Math: Gift from God or Work of Man?

School begins again, and we read more about the intrusion of pseudoscience into school science curricula in this country, particularly into the study of biology and evolution.

The motive, despite the claims of proponents of intelligent design and other bogus "disciplines," has been religious. Although some of the creation scientists' arguments presented have a probabilistic flavor, the mathematics curriculum has seemed somewhat resistant to this trend. Recently a number of readers have sent me course descriptions from various schools that suggest otherwise, however.

The issue is complicated (perhaps too complicated for a column), but I'll also briefly discuss the relevance of evolution to a more defensible, but still flawed argument relating religion and mathematics.

Religion in the Math Curriculum

Consider first a Baptist school in Texas whose description of a geometry course begins:

Students will examine the nature of God as they progress in their understanding of mathematics. Students will understand the absolute consistency of mathematical principles and know that God was the inventor of that consistency. They will see God's nature revealed in the order and precision they review foundational concepts while being able to demonstrate geometric thinking and spatial reasoning. The study of the basics of geometry through making and testing conjectures regarding mathematical and real-world patterns will allow the students to understand the absolute consistency of God as seen in the geometric principles he created.

I wonder if the school teaches that non-Euclidean geometry is the work of the devil or at least of non-Christians.

The Web site's account goes on like this for a while and then is followed by similar descriptions for algebra and pre-calculus. The blurb for the calculus course states:

Students will examine the nature of God as they progress in their understanding of mathematics. Students will understand the absolute consistency of mathematical principles and know that God was the inventor of that consistency. Mathematical study will result in a greater appreciation of God and His works in creation. The students will understand the basic ideas of both differential and integral calculus and its importance and historical applications. The students will recognize that God created our minds to be able to see that the universe can be calculated by mental methods.

I don't know what books this particular school uses, but I should mention such risible texts such as "Precalculus for Christian Schools." The latter attempts to draw parallels between the fundamental theorem of calculus and the fundamentals of Christianity, between infinity and life after death, et cetera.

Everyone's heard of church schools and Madrassas, but another example of this phenomenon from a quite different religious perspective is the Maharishi University in Iowa, whose course titles and descriptions are similarly bizarre. Here are some on their Web site:

Infinity: From the Empty Set to the Boundless Universe of All Sets -- Exploring the Full Range of Mathematics and Seeing its Source in Your Self
Intermediate Algebra: Using Variables to Manage the Total Possibility of Numbers and Solve Practical Problems

Its New Age calculus sequence is described thus:

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