08 January 2008

Paulos on "The Book"

Yesterday and today I read John Allen Paulos' Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don't Add Up . A quite good book overall, although Paulos doesn't really cover any new ground here. (Paulos is a mathematician but the book is mostly devoid of mathematical content.) However, the book is a lot more lighthearted than some of the snarky anti-religion books that have been out there lately (say, Dawkins' The God Delusion, or Hitchens' God Is Not Great). Worth reading, although I'm not sure if it's worth paying $20 sure, since it's quite short.

But I just wanted to share the following:
Although an atheist, Erdos often referred to an imaginary book in which God has inscribed all the most beautiful mathematical proofs. Whenever he thought that a proof or argument led to a particularly exquisite epiphany, he'd say, "This one's from the book." (Alas, none of the arguments for the existence of God are even close to being in God's book.)
I suspect that some of the people who came up with such arguments thought they were proofs from the book, though. Indeed, are there any long arguments for the existence of God, or are all they all the sort of thing that can be written in half a page or so?

(And although Erdos' book is imaginary, Martin Aigner and Gunter Ziegler's Proofs from THE BOOK is real.)

2 comments:

lf said...

The proof you're looking for is #73 on the Silicon Valley atheists' long list of proofs.

Robert said...

Duns Scotus, 13th century philosopher and theologian, had a pretty extensive proof:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/duns-scotus/#ProExiGod