Jason Lisle: Mathematics is Creationist

This one doesn’t fit into any topic we’ve seen or written about before — well, that’s not quite true. It’s by Jason Lisle, one of the world’s few creationist astrophysicists. He used to be with Answers in Genesis, but he recently moved to the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page.

The last time we wrote about one of Jason’s essays was Jason Lisle: All Science Is Creation Science. His essay today seems to be a continuation of that theme. The title is Evolutionary Math? Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Most people have heard of “evolutionary biology.” But the term “evolution” is often applied in a broader sense (gradual, naturalistic changes over long ages) to other fields of study. Some people study geology or astronomy from an evolutionary perspective. But has anyone ever studied “evolutionary mathematics”? What would an evolutionist mathematician study?

That’s how it begins. When we encounter things like this we have to wonder: Is this stuff as crazy as it seems, or is it profound and we’re incapable of grasping it? We’ll leave that as an open question as we proceed with Jason’s essay:

Numbers are concepts. Thus, they are abstract in nature. They exist in the world of thought and are not material or physical. You cannot literally touch a number, or even see one, because they are not made of matter.

He goes on like that for a few paragraphs, but it’s not worth repeating here. We know all that. Let’s read on to see where he’s going:

If numbers are not material, do they actually exist?

Some people might think that only physical things can exist — that matter and energy comprise every real thing. But, of course, in the Christian worldview we can have non-material entities that do exist. God is an obvious example. He exists, but is not made up of matter or energy. So the Christian worldview allows for numbers to have real existence, even though they are not material things.

In Jason’s opinion, it’s the Christian worldview that allows numbers to exist. He seems to be saying that they really exist, in the sense of Platonic forms. Then he asks:

Can a secular worldview make sense of abstract concepts like numbers?

Well, dear reader, how about it? Assuming you have a secular worldview, can you make any sense of numbers? Jason continues:

Mathematical laws are universal — they apply everywhere. When we add 2+3 in Europe, we get exactly the same answer as we get in the United States. For that matter, laws of mathematics work just as well on Mars, Alpha Centauri, the Andromeda Galaxy, or in the core of a distant quasar. Many laws of nature, including the laws of physics and the laws of chemistry, are mathematical in nature. So if laws of mathematics were different in various regions of the universe, then presumably laws of physics and chemistry would also differ in an unpredictable way. This would render astronomy impossible.

Uh, Jason … it’s Genesis that renders astronomy impossible. Here’s more:

Laws of mathematics are discovered by people and written down by people. But they were not created by people. As discussed above, laws of mathematics do not change with time. Therefore, they existed before people existed. So they obviously cannot be a creation of man. The equation 2+3=5 was true long before any human being thought about it, realized it, or wrote it.

Have you figured out yet where Jason is going with all of this? Stay with us, all will be revealed:

How then do we account for the origin and properties of numbers or the laws of mathematics that describe them?

[...]

The evolution of numbers makes no sense whatsoever. 7 has always been 7, just as 3 has always been 3. Likewise, the expression 2+3=5 was as true at the beginning of time as it is today. Mathematical laws and the numbers they govern are invariant—they do not change with time and, therefore, cannot have evolved from anything!

Got that? Unlike mice and men, numbers didn’t evolve. Moving along:

The secularist is truly stuck when it comes to mathematics.

[...]

The answer is that numbers are not the product of a human mind, but rather the product of the mind of God. The terrible dilemma faced by the secularist simply does not occur in the Christian worldview. It’s not a problem for the biblical creationist to have conceptual entities existing before human minds because human minds are not the only minds that exist in the Christian worldview. Numbers are a reflection of God’s thoughts. Numbers existed before people because God’s thoughts existed before people.

Aha! You didn’t see that coming, did you? Here’s another excerpt:

Laws of mathematics are a reflection of how God thinks about numbers. The internal consistency of mathematics is a reflection of the internal consistency within the Godhead. … Laws of mathematics are real and, yet, not physical — just as God is real and not physical in His essential nature.

It’s all so obvious! On with the article:

The biblical creationist can also make sense of why the physical universe obeys mathematical laws. God upholds the universe by the expression of His power. So, naturally, the universe will be consistent with the thoughts of God. … The properties and usefulness of laws of mathematics make perfect sense to the consistent Christian. But mathematics is simply not amenable to a naturalistic, evolutionary explanation.

It’s somehow also consistent with Jason’s worldview that occasional miracles get tossed in to confound those universal laws. And now we’ll skip to the end:

Numbers cannot have evolved because numbers cannot change. For the most part, secularists don’t even attempt to explain mathematics at all. Mathematics is an inherently creationist field of science. There are creation biologists and evolution biologists. There are creation geologists and evolution geologists. But when it comes to mathematics, everyone is a creationist.

We know that reading this has been a stunning, eye-opening, life-changing experience. That’s why we’re here. It’s all part of the Curmudgeonly service.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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28 responses to “Jason Lisle: Mathematics is Creationist

  1. The problems here are innumerate

  2. Many thanks for enlightening me about Jason Lisle’s article. As a mathematician, I truly appreciate this magnificent edifice of sophisticated philosophy (or should that be “sophistic philosophy”). In fact, I am almost tempted to reblog Lisle’s article (in the “humor” category).

  3. The most famous quote about this is by the major 19th-century mathematician, Leopold Kronecker.

    “God made the integers, all the rest is the work of man.”

    Anyway, there is a considerable literature covering many different approaches to what sort of thing mathematical objects are, and what is the basis for mathematical truth. See the Wikipedia article Philosophy of mathematics.

  4. It’s quite amazing that so many people get called to build an ark. I’d say that the Netherlands is out front on this one!

    http://news.yahoo.com/photos/life-sized-noah-s-ark-launches-slideshow/johan-huibers-poses-stuffed-tiger-front-full-scale-photo-145330190.html

  5. Lisle states:

    So the Christian worldview allows for numbers to have real existence, even though they are not material things.

    It’s bizarre to specify Christian here, for this is (as our photon-deflecting Curmudgeon himself points out) just a warmed-over bit of Platonism. The ‘Hellenic’, the Hindu, the Islamic etc. etc. wordview could all be said to have a similar fudge around the word ‘real.’

    The only uniquely ‘Christian’ mathematical concept I know of is that of the Holy Trinity. In a manner which is beyond my comprehension, Christianity has three representations of godhead whilst still qualifiying as a monotheistic faith. I am too dim to follow all that, I freely confess.

  6. Sorry – this was supposed to be added to the ‘toilet camera’ comment section. WordPress had been requiring two sign-ins to get anywhere – anyone else having this problem?

  7. Douglas E notes:

    It’s quite amazing that so many people get called to build an ark.

    Arks are so last year.

    The really cool kids are working on a full-scale Millenium Falcon.

  8. Charley Horse

    Not a mathematician…but I can calculate Jason’s
    value to science…zero…
    (credit those sexigesimal Babylonians)

  9. But I’ve always understood that 2 + 2 ~ 5 for small values of 5 and large values of 2, so Jason is incorrect.

  10. Apologies if this is too far off-topic (though I confess, in the case of Mr. Lisle, it is well-nigh impossible to identify the topic), but there isn’t a ‘Breaking News’ section here, and somehow this one sounds urgent: Monkey in sheepskin jacket on the loose at Ikea in Toronto.

  11. I think I got dumber reading those excerpts. I can’t possibly bring myself to click the link. I wouldn’t be able to feed myself anymore.

  12. Ceteris Paribus

    Megalonyx confirms: “The only uniquely ‘Christian’ mathematical concept I know of is that of the Holy Trinity.”

    Yes! Yes! Not only is it uniquely Christian, the Holy Trinity absolutely proves the Creationist concept of fine tuning.

    Notice that the mystical numeral “3″ represents exactly the “Third Integer”. Just an infinitesimal smidgen more or smidgen less, and 3 would no longer be the third integer, and there would be no Trinity. Q.E.D. (quod erat demonstrandum)

    And we would all be consigned to the Eternal Lake of Fire forever and ever. (res ipsa loquitur)

  13. I wonder what would happen if someone told Mr. Lisle about evolutionary algorithms.

  14. Mathematical laws are universal — they apply everywhere. When we add 2+3 in Europe, we get exactly the same answer as we get in the United States. For that matter, laws of mathematics work just as well on Mars, Alpha Centauri, the Andromeda Galaxy, or in the core of a distant quasar. Many laws of nature, including the laws of physics and the laws of chemistry, are mathematical in nature.

    Isn’t that rather uniformitarian for a YEC, especially one who argues that when coming towards the Earth, light can be assumed to have an infinite speed, but, when traveling the other way, it can be assumed to move at only half the accepted speed of light?

  15. Gee, I thought math was a useful tool, invented by people for describing things in the real world. I did not realize that math exists independent of the human mind.

    Of course, if god created math, and we somehow discovered it (like it was lying around until we came along), then there is no reason why it would be the same everywhere. God can do whatever he likes. Maybe he would like 2+3 to be 6 in some parts of the universe, and 4 in other parts, and we just happen to live in a place where it equals 5. Why would he want the whole universe to be boringly similar? More important, how does one know what God wants to create, or not create, in other parts of the vast universe?

    On the other hand, if mathematical laws are true everywhere, and have always been exactly as they are now, as Dr. Lisle states, then our views of the age and evolution of the universe must be true, because they are based on rigorous application of mathematical laws to observed phenomena.

    As Ham is fond of saying, if one part of the bible is found to be in error, then you cannot trust any of it. Likewise, if Dr. Lisle’s universe of God-given eternally constant mathematical laws is violated by, oh, say a miracle or two…then you can’t trust any of it. One cannot argue that mathematical laws are constant and at the same time argue that the sun stopped in the sky for a few hours during the battle of Jericho to allow god’s chosen people time to slaughter every last one of the city’s inhabitants. Both cannot be true.

  16. A good educator can take a complex concept and explain it in terms that are easy to understand.

    Jason Lisle has taken the concept of mathematics and twisted it into a convoluted essay that makes no sense. In other words, he has done the opposite of a good educator in his attempt to bend mathematics to promote his narrow religious views.

  17. I’m sure the conversations are still out there on the Internet, but during the Kitzmiller fiasco a lot of information came out about the board of education, their “retreats” and directions the board was going to move. I recall a documented conversation by one of the moderate board members who was willing to vote “yes” just to make the matter go away and being told by one of the right wingers that Science was only the beginning. They were going go attack social studies next using David Barton’s rubbish and then mathematics. Math? How can that be?

    A recent YouTube video, and I’ll dig up the url, by deGrasse pointed out that mathematics STOPPED in the muslim world in 1100 AD when a cleric declared math to be an instrument of Satan!

    You have to wonder about our own creationists, are they that stupid? And, unfortunately I think the answer is a resounding YES.

  18. Just look at the list of stars!

    And as soon as it started it was over. Over forever. Done.

    This is what the Christianists would do to western civilization if they had the chance. They won’t get it.

  19. If we were so inclined, I think there is a strong case that mathematics came before God: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_axioms

    Starting with this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom_of_empty_set
    Before there was anything, there was nothing (empty set).

  20. Jason’s ignorance of history is profound. That or he is targeting an audience who’s ignorance he is depending on for validation.
    I mentioned the period Doc Bill refers to (1100 AD) in a reply I made here earlier last week.
    The effect Al-Ghazali had on Islamic culture was as destructive to its progression as Taoism was to Chinese culture, if not more so due to the Muslim scholars translating works coming out of India that where critical to the advancement of every culture that followed.
    When you look at the rise of Fundamentalism in North America or the growing empowerment of the Wahhabi sect in the Middle East, the drive towards a cultural cliff appears to be rather obvious.
    To everyone but the people who would take us there.

  21. Aha! (I found the article I was looking for.)

    What do Christian fundamentalists have against set theory?

    You can learn enough arithmetic to get by without knowing it, but logic is firmly is set theory. They can’t stand the thought of kids learning to do actual logic.

  22. In Jason’s opinion, it’s the Christian worldview that allows numbers to exist. He seems to be saying that they really exist, in the sense of Platonic forms.

    I love the irony in that sentence. Christianity is the basis of Platonic forms – of course that makes sense!

    Isn’t that rather uniformitarian for a YEC, especially one who argues that when coming towards the Earth, light can be assumed to have an infinite speed, but, when traveling the other way, it can be assumed to move at only half the accepted speed of light?

    Ah, but what speed does it have as it circles the earth?

  23. @docbill

    That’s a very informative link. I had learned about that in college but hadn’t thought of it in years. So sad that I feel like I’m living in the “last days of empire”. I pity my daughter and the america she may grow up in if the fundagelicals have their way.

  24. Actually, the only things that christianity teaches about mathematics are wrong, namely that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1, and that 1 = 3. Interestingly, you can take his paper, do a global search and replace “god” with “allah” and have the paper make exactly the same point. So now, Mr. Lisle, which god is it that created supposedly created mathematics? I’ll accept any answer that does not involve special pleading.

  25. It has long been known that 1 = 2. Therefore 1 = 3 is a direct extension of that proof:

    1 = 2 = 1 + 1 = 1 + 2 = 3

    (Quite Easily Deluded)

  26. The whole truth

    Wow, that Lisle guy is seriously screwed up.

  27. If Mathematics is the product of the mind of God, then God is fallible, by Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems, since any second order predicate logic system that admits the axioms of arithmetic of natural numbers will contain a true statement derivable from its axiom system that cannot be proven true based on the axiom from which it was derived.

    Additionally Gödel also proved that any such mathematical system cannot prove its own logical consistency. If God created Mathematics, then He created a true statement He cannot prove true based on the axioms of His system, and thus God is not omnipotent. If God is not omnipotent, then God is not God. And similarly, if God is fallible, the bible is fallible, and thus God is not God, but rather just an mathematician of mortal proportions.

    Thus, Lisle has just succeeded in proving that God does not exist, (or if he does, he’s has only mortal powers, which is inconsistent with the status of “God.”

  28. Megalonyx typed:

    The only uniquely ‘Christian’ mathematical concept I know of is that of the Holy Trinity. In a manner which is beyond my comprehension, Christianity has three representations of godhead whilst still qualifiying as a monotheistic faith. I am too dim to follow all that, I freely confess.

    Indeed; and thus if God created numbers and Christianity were the one true religion, it would logically follow that all computers would operate on base 3 mathematics, instead of binary.

    “Ooops.”