Did math build a barrier between scientists and God?


In a new book called The Great Rift: Literacy, Numeracy, and the Religion-Science Divide, Michael E. Hobart offers a new twist on a huge old metanarrative: the death of God. Something or other happened in Renaissance Europe, the story goes, and it eventually distanced scientists from religion. Hobart locates this great shift in the field of mathematics.

Because this form of knowledge went beyond ordinary language, which previously was the primary means of conveying information, people slowly began to conceive of a world contingent on “natural” laws rather than the word of God.

Of the sixteenth century, Hobart writes that mathematical analysis, with its “abstract and functional thinking about natural processes,” would ultimately rid science of any lingering religious beliefs. As a result, “a new mindset, the analytical temper, was in the making.” Really? Large claims about the interiority of human beings from a different time are not so easily proven. Hobart makes them in lumpen sweeps.

Related article:  Why evolution is more complicated than Darwin imagined

In each scientific analysis, Hobart goes from step to step judiciously. But each time he returns to the arc of his book-length argument, he rests passively on the extant metanarrative.

Although it is impossible to fault the passion with which he has ventured into historical mathematics’ every daunting nook and baffling cranny, the speed and the sweep of Hobart’s argument makes it hard for a reader suspicious of metanarrative to remain unsuspicious of his book.

Read full, original post: Did Math Kill God?

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