Is God a Mathmatician, Livio
Is God a Mathmatician, Livio– fin 6/09 – a guided history of mathematics and it’s intersection with philosophy and the title question. Livio is a great author making both history and mathematics easy and enjoyable to read about. His style reminds me of Simon Winchester who writes engaging stories of the history of such arcane and potentially dry topics as the Oxford English Dictionary. A couple of excerpts:
P114 The validity of the cosmological, teleological, and similar arguments as proof for God’s existence has been the subject of debate among philosophers for centuries. My personal impression has always been that theists don’t need these arguments to be convinced, and atheists are not persuaded by them.
P140 and there-abouts, Livio discusses probability and statistics and I’m reminded of the great book Innumeracy, by Paulos.
P143 Scientists who try to decipher the evolution of the universe usually try to attack the problem from both ends….Probability and statistics are related in a similar fashion. In probability theory the variables and the initial state is known, and the goal is to predict the most likely end result. In statistics the outcome is known, but the past causes are uncertain.
The book ends with a general argument that mathematics is both discovered and invented by humans – god is and isn’t a mathematician. He quotes Bertrand Russell in the end “Thus, to sum up our discussion of the value of philosophy; Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.” (from http://www.skepdic.com/russell.html).
An enjoyable book. For me, mostly because of the history of mathematics presented.
Entry filed under: feed my pet brain.