Is There a Place at the Science-Religion Table for Mathematics? - Dr Doug Kindschi
Persistent themes in the science and religion dialogue are the questions of reality and the nature of knowledge (ontology and epistemology, if you prefer). Some scientists will argue that reality is limited to the material and knowledge is only achieved by empirical methods of science. And yet it is the goal of science to give explanation in terms of mathematics. What kind of knowledge is mathematics? It is not empirical. Mathematicians don’t go around measuring triangles to determine that the angles sum to 180 degrees. Does mathematics describe reality? Is it in fact a better description of what is truly real than what our senses can tell us?
Historically mathematics was considered the epitome of true knowledge and made claims of certainty for its conclusions. While this claim is not currently accepted in the simple way in which it was believed for two thousand years, recent developments in the philosophy of mathematics give insight into the kind of knowledge that is represented by mathematics. These insights also give us new models and metaphors for understanding theological language. Yes, mathematics is not only important for science but can as well be instructive in our discussions of religion.
DOUGLAS KINDSCHI, Ph.D., is University Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy and Director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. He is also the director of the Grand Dialogue in Science and Religion for the Greater Grand Rapids Area, a Templeton-funded community local society which sponsors study groups and an annual conference. For over twenty years he served as the Dean of Science during the rapidly growth period of this relatively new state university and was responsible for the development of over twenty new degree programs including a number in the health professions as well as the School of Engineering. Dr Kindschi has presented on science and religion as well as on interfaith themes throughout the United States as well as in Europe. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme in the Divinity Faculty at Cambridge University.