[thoughts on mathematics, by ~burning woman~ ]
It has been said, it’s probably being said, it’s probably seriously believed, that mathematics is the universal language, hence nature’s language. I’ve never been able to believe that. I’d say that mathematics is the language of control. Numbers are the tools of the State, science, finance, the military and the corporation and anyone who has read the Bible will also know that numbers are really big with God. There’s even a book in there titled “Numbers.”
The bumble bee didn’t have to spend $75,000 to study Aristotle and Archimedes and learn classical mechanics to figure out how to fly, so why do we, who consider ourselves so much more advanced than a mere insect, have to do it… and still remain unable to fly without some sort of mechanical exoskeleton? A machine that is extremely polluting, extremely noisy and often used to destroy cities and annihilate people?
I admit that I never was a fan of mathematics. I was fine with basic arithmetic. I could add, subtract and divide along with the rest. If asked what 99 and 98 added up to I would say 200, give or take. If you want to make an issue of the rounding, make it minus 3 which makes it 197. Simplify the picture. When the numbers got a bit cumbersome I would pull up my slide rule… in grade nine and ten that got the math teacher’s eyebrows to rise. He’d come over to my desk and watch me slide my cursor, find a close approximate answer then arrive at the final answer using common sense. That of course was before the hand-held electronic calculators had made their appearance. For a while there, my slide rule beat Texas Instruments. It could tackle much larger numbers and render them intelligible, though why anyone would need to play with billions, trillions, quadrillions and quadzillions remains beyond me. KISS: keep it simple, stupid. However much fun zeroes are to play with, zero is zero, it’s not a magic number.
Certainly man, or some men, can calculate aspects of nature using their mathematics. Nothing too surprising there, they used to use pebbles, shells and sticks, the length of their forearm, fingers, feet, maybe even their dicks, some to their glory (Ah, that famous horn!) and some to their shame. They kept pushing the boundaries of both, the macro and the micro and they invented numbers to match their needs and count their seeds. Those numbers were made up by men (for the most part, some women were reluctantly allowed to participate in the games in these latter years, at least in some countries. That’s another topic.)
Mathematics weren’t designed to probe infinity, they were invented to contain nature into a man-made box. By imposing math upon natural “stuff” it was possible to calculate what it was worth, how much of it could be extracted, pumped, grown or harvested and how profitable such and such a venture would be, and of course, what could be done without. We have convinced ourselves that burning the Amazon forests is totally legit: our numbers say so. If serious climate upset results, the numbers scream: ‘All the better, solutions to pollution reap more profits!’
Mathematics is the bible of statisticians, actuaries or risk assessors, or bean counters and bankers, of the entire sordid world where man’s numbers become the servants of sharks. Outside of the financial world mathematics is the tool man’s science uses to dissect nature; to put it in a box in order to observe it piecemeal and to waste resources polluting space while on their planet millions die of preventable causes because they’re too busy playing to notice or too busy getting rich off the death toll. May as well say it while I’m here: profits depend on numbers. Profits equal death. Death equals more profits. It’s statistically measurable as long as the hamster wheel provides the power for the computers.
Mathematics is shackles and scalpels in various financial prisons and scientific experimental laboratories. But we can’t call the process what it is, or what it is used for, so we give it a quasi-holy title: the universal language which translates as the language of nature. Then everybody is expected to buy the line, toe the line, fall in line; i.e., to believe by getting indebted to those who “own” the numbers.
If nature has a language it isn’t complicated. I doesn’t require a great knowledge of advanced mathematics to translate it. I learned it while running free and wild as a child on my parents’ homestead and beyond. It contained only one word: “Be!”
I can imagine that my little rant would not sit comfortable at the Round Table surrounded by the dour-faced knights of Religion, Government, Finance, Science and Technology. My comments are probably borderline heresy in today’s world. But before I go to the stake and one of the Knights of Progress proudly lights the fire in defense of his mathematically-constructed God, let me ask this: take a look at your world and consider how much of the damage made by math-driven technology could have been avoided had those numbers been left sealed in Pandora’s box until the species developed an intelligence at least able to keep up with its mostly useless gadget driven lifestyle.
Thanks to mathematics we’ve become globally addicted to an artificial world of planet and life destroying gadgetry. Before we plunge into developing something “cool,” something “new and improved,” shouldn’t we be counting the costs we’re imposing on the future? We don’t need mathematics to assess those costs, we just need to observe results and do some very simple projection.
But who has time to question anything these days when the big top is permanently up and the circus never leaves town? Who dares question when forced to punch a time clock “in” three times a day so as not to end up on the street? Who can argue when that finely tuned time clock says you’re 2 minutes and 4 seconds late for your shift?