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January 13, 2012

How did math become so interesting?

I’ve always found inspiration in ag­nostic scientist Robert Jastrow’s statement about the limits of science: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak;  as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Sometimes, though, it’s a mathemati­cian sitting there, one such as James D. Stein (Ph.D. Cal-Berkeley) whose new book, Cosmic Numbers, posits that there are 13 numbers essential to life on earth — and that these numbers show that the entire universe must exist exactly as it does in order for us to exist. To atheists such as the recently departed Christopher Hitchens, this is merely a fantastic coincidence. To believers it is something else altogether —  evidence of the creative work of a God who reveals Himself as a loving Heavenly Father.

You will rarely meet someone who was as math anxious as I was in high school and college, so even I have been surprised at how interesting the study of mathematics seems to me lately, and how much I’m enjoying Stein’s books. Maybe it’s partly because I’m beginning to understand that mathematics is a language God has given us to understand His invisible nature, which brings glory to Him and enables us to be better stewards of the world in which we live.

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