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Math and theology have had a long and checkered relationship. The Babylonians and Mayans both associated numbers with God. In fact, both societies named their gods with numbers. The Mayans used 13 and the Babylonians used 60. In the Greek world, followers of Pythagoras prayed to the first 4 numbers and thought they were the creator. On the other hand, in the 18th century, the French mathematician Laplace told Napoleon he had no need of God even as a hypothesis, and in 1744, John Wesley confessed: "I am convinced, from many experiments, I could not study either mathematics, arithmetic, or algebra … without being a deist, if not an atheist."

No one knows what Wesley saw in 18th-century mathematics that he feared would lead him away from the God of the Bible, but today, many Christian mathematicians think that numbers point to God. Three numbers in particular suggest evidence for God's existence. They are 1/1010123, 10162, and eπi.

Fine-tuning the universe

The first recent number that points to God is 1 in 10 to the 10 to the 123. This number comes from astronomy. Oxford professor Roger Penrose discusses it in his book The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind. It derives from a formula by Jacob Beckenstein and Stephen Hawking and describes the chances of our universe being created at random. Penrose spoofs this view by picturing God throwing a dart at all the possible space-time continua and hitting the universe we inhabit. The Beckenstein-Hawking formula is too complicated to discuss here, but another approach to the same problem involves the fine-tuning of the universe and the existence of habitable planets.

The fine-tuning of the universe is shown in the precise strengths of four basic forces. Gravity is the best known ...

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hide thisMarch March

In the Magazine

March 2006

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