Was Math
Invented or Discovered?
(Fundamental Thoughts For The New Year)

Dateline: 3 January 2016

Martin Armstrong sent me an e-mail yesterday morning with a link to the YouTube video above. It's about some guys who printed the number pi on a length of paper to the millionth digit, then rolled it out on an airport runway.   From my perspective, the video is interesting, but not real interesting.

I realized many years ago (like, around 5th grade) that I'm missing the math gene. Nevertheless, I am powerfully intrigued by math and, in particular, the question of whether mathematics was invented or discovered.

Take, for example, the basic equation of 1 + 1 = 2. Did some real smart human, or group of humans, invent this concept long ago, along with other numbers and the equations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division?  

And if some real smart humans did invent basic math, did they also at the same time invent all the related branches of mathematics, like algebra, geometry, calculus and trigonometry, which are built upon and integrate perfectly with the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division?

Or, on the other hand, have smart men discovered the basics of mathematics and, in time, the deeper revelations. A case in point being Pythagoras of Samos, the greek mathematician, who lived some 500 years B.C. He typically gets credit for discovering or proving (the existence or truth of) the Pythagorean TheoremI don't think anyone asserts that Pythagoras invented his theorem.

When you discover or prove the existence of something, that something had to preexist. It was there all the time. It's kind of like the discovery of umami. Or it's like the discovery of Pluto in 1930. Or it's like the discovery of DNA's double helix in 1953. Or it's like the discovery of the tiny Microhyla nepenthicola frog in Borneo in 2010. Etcetera.

So, if math is something that preexists (as appears to be the case), where did it come from? Can something as complex, and vast, and reliable as mathematics happen all by itself? And is it just coincidence that consistent principles of math can be found throughout the natural world, as evidenced in the Fibonacci sequence? Maybe all of this evolved over millions of years by random chance and natural selection, eh? But wait, can mathematics evolve?

Well, from my perspective as a Christian, the question of where math came from (along with everything else than man has discovered, and continues to discover in our universe) is sufficiently answered for me in Genesis 1:1.... "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth." 

I happily accept this because it makes perfect sense to me. It explains everything about origins and the world I live in. It relieves me of all angst and confusion about such matters. 

And I am thankful that this incredibly intelligent and all-powerful God of all creation told me this in The Book that He, through the mind and hands of a selection of his created beings, over a period of around 1,500 years, put together for my benefit (and that of all mankind). 

Right there, in the first sentence and chapter of the Bible, the matter of creation is answered. Then, from there on, God's Book reveals much more important things that I need to know. Like why I was created, what my purpose in life is, and how to have a proper relationship with God here in this earthly realm—as well as in the otherworldly realm(s) that lie beyond.

Many people scoff, of course, at those, like myself, who believe in such a book, with it's transcendent explanations and insights. How can you believe that old book? 

I can believe it because I see the evidence of this Creator God in the creation all around me. And if this Creator God, who is sovereign over all his creation (as the potter is over his clay) wanted to write a book to me, and preserve the essence of its message over the centuries... well that would be a relatively simple thing for such a God to do, wouldn't you say?

By the way, as I understand it the Bible is the only book in the world that claims to be the Word of God. That right there is a whole lot more interesting and exciting to me than the number pi printed out to the millionth decimal point.

The amazing thing to me is that so many other people do not accept this fundamental explanation of the origin of all things. This dichotomy of understanding is due to the dynamics of human presuppositions.

I learned about fundamental presuppositions several years ago when I read Gary Demar's book, Thinking Straight in a Crooked World. What Gary wrote really resonated with me.

Presuppositions are bedrock beliefs upon which an individual worldview is built. Every person develops these fundamental presuppositions in childhood and holds tight to them throughout their life. Any information contrary to the presuppositional beliefs is immediately rejected by that person as false.

Now, here's the interesting thing about every person's fundamental presuppositional beliefs... they are assumed to be true without absolute proof

The most fundamental of fundamental presuppositions a person can have is the matter of the existence of God, or not. Those who presuppose there is no God, presuppose this by faith. They can not empirically prove there is no God, so they must believe there is no God by faith. Make no mistake about it, atheism is a faith-based belief system.

When your fundamental presupposition is atheism, you try to make sense of the world and the purpose of your life based on your atheistic faith. You accept or reject data about the world (including the created order) based on whether or not it fits your presupposition.

Someone who has embraced the fundamental presupposition that there is no Creator God can not and will not consider the possibility that math is the transcendent creation of such an all-powerful Creator. Instead, such people will come up with all manner of other imaginative possibilities or theories 

While researching this topic, I came across This E-Mail Exchange between a high school girl (Angela) and a scientist (Dr. Math). Angela asked Dr. Math if math was created or discovered. It is abundantly clear from the exchange that Dr. Math has an atheistic presupposition. He presents all kinds of  ideas and information that help to support his worldview. But, in the end, the girl doesn't buy it...

"Upon doing more research, I discovered that I must stand on the so-called "absolutist" side of the argument. I think that mathematics is universal and certain. Mathematics is discovered by the intuition of the mathematician, and then established in a proof."

Angela's fundamental presuppositions helped her arrive at her conclusion. She has a Creator-God presupposition, whether she realizes it or not. Absolutism is founded on unchanging truth. And the only absolute source of truth is transcendent truth, which is from God.

Can fundamental presuppositions change? Yes. But they don't change easily. I think it is always something of a small miracle when a firmly-held presupposition against the existence of God changes.

I think it behoves every person to consider and understand his or her most fundamental presuppositions. And if we do believe in the existence of an omnipotent, absolutist, Creator God, as explained in the first chapter of the Bible, I think it behoves us to read what else God has in The Book.

One of the things we'll find is God's opinion of people with fundamental atheistic presuppositions (like Dr. Math)... "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." (Psalm 14)


The following video is a lot of fun to watch. It gets really good after the 3-minute mark. I had to laugh when the guy said math appears to be a lot less like science and more like... "the opposite of science."


Elizabeth L. Johnson said...

Who invented math? "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Also, "Without Him was nothing made, that was made." And, "Everything in the heavens and earth is yours O, Lord." Yep. Unanimous!

RonC said...

Coincidentally enough, this was a recent TED talk:


Do you think they will figure it out before the final curtain? ;oP


I have been turning something over and over in the rock tumbler for a while now. Have you ever wondered how the circle got divided into 360 degrees? Is it a coincidence that ALL ancient calendars were based on a 360 day year? Were the ancients so stupid that they couldn't figure out how long a year was? Would a calendar that was off by a month every 6 years have been acceptable? Don't you think they would have found a more accurate calendar very quickly?

Now, if the earth started out with a 360 day calendar, when and how did that all change?

Hint: go here:


notice what happens around the 2:14 to 2:20 mark in the video.... Beautiful example of the conservation of angular momentum...

Suppose the world started out being a little more hollow and a slightly bigger diameter with a water vapor canopy around it and all of a sudden, the water vapor canopy collapsed and maybe the landmass was broken up and water gushed forth and rained down and flooded the world. The land slid around under the water and when everything settled, you have our present earth...Spinning a little faster than it did previously of course! I think the 360 degree circle is a mathematical fossil from pre-flood times.

You can explain a lot of weird things (like Objects Out of Place found in coal seams) from this perspective. I'm still thinking about all the ramifications myself, but I've come to the conclusion that the Bible is indeed God's word and it is an accurate description of those early days and that the Earth is not more than about 5,950 years old....certainly less than 6,000 years old.

Now, it is late and I must go to sleep so I can get up and be a wage slave tomorrow...



Herrick Kimball said...

I checked out your links. Lots to think about. Thanks.