“…there are limits to how much of reality mathematical logic can grasp — some truths many have intuited but none have substantiated.” Janna Levin, Tow Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University
It seems that in the 20th and 21st centuries a new god has arisen in the minds of many very intelligent people. This new god even has a name: Mathematics. In the minds of many, if a concept cannot be proven mathematically is cannot be true but only conceived of as true. Personally I find this troubling.
The Wonder of Science
Now please understand, I love science and the “truths” that have been proven by math. Most of our physical wonders are the result of great science and great math: astrophysics, knowledge of the universe and maybe even creation can be proven by mathematics. Bridges and buildings and transportation and currency and a plethora of others would not even exist without mathematical truths. Yes, I love science.
But science and math are useless when it comes to love and kindness and charity. There is no formula for jealousy; cause and effect, yes, but not math.
Apart from love the most wondrous truth in the world cannot be proven but the truth of its existence is undeniable. That truth is Beauty. Few things move me more truthfully than Beauty and Wonder and Awe. I am bowled over by the awe I feel underneath a sky full of stars and planets and comets. Yes, their existence can be proven by math, but not the truthful feeling I get when I see them.
Of the stars Janna Levin, writes…
There are faint stars in the night sky that you can see, but only if you look to the side of where they shine. They burn too weakly or are too far away to be seen directly, even if you stare. But you can see them out of the corner of your eye because the cells on the periphery of your retina are more sensitive to light. Maybe truth is just like that. You can see it, but only out of the corner of your eye.
I like that thought: truth is often something you can only see “out of the corner of your eye.” I think an appropriate word for “the corner of your eye” is your “gut.” There are many things you know to be truthful, but you cannot “prove” them, yet they exist strongly in your gut.
I Dare You to Prove Love
Love is a universal truth that cannot be proven mathematically. Yet no one will deny its reality. For me, God exists. I cannot prove God’s existence mathematically, yet it is a truth I cannot dismiss. I have tried and failed to dismiss this most important of all truths. But I have concluded that God is Creator, Intervener and the Source of all that is good.
God remains a most important truth in my life. The notion of God explains the truths of life, the universe and everything.
Such is the truth of many Truths. Although their existence cannot be proven mathematically, they nevertheless exist.
What are your unprovable truths?
As you ponder this question I wonder if you don’t find many (or most even) of the critically important truths in your life cannot be proven by science and math. Yet these truths exist and are probably the strongest beliefs that drive you to be the person you desire to be.
Long live that which cannot be proven!
When Asked to “Prove it!”
Just Say, “I Can’t and I Don’t Need To!”
Photo courtesy of benjaminjk at istockphoto
2 thoughts on “Some Truths are Beyond Mathematics”
Thanks for yet another thought-provoking post.
While I agree with the troubling Zeitgeist, “if a concept cannot be proven mathematically it cannot be true…,” I think there is possibly another side of the coin we are reluctant to consider.
I have to wonder, what authority authenticates that ALL things, visible and otherwise, are not provable mathematically, let alone subject to the scientific method? Doesn’t it seem more than peculiar that the entire scientific community has bought into a paradigm where the foundational calculus is egocentricity? That is, why is it that where anything in the mind of science is incapable of proving must mean is cannot be proven?
I don’t buy it.
Love, kindness, charity, and jealousy – who says they are not provable? Just because the human mind is ill-equipped to decipher the mysteries of beauty, wonder, and awe, why do we assume they are indecipherable? Why can’t it instead be that man has simply yet to discover the applicable theorems?
Odds are we may never decode the impenetrable abstracts of the human heart. However, to conclude such intangibles are beyond the realm of computation, based on our present-day intelligence, seems more implausible and the alternative.
Obviously, I so agree with you Mark. Nicely written.