from that part of the world. You might as well be a Mormon punting their silly nonsense, or a Muslim trying to sell their silly nonsense. We get that you’ve bought into the Christian silly nonsense, but that is not very impressive at all. Most here had also bought into the silly nonsense at one time, then for whatever reason, wised up and ditched it for the silly nonsense it can be shown to be.

  • WCB

    Math is about patterns. Math is deterministic, it has rules that generate patterns. Reality, physics has it’s regularities, it’s rules, it’s laws. Physics is thus deterministic. So it is no surprise that math is useful in understanding how things happen in physics. Of course, math has it’s limits. It cannot predict where an individual atom in a jar will be in the future. But we can understand mathematics as statistics and can understand what a mass of atoms in a jar will be if we know their pressire, chemical makeup and temperature. Thus we can understand the logically based underpinnings of math and use them to create algorithms to do useful things, to solve real problems in the real world. It isn’t that hard to understand.

    The various problems with God, the problem of Evil, Free will vs Omniscience at al, demonstrate God’s very existence is problematic. Descartes claims God creates laws of mathematics as a king makes his laws. God makes the laws of reality, the metaphysical necessities of the World. If God is indeed good, why not create laws of the Universe that make moral evil impossible?

    It is hard to claim God creates math, but fails to use his ability to create the laws of the Universe to create a morally perfect world.

    • It is hard to claim God creates math, but fails to use his ability to create the laws of the Universe to create a morally perfect world.

      Great point.