Another piece of junk that I received: “The Invisible Link
Between Mathematics and Theology”, by a guy named “Ladislav Kvasz”,
published in a rag called “Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith”. (I’m
not going to quote much from this, because the way that the PDF is formatted,
it requires a huge amount of manually editing.) This is a virtual masterwork of
goofy clueless Christian arrogance – everything truly good must be Christian, so
the author had to find some way of saying that mathematics is intrinsically tied to Christianity.
This article actually reminds me rather a lot of George
Shollenberger. His arguments are similar to George’s: that there’s some
intrinsic connection between the concept of infinity and the Christian god.
But Kvasz goes further: it’s the nature of monotheism in general, and
Christianity in particular, which gave us the idea of using
quantifiers in predicate logic. Because, you see, the idea of
quantifiers comes from the idea that existence is not a predicate, and the
idea that existence is not a predicate comes from a debate over an invalid
proof for the existence of god.
In fact, he comes up with a list of five different areas where he claims
that the influence of Christianity (or at least monotheism) allegedly fundamentally changed mathematics:
- Infinity. He claims that the modern concept of infinity is fundamentally
different than the pre-Christian one, and that the reason for that is
that the acceptance of an infinite god makes it more natural to accept
the concept of an infinite number.
- Randomness. He claims that the modern concept of randomness is something
new, because before Christianity, fate and chance were considered to be
one and the same; but after Christianity, people see fate as the province
of god, but things like gambling are governed by randomness.
- Unknowns. He claims that the concept of a symbolic representation
of an unknown value as a variable in algebra is an intrinsically
monotheistic notion. He can’t tie this one to christianity, because
we know that the word algebra comes from the name of an Muslim scholar,
so he drops back to monotheism.
- Space. He claims that prior to Christianity, the concept of “space” independent of the things that occupy it is an intrinsically Christian notion. This one he doesn’t even really try to defend in terms of Christianity; he really just asserts that it’s part of the same thing as the
concept of infinity, and since infinity is Chistian, space must be as well.
- Motion. Again, the same deal as space. Without space, you can’t really have a mathematical study of motion; since the mathematical concept of space relies on the concept of the monotheistic god, that means that mathematical
study of motion is therefore christian.
This stuff is frankly silly beyond words. I had to stop several times while reading the paper, because I simply burst out laughing at the sheer goofiness of it! I mean, take a look at this passage from page 114:
Now we come to the third common feature of the above-mentioned changes. Let
us first take the notion of infinity. While for the ancients apeiron was a
negative notion associated with going astray and losing the way, for the
medieval scholar, the road to infinity became the road to God. God is an
infinite being, but despite his infiniteness, he is absolutely perfect. As
soon as the notion of infinity was applied to God, it lost its obscurity and
ambiguity. Theology made the notion of infinity positive, luminous, and
unequivocal. All ambiguity and obscurity encountered in the notion of
infinity was interpreted as the consequence of human finitude and
imperfection alone. Infinity itself was interpreted as an absolutely clear
and sharp notion, and therefore an ideal subject of mathematical
It’s hard to take this seriously. Pre-christian mathematicians didn’t
understand infinity, because they viewed it as an unknown with negative connotations, but because of their belief in god, the wonderful christian
mathematicians were able to see it as a definite positive but unknowable. Right, Ladislav. Just back away from the keyboard slowly, and go with these nice men in white monks robes, OK?
It gets worse when he starts talking about algebra. One of the really
dreadful things about this train-wreck of a paper is that it pretends that
mathematics started with the Greeks – so if the Greeks didn’t know it, then it
was unknown before monotheism. But much of the best of early math had nothing
to do with the Greeks. Algebra may have been introduced to the west by Muslim
scholars, but it was invented in India. Brahmagupta, who I wrote
about in my article about zero quite
definitely worked with the roots of what became known as algebra, roughly 1000
years before algebra was known in Europe. The Arabic scholars learned it when
the Caliph of the Arab empire invited one of the students of Brahmagupta to
come to Baghdad to teach Hindu astronomy sometime around 700AD. But our man
Ladislav doesn’t let little things like his own ignorance get in the way of a
nice piece of Christian propoganda.
This bit caused me to spray soda out through my nose. I can’t even comment
on it, it’s just too much.
A similar tension between the ontological definiteness (necessary for the
application of arithmetical operations) and epistemological indefiniteness is
characteristic in the notion of the unknown in algebra. The unknown is unknown
for us, finite beings. For God there are no unknowns at all. As soon as he
looks at the formulation of an algebraic problem, he immediately sees the
value of the unknown. He has no need to solve the equations, because due to
his omniscience, he immediately knows the solutions. Thus, in a way similar to
the case of the theory of probability, in algebra too, the ontological
ambiguity, which prevented the Greeks from mathematicizing this area, was
transformed into an epistemological ambiguity, having its space, and motion.
Whew, got past that one without any more soda on the keyboard.