[FoRK] Re: Anything to be learned from religion?

J. Andrew Rogers andrew
Thu Aug 11 21:31:15 PDT 2005

On 8/11/05 7:04 PM, "Albert Scherbinsky" <albert at softwarepress.com> wrote:
> To the extent that "truth" exists at all, there are
> different kinds of "truth". Math is "true" by
> definition. It is an invention of the human mind.

Eh?  Math is not true by definition, it is 'true' by convention.  It is
based on an arbitrary set of axioms, and what constitutes that set is not
even constant (the Axiom of Choice being the textbook example of this).  We
treat math as a pseudo-truth -- and it is astonishingly effective with the
axioms we do typically assume -- but if you look too closely it may fray at
the edges.  There is not one math, there are as many maths as there are sets
of axioms.

While asserting axioms is bad science, it has one extremely valuable
property if axioms are chosen carefully:  It allows us to make consistent
predictions about things we lack the ability to measure empirically.  If the
set of axioms used in a math are good, it will allow remarkably detailed
predictions of things we've never seen and can barely imagine via a
mechanical process from those axioms.  That is so valuable when it works out
that it is worth overlooking the fact that there is no intrinsic truth to
the assumptions used, and we mitigate the potential danger by using as few
axioms as possible.


J. Andrew Rogers

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