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Math and God

Date: 10/23/2002 at 03:19:56
From: Mike 
Subject: Math and God

Hi,

I was wondering if you could give me some information on how people 
throughout history have used math to talk about God. Where could I 
learn about how philosophers have used math as a way to explore truth 
about God?


Date: 10/23/2002 at 17:43:24
From: Doctor Ian
Subject: Re: Math and God

Hi Mike,

I was going to point you towards this story, 

   The Euler-Diderot Encounter 
   http://www.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~shallit/euler.html 

but alas, the story turns out to be apocryphal. However, that site 
mentions a couple of resources that you can follow up on.  

Plato believed that the universe was ultimately mathematical in 
nature. Einstein objected to the statistical nature of quantum 
mechanics because he felt that 'God would not play dice'.  

I particularly like the way that Carl Sagan used the idea of using 
mathematics as a place to hide evidence that the universe was 
designed.  

Proponents of creationism often try to use probability calculations 
to argue for the necessity of design.  

There are people who try to find coded messages in the Bible, the 
Torah, and other holy works, including the Q'uran:

   Beyond Probability - God's Message in Mathematics
   http://www.quran.org.uk/ieb_quran_nineteen.htm 

And of course, there are works like this:

   Word of God
   http://www.wordofgod.com/synopsis.html 

The answer to your question depends, in part, on whether you regard 
'logical reasoning' as a branch of mathematics. If you restrict 
yourself to symbolic logic, then I suspect that you'll find very few 
philosophers using it - although everyone would be better off if they 
did, since it would help them identify their assumptions, and would 
make it easier for other philosophers to check their work. 

On the whole though, mathematics, being purely formal in nature, isn't 
really a useful tool for discussing God, which is the ultimate non-
formal concept. About the most you can say is that God really seems to 
like mathematics, since it seems to be woven so tightly into the 
universe (at least if you don't ask Stephen Wolfram).

I hope this helps. Write back if you'd like to talk more about this, 
or anything else.  

- Doctor Ian, The Math Forum
  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ 
Associated Topics:
High School History/Biography

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