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Desc:had no clue this was even a question
Category:Science & Technology, Religious
Tags:PBS, Philosophy, math, Idea Channel, too heavy for breakfast
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Comment count is 27
Yeah, I mean, do people who aren't mathematicians or autistic (same thing) really think math has some actual, tangible existence. Math's like logic, it's a really awesome tool for making complex, repeatable models that approximate reality, but if you mistake it for reality you done goofed.
This is all Plato's fault.

It's a reasonable point, decently made. But I was burned out on the memes less than halfway in.

I shudder to think that this kind of insane ADD pop culture reference presentation is needed to keep modern kids paying attention. It's like if you loaded Buffy up on Ritalen and introduced her to reddit.

Not meant as a reply, so I'll just add, fuck Plato. Or rather those who repeated the doctrines of smarter Greeks rather than expand on or challenge them, for thousands of years.

I've had this argument with people and it's surprising to see how frequently and unassumingly people think math is discovered part of existence. I think part of the problem is how people talk about whether or not something is real or not. I'm of the opinion that math is something humans developed to better organize and understand the world they live in, thus is comparable to language. From that perspective, math is both "real" and "not real." "Real" in that it is a solid, indisputible context for the world we live, but "not real" because it would not exist in a hypothetical world in which humans do not exist. The point of this is that "real" is a nonsense question to ask about math. It's a problematic question similar to "Does God exist?" It steers the real question ("Is math the only coherent way to understand the universe?") into a different conversation.

Besides, you inevitably end up in "are we really all brains in jars on an alien spaceship and everything is just a computer simulation" territory.

I personally think math is a tool humans invented to describe phenomena that are objectively 'real', and this it is subjectively 'real' because we perceive it as logical and rational, which is all that matters to me.

As long as it helps to explain, and can be utilized to explain more, I would say that it does exist. What is reality outside of human perception/carbon based life anyway?

Considering how many times math has proved/disproved something and how many times this has lead to us figuring out that the math was correct all along (the Big Bang Theory and engineering comes to mind as well as most Physics), I'd say math is pretty much the most objective thing that can exist.

How we describe math is the only abstract part of it. Atoms have a specific mass expressed in numbers. Whether those numbers are in arabic or in base 13 the values are still the same. Gravity works on a specific gravitational constant. The constant would be the same value no matter how we described it.

In fact, science is so confident that math is objective and exists that we built CERN because of what it said about quantum physics. We also built a very large rocket called Saturn V and sent it to the moon because the math existed. Every bridge and every road that has ever been built was built due to how math said it should be. Every car, every train, every engine, every airplane that flies worked because of math.

To say math doesn't exist is pretty stupid. Math and logic exist, and have existed without humans. Fire existed without humans, too. We discovered fire, and we discovered math and logic. Whether we call it Fire or some other word, or use some other language, it's still fire.

If you don't think so, then go and find another universe that matches your perception of reality.

I'll go two ways here: Math qua brain states probably exist, meaning what we call the operation of four plus four rendering eight can probably be mapped as causally connected brain states.

That said, I think math is a language created by humans. The relationships between actual things in the world that math describes are real, the marks on the page are made up.

What's interesting, however, is that the marks on the page in certain situations cause certain brains to have actual brain states and actual actions in people (if we consider doing a mathematical operation in your head an action).

Simon666: That sort of sidestep is one that is quite problematic as math, like language, still only exists as an object of experience. To argue that it exists somewhere prior to it, such as in the brain, is to make the mistake of ignoring the fact that our knowledge is dictated by our subjective experience of things.

Anyways, I remember hearing an interview of some Philosopher/Mathematician/Physicist (whichever many he was) explain how in talking to top Engineers, Mathematicians and Physicists at major places of research like CERN he was absolutely mesmerized by how many of them accepted the Platonic position of believing that numbers and formulas were actual discoverable things.
Especially given that it's fairly straight forward that in many ways math serves a linguistic function that we as perceiving beings introduce to our basic perception of the world and its multiplicity of objects and phenomena. So that, we as subjects can only describe something, or a group of things, as possessing of a number or measurement by the virtue of us being capable of counting or measuring it rather than some inherent quality.

May I all direct your attention to hard N' Phirm's most funktacular music video for further proof that Pi is all you need to know math is real, bitches:


So Tubman is the one that gets hilariously outraged by the suggestion that math is only an expression of human existence. Good to know.

Well I had no idea that poe was full of new age idiots.

I guess reality completely depends on your perception of it according to the posters above me. Or at least, that's what they're saying.

That's complete bullshit.

Harriet, you missed the point by a mile. No one is claiming that math is unreliable, or that the properties it's describing don't exist. Rather than it's a tool of understanding objective properties of reality, rather than a property itself.

It's like topographical maps, or the light spectrum, or language, a system we invent to help our minds analyze and solve things which don't rely on human minds to exist, but isn't such a thing itself. It describes reality, which doesn't imply it's untrue or unreliable just because we recognize it as a description.

@Gmork: I know you're joking, but honestly, Pi (an irrational number) is a perfect example of how math is an imperfect way of describing the universe, since it is impossible to describe pi in a way that is totally comprehensible to the human mind. It's impossible to compare a circle's diameter to its circumference in a way that doesn't involve some kind of estimate. That doesn't mean pi isn't a real value, but it's a shortcoming in our ability to describe it. I guess it comes down to whether you define math as the underlying order to the universe, or our system of defining and describing it.

Also, I concur on the annoying meminess of this video.

IrishWhiskey - judging by the comments on the video, and the other stupid ideas that they're making videos about, it sounds to me like they are catering to new age pseudoscience mixed with banal internet memery. I expect better from PBS.

If that's what he said then he should have been more clear about it and he should have pointed out that what math describes has been around a LOT longer than humans have (probably since the big bang). Instead, it's like he's pushing wishy washy new age bullshit.

graveisstudios - it's only irrational as a base 10 number. The ratio is finite, and when written exactly as it is it works just fine in math.

Harriet, the issue is not whether math accurately describes things (it does - that's the whole point; but so does language). The issue is whether math is the only way of describing things, which I think is pretty obviously ethnocentric at best and uncritical at worst. Human history is a tale of people believing that since the only answer they've given something works for them, than it's the one true answer. To the sun God civilizations, the idea that there are massive cosmic bodies existing in an unfathomably huge cosmos and one of them is a giant fireball and the Earth rotates around it while simultaneously twirling, and this creates the illusion of the sun moving across the sky each day would be beyond baffling in both its complexity and scope, and yet it would later turn out to be the correct answer. Similarly, math works fine for us right now (great, even!), but let's not move from that to the much worse position that math is the only thing that can work. Someone brought up the wonders of pi as an argument for math being the one true god. Pi is a device to describe a perfect circle, which does not and has never existed in the physical world. It's a much simplier version of a pattern we observe. Pi helps us arrive at a close answer to the dimensions of real things. But, even then, why is it even necessary for a structural understanding of reality to even include the concept of a circle?

Please misread and freak out about this post. I'm loving the responses.

So this guy is bipolar, right?
Spaceman Africa
It's a good thing he had all the funny memes so I know what to laugh at
are memes all you see, wherever you look?

Adham Nu'man
Is reality a feature of the universe or a human creation?
It certainly "works", bitches.

Someone from another planet will still have to deal with Pi, even and odd numbers, addition...

I just don't see how a prime number can be a social construct. Still not sure if this isn't just a magnificent troll.
He actually left out some important arguments, like the basis for this idea:

The basis of all mathematics is Zermelo Fraenkel Set theory which more or less says that: numbers are themselves merely representations of ideas whose boundaries we determine: Where does the idea of sets come from?

It comes from a cognitive, linguistic process. This is some deep stuff, and I am summarizing here, but the essential idea is that math is a thing that is only as real as our brain's strategy of understanding reality

Two what? Oranges? What's an orange? A collection of water and sugar? Then what's an apple? What defines these sets are arbitrary to our human experience. While math does 'work' at explaining the world we perceive around us it should be noted that the math itself is based on how we perceive things as sets.

If the idea of sets is something we create: then so is math.

That guy
As far as I understand from taking a course on this, it's a more-or-less unsolved intellectual conundrum. There are reasons to accept math/numbers as entirely conceptual, and reasons not to.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unsolved_problems_in_phil osophy#Philosophy_of_mathematics

Anyway, I've seen this asshole before and refuse to hear his smug face make mouth sounds about it.

Given an unsolved intellectual problem, you're guaranteed to have some high-iq-moron examinations of them, and they usually involve phrases like 'social construct'. I will resign myself to 5 for that, sight unseen.

The little lean forward with stressed words really make you hate this.

This is like Pythagoras, if Pythagoras were a slack jawed retard who knew nothing of math. None of the things he's saying in any way relate to how math was created or used. He's literally saying nonsense words strung together.
Plus his face just seems to invite knuckles to impact it, repeatedly and with much enthusiasm. Only there aren't enough fists in the world for this guy's face. There would never be enough.

this is the guy who wondered aloud whether homestuck was on the same level as ulysses
you can shut up now
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