I think my calculus students would probably not think so. But as John Allen Paulos reports, not everyone agrees:
Consider first a Baptist school in Texas whose description of a geometry course begins:
Students will examine the nature of God as they progress in their understanding of mathematics. Students will understand the absolute consistency of mathematical principles and know that God was the inventor of that consistency. They will see God’s nature revealed in the order and precision they review foundational concepts while being able to demonstrate geometric thinking and spatial reasoning. The study of the basics of geometry through making and testing conjectures regarding mathematical and real-world patterns will allow the students to understand the absolute consistency of God as seen in the geometric principles he created.
I wonder if the school teaches that non-Euclidean geometry is the work of the devil or at least of non-Christians.
As Paulos goes on to point out, some really sharp people have thought that the effectiveness of mathematics in describing nature is evidence of, well, something or other:
Of course, there are more sophisticated ideas that are vaguely similar, and there have been first-rate scientists who have taken mathematics to be some sort of divine manifestation. One of the most well-known such arguments is due to physicist Eugene Wigner. In his famous 1960 paper, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,” he maintained that ability of mathematics to describe and predict the physical world is no accident, but rather is evidence of a deep and mysterious harmony.
Paulos goes on to explain how evolutionary biology can shed some light on the nature of mathematics. Worth a look.
Like Paulos, I am baffled by those who are baffled by the effectiveness of mathematics in describing nature. Our ability to describe the world with mathematics does not strike me as any more mysterious than our ability to describe the world using ordinary language. Mathematics is just the sort of language best suited for describing patterns and regularities.
I have even heard it suggested that the mere fact that nature is consistent and predictable is itself evidence of God’s existence. This strikes me as totally incomprehensible. A world in which supernatural entities can interfere in the workings of nature is also the sort of world in which we do not expect mathematical regularities. It is in a world devoid of such interference that regularities simply have to reign.
But this is all too philosophical for me. My occasional forays into the philosophy of math literature have left me even more frustrated than my forays into the philosophy of science literature. Most of the time I can’ t even figure out what the question is. Perhaps John Wilkins would like to wiegh in…