# Numbers point to something beyond themselves … but what?

So says agnostic mathematician David Berlinski in a new book, notes David Klinghoffer in “The Glory Beyond: David Berlinski’s Elementary Mathematics” (Evolution News & Views, July 30, 2011):

His new book, One, Two, Three: Absolutely Elementary Mathematics, is a beautiful, brief, and very funny introduction to the history and philosophy behind basic math. It returns again and again to the allusiveness of numbers and the operations we perform on them. They allude, they point to, they gesture to something beyond themselves. Just what that might be, of course — of course, if you know anything about David Berlinski — Berlinski won’t say.

There’s an Internet site where you can learn odd, interesting facts about numbers- which won’t tell you what the numbers point to either, only that they are less boring than you supposed, and could well point to something. More on Berlinski’s book:

Absolutely Elementary Mathematics, or AEM as he abbreviates it, begins with and in a sense is encompassed by the act of counting by one. How can we justify even so seemingly simple an act as adding two numbers together and relying on the result? Addition as well as subtraction, multiplication and division, numbers in their varieties and modes of representation, theorems and proofs, exponents and logarithms, structures and sets, the inventors and theoreticians of AEM themselves, from ancient, anonymous Sumerian merchants to the Persian al-Khwarizmi (c. 780-850) who introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals to the West, to the vaulting geniuses of the nineteenth century and a bit beyond: It’s all covered with remarkable grace and wit, a richness of authorial personality and soul that breathes through everywhere. And Berlinski does it in fewer than just two hundred pages.

## 6 Replies to “Numbers point to something beyond themselves … but what?”

1. 1
Ilion says:

All four basic math functions are just counting:
2) subtraction is counting ‘down‘;
3) multiplication is the counting of additions;
4) division is the counting of subtractions.

And even mere counting is far too “mental” an activity for any computer program to ever do. A computer program can be written to simulate, but never emulate, counting. And this simulation of counting is *all* a computer program can ever do — and it is on that bent reed that many materialists imagine they can create minds out of matter … and preserve their own minds against the oblivion that must fullow death if materialism is the truth about the nature of reality.

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Charlie says:

And so ends my short-lived moratorium on book-buying.

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bornagain77 says:

I liked this beautiful video you posted the other day:

Nature by Numbers – Cristobal Vila – video
http://vimeo.com/14018303

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GilDodgen says:

Mathematics (au fond as David Berlinski would say in French) is just counting. Extrapolations from counting produce addition, multiplication (repetitive addition), exponentiation (repetitive multiplication) and their inverses.

From the ability to count comes all of mathematics, and eventually computer science and information theory. This is extraordinary. The ability to count has provided humanity with profound insights into the nature of physical reality, and much more importantly, in my view, profound insights into the mind of the Creator.

It is interesting to note that most of the great scientists of the past considered science and mathematics to be window into the mind of the Creator. I share this vision.

As a footnote I owe an abject and sincere apology to Allen MacNeill for my comment here. This was uncalled for, and an extremely poor witness. For this inexcusable transgression I ask Allen for his forgiveness.

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GilDodgen says:

P.S: For those who are interested in massive number-crunching computational technology check out my AI program: