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Neil deGrasse Tyson on the biggest mystery of the universe …

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… that it is knowable and mathematically based.

That was said better by Eugene Wigner.

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. – “The Unreasonable Effectiveness “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,” in Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics, vol. 13, No. I (February 1960). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright © 1960 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

– Nobel Laureate physicist Eugene Wigner (1902–1995)

See also: At PBS: Puzzle of mathematics is more complex than we sometimes think Astrophysicist Mario Livio: There are actually two facets to the “unreasonable effectiveness,” one that I call active and another that I dub passive.”

In science, as in politics, people acknowledge facts that they can no longer plausibly deny, but then seek to undermine them and those who insist on them.

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6 Replies to “Neil deGrasse Tyson on the biggest mystery of the universe …

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    A comment I made on Dr. Torley’s ‘Is ID Dead?’ thread seems strangely appropriate to Tyson’s ‘biggest mystery’ video:

    Dr. Torley, although probability arguments are certainly very good mathematical arguments supporting the validity of the inference to Intelligent Design, I’ve been thinking recently that an even more convincing case can be made that Intelligent Design is not dead from looking at Jason Rosenhouse’s own field of expertise.
    Specifically, mathematics itself provides a more excellent evidence for Design than probability does, and ‘proves’ that not only is Intelligent Design not dead, but the Intelligent Designer, who I hold to be God, is alive and well.
    In laying the ‘mathematical’ case out, Alfred Wallace, co-discoverer of natural selection, stated:

    “Nothing in evolution can account for the soul of man. The difference between man and the other animals is unbridgeable. Mathematics is alone sufficient to prove in man the possession of a faculty unexistent in other creatures. Then you have music and the artistic faculty. No, the soul was a separate creation.”
    Alfred Russel Wallace – An interview by Harold Begbie printed on page four of The Daily Chronicle (London) issues of 3 November and 4 November 1910.

    And indeed, as Wallace contended, we find that the difference between man and the other animals is unbridgeable.

    Evolution of the Genus Homo – Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences – Ian Tattersall, Jeffery H. Schwartz, May 2009
    Excerpt: “Unusual though Homo sapiens may be morphologically, it is undoubtedly our remarkable cognitive qualities that most strikingly demarcate us from all other extant species. They are certainly what give us our strong subjective sense of being qualitatively different. And they are all ultimately traceable to our symbolic capacity. Human beings alone, it seems, mentally dissect the world into a multitude of discrete symbols, and combine and recombine those symbols in their minds to produce hypotheses of alternative possibilities. When exactly Homo sapiens acquired this unusual ability is the subject of debate.”

    Leading Evolutionary Scientists Admit We Have No Evolutionary Explanation of Human Language – December 19, 2014
    Excerpt: Understanding the evolution of language requires evidence regarding origins and processes that led to change. In the last 40 years, there has been an explosion of research on this problem as well as a sense that considerable progress has been made. We argue instead that the richness of ideas is accompanied by a poverty of evidence, with essentially no explanation of how and why our linguistic computations and representations evolved.,,,
    (Marc Hauser, Charles Yang, Robert Berwick, Ian Tattersall, Michael J. Ryan, Jeffrey Watumull, Noam Chomsky and Richard C. Lewontin, “The mystery of language evolution,” Frontiers in Psychology, Vol 5:401 (May 7, 2014).)
    It’s difficult to imagine much stronger words from a more prestigious collection of experts.

    And also as Wallace contended, we find that math is not so much of a learned ability of man as it is an inherent ability of humans that must be polished by education:

    Geometric Principles Appear Universal in Our Minds – May 2011
    Excerpt: Villagers belonging to an Amazonian group called the Mundurucú intuitively grasp abstract geometric principles despite having no formal math education,,, Mundurucú adults and 7- to 13-year-olds demonstrate as firm an understanding of the properties of points, lines and surfaces as adults and school-age children in the United States and France,,,

    But what is it, particularly, about mathematics that convinced Wallace that humans had a soul?
    I think Berlinski puts the ‘natural’ inference between mathematics and the soul, that Wallace intuitively saw, best in the following interview:

    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.

    Wallace and Berlinski are hardly alone in noticing this correspondence. There are many quotes from the Christian founders of modern science noting this correspondence.
    Sir Isaac Newton stated:

    “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; ,,,
    This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God pantokrator, or Universal Ruler;,,, The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect;,,,”
    Sir Isaac Newton – Quoted from what many consider the greatest science masterpiece of all time, his book “Principia”

    In fact, on discovering the mathematical laws of planetary motion, Johann Kepler declared these very ‘unscientific’ thoughts:

    ‘O God, I am thinking your thoughts after you!’

    “Geometry is unique and eternal, a reflection from the mind of God. That mankind shares in it is because man is an image of God.”
    – Johannes Kepler

    Galileo stated:

    Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.
    Galileo Galilei

    And these Christian founders of modern science were hardly uttering dark age superstitions when they made their remarks about the correspondence of mathematical laws of the universe, the human mind’s ability to discern them, and God. The mystery persists to this present day:

    Einstein expressed his wonder like at the correspondence this:

    How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality? Is human reason, then, without experience, merely by taking thought, able to fathom the properties of real things?
    — Albert Einstein

    Eugene Wigner, in a paper the ruffled quite a few atheistic feathers, termed the correspondence between the ability of the human mind to discern mathematics and our ability to accurately discribe the universe with mathematics, a ‘miracle’:

    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.

    William Lane Craig developed a philosophical proof for God from the unexpected applicability of mathematics to nature:

    Mathematics and Physics – A Happy Coincidence? – William Lane Craig – video

    1. If God did not exist the applicability of mathematics would be a happy coincidence.
    2. The applicability of mathematics is not a happy coincidence.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    William Lane Craig on the unexpected applicability of mathematics to nature – 11/13/13

    The usual retort from Atheists to this argument is that the applicability of mathematics ‘just is’ and that you don’t need to appeal to God to explain mathematics, i.e. atheists held/hold that mathematics was a self consistent system that needed no other explanation.
    But Kurt Godel, using the ‘logic of infinity’, destroyed the notion that mathematics can be its own self existent explanation:

    Excerpt: we cannot construct an ontology that makes God dispensable. Secularists can dismiss this as a mere exercise within predefined rules of the game of mathematical logic, but that is sour grapes, for it was the secular side that hoped to substitute logic for God in the first place. Gödel’s critique of the continuum hypothesis has the same implication as his incompleteness theorems: Mathematics never will create the sort of closed system that sorts reality into neat boxes.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem – video

    Taking God Out of the Equation – Biblical Worldview – by Ron Tagliapietra – January 1, 2012
    Excerpt: Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) proved that no logical systems (if they include the counting numbers) can have all three of the following properties.
    1. Validity … all conclusions are reached by valid reasoning.
    2. Consistency … no conclusions contradict any other conclusions.
    3. Completeness … all statements made in the system are either true or false.
    The details filled a book, but the basic concept was simple and elegant. He (Godel) summed it up this way: “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle—something you have to assume but cannot prove.” For this reason, his proof is also called the Incompleteness Theorem.
    Kurt Gödel had dropped a bomb on the foundations of mathematics. Math could not play the role of God as infinite and autonomous. It was shocking, though, that logic could prove that mathematics could not be its own ultimate foundation.
    Christians should not have been surprised. The first two conditions are true about math: it is valid and consistent. But only God fulfills the third condition. Only He is complete and therefore self-dependent (autonomous). God alone is “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28), “the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). God is the ultimate authority (Hebrews 6:13), and in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).

    Bruce Gordon puts the present ‘incomplete’ mathematical situation for atheists like this:

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy.
    This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,,
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.

    And although, planets, stars, and galaxies, following universal mathematical laws is certainly a very compelling evidence that the universe is indeed, as is held in Theism, governed by One omnipotent being, i.e. governed by God almighty,,,

    “Our monotheistic traditions reinforce the assumption that the universe is at root a unity, that is not governed by different legislation in different places.”
    John D. Barrow

    Quantum mechanics goes one step further and shows quite clearly that material particles are directly under the control of this ‘non-abstract’, and transcendent, world of mathematics:

    Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
    Excerpt: Now, for many billions of years the photon is in transit in region 3. Yet we can choose (many billions of years later) which experimental set up to employ – the single wide-focus, or the two narrowly focused instruments. We have chosen whether to know which side of the galaxy the photon passed by (by choosing whether to use the two-telescope set up or not, which are the instruments that would give us the information about which side of the galaxy the photon passed). We have delayed this choice until a time long after the particles “have passed by one side of the galaxy, or the other side of the galaxy, or both sides of the galaxy,” so to speak. Yet, it seems paradoxically that our later choice of whether to obtain this information determines which side of the galaxy the light passed, so to speak, billions of years ago. So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.

    Moreover, this transcendent, ‘non-abstract’, mathematical quantum world is now found in our material bodies on a massive scale:

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA – short video

    Classical and Quantum Information Channels in Protein Chain – Dj. Koruga, A. Tomi?, Z. Ratkaj, L. Matija – 2006
    Abstract: Investigation of the properties of peptide plane in protein chain from both classical and quantum approach is presented. We calculated interatomic force constants for peptide plane and hydrogen bonds between peptide planes in protein chain. On the basis of force constants, displacements of each atom in peptide plane, and time of action we found that the value of the peptide plane action is close to the Planck constant. This indicates that peptide plane from the energy viewpoint possesses synergetic classical/quantum properties. Consideration of peptide planes in protein chain from information viewpoint also shows that protein chain possesses classical and quantum properties. So, it appears that protein chain behaves as a triple dual system: (1) structural – amino acids and peptide planes, (2) energy – classical and quantum state, and (3) information – classical and quantum coding. Based on experimental facts of protein chain, we proposed from the structure-energy-information viewpoint its synergetic code system.

    Thus Alfred Wallace’s contention that Mathematics is proof that “the soul was a separate creation” has far more validity to it than he realized at the time he said it:

    Does Quantum Biology Support A Quantum Soul? – Stuart Hameroff – video (notes in description)

    Quantum Entangled Consciousness – Life After Death – Stuart Hameroff – video

    Verse and Music:

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    of note: ‘the Word’ in John1:1 is translated from ‘Logos’ in Greek. ‘Logos’ is the root word from which we derive our modern word ‘logic’

    Casting Crowns – The Word Is Alive – Live

  3. 3
    Robert Byers says:

    Neil being famous for sciency stuff is a bigger mystery. I have suspicions though.
    same as this wigner.
    Its not mysterious to see a mathy universe if the bible was believed and a god was involved.
    in other words a intelligent being would make the universe in a splendid order as opposed to a chaos. order preserves itself for life.
    Math is a trivial special case of this order.
    the universe is not mathy however. its just well laid out and measured.
    The bible says this.
    God doesn’t do the math mankind does. Obviously.

  4. 4
    nkendall says:

    “Biggest mystery” How about: Does consciousness collapse the wavefunction?

  5. 5
    daveS says:

    Robert Byers,

    Neil being famous for sciency stuff is a bigger mystery. I have suspicions though.
    same as this wigner.

    Both were/are scientists as well as gifted communicators. I’m not sure why their fame is so mysterious?

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Comparing Tyson to Wigner is stolen valor. Wigner is/was a scientist of the first rank who ideas are, to this day, continuing to push science forward.

    Whereas, IMHO, Tyson did more harm to science education in America than whatever good he could have ever possibly contributed with his COSMOS debacle from last year in which he constantly lied about the history of science and pushed pseudo-scientific multiverse tripe.

    Cosmos Scrubs Religion’s Positive Influence from the History of the Scientific Revolution – Casey Luskin – March 25, 2014

    Cosmos Is Slammed for its “Inaccurate” and “Revisionist” History of Giordano Bruno – Casey Luskin – March 2014

    How Cosmos Does Religious History Badly – Jay Richards – April 30, 2014

    Darwin-Defending Historians Debate Whether It’s Justified for Cosmos “to Lie” for the Sake of Science
    Casey Luskin May 21, 2014

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