Friday, May 18, 2007

Numbers: Source of Secularism or Faith?

Two (2) books which deal with numbers.

Did you know that until the Reformation era, there was no way to even "spell out" that simple sentence above?

The two books:

1)"NUMBER: The Language of Science" by Tobias Dantzig .

"Beyond doubt the most interesting book on the evolution of mathematics which has ever fallen into my hands," no one less that Albert Einstein himself (!) said of this masterpiece...which ironically has not recived even one customer review on! (I may have to buy the book and quit reading it at the store; so I can review it!)

Dantzig traces the emergence of the concept of number (a fascinating parallel journey to the emergence of the Western alphabet, told in a book I do own(: and blogged about here); and offers central focus on the role of religion; specifically Christianity in birthing the concept.

The second book is not wholly devoted to numbers, but offers a whole chapter on the topic (the only chapter in which the pagination is in Roman numerals. It is:

2)"Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk"

...a "biography" of risk! The author, Peter Bernstein, in the chapter at hand, reminds that

"It is hard for us to imagine a world without numbers..yet few people from the year1500 would (recognize such a world)" It wasn't until...well, Gutenberg, Reformatiuon, Printing press that the world became officially enumerated (Until then alphabetical letters served dpible duty asnumbers; and of course Roman Numerals were standard). "The invention of printing with movable type...was the catalyst that finally overcame opposition to the full use of numbers."

Numbers, he makes the case, became one of the key secularizing forces, of the "Protestant" Refirmatiuon era, which finally freed us from " trust in the gods'; to embrace risk..

Bernstein appropriately spends some time on the foundational role of Pascal, a deep christian, and father of postmodern risk. ("Uncertainty can be a guiding light," the Zooropan suggested..but this is the same character who counts from three to catorce)

"Without numebers, there are no odds and no probablities; without odds and probabilities,the only way to deal with risk is to appeal to the gods and the fates, ..without numbers, risk is wholly a matter of gut"(pxxxiii)

--- that we are into the New Reformation, fueled by the New Printing Press (the internet) are we morphing the image and role of numbers into a postmodern and healthy bias towards Kingdom mindset?? Where's McLuhan when you need him?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!