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Mathematics is the backbone of all sciences, no theories or hypotheses are proven unless there is math to back it up. But there are many who believe that math isn’t real. In today’s video, we’ll break down the arguments.

this video is supported by brilliant org why are we why is anything why is there something and not nothing what is reality does existence exist these are stupid questions but they’re the ones that start stabbing your brain when you start thinking really deeply about math yeah math math is an intriguing subject because it’s simultaneously the most perfect exact accurate measure of all things in fact it’s the basis of all science nothing really exists until you can prove the math but it’s at the same time one of the most abstract concepts in our shared human experience think about it you can see a star and study its properties you can hold a rock you can hold a light bulb these are things real tangible things but you can’t hold a number numbers aren’t things you might have two rocks or two light bulbs but you don’t have a to two is just a descriptor of the quantity of the things that you have and that’s what the most fundamental math when you get up into more advanced calculations with infinities and massive equations and stuff like that it gets even more murky when a mathematician comes up with a new equation did he discover that or did he invent it because again you can discover a rock it was something that was always there and you can invent a light bulb because it was something that didn’t exist before which one is it with math is math something that has always existed an intrinsic part of the fabric of the universe or is it something we just made up [Music] the say that math was never my strongest subject would be the understatement of the year in fact the only class I ever failed in my life was a precalculus class in college although in fairness my professor sucked I took it again with a different professor and actually made a B so I was blaming him so I’m glad to hear that when I was in college and I was doing this I wasn’t necessarily wrong but it’s not both math is the most powerful tool in our Arsenal for understanding the physical world the mathematician Eugene Wigner once famously said that math is unreasonably effective at describing the universe it was this unreasonable effectiveness that caused some of the earliest philosophers in regards to math to consider the numbers to be real abstract objects that live and function independently from us this was the view of the Platon mists Platon is named after the philosopher Plato he believed that just as the proverbial rock and light bulb exists independently from us so do numbers in an abstract realm and since they exist independently of us they are discovered and not created now modern plainness don’t hold the exact view that Plato did that numbers exist in some you know number realm a little number heaven if you will but they do hold that numbers and the math that arises out of them our fundamental intrinsic qualities of the universe and any new proofs or theorems are revealed discovered and not created it’s easy to see how they could come to this conclusion I mean it’s not just that math does such a great job of explaining everything around us but there were actually some theorems and mathematical proofs that were created totally in isolation no connection to anything that then decades even centuries later were found to perfectly describe some aspect of the universe the Fibonacci sequence is a perfect example of this Fibonacci also known as Leonardo of Pisa created this in 1202 and it was meant to help explain the mating patterns of rabbits and it’s a pretty simple mathematical sequence where each number in the sequence is the sum of the two numbers that preceded it so one two and then one and two makes three two and three makes five three and five makes eight and so on and so forth not much more than a clever little math exercise but when plotted out on the graph you get this interesting spiral patter and very specific proportions and you see this pattern literally everywhere like everywhere it’s so prevalent it’s being called the golden ratio and it’s been imbued with mystical properties and then there’s theoretical mathematician gh Harvey who even he thought that his work was just pure math and had no real practical application to the real world but then later it was found that one of his theorems perfectly explained genotype frequencies and populations which broke new ground in genetics and actually won the Nobel Prize but there are a lot of problems with Platonism one of which is that it’s very metaphysical to say that numbers in the math that arises out of them are an intrinsic quality of the universe you have to explain where that intrinsic quality came from I mean everything else that exists you have to explain where it came from did math come from the Big Bang is it an emergent quality that arose from the fundamental forces that were created in the Big Bang if math is a real thing what makes it real it’s easy to see why Platonism is popular amongst mathematicians not just because this is what they do so of course they want it to be real but also because of its exactness that’s actually what draws a lot of people to map that’s what makes it very attractive when you solve an equation there is no room for debate that is the answer boom done there’s a reason why they call mathematical proofs of proof because it’s proof there’s no room for argument and all the other sciences a theory can be disproven later on with new information and theories can change but mathematical proofs those are forever math is the thing that confirms all the other sciences it’s the Hatrack that all the other sciences hang their hats on so it has to be real right not according to the fictional ists mathematical fictional ISM is the idea that numbers just straight up do not exist in any physical form therefore numbers are not real and math is not real to explain their main argument I’m just gonna read directly from the Stanford University encyclopedia of philosophy one mathematical sentence is like four is even should be read at face value that is they should be read as being in the form of F a and hence as making straightforward claims about the nature of certain objects eg four is even should be read as making a straightforward claim about the nature of the number four but two is sentences like four is even should be read at face value and if moreover they are true then there must actually exist objects of the kinds they are about for instance if four is even makes a straightforward claim about the nature of the number four and if this sentence is literally true then there must actually exist such a thing as the number four therefore from one and two it follows that 3 if sentences like four is even are true then there are such things as mathematical objects but four if there are such things as mathematical objects then they are abstract objects I eat non spatio-temporal objects for instance if there is such a thing as the number four then it is an abstract object not a physical or mental object but five there are no such things as abstract objects therefore from four and five by modus tollens it follows that six there are no such things as mathematical objects and so from three and six by Modest tollens it follows that seven sentences like four is even are not true indeed they’re not true for the reason that fiction let’s give and so it follows that fictional ism is true and now brain matter is oozing from my ear it should be noted that fictionalist don’t necessarily think that math has no value they still see it as a good way to kind of measure the world around us they just don’t think that it’s necessarily true in the same way that even if you don’t believe the Bible is true you can still see that there’s some value and the teachings in the Bible about how you should live your lives and whatnot you know I love that neighbor and that kind of thing you actually talk about that in a great video from numberphile I’ll link it here the problem with the fictional list is how do they explain how successful math has been at explaining the world and forwarding science and technology and creating the world that we live in today how could it do that if it’s not true and they would argue that just because something is successful doesn’t make it true now those are the two extremes of the spectrum in between those two you have some more nuanced theories nominalism tries to sort of split hairs by saying that when somebody says that 3 is a prime number what they’re really saying is that if 3 existed it would be a prime number yeah basically just splitting hairs the physicalist believed that numbers do exist but only in relation to physical objects so like if you have three sticks and then you get two more sticks you now have five sticks and this is really how we learn numbers and we’re kids so it does work on a fundamental level but the physicalist run into trouble when you get into complex numbers Infinity’s and stuff like that because you can’t actually have an infinity of things so that’s where their worldview breaks down and then there’s psychologism which actually says that numbers do exist but only in mental states only in our heads but that runs into the same problem that the physicalists do because you can’t hold infinite things in your head I mean I’m fairly smart but I don’t think I have infinity things in my head and there’s me of me and own jian ism which on top of sounding like something from the matrix states that there are no such things as mathematical objects but mathematical statements are still true in other words just believe it and that will make it so who needs a drink now I know many of you are watching this and thinking oh it does come off like a lot of philosophical babble but the fact remains the single most accurate tool we have for understanding the universe the very basis of all science is based on the complete abstraction and this is why when you hear people talking about SETI or extraterrestrial intelligence they they’re looking for mathematical signals coming from deep space or whenever they want to communicate with potential aliens they want to use the language of math because they believe that math would be the universal language and I’m not convinced it is in last week’s video I asked people to ponder the situation of if we came across a super advanced alien species that had answered all the questions that are to answer and know the exact nature of reality and they tried to explain that to us if that would be anywhere near our current understanding of reality by the way the general consensus in the comments was no we wouldn’t be anywhere near it and probably wouldn’t be able to comprehend it but now I want to push that a little bit further and ask what if math isn’t the universal language we think it is what if it isn’t the answer we think it is what if in order to really understand the nature of the universe we need an entirely new tool not numbers or words but a new way of seeing things or maybe even a whole sense that we don’t currently have what would that look like let me know what you think in the comments and before you ask no I’m not hi this is me completely sober so as I said the beginning of this video I’ve always struggled with math all the way through school that was a long time ago though and you know now that I’m older I feel like maybe I could get a little bit better handle on it so I’ve been trying to bone up on my math with brilliant org they walk you step by step from one concept to another so you don’t wind up with brain dripping out of your ear what makes brilliant brilliant is they help you figure it out so that they actually you know kind of teach you how to learn and even if you get something wrong they tell you that that’s ok you know getting stumped is part of the process and that’s such a powerful message for people who struggle with math especially that entire section on math courses everything from the very basic stuff where I am to the super advanced stuff you’ve got algebra calculus probabilities number theories and quantitative finance sign up for free at brilliant org slash answers with Joe and you can get access to their daily puzzles and brainteasers help keep you sharp in the first 295 people to sign up for their premium subscription which gives you access to all their courses get 20% off your subscription for life it’s an awesome deal and an awesome way to get smarter brilliant org slice answers with Joe links in the description a big thanks to brilliant for supporting this show and also a special thank you to the answer files on patreon who are helping to support this channel I do this pretty much as my day job now so I can’t tell how much I appreciate that there are some new people that have joined the tribe recently I want to give them a quick shout out we’ve got Alexander T Nelson Frank Celestino Anton correct NIC David Cabrera Brett Hagen Clarke John regal and Nicholas Bessette thank you guys so much for joining if you would like to 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