Ask A Genius 409 – Number-Curious or Hidden Figures in Numbers: Numbers of Here-and-Now and There-and-Then as We Understand Them
October 11, 2018
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Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Is God a mathematician?
Rick Rosner: As an analogy about the weird things that may arise in our future understanding of existence, think of the number line, it is the 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, 11 apples, 14 apples, and so on.
Every 4-year-old can count to 10. It is the simplest kind of math. But as mathematicians poked more at mathematical structures, they found more and more weird stuff. The Complex Numbers, the square root of negative numbers, the different magnitudes of infinity, the countable infinities that are Rational Numbers, uncountable infinities that are Real Numbers.
I bet if you looked into it; there are probably 50 or 100 different numbering systems that mathematicians have uncovered. You have fractals. You have Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems. It says a bunch of stuff. It says that there are true statements that can never be proven to be true.
The mathematical system that gives us the counting numbers can never be proven to be consistent. There are all these trap doors and crazy surprise, even lurking behind the most conservative parts of mathematics.
I am saying, similarly, there will probably be explosive surprises lurking behind our existences and the existence of the universe. That given that we’re generally wrong whatever we believed to a certain point, where what we believed is overthrown by what we believed in the future.
Nothing can be ruled out, except, perhaps, the things that we have believed historically. Like I said, we’re never going to arrive at a conclusion that the universe is really run by Roman gods. But it is not unreasonable to think that, at some point, some point 100-200 years from now; the paths of exploration and knowledge will conclude that there are entities in the world that have the powers that we once associated with once-debunked gods.
It is not that the old-school gods will be brought back. It is that some of the ideas of omniscience or omnipotence – some aspect of godhood – can be found to be embodied in the principles of existence.
It seems ridiculous and antiscientific. But we just don’t know what the future will hold. I can imagine a future where everything has a scientific basis. Almost every material manifestation of the world and every phenomenon in the world has a scientific explanation.
But if you keep poking the logic as to why science is effective in the world, if you dig deep enough, it may show surprises or paradoxes that allow for the idea of things we thought that we were beyond, including the ideas of God.
I think it was Einstein who said one of the most amazing things about the world – not a direct quote – is the way in which mathematics is so crazily good at describing the world. It may be that as we try to figure out why that is the case.
If we poke deep and long enough, it may lead us back to areas of belief that we thought we were done with.
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American Television Writer
Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Editor-in-Chief, In-Sight Publishing
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