Journal Article

The Revenge of Pythagoras: How a Mathematical Sharp Practice Undermines the Contemporary Design Argument in Astrophysical Cosmology

Robert Klee

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 53, issue 3, pages 331-354
Published in print September 2002 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online September 2002 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/53.3.331
The Revenge of Pythagoras: How a Mathematical Sharp Practice Undermines the Contemporary Design Argument in Astrophysical Cosmology

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Recent developments in astrophysical cosmology have revived support for the design argument among a growing clique of astrophysicists. I show that the scientific/mathematical evidence cited in support of intelligent design of the universe is infected with a mathematical sharp practice: the concepts of two numbers being of the same order of magnitude, and of being within an order of each other, have been stretched from their proper meanings so as to doctor the numbers evidentially. This practice started with A. S. Eddington and P. A. M. Dirac in the 1920s and 1930s, but it is still very much alive today.

1 Introduction

2 The birth of a sharp practice

3 High tide for the anthropic principle

4 How not to do things with numbers

5 The recalcitrant sloppiness of crud

6 How excited can excited carbon‐12 be?

7 Is a pile of doubts a doubtful pile?

8 Conclusion

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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