In a new book called The Great Rift: Literacy, Numeracy, and the Religion-Science Divide, Michael E. Hobart offers a new twist on a huge old metanarrative: the death of God. Something or other happened in Renaissance Europe, the story goes, and it eventually distanced scientists from religion. Hobart locates this great shift in the field of mathematics. Other historians have given credit to experimenters who pioneered the scientific method, or astronomers like Galileo or Kepler, but Hobart claims that Renaissance mathematics is distinct from its medieval predecessor because it reconceived numeracy as a tool for describing the quantities of things into an abstract system for describing relations between them. Scholars began thinking “with empty and abstract information symbols,” which catalyzed a revolution from “thing-mathematics” to “relation-mathematics.” Because this form of knowledge went beyond ordinary language, which previously was the primary means of conveying information, people slowly began to conceive of a world contingent on “natural” laws rather than the word of God.
The Great Rift contains a huge wealth of historical anecdote and Hobart marshals it confidently, but tends to wobble when he makes grand claims. You can tell it’s happening because the passive voice bobs up like a bad apple. More.
Well, first, the birth of modern science coincided with an age of great religious ferment in which the concept of evangelical Christianity took root. It is hard to imagine anyone making a serious case that that was the effect of a dying culture. But someone will, or probably has, made such a case. The intellect is a free country, after all.
More to the point, as agnostic mathematician David Berlinski points out, there is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. That is in the nature of immaterial concepts.
In fact, naturalizing mathematics has become a philosophical goal for some, consistent with the idea that our consciousness is itself an illusion so that we merely evolved to think that mathematics offers a coherent picture of the universe (because our selfish genes spread more efficiently if we believe that).
See also: From Real Clear Religion: Mathematics as a challenge for naturalism
David Berlinski: There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics.