Monday, August 1, 2011

Mystical Path... Mystical Math?

Popularizer Clifford Pickover often writes about the mystery and even mysticism of numbers. Paul Erdos was famous for saying certain (beautiful) mathematical proofs must come from 'God's book.' Lover of numbers, Martin Gardner. regarded himself as a "Mysterian" (and also a theist/fideist) who believed, despite the reality of numbers, humans could never fully comprehend the workings of their own minds. Cantor was deeply religious, writing proofs for the existence of God, which never gained the traction his proofs involving infinity did.

In short, I've always found fascinating the link many sense between math or numbers, and the mystical or Godly realm of existence. Math is often perceived, more than any other science, to somehow be associated with a deeper reality than we can otherwise be in touch with directly.
And yet, a different school of math, views math as little more than a creation or construct of the human mind; not so much existing in the 'world out there' so much as constrained to the world inside our heads.
Such basic, fundamental notions, yet leading to such divergent, unresolved thoughts.

Here's an old Julie Rehmeyer posting that touches on the subject (in which she quotes British mathematician Brian Davies as saying that Platonism “has more in common with mystical religions than with modern science"):

And lastly, if you have the time, Ben Vitale recently put up this hour+ long YouTube roundtable video on "Mathematics and Religion":

1 comment:

Charles Frith said...

I was just listening to an interview when this link popped up on Twitter as the interviewee said 'a universe outside mathematical construct'. I believe there must be.