Feb 12, 2023

Can mathematics be spiritual? Ask Einstein

Posted by in category: mathematics

Mathematical pursuits and religious pursuits are alike in many ways and evoke similar feelings and responses in their devotees. However, this observation is not a universal claim about the faith convictions of mathematical thinkers. Throughout mathematical history, we find plenty of adherents of various faith traditions — Ramanujan, Agnesi, Euler, al-Khwārizmī, or even the Pythagoreans come to mind. However, many mathematicians are atheist or agnostic. A 1998 survey of National Academy members shows that mathematicians in that organization are less religious than the general public (though they are slightly more religious than other scientists). Even so, those who pursue mathematical experiences and those who pursue religious experiences share a lot in common.

Such commonality is in part due to the explanatory power of both mathematics and religion. Mathematics offers insights about physical phenomena. Religion offers insights about human nature. So it is natural to seek them out for wisdom in their respective domains. Their truths are not always directly apparent, sometimes taking years of study. And their interpretations or applications sometimes need to be challenged.

Comments are closed.