Mathematical Flimflam

January 30, 2009

Link: Mathematical Flimflam

One thing that’s always struck me is how mathematics has been interpreted by so many people in so many contexts as a direct conduit to God’s thoughts. This link is a modern manifestation of that—but sadly it’s a pretty shallow vision of what God’s thoughts look like. There are some pretty identities, but under deeper scrutiny they’re not particularly revelatory. This is a kind of mathematical flimflam—it looks like there’s something deep going on under the surface, but really it’s quite superficial, and has more to do with how we write numbers than what their inherent qualities are.

Then we have a segueway into assigning numbers to letters and interpreting words. There is no meaning here at all.

I worry that the inherent love for math that (I believe) we all have in us leaves us open to being drawn in by these kinds of vacuous mathematical runarounds when we don’t have authentic experience with math to compare it to. There are lots of ways to use mathematics to help a lie—it happens in religious thought, politics, economics. Being separated from our mathematical birthright leaves us open to being tricked. And plenty of people are ready to trick us.

Check out the comments as well. Very interesting responses, to my mind. Quite passionate. And a couple skeptics, who demonstrate why the numbers to letters argument doesn’t mean anything.

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