Thursday, May 14, 2020

Does math point to God?

Today there was a brainiac debate between Graham Oppy and William Lane Craig:

I may or may not comment on other parts of the debate in a future post, but of now I'd like to zero in on a dilemma posed by Oppy:

Could God have freely chosen to make a physical world in which it was not the case that mathematical theories apply to the physical world because the structure of the physical world is an instantiation of mathematical structures described by those mathematical theories? There are two options: if not, then it seems that what you're going to end up saying is that it's necessary, that if there's a physical world, mathematical theories apply–which means you just end up with what the naturalist says. That will be the explanation. On the other hand, if it's as though it's just a brute contingency that mathematical theories apply to the physical world…because it's brutally contingent that God chose to make this world rather that other worlds that he could have made instead. When you get to free choice and you think why this rather than that, there's no explanation to be given why you ended up with one rather than the other. So it looks as though either you're going to accept the necessity or you're going to end up with ultimately it's a brute contingency. 

The answer depends on how we answer either either one of two prior questions:

i) Are mathematical structures grounded in the structure/substructure of God's mind? Does the existence of mathematical structures depend on God's existence?

ii) Is there a naturalistic mechanism to explain how the physical structure of the universe is an instantiation of mathematical structures?


  1. There's also the question of whether things like math/logic "exist" apart from a mind.

    In other words dogs and trees and bacteria don't reflect on math or logic, so to that extent they "don't exist" for dogs or trees or bacteria.

    People, human minds, perceive these things, but what if it's like seeing "a dog" or "a tree", or I guess "a bacteria" when we look at an odd cloud formation?

    Are people (human minds) projecting the existence of things that are only "there" because human minds exist to project the perception that they're "there"?

    I'm not suggesting this because I believe steve's point i.) above is correct, but I could see people positing this sort of possible explanation as an optional iii.).