Mathematics as Culture Making

I recently came across a great article from Redeemer University College (Canada) summarizing the work of Dr. Keven Vander Meulen that I thought would be worth sharing here. Here is a link to the article:

“Mathematics as Culture Making”

A few apt quotes:

The large variety of applications for matrix algebra illustrate that mathematics has cultural power, that it can be a tool for stewardship and culture-making. Mathematicians unfold the potential of creation and can stand in awe of our Creator as they discover the order and patterns within our world. Far from being a disembodied subject in an academic vacuum, mathematics impacts our broader culture.

And also:

Christians can reflect on mathematics as a culture-making activity. As noted by Andy Crouch, culture-making includes not only what we create, but also how we shape our understanding of the world around us… Mathematics is not neutral, Vander Meulen highlighted. He also defined mathematics as the naming of numerical and spatial aspects of creation. And so the study of mathematics complements rather than detracts from faith.

For those interested in this topic, here is a link to more information on Andy Crouch’s work on culture-making.

Kevin has spoken on this topic at past conferences of the ACMS. I strongly encourage readers of this site to check out his work.


Math: Solving the Planets Problems?

“Math solves problems.”

“Math can make the planet smarter.”

“Math can do anything.”

I am of the opinion that the dominion over this world, which God granted to humanity, extends well beyond caring for the environment and cultivating the ground. While those are noble tasks, I believe the decree also extends to the cultivation of the mind. As stewards of this planet we have a responsibility to hone the reasoning ability that God created. The study of mathematics and how it can be applied to the problems facing this planet goes along way in fulfilling the divine command to respect and care for creation. Of course here I am speaking of real problems such as world hunger, or “curbing pandemics” as mentioned in the commercial, not simply how to make the iphone download faster. Math is amazing, God-given tool and if we are to make any claim as overseers of this planet from a Christian perspective, then, at least to me, this necessarily entails a proper study of mathematics.

On the other hand, while I believe a proper devotion to the mathematical sciences and arts is important, I find it inappropriate to place my hope in math alone. Pure mathematics can teach us a great deal about God and the plans He has set in place for His created order, but as humans we must recognize that our understanding can never be pure. Our understanding will always be tainted by sin. One day that stain will be completely removed, thanks to the grace of God demonstrated through His Son, Jesus Christ. That fact alone is worthy of our hope. But until that day arrives, we should dedicated ourselves, humbly, to the care and cultivation of this world.

One must know when it is right to doubt, to affirm, to submit. Anyone who does otherwise does not understand the force of reason. Some men run counter to these three principles, either affirming that everything can be proved, because they know nothing about proof, or doubting everything, because they do not know when to submit, or always submitting, because they do not know when judgment is called for. Skeptic, mathematician, Christian; doubt, affirmation, submission.

~Blaise Pascal