Worlds of David Darling
Encyclopedia of Science
   
Home > Encyclopedia of Science

God





I'm still an atheist, thank God.
                                             – Luis Bunuel (Spanish film director)


Mathematicians, logicians, and scientists have long debated the nature, existence, and dice-playing ability of a Higher Power. The pre-Renaissance French philosopher Jean Buridan used a version of the Liar paradox to "prove" the existence of God. He wrote these two sentences:

   God exists.
   None of the sentences in this pair is true.


The only consistent way to have these two sentences be either true or false is for "God exists" to be true! (However, there is nothing to say that such consistency is necessary.) Blaise Pascal gave a more persuasive argument, not for the existence of God but for why we should believe in that existence: "If I believe in God and life after death and you do not, and if there is no God, we both lose when we die. However, if there is a God, you still lose and I gain everything." Pierre Laplace, on the other hand, replying to Napoleon Bonaparte, who had asked why his celestial mechanics made no mention of God, said: "Sir, I have no need of this hypothesis."

The German mathematician Leopold Kronecker thought that "God made the Integers, all the rest is the work of man." In The City of God, however, Saint Augustine seem to imply that the integers were independent of God. He wrote: "Six is a number perfect in itself, and not because God created the world in six days; rather the contrary is true. God created the world in six days because this number is perfect, and it would remain perfect, even if the work of the six days did not exist." Augustine's statement can be taken to suggest that six would be a perfect number not only if the universe didn't exist, but even if God didn't exist. As to God's mathematical specialty, Plato said "God ever geometrizes" while Charles Jacobi insisted that "God ever arithmetizes. James Jeans thought "The Great Architect of the Universe now begins to appear as a pure mathematician," and Einstein ("God does not play dice") was sure He wasn't a probabilist.


Related category

   • PHILOSOPHY