I’ll be the first to admit that my math skills are rudimentary. I’d go so far as to say they’re borderline non-existent. To quote that famous plastic scholar Barbie, “Math is tough!” If you can do math, especially anything from algebra on up, you’ve got my admiration – maybe even my fearful reverence. You’re like the first caveman who mastered fire to me. You don’t have to worry about me coming to your door with pitchfork in torch in hand. However, the same can’t be said of certain groups of Christian fundamentalists. According to BoingBoing’s Maggy Koerth-Baker, some of these guys are waging war against higher mathematics, particularly something called “set theory”. Check it out:
Some of these folks get very touchy about the idea of infinity. Mark Chu-Carroll is a software engineer at foursquare and a math blogger. Unlike me, he was already aware of the fundamentalist objection to set theory, because he’s actually had people show up in his comment section railing about how the theory is an affront to God. Particularly the part about multiple infinities. Chu-Carroll told me that one commenter explained the problem this way: “There is only one infinity, and that is God.” Basically, this perspective looks at set theory and Georg Cantor and sees humankind trying to replace the divine with numbers and philosophy.
The second problem is a little more complex. Remember how the modern idea of set theory really isn’t all that modern? That’s because I’m pretty sure A Beka doesn’t mean “modern” as in “recent”, but “modern” as in “modernist”.
I can tell you from experience that A Beka (and Bob Jones University Press) are stridently against modernism in all its forms. (I’m assuming they’re against post-modernism, too, but you have to understand that the opinions and perspectives this sort of Christian fundamentalism has about society and culture were formed between the late 1920s and early 1970s and, because of this, the culture wars that they are fighting often come across as confusingly antiquated. Thus, the ongoing obsession with the imminent threat of Communism. See also: Why I sat through multiple sermons on the evils of rock n’ roll in the late 1990s.)
Koerther-Baker was raised in a fundamentalist home, and as a science writer has a particularly insightful take on why fundamentalists find set theory so frightening. The article isn’t very recent, but it does concern an issue that not too many people are aware of. It’s definitely worth a read.
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