Here is my first post in the Thoughts series, as promised. These are to be posts comprising brief paragraphs on two or three things I have been thinking about recently. No real detail required. I can always write a longer post on a topic in the future if I so desire.
Mathematics as an empirical science. I have the following quote on my wall in my office at the University:
“The computer has in turn changed the very nature of mathematical experience, suggesting for the first time that mathematics, like physics, may yet become an empirical discipline, a place where things are discovered because they are seen.” (T.W. Korner)
This is something that I am increasingly convinced of. Perhaps the word ‘empirical’ is too loaded a concept to really make sense here but it is increasingly clear that, at the very least, mathematics is being increasingly driven by an empirical approach. While mathematics proofs still reside in the land of rigorous logic (and this is a good thing), the computer has made it possible for experimentation to provide the impetus for mathematical ideas. Furthermore, the idea of a ‘computer proof’ is challenging the very nature of what constitutes proof and ideas of computer reasoning are raising questions as to what extent mathematician and computer may work in tandem to push the science forward. I have been running the ramifications of this through my brain for some time now. I feel we are coming to an exciting and new time for mathematics.
Christianity and art. On my poetry blog I sometimes ponder exactly what form a contemporary Christian poetics might take. What attitude should a Christian have toward art? What attitude should he have toward ideas of ‘meaning’ and ‘communication’ in art? Take sound poetry, for example. Sound poetry is a form of poetry that foregrounds the idea of sound and rhythm in poetry and backgrounds (sometimes entirely omits) ideas of language and meaning. Often sound poems are composed entirely of what one might call ‘nonsense words’. One can argue that certain sounds will evoke certain emotions, ideas, etc. but it is still true to say that meaning and direct communication are not the primary aims of such poetry. Could a Christian write a sound poem and consider it to be a ‘Christian poem’? In what sense would it deserve such a designation? If the poet composed it specifically as worship, perhaps? Is the exploration by a Christian artist of art and possibility in art in and of itself a Christian practice? Is the practice of creativity a form of worship?