Berlinski: An argument against Religion is an argument against Math

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David Berlinski, a secular Jew and author of The Devil’s Delusion (a great read, I might add), interviewed himself a couple of years ago here, and had this exchange with himself:

… But why should we take seriously religious beliefs that are lacking in evidence?

DB: We shouldn’t. But asking someone like Richard Dawkins about the evidence for God’s existence is a little like asking a quadruple amputee to run the marathon. The interesting point is elsewhere. There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. Mathematicians are capable of grasping a world of objects that lies beyond space and time ….

… Come again …DB: No need to come again: I got to where I was going the first time. The number four, after all, did not come into existence at a particular time, and it is not going to go out of existence at another time. It is neither here nor there. Nonetheless we are in some sense able to grasp the number by a faculty of our minds. Mathematical intuition is utterly mysterious. So for that matter is the fact that mathematical objects such as a Lie Group or a differentiable manifold have the power to interact with elementary particles or accelerating forces. But these are precisely the claims that theologians have always made as well – that human beings are capable by an exercise of their devotional abilities to come to some understanding of the deity; and the deity, although beyond space and time, is capable of interacting with material objects.

… And this is something that you, a secular Jew, believe? …

DB: What a question! I feel like I’m being interviewed by the Dean at some horrible community college. Do you believe in the university’s mission – that sort of thing. Look, I have no religious convictions and no religious beliefs. What I do believe is that theology is no more an impossible achievement than mathematics. The same rational standards apply. Does the system make sense; does it explain something? Are there deep principles at work. Is it productive? 

You can get Berlinski’s new book here.  Comments anyone? 

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