Mathematics is abstract, symbolic, structured, and precise. It is true everywhere and always, and mathematical laws cannot be violated. Math sounds a lot like the attributes of God-eternal, omnipresent and omnipotent. According to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku “”The mind of God we believe is cosmic music, the music of strings resonating through 11-dimensional hyperspace. That is the mind of God.” [i] Vern Poythress, who teaches New Testament at Cambridge University and has two doctorates, a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard and a doctorate in Divinity, argues in his book Redeeming Mathematics: A God Centered Approach[ii] that “the harmony of abstract mathematics, the physical world of things and our thinking depends on the existence of Christian God.” Srinivas Ramanujan, on whose life the book and the movie “The Man who knew Infinity” [iii] are based, is known to have said that “an equation to me has no meaning unless it represents a thought of God.”
The structures of the universe, from the tiniest (subatomic size) to the largest (cosmic scale), are networks or webs of connections. And these networks are interlocking, pulsating particles, exchanging, sharing, and transforming energy from one form to another. Physics is “spoken” through mathematics. Scientists have long used mathematics to describe the physical properties of the universe. But physicist Max Tegmark[iv] goes even further and believes that the universe itself is math. In Tegmark’s view, everything in the universe — humans included — is part of a mathematical structure. He says that all matter is made up of particles with properties such as charge and spin, but these properties are purely mathematical. And space itself has properties such as dimensions but is still ultimately a mathematical structure.
Mathematics, numbers, symbols, information, and energy are different ways physicists have attempted to describe the universe. Modern theories in physics are abstract and mystifying to most. For many, faith in the divine origin of the universe provides more certitude than modern physics does. Faith gives one certainty, which physics cannot do; this is the appeal of faith for many. Certainty in an uncertain world is comforting.
Scientific knowledge has an asymptotic relationship to Truth or Truth. Scientists are getting closer to the Truth but, I suspect, will never reach it. Scientists are like Adam reaching out to touch the hand of God but not making it, as depicted in the fresco[v] on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Physicists are peering into the outer reaches of the cosmos and probing deep into the inner sanctum of atoms, discovering realms beyond the reach of our senses. Most of us find these realms challenging to comprehend because we cannot see, touch, or feel them. No one has seen a quark or been able to visualize Einstein’s four-dimensional space and time. Hence, to some, modern physics is incomprehensible, abstract, hard to relate to, and indistinguishable from a myth.
Thankfully, we do not rely just on our senses to understand the universe; if we did, we would still be in the dark ages.
Physicists are looking for a single theory, or as Michio Koku states, “an equation about six inches long,” which can explain all phenomena, from the most significant (cosmos) to the tiniest (subatomic particles). The holy grail in physics is to find a theory that reconciles general relativity and quantum physics. Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman wrote in his book that science is searching for ultimate unity, the God Particle[vi]. Particle physicists build bigger particle accelerators, like the one at CERN[vii], in search of the God particle. At CERN, in the Large Hadron Collider, energy at the point of collision of the protons approaches the energy moments after the Big Bang, hoping to find the God particle.
The Truth is that the Truth might not be a particle. The Truth might not be a thing; it might be an abstraction, like an “idea in the mind of God,” as some have suggested, or perhaps as Max Tegmark posits, “There’s something very mathematical about our Universe, and that the more carefully we look, the more math we seem to find. ….. So, the bottom line is that if you believe in an external reality independent of humans, then you must also believe that our physical reality is a mathematical structure. Everything in our world is purely mathematical – including you.”
Theologists, scientists, and philosophers agree that Reality, absolute Truth or God, is an abstract reality. Not a reality can be detected by our senses or known through our intellect. In this view, mathematics is an expression of the mind of God. She is a mathematician!
Nature gives up its secrets to scientists through the abstract language of mathematics. Similarly, it reveals itself through symbols and abstractions unique to each of us. Reality plays hide and seek with us, and we get glimpses of it through activities such as listening to music, dancing, reading poetry, watching a sunset, or meditating.