By Oskar (Osark, Sarko).
With a title like that, I don’t think I really need an article. I’ve got one nonetheless.
Before I get into the rather wordy topic I’m writing on, I’ll give a bit of info on myself to give you an idea of where I’m coming from and what to expect of me.
I was brought up without any religious instruction, both my parents and grandparents holding little stake in ‘muttering to the sky for help’. I like to think I have a slightly more complicated reason for my lack of faith. At the age of 10 I sat a test that put me in the 96th percentile for ‘non verbal reasoning’, but scored zero in ‘creative writing’ because I couldn’t think of anything to write. In high school I started a philosophy club which both Nat and Reuben were members of at one point or another. I am about to embark on a Bachelor of Science majoring in physics at The University of Melbourne. I am fairly calm unless arguing with Reuben, who I became friends with after a campaign of disagreeing with everything he said on his blog. I can’t spell the way normal people can.
So, the logic of numbers. Why is one one? How did we arrive at the values we have? Are they innate or do we learn them?
Well, tests on developing children reveal that there is a minimum age at which brain activity varies when shown different numbers of the same object. This makes me think that we arrive at the concept of numbers after we are born. It is possible that if the need to process and conceive numbers was not present in our developing environment then we wouldn’t be able learn them later in life.
This is certainly the case with language; it has been so far impossible to teach a child who had no linguistic stimulation before the age of twelve any more than the level of word-object association that can be taught to dogs, chimps and birds.
Perhaps it is not possible to not encounter numbers in the world in which we live, while it is certainly possible not to encounter language.
I would suggest that we encounter the world and tailor our logical systems (such as our numbers and our manipulation of them) to fit our needs in the reality we experience. This said, I certainly think we are predisposed to many of our mental and behavioral processes. Take the example of the hour for instance (numeracy). Chimps have been shown to be quite proficient at counting things rapidly and those that have been trained can do so much faster and more effectively than the average human. They are also able to add numbers quite well, but when faced with any other mathematical manipulative function (subtraction, multiplication…) they are unable to comprehend. This is probably due to their inability to hold abstract concepts, something that seems inherent in humans. In this way, I think we are applying our inherent tendencies, our built in ‘toolbox’ so to speak, to our environmental stimulus and so arriving at our thought and behavioral processes.
It has been said that mathematics shows an ‘unreasonable’ accuracy when describing the world. I believe this further supports my case for learned numbers, as a number logic based around what we observe would be expected to be closer to the observed world.
Not as controversial as some of the other articles, but please, discuss.