Review of ‘Dot Dot Dot : Infinity Plus God Equals Folly’

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Can you find God in numbers? Christian apologists like William Lane Craig say yes. Since God is infinite, we can study him through the mathematics of infinity.


Not so fast, says author and mathematician James Lindsay. He offers explanations for why it’s impossible to grasp infinity completely, and what our vague understanding means in the real world, in his latest book, Dot Dot Dot: Infinity Plus God Equal Folly.

 

In Dot Dot Dot, Lindsay looks at infinity from a mathematician’s standpoint. He then deconstructs the arguments used by Christians who capitalize on their audience’s misunderstandings about science and math and use terms such as infinity to conjure up an argument for the existence of God.

 

What this book reveals is that even mathematicians do not fully know all that infinity implies. When a term like infinity is widely misunderstood it becomes easier for people to use it incorrectly or to knowingly misuse it to promote their own agenda.

 

The implication that a God is infinite –and he must be in order for theism to make sense– is actually troublesome to theism when infinity is actually understood, or at least used in a more correct sense.

 

Apologists such as Craig try to shy away from answering these problems, suggesting that Gods infinity is not “in the mathematical sense” and arguing that infinity means that God is necessary. This is a weak and juvenile argument and shows that Craig, like many others, knows that if his argument were dissected, it would fall flat on its face.

 

Craig’s argument is based on the universe having a beginning and he often cites the work of Stephen Hawking that shows evidence for the big bang. Craig uses what it known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which he believes offers proof that the universe needed a cause to come into existence. Something that even Hawking himself has said is not the case.

 

One flaw in Craig’s argument is that in order to claim the universe needs a cause is that this would imply his God would also need a cause to come into existence. Craig skirts around this issue by using an infinite God, as a finite God would automatically disqualify his whole argument. Lindsay, throughout the book and specifically in one chapter devoted to Craig levels this whole argument and leaves the reader wondering how anyone has ever taken Craig’s claim seriously.

 

What we find ourselves left with are two abstract terms:  infinity and God. Each is an invented idea, rather than an observed fact. Mathematicians seek to understand infinity and what it means to us, and theologians seek to exploit misunderstandings and abstract ideas to ‘prove’ their preconceived notions.

 

In Dot Dot Dot, Lindsay teaches you about math and doesn’t put you to sleep. He takes the time to show you the apologist arguments and explains in layman’s terms why they do not work for arguments such as the required existence of God.

 

The book is about math, but it is also about God, and more importantly it is about properly understanding these two terms in reality, not in an imagined theoretical reality. This is a book that will teach you the role of mathematics in religion. It’s an important topic and well written book by someone who understands how to write for the mathematically challenged.

Buy the book

Dan Arel is a freelance writer, speaker and secular advocate residing in San Diego, CA. He writes on secular and humanist values on subjects such as secular parenting, church and state separation, education reform and secularism in public policy.  Follow Dan on Twitter @danarel.

Written By: Dan Arel
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7 COMMENTS

  1. Craig’s argument is another variation of the G/god-necessity template argument based on the presumptuous premise of a finality prime cause, that is presumptuously immortal and omnipotent, that he attempts to fit into a non-sequitur inference that this presumed immortal, omnipotent God/g parallels or embodies the nature of the limitless or infinite count up of natural numbers or count up and down of integers, from which all other numbers derive, in the measuring and computational intellectual tool and discipline of mathematics. This argument states in effect “I the G/god believer decree and deem that there is a causeless prime cause for everything and that it is immortal and omnipotent: The universe and all of its products had to have had a creator that was its cause and is the finality prime-cause-creator, being G/god, based on my imagination and presumptuous or speculatively biased reasoning and not on the empirical study of nature, the universe and the nature of the universe.”

    The idea that numbers are infinite and their infinity is evidence or proof of G/god or a reflection of G/god is another vein of flawed, presumptuous reasoning arguing for the existence of an immortal, infinite G/god. Numbers are abstractions that represent quantity relative to actual things, or imagined or theoretical things, and the parameters of things and do no exist apart from cognition and the “context” of things or the theoretical continuity of things. Because numbers start at one, even theoretically they are not absolutely infinite anyway, without consideration to the concept of G/god, though they are infinite in the count-up direction for whole numbers and in fractional regards. In the absence of things, or the context of things, of which to count, measure or otherwise compute, and in the absence of a source of cognition to comprehend and/or perform numeration or computation, there are no numbers.

    It is as empirically presumptuous and fallacious to reason and argue that “Since numbers are infinite, which they empirically are not overall and in all ways, they are proof that infinity exists and that that infinity must be or therefore is G/god.” as it is to reason and argue that “Since there is a universe, it was therefore created by G/god, the prime cause I imagine.” The G/god conclusion is invariably largely based on presumption and biased information sources and reasoning and is not based on rigorous and objective research, study and analysis of data.

  2. I would like to say I agree. In my Set Theory class(which is the study of sets, order and infinity) we explored many ideas about infinity. There is not just one. By taking a ‘countable’ infinity(for example the set of natural numbers, which is ‘countable’ because there are no numbers hiding between 1 and 2, like there would be in the reals) an infinite number of times, we get an even bigger infinity! If we were to say god was infinite, well we’d first have to agree on which infinity. Then, I mean, well there certainly can’t be just one god, because you can ALWAYS make another infinity by taking it an infinite number more times. Honestly I really don’t understand where the theology comes in at all…If the opposition is referring to the tendency toward infinity that can be seen in our equations, well that’s not true infinity at all.

  3. Sounds like a good book from a decent review. I must say I was put off by the several writing mistakes. Wasn’t this proofread? Makes me reluctant to share it lest it serve as red meat to those looking to demonstrate that atheists can be as poor spellers as the sign-carrying theists at whom we all like to laugh.

    • The review or the book?

      In reply to #4 by AgriculturalAtheist:

      Sounds like a good book from a decent review. I must say I was put off by the several writing mistakes. Wasn’t this proofread? Makes me reluctant to share it lest it serve as red meat to those looking to demonstrate that atheists can be as poor spellers as the sign-carrying theists at whom we all li…

  4. Good review but I wonder why this book is even needed?

    In physics the notion of infinity comes up all the time in the mathematics that we use to model the world, but we never use it, having all sorts of mathematical tools and tricks (e.g. renormalisation, residue theorem) to avoid infinities at all costs. It is pretty much an axiom of physics that infinities do not exist in the real world. Unless you are a hardcore Platonist, infinity does not actually exist in any way.

    So, if infinity is just an imaginary concept and the existence God relies on it…I leave the corollary as an exercise in logic.

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