Enlightenment thinkers saw the universe as mechanistic and mathematics as the language in which the universe is written. They viewed mathematics as eternal, as transcending human minds, and as comprehensible by human beings. Thus mathematics, from their perspective, is our best tool for understanding the secrets of nature. This outlook was nicely summarized by Morris Kline: (Kline, 1953) In brief the whole world is the totality of mathematically expressible motions of objects in space and time, and the entire universe is a great, harmonious, and mathematically designed machine. From a Christian perspective, however, the Enlightenment outlook is flawed. It privileges mathematics and science and dismisses other sources of knowledge such as intuition and divine revelation. It identifies reason with mathematical thinking and empiricism, thus devaluing reflections on ethics, values, justice, and origins. Although Descartes professed religious belief, subsequent Enlightenment thinkers tended to view human intellectual capabilities as sufficient for ordering society and providing for peace and prosperity. Thus these thinkers privatized religion and viewed it as an inappropriate topic of discussion in the public sphere. In short, Enlightenment thought replaced God with a particular form of human reason - mathematics and science.
Bradley, James, "An Augustinian Perspective on the Philosophy of Mathematics" (2007). ACMS Conference Proceedings 2007. 8.
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