Is Math Christian?
The author of the blog, a Charles Jackson who, according to his personal info page, holds an MS in mathematics from Cal State Long Beach, claims in his blog that “the Christian God, being, as He is, infinite, personal, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-controlling, self-attesting, and self-revelatory, provides what is necessary for a successful philosophy of anything.” Given this “presupposition,” Jackson reasons, “the sufficiency of the concept of the Christian God for the intelligibility of human mathematical experience follows directly from the sufficiency of the concept of the Christian God for the intelligibility of human experience, simpliciter.” Consequently, he continues, “the concept of the Christian God is a sufficient condition for the intelligibility of human mathematical experience: mathematical knowledge, mathematical practice, etc.”
From these premises Jackson concludes that “all non-Christian approaches to the philosophy of mathematics” are therefore necessarily futile. They would have to be, goes Jakson’s reasoning, since the “concept” of the Christian god is so necessary to “mathematical experience” and “mathematical knowledge.”
For those lounging in the choir, such “reasoning” probably seems both air-tight and bullet-proof. But is it? Does such reasoning have any objective basis in reality? Or, does it only seem so unassailable from within the fake environment of the Christian worldview which elevates imagination over reality?
I suspect it is the latter rather than the former.
But as one ever-willing to engage Christian apologists on the presumed merits of their claims, I sought to contact Jackson for a discussion by submitting a comment to his blog. And that is what I did on October 4, 2012, at 5 PM, local Bangkok time.
Though I cannot say that I’m all that surprised, Jackson has to date yet to approve my comment to his blog. And I would gladly content that he has every right to withhold my comment from appearing on his blog, the complete silence in response to my comment, either publicly or privately, can only leave open any speculations and suspicions that might explain Jackson’s decision.
Below I present the comment that I posted to Jackson’s blog entry in its entirety:
I found your blog quite by accident and am really enjoying it. It speaks to an area of antithesis between Christianity and Objectivism that I find fascinating.
You mention a desire to see philosophers of math evaluating various forms of “isms” (e.g., naturalism, constructivism, formalism, nominalism, etc.) and after having “recognized the ultimate futility of each,” that they would eventually “find MIC” (is that the thesis that “math is Christian”?) and “develop a Christian philosophy of math.” I notice that Objectivism is not listed among the various “isms” that you specify, but apparently it is to be included in your sweeping summary designated as “isms ad nauseum.” And yet, I would be most curious to see how one would demonstrate “the ultimate futility” of Objectivism when it comes to such a project.
You say that you “will not address these isms here, except to say that they all arbitrarily (i.e. without warrant) assume the Inductive Principle.” This is a rather sweeping charge here, and I wonder how you would make it stick in the case of Objectivism. If by “the Inductive Principle” you have in mind the epistemological basis for “reason[ing] from particulars to universals or generalities,” Objectivism has full justification for this since it applies inductive procedures on the basis of the Objectivist axioms, the primacy of existence and the objective theory of concepts. So it is *not* the case, contrary to what you state in your blog, that for at least this one form of secular or non-theistic philosophy, namely Objectivism, that “Induction lacks a foundation.” In fact, I would argue that there is no more secure basis for induction than this epistemological foundation.
You say that “whenever one uses human language, he or she reasons from particulars to universals or generalities (i.e. uses induction).” Objectivist epistemology explains precisely how the mind does this by means of concept-formation (cf. the objective theory of concepts), and in its analysis of this process, Objectivist epistemology shows how this process is essentially mathematical in nature. Indeed, it can be argued that one is already performing conceptual processes before he ever uses human language; he adopts linguistic symbols in order to facilitate retention, organization and communication of concepts he’s already formed.
You proceed to state that “no one can warrant the use of Induction on a non-Christian basis.” And yet, the axioms, the primacy of existence and the objective theory of concepts constitute an explicitly non-Christian basis! In fact, they are philosophically incompatible with any form of theism. I would like to know how one could reason inductively or perform any mathematical procedure consistently while denying any of these fundamentals.
You cite James Anderson’s “Secular Responses to the Problem of Induction,” but if you examine his paper, you should note that even Anderson does not examine the Objectivist position when it comes to induction. None of the criticisms which he brings against the solutions which he does survey, applies to Objectivism. Indeed, for all I can tell, he was completely unaware of Objectivism’s approach to induction when he wrote his paper. So I would say Anderson is far too hasty when he concludes that “it is evident that there presently exists no satisfactory solution to the problem of induction from a secular perspective.”
As for math, I would argue that Christianity will provide philosophers of math with an absolute, untraversable dead-end. This is because Christianity denies the axioms, it explicitly assumes the primacy of consciousness (which is self-contradictory), and it has no theory of concepts at all. Incidentally, these are the very same reasons why Christianity can provide no solution to the problem of induction. If you ever read Bahnsen on the topic of induction (and this is evident in Anderson’s paper referenced above), you will nowhere find any questioning of Hume’s epistemology as it is used in developing his famous skeptical conclusion regarding induction. Why is that? I understand why: because Christianity has no theory of concepts, and in fact it does not approach induction as a *conceptual* procedure. Consequently, Christianity has no basis to challenge Hume’s approach to induction. Bahnsen himself proclaimed Hume as a leading authority on the matter. That’s pretty appalling.
At any rate, I’m sure my remarks here will raise questions for you. Please let me know if you’d like to discuss them.
But I must say that I am very curious how any Christian might respond to the points I raise here and where any following discussion might go. It appears, however, that Jackson does not share this curiosity. For if he did, I would think that he would be happy to pursue it, as I am.
Be that as it may, namely that Christians may not be interested in taking the discussion in the direction that an objective approach to the matter would take it, it will have to suffice to simply note that my points have not been answered.
But there may be another point that we should not overlook. Since there are strong parallels between presuppositionalism and attempts to rationalize the use of mind-distorting drugs (as I point out here), perhaps the title question should be revised to “Is meth Christian?”
by Dawson Bethrick