FOM: Successes of intuition over rigor

James Robert Brown jrbrown at
Mon Feb 18 10:35:50 EST 2002

At 09:50 PM 15/02/2002 -0500, you wrote:
>On Fri, 15 Feb 2002, Alexander R. Pruss wrote:
> > If memory serves, it is not the case that the majority of U.S.
> > mathematicians disbelieve #4 (that God exists).  Now, of course, one might
> > _define_ "rigorous" in such a way that anybody who accepts #4 is
> > _therefore_ unrigorous, but that is a useless stipulative definition.
>I have no access to polling data about U.S. mathematicians' belief as to
>whether God exists. But why do you think that their mathematical rigor has
>anything to do with the kind of intellectual and moral rigor that might be
>involved in coming to disbelieve in the existence of any kind of God?

For those interested in the numbers, a significant majority of American 
mathematicians (and scientists in general) are atheists or agnostics. 
If  you focus on "great" mathematicians (= member of National Academy of 
Sciences) then the figures are even more dramatic: only 15% are 
believers.  By comparison, about 7% of NAS physicists and 5% of NAS 
biologists are believers. (See Larson and Witham, NATURE , 23, July, 1998).

Jim Brown

James Robert Brown
Department of Philosophy
University of Toronto
Toronto    M5S 1A1
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