Home » Biology, Mathematics » Darwin-doubting mathematician David Berlinski on why math IS really important

Darwin-doubting mathematician David Berlinski on why math IS really important

… contrary to what evolutionary theorist E. O. Wilson thinks.

Yes, you heard that right. It’s the guy who doubts Darwin who thinks math is important.

Discussing the recent discovery of the Higgs boson, Berlinski offers some thoughts that provide a partial response to E. O. Wilson’s notion that real biologists don’t need math:

Across the vast range of arguments offered, assessed, embraced, deferred, delayed or defeated, it is only within mathematics that arguments achieve the power to compel allegiance because they are seen to command assent. And it is only by means of mathematics that the powerful ideas of an alien discipline such as theoretical physics may step by step be returned to the ordinary human power to grasp things without mediation and so to grasp things at once.

In short, the reason that Darwinian biologists and evolutionary psychologists don’t need math is that most of what they are doing isn’t science (and the rest is likely wrong, but at least science).

Berlinski, an agnostic, is at his best when puncturing pretentious atheists. Here are some of his better known essays in that line, including the most recent, “The Ineffable Higgs”, about the celeb boson that never quite turned out to be the hoped-for God particle.

If you’d rather vid than read, here’s Berlinski in a recent vid:

Or here.

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13 Responses to Darwin-doubting mathematician David Berlinski on why math IS really important

  1. Darwin and the Mathematicians – David Berlinski
    “The formation within geological time of a human body by the laws of physics (or any other laws of similar nature), starting from a random distribution of elementary particles and the field, is as unlikely as the separation by chance of the atmosphere into its components.”
    Kurt Gödel, was a preeminent mathematician who is considered one of the greatest to have ever lived. Of Note: Godel was a Theist!

    Dr. David Berlinski: Head Scratching Mathematicians – video

    quote from preceding video:

    “John Von Neumann, one of the great mathematicians of the twentieth century, just laughed at Darwinian theory, he hooted at it!”
    Dr. David Berlinski

  2. Yes math is really important. It just doesn’t appear to apply to evolutionism. Most likely because evolutionism is not important. ;) (I see News covered that in the OP)

  3. Back to P. Johnson’s “Wedge of Truth” again?! Bring on D. Berlinski for fun, since he doesn’t actually promote ‘ID’.

    “Warm but distant” = Berlinski’s attitude towards IDism.

    Shall we be holding our breaths for Dembski’s promised mathematical theory of ‘Intelligent Design’ (while for PR reasons, he doesn’t capitalise it anymore)?

    The search engine Google gives No Results for quotes “Mathematical Theory of Intelligent Design.” Hmmm…anyone wonder why? ;)

    Seeking validity in mathematics for obviously scientistic ideology.

    Or maybe you want to check this guy out? Another great representative of IDism, nay, he even claims to be it’s ‘first individual’ (1979)…!

  4. Gregoire, mon pauvre vieux, who ever mentioned ‘intelligent design…..?’ If ID were mythical, would that render Darwin’s extraordinarily fanciful theory, true? Of course, it wouldn’t. It wouldn’t even make it less comical.

    Concentrate, there’s a good chap. Less animus and closer attention to the words on the page.

  5. Academics = “akin to a criminal class” – D. Berlinski

    Such trust IDism, or in Berlinski’s case, flamboyant agnosticism, entails! ;)

  6. Ah, Berlinski! Pure enjoyment…

  7. 7

    Math is a enemy of evolution because of its great claims of happanchance.
    Yet math is useless in almost everything of discovery or invention done so far.
    Its just measuring things to bits that already exist. how does that heal or improve anything.
    The living force of biology has nothing to do with math.
    Math is not intellectually relevant in figuring out the universe except in basic structures that are very unrelated to God’s ideas on biology.
    Math gets in the way of true progress of entry level people with a desire to accomplish things called science.

  8. Heinlein said it first, in a different form:

    If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.

  9. Galileo, a Christian whose story in science is severely misunderstood,,

    Contest Winner! – Barry Arrington – July 27, 2011
    Please note the section titled ‘Primer on the Galileo Affair’ to see how far the popular myth of ‘science vs. religion’ is from the actual reality of the Galileo affair


    Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.
    Galileo Galilei

    I’m fairly certain that quotes from all the great physicists can found expressing such wonder. Even Einstein expressed wonder:

    You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way . . . . [T]he kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the “miracle” which is being constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.
    — Albert Einstein

    Dr. Craig argues that the applicability of mathematics to physics is a very strong argument for God here:

    Mathematics and Physics – A Happy Coincidence? – William Lane Craig – video

    Dr. Bradley gives an partial overview of the ‘remarkably simple and elegant’ mathematical language in which God has written the universe here:

    The Underlying Mathematical Foundation Of The Universe – Walter Bradley – video

    How the Recent Discoveries Support a Designed Universe – Dr. Walter L. Bradley – paper
    Excerpt: Only in the 20th century have we come to fully understand that the incredibly diverse phenomena that we observe in nature are the outworking of a very small number of physical laws, each of which may be described by a simple mathematical relationship. Indeed, so simple in mathematical form and small in number are these physical laws that they can all be written on one side of one sheet of paper, as seen in Table 1.

    Quote from preceding video:

    “Occasionally I’ll have a bright engineering student who says, “Well you should see the equations we work with in my engineering class. They’re a big mess.”, The problem is not the fundamental laws of nature, the problem is the boundary conditions. If you choose complicated boundary conditions then the solutions to these equations will in fact, in some cases, be quite complicated in form,,, But again the point is still the same, the universe assumes a remarkably simple and elegant mathematical form.” –
    Dr. Walter Bradley – Distinguished Professor of Engineering
    Baylor University

    And indeed Wigner infamously said, ‘It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here,’:

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: ,,certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.,,,
    It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of the existence of laws of nature and of the human mind’s capacity to divine them.,,,
    The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.

    Moreover Wallace, co-discoverer of Natural Selection, stated:

    “Nothing in evolution can account for the soul of man. The difference between man and the other animals is unbridgeable. Mathematics is alone sufficient to prove in man the possession of a faculty unexistent in other creatures. Then you have music and the artistic faculty. No, the soul was a separate creation.”
    Alfred Russell Wallace, New Thoughts on Evolution, 1910

    Out of all the quotes and links, I think Wallace’s quote comes closest to capturing the ‘miracle’ that confronts us with what we witness in man’s ability to reason mathematically and the correspondence of that mathematical reasoning to physics. The reason why this comes closest to capturing the mystery that confronts is that most of the other quotes, while expressing deep appreciation and wonder at that profound ‘miracle’, fail to deliver us from what I term a ‘Deistic lurch’. This ‘Deistic lurch’ is the thought that even though the universe strongly appears to be written in the language of mathematics by God, this still does not get us to the personal God of the bible who ‘sustains’ the universe mathematically and establishes the fine point that:

    ‘In him we live and move and have our being’;,,
    Acts 17:28

    This ‘Deistic lurch’ is perhaps most simply expressed by a remark an atheist made in response to my observation that mathematics must ultimately be based in God:

    “maths just is”

    This mathematical ‘Deistic lurch’, which fails to appreciate the fact that God constantly ‘sustains’ the universe, is also seen in the answer that Einstein gave to a philosopher who asked Einstein:

    “Can physics demonstrate the existence of ‘the now’ in order to make the notion of ‘now’ into a scientifically valid term?”

    Einstein’s answer was categorical to the philosopher, he said:

    “The experience of ‘the now’ cannot be turned into an object of physical measurement, it can never be a part of physics.”

    Quote was taken from the last few minutes of this following video:
    Stanley L. Jaki: “The Mind and Its Now”

    The preceding statement was an interesting statement for Einstein to make since ‘the mind and its now’ has, from many recent experiments in quantum mechanics, undermined Einstein’s General Relativity as to being the absolute frame of reference for reality. i.e. ‘the mind and its now’, contrary to what Einstein thought possible for experimental physics, according to advances in quantum mechanics, and completely contrary to the ‘Deistic lurch’ which holds ‘maths just is’, takes precedence over past events in time. Moreover, due to advances in quantum mechanics, it would now be much more appropriate to phrase Einstein’s answer to the philosopher in this way:

    “It is impossible for the experience of ‘the now of mind’ to be divorced from physical measurement, it will always be a part of physics.”

    Perhaps the best demonstration of this ‘now of the mind’ is Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.

    “Thus one decides the photon shall have come by one route or by both routes after it has already done its travel”
    John A. Wheeler

    Alain Aspect speaks on John Wheeler’s Delayed Choice Experiment – video


    Wheeler’s Delayed Choice Experiment – 2010
    Excerpt: The Delayed Choice experiment changes the boundary conditions of the Schrodinger equation after the particle enters the first beamsplitter.

  10. But why should a abstract mathematical equation, which ‘just is’ according to Deistic or Atheistic thinking, even care when I decide to implement boundary conditions for it to look at a particle? Abstract mathematical equations do not and can not care about anything! Only God can care if and when I decide to look at any particular particle! To drive this point home as to just how ‘weird’ all this is, in that I can freely choose when a ‘boundary condition’ for a mathematical equation is implemented, here is a recent variation of the Wheeler delayed choice experiment. An experiment which highlights the ability of a conscious observer to directly effect ‘spooky action into the past’,,,

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor’s choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. “We found that whether Alice’s and Bob’s photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured”, explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study.
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.

    That experiment completely blows Deistic and Atheistic ‘determinism’ out of the water for if my conscious choices really are just merely the result of whatever state the material particles in my brain happen to be in in the past (deterministic) then how in blue blazes are my present free will choices in the experiment instantaneously effecting the state of material particles into the past??? But it gets much, much, worse for Deists and Atheists who think ‘maths just is’. Fairly recently it was found,,,

    Quantum physics says goodbye to reality – Apr 20, 2007
    Excerpt: They found that, just as in the realizations of Bell’s thought experiment, Leggett’s inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it. “Our study shows that ‘just’ giving up the concept of locality would not be enough to obtain a more complete description of quantum mechanics,” Aspelmeyer told Physics Web. “You would also have to give up certain intuitive features of realism.”

    Moreover, the magnitude to which Leggett’s inequality was violated model was staggering:

    A team of physicists in Vienna has devised experiments that may answer one of the enduring riddles of science: Do we create the world just by looking at it? – 2008
    Excerpt: This test was more stringent. In mid-2007 Fedrizzi found that the new realism model was violated by 80 orders of magnitude; the group was even more assured that quantum mechanics was correct. http://seedmagazine.com/conten....._tests/P3/

    Now, I really don’t completely understand what it truly means for realism to violated by 80 orders of magnitude as to rigorously establishing the validity for positing a non-local, beyond space-time, cause for reality (i.e. God), but seeing that there are ‘only’ 10^80 orders of magnitude subatomic particles in the universe, that strongly suggests, at least to me, that they may have completely blown the ‘maths just is’ Deistic view of reality out of the water. (Perhaps someone else can help enlighten what it means to have a theory violated by 80 orders of magnitude). Just how troubling this ‘should’ be for the committed Atheist/Deist is highlighted here:

    Lecture 11: Decoherence and Hidden Variables – Scott Aaronson
    Excerpt: “Look, we all have fun ridiculing the creationists who think the world sprang into existence on October 23, 4004 BC at 9AM (presumably Babylonian time), with the fossils already in the ground, light from distant stars heading toward us, etc. But if we accept the usual picture of quantum mechanics, then in a certain sense the situation is far worse: the world (as you experience it) might as well not have existed 10^-43 seconds ago!”

    To further drive this point home, the point that abstract mathematics IS NOT ‘just is’, Godel derived the incompleteness theorem of mathematics,,,

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem – video

    In which Godel revealed that the truthfulness of any mathematical equation that is specific enough to have counting numbers within it cannot be derived from within the equation itself, but the truthfulness of the equation is dependent on a outside source in order to derive its truthfulness. And seeing that math is not based in time and space, then that requires the source for ‘truth’, for which any particular mathematical equation derives its truthfulness, must also be transcendent of time and space. Here are a few comments conceding that math will never be able to offer a complete description of reality:

    The nature and significance of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems – Princeton – 2006
    Excerpt: ,,Stephen Hawking and Freeman Dyson, among others, have come to the conclusion that Gödel’s theorem implies that there can’t be a Theory of Everything.,,

    Godel and Physics – John D. Barrow
    Excerpt (page 5-6): “Clearly then no scientific cosmology, which of necessity must be highly mathematical, can have its proof of consistency within itself as far as mathematics go. In absence of such consistency, all mathematical models, all theories of elementary particles, including the theory of quarks and gluons…fall inherently short of being that theory which shows in virtue of its a priori truth that the world can only be what it is and nothing else. This is true even if the theory happened to account for perfect accuracy for all phenomena of the physical world known at a particular time.”
    Stanley Jaki – Cosmos and Creator – 1980, pg. 49

    Hawking seems to have forgotten his concession to Godel’s incompleteness and erroneously tried to assign causal power to mathematical law. Hawking stated in his book ‘The Grand Design’:

    “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.The universe didn’t need a God to begin; it was quite capable of launching its existence on its own,”
    Stephen Hawking

    Confusing law with agency is a profoundly deep logical error on Hawking’s part:

    Stephen Hawking is wrong – 2010
    “But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions.
    What Hawking appears to have done is to confuse law with agency.
    – John Lennox

    “Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.”
    Bruce Gordon – Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010

    A bit more nuanced view of Hawking’s profoundly deep logical error is here:

    Do Physical Laws Make Things Happen? – Stephen L. Talbott
    Excerpt: In “The Limits of Predictability” I tried to show the great distance between understanding a certain lawfulness inherent in events and predicting or explaining the events themselves. Contrary to all current thinking within science, the more uncompromisingly we formulate the precise and determining action of a physical law, the less it tells us about the events it governs. We gain more and more exactness about less and less of the world’s concrete expression.
    I illustrated this by describing what happens when we release a leaf in a vacuum chamber. The leaf now “drops like a rock”. That is, we get a trajectory that seems to be little more than the graphic display of a mathematical expression we call the “law of gravity”. To see an event in this way as a mathematical necessity made visible gives us a powerful sense of explanation.
    But — and this was the decisive point — if we restrict ourselves to the sphere of our mathematical explanation and do not smuggle in qualitative aspects of the phenomenon lying outside the explanation, then we no longer even know whether we’re dealing with a leaf or rock! The explanation, in its own terms and despite all its precision, gives us no means to distinguish between the two. We highlight a law equally implicit in both leafy and rocky phenomena by sacrificing everything distinctive in those phenomena to the single, implicit aspect we are looking for.

  11. And to drive the point even further home that mathematical equations must be dependent on a beyond space and time causal agent, i.e. God, in order for them to have any truth as to accurately describing reality, it is found that our two most accurate mathematical descriptions of reality could not be properly elucidated until ‘higher dimensional mathematics’ were developed:

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: We now have, in physics, two theories of great power and interest: the theory of quantum phenomena and the theory of relativity.,,, The two theories operate with different mathematical concepts: the four dimensional Riemann space and the infinite dimensional Hilbert space,

    The Mathematics Of Higher Dimensionality – Gauss and Riemann – video

    Glimpsing the ‘Unseen’ Higher Dimension – Dr. Quantum – Flatland – video

    And indeed the reality that these ‘higher dimensional’ equations have revealed, and describe, to us are wondrous to contemplate:

    Where is the centre of the universe?:
    Excerpt: There is no centre of the universe! According to the standard theories of cosmology, the universe started with a “Big Bang” about 14 thousand million years ago and has been expanding ever since. Yet there is no centre to the expansion; it is the same everywhere. The Big Bang should not be visualized as an ordinary explosion. The universe is not expanding out from a centre into space; rather, the whole universe is expanding and it is doing so equally at all places, as far as we can tell.

    Centrality of the Earth (And each 3-Dimensional spot in the universe) Within The 4-Dimensional Space-Time of General Relativity – video

    Dr. Quantum – Double Slit Experiment & Entanglement

    The Galileo Affair and the true “Center of the Universe”
    Excerpt: I find it extremely interesting, and strange, that quantum mechanics tells us that instantaneous quantum wave collapse to its ‘uncertain’ 3D state is centered on each individual conscious observer in the universe, whereas, 4D space-time cosmology (General Relativity) tells us each 3D point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe. These findings of modern science are pretty much exactly what we would expect to see if this universe were indeed created, and sustained, from a higher dimension by a omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal Being who knows everything that is happening everywhere in the universe at the same time. These findings certainly seem to go to the very heart of the age old question asked of many parents by their children, “How can God hear everybody’s prayers at the same time?”,,, i.e. Why should the expansion of the universe, or the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe, even care that you or I, or anyone else, should exist? Only Theism, Christian Theism in particular, offers a rational explanation as to why you or I, or anyone else, should have such undeserved significance in such a vast universe. [15]

  12. As should be needless to say, such a reality speaks far more forcefully for a infinitely powerful ‘personal God’ than for any impersonal ‘maths just is’ Deistic God:

    Psalm 33:13-15
    The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

    God Can Be Personally Known and Experienced – Dr. Craig – video

    Knowing God Personally and Intimately
    Excerpt: Can a person embark on a journey that leads to knowing God? The overwhelming claim of the Bible is yes! Not only can anyone of us know the Lord and the Creator of everything that exists, we are invited—even urged—each one of us, to know him intimately, personally and deeply.

    Verse and music:

    John 8:47
    Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.,,,

    Casting Crowns – Voice of Truth

  13. 13

    Posters here are quoting or opining that math proves God or mans soul etc.
    Fine but so what.
    The point is about the relevance of math to discovery and invention in science.
    I say its almost irrelevant in almost all objects so far touched on by science.
    this because biology is not or to date has not been a object for math.
    No healing has come from computations high or low. Likewise math has not been the prompt to insight in very much.
    i don’t see Einsteins stuff as coming from mere math doings but insights unrelated to math. thats why he gets the credit for his stuff. not mere math principals he bumped into.

    Order must mean it can be measured but one is wasting ones time looking to math whizs in school for any discovery or invention in progressing science.
    I see math as a hinderance to figuring out things.
    Its very over rated in prestige for intellectual gain of mankind.
    Don’t encourage smart kids to go into it.

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