Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Evidence for God from Math?

It was a few years ago that I served as a liaison for Danny Korem coming to speak to students at Penn State University about how to debunk magicians and illusionists.  It was a very interesting experience filled with ups and downs that I continue to think about years later.

As I waited to take Danny back to the airport, a very earnest student came up to me wanting to speak with Mr. Korem and I told him that he couldn't see anyone because he would be leaving for the airport soon.  This student was insistent, so I gave in and asked, "what is so pressing that you have to see Danny?"

He explained that his roommate had discovered the mathematical proof for God.  Ok, that got to me . . . I had to know what he was talking about.  So I asked him what he meant by that.  Well, that is where it all broke down because this guy might have been a faithful disciple of his roommate, but he had no idea what he was talking about.  Flustered, he finally wrote down the number for his roommate and gave it to me to give to Danny.  I was faithful in executing his request . . . but I don't think it went very far.

Mr. Korem said he got those kinds of notes all the time from people convinced that they have found some secret knowledge about the nature of God or His existence.  Korem attributed it to quackery, I think it has to do with the need for control.

The real question is whether concepts like what we call truth or mathematics or reason are on the same level with the idea of God.  Does math exist in the world somewhere or is it something that was manufactured in our heads?  If it exists as some sort of universal law that is be uncovered by humans over the course of history, then perhaps one day there will be something that we are able to uncover and arrive at that can justify a belief in God (or for that matter, unbelief).

On the other hand, if it is not universal and it is merely the interesting arrangement of patterns that the human mind has noted about the physical universe, then mathematics is nothing more than the invention of the human mind.  If that is the case, then we cannot at any point argue for the existence or the absence of God from something so finite as the human mind.

For me, the evidence is overwhelming that something like mathematics has its origins in the human mind.  It does not 'reside' somewhere.  The 'language' of math is not written in the cosmos, not the language of math is inseparable from the human that invented it.  

Not sure?  Think of the word 'digit' - as in 'we live in the digital age.'  Digits are fingers.  There are ten of them.  There are ten numerals in our base ten system of mathematics.  Digits.  Decimals. The basic building blocks of our mathematical thoughts are inextricably bound to the primitive mathematicians that thousands of years ago invented the system of mathematics that we currently use.  Math was not discovered. It is not something that unfurls with our study of the cosmos. It is a projection of our anthro-centric worldview onto the cosmos.

Because it is an invention, it will suffer the fate of every other man-made pursuit - it will always be limited by virtue of the fact that we are limited creatures.  It will also tell us more about ourselves than the world around us.  Since it springs from the software of our minds, mathematics reveals more about the nature of humans than the nature of God.

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