Re: At What Point Do Poythress' Concerns Matter

Since we can’t interface the two examples perfectly, so I don’t think applying equal time to both situations is appropriate.

I still think the time difference, and the relation of time to personal formation, makes it a relevant difference. Do you think that watching an hour of TV a day (for 5 days a week, 10 months a year, for twelve years, etc.), even though it takes far less effort than learning math, or even having a conversation with a friend about television, would have a small effect on someone’s belief system? (Edit: I had forgotten where this line of thought came from when I wrote this response; to add a bit, I’d ask: if one were to watch that much TV, and God was never mentioned, would God be thought of as more or less relevant to life than if one had instead watched Christian movies or something similar?)

Computers perform operations, and they have no spiritual capacity, no conscience, no sapience, etc.

Computers do not use concepts or words like people do (as in, “addition”); they are just circuit boards with electricity running through them, projecting light onto a screen so we can see what the effects of that electricity is. There is no understanding of function or of meaning, if you distinguish those things; there is no understanding it all. It’s just clockwork.

But I think one would be hard pressed to prove that a certain spiritual meaning is required for function.

What does required mean, though? And what does “spiritual” mean?

But the electrical impulses being sent and the processing that takes place is entirely unknown to me, and is irrelevant — my awareness of these frameworks do not modify my ability to press the @ key and have an @ show up on screen.

But your understanding of the meaning of the ink-mark @ on a piece of plastic set in a larger, rectangular piece of plastic, linked by a wire to a metal box, does affect your ability to do so.

In the same way, I can perform functions on numbers — very much in the way a computer does — without awareness of what principles might make operations possible, even though they are at work in me or enabling me.

As I mentioned above, I think its highly misleading to speak of computers as if they are aware of the use of anything. And you do need to know what the meaning of “+” or “2” is, to be able to do any functions with those concepts.

For the sake of interest, practically, what does a Faith based math education look like? What is the Biblical significance of 2+2=4?

I think Poythress’ article would give you a better answer than I ever could there.

While I was thinking about this issue over the weekend, I had another thought which I think will make my original point more clear.

Consider this: what would happen if, based on your position that the relevance of God to mathematics is so low that it is virtually insignificant in elementary through secondary school, you suggested to the local public school board that you incorporate Poythress’ insight that mathematics makes no sense except in a theistic universe. Do you think their answer would be: “Well, since God’s relevance is so slight to math, it won’t harm our children to teach them this. We could mention it only very rarely and it would therefore have no impact, and we could still make sure our children turned out as good secularist democrats.”? I doubt that very much. Not for one second would they allow God’s relevance to math to enter the classroom, and I suggest that’s because they would recognize it’s not insignificant to the education and formation of children and young adults. Even one lesson showing how math relates to God would be too much, I suspect.