Featured Postmodernism and Mathematics

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Stephen L Smith, Nov 1, 2019.

  1. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Pastor Al Mohler on his "The Briefing" show recently stated that Social Justice warriors are saying that mathematics is oppressive, especially if one says an answer is wrong. I sat my Chartered Accountants exams [the equivalent of the American CPA] in the tallest building in Christchurch, New Zealand, which ended up on a strange lean after the 2011 earthquakes. My question to the SJW is - do we need correct mathematics to build a solid building or is a Postmodern approach to building design acceptable? It is obvious that a large earthquake shows up correct mathematics from bad mathematics!
  2. JennyGeddes

    JennyGeddes Puritan Board Freshman

    Well, mathematics has often triggered me!

  3. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    Good post. I would argue that SJW people are not postmodernist at all. PM people are different from PM philosophers. SJW people believe in absolutes, like justice. PM thinkers doubted such things were true. Al Mohler fought with PM thinkers and so he in a sense is still fighting that battle.
  4. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    The complete irrationality of their worldview is on display. It is not informed by reality. One doesn't need train wreck like Evergreen College to prove so. The moment these people open a laptop or turn on a TV their worldview is demonstrated to be false. Given that this ideology is driven by 'no questions and no argument' methodology it is easy to see how it can spread so rapidly.

    With the right political forces in play this wicked, Vonnegutian nightmare can be sustained on a superficial, yet still destructive level by sheer force. If someone of Y social group cannot function in X subject or X job. Give Y an A in his X class and later a job in X field anyway. Pay him/her/it the same, or more, regardless of performance. Explain away any criticism as Y-ism. Fine, fire and completely ruin the critics as "oppressors." It is injustice in a most creepy and insidious way. How many cannot or will not see dystopian parallels to this in history and literature is beyond me. When people melt into a pile of mental and emotional goo the moment the word 'oppression' is merely uttered, we have a long road ahead of us. "Men without chests" as Lewis said.
  5. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    Exactly but remember in proper postmodernism person in group x is no more privliged than group y. Even though they couldn't live this out practicality.
  6. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    In fairness, mathematics becomes very philosophical at the college and especially graduate level and is less the math that an engineer uses and more the math that a philosopher is attempting to solve and contextualize. There are even math concepts we learn in secondary level that are more philosophical than they are pragmatic. That's just the nature of the field and the breadth of it. Math has been closely intertwined with current philosophical thought since Aristotle. This is not a surprising notion to me to observe that would still be the case. Just because an SJW takes an aspect of a particular area of math and takes that to apply to the field as a whole (agreeably, wrongly so), doesn't necessarily negate the open relationship higher mathematics has with philosophy. There's a lot of math that's just as unanswered as areas of science we've yet to discover/uncover. People just don't often interact with that part of math in their everyday lives. So...is there some math that doesn't have a "right" answer? In some areas, yes. I think we've just separated and relegated math to a more pragmatic discipline in the recent era, when it has long been a close cousin to philosophy because there are weightier aspects of it.
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  7. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Yes but we’re not talking about Fields Medal level mathematics here. Whatever Ed Witten comes up with to explain his string theories isn’t the nonsense proposed by the “math is racist” crowd. Also, that there have been and are racist mathematicians out there is not in dispute.
  8. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    I certainly want to make it clear that I am against the extremes they have taken. I am NOT a proponent of social categories that devolve everything toward a story of oppression and race. At the same time, some of the statements that they say that the Reason article says are "vapid" are really just common rhetoric in education that is trying to address a real problem in current science and math literacy in our population (namely, that it is lacking). And I think, while vastly out of touch, there are points where they are interacting with a real problem.

    For example:
    It's really just part of trying to address a real problem that we see in education currently: we are facing an issue of low math/science literacy, and the way many are trying to address that issue is by integrating other disciplines into the math or science classroom to show how those connect. We don't often know the history of mathematics, which could be greatly helpful for contextualizing the practices we use today. "Experiential learning" is a pedagogical reference in referring to more hands-on, student-centered learning that grounds the concepts and practices they learn in the class to real-world contexts (in this case, it's obviously heavy handed on sociocultural emphasis).

    All that to say: I am not marxist and do not agree with their presuppositions or conclusions. But, there is a problem in how we teach math in 2019 and how that might not be equipping the professionals we need in the field. I just don't want it to be thrown out in the bath water that sometimes the "right" way we learned to do math in our age in school may not always be the most effective method to learn.
  9. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    I think we agree. The "problems" if we want to call them that are that first, math(and science) are hard for most people. Period. Difficult concepts must be grasped by an individual. The subject matter cannot be faked, felt or asserted away. I hate to step on toes but much of the social sciences can be faked to a large extent. Fabricate a vocabulary and make some assertions and walah! You have a 'discipline'. I say this a dude with a liberal arts undergrad. Math beyond basic arithmetic requires serious study and quite frankly sitting on ones behind until the problems are figured out and the concepts are grasped. The second 'problem' is that people don't like the first problem and so we throw money at it with iPads and laptops to 'make it interesting' thinking that maybe more people will learn Calculus if they see a computer do it for them.
  10. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    As a matter of disclosure I should also add my original undergrad major was engineering. I was smart enough to do it but not smart enough for it to come easily. So I changed majors. I was undisciplined and not prepared for serious study. That was one of flaws in the character of my youth. Things have changed over the years and I enjoy studying on my own. I've taught myself a decent amount of Spanish and have revisited "STEMS" for lack of a better reference and am in process of pivoting my career into analytics. What continues to astonish me is that folks lack the self-awareness to distinguish between wanting to learn things and merely the desire to know something. A woman a few months ago said she wanted to learn some Spanish but didn't think she had the time. With a smile on face I said, "you mean you want to know some Spanish." A huge difference.
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Basically these guys are saying that math is a White Colonialist metanarrative (never mind the Hindus and Babylonians).

    Postmodernism, to the degree it follows the hermeneutics of suspicion, would draw the conclusion that Math institutions have unexamined presuppositions that oppress gender-fluid, non-cis non-binaries.
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    just keep hitting "refresh."
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  13. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

  14. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    But do they believe in absolutes such as Mathematics? I guess part of the difficulty is where maths becomes philosophical as other posts have noted.
  15. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    The Hindus and Babylonians were White too.

    It feels like being White really isn't about the color of skin or ethnicity anymore. It's about being... umm... "Not-Us." Hence, black dissidents aren't really considered "black" anymore, so their take in matters doesn't count. Same thing if you are a minority that disagrees in other ways. You've been "colonized." Brown skin, White brain. You're on the bad side. We're the ones who decide what's right for you to feel.

    Society is decivilizing into two mega-tribes.

    And if you see this as primarily a concern about power dynamics (we want more and want you to have less; then we'll get to construct the unobstructed Truth at our local levels), then I guess to that degree we're still postmodern.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
  16. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'd like to see a postmodern taxpayer go head-to-head with a postmodern tax auditor. I'd enjoy every moment of it!

    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
  17. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    That's where I would actually disagree, or at least contribute a nuance that I think (gag me) I might share with the perception of some of these SJWS: people assume math and science "are hard" for them, but I think it's what you described in your following post--most don't actually just take the time to truly know it like they ought. So, unfortunately, we reaffirm ideas in our cultural consciousness like "most people can't do" math or science (as if it's this inherent talent, rather than a skill than can be cultivated--like cooking or playing the piano or learning to type) and then kids themselves inevitably reach a point of difficulty and deem themselves as a person who just "can't do" math. "I must not be a math/science person." (I think what increases this particular problem is a great lack in grit in our current generations). This is what (charitably speaking) undergirds some of the SJW concerns that some subgroups statistically aren't as proficient in these fields-- they're the ones who more easily come to that place of "I'm just not a math/science person" (of course that doesn't explain it all, and I am generalizing, but largely, I think the issues are not necessarily "systematic," top down as they might over-emphasize, but rather I think it's culture, particularly school culture, which is a much smaller scale than what many trying to effect these changes often focus on). So, many in education *are* trying to focus on growth mindset--showing people that they CAN become proficient, even masters, in science and math even if they don't start out with a "talent" for it...and that requires specifically addressing those students/sub-groups that cop out and feel like they're just not "math/science" people.

    I was a student growing up who "wasn't good at math" by both my own standards and some academic standards growing up; I was also not a "science person." But in adulthood I returned to school, got a biology degree, became a science researcher, and also am a science teacher.

    In EO Wilson's book "Letters to a Young Scientist" he has two "principles" that I think have been sorely under-emphasized in American STEM education in the past, and there are still vestiges today of teachers who gravitate more towards the kids that just "get it" and that can sometimes under-serve other possible candidates for future STEM fields (Especially if we show that there is a breadth of people needed in STEM that aren't all the top engineers, doctors, neuroscientists, etc...there's waaaaay more possibilities than that for various levels of competency). I love these quotes:

    PRINCIPLE #1: It is far easier for scientists, including medical researchers, to require needed collaboration in mathematics and statistics than it is for mathematicians and statisticians to find scientists able to make use of their equations.

    PRINCIPLE #2: For every scientist, whether researcher, technician, teacher, manager or businessman, working at any level of mathematical competence, there exists a discipline in science or medicine for which that level is enough to achieve excellence.

    Anyway, all that to say...one, I really like talking about education and science. So...that's why I have big responses. :coffee:

    But number two, I am the statistical anomaly against the SJW notion that the explanation for these inequalities and discrepancies in achievement are always or primarily affected by race (in fact, one thing that greatly affects student achievement but is often underplayed in education talks is socioeconomics, regardless of race...it's often the local communities that can have the greatest impact). According to their stats, I, as a lower socioeconomic class, POC female who did NOT get excited about math or science by 4th grade, not by 8th grade, not even by high school graduation should NOT have become a STEM professional. What made the difference? For me, it was actually finding the "story" and "context" about science (through wildlife, ecology) that made me realize that there are fields of science (even "hard" sciences) that are right for someone like me who was kind of a "humanities" thinker. And for me, I actually needed a push from people in the community who showed me that different kinds of people (not just race, but backgrounds and abilities and experiences and interests) could make an impact and I started to explore more the social contexts and history aspects involved with Ecology (fell in love with the history and sociocultural story surrounding fire ecology and the longleaf pine ecosystem, for instance).

    So all that to say--yeah, STEM education is complicated. But there are disparities and that should at least make us think about how we teach STEM, because maybe we are missing out on a possible workforce by emphasizing certain things over others, or under-emphasizing other things, etc. I don't personally see how integrating elements of the humanities (exempting the obvious extremes/strawmen) spoils the math or science (because that's what got me personally "hooked"), but rather that it could simply develop a connection and show a pathway for a student who might not otherwise experience that.

    Also, I am in 100% in agreement that throwing "tech" in the faces of students is not effective (primarily because a lot of teachers have shown to be technologically illiterate and think that consumer tech like iPADS helps kids "create" or practice higher-order thinking when it's just another consumer tech). Teachers have this odd cognitive dissonance in thinking that knowing how to use a phone or play a video game somehow allows kids to learn about technology by osmosis and suddenly turns them into amazing researchers and coders and database users and creatives and many teachers are unfortunately not actually teaching kids those necessary skills because they take it for granted. But that's another topic altogether. :bouncy:
  18. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    To follow up with some levity (But also it is deeply troubling...but also...interesting)

    I don't want to add to fear mongering, but there is a sense in which some fields...are just going to be more frou frou (susceptible) to this wave of thought than others. I don't want to be a STEM elitist, because certainly we do have our own issues with peer review....but let's just say it's a lot easier to get away with this stuff in...some fields...rather than others. :popcorn:

    The Grievance studies affair is just a fascinating look
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
  19. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    There was a good episode of a Reformed podcast I listened to a while back where they interviewed a man who talked about some of the differences between post-modernism, marxism, etc that was helpful. It was Sheologians or Mortification of Spin perhaps? I wish I could remember because I would put that in here because it might be interesting/helpful for people to hear (and for me to refresh my own knowledge!).
  20. Andrew35

    Andrew35 Puritan Board Freshman

    My objections to tech in the classroom are a bit simpler.

    I remember dutifully typing out my MS-DOS prompts. I remember being cruelly drilled on putting two spaces after every period on an archaic word-processor. I remember saving an important project on some kind of super-thick floppy disk for which I've never again seen a drive...

    Technology is shifting sand.

    Meanwhile, I'm still teaching Shakespeare.
  21. Jo_Was

    Jo_Was Puritan Board Freshman

    I understand that perspective. Technology "advances" but it doesn't go away, though, and many concepts remain. In general, there's still usefulness in, say, the concepts of coding, or how a database works, or how to use/analyze data, how to design/create something, writing and rhetoric and communication skills, etc. that are still going to translate to "new" versions of technology--even if the languages or formats or hardware we use are different. But if children aren't taught those basic skills about how to use technology, then that's how it becomes unusable. You would be surprised at how many students in the HIGH SCHOOL classes I am teaching cannot type very well. We assume they get it/learn it...but then they are not actually that familiar with it because it's not something they have used much (at least up to that point). My husband is a software engineer and often laments how this upcoming generation is so tech illiterate--partly because they NEVER see those command prompts we once did. There's no conception of the creator/created, and they only see or interact with the consumable product.
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  22. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Good point!
  23. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

  24. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Thank you for all your comments. I still think we largely agree. Math and science take work, even for talented individuals. Certain cultures such as East Asia and Northern Europe do a better job of getting this through to their children.

    Our homeschooled daughter 'hates' math yet she likes science and reads way ahead in her science text books. She's only eight years old but slowly I've been working with her to let her know that math and science are intricately woven together. I'm creating some experiments that involve measurements and math. We'll see...
  25. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    BTW, does anyone really understand what e^i(pi) means? I know it equals negative one, but it pretty much blows me away.
  26. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Sometimes I don't even understand the problem. P vs NP ? Seriously?
  27. hammondjones

    hammondjones Puritan Board Sophomore

    Mathematics at its core is a little more squishy than people think. After all, axioms are unproven, just accepted. Take these axioms we have Euclidean geometry, take others and a sum(triangle's angles) > 180. And there can be robust debate about the acceptability of a proof. The first proof of the 4-color theorem caused a bit of controversy as it was proved by computer, and it wasn't accepted as true by everyone immediately. In that case, "who does determine the acceptance of a theorem" is a fine enough question to ask. (Of course it is either true or not apart from consensus).

    Post-moderns used language as a starting point, as words in a dictionary are defined by other words - turtles all the way down. But that is not all there is, since we have the Word and the Truth.
  28. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    Yes PM philosophers do. Cultural PM might only care when bad math is impractical for them, higher taxes etc. Richard Rorty is lambasted as a relativist but he denies even knowing that's supposed to mean. He doubted theories of truth that's all.
  29. jwright82

    jwright82 Puritan Board Senior

    It's more proper to say there's no outside language. We use words to describe words. Language is self referential like that.
  30. Henry Hall

    Henry Hall Puritan Board Freshman

    Maybe the theologian and apologist Euler has given us something on this more than just the equation and its related theory.

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