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Mathematical Association of America gone Woke: Math is created by humans

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This is part of an anti-racism initiative:

It is time for all members of our profession to acknowledge that mathematics is created by humans and therefore inherently carries human biases. Until this occurs, our community and our students cannot reach full potential. Reaching this potential in mathematics relies upon the academy and higher education engaging in critical, challenging, sometimes uncomfortable conversations about the detrimental effects of race and racism on our community. The time is now to move mathematics and education forward in pursuit of justice.

MAA Committee on Minority Participation in Mathematics, “ANTI-SCIENCE POLICY AND THE CENSURE OF DISCOURSE ON RACE AND RACISM” at Mathematical Association of America (October 2, 2020)

Math is not, of course, created by humans but only recognized by humans—a critical distinction. Bias may be added by humans but it is not part of the math that underlies the universe.

2 + 2 = 4, even if the Woke burn down research labs under the banner of “2 + 2 = 5!” The biggest losers will, of course, be those with the fewest private resources when public ones are destroyed.

See also: The progressive war on science takes dead aim at math

28 Replies to “Mathematical Association of America gone Woke: Math is created by humans

  1. 1
    Eugene says:

    This is a report from a “Committee on Minority Participation in Mathematics”. What findings would one expect for such a “committee” to come up with? What sort of political leaning would one expect for the people who join such committees to begin with?

  2. 2
    BobRyan says:

    Mathematics is no more created by humans than the laws that govern the universe.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    BR, I would focus that on a core of math pivoting on entities that are necessary framework for any possible world. See my paper https://journals.blythinstitute.org/ojs/index.php/cbi/article/view/62/59 KF

  4. 4

    Our physical experience is demonstrably rooted in and governed by abstract mathematical values and formulas. Conscious participation has been demonstrated to be fundamental, integral, causal influence in what we observe as the physical world. It is also clear that, at it’s deepest level, what we call “the physical world” is information, and that our consciousness is acting on this information in a manner governed by mathematics. This is clear evidence that the physical is 100% a mental experience within mind.

    The irony is, that is all “the physical world” ever could be to us. We’ve known all experience lies entirely within mind, and so must conform to rules of mind, at least since the days of Plato. The idea that an actual “physical world” exists “out there” can only ever be a hypothesis with no direct evidence whatsoever.

  5. 5
    Viola Lee says:

    Someone please tell me who is arguing that 2 + 2 does not equal 4!

    I understand some about the drive to broaden the scope of the teaching of the history and applications of mathematical understanding, and I understand that some have tied the teaching of math and science to cultural issues concerning race and gender, but I just don’t see anyone seriously claiming that pure math, represented by 2 + 2 = 4, is anything other than what it is.

    Therefore, I think a sentence like

    “2 + 2 = 4, even if the Woke burn down research labs under the banner of “2 + 2 = 5!” is, well, incendiary and misleading.

    To News: who is claiming that 2 + 2 does not equal 4?

  6. 6

    Viola Lee,
    The 2+2=5 thing started off as a sarcastic hoax. The Left ran with it and turned it into a serious thing. Here’s a link to better understand it. https://hotair.com/archives/john-s-2/2020/08/05/224-woke-academics-say-not-necessarily/

  7. 7
    Viola Lee says:

    Thanks William. I know about this one episode, and know about the few examples about rounding, etc. which were mentioned, (which were all about applied math, not pure math). However, I know of no further mention of this. It seems to me that it is not the “left” or the “Woke” than ran with it, but rather the “anti-Woke” who continue to perpetuate it as a meme even though it is really only the one episode starting with Lindsey’s satirical post that ever happened.

    Do you know of any further arguments by anyone that 2 + 2 does not equal 4?

  8. 8
    Latemarch says:

    WJM@4

    The irony is, that is all “the physical world” ever could be to us. We’ve known all experience lies entirely within mind, and so must conform to rules of mind, at least since the days of Plato. The idea that an actual “physical world” exists “out there” can only ever be a hypothesis with no direct evidence whatsoever.

    Until you stub your toe……

  9. 9
    Viola Lee says:

    I read the whole article from which the quote in the opening post is taken. There is absolutely nothing there that has anything to do with what 2 + 2 is equal to.

    When it concludes with “It is time for all members of our profession to acknowledge that mathematics is created by humans and therefore inherently carries human biases”, it is not referring to the philosophical issue of the nature of math, but rather to the ways in which the access to learning about and using math reflects some sociological and political biases.

    Irrespective of how one feels about that issue, the article is NOT about the things News posted as a comment under the quote. That’s how it looks to me. Why people persist in furthering this meme about 2 + 2 not being equal to 4 is a mystery to me: I don’t see what point it serves when it is irrelevant to any genuine discussion going on in the world.

  10. 10

    Viola Lee,
    You don’t have to have a dog in this fight to understand the rhetorical value of implying that your political opponents deny mathematical facts because “racism” or “colonial oppression.”

    Also, I don’t understand what the modifier “genuine” means. Is this not a genuine conversation? Is it not about 2 + 2 = 4?

  11. 11

    Latemarch,
    Are you one of those guys that believe that your toe feels that pain? Guess where all pain is felt?

  12. 12
    Viola Lee says:

    William, I don’t see that the article is denying mathematical facts. That’s the point I am trying to emphasize.

    Without making a judgment on the merits of their position, it seems to me the authors are concerned about social aspects of how math is taught, who has access to using it in the world, and other issues. That is a complicated and controversial subject, no doubt. But it does not call into question the truth of the results of pure math, exemplified by 2 + 2 = 4. I think this is an important and clear distinction.

  13. 13

    Viola Lee,

    Important to whom? Important why?

  14. 14
    Latemarch says:

    WJM@11

    Are you one of those guys that believe that your toe feels that pain? Guess where all pain is felt?

    Place your finger on a hot stove and you jerk away before you ever feel the pain. Neural loop thru the spinal cord mediates that reaction. It limits the damage caused (true statement). If there was no actual damage to a physical presence why would the loop exist?

  15. 15
    Viola Lee says:

    Hi William. I don’t understand the significance of your question. The distinction I’m making is important to me because I’m interested in the ways in which the 2 + 2 = 5 meme has propagated without, there seems to me, very much justification at all. The article in question is an example, where News made a comment that the article supported the 2 + 2 = 5 meme when to me it seems that the article does not relate to that meme at all.

    Others may not care about this issue, and therefore nothing I say may be important to them. It may not be important to you, and that is fine.

  16. 16
    ET says:

    Hi Viola Lee. Too funny. The point of the “2+2=5” meme in the OP is because it appears the cancel culture will oppose anything for the sake of tearing down what exists. And yes, even if it means attacking basic mathematics.

    The MAA committee wants to cancel the fact that humans discovered mathematics. We did not create it. Next up, new math where 2+2=5- because of taxes.

  17. 17
    Viola Lee says:

    Thanks, ET. Do you know of anyone who has taken this “next up ” step of claiming that 2 + 2 = 5? That is what I think is not really happening, so any examples you could provide would be appreciated. If someone is really claiming this, I would like to see their reasoning.

  18. 18
    OldArmy94 says:

    Viola Lee,

    This article provides some evidence to support the assertion that Wokeness is a threat to objective math:

    https://www.westernjournal.com/wokeness-comes-mathematics-academics-saying-225/

  19. 19
    Viola Lee says:

    Thanks, Old Army. That’s the same story that William referred to, with some people on a Twitter thread mentioning some examples about applying math, many of which seemed frivilous to me. Is this one thread in response to Lindsay’s sarcastic post the only example that is out there, I wonder.

    Also, as I said above, there is a difference between the fact that 2 + 2 = 4 and the concerns some people have about the ways in which the access to learning about and using math reflects some difficult sociological and political issues. So I don’t think that story actually establishes any serious argument that 2 + 2 does not equal 4. Lindsay got that ball rolling as a self-proclaimed sarcastic statement, but I don’t think, as far as I can tell, that it actually applies to anyone. Again, I’d be interested in seeing substantial examples, but I don’t think the Lindsay story is one.

  20. 20
    polistra says:

    Math-language and letter-language are somewhat different forms of SYMBOLS. They are not part of the universe. Humans invented both types of SYMBOLS as ways of understanding the universe. Neither existed until we invented them.

    There’s a second-level counterargument: Our math abilities and language abilities are inherent parts of our brains. Speaking and reading and writing and counting are hard-wired modules, not initiated by experience or by synaptic growth. So our need to make and use symbols IS part of nature. But the symbols themselves aren’t.

  21. 21
    ET says:

    Viola Lee- Look up the word “facetious”. Then apply that knowledge to the context of the OP.

  22. 22
    bornagain77 says:

    So their thesis is that math was invented,… supposedly, invented by bigoted white men and therefore math is inherently racist against non whites???

    A couple of small problems with their thesis. Number one, the first historical instances of math are in non white cultures,,

    History of mathematics
    Excerpt: The most ancient mathematical texts available are from Mesopotamia and Egypt – Plimpton 322 (Babylonian c. 1900 BC),[2] the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus (Egyptian c. 2000–1800 BC)[3] and the Moscow Mathematical Papyrus (Egyptian c. 1890 BC). All of these texts mention the so-called Pythagorean triples and so, by inference, the Pythagorean theorem, seems to be the most ancient and widespread mathematical development after basic arithmetic and geometry.
    The study of mathematics as a “demonstrative discipline” begins in the 6th century BC with the Pythagoreans, who coined the term “mathematics” from the ancient Greek ?????? (mathema), meaning “subject of instruction”.[4] Greek mathematics greatly refined the methods (especially through the introduction of deductive reasoning and mathematical rigor in proofs) and expanded the subject matter of mathematics.[5] Although they made virtually no contributions to theoretical mathematics, the ancient Romans used applied mathematics in surveying, structural engineering, mechanical engineering, bookkeeping, creation of lunar and solar calendars, and even arts and crafts. Chinese mathematics made early contributions, including a place value system and the first use of negative numbers.[6][7] The Hindu–Arabic numeral system and the rules for the use of its operations, in use throughout the world today evolved over the course of the first millennium AD in India and were transmitted to the Western world via Islamic mathematics through the work of Mu?ammad ibn M?s? al-Khw?rizm?.[8][9] Islamic mathematics, in turn, developed and expanded the mathematics known to these civilizations.[10] Contemporaneous with but independent of these traditions were the mathematics developed by the Maya civilization of Mexico and Central America, where the concept of zero was given a standard symbol in Maya numerals.
    Many Greek and Arabic texts on mathematics were translated into Latin from the 12th century onward, leading to further development of mathematics in Medieval Europe.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_mathematics

    Small problem number 2 with their thesis. If mathematics were merely an invention of man with no real objective existence apart from what men impart to it when they supposedly invent it, then math should have no applicability to the universe at large.

    Yet mathematics is applicable to the universe at large.

    Moreover, both Einstein and Wigner are on record as to regarding the applicability of mathematics to the universe at large to be a miracle. And Einstein even went so far as to castigate “professional atheists’ in the process of calling it a miracle.

    On the Rational Order of the World: a Letter to Maurice Solovine – Albert Einstein – March 30, 1952
    Excerpt: “You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori, one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way .. the kind of order created by Newton’s theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if a man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the ‘miracle’ which is constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.
    There lies the weakness of positivists and professional atheists who are elated because they feel that they have not only successfully rid the world of gods but “bared the miracles.”
    -Albert Einstein
    http://inters.org/Einstein-Letter-Solovine

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: ,,certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.,,,?It is difficult to avoid the impression that a miracle confronts us here, quite comparable in its striking nature to the miracle that the human mind can string a thousand arguments together without getting itself into contradictions, or to the two miracles of the existence of laws of nature and of the human mind’s capacity to divine them.,,,?The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc.....igner.html

    Supplemental notes:

    God and Mathematics – Dr Craig – short animated video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJBOiZXkKu8

    An Interview with David Berlinski – Jonathan Witt
    Berlinski: There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. Mathematicians are capable of grasping a world of objects that lies beyond space and time….
    Interviewer:… Come again(?) …
    Berlinski: No need to come again: I got to where I was going the first time. The number four, after all, did not come into existence at a particular time, and it is not going to go out of existence at another time. It is neither here nor there. Nonetheless we are in some sense able to grasp the number by a faculty of our minds. Mathematical intuition is utterly mysterious. So for that matter is the fact that mathematical objects such as a Lie Group or a differentiable manifold have the power to interact with elementary particles or accelerating forces. But these are precisely the claims that theologians have always made as well – that human beings are capable by an exercise of their devotional abilities to come to some understanding of the deity; and the deity, although beyond space and time, is capable of interacting with material objects.
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/20.....-here.html

    Also of additional note

    Interestingly, a essential belief in the rise of modern science was the Christian belief that mathematics, especially any mathematics that might describe this universe, was, and is, the product of the Mind of God.
    https://uncommondescent.com/neuroscience/michael-egnor-talks-with-podcaster-lucas-skrobot-about-how-we-can-know-we-are-not-zombies/#comment-706254

  23. 23
    Viola Lee says:

    ET, I didn’t and don’t read the opening post comment as facetious, but perhaps those that know him better would see it that way.

    Let me clearer: I agree with News when he said “Bias may be added by humans but it is not part of the math that underlies the universe.” I also know that the statement about “burning down the research labs” was hyperbolic. The main point I’m questioning, and asking for more information about, is the statement that there are people seriously claiming that (much less holding a banner for) the idea that 2 + 2 is not necessarily 5.

    If you are you saying that there aren’t really people who are seriously claiming that 2 + 2 isn’t necessarily 4?, then I agree with you.

  24. 24

    Latemarch@14 said:

    Place your finger on a hot stove and you jerk away before you ever feel the pain. Neural loop thru the spinal cord mediates that reaction. It limits the damage caused (true statement). If there was no actual damage to a physical presence why would the loop exist?

    Where do all of the experiences involved in and related to your comment occur?

  25. 25
    ET says:

    Viola Lee:

    ET, I didn’t and don’t read the opening post comment as facetious, but perhaps those that know him better would see it that way.

    That sounds like a personal issue.

  26. 26
    Viola Lee says:

    ET, I’ll assume that you think that News was not being serious, and that there are not people who are actually making arguments that 2 + 2 does not necessarily equal four.

    However, it appears that News does not participate in further discussion in posts he makes. I wonder if he would be willing to step in and clarify: does he also think that 2 + 2 = 4 deniers do not really exist?

  27. 27
    OldArmy94 says:

    Viola Lee,

    I cannot speak authoritatively on this, as I don’t know what lies in the hearts of those who seem to question even objective math. However, I can gather clues that lead me to believe that it is very possible that there are those who literally do not believe that 2 + 2 must equal 4.

    For example, when people deny the basic facts of human biology regarding sexuality and gender, which are obvious and have been obvious universally for millennia, until the very recent past, then I can see how other truths can be dismissed.

    Maybe it’s cynicism, but I have witnessed some amazing denials of reality in the last decade. That someone could come out tomorrow and say that 2+2 is not equal to 4 would not surprise me in the least.

  28. 28
    Viola Lee says:

    Thanks, OldArmy. I agree that there have been amazing denials of reality in the last decades: denying that the earth is round, or that we landed on the moon, or that the holocaust happened come to mind, and there are many more. The ability of people to believe unsupportable things seems pretty unlimited to me, unfortunately.

    However I think there is a qualitative difference between denying facts about the empirical world and facts about math, which is one of the reasons why I’m trying to find a real 2 + 2 = 4 denier so I can see what their reasoning is.

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