I've been trying Facebook out over these past few days, and recently a post by someone from my church caught my eye:
"math is the saddest waste of human ingenuity known to man, it is completely worthless without application to human lives. So what's more important, the method, or the lives it impacts? The paintbrush, or the painting? We need to be more concerned about learning the importance of what the tools achieve rather than the tools themselves, hence the study of history, literature, and art."
And here's what I posted in return (remember, all coming from a Christian perspective, so I doubt you fellas would agree with most of my points in the first post):
"@Stephen -- my initial reaction is "umad?", but on closer inspection it seems you're assuming that math is in any way a different "brush" than literature, history and art. Math is different from the kind of knowledge it reveals to humanity, than, say, psychology, because it expands our horizons horizontally, not vertically.
It adds some depth to the understanding of the human psyche, but by-and-large math is applied to broaden our understanding of the universe as a whole, an infinitely worthy endeavor. It can be said with some force that if there was no math, there would be no civilization, and all other scientific fields would be greatly (perhaps destroyed entirely) curbed.
As a Christian, do you believe God merely created the universe (and all that is in it) without order or a system of logic? God is not an agent of chaos, he works in a constructed fashion. Math, numbers, geometry, calculus, algebra, and a host of other fields did not spontaneously appear, nor could they have been human inventions to give shape to the void.
To put it bluntly, without mathematics, our God is a Zeus, or an Odin, or any host of other dead gods, which humans invented to free themselves from the responsibility of their choices. ~David"
"Allow me to elaborate on my comment that without math, there would be no civilization. From antiquity, there have always been mathematics in general, and geometry specifically. Building anything without it (geometry) would be an incredibly stupid affair, based entirely on line-of-sight proportions.
It is easy to point to the pyramids, the Colosseum, the Sears tower and the Empire State Building as feats of engineering and geometrical construction, but what about "niche" areas such as higher mathematics? What are they good for? As alluded to in my comment above, I believe that math is more important to our understanding of God than many other things, but let me turn from the macro to the micro, so to speak. What do higher mathematics do for the individual in specific, and society as a whole?
I would like to use (read: butcher, as I don't have the original analogy on hand) an analogy found in Bulent Atalay's (excellent) _Math and the Mona Lisa_. Let's say that the universe is an automobile, with an intricate engine, levers, buttons, and the like. And in the car are two groups of people, those who drive the car and those who want to understand how the car works. ... See More
Now, on first glance, it appears that one of these two groups is doing all the work (the one's who are driving), and that the other group is merely wasting their time instead of helping to steer the car.
Then, as time goes on, the first group swings around to this point of view. They begin to vilify the second group, doubting their contribution to the driving.
The second group, being used to such harassment, merely continue exploring the vehicle, and explaining how the drive shaft works, how the exhaust system works, etc. Finally, the first group, exasperated and annoyed at hearing about what they don't understand, hold these intellectuals at gun point, and tell them to stop investigating altogether, while the drivers begin going faster and faster, pulling on levers at random and pressing buttons maniacally.
As could be imagined, they wreck their automobile and they all die, because they didn't understand how to work their vehicle (in this case, civilization).
Now, let us think back to what other oppressive regimes have silenced the intellectuals in their respective nations, only to fall into barbarism and stagnant tyranny? Beyond the obvious examples of Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia (both of which decided to recall their scientists once it was apparent that in an arms race they would be crushed), there are larger ones (such as the Dark Ages), brought on by religion and a mistrust of "alchemists". This is where this sort of thinking leads.
Now, say we disregard all of the points I have thus far laid out, and only acknowledge that math and science as a whole _civilize_ and define us, then that is all we need to say that it is necessary for the betterment of humanity. ~David"
Thoughts? (Also, feel free to add me on Facebook ;))