(urth) barrington interview
Norwood, Frederick Hudson
NORWOODR at mail.etsu.edu
Wed Oct 8 08:07:22 PDT 2014
Actually, crows can do simple math. If four hunters enter a house and three come out, the crow can do enough math to avoid the house. Four hunters in, four come out, the crow flies to the house. Twenty hunters in, nineteen out, the crow flies to the house. The crow can see the difference between three and four but not between nineteen and twenty.
I do not believe there is an alien race for which four (the concept, not the symbol) is less than three.
For a good science fiction story on this subject, read "Omnilingual" by H. Beam Piper.
From: Urth [mailto:urth-bounces at lists.urth.net] On Behalf Of Lee
Sent: Wednesday, October 08, 2014 10:57 AM
To: urth at urth.net
Subject: (urth) barrington interview
>Thomas Bitterman: Is there an argument against the universality of mathematics
>that isn't just the Genetic Fallacy?
By Genetic Fallacy I assume you mean this:
>The genetic fallacy, also known as fallacy of origins, fallacy of virtue,
>Is a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on
>something or someone's origin rather than its current meaning or context
My objection to the assumption that math is universally applicable is because
math originates from the mind of one species on one planet in a very small
corner of one galaxy in a universe of a (perhaps) infinite number of galaxies.
As I understand it, the Genetic Fallacy would apply if math had been found outside
that original context. For example, if we found math being used by members of
another species from outside our solar system or galaxy. Or if we had travelled
to all corners of the universe and found math applicable everywhere, not just
from the perspective of planet earth.
But currently (as far as I know) math is used only by that one species on that
I wouldn't claim it is impossible for math to be universal. I would only say that it
seems unlikely to me. The fact that everything we encounter can be described
mathematically seems most likely due to human limitations on what we are able
In other words, we simply can't see what we can't see. The assumption of a cosmic
universality to our mammalian-evolved perceptions and thoughts seems unfounded
Of course, if we are talking Special Creation and math as a special mastery for
understanding the universe, as bestowed upon us by God, then that's a different story.
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