The Mystery of Math

I regularly tell my students that I wish I loved mathematics when I was their age the way I do now.  Geometry produced my lowest grade in high school.  I saw mathematics as merely boring busy-work.  I still am woefully lacking in mathematical skills; however, my exposure to such mathematical concepts as infinity, number theory, and multi-dimensional topography, has greatly spiked my interest.  I even bought a book with a title most would consider an oxymoron, The Joy of Mathematics.  Mathematics is not only fascinating, but also points to creation as a revelation of God.

There is a long-running debate as to the nature of numbers and mathematics.  Are numbers real entities apart from the human mind?  Do we invent mathematical concepts  or discover them?  Physicist Eugene Wigner wrote a famous paper entitled The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences exploring the reason why mathematical concepts are so effective in describing natural phenomena beyond the context of the original discovery of the mathematical concept.  He came up with several partial explanations based on the assumption of godless evolution seeking  to find the answer for this mystery by invoking the idea that we impose math on reality.  One may ask how we can impose mathematics on the natural world and make it work if the natural world was indeed random.  Furthermore, Richard Hamming using historic examples dismantled those explanations.  Max Tegmark went even farther stating that mathematics works so well because “the physical world is completely mathematical” (wikipedia).

There are many examples of the amazing effectiveness of mathematics to describe creation such as the repeated usefulness of such constants as π, φ and Θ in various physical applications.  Another example can be found in the Fibonacci sequence, the golden ratio and its geometric applications being found in all kinds of descriptions of natural organisms.  Dr. Jason Lisle has a presentation which can be viewed on You-tube, that points to the Mandelbrot set and the fractals produced by graphing it as another example of mathematics describing many natural phenomena.  Indeed, the whole nature of mathematics and its application to physical phenomena is a mystery in a world created by impersonal forces acting randomly and thus the paper by Wigner.  On the contrary, mathematicians such as Oxford professor John Lennox, former professor at the Naval Academy Robert Hermann, and German mathematician Werner Gitt, repeatedly point out that this usefulness of mathematics is exactly what we would expect in a world created by an all-wise God.

This truth again points to our worldviews.  A naturalistic worldview would not predict the relationship of mathematics to physical reality whereas a worldview that postulates an orderly, intelligent Creator would predict such a phenomenon.  This is just one more of many observations that can be made that is best explained by the existence of a God Who reveals Himself through His handiwork.  The amazing ability of mathematics to describe reality is only a mystery if one has a naturalistic-materialistic paradigm.  On the other hand, this ability of mathematics is actually a prediction of a theistic world-view pointing to yet another revelation of God’s own mind through His creation.  The physical world is entirely mathematical, and the best explanation for that truth is that the physical universe is the product of of an orderly Creator.

Categories Apologetics, Creation, Mathematics, Philosophy, Science, Uncategorized

3 thoughts on “The Mystery of Math

  1. Interesting, even for someone who knows very little about mathematics. The symbols you used, with the exception of Pi, had no meaning to me, yet your point was clearly made.

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  2. I always enjoy seeing this topic raised because I come at it from the opposite perspective. I see absolutely no reason to think that mathematics requires a divine explanation and its effectiveness at describing the natural world should be entirely expected– but then, I tend to lean towards a philosophy of mathematical Formalism, so that may be unsurprising.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I am a fan of Godel and no formalist. I personally think the repeated appearance of such phenomena as the golden spirals and Mandelbrot-like fractals in actual natural phenomena and in living organisms cannot be explained by mind-games. However, I know that this is a debatable issue as I indicated in my post. One can use other presuppositions. Of course, I think the paradigm I use makes the most sense and so do a number of other mathematicians such as the ones I listed. However, I realize that it is the Holy Spirit, not my arguments, that ultimately reveals the reality of God.

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