Augustine on mathematics and the Holy Spirit

AugustineLike many of the proverbs in the biblical wisdom literature, the following insight from Augustine is good as a general principle but unhelpful as an absolute rule:

One does not read in the Gospel that the Lord said: ‘I will send you the Paraclete who will teach you about the course of the sun and moon.’ For He willed to make them Christians, not mathematicians.

Augustine,  De actis contra Felicem Manichaeum I,X

The quotation becomes unhelpful when it is taken (going beyond what Augustine says) to mean that there is nothing common to being a Christian and being a mathematician, or that the Holy Spirit, speaking through the scriptures, has nothing to say about being a good mathematician, or that because the bible is not a scientific treatise (in the modern sense of the words “science” and “treatise”–and “modern” for that matter) then we should assume a priori that it has nothing whatsoever to contribute to any scientific discussion.

The express purpose of the bible is not to make us into mathematicians (2 Timothy 3:16), but if we are mathematicians then the bible contains everything we need in order to be good, godly and wise mathematicians (2 Peter 1:3).


John Milbank: Richard Dawkins’ scientism is a symptom of postmodern kitsch

“…why do we have Mr Dawkins when ever since the 1970s that kind of scientism has been made philosophically impossible? Ever since the 1970s we’ve known that science is very restricted in its conclusions, it can only tell us about certain sorts of things, even those things are really quite uncertain and subject to all kinds of revolutionary revisions. Why then is Dawkins’ mode of completely Victorian scientism make such an impact in a post-modern age? The answer is, I think, that it is itself a post-modern phenomenon, itʼs a kind of post-modern kitsch, it’s a kitsch recycling of modernism. And what I mean by this is that there are no longer any philosophical foundations for Dawkins’ position, so it becomes like a sort of try-on, it becomes precisely a kind of fashion.” — John Milbank, ‘The Moral Market is a Freer Market’, available here.